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Update: Bishops overwhelmingly approve pastoral against racism

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops overwhelmingly approved a pastoral letter against racism Nov. 14 during their fall general meeting at Baltimore.

The document, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," passed 241-3 with one abstention. It required a two-thirds vote by all bishops, or 183 votes, for passage.

"Despite many promising strides made in our country, the ugly cancer of racism still infects our nation," the pastoral letter says. "Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love," it adds.

Bishops speaking on the pastoral gave clear consent to the letter's message.

"This statement is very important and very timely," said Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky. He appreciated that the letter took note of the racism suffered by African-Americans and Native Americans, "two pieces of our national history that we have not reconciled."

"This will be a great, fruitful document for discussion," said Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond, Virginia, in whose diocese the violence-laden "Unite the Right" rally was held last year. Bishop Knestout added the diocese has already conducted listening sessions on racism.

Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham, Alabama, what he called "ground zero for the civil rights movement," said the pastoral's message is needed, as the civil rights movement "began 60 years ago and we're still working on achieving the goals in this document."

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said he was grateful for the pastoral's declaration that "an attack against the dignity of the human person is an attack the dignity of life itself."

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix said the letter will be welcome among Native Americans, who populate 11 missions in the diocese, African-Americans in Arizona -- "I think we were the last of the 50 states to be part of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday," he noted -- and Hispanics, who make up 80 percent of all diocesan Catholics under age 20.

"This is very important for our people and our youth to know the history of racism," he added.

Bishop Shelton T. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, said an electronic copy of "Open Wide Our Hearts" would be posted "somewhat immediately," with a print version available around Thanksgiving.

"Also, there will be resources available immediately" now that the pastoral letter has been approved, including Catholic school resources for kindergarten through 12th grade, added the bishop, who also is chair of the bishops' Subcommittee on African American Affairs.

"'Open Wide Our Hearts' conveys the bishops' grave concern about the rise of racist attitudes in society," Bishop Fabre said Nov. 13, when the pastoral was put on the floor of the bishops' meeting. It also "offers practical suggestions for individuals, families and communities," he said.

"Every racist act -- every such comment, every joke, every disparaging look as a reaction to the color of skin, ethnicity or place of origin -- is a failure to acknowledge another person as a brother or sister, created in the image of God," it adds.

"Racial profiling frequently targets Hispanics for selective immigration enforcement practices, and African-Americans for suspected criminal activity. There is also the growing fear and harassment of persons from majority Muslim countries. Extreme nationalist ideologies are feeding the American public discourse with xenophobic rhetoric that instigates fear against foreigners, immigrants and refugees."

"Personal sin is freely chosen," a notion that would seem to include racism, said retired Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Nov. 13, but "social sin is collective blindness. There is sin as deed and sin as illness. It's a pervasive illness that runs through a culture." Bishop Fabre responded that the proposed letter refers to institutional and structural racism.

An amendment from Bishop Ramirez to include this language in the pastoral was accepted by the bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, which guided the document's preparation.

Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont, Texas, said Nov. 13 the pastoral "gives us a wonderful opportunity to educate, to convert," adding that, given recent incidents, the document should give "consideration to our Jewish brothers and sisters." Bishop Fabre replied that while anti-Semitism is mentioned in the document, future materials will focus on anti-Semitism.

A proposed amendment to the pastoral to include the Confederate battle flag in the pastoral alongside nooses and swastikas as symbols of hatred was rejected by the committee.

"Nooses and swastikas are widely recognized signs of hatred, the committee commented, but "while for many the Confederate flag is also a sign of hatred and segregation, some still claim it as a sign of heritage."

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Jesuit superior says Father Arrupe's sainthood cause may open in February

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jesuit Father B. Reynolds

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- Plans are underway for a solemn opening in February of the sainthood cause of Father Pedro Arrupe, superior general of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983.

Jesuit Father Arturo Sosa, the current superior, informed Jesuits Nov. 14 that the cause "has been set in motion in the Vicariate of Rome, the place of his death" and that "from now on, therefore, he is considered a 'Servant of God.'"

In July, during a meeting in Spain, Father Sosa told Jesuits and lay collaborators that the serious work of preparation had begun. That preparation included compiling all of Father Arrupe's writings and seeking eyewitnesses who could attest to his holiness.

More than 100 witnesses -- mainly from Spain, Japan and Italy -- are expected to testify, Father Sosa said. In addition, two commissions already have begun reviewing all Father Arrupe's published works and "many unpublished documents written by or about Father Arrupe and the socio-ecclesial context in which he lived."

Father Sosa, in his November letter, said that assuming the Vatican and the bishops in and around Rome pose no objections, "the session formally opening the cause will take place at the Basilica of St. John Lateran" in Rome Feb. 5, 2019, the 28th anniversary of Father Arrupe's death.

"Eloquent and even moving postulatory letters received from all over the world confirm that his reputation for holiness is recognized in different sectors of the church," Father Sosa said. "This reputation of holiness is spontaneous, continuous and enduring."

Father Arrupe's work to help Jesuits rediscover the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and "the method of personal discernment and discernment in common" helped the Jesuits renew their life, "their consecration and vows, community and mission," Father Sosa said.

 

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Update: Bishops' abuse response must trump all other issues, advisers say

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- A group that has been advising the U.S. bishops for 50 years on multiple issues chose to speak to the bishops in Baltimore Nov. 13 on just one issue: the clergy sexual abuse crisis itself and ways to move forward from it.

"We are facing painful times as a church," Father David Whitestone, chair of the bishops' National Advisory Council, told the bishops at their fall general assembly. This sense weighed heavily upon the council members during their September gathering, he noted.

"The depth of anger, pain and disappointment expressed by members of the NAC cannot begin to be expressed adequately in words," he said.

The priest, who is pastor of St. Leo the Great in Fairfax, Virginia, in the Arlington Diocese, noted that progress has been made since the bishops developed the 2002 "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," but he stressed that more needs to be done. "We can never become complacent. We must recommit to the ongoing care of all victims in their healing."

"Wounds inflicted, even many years ago, are no less real because of the passing of time nor are the demands of justice less urgent," he said.

Father Whitestone said the depth of the anger expressed by NAC members in the current church climate is "also an expression of our love for the church."

He said the abuse crisis has done great harm to the faith of many Catholics, particularly as it has come to light that the crisis is more than just sexual abuse committed by priests but predatory behavior of bishops against seminarians. The priest said Catholics should demand more of the clergy, deacons, priests and bishops than that they simply not break civil laws.

The response to this crisis needs to be more than issuing statements of regret and even establishing new mechanisms and procedures, he said, stressing instead that there should be a "new and radical recommitment to personal and institutional purification" and true repentance of past sins and facing consequences of these sins.

Members of the NAC did not vote on any other issues facing bishops as way of saying: "There is no single issue more pressing as a church than the crisis we are now facing."

All 35 voting members of the committee attending the September meeting agreed that the current scandal is of such urgency and importance that it must be the highest priory for the bishops' fall assembly to begin to restore trust and credibility.

Retired Army Col. Anita Raines, an NAC board member, said the group approved of some action items the bishops were only discussing at the assembly and now not voting on as per a request from the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops.

In particular, the advisory group supports the development of third-party system that would obtain confidential reports of abuse by bishops, Raines said, as well as the development of a code of conduct for bishops; an audit of U.S. seminaries to investigate possible patterns of misuse of power; establishment of special commission for review of complaints against bishops; and an independent investigation of allegations against Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, former cardinal-archbishop of Washington.

Father Whitestone stressed that while the advisory group recognizes the significance of this scandal in the church it also knows that the church is "more than this crisis" and has a mission to continue to preach the Gospel.

He said Catholics have gone through a range of emotions as this crisis has unfolded but those committed to the church want to help it move forward.

"The bishops needn't bear the burden of setting the course of the way forward alone." He said the lay faithful want to help and urged the bishops to let them.

"We as a church will move forward," he added.

The speakers received an extended standing ovation from the bishops.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

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Where there are lies, there can be no love, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Lying or being inauthentic is seriously wrong because it hinders or harms human relationships, Pope Francis said.

"Where there are lies, there is no love, one cannot have love," he said Nov. 14 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

To live a life "of inauthentic communication is serious because it obstructs relationships and, therefore, it obstructs love," he said.

The pope continued his series of talks on the Ten Commandments, focusing on the command, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor," which, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, forbids misrepresenting the truth.

"We are always communicating," whether with words, gestures, one's behavior and even by being silent or absent, the pope said. People communicate by who they are and what they do as well as by what they say, which means people are always at a crossroads, "perched" between telling the truth or lies.  

"But what does the truth mean?" he asked.

It is not enough to be sincere, he said, because someone could be sincere about a mistaken belief, and it is not enough to be precise because someone could hide the full meaning of a situation behind a barrage of insignificant details.

Sometimes, he said, people think that revealing other people's personal business and confidential information is fine also because, "I only told the truth."

Gossip, however, destroys communion by being indiscreet and inconsiderate, the pope said.

The tongue is like a knife, he said, and "gossip kills," destroying people and their reputation.

"So then, what is the truth?" he asked.

The ultimate model of truth is Jesus, who came into the world "to testify to the truth." As he told Pontius Pilate, "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice," according to the Gospel of John (18:37).

