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Why these Catholics are taking the slow boat to Panama

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 11:00 PM

Paris, France, Aug 14, 2018 / 09:00 pm (CNA).- To get to World Youth Day 2019 in Panama this January, most Catholics will board flights a day or two before events begin. Some will drive, and spend a few weeks along the route on pilgrimage. A few might even spend weeks walking to Panama. But a crew of almost two dozen Catholics will take more than five months to get to World Youth Day, and that’s so long as they have calm seas and fair winds.
 
A French crew of 17 men and women, four skippers, and a chaplain will sail from France to the Central American country, arriving at World Youth Day under sail, and from the sea.

Though a majority of the group has never sailed before, the crew will take three boats and gain hands-on-experience along the way. Stopping at many European pilgrim sites, the crew will spend time as pilgrims, in prayer and reflection as they travel.  The boats will carry a statue of Santa Maria La Antigua, the patron saint of Panama.  

The voyage is expected to depart from the Gulf of Brest, located in the north of France, on August 31. On behalf of all the country’s bishops, the crew will receive a blessing from Bishop Marc Aillet of Bayonne.

According the Vatican News, the team has labeled the journey a “spiritual, human, and missionary adventure.” The crewmates cited a variety of reasons for their lengthy journey. Some members are using the trip as a time to discern a vocation, better understand life’s purpose, or to focus on prayer.  

The pilgrims also expressed desires to immerse themselves in the cultures of other nations, listening to the stories of local people and learning from shared experiences.

Until September 15, the crew will sail through France, Portugal, and Spain, stopping at pilgrim sites like Santiago de Compostela and the apparition site of Our Lady of Fatima. The boats will reach Morocco by September 30 to retrace the steps of Blessed Charles de Foucault.

In October, the crew will sail to the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago, and then to Senegal. The crew will be leading a mission trip in Senegal’s capital city, Dakar.

After an estimated 20 days of travel over the Atlantic Ocean, the pilgrims will arrive at the Caribbean islands around Christmas. The crew will sail to Curacao, off the coast of Venezuela. They plan will arrive in Panama before Jan. 22.

 

Pennsylvania bishops respond to sexual abuse grand jury report

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 5:12 PM

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 14, 2018 / 03:12 pm (CNA).- Following the Aug. 14 release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse allegations in six Catholic dioceses, the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton released separate statements acknowledging failures to protect children, and pledging to make amends.
 
Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg said in a statement that he was “saddened” by the report, “for once again we read that innocent children were the victims of horrific acts committed against them.”
 
Gainer also apologized again to the survivors of child sex abuse and to the public, both for past abuses and for the Church officials who allowed the abuse to occur.
 
Harrisburg’s bishop also sought to reassure the faithful that policies had changed to ensure a safer environment, and that “there is nothing we take more seriously than the protection of those who walk through our doors. [...] The safety and well-being of our children is too important not to take immediate and definitive action.”

Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton released a seven-minute video in response to the grand jury report’s findings.

“While this is an uncomfortable and unsettling topic, we must speak openly and frankly about it,” said Bambera.

“I offer my deepest apologies for such behavior and for the consequences of this tragic reality in our Church.”

Bambera described the incidents in the report as a “dark chapter” in the 150-year history of the diocese.

“You have a right to be angry,” he said. “I am angry too,” noting that it was “particularly abhorrent” that abuse is alleged to have occurred in a Church environment. Bambera also outlined the steps his diocese has taken to protect children, including background checks and abuse training.

Bishop Lawrence Persico of Erie, who was the only bishop singled out for praise by the Pennsylvania attorney general, offered in a statement in an apology to the victims of abuse, saying they suffered from “unimaginably cruel behavior” for which they bore no responsibility.

Perscio praised abuse survivors for having the courage to come forward with their stories, while he also acknowledged that there are others who have not yet shared their experiences.

“I humbly offer my sincere apology to each victim who has been violated by anyone affiliated with the Catholic Church. I hope that you can accept it,” said Perscio.

“I know that apologizing is only one step in a very long and complex process of healing.”

Perscio instructed churches within his diocese to be open for a 12-hour period on September 15, the feast of Our Mother of Sorrows. He pledged to stand with the victims of abuse, and said that he was willing to meet with any survivor who wished to do so.  

Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown issued an apology “for the past sins and crimes committed by some members of the clergy,” as well as “to the survivors of abuse and their loved ones,” and then to the entire diocese, for any doubts or anger the crisis has wrought.

“For the times when those in the Church did not live up to Christ’s call to holiness, and did not do what needed to be done, I apologize,” he said.

He reiterated that his “first priority” as a bishop was the protection of children.

“To those women and men and all those they have spoken for: We hear you. The Church hears you. I hear you,” said Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh in a statement after the report’s release.

Zubik also apologized to victims of clerical abuse, as well as to “any person or family whose trust, faith and well-being has been devastated by men who were ordained to be the image of Christ.” He also said he is willing to meet with any victim to apologize in-person.

Zubik emphasized that “Diocese of Pittsburgh today is not the Church that is described in the Grand Jury Report,” and that “It has not been for a long time.” Data provided by the diocese showed that over 90 percent of abuse incidents occurred prior to 1990, and Zubik explained the steps the diocese has taken to prevent abuse.

Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg released a video homily that will be shown at each Mass in the diocese this coming weekend. In it, Malesic apologized to the victims, who were “robbed of their childhoods” by the abuse, noting that some had been “robbed of their faith” as well.

The behavior in the report “cannot be accepted,” he said, and “it is a cause of shame for us.”

Malesic stated he was “truly proud of the victims who came forward to tell their story,” and encouraged others to come forward as well, and for the faithful to be vigilant in reporting suspected abuse.

“To the survivors of sexual abuse in the Church [...] I grieve for you, and I grieve with you.”

In a statement released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB president Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Timothy L. Doherty, chairman of the bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, expressed “shame” at the report’s conclusions.

“As a body of bishops, we are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops… We pray that all survivors of sexual abuse find healing, comfort and strength in God’s loving presence as the Church pledges to continue to restore trust through accompaniment, communion, accountability and justice.”

The report claims to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests and presents a devastating portrait of efforts by Church authorities to, ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations - either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal.

 

Cardinal Wuerl named in Pennsylvania grand jury report, responds to criticism

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 4:30 PM

Washington D.C., Aug 14, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and the former Bishop of Pittsburgh, has been named more than 200 times in a Pennsylvania grand jury report, released Aug. 14, after an 18-month investigation into historic allegations of sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses.

The cardinal released a statement in response to the report, underscoring the gravity of the sexual abuse for the Church and the real need for repentance for past failures.

“As I have made clear throughout my more than 30 years as a bishop, the sexual abuse of children by some members of the Catholic Church is a terrible tragedy, and the Church can never express enough our deep sorrow and contrition for the abuse, and for the failure to respond promptly and completely,” the cardinal said. 

In total, 99 priest from Pittsburgh were named in the report, 32 priests were referenced by the grand jury report in relation to Cardinal Wuerl’s time as bishop. Of these, 19 involved new cases or allegations which arose during his 18 years in charge of the diocese, during the years 1988-2006.

Of the 19 cases which arose during Wuerl’s time as bishop, 18 were removed from ministry immediately. The other cases Wuerl addressed in Pittsburgh principally concerned actions and allegations that arose during the reign of his predecessor, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

Several of these cases inherited from Cardinal Bevilacqua’s time were subject to the report’s most stringent criticisms.

In one case, an abuser-priest left the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1966, following allegations of abuse. He was allowed to seek ministry in dioceses in California and Nevada. The report says Wuerl authorized him to move from Los Angeles to the diocese of Reno-Las Vegas in 1991, but sources familiar with the Pittsburgh case said that Wuerl was unaware of the 1966 allegations at the time.

A further allegation, concerning past actions by the same priest, was made in 1994 at which time Wuerl immediately informed the dioceses where the priest had been living.

In another case highlighted by the report, Wuerl agreed to a settlement with an abuse victim in his first weeks as bishop of Pittsburgh in 1988. The victim received a total of $900,000 and signed a confidentiality agreement  - such agreements were once common in settlements and have been heavily criticized as a means of silencing victims.

While acknowledging that the report contained specific criticisms of his time in Pittsburgh, Wuerl defended his record of handling sexual abuse allegations.

“While I understand this report may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse. I sincerely hope that a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and my continuing commitment to the protection of children will dispel any notions otherwise made by this report.”

The report also specifically criticized Wuerl for maintaining financial support for priests who had been removed from ministry, although providing that support is a canonical obligation for bishops. Many dioceses, including those covered by the report, have found themselves obligated to continue providing minimum benefits and support for priests.

Sources close to the cardinal also point out that the grand jury report does not distinguish between proven incidents of abuse and other allegations, saying that the report presumes that any priest accused of abuse should have been permanently removed from ministry, whether the allegation is proven or not. That assumption, they say, is not consistent with canonical norms on the subject.

As the most senior sitting bishop to be named in the report, and having served for so long as the head of a diocese as prominent as Pittsburgh, it was widely expected that Wuerl would be singled out for special attention by the report, and by the state’s Attorney General, Josh Shapiro.

Perhaps the most eye-catching allegation against Wuerl contained in the more than 1,000 pages released is the use of the phrase “circle of secrecy.” These words, the report claims, “were his own words for the church’s child sex abuse cover up.” This allegation is vehemently denied by both the diocese of Pittsburgh and the cardinal.

In an official response released with the report, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said that the phrase “circle of secrecy” appears in paperwork related to the request of a particular priest to return to ministry, and that it was used to make clear that there could be no “circle of secrecy” about the priest’s past problems. The diocese also says that the handwriting in which the phrase is written cannot be definitively attributed to anyone, including  Wuerl.

Ed McFadden, spokesman for the cardinal, said that “the handwriting does not belong to then-Bishop Wuerl as the writers of the Report mistakenly assumed. Indeed, the cardinal confirmed the handwriting is not his, and confirmed he neither wrote nor used the phrase while serving as Bishop of Pittsburgh. When the Cardinal’s legal counsel informed the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office about this error – prior to the release of the report – the Attorney General and his Senior Deputy refused to acknowledge the mistake and refused to take any steps to correct the dramatic use and misattribution of the phrase in the report.”

McFadden called the report’s attribution of the phrase “another example that in factual ways, large and small, the Attorney General’s office was more concerned with getting this report out than getting it right. Such a focus detracts from the shared goