Browsing News Entries

Fighting With My Family

Clericalism, abuse of power, at heart of sex abuse crisis, cardinal says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Evandro Inetti, pool

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is a call for bishops to unmask the deep-seated clericalism that placed protection of the institution of the church above the sufferings of victims, said the head of the council of Latin American bishops.

Addressing Pope Francis and nearly 190 representatives of the world's bishops and religious orders Feb. 21, Colombian Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, president of the council known as CELAM, said that bishops must recognize that "serious errors" in the exercise of authority have "increased the severity of the crisis."

"A brief analysis of what has happened shows us that it is not only a matter of sexual deviations or pathologies in the abusers, but that there is a deeper root too," Cardinal Salazar said. "This is the distortion of the meaning of ministry, which converts it into a means to impose force, to violate the conscience and the bodies of the weakest. This has a name: clericalism."

Delivering the third and final presentation of the first day of the Feb. 21-24 Vatican meeting on the protection of minors in the church, Cardinal Salazar spoke about the crisis in the church and the responsibility of bishops to face "conflicts and tensions" and instead act decisively.

The cardinal said that when faced with cases of abuse, a clerical mentality within the church has led bishops to act like salaried workers who "upon seeing the wolf coming, flee and leave the flock unprotected."

"And we flee in many ways," he explained. By "trying to deny the dimension of the denunciations presented to us; not listening to the victims; ignoring the damage caused to the victims of abuse; transferring the accused to other places where they continue to abuse; or trying to reach monetary settlements to buy silence."

To understand the full depth of the crisis, he continued, bishops must stop looking at outsiders as the cause of the damage within the church and recognize that "the first enemies are within us, among us bishops and priests and consecrated persons who have not lived up to our vocation."

Bishops, he added, must also stop minimizing the crisis by asserting that "abuses occur on a larger scale in other institutions," because the existence of abuse outside the church "can never justify the occurrence of abuses in the church."

"There is no possible justification for not denouncing, not unmasking, not courageously and forcefully confronting any abuse that presents itself within our church," Cardinal Salazar said.

Bishops also have a responsibility to guide priests and consecrated men and women their diocese toward holiness and establish a close relationship with them, beginning during the time of their formation.

However, when it comes to clergy and religious people who have abused, bishops must adhere to the protocols established by their bishops' conference that respect both civil and canon law and help "to distinguish between sin subject to divine mercy, ecclesial crime subject to canonical legislation, and civil crime subject to the corresponding civil legislation," Cardinal Salazar said.

Today, he said, "it is clear to us that any negligence on our part can lead to canonical penalties, including removal from ministry, and civil penalties that can even lead to imprisonment for concealment or complicity."

Finally, Cardinal Salazar told the bishops that they have a responsibility to be close to the people of God and a duty to listen to them, especially those who have suffered abuse.

"One of the first sins committed at the beginning of the crisis was precisely not having listened with open hearts to those who charged that they had been abused by clerics," he said.

Among the most egregious ways that some bishops have acted toward victims was by "minimizing the pain and damage" of the abuse by thinking that the only motive for survivors to report abuse was "to seek financial compensation."

"'The only thing they are looking for is money' was the recurrent phrase," the cardinal said. "There is no doubt that accusations are sometimes orchestrated. There is also no doubt that on many occasions attempts have been made to reduce the redress to the victims in terms of monetary compensation without taking into account the true scope of that reparation."

Nevertheless, while money "can never repair the damage caused," the church has a responsibility to offer compensation so that victims can afford psychological treatment and to provide economic support to those who cannot work due to the trauma of their abuse.

"The responsibility of the bishop," he said, "is very broad and covers many fields, but it is always inescapable."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Cesareo urges greater role for laity in church's response to abuse

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Laypeople must be involved in a "more meaningful and influential role" to help Catholic bishops create "an environment of safety within the church," the chairman of the National Review Board said in an opinion piece published by The Boston Globe.

Writing Feb. 19, two days before Pope Francis convened an unprecedented four-day gathering of bishops from around the world to discuss the protection of minors in the church, Francesco Cesareo said the heightened role of laity would assist bishops in their response to clergy sex abuse.