To follow Jesus is to live "in the Spirit of truth" and bear witness to God's truth, merciful love and fidelity, he said.

"Every person affirms or negates this truth with their every act -- from minor everyday situations to more serious choices," the pope said, so people need to ask themselves whether they are upright and truthful in their words and deeds, "or am I more or less a liar disguised as truth?"

"Christians are not exceptional men and women. But they are children of the heavenly Father, who is good, who does not disappoint and who puts in our heart the love for our brothers and sisters," he said.

"This truth is not spoken so much with a speech. It is a way of being, a way of living and you see it in every single deed," he said.

"To not bear false witness means to live like children of God who never ever refutes" or contradicts himself, and never tells lies, he said.

It is living in a way that every deed reveals "the great truth that God is the Father and that you can trust in him," he said. God "loves me, he loves us and (from that) springs my truth, to be truthful and not deceitful."

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Dolan: Even without vote, discussing abuse protocols still 'productive'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Vatican request that the U.S. bishops postpone voting on several proposals to address abuse was a disappointment but they "quickly took a deep breath" and realized they could still have a productive discussion about the measures, said New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.

"It's a big thing and I don't mind telling you ... that from what I've heard my brothers say, there was a sense of disappointment and we can't deny that," the cardinal said in a Nov. 13 interview with host Msgr. Jim Vlaun during "Conversation with Cardinal Dolan" on SiriusXM's Catholic Channel.

"I think there was a momentum going, and we looked forward to a fruitful week, and now there's a little frustration," the cardinal told the priest, who is president and CEO of Telecare Television of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York.

"However, I think the bishops quickly took a deep breath and said, 'Wait a minute, that's still doesn't keep us from talking about it," Cardinal Dolan continued. "That still doesn't keep us from giving Cardinal DiNardo a sound sense of direction as to where we should go and almost to deputize him to bring that to Rome at the February meeting."

He was referring to Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who announced the Vatican's request as the bishops' Nov. 12-14 annual meeting opened in Baltimore.

The Congregation for Bishops requested that no vote be taken on proposals such as standards of episcopal accountability and conduct and the formation of a special commission for review of complaints against bishops for violations of the standards.

They are among steps developed by the USCCB Administrative Committee in September in response to the firestorm that has emerged since June over how the bishops handled reports of wayward priests.

Cardinal Dolan told Msgr. Vlaun that, am despite the vote delay, he felt the bishops' discussion on the proposals would still be "pretty productive."

"I think we bishops in the United States keep reminding ourselves, 'Whoa, wait a minute, we are Catholic. We are members of the church universal and we are a small segment of the church universal,'" the cardinal said. "We know here in the United States, this is not just a Catholic problem. We're talking about the sexual abuse of minors. It is a problem in every religion, every organization, every family, every institution, every school."

"It is not just a Catholic problem. ... Nor is it just an American problem. Now, we know that it's throughout the world," Cardinal Dolan added. "So I think what the Holy Father is saying, 'Wait a minute, we don't want you to get too far ahead here. We appreciate what you're doing in the United States, but we want you to be part of the universal discussion.'"

He added that he feels the Vatican made its request out of a " benevolent desire" that Cardinal DiNardo "come with an open mind" to the February meeting, instead of with "things already decided" by the U.S. bishops.

In Rome, in response to questions about the request the bishops delay voting, Catholic News Service was told the Congregation for Bishops "is working to ensure the best evaluation and accompaniment of the questions raised by the American episcopacy." Father Massimo Cassola replied to CNS on behalf of Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the congregation.

Andrea Tornielli, a respected Vatican reporter, wrote Nov. 13 on the Vatican Insider website that "a Vatican source involved in the matter" told him: "It is wrong to think the Holy See does not share the objective of the U.S. bishops to have effective instruments for combating the phenomenon of the abuse of minors and to establish firm points regarding the responsibility of bishops themselves. The motive for asking for a postponement (of the vote) should not be considered putting on the brakes, but an invitation to better evaluate the proposed texts, including in view of the meeting in February of all the presidents of the bishops' conferences of the world with the pope dedicated to the struggle against abuse."

Tornielli reported that the Vatican believed the proposal on standards of accountability for bishops "goes beyond both civil and canon law" and the Vatican raised concerns "regarding the generic nature of some passages; it could occur that a bishop does not know he is violating these standards of behavior but in the future could be brought before a national commission called to judge him."

"Another problem," Tornielli said, "regards some incoherence between the contents of the document regarding the national commission on the responsibility of bishops and the Code of Canon Law. In the draft given to the Vatican, the commission is described as a nonprofit institution without having a juridical and canonical figure, but it is able to exercise a power of judgment on bishops."

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Cindy Wooden in Rome contributed to this story.

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Update: Protesters gather outside U.S. bishops' meeting, call for change

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register

By Emily Rosenthal

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opened a Day of Prayer at the Fall Bishops General Assembly Nov. 12, John McKeon was the first to walk a path along Aliceanna Street outside the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, just after 9 a.m.

Along with his wife, Karen Greklek, he made the journey from New York to show his concern with a simple poster board sign and matching pins that read "REPENT RESIGN."

"I don't think the church would miss a beat if they all resigned," McKeon said, calling for a collective resignation similar to that of the bishops of Chile. "There are many ways to serve the Lord -- they don't have to be a bishop."

Even if Pope Francis does not accept the resignations of every bishop, he said, the gesture would show remorse.

"I'm here because of my faith," said McKeon, a parishioner of St. Mary-Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Mount Vernon, New York. "I want the Catholic Church to be what it should be, not what it is."

Leaders from BishopAccountability.org organized a morning news conference, where they and victim-survivors of abuse denounced the Vatican's request for the U.S. bishops to delay any vote on two proposals they were to discuss at the assembly regarding their response to the clergy sex abuse scandals.

The Vatican -- via the Congregation for Bishops -- asked the U.S. bishops to delay any vote until after a February meeting with the pope and presidents of the bishops' conferences around the world that will focus on addressing clergy abuse. The bishops were informed of the request just as the general meeting was being called to order.

Action "absolutely cannot wait," said Peter Isely, a spokesperson for Ending Clergy Abuse and founding member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, who was the first to speak at the news conference. "There's no reason to wait. ' It's well overdue; it's time to stand up and do something."

Isely, a victim-survivor of abuse in Wisconsin, said the bishops "need to deliver" at their Nov. 12-14 fall general assembly.

"They cannot walk out of this conference without delivering anything," he said.

Isely still considers himself Catholic because he believes there is a possibility that there will be change.

"I don't know what a post-abuse church will look like, but that's one I want to be a part of," he said. "I still do believe out of ' the voice of that suffering (by abuse victims and survivors) will come the real spiritual reform of this church."

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, and Terence McKiernan, the organization's president, pointed to Bishop Steven R. Biegler of Cheyenne, Wyoming, as a good example of an accountable bishop. Bishop Biegler strongly supports an ongoing investigation into abuse allegations against retired Cheyenne Bishop Joseph H. Hart, now 87; some claims date to when the retired prelate headed the diocese (1978-2001).

McKiernan told the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Baltimore Archdiocese, that releasing the names of accused and continuously updating those lists are steps in the right direction of attaining accountability. The Archdiocese of Baltimore was one of the first in the country to publish such a list in 2002, with updates to the list in the years since.

"We know survivors who can't go into a church," McKiernan said, adding that, as a researcher, he cannot walk away. "This has actually made my faith stronger and more important.

The news conference also heard from Shaun Dougherty, a victim-survivor from the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It was Dougherty's first time protesting outside the bishops' assembly. He said throughout his entire adult life, some members of the conference covered up clergy sexual abuse.

"This time, if they're going to do it again, they're going to do it with me standing here," Dougherty said. "I will not cower again."

One of nine children and raised in a "very, very" Catholic household, Dougherty said he stopped practicing his faith as a teenager as a direct result of the abuse he encountered.

"I wholeheartedly struggle with faith," he said. "If they (bishops) want me to believe in God, they should probably do something to show me that they believe in God."

Dougherty last encountered clergy sexual abuse in 1983 but said "the mental torment and torture has lasted every day since that time."

His family knows about the abuse, and most have since left the Catholic Church. He still has two brothers and a sister who actively practice the Catholic faith, and he acknowledged that the personal choice lies with the individual.

"The Catholic faithful and the Catholic hierarchy -- in order to get me to go back (to the church) -- would have to act the way they taught me to act in Catholic school," Dougherty said. "Until then, I don't believe in anything."

Fewer than 10 people participated in the protests outside the conference hotel on the first day of the fall meeting.

Some protests of and demonstrations in support of the general assembly began over the weekend. A group of priests, seminarians and lay faithful walked nearly 50 miles from Emmitsburg to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore Nov. 9-11 in penance and prayer.

Just before those pilgrims participated in 4:30 p.m. Mass Nov. 11, a paper was taped to the door of the basilica listing "5 Theses" by a group of the same name. They called for full transparency, survivors' voices, simple living, women in church leadership and praying for a reformed church.

Members also placed the theses in the collection basket with two pennies -- their "two cents" -- attached. Liz McCloskey, one of the leaders of 5 Theses, said the pennies paralleled the day's reading from the Gospel of Mark.

"The Gospel for the day is the widow's mite," McCloskey told Catholic News Service. "This is a drop in the bucket. This is a huge institution that's been around for 2,000 years and is slow to change.

"There is a feeling of powerlessness or not influencing the church, yet Jesus said those two cents are of value," she said. "My hope is that this is a contribution that's valued and is heard."

As a 5 p.m. Mass for the bishops began inside the hotel, about 40 protesters gathered outside.

Among them were the Women of the New Testament, a group from St. Ignatius in Baltimore that formed after the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

"When (the report) came out, we figured we had to do something," said Marian D'Anna, a member of the group.

Anne Haddad, a leader of the Women of the New Testament, said St. Ignatius has been inclusive since she became a parishioner in 1994, and that women have been encouraged to be active in the church.

Haddad said they support the survivors of clergy sexual abuse, but they especially want to bring focus to their larger goal of allowing the ordination of women.

"We believe that it's absolutely ludicrous to not ordain women," Haddad said, adding the group believes women should be able to attain that level of scholarship and authority. "I, and many other women, will leave the church (if there is no change)."

Ordaining women would be a show of total equality, not just for the U.S. church, but for the church throughout the world, she added.

Elizabeth Brown traveled from her parish, St. Pius X in Bowie in the neighboring Archdiocese of Washington, to voice her desire for transparency among the bishops and more power for the laity in positions of power.

"I'm a practicing Catholic who wants to see the church address this and come out better," Brown said. "They've made a start, but they have not done enough to fully address the problem."

The vigil, organized by SNAP, included speeches from victim-survivors. The first names and last initials of some of those related to the clergy sexual abuse crisis who committed suicide or died from overdoses were read.

Nearly 30 protesters then walked in a circle, each holding a flashlight to shine light on a photograph of a victim.

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Rosenthal is a staff writer at the Catholic Review, the news website and magazine of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Dennis Sadowski of Catholic News Service contributed to this article.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Temporary mobile health clinic for the poor opens in St. Peter's Square

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As workers were getting St. Peter's Square ready for this year's Nativity scene, nearby a large mobile health care facility was set up and running to serve the city's homeless and poor.

About two dozen men and a few women were sitting or standing in a spacious area, quietly waiting their turn or filling out basic paperwork before being called for their free checkups.

Doctors volunteering from Rome hospitals or other health clinics and nurses from the Italian Red Cross took shifts running laboratory tests and seeing patients from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day.

For the second time, the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization organized the free health care initiative in conjunction with Pope Francis' celebration of the World Day of the Poor, which was to be celebrated Nov. 18. But this year, the clinic offered extended morning and evening hours. Anyone in need could find general and specialist care, including cardiology, dermatology, gynecology and ophthalmology.

Roberta Capparella, a Red Cross nurse, told reporters Nov. 13 that she and many others took part in last year's initiative and found it "very gratifying."

She said they were so happy to hear Pope Francis wanted to offer the free health services again this year that they jumped at the chance to serve again.

"Just by being here all day, volunteers realize that they aren't giving of themselves, but that they are receiving" from the people they serve, she said.

The World Day of the Poor -- marked each year on the 33rd Sunday of ordinary time -- focuses this year on a verse from Psalm 34, "This poor one cried out and the Lord heard."

The commemoration and the period of reflection and action preceding it are meant to give Christians a chance to follow Christ's example and concretely share a moment of love, hope and respect together with those in need in one's community, the pope said in his message for the day, published in mid-June.

Local churches, associations and institutions were again asked to create initiatives that foster moments of real encounter, friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance.

The pope was to celebrate Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Nov. 18 with the poor and volunteers, and he was scheduled to have lunch afterward with about 3,000 people in the Vatican's Paul VI audience hall. Other volunteer groups and schools were also set to offer free meals throughout the city.

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Gobsmacked: Rome steps in, reform votes delayed

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Greg Erlandson

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Seasoned bishop watchers know that just about every fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a surprise. Sometimes it's an election result. Sometimes it is the debate you never expected. Sometimes it's that there's no debate.

But the first day of the 2018 fall meeting was one that caught just about everyone in the room flat-footed. Right on the eve of what looked to be a decisive meeting of the U.S. bishops in dealing with sexual abuse within their own ranks, the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops asked them not to vote on two of the key proposals that were to be put before them.

When Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the conference, made the announcement within the opening minutes of the meeting, the entire room -- bishops, staff and journalists -- were gobsmacked.

This, after all, was the meeting when the bishops were going to get their own house in order following the latest wave of sex abuse stories -- Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, the Pennsylvania grand jury report, and the subsequent flood of subpoenas and investigations and self-published lists of priest offenders.

The McCarrick scandal in particular raised questions about who knew what and when. It also highlighted the fact that even when adults were involved, there could be harassment and abuse of power. In an Aug. 16 statement, Cardinal DiNardo called for "an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops, and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints."

Following meetings in Rome, some of the early requests by the U.S. -- particularly for an apostolic visitation to investigate the questions surrounding the McCarrick scandal -- were rejected or modified by Rome. Likewise, a request by Pope Francis that the fall meeting become a weeklong retreat for the U.S. bishops was rejected as logistically impractical, and plans were made for such a retreat in January in Chicago.

What is not clear is how much of the discussion and planning by the U.S. bishops involved Rome. By the eve of the November meeting, the U.S. bishops were planning to ask for votes by the entire conference on three key issues:

-- A proposal for "Standards of Episcopal Conduct."

-- A proposal to establish a special commission for review of complaints against bishops for violations of the "Standards of Episcopal Conduct."

-- And a protocol regarding restrictions on bishops who were removed from or resigned their office due to sexual abuse of minors, sexual harassment of or misconduct with adults, or grave negligence in office.

In addition, there was to be a report on a third-party reporting system that would allow victims or those knowledgeable of abusive situations regarding bishops to report such cases confidentially.

According to Cardinal DiNardo's announcement, word was received Nov. 11 that the Vatican was asking the conference to delay their vote because of the previously announced meeting at the Vatican of the presidents of all the world's bishops' conferences to discuss the abuse crisis in February.

In his remarks, Cardinal DiNardo expressed his disappointment at this request, which threw the planned agenda for the four-day meeting into disarray.

Theories abound about what happened and why, ranging from the darkly conspiratorial to the surmise that Rome simply did not want the U.S. bishops to get too far ahead of the Vatican on the very sensitive issues involving the disciplining of bishops. Such discipline in church law is normally the prerogative of the pope himself.

One observer said that the U.S. bishops' sense of urgency -- inspired in part by the anger of many lay Catholics and their priests -- clashed with the more cautious way that Rome would approach any issue with such far-reaching implications.

What will be the implications of this sudden twist is still unknown. Protesters and bishops alike may now see Rome as the obstructionist, and the growing pressure on Pope Francis will continue. Ironically, this may take some heat off the U.S. bishops, at least temporarily, but is unlikely to help Rome-U.S. relations.

Critics of the proposed action items also may be relieved, since there were those who viewed the proposals as opening the door for other conferences to make similarly unilateral changes in areas of discipline or doctrine.

Perhaps most frustrated are those bishops -- many of them appointees after 2002 -- who want to open their archives, name priests credibly accused, and forthrightly address issues of accountability and transparency.

Following the announcement of the delay, the bishops of the Missouri province released a letter originally written Oct. 6. It expressed support for the proposals suggested by Cardinal DiNardo but added: "We fear these measures will not be enough in either substance or timeliness to meet the demands that this pastoral crisis presents."

Delay is inevitable, however. And now the bishops have the rest of their meeting to decide what, if anything, they are still able to do.

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Pope names Archbishop Scicluna adjunct secretary of CDF

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis named Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, arguably the Catholic Church's most respected abuse investigator, to be adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Announcing the appointment Nov. 13, the Vatican press office said the archbishop would continue to serve simultaneously as head of the Malta Archdiocese. "To fulfill the duties entrusted to him by Pope Francis, Archbishop Scicluna will travel to Rome on a regular basis," said a note on the archdiocese's website.

Archbishop Scicluna is expected to have a key role in the organization of a meeting in February on child protection that Pope Francis has asked all presidents of national bishops' conferences to attend.

The 59-year-old archbishop, who holds a doctorate in canon law, worked at the doctrinal congregation for 10 years as the "promoter of justice" -- a position similar to prosecuting attorney -- dealing with cases of alleged clerical sexual abuse.

But even after being named auxiliary bishop of Malta in 2012, he continued to be the person the pope would call on to investigate high-profile cases of abuse, consolidating a reputation for treating victims with compassion and respect, and for insisting church officials respond to allegations clearly.

He generally is credited with consolidating the cases against Legionaries of Christ founder Father Marcial Maciel Degollado and Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien and, most recently, for convincing Pope Francis to take measures against several bishops in Chile.

Archbishop Scicluna also serves as president of the doctrinal congregation board that reviews appeals filed by priests laicized or otherwise disciplined in sexual abuse or other serious cases.

Although born in Toronto, he has lived in Malta since he was a year old. He did his university and seminary studies in Malta and was ordained to the priesthood in 1986.

