IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters videoBy Rhina GuidosWASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a tweet, a U.S. bishop said he had
spent the night reading a grand jury report detailing seven decades of child
sex abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses and "it was like reading a horror book."
Unfortunately, it was not a fictional account, wrote Bishop
Richard F. Stika of Knoxville early Aug. 15, a day after the
Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General published the mammoth document of
more than 1,300 pages detailing accounts of the rape of children, secrecy by church
officials and some law enforcement failures over 70 years.
"It is real and lives were destroyed and faith shattered," Bishop
He joined at least a dozen or so prelates outside of
Pennsylvania who, via Twitter, TV or in person, at Masses for the feast of the
Assumption, took time to express the same sorrow and pain that lay
Catholics have been feeling and expressing. But many bishops also spoke about
the added layer of what to do about the pain of a shattered trust between shepherds
and their angry and pain-stricken flock that many say they now must fix.
"This is extraordinarily painful, it is humiliating, it is
nauseating," said New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan during an interview
with local CBS station WLNY in New York City. "This is a kick in the gut. I
really worry about a loss of credibility, a loss of trust. There's no use
denying it. We can't sugarcoat this. This is disastrous."
Painfully aware of the anger Catholics are voicing after the
revelations out of Pennsylvania, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley said Aug. 16 that something must be done right away.
"The clock is ticking for all of us in church leadership,
Catholics have lost patience with us and civil society has lost confidence in
us," said Cardinal O'Malley in a statement. "But I am not without hope and do not
succumb to despondent acceptance that our failures cannot be corrected."
Transformation has to take place in the way the church
prepares priests, "the way we exercise pastoral leadership and the way we
cooperate with civil authorities; all these have to be consistently better than
has been the case," he said, adding that "we remain shamed by these egregious
failures to protect children and those who are vulnerable and affirm our
commitment that these failures will never be repeated."
At the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate
Conception in Washington, Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, grand master of the
Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, began a Mass on the feast of the Assumption Aug.
15 by making a brief reference to the developments.
"Mary, our patroness, has guided the church in America
through many difficult moments," he said. "Today, yet another moment of trial
is upon us, a very serious crisis which has brought many of our people to the
point of despair and anger and even the loss of faith."
He said he offered the Mass asking for Mary's intercession,
so "that the bishops of our nation might accomplish a renewal of trust in the
church and its leaders across the land."
"And no less I ask Mary's son, the Good Shepherd, for the
graces of healing, reconciliation and justice for all the people of God among
us, above all for those who have been abused and their families," he said.
The report by a Pennsylvania grand jury of 23 people said
the investigation of almost two years identified more than 1,000 people who say
they were abused by some 301 priests, many whom are now dead. However, some
living priests named in the report are disputing some of the information and
claims in the document and challenged to have their names blacked out, or
redacted. They will be heard by the courts in September. The grand jury said it
was likely that more victims as well as perpetrators were not identified in the
Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns told The Dallas Morning News he
felt "sick" reading the accounts, "knowing that this occurred at the hands of
men that you knew and even worked side by side with adds to a dimension of
Bishop Burns grew up in Pittsburgh and knew some of those
named in the report, The Dallas Morning News article said.
Recalling one of the priests named in the report, Bishop
Burns told the newspaper that the priest "was domineering, he was extremely
bossy, he did not possess a shepherd's heart, from my perspective," adding that
"now I have come to recognize that he not only had a different view of
priesthood, he just had a double life.
But like others, he never suspected the horrors that were
Archbishop of Detroit Allen H. Vigneron said in an Aug. 13
statement, before the report became public, that it was disheartening,
"for us once again to come face-to-face with moral failures in the priesthood,
especially among us bishops."
"These sins are marks of shame upon the church," he said.
Though there may be the temptation to despair and think
that change is not possible, "reform can only happen when hope lives," he
"We must move forward with the conviction that God will
not abandon his church. He wants her purified, cleansed of these sins and
brought to new life," he said.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez urged prayers during the
feast of the Assumption for abuse victims.
"We are aware that this is a sad and confusing time for the church in
this country," he said in his homily. "In recent days and weeks, we have heard
new revelations about sin and abuse in the church. This is a time now for
prayer and repentance and a time for examining our conscience, especially for
those of us who are bishops and priests."
Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, said in an Aug. 14
statement that it's time to hold accountable "morally and legally" those who
allowed the abuse in Pennsylvania to occur, as well as those who hid alleged
abuses by former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick.
"Pledges of penitential prayer and actions on the part of
church leadership are meaningless unless first preceded by contrition,
confession, firm purpose of amendment and concrete actions of conversion," he
said. - - -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 email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS/Paul HaringBy VATICAN CITY (CNS)
-- In the wake of a grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse in six dioceses in
Pennsylvania, a Vatican spokesman called the abuses described in the report as
being "criminal and morally reprehensible."
should know that the pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his
priority, and the church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror
that destroys the lives of the innocent," said Greg Burke, head of the
Vatican press office, in a written statement Aug. 16.
were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith.
The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be
accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur,"
"The Holy See
condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors," Burke wrote and, as
such, "the Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all
levels of the Catholic Church, to help ensure the protection of minors and
vulnerable adults from harm."
"The Holy See
also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including
mandatory child abuse reporting requirements," he added.
The statement, sent
in Italian with unofficial English and Spanish translations, came after the
Pennsylvania attorney general held a news conference Aug. 14 announcing a
900-page report detailing decades of child sexual abuse by 301 priests, who
harmed more than 1,000 victims.
In response the report,
Burke said, "there are two words that can express the feelings faced with
these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow."
Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the
spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a
safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the church and in all of
society," the spokesman said.- - -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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy St. John Vianney ParishBy Kelly SankowskiPRINCE
FREDERICK, Md. (CNS) -- For many parishioners of St. John Vianney Catholic
Church in Prince Frederick, the violence happening in Nicaragua is more than
just headlines flashing across the screen.
parish here is impacted by it a lot," said Father Dan Carson, the parish's pastor.
"People (are) constantly asking about it."
10 years, the parish has been working with sister parishes in San Juan de Limay
and more recently in Esteli to build homes for the poorest of the poor in
Nicaragua. The parishioners of St. John Vianney raise money to build simple
brick and mud houses, which cost about $2,600 each, and then send the funds to
their sister parish.
there is so much unemployment in Nicaragua, Don Mueller, the parishioner who
leads the project, said the group does not go down to build the houses
themselves, but instead pays a foreman and two workers to do the building,
assisted by the volunteer labor of the people receiving the house.
house is 20-by-20 feet, which is roughly the size of a master bedroom in the
United States, and has no electricity, indoor plumbing or running water.
Nevertheless, Father Carson and Mueller both recalled how the people receiving
the house say it is like a mansion to them, since they have often been living
in three sided shelters made out of things like sticks and plastic bags.
St. John Vianney began this work in 2008, they have built about 450 houses.
who have nothing really treasure their faith, family and friends," said Father
Carson told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.
"They have a joy that we don't in our country because we have so much stuff.
They just appreciate the little things."
takes about two trips per year down to Nicaragua, along with a group of eight
to 12 other parishioners, to visit with the families whose homes have been
built and to pray with the committee that helps select the families who are
only rule is it has to be the poorest of the poor, without regard to race,
religion politics or anything like that," said Mueller. "The committee looks at
everybody and decides who is the poorest of the poor."
last trip was in January, and it was Father Carson's first time there, since he
had been newly appointed to the parish. While they were there, he blessed the
newly constructed homes.
recalled the faithful dedication of the people who they have met in Nicaragua,
who often live in remote areas. One man in particular whom they had met hiked
three and a half hours with his guitar in order to get to the church to sing at
Mass on Sunday.
group from St. John Vianney had intended to take another trip this summer, but
could not go because of safety concerns. The housing program continues to
operate, even though the parishioners from St. John Vianney are unable to go
visit the parishes and families.
recent months, unrest in the country has increased, with police and
paramilitaries killing people who are peacefully protesting the regime of the
country's president, Daniel Ortega. Many of the protesters are young students.
the protests began April 12, the death toll has reached 448, according to human
rights groups in the country. Ortega has labeled Catholic clergy as enemies and
those supporting them as terrorists.
Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara of Esteli, whom the St. John Vianney group always
visits when they go to Nicaragua, has been attacked and shot at on multiple
occasions. As far as they know, the parishioners of their two sister parishes
are still OK.