Citing signals from "Rome itself that expectations for outcomes (from the meeting) should not be high," Cesareo cautioned that "it is difficult to imagine that concrete universal norms will emerge from this gathering, given the diversity of cultures and perspectives" that will be present.

Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board since 2013, then made the case for a greater role for laity as the bishops work to rebuild trust in the church hierarchy.

He wrote that "at this time in the church's history, it is necessary to acknowledge the co-responsibility of the laity for the church by increasing their role in assisting the bishops and the clergy who do not have experience in preventing and responding to allegations of abuse."

"The church should not fear such engagement by the laity, but rather welcome it," he wrote.

The all-lay National Review Board was established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 to oversee compliance by dioceses with the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." It has no role in oversight of bishops.

In his appeal, Cesareo, president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, said that the bishops' response to the sex abuse crisis "has been incomplete."

The column pointed to the loss of trust among laypeople and clergy "in the ability of their shepherds to lead."

He also cited abuse allegations described in last summer's Pennsylvania grand jury report, "with its limitations," and revelations about former Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, who was removed from the priesthood by the Vatican Feb. 16, which Cesareo said demonstrates the abuse crisis "transcends sexual abuse of minors." McCarrick faced credible accusations he abused minors more than 60 years ago but also allegations he was sexually inappropriate with seminarians.

"(This) represents a system failure to protect the most vulnerable and hold aggressors accountable," Cesareo said.

The column also called on the bishops meeting in Rome to discuss and give "serious consideration" to proposals that would hold bishops accountable for their actions which were to have been presented to the entire body of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November. The proposals were withdrawn as the bishops opened their fall general assembly at the request of Vatican officials, surprising many of the prelates in attendance.

"Allowing our bishops to respond to the current crisis in a substantive way is critical if the church is going to begin to heal," he said.

Cesareo suggested several key roles for laypeople who serve on a diocesan review board or other "external entity" as they work with bishops.

First, he said, laity can assist bishops in thoroughly reviewing diocesan and seminary files and sharing them with the public. "It is the public's right to know of those who have been credibly accused of abuse," he wrote.

Numerous U.S. dioceses and archdioceses have conducted such reviews and released the names of clergy against whom credible allegations of abuse have been made. Other dioceses are continuing their reviews.

"Next, there must be full accountability of all bishops, including those who have abused their positions of power by ignoring credible allegations of abuse, buy committing abuse themselves, or by having engaged in sexual misconduct or harassment," Cesareo said.

The review board chairman said such accountability "must include investigations of all allegations regarding bishops by a lay commission that has independent authority and that can report the findings of their investigation to the (papal) nuncio (in Washington)."

He added that a third-party reporting system would provide a way to report "allegations of abuse, cover-ups or sexual misconduct by bishops outside of an independent from church bureaucracy."

"If bishops are found to have failed in their responsibility to protect the vulnerable, there must be consequences," Cesareo said.

In addition, Cesareo called for another revision of the charter so that bishops fall within its oversight. He said strengthening the regular audit of dioceses to determine compliance with the charter also was needed.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Update: At summit, survivors expose 'cancer' of clergy sex abuse

IMAGE: CNS photo/Evandro Inetti, pool

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- "Every time I refused to have sex with him, he would beat me," an abuse survivor from Africa told Pope Francis and bishops attending the Vatican summit on child protection and the abuse crisis.

The meeting began Feb. 21 with the harrowing stories of survivors of sexual abuse, cover-up and rejection by church officials.

The pre-recorded testimonies of five survivors were broadcast in the synod hall; the Vatican did not disclose their names, but only whether they were male or female and their country of origin.

In the first testimony, a man from Chile expressed the pain he felt when, after reporting his abuse to the church, he was treated "as a liar" and told that "I and others were enemies of the church."

"You are physicians of the soul and yet, with rare exceptions, you have been transformed -- in some cases -- into murderers of the soul, into murderers of the faith," he said.

Comparing the abuse crisis to a cancer in the church, the survivor said that "it is not enough to remove the tumor and that's it," but there must be measures to "treat the whole cancer."

He said he prayed that those who "want to continue to cover up" would leave the church, giving greater space "to those who want to a create a new church, a renewed church and a church absolutely free from sexual abuse."