During the Synod of Bishops in October, reporters asked Archbishop Scicluna about the state of discussions regarding the need for greater accountability of bishops in handling abuse cases. He said accountability would be a topic at the world meeting on abuse prevention the pope called for Feb. 21-24.

"We know there is a great expectation for more accountability," he said. "Now how is that going to develop? I think we need to trust Pope Francis to develop a system whereby there is more accountability."

"We bishops realize that we are accountable not only to God but also to our people," and accountable not only for what they do, but what they fail to do when it comes to "stewardship" and protection, he said.

The crisis caused by ongoing revelations and allegations "is a very important moment" for everyone in the church because "it is going to make us really, really humble," the archbishop told reporters. "There is no other way to humility except through humiliation, and it is a big humiliation, and it is going to make us humble, I hope."

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Survivors of clergy child sex abuse tell U.S. bishops of rejection, pain

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Rhina Guidos

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Luis A. Torres Jr. stood before a group of U.S. bishops during one of the most publicly watched of their fall annual meetings Nov. 12 in Baltimore and in doing so revealed to the world the reality that he has lived with since childhood: that he was abused by a priest.

"I'm not private anymore. Everyone knows," said Torres, a lawyer and member of the Lay Review Board of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, which examines policies for removing priests who have abused.

It was unclear but it seemed that the moment marked the first time he revealed the truth publicly. He also spoke of what he witnessed toward those who have come forward in the Catholic Church when they revealed what had happened to them at the hands of clergy.

"I witnessed a church that didn't understand or didn't seem to care, or worse, a church that was actively hostile to the children who had trusted and suffered under its care," he said. "A church that professed faith but acted shrewdly, a church that seemed to listen less to Christ's teachings and more to the advice of lawyers, a church that seemed less interested in those it had harmed."

He spoke of a church more concerned with the protection of assets than its people.

He told his story to the group of bishops gathered for prayer in a makeshift chapel at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. Though his statements were livestreamed, no press was allowed in the chapel.

In the telling of his pain through sometimes deep breaths, Torres told the bishops: "You need to do better." He also told them that "the heart of the church is broken and you need to fix this now."

Torres' story was one of two experiences U.S. bishops heard from survivors of clergy child sex abuse, who still remain active in the church. The other account came from Teresa Pitt Green, who along with Torres, founded Spirit Fire Live, which says on its website that it is devoted to "healing and reconciliation in relationships with adults, families and parishes wounded by child abuse and trauma."

"My heart breaks for you," Pitt Green told the bishops, saying that "the Lord has cried more tears ... because of some of the decisions some of you have made. I don't know how you bear it."

Neither was accusatory in tone, rather their declarations were given calmly as reflections during a day of prayer for the bishops, in which a reflection was given after a Bible reading. While two other reflections addressed what the laity need from the bishops and how bishops can be ministers of healing, the victim statements painfully painted the landscape that has brought the Catholic Church in the United States to address the sex abuse crisis so urgently.

Pitt Green spoke of the manifestation of the wounds by those who've been abused: suicides, addictions, chronic mental illness, broken relationships.

"We are the damaged goods of our age," Pitt Green said.

Pitt Green said she had found a way back to the church and applauded measures that have been taken to curtail child sex abuse in Catholic churches, schools and institutions and thanked the bishops for expressing a desire to do something about it. But she also acknowledged the anger expressed by other victims and survivors, saying that "many who have been entrusted to your care are noisy and they're angry, and I understand."

Torres said he struggled with understanding and explaining even to himself what happened and the different manifestations of trauma as an adult.

"I admit, I don't understand, so I get why you may not understand it either. Abuse of a child is the closest that you can get to murder and still possibly have a breathing body before you," he said. "When a child has been abused, particularly by someone whom they trust, you have destroyed the child. You have mortally wounded the soul and the spirit of that child. This is particularly true where the abuse is by a priest."

The abuse causes a break in the child's connection to God, and robs him or her of innocence, trust, faith and love, he said.

"Truly, this is the devil's best work," he said. "It's as if the child had been shot. Sometimes the bullet catches the child right away and they fall immediately via drugs, crime, suicide or something else. For others the bullet may not reach its destination for many years."

He credited the Diocese of Brooklyn with his willingness to remain with the church because through its Victims Assistance Coordinator, it had demonstrated a "willingness to share my journey" and restoring faith, "where once I knew betrayal."

That betrayal was compounded when the church treated victims as liabilities, as dishonest, or as seeking money, he said.

"The pain of this ongoing betrayal is not restricted to victims but it's also experienced by the families of victims, by the larger church community and by priests," he said.

Torres spoke of the "dissonance" survivors experience when the people who encouraged them to follow the footsteps of Christ failed to follow that example.

"What would Jesus' response have been in the same situation?" he asked. "Would he have called his lawyers and denounced the victims? Or would he have turned over the tables in a fit of rage and declared that this was intolerable in his father's house."

He asked that survivors not be looked as liabilities or adversaries.

"We are your children, we are your brothers, and your sisters, we are your mothers and your fathers. Your words and actions have caused us further harm and pushed us away," Torres said. "Through silence, distrust and defensiveness, we bear the shame of a crime to which our only contributions were trust, faith and innocence.

"I'm not angry, I'm mostly angry at myself. And I don't know why. I know you experience a lot of our anger because it's out there," he continued. "But I am so sad and disappointed, and think this is what many people feel, victims, laypeople, priests, everyone."

In a news conference following the survivors' declarations, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he couldn't speak about the reaction of the bishops as a group but offered his personal reaction.

"When you hear someone speak like that, it hits you very hard," he said, but added that he found it "very moving."

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne, of Burlington, Vermont, who was with Cardinal DiNardo at the news conference, said what the bishops had heard from survivors in the past was that no one listened to them, so they wanted to "be open and receptive and listen" and not necessarily issue a response but wanted to say "we believe you and we're listening to you."

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Cardinal: Delay in vote on abuse response proposals a 'bump in the road'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- A Vatican-requested delay in adopting practices that are expected to boost accountability among U.S. bishops in their response to clergy sex abuse is a "bump in the road," said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston told reporters Nov. 12 that the Congregation for Bishops at the Vatican requested that no vote be taken on the proposals during the bishops' fall general assembly.

The proposals include standards of episcopal conduct and the formation of a special commission for review of complaints against bishops for violations of the standards.

They are among steps developed by the USCCB Administrative Committee in September in response to the firestorm that has emerged since June over how the bishops handled reports of wayward priests.

The Administrative Committee consists of the officers, chairmen and regional representatives of the USCCB.

"We have accepted it with disappointment," Cardinal DiNardo said of the congregation's request during a midday news conference.

"We have not lessened in any of our resolve for actions. We are going to work intensely on these items of action. We can't vote on them totally, but clarify them, get them more intensely canonically well, so that Rome will see that. We're going to keep pushing and moving until we get to a point where they become action," he said.

"We are ourselves not happy about this," he continued. "We are working very hard to move to action. We are just at a bump in the road."

The request from the Vatican congregation was outlined in a letter received the weekend before the assembly opened. It cited two reasons for seeking the delay, according to the cardinal.

He said the congregation wanted the bishops to wait until after the upcoming February meeting of the presidents of bishops' conferences from around the world called by Pope Francis to address clergy sex abuse and the need to ensure that the proposals are in line with canon law.

Under questioning, he clarified that the letter expressed the need for "further precision" of the proposals under canon law.

Citing the universal nature of the Catholic Church, he also said that the U.S. bishops cannot act unilaterally to enact standards unless they comply with canon law.

The cardinal stressed that he planned to press the need for the proposals to improve bishops' accountability when he represents the U.S. bishops at the February gathering.

Until Cardinal DiNardo announced that no vote would be taken on the proposals as the bishops opened their fall general assembly in Baltimore, none of the bishops were aware of the Vatican's concerns, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Communications,

"It has thrown us a little bit sideways because it was completely unexpected," Bishop Coyne said of the Vatican correspondence.

Nevertheless, he explained to reporters, the bishops "by nature are collegial" and "do not work in separate entities" when adopting standards under canon law.

Cardinal DiNardo said he did not know if the congregation's letters originated with Pope Francis. He said that during a meeting with the pope in October in Rome, the pontiff expressed interest in the direction the U.S. church was taking.

The cardinal repeated several times that the bishops were committed to implementing the proposals despite the setback. "The bishops are all of one mind on this," he said.

Acknowledging that some parishioners would be "quite angry" that no action was to be taken during the fall assembly, he said that it will show each bishop what it means to be a "local shepherd."

"You always want to keep giving people a sense of hope," Cardinal DiNardo added. "We need a living sense of hope right now and I think the church can grant it even through the shepherds but even through our good and wonderful people who are moving along."

The cardinal cited the history of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" as an example of how the church works. When the charter was proposed and was sent to the Vatican for review in 2002, it met with some "reticence," but that 16 years later "nowadays that is universal around the world."

"What I find within our Catholic faith sometimes it takes maybe a little longer than we would even like. But the net effect, because we are a universal church, is that you can get things done that are really fine," he said. "I'm hoping myself that what we are doing now, whatever it might be, with some of the he bumps in the road, that this will eventually work out. I don't think that's Pollyannaish."