Mata has become a friend over the years," said Mueller. "He has been attacked
and shot at and threatened by the government and that really hurts. I consider
him a friend, he has been to the states, he has been to our parish, he has been
to my house."
help their friends from afar, donors from St. John Vianney Parish sent $20,000
to Bishop Mata to be used at his discretion for emergency purposes, which they
sent in small installments so as not to raise suspicion.
a day after the money arrived, Ortega ordered the public hospital not to treat injured
protesters, so Bishop Mata treated them at the medical school he had opened,
with medicine bought with the money that St. John Vianney had sent.
called it a miracle that the money had just arrived the day before," said
the Nicaraguan government has declared any doctor who treats injured protesters
John Vianney raised $464 for the housing project with a recent fundraiser at
the parish picnic. Also, in solidarity with those facing violence, the parish is
praying the prayer of St. Michael as the bishop and priests in Nicaragua say
the same prayer.
Carson remarked that the circumstances are particularly sad for such a poor
country, where it is tough "to see the people that have nothing there hurt even
is on the staff of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of
Washington.- - -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 email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob RollerBy Julie AsherWASHINGTON (CNS) -- The president of the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Aug. 16 announced three key goals and a
comprehensive plan to address the "moral catastrophe" of the new abuse scandal hitting
the U.S. church.
plan "will involve the laity, lay experts, the clergy and the Vatican," Cardinal
Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said. This plan will be presented to the
full body of bishops at their general assembly meeting in Baltimore in
said the "substantial involvement of the laity" from law enforcement,
psychology and other disciplines will be essential to this process.
also said that right now, it is clear that "one root cause" of this catastrophe
"is the failure of episcopal leadership."
In a lengthy letter addressed to all
Catholics, Cardinal DiNardo laid out three
goals just established by the bishops' Executive Committee in a series of
meetings held early the week of Aug. 13.
first is a "full investigation" into
"the questions surrounding" Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal
and retired archbishop of Washington. He said the Executive Committee will ask
the Vatican to conduct an apostolic visitation into these questions "in concert
with" a group of laypeople identified for their expertise by the USCCB's lay-run
National Review Board who will be "empowered to act."
a credible allegation that Archbishop McCarrick abused a minor nearly 47 years
ago and accusations of his sexual misconduct with seminarians, many have been asking
how the prelate
could have risen up the ranks of the church as an auxiliary bishop, bishop,
archbishop and finally cardinal.
DiNardo described the second and third goals, respectively, as an opening of
new and confidential channels for reporting
complaints against bishops, and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints.
three goals "will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority and substantial leadership
by laity," he said.
weeks ago, I shared with you my sadness, anger, and shame over the recent
revelations concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick," the cardinal said. "Those
sentiments continue and are deepened in view of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury
are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion,
but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that
are so evident in the recent report," he added.
DiNardo said the members of the Executive Committee "have already begun to
develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon
consultation with experts, laity and clergy, as well as the Vatican."
In addition to this being presented to the
full body of bishops at their Baltimore assembly, the cardinal said he will go
to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge
further concrete steps based on them."
"The overarching goal in all of this is
stronger protections against predators in the church and anyone who would
conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of
transparency and accountability," Cardinal DiNardo explained.
He elaborated on each of the goals he
described, starting with the "full investigation" of the Archbishop McCarrick
case and questions surrounding it.
"These answers are necessary to prevent a
recurrence," he said, and "so help to protect minors, seminarians and others
who are vulnerable in the future."
The bishops will "invite the Vatican to
conduct an apostolic visitation to address these questions, in concert with a
group of predominantly laypeople identified for their expertise by members of
the National Review Board and empowered to act," he said.
He said the second goal "is to
make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier."
"Our 2002 'Statement of
Episcopal Commitment' does not make clear what avenue victims themselves should
follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops," he explained.
The statement is in the bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and
Young People," approved in Dallas in 2002, and revised in 2005, 2011 and
"We need to update this (commitment)
document," Cardinal DiNardo said. "We also need to develop and widely promote
reliable third-party reporting mechanisms. Such tools already exist in many
dioceses and in the public sector and we are already examining specific
The third goal has to do with
advocating for "better procedures to resolve complaints against bishops," he
"For example, the canonical
procedures that follow a complaint will be studied with an eye toward concrete
proposals to make them more prompt, fair, and transparent, and to specify what
constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process," he said.