A woman from Africa recalled the humiliation and suffering she endured when she was sexually and physically abused by a priest beginning when she was 15; he made her pregnant three times and each time forced her to have an abortion.

"At first, I trusted him so much that I did not know he could abuse me. I was afraid of him and every time I refused to have sex with him, he would beat me," she said. "And since I was completely dependent on him economically, I suffered all the humiliations he inflicted on me."

"It must be said that priests and religious have a way of helping and at the same time also destroying," she said. "They have to behave like leaders, wise people."

Another testimony was offered by a 53-year-old priest from Eastern Europe who, although grateful to God for his vocation, continues to bear not only the wounds of the abuse he suffered as teenager but also the wounds of the rejection he experienced after reporting it to his bishop.

Initially, the bishop did not respond at all, so, the priest said, he reported the abuse to the nuncio.

When he finally did meet the bishop, he recalled, "he attacked me without trying to understand me, and this hurt me."

"What would I like to say to the bishops?" the priest asked. "That they listen to these people, that they learn to listen to the people who speak. I wanted someone to listen to me, to know who that man is, that priest, and what he does."

A U.S. survivor told the bishops that what wounded him the most "was the total loss of the innocence of my youth and how that has affected me today."

"There's still pain in my family relationships," he said. "There's still pain with my siblings. I still carry pain. My parents still carry pain at the dysfunction, the betrayal, the manipulation that this bad man, who was our Catholic priest at the time, wrought upon my family and myself."

The church, he added, needs leadership, vision and courage from bishops to fight the scourge of abuse and "to work for resolution, and work for healing and work for a better church."

The final testimony was delivered by man from Asia who said he was "abused over 100 times" and continues to endure "traumas and flashbacks" that have caused him difficulty in living his life and connecting with other people.

Bishops and heads of religious orders, he said, must take concrete action to ensure that clergy members who abused are punished.

"I ask the bishops that they be clear on this matter because this is one of the time bombs occurring in the church in Asia. If they want to save the church, we have to work together and make the perpetrators give themselves up," he said.

"As Jesus always said, we need to 'be like children,' not sexual abusers of children."

At a briefing with journalists Feb. 21, Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane said that although he had listened to many survivors and their stories of abuse, he was nevertheless "surprised at the way tears, as it were, welled up."

"I had never heard them in the extraordinary context of this gathering and, frankly, in the presence of the pope," Archbishop Coleridge said. "So, the setting itself added a whole new power and, in a sense, another dimension to hearing these voices that spoke very briefly, but very powerfully and very deeply and struck just the right note on the first morning of -- not just a meeting -- this journey of exploration."

Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who handles abuse cases as adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said he and the other bishops at the summit "were all quite taken by the testimony of the different victims."

"We could hear voices that were emotional, powerful and, I think, we needed to hear victims. I have always said that in order to understand the gravity of the situation, you need to listen to victims, we need them, because that is sacred ground," Archbishop Scicluna told journalists.

Gathering the voices and experiences of survivors was no easy task, but it was necessary for bishops to grasp the magnitude of the crisis as well as the damage survivors have and continue to endure, said Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a professor of psychology and president of the Center for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Bishops, he said, needed to listen "to survivors and victims from all continents, in different languages so it becomes clear that this is not a North American or Central European problem. They were searing, brutal, honest testimonies and nothing was spared."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Bishops must protect their flock from abuse at all costs, archbishop says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics need to know that their leaders "mean business" when it comes to protecting minors from abuse, the Vatican's top abuse investigator told representatives of the world's bishops and religious orders.

"They should come to know us as friends of their safety and that of their children and youth. We will engage them with candor and humility. We will protect them at all cost. We will lay down our lives for the flocks entrusted to us," said Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta.

The archbishop, who is adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a member of the organizing committee for the Feb. 21-24 Vatican meeting on the protection of minors in the church, spoke on the first day of the proceedings about "taking responsibility for processing cases" of alleged abuse and for preventing abuse.

In the presence of Pope Francis, the archbishop told the almost 190 church leaders that "one of the fundamental tests of our stewardship and, indeed, of our fidelity," is the way in which bishops and religious superiors exercise their ministry at the service of justice.

"It is our sacred duty to protect our people and to ensure justice when they have been abused," he said.

Archbishop Scicluna, a canon lawyer who worked at the doctrinal congregation for 10 years dealing with cases of alleged clerical sexual abuse, used his talk to outline what canon law says about how allegations of sexual misconduct should be handled and investigated, and what additional best practices are "advisable."

Underlining the importance of getting expert advice and maintaining a "collegial" atmosphere throughout the process of abuse investigations, he also called on bishops and religious superiors to remember they are a "shepherd of the Lord's flock" and need to understand "the deep wounds inflicted on victims of sex abuse by members of the clergy."

After meeting so many victims around the world, he said he realized that sitting down with a survivor is "sacred ground, where we meet Jesus on the cross."

"This is a Via Crucis we bishops and other church leaders cannot miss. We need to be Simon of Cyrene helping victims, with whom Jesus identifies himself, carry their heavy cross" with adequate and appropriate care, he said.

In fact, he urged leaders to make up for the gaps or areas not covered by canon law and current procedures by exercising greater pastoral stewardship and recognizing the abuse of children "is also a crime in all civil jurisdictions."

Archbishop Scicluna said the "stewardship of prevention" also includes helping the pope in the selection of candidates for bishop appointments.

"Many demand that the process be more open to the input of laypeople in the community," he said. But it is a bishop's and religious superior's "sacred duty" to assist the pope as he considers possible leaders.

"It is a grave sin against the integrity of the episcopal ministry to hide or underestimate facts that may indicate deficits in the lifestyle or spiritual fatherhood of priests subject to a pontifical investigation into their suitability for the office of bishop," he said.

A bishop's or religious superior's stewardship also should include preventing "sexual misconduct in general," in addition to the sexual abuse of minors, he said. This requires screening candidates, being vigilant, being a holy and fatherly role model and providing in-depth and ongoing formation in areas that include understanding "the demands of priestly celibacy and chastity."

"Prevention is better served when protocols are clear and codes of conduct well known," Archbishop Scicluna said. "Response to misconduct should be just and even-handed. Outcomes should be clear from the outset."

He said the "valid and positive" practice in some countries of offering church members specific training in abuse prevention needs to "grow in accessibility" and be spread around the world.

And, he added, a "culture of disclosure" is aided when there is a "ready availability of user-friendly access to reporting mechanisms."

"The faith community under our care should know that we mean business," he said.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Vatican summit opens with acknowledgment of evil committed

IMAGE: CNS photo/Evandro Inetti, pool

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Opening the Vatican summit on child protection and the clerical sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis said, "The holy people of God are watching and are awaiting from us not simple, predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures" to stop abuse.

The summit meeting Feb. 21-24 brought together almost 190 church leaders: the presidents of national bishops' conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches, superiors of some men's and women's religious orders and top Vatican officials.

In his brief opening remarks, the pope prayed that with "docility" to the Holy Spirit, the bishops at the summit would "listen to the cry of the little ones who ask for justice."

The pope's main address to the assembly was scheduled for Feb. 24 after the discussions, a penitential liturgy and a concluding Mass.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, gave the first formal talk of the gathering, acknowledging how church leaders for so long ignored the suffering of the victims of clerical sexual abuse and covered up the evil crimes of the priest-perpetrators.

Sometimes, he said, bishops were simply afraid to look at the wounds caused by their priests, but he insisted that one cannot profess faith in Christ while ignoring the wounds inflicted on the people Jesus loves.

Using the Gospel stories of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances to the disciples, especially the story of Jesus inviting St. Thomas to put his hands into the wounds on Jesus' hands and side, Cardinal Tagle told the bishops, "Those who are sent to proclaim the core of our Christian faith -- the dying and rising of Christ -- can only do so with authenticity if they are constantly in touch with the wounds of humanity."

The Christian faith itself and the ability of the Catholic Church to proclaim the Gospel is "what is at stake in this moment of crisis brought about by the abuse of children and our poor handling of these crimes," the cardinal said.

But, he asked, "how do we as bishops, who have been part of the wounding, now promote healing?"

First, the cardinal said, the bishops must "draw close to their wounds and acknowledge our faults" and then take concrete steps to ensure all children and vulnerable adults are safe in the church's care.

Justice for the victims is an absolute necessity, he said, but justice by itself "does not heal the broken human heart."

The church can never ask victims to forgive and move on -- "no, far from it," the cardinal said.

But, knowing that forgiveness often aids healing, he said, church leaders must "continue to walk with those profoundly wounded by abuse, building trust, providing unconditional love and repeatedly asking forgiveness in the full recognition that we do not deserve that forgiveness in the order of justice, but can only receive it when it is bestowed as a gift and grace."

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Update: N.J. priest at Vatican, removed in 2018, was accused of abuse in 2003

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- U.S. Msgr. Joseph R. Punderson, a senior official of the Vatican's highest court, was instructed by his bishop to resign his Vatican post late in 2018 and then was removed from ministry 15 years after he was found to be credibly accused of the sexual abuse of a minor.

The abuse was reported to the Vatican, and Msgr. Punderson offered to resign in 2004, but the Vatican allowed him to continue working.

Msgr. Punderson's named was included on a list of credibly accused clergy published by the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, Feb. 13. Bishop David M. O'Connell heads the diocese.

After initially declining to comment, Alessando Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office said Feb. 20 that Msgr. Punderson "is no longer in service at the tribunal of the Apostolic Signature and has been in retirement since last fall."

Rayanne Bennett, director of communications for the Trenton Diocese, said in a statement Feb. 20 that diocesan records indicated Msgr. Punderson "was credibly accused in 2003 of the sexual abuse of a minor 26 years earlier."

"The allegation, the first and only claim against Msgr. Punderson, was promptly reported to the appropriate prosecutor, who declined to pursue criminal charges," Bennett said.

"The allegation was also reported to the Holy See, and Msgr. Punderson submitted his resignation in 2004," Bennett said. "The Holy See, however, permitted him to continue in office but under specific restrictions regarding public acts of ministry initially imposed by the Diocese of Trenton in 2003."

Msgr. Punderson, who was named defender of the bond at the Apostolic Signature in 1995, "was instructed to resign his Vatican position by the bishop in late fall 2018 and his resignation was accepted. He has been removed from all public ministry," Bennett said.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Pipeline struggle reveals value of community to religious congregation

IMAGE: CNS photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- For the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to hear the order's religious freedom claims in a legal challenge to a natural gas pipeline through their land in Pennsylvania came as no real surprise.

"But we needed to see it through and that's what we did," said Sister Janet McCann, a member of the Adorers' leadership team in St. Louis.

Without comment, the Supreme Court announced Feb. 19 that it had declined the congregation's petition for a hearing.

The Adorers' argument centered on their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA. They maintained that allowing construction of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline and its use would be contrary to their 2005 Land Ethic, which holds that all of creation is sacred and that it must be protected from desecration.

Sister McCann said despite the court's decision her congregation realized the 19-month ordeal had given it ample opportunity for "continuing to educate ourselves and educating other people and heightening the awareness of what is happening with our earth."

"Also we learned the process of how to stand up and speak out to big, powerful multibillion-dollar corporations," she told Catholic News Service Feb. 20. "We're hoping that our willingness to kind of stumble through all of this will give some encouragement to other individuals, other communities or other entities to do the same."

The Adorers' opposition to the 42-inch transmission line operated by Oklahoma-based Williams began in July 2017. It found them becoming allies with other faith-based and grass-roots activists, namely Lancaster Against Pipelines, which continues to hold vigils and nonviolent protests along parts of the 183-mile pipeline route.

Early on, the sisters allowed Lancaster Against Pipelines to construct a symbolic chapel on their property adjacent to the project's route.

In their petition to the court, the sisters asked the justices to determine how widely government agencies must regard claims under RFRA and whether a lower court's review of an agency's order satisfies the religious freedom guarantees under the law.

Attorney Dwight Yoder, who filed the Adorers' case, credited the sisters for their prayerful presence as their appeals wound through the court system.

He also predicted that the Supreme Court's decision will have ramifications for other faith-based communities and organizations as they consider legal action based on religious freedom claims.

"This is a violation that's going to continue indefinitely," Yoder told CNS from his office in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. "Here are sisters that have committed their lives to living their faith and part of that is to care for the earth and use their own land in a way that is critical to their faith.

"To have a multibillion-dollar private company to force its way onto your own property and use the federal government to do so seems counter to the basic principles that the country stands for," he said. "The sisters are grieving that they're going to have the pipeline on their land."

Yoder is unsure if any other legal avenues remain for the sisters to explore. He said the option for the Adorers to seek monetary damages for the pipeline's construction seemed to have been left open by the federal court.

I'm not sure it's something we can pursue," he said, "but we're going to examine it."

Despite the denial, Sister McCann said the effort had been "God-led."

"We've learned about this whole thing, what religious women are learning and relearning, is what it means to live the common life, what it means to live in community, especially these days when our world seems to be so at odds with each other," she told CNS.

"Perhaps that's a call for all religious women or communities like Lancaster Against Pipelines, all of us, how we can use that gift of community."

- - -

Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Tolton sainthood cause advances; next step would be 'venerable' decree

IMAGE: CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic

By Joyce Duriga

CHICAGO (CNS) -- The canonization cause for Father Augustus Tolton is just one step away from going to Pope Francis for the priest to be declared "venerable."

On Feb. 5, the feast of St. Agatha, a nine-member Vatican theological commission unanimously voted that Father Tolton's cause be moved forward to the cardinals and archbishops in the Congregation for Saints' Causes for a final vote to send a decree of the priest's "heroic virtues" to Pope Francis for his approval.

Upon the promulgation of that decree, Father Tolton would receive the title "venerable," which indicates he lived the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance at a heroic level.

The next steps would be beatification and canonization. In general, one miracle attributed to the sainthood candidate's intercession is needed for beatification, and a second such miracle is needed for canonization.

Father Tolton, the first African-American to be ordained a Catholic priest for the United States, was born into slavery, ordained in 1886 in Rome because no U.S. seminary would take him and died serving in Chicago in 1897.

Father James Healy (1830-1900) is considered by some to be the first black U.S. Catholic priest in the U.S. He was biracial; his father was Irish. Born in Georgia, he was ordained in 1854 in Paris for ministry in the U.S. He later became a bishop, heading the Diocese of Portland, Maine.

If canonized, Father Tolton would be the nation's first African-American saint.

"Father Tolton's story represents the long and rich history of African-American Catholics, who have lived through troubling chapters and setbacks in our American history," said Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry, archdiocesan postulator for the cause.

"Lessons from his early life as a slave and the prejudice he endured in becoming a priest still apply today with our current problems of racial and social injustices and inequities that divide neighborhoods, churches and communities by race, class and ethnicity. His work isn't done. We will continue to honor his life and legacy of goodness, inclusivity, empathy and resolve in how we treat one another."

Bishop Perry said unexplained physical healings have been reported to the cause and are under investigation.

The Archdiocese of Chicago formally opened Father Tolton's cause for canonization in 2010.

Norbertine Father Gerard Jordan holds the canonical title "promoter of the cause" and travels the country sharing the message of Father Tolton and the canonization efforts on behalf of Bishop Perry.

He said Father Tolton's story transcends the lines of race, gender and priesthood.

"If we start with the black part, then it's just a nice Black History Month story. If we start from the priesthood part you only include the ordained," Father Jordan told the Chicago Catholic, the archdiocesan newspaper. "First off, he didn't start off as a black man or an ordained priest. The first thing that Tolton was was a created child of God. You gotta start there."

"The first experience Tolton would have recognized, and it would have had a physical and spiritual effect on him, was his baptism," Father Jordan said. "If we connect with his baptism, then everybody is included and can relate to his story."

All the baptized are connected, he said.

"The baptism of Tolton tells the real story that we're supposed to be paying attention to and that's the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Father Jordan said. "Everything that Tolton experienced in life is the Gospel story."

Father Tolton had great love for the church, the people of God.

"He saw himself connected to the church who loved him. His mother, Martha Jane, was his physical mother but his spiritual mother was very real to him," Father Jordan said. "He said himself that the Catholic Church was the only thing that would help him to beat the double slavery of his mind and his body."

In his lifetime, Father Tolton also talked about how his mother the church took him as a poor slave to become fully who he was in the eyes of God.

"Everybody has to realize that the greatest inheritance we will ever receive is our baptism," Father Jordan said. "It is your decision whether or not you're going to keep that inheritance and invest in it or whether you're going to squander it or give it away or abandon it. Tolton never abandoned his inheritance."

His story begins and ends there, the priest said.

"Once people relate to Tolton's baptism they will find pieces of their life that they can relate too."

- - -

Duriga is editor of Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.

Update: Blaming homosexuality for abuse of minors is distraction, victims say

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) -- People must stop using homosexuals as scapegoats for the sexual abuse of children, two male survivors of abuse by priests told reporters.

"To make this link between homosexuality and pedophilia is absolutely immoral, it is unconscionable and has to stop," said Peter Isely, a survivor and founding member of the survivor's group SNAP.

Speaking to reporters outside the Vatican press office Feb. 18, he said: "No matter what your sexual orientation is, if you've committed a criminal act against a child, you're a criminal. That's the designation that counts. Period."

Isely and other survivors were in Rome to speak with the media ahead of a Vatican summit Feb. 21-24 on child protection in the Catholic Church.

Phil Saviano, who founded SNAP's New England chapter and is a board member of BishopsAccountability.org, told reporters Feb. 19 that he felt "there has been a lot of scapegoating of homosexual men as being child predators."

To lay the blame for the abuse of children on homosexuality "tells me that they really don't understand" the problem and have made a claim "that is not based on any source of reality."

"I will admit that if a priest is abusing a 16-, 17- or 18-year-old boy, that part of the element that is going on there is homosexuality, but that is not the root of the problem" of abuse by clergy, he said at an event at the Foreign Press Association in Rome.

Saviano was a prepubescent boy when he was abused by Father David A. Holley of Worcester, Massachusetts, and he said, very often, a perpetrator is no longer "interested" in his victim when the child goes through puberty.  

Saviano, whose story of abuse triggered the Boston Globe investigation and was featured in the film Spotlight, said he hears from victims from all over the world "and many of them are women who were abused as children."

"Trying to lump it all together under homosexually," he said, is "a dodge" and will not "lead to a proper solution."

"It is also an insult to all the women who have been sexually abused as children," he added.

U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and German Cardinal Walter Brandmuller released an open letter Feb. 19, urging the Vatican summit to take up the theme of homosexuality in the priesthood and other evidence of a more general questioning of traditional Catholic morality.

With the summit, they said, it seems that the "difficulty" in the church "is reduced to that of the abuse of minors, a horrible crime, especially when it is perpetrated by a priest, which is, however, only part of a much greater crisis. The plague of the homosexual agenda has been spread within the church, promoted by organized networks and protected by a climate of complicity and a conspiracy of silence."

The report of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on clergy abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States found there was no "causative relationship" between either celibacy or homosexuality and the sexual assault of children by church members.

The report concluded clerical sexual abuse of children was more a crime of opportunity with abusers violating whomever they had more unsupervised access to -- regardless of age and gender -- and that abusive priests almost always had more access to boys.

Barbara Dorris, a survivor and former executive director of SNAP, told reporters in Rome Feb. 19 that in the past 17 years, she has spoken to "thousands, thousands of victims" and close to half of them were women.

"Survivors only come forward when they feel they will be believed, when they feel they can get help or when reporting the crimes will make a change, when it will help others protect children," she said. "Most of the stories in the media in the past have been about the altar boys; the abuse of women and girls has not been the focus of coverage and when it has, unfortunately, words like 'affair' and 'relationship' have been used."

Too many women feel they will not be believed or "will be blamed" as having tempted a priest, Dorris said. "It's a vicious cycle," because victims speak up when they see other victims have been believed.

Framing the abuse crisis "as a homosexual issue," she said, takes the focus away from "the real issue, which is criminal sexual assault."

Focusing on homosexuality also "acts as a smokescreen; people now are discussing homosexuality, rather than the crimes themselves," she said. Pretending clerical sexual abuse is a result of homosexuality in the priesthood "automatically removes the women from the discussion and, magically, half the victims have been made to disappear."

- - -

Contributing to this story was Liam McIntyre in Rome.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 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.