The call for action resonated in at least one province of bishops. As the bishops were in the midst of their day of prayer and reflection on their response to abuse, the bishops of Missouri made public a letter and statement sent to the chairman of the USCCB Committee for the Children and Young People.

The letter and accompanying statement to Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, committee chairman, said that while the bishops support some of the proposed actions from the Administrative Committee, they hoped the USCCB would address the "abuse of power that is at the center of the sexual abuse scandal of our church."

Among several steps, the Missouri bishops called for abuse survivors to be at the center of the church's response to the crisis; strengthen the 2002 charter; have each bishop mandate that the charter apply to each religious order serving in their diocese; and better utilize the charisms of the laity.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Update: Vatican asks USCCB to delay vote on sex abuse response proposals

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- At the urging of the Vatican, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will not vote on two proposals they were to discuss at their Baltimore meeting regarding their response to the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, informed the bishops as they opened their fall general assembly Nov. 12 that the Vatican wanted the bishops to delay any vote until after a February meeting with the pope and presidents of the bishops' conferences around the world that will focus on addressing clergy abuse.

Affected are proposed standards of episcopal conduct and the formation of a special commission for review of complaints against bishops for violations of the standards.

Cardinal DiNardo said he was disappointed that no action would be taken during the assembly, but that he was hopeful that the delay "will improve our response to the crisis we face."

The cardinal's announcement came two days after Pope Francis met with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, at the Vatican. Archbishop Pierre returned to the United States Nov. 11 in time for the first day of the U.S. bishops' general fall assembly in Baltimore.

However, at a midday news conference, Cardinal DiNardo said the request to delay action came from the Congregation for Bishops.

The assembly planned to move forward with discussion of both proposals from the bishop's Administrative Committee.

The Administrative Committee consists of the officers, chairmen and regional representatives of the USCCB. The committee, which meets in March and September, is the highest authority of the USCCB outside of the full body of bishops when they meet for their fall and spring general assemblies.

In response, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago suggested the general assembly move forward with its discussion of the two proposals. He also called for a special assembly in March to weigh and vote on the measures after being informed by the outcome of the February meeting in Rome.

"It is clear that the Holy See is taking seriously the abuse crisis in the church," Cardinal Cupich said, adding that the February meeting was a "watershed moment" in church history.

"We need to be clear where we stand and tell our people where we stand," he said.

Later in the morning session, just before the assembly adjourned for a day of prayer and penitence, Cardinal DiNardo opened his presidential address pointing to the weakness within the church that has led to the clergy abuse crisis.

Repeatedly citing the words of St. Augustine, he said "in order that weakness might become strong, strength became weak."

He called for action to lift the entire brotherhood of bishops from a place of weakness that has allowed the clergy sex abuse crisis to exist. While there were to be no votes on specific action at the meeting, he said the deliberations the bishops would undertake would set them on the route to healing for the church and for victims of abuse.

He also held up his own weakness to victims, saying: "Where I have not been watchful or alert to your needs, wherever I have failed, I am deeply sorry."

Cardinal DiNardo urged the bishops to root themselves in the life and teaching of Jesus to lead the church and the victims of abuse to healing. He also called for the bishops to focus on the needs of victims so that "our example not lead a single person away from the Lord."

He also said that the bishops must be as accountable as anyone else in ministry in the church and that they, like priests and other church workers, must adhere to the same standards of conduct identified in the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

"Whether we will be remembered as guardians of the abused or of the abuser will be determined by our action beginning this week and the months ahead. Let us draw near to Christ today sacrificing him our own ambitions and promptly submit ourselves totally to what he demands of us both in love and justice," he said.

In his seven-minute address, the cardinal said that he read that St. Augustine warned there are two extremes that pose dangers to the faithful -- despair and presumption.

"We and the faithful can fall into despair believing that there is no hope for the church or (for) good change in the church. We can also believe that there are no hopes for healing from these sins," he said.

"But we must always remember that there is a thing called trusting faith and it leads us on our current journey. This trusting faith provides us roots, roots for a living memory. Our people need this living memory of hope," he said.

Presumption can lull the church into inactivity, he added, "by presuming that this will blow over, that things simply return to normal on their own. Some would say this is entirely a crisis of the past, and it is not. We must never victimize survivors over again by demanding that hey heal on our timeline."

While the majority of abuse incidents occurred decades ago, the pain among victims "is daily and present," he continued and warned against leaving behind people who have been hurt by clergy.

"In justice we must search for every child of God whose innocence is lost to a horrific predator at any time decades ago or this very day," Cardinal DiNardo said.

He explained that healing can result through forgiveness, adding, "Let us not only be willing but also ready and eager to ask for forgiveness."

"Combating the evil of sexual assault in the church will require all our spiritual and physical resources," he said. "We must draw near to Christ in our sorrow, in humility and in contrition to better hear his voice and discern his will. It is only after listening that we can carry out the changes needed, the changes the people of God are rightfully demanding."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Bishops must be blameless servants, not princes, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz


VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A bishop must be "blameless" and at the service of God, not of cliques, assets and power, especially if he is ever to "set right" what needs to be done for the church, Pope Francis said.

A bishop must always "correct himself and ask himself, 'Am I a steward of God or a businessman?'" the pope said in his homily during Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae Nov. 12, the feast of St. Josaphat, 17th-century bishop and martyr.

The pope's homily looked at the day's first reading from St. Paul's Letter to Titus (1:1-9) describing the qualities and role of a bishop.

The apostle underlines how a bishop must be a steward or "administrator of God, not of assets, power and cliques," the pope said.

Most of all, he said, a bishop must be "blameless," the same quality God asked of Abraham when he said, "walk in my presence and be blameless." It is a quality that is the cornerstone of every leader, he added.

According to the apostle, a bishop must not be licentious, rebellious, arrogant, irritable, a drunkard, greedy or obsessed with money. A bishop with even just one of these defects, the pope said, is "a calamity for the church."

A bishop must be hospitable, temperate, just and holy; he must have self-control, love the good and be faithful to the Word, to the true message as it was taught, the apostle says.

If this is what a bishop should be, the pope said, then "would it be wonderful to ask these questions at the beginning, when inquiries are made to elect bishops? To know whether one may keep going with other inquiries?"  

Above all, the pope said, a bishop "must be humble, meek and a servant, not a prince."

This is "the word of God" that comes from the time of St. Paul and isn't something recent from the Second Vatican Council, the pope added.

The church can only "set right" what needs corrected when it has bishops who have these qualities, he said.

What matters to God, he said, is a bishop's humility and his service, not how nice he is or how well he preaches.

 

 

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Update: Archbishop Gomez: 'Pray hard' for all affected by Calif. shooting

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ringo Chiu, Reuters

By

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (CNS) -- Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez urged those attending a prayer vigil Nov. 8 to honor the memory of the victims killed in a shooting spree the evening before "by living our lives with greater intensity and purpose and with greater love for one another."

"May our Lord in his mercy receive the souls of those who have died, and may he comfort those of us who have been spared," he told the congregation at St. Paschal Baylon Catholic Church in Thousand Oaks. "We pray for peace in our communities and for peace in the hearts of all those who are troubled and disturbed."

Late Nov. 7, a gunman opened fire at a country-music bar in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles from the heart of Los Angeles.

Thirteen people, including the suspected gunman and a 29-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, died in shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill on what was college night, with lessons on country two-step dancing.

The bar is popular with students at nearby California Lutheran University, and also attracts students from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Moorpark College in Moorpark and California State University-Channel Islands in Camarillo.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said Nov. 8 that the suspected gunman, Ian David Long, had legally purchased the weapon used in the shooting. It came less than two weeks after a gunman murdered 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue, which was the largest mass murder in the United States since 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last Feb. 14.

According to the Associated Press, after Sgt. Ron Helus was shot multiple times and dragged outside the bar by his partner -- he died early Nov. 8 at a nearby hospital -- scores of police assembled outside and burst in later to find Long and 11 others dead. Eighteen others were injured.

Long, who had been wearing a black hood during the spree, was a former U.S. Marine machine gunner, and authorities said he may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

At the vigil, Archbishop Gomez told the congregation he brought with him "the prayers of the whole family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles."

"We are all so sad in the face of a violence that just makes no sense. We open our hearts to the families and friends of those who were killed, and we try as best we can to share their grief with them," he continued.

"The hurt they are suffering, we can never really know. What they have lost, we cannot return to them. But we can walk with them. We can help them to find healing and hope. We can help them to discover the love of Jesus, even in this dark time."

The 45-minute service drew more than 300. It was led by by St Paschal's pastor, Father Michael Rocha, assisted by associate pastors Father Luis Estrada and Father Al Enriquez. Archbishop Gomez concelebrated.

In his homily, Father Rocha admitted he could not answer the question of why this all had happened, only that "people are going through their own tests and trials and sometimes they communicate their own problems in horrific ways.

"We stop and pause and reflect upon our own mortality and our relationship with God." Also remember, he said, that "healing takes time ' your grieving is among the most sacred and human things you'll ever do. Honor it, and healing will take place."

Thousand Oaks Mayor Andrew Fox stood at the lectern at the church and asked for three things: "I'm going to steal a bit from St. Paul, but I want to talk about faith, hope and love."

Fox had already spent the morning and afternoon speaking to national and local media about the shock that affected his tight-knit community. Then he attended a civic center candlelight gathering of more than 1,800 in attendance that focused on the theme of "Thousand Oaks Strong."

But as the long sorrowful procession turned into night, and a local wildfire had now come into play that also challenged the citizens' levels of anxiety and anguish, Fox said he felt "at home here at St. Paschal with my Catholic brothers and sisters," where he and his family are parishioners.

Fox, who attended the service with his wife, Letitia, said: "We are fortunate as Catholics because our faith is strong, and we actually believe Christ died for our sins, so we pray for that same faith for those families that lost loved ones, many of them at a very young age."

Hope, he continued, is about "a better tomorrow. A better next week." As for love, Fox said he was "reminded of Scripture just last week when Jesus was asked about the two greatest commandments. He said: 'Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.'"

In a statement issued the morning of Nov. 8 in reaction to news of the shooting, Archbishop Gomez asked people to "pray hard" for the victims and their families.

"Like many of you, I woke this morning to news of the horrible violence last night at the Borderline Grill in Thousand Oaks," he said.

"Let us pray hard for all the families, for those who were murdered and those who were injured, and in a special way for the heroic officer, Sgt. Ron Helus, who lost his life defending people in the attack. May God grant perpetual light to those who have died and may he bring comfort to their loved ones and peace to our community."

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a Nov. 8 statement asked all to pray "for the victims and their loved ones and all those impacted by this senseless violence." He also called for the enactment of reasonable measures to end gun violence.

"We must bring this tragedy to the Lord in prayer," said the cardinal. "This new incident of gun violence strikes just as the funerals are barely complete from the last mass shooting.

He added: More innocent lives are lost because of one individual and his ability to procure weapons and commit violence. The bishops continue to ask that public policies be supported that would enact reasonable gun measures to help curb this mad loss of life."

"Only love can truly defeat evil," Cardinal DiNardo said in his statement. "Love begets love, and peace begets peace, but anger, hatred and violence breed more of the same."

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Contributing to this story was Tom Hoffarth, who writes for Angelus News, the multimedia news service of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

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Religious groups made effort to drive their flocks to midterm voting

IMAGE: CNS photo/Octavio Duran

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Just before the polls opened on Election Day on the West Coast, the Franciscan friars of the Province of St. Barbara in California tweeted a photo of Brother Sam Nasada in a brown habit holding a sign, imploring others to vote, using a quote from Pope Francis: "Indifference is dangerous."

Religious groups such as the Franciscans in California were not the only ones urging voters to the polls during this year's Nov. 6 midterm elections.

Months before the election, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas used social media to encourage Americans to register to vote and on Nov. 6 provided polling information for different states online while encouraging those casting ballots to "Vote with Mercy."

It's hard to gauge just how much influence religious groups had on voter turnout, but many preliminary estimates released the day after the election said more than 113 million votes were cast -- the highest turnout for a midterm election since 1966, said a report from the U.S. Election Project.

During a Nov. 8 panel on "Religion and the 2018 Midterm Elections" sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Washington's Georgetown University, panelist Rebecca Linder Blachly, director of government relations for the Episcopal Church, said many religious groups were able to mobilize their flocks and form coalitions with other denominations around issues such as feeding the hungry, immigration and refugee resettlement. The latter has "rattled a lot of Christian groups," she said, since the Trump administration has moved to severely cut the refugee number.

Groups such as the Mercy sisters published guides about where they stood on issues such as racial justice, the economy, immigration and refugees, health care, gun violence prevention, global peacemaking and the environment. There's also the U.S. bishops' document "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," which covers many of those same issues and aims to guide Catholics "in the exercise of their rights and duties as participants in our democracy."

The Mercy sisters' voting guide "2018 Midterm Election Voter Guide: A Call to Holiness" asked potential voters to reflect on issues based on what the Gospel and church teachings say and what to consider when voting for a candidate or an issue.

Preliminary analysis on how religious groups voted in the midterm elections released Nov. 7 by the Washington-based Pew Research Center showed that while many Christian denominations backed Republicans by large margins, Catholic voters remained almost evenly split between the country's two major parties. Pew's preliminary data showed that, of Catholics voting in the midterms, 50 percent voted for Democrats and 49 percent voted for Republicans.

Panelists from the Berkley Center's religion and elections event said they were interested to see what a breakdown of the Catholic vote will show, which might reveal the influence of the Latino Catholic vote or a move by more White Catholics toward the Democratic Party in the midterms.

Some panelists cited figures from a 2016 election poll by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute that showed Catholics overall voted for then candidate Donald Trump 52 percent to 45. However, a breakdown of that vote showed that white Catholics voted 60 to 37 percent for Trump while Latino Catholics voted 67-26 for his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

E.J. Dionne, a columnist for The Washington Post, who is Catholic and has studied the relationship between religion and politics, also was on the panel.

"I am coming to the conclusion at this moment in history that religion does not matter at all, that religion is often given as a reason but it's actually a rationale ' people are voting their identities and dressing them up in the decent drapery of religion," he said during the panel.

Religion matters in voting, he said, but a person's sense of identity seems to play a more important part. He referenced the 2016 PRRI poll that show the difference between white Catholics and Latino voters in voting for and against Trump.

"A very substantial majority of Latino Catholics voted against Donald Trump and for Hillary Clinton. That would suggest to us that there was not a particular Catholic thing going on there," Dionne said. "They were voting other aspects of their identity."

But he said Catholicism can exert a force on the views of people on both sides of the political spectrum.

"It makes conservatives more communitarian and it makes liberals think more about family issues, have qualms about abortion," he said. "I think it creates some tensions on both sides but I think Latino, White (Catholic) numbers suggest that those of us who are Catholics should not pretend that Catholicism is that decisive in people's views."

Panelist Clyde Wilcox, professor of government at the Georgetown University, said a more detailed view of the voters behind the numbers, which is not yet available, may show what could be happening for Catholics in the political landscape.

But he said that "gradually, what's happened over time is that whites are leaving the Catholic Church and Latinos have grown as a percentage but that's a slow growth. I don't know the data but this might represent a shift in white voters who are Catholic."

What this political season has shown is that religious groups made a major effort in organizing their flocks, by mobilizing people to vote for their values, forming coalitions with other denominations in areas where they agreed and participating in big and small events attended by religious leaders seeking to persuade religious voters on certain issues, Linder Blachly said. And some went beyond the grassroots efforts.

The Faith and Freedom coalition spent $18 million to mobilize the vote, Linder Blachly said, and had previously spent $10 million in the 2016 election. Most of it was spent on efforts to support the Republican Party.

"So, that's some real dollars and that's different," Linder Blachly said. "I haven't seen anything like that."

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Is China's targeting of Catholics pushback from low-level party officials?

IMAGE: CNS photo/Roman Pilipey, EPA

By Michael Sainsbury

BANGKOK (CNS) -- Although China and the Vatican signed a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops in September, persecution of Chinese Catholics continues.

Some believe there is considerable pushback against the Vatican-China deal from inside China's United Front Work Department, the Communist Party-controlled religious bureaucracy, especially at a more localized level.

"Many officials at a local level feel they need to change in their old ways to deal with religions. This means a more difficult job and less power," said Francesco Sisci, a longtime Italian media correspondent in Beijing and now a senior researcher at Beijing's Renmin University.

"So, they are not happy," he told Catholic News Service. "So, they are sloppy or try to sabotage Beijing. If they undermine the agreement, they can recover some of their previous power. It is a proof of Beijing's determination in the agreement that problems are only scattered in a very few places and are not very widespread."

The latest controversy for Catholics is the detention of at least four priests: Fathers Zhang Guilin and Wang Zhong from the Diocese of Xiwanzi and Fathers Su Guipeng and Zhao He from the Diocese of Xuanhua. The men were detained during October and November; both dioceses are in Hebei province.

Their sin appears to be a refusal to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the government-sanctioned organization that works to control church leaders. A number of publications have reported the detained bishops have been subject to detention house arrest and indoctrination classes.

As well, the cross from the bell tower and the spires of a church in Shangcai County in central Henan province were destroyed; the church was sealed, reported Asia News, a Rome-based missionary news agency.

The campaign to "sinicize" religion has been officially underway since the annual meeting of the ruling Communist Party's Central Committee in October 2017. Then new rules and regulations on religion were introduced in February and March. The State Administration for Religion Affairs, which oversaw the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the government-sponsored bishops' conference, was disbanded, and its activities and staff were put under the direct control of United Front Work Department. This is the arm of the party responsible for policy on religions, and it answers directly to top party leaders.

Many people hoped the deal with the Holy See would see an end to the string of cross removals, church demolitions and the detention of clerics.

"What is happening actually is an application of the new regulations about registrations of priests and churches" implemented earlier this year, Sisci told CNS.

Lawrence C. Reardon, associate professor of political science, University of New Hampshire, noted that the current campaign is not focused just on Catholics, but is indicative of Chinese leader Xi Jinping's continuing campaign to control all religion.

"The lower levels have been given the green light and are continuing to tighten controls over Islamic, Protestant and Catholic official and unofficial communities," he said. While the Buddhist and Daoist communities seem unaffected, he said, the United Front Work Department is going after "commercial activities."