He also laid out the three
criteria for pursing these goals: "genuine independence," authority and "substantial
involvement by the laity."
mechanism for addressing any complaint against a bishop must be free from bias
or undue influence by a bishop," he said. "Our structures must preclude bishops
from deterring complaints against them, from hampering their investigation, or
from skewing their resolution."
authority in the church, he
said, "Because only the pope has authority to discipline or remove bishops, we
will assure that our measures will both respect that authority and protect the
vulnerable from the abuse of ecclesial power."
About the "substantial involvement of the
laity," he said: "Laypeople bring expertise in areas of investigation, law
enforcement, psychology, and other relevant disciplines, and their presence
reinforces our commitment to the first criterion of independence."
In closing, he said, "I apologize and humbly
ask your forgiveness for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to
"Whatever the details may turn out to be
regarding Archbishop McCarrick or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere
else), we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal
leadership," Cardinal DiNardo said. "The result was that scores of beloved
children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone. This is a moral
"It is also part of this catastrophe that so
many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are
tainted by this failure."
He said the U.S. bishops "firmly resolve, with
the help of God's grace, never to repeat it."
"I have no illusions about the degree to which
trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures. It will
take work to rebuild that trust," Cardinal DiNardo said.
He said the goals and plans outlined in his
letter are "only the beginning."
"Other steps will follow," he said. "I will
keep you informed of our progress toward these goals."
He asked U.S. Catholics "to hold us to all of
"Let me also ask you to pray for us, that we
will take this time to reflect, repent and recommit ourselves to holiness of
life and to conform our lives even more to Christ, the Good Shepherd."- - -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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS photo/Jeffrey BrunoBy Steve LarkinWASHINGTON
(CNS) -- When Chris Bell was working in Times Square in the late 1970s, he was
shocked to repeatedly see young mothers entering crisis shelters with their
children, and he decided that he had to do something.
the help of Father Benedict Groeschel, a member of the Franciscan Friars of the
Renewal, and his spiritual director at the time, Bell founded Good Counsel, a
network of pro-life maternity homes.
Good Counsel operates seven homes -- four in New York state, one in New Jersey, one in Alabama and one in Connecticut -- and works with other homes all over the country. It also is
looking to both grow and expand its network.
Counsel is one of the founding members of the National Maternity Housing
Coalition," Bell told Catholic News Service. "Most of the homes are small and
limited in what they can do, but we can help find a place for any pregnant
woman in the country."
said that any pregnant women can enter the maternity homes for free, and the
homes will help provide them with opportunities to go back to school and find
Counsel will even assist pregnant women with drug addictions or mental
illnesses and help find suitable places for them.
also can help plan adoptions. Bell said that many women don't realize that they
can choose the couple who would adopt their child and fear that the child will
be placed in the foster care system.
said that many women who are told that their child will have genetic defects
can benefit from maternity homes.
don't know why the only response so many medical people have is to tell the
mother to get rid of it if it looks like the child will have genetic defects,"
he said. "Especially in the United States, where we're rich and have the
technology to help them."
told the story of a woman whose doctor told her that her unborn son had a
defect in every cell in his body, and the doctor recommended she abort.
then called Good Counsel, saying "I just want to be a good mother." Good
Counsel took her in, found a different medical facility for her, and prayed
with her because she wanted to pray.
the boy was born, the fears of the doctor were unfounded. He had a hole in his
heart, which required two surgeries, but by the time the mother left the home
her son looked like any other one-year-old.
also told another story of a mother who already had a 3-year-old when she
came to Good Counsel.
she told the father that she was pregnant, he kicked her in the stomach and she
her first few months, she had obtained a home health certificate, and, after
having the baby and staying with him for a few months, she found a job.
I think about where she was when she came to us and where she was when she
left, it was a total turnaround," Bell said.
said he thought that media coverage was one reason for a lack of awareness
about maternity homes.
think the media has a strong bias against anything anti-abortion," he said.
that, he intends on continuing his work.
question I ask: Isn't there enough love in the world for another baby? Where
there's love, there's life, and where there's life, there's hope. We can change
things by looking at one life at a time and one family at a time."
Note: Information about the Good Counsel network of homes can be found by going to goodcounselhomes.org
or by calling (800) 723-8331.- - -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 email@example.com.