"I think the center does always have the capacity to control their organizations in the periphery, so you get some overly zealous cadre going after 'miscreants' in order to ensure that UFWD won't target them as being too lax," he said.

"The top has told them to tighten the screws, and the provincial/local levels are adding more 'torque' to ensure compliance and keep Beijing away," he said.

"The impression I have is that the UFWD is very happy to add more 'torque,' as they fear religious revival coming from abroad and from within."

The Sept. 22 deal between the Vatican and Beijing allowed the pope's veto over Beijing's candidates for bishops for the first time since 1951. Seven previously illicit bishops -- and one who is dead -- were forgiven and recognized by the pope.

One surprise about the provisional agreement was the lack of any decision by Beijing on the fate of 30 Vatican-appointed bishops who never registered with the patriotic association. The Vatican has said discussion on the official status of these underground bishops continues.

In the past, many of them have vowed not to join the patriotic association. But many are getting old, and while there is no official list, Sisci believes there may be "just a handful" who are below age 75, the age at which canon law mandates bishops submit their resignation to the pope. The pope does not have to accept the resignation.

Reardon said that while the Vatican has not forgotten about these bishops, "it is trying to find a way to finesse a just resolution of their cases."

He said this was always going to be "a step-by-step process, and the two sides have just gone through the initial phase ... who knows how long this will take? I'm assuming the Vatican is looking for a comprehensive solution so that the mainland church can undergo reconciliation and reunification."

Michel Chambon, a researcher at Indiana's Hanover College, is not so sure.

"I doubt that the state will do much about the underground bishops -- at least officially, " he said.

"I would be surprised if any official 'reconciliation/recognition' occurs. Still, the state might turn a blind eye to their work, as it has done in the past, to let continue their pastoral work, as long as they keep a low profile."

Ucanews.com reported Nov. 9 that Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired bishop of Hong Kong, flew to Rome in late October and handed a seven-page letter to Pope Francis, appealing for him to pay attention to the crisis facing the so-called underground church in China. He told ucanews.com that, because some parts of the provisional agreement on bishops had not been made public, Catholics practicing their faith clandestinely did not know what they should do when government officials told them they must join the patriotic association because of the deal.

 

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Update: Archival find at Catholic U. leads to Kristallnacht remembrance

IMAGE: CNS photo/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy Trudy Isenberg

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Jews worldwide will remember the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

In a direct German translation, it means "Crystal Night," but it is more commonly thought of as "Night of Broken Glass," as Nazis and their sympathizers rampaged through Nazi Germany -- which by this time had absorbed Austria and the Sudetenland -- the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938.

More than 7,000 Jewish-owned stores and businesses were damaged, more than 250 synagogues destroyed, more than 3,000 Jews arrested and sent to concentration camps, and nearly 100 more killed during the rampages, which shocked the world.

It was an open question, though, as to how American Catholics felt about Kristallnacht, which some had likened to a pogrom in which Jews are forcibly exiled. Father Charles Coughlin, the "radio priest" during the Depression, had been for years salting anti-Semitic commentary into his weekly broadcasts, which reached tens of millions of people, despite the grumblings of several U.S. bishops who wanted him off the air.

But it was the discovery in The Catholic University of America's archives in 2004 of an old, scratched record, labeled only "Catholic Protest Against Nazis -- Nov. 16, 1938," that set the wheels in motion for a long-overdue reconsideration of Catholic attitudes toward anti-Semitism in general, and Kristallnacht in particular.

The record, which was unplayable with the university's own equipment, had to be sent elsewhere to be digitized. What it contained was a half-hour program featuring Catholic bishops from across the nation, and former New York Gov. Al Smith, who became the first Catholic presidential nominee of a major political party in 1928, roundly condemning the Nazis' actions and expressing solidarity with Jews under the Nazis' rule.

Based on the discovery of that disc, Catholic University is hosting its own Kristallnacht remembrance Nov. 16, the 80th anniversary of that broadcast.

The free event will feature performances by faculty and students of musical selections by Jewish composers, and a composition written by Catholic University music professor Joseph Santo, "Malachey Elyon" ("Messengers of the Most High"), which incorporates texts from the broadcast.

Speakers will include university president John Garvey; Zion Evrony, former Israeli ambassador to the Vatican and a visiting Catholic University professor; CUA education archivist Maria Mazzenga on her research of the recording; and Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, dean of CUA's School of Music, Drama and Art.

After determining the record's content, "I contacted the folks at the (United States) Holocaust (Memorial) Museum," said Mazzenga in a Nov. 6 telephone interview with Catholic News Service. "This was something huge," she added. "It's changed the literature on Catholic responses to the Holocaust -- distinctly Catholic responses."

Further fruits from the recording netted a front-page New York Times article on the broadcast the day after it aired on both NBC and CBS -- a joint presentation unusual even then for competing networks.

Mazzenga also was able to track down five legal-size pages featuring the full transcript of the broadcast distributed by CNS' predecessor, National Catholic Welfare Conference News Service. "NCWC did a great job publicizing" the events of the time, she said. Mazzenga later edited a book and contributed an essay in a series of academic papers presented at a Holocaust Museum workshop inspired by the discovery.

A little further digging in the CUA archives found correspondence that spanned nearly a year between Irving Sherman, head of the Atlas Publishing and Novelty Co. of New York City, and Catholic figures who spoke on the broadcast.

In a Nov. 25, 1938, letter to Cardinal Dennis Dougherty of Philadelphia, Sherman wrote: "I, and I believe millions of others, cannot believe in your sincerity to teach democracy while you have a Father Coughlin openly preaching hate against his fellowmen," with the "e" printed by hand over the typed "a."

Father Charles Edward Coughlin was a Canadian-American priest based in Detroit who used radio to reach a mass audience. During the 1930s, an estimated 30 million listeners tuned to his weekly broadcasts. He eventually was forced off the air in 1939 because of his pro-fascist and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Sherman received a reply from Cardinal Dougherty, but it must have been unsatisfactory, for the businessman wrote back to the prelate: "With the Catholic Church and it strong organization, there should be no difficulty in squelching Father Coughlin at all. Instead of being humble and fully admitting that he did not tell the truth in regards to his accusations against the Jews, International Bankers, etc., he now shouts it further."

Later, in a missive to Catholic University rector Father Joseph Corrigan -- later a bishop -- Sherman complained about the "so called man of God Father Coughlin."

Father Corrigan wrote back: "Those who would stigmatize the Catholic Church for such conduct of one individual come very close themselves to the standard of judgment which they deplore when applied to themselves. It would be a wrong, and it truly is, to condemn Jews for the culpable actions of some Jews. How, then, can it be right to blame the Catholic Church for the attitude of one member?

"I have written you to this extent, my dear Mr. Sherman, in the hope that you will understand the difficulties of our position."

Thus began a fairly fruitful exchange between the two. In a letter to Father Corrigan dated Sept. 15, 1939 -- two weeks after World War II began in Europe -- Sherman sounded hopeful. "Our mayor is now taking evidence so as to prosecute the speakers who incite to riot and I think that now that Russia and Germany have aligned themselves together, these conditions of which I complain of may be eliminated."

He added that fellow members of the Jewish War Veterans of America were planning to sue Father Coughlin for his on-air remarks. It took another year, but Father Coughlin was forced off the air. The priest was silenced by the Vatican in 1942.

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

 

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Pope recognizes martyrdom of U.S. Christian Brother

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Christian Brothers of the Midwest

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of De La Salle Christian Brother James Miller, who was born in Wisconsin and was shot to death in Guatemala in 1982.

The recognition of the martyrdom of Brother James, or Brother Santiago as he also was known, clears the way for his beatification; the date and location of the ceremony were not immediately announced.

Publishing news about a variety of sainthood causes Nov. 8, the Vatican said Pope Francis had recognized as "blessed" a 15th-century Augustinian brother, Michael Giedrojc.

The recognition amounted to the "equivalent beatification" of Brother Giedrojc, who was born in Lithuania and died in Krakow. With the pope recognizing that over the course of centuries the brother has been venerated by thousands of Catholics, the normal process leading to beatification is not needed.

Brother Miller, the U.S. martyr, was born Sept. 21, 1944, in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He met the Christian Brothers at Pacelli High School there and, at the age of 15, entered the order's juniorate in Missouri. After the novitiate, he taught Spanish, English and religion at Cretin High School in St. Paul, Minnesota, for three years. He also was in charge of school maintenance and served as the football coach.

Some websites refer to him as "Brother Fix-it" and an icon featured on the website of the Christian Brothers of the Midwest shows him wearing overalls.

In 1969, he was sent to Nicaragua, where he taught and helped build schools. According to the De La Salle Brother's website, "His religious superiors ordered him to leave Nicaragua in July 1979 during the time of the Sandinista revolution. It was feared that since he worked for the Somoza government, he might be at risk."

Returning to the United States, he again taught at Cretin High School. But in January 1981, he was sent to Guatemala, where he taught at a secondary school in Huehuetenango and at a center that helped young indigenous people learn job and leadership skills.

While on a ladder making repairs to the building on the afternoon of Feb. 13, 1982, he was shot several times by three hooded men and died instantly. No one was ever arrested for his murder. Funeral services were held in Guatemala and in St. Paul before he was buried in Polonia, Wisconsin.

In other decrees published Nov. 8, Pope Francis recognized miracles attributed to the intercession of Edvige Carboni and Benedetta Bianchi Porro, meaning both Italian laywomen can be beatified. Carboni died in 1952; Porro died in 1964.

The pope also recognized the martyrdom of more victims of the Spanish civil war: Angel Cuartas Cristobal and eight of his classmates at the seminary in Oviedo, who were killed between 1934 and 1937; and Mariano Mullerat Soldevila, a physician, husband and father killed in 1936.

In 10 other causes for canonization, Pope Francis signed decrees recognizing that the candidates for sainthood lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way, which is the first step toward beatification. The decrees included the cause of Bishop Alfredo Maria Obviar of Lucena, Philippines, founder of the Missionary Catechists of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus. The bishop died in 1978.

 

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Update: Catholic agencies closely monitor giving after clergy sex abuse shock

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mark Blinch, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Leaders and fundraisers at Catholic organizations are cautiously monitoring the level of donations and gifts as the end-of-the-year giving season approaches, hoping that the clergy sexual abuse scandal won't negatively affect their bottom line.

While most of the professionals contacted by Catholic News Service said it is too early yet to see what effect, if any, the abuse crisis may have on giving, some are taking steps to reassure donors that money contributed to vital ministries is not going for settlements to abuse victims or payments to attorneys.

The crisis is just one factor that concerns the leaders. There's also the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act. It's effect on giving remains a question mark. "People remain confused about it," said Franciscan Sister Georgette Lehmuth, president and CEO of the National Catholic Development Conference.

"The main thing is no one knows. It's way too early," Patrick Markey, executive director of the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference, told CNS.

Beyond that, some organizations have offered the expertise of their members to individual dioceses and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in areas of communications and finances as the bishops prepare to publicly address the abuse crisis during their fall general assembly Nov. 12-14 in Baltimore.

One effort to prevent a drop off in donations has been initiated by Catholic Charities USA. Dominican Sister Donna Markham, the organization's president and CEO, sent a letter to all donors Oct. 31 expressing concern about calls to withhold donations to any Catholic institution.

"This concerns me deeply," Sister Markham wrote. "I am very worried about the consequent impact this will have on many children and families living in poverty or on the edges of poverty right now."

The letter continues, explaining that Catholic Charities agencies annually serve 10 million people nationwide with emergency food, health care and other services. "Catholic Charities donations do not fund the bishops to the dioceses and cannot be used for that purpose," the letter said.

In an interview, Sister Markham said, "Anybody who is working in Catholic organizations right now is being hit by the fallout from the abuse crisis. We have been faced with some of our significant donors saying, 'No more money to Catholic Charities until the bishops straighten out this mess.'"

She said any impact will be known only after the holidays. "But people are calling us daily saying, 'Take me off your mailing list,'" she said.

"The issue here is that if anyone is really concerned or worried that somehow their donation will be misdirected and be used to fund the abuse situation, I think they need to be clear that we are not allowed to do that," Sister Markham added.

It's the devotion to mission that Sister Lehmuth holds up as key to helping the Catholic organizations weather any potential loss in donations.

She said her organization has urged development professionals at Catholic entities to "remind people how your money is being used."

"Don't wait until the end of the year," Sister Lehmuth said. "Keep reminding them what good your money is doing. And remind them of the good that the church is doing too."

Donations to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association have remained stable in recent years, but the organization is continuing to press how it is helping Christian communities in troubled areas of the world, according to Michael J. L. LaCivita, director of communications.

He said Catholic organizations are facing "a perfect storm" in the abuse crisis, the tax cut law and partisan political rancor in the U.S. that has caused people to carefully weigh where to send their money.

CNEWA has received letters from donors expressing anger about the bishops' failure to maintain moral authority over the church, LaCivita told CNS. He described the letters as "well thought out," offering carefully crafted words that express people's moral outrage.

"But the correspondence doesn't hold us responsible," LaCivita said, even though some writers have voiced concern that funds could be used for abuse legal settlements because bishops serve as the organization's trustees.

"People want answers and they want to have their anger heard," he added.

At The Catholic University of America, fundraising has continued to meet annual goals, said Scott Rembold, vice president for university advancement.

"We're not hearing a lot of people holding the university accountable for the crisis," Rembold told CNS, saying about 125 people had contacted the school since June when reports surfaced that Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick had allegedly abused seminarians years ago. Of those, about two dozen said they were not going to donate specifically because of the reports, he said.

The crisis has caused the university to put on hold a plan to build a residence for priests taking graduate level courses. Rembold said the project called for a new wing to be added to Curley Hall with a kitchen and chapel.

Because bishops were involved in raising money for the effort, university officials and the bishops on the board of trustees jointly felt it was best to put the project aside and that it could be reviewed in the future, Rembold said.

In a different path, two organizations have reached out to the bishops offering expertise and action steps to address the anger and concerns that people have.

Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, or FADICA, convened a working group to address the abuse crisis. Alexia Kelley, the organization's president and CEO, told CNS that members generated "ideas and questions and recommendations and opportunities for action either together or independently."

"Our members really feel they have a responsibility as donors and philanthropists not to perpetuate practices or lack of practices that may enable or perpetuate abuse," she explained.

FADICA members will convene in February for the organization's annual meeting to discuss its recommendations for member action. The recommendations also will be shared with the USCCB.

Donors want to ensure, Kelley said, "that adequate safeguarding practices and policies are in place in all the ministries they support inside or outside of the church, and they would continue to explore ways they as philanthropists can support a comprehensive culture of safety in all levels of the church."

Meanwhile, at the Leadership Roundtable, lay Catholic professionals from various fields have stepped up to offer their expertise to assist the bishops as they addressed the sex abuse crisis.

The organization formed after the 2002 sex abuse crisis emerged with the goal of providing dioceses with lay experts who could help institute best practices in offices and ministries to ensure trust.

Kim Smolik, Leadership Roundtable's CEO, said the organization has received calls from more than 50 dioceses seeking assistance since the August release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that examined a 70-year period, beginning in 1947, in six Catholic dioceses. The report said that in that time span there were claims that 300 priests and other church workers had abused about 1,000 minors. It also claimed the church covered up abuse allegations and brushed aside victims.

Roundtable participants are stressing to dioceses that communication is key, Smolik explained, adding that donors are unlikely to withdraw their gifts, but that they want to know that the church is addressing the root causes of the current scandal.

"Laypeople are looking for the church to be responsive and repentant and say what has gone wrong. They are looking for a plan forward, looking for the plan to be implemented and they are looking to be communicated with all along the way," Smolik said.

"Laypeople want to be part of the solution."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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People unwilling to be challenged by God's mercy will grumble, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The sin of grumbling and complaining is often triggered by a desire to avoid being challenged or upset by seeing Christ's unexpected mercy at work, Pope Francis said.

The way Christ gave witness was "something new for that era," the pope said, because it was thought that being with sinners "made you impure, like touching a leper."

That is why the "doctors of the law," scribes and Pharisees stayed far away from those who sinned and why they complained about Jesus' unusual ways, the pope said Nov. 8 in his homily during Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

They would read but never understand what God meant by "I desire mercy, not sacrifice," the pope said. But Jesus gives concrete witness to this mercy by the way he interacts with people, ending old practices and taking risks.

The pope's homily looked at the day's Gospel reading of the parable of the lost sheep, according to St. Luke.

When sinners drew close to Jesus to listen to him, the Pharisees and scribes "began to complain, saying, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'"

The scribes didn't say, "Oh look! This man seems good because he is trying to convert sinners," the pope said. Instead they start making negative comments to undercut Jesus' witness.

Rather than engaging in dialogue or "trying to resolve a conflicted situation, they secretly grumble, always in whispers because they have no courage to speak frankly," he said.

This negative reaction to the way someone gives witness or to "a person that I don't like" exists on all levels: in families, between individuals, in parishes and dioceses, even in nations and politics, he said.

"This is terrible -- when a government is not honest, and it tries to smear its adversaries with complaining, whether it be defamation, calumny," the pope said. Dictatorships, for example, take control of media outlets and, through them, "begin to grumble, to belittle all those who are a danger to the government."

Jesus, however, reacts to complaining not by condemning the scribes but by using the very same method they always employed against him -- by asking a question, the pope said. In the Gospel story Jesus asks, "What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the 99 in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?"

The Pharisees and doctors of the law, Pope Francis said, figure it makes more sense to let the one go in order to keep the larger number safe.

"This is why they don't go speak with sinners, they don't visit tax collectors, they don't go because (they think), 'Better not get tarnished by these people, it's a risk.'"

"They are incapable of forgiving, of being merciful, of receiving," the pope said. "They choose the opposite of Jesus," who does seek out the one sheep and when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy.

That is the other thing the doctors of the law don't understand -- the joy and celebration of the Gospel, the pope said.

Giving witness to God's mercy attracts many people and "makes the church grow," the pope said. But it also provokes or irritates others, who start to grumble, using their complaints like a shield "so that this witness does not harm me."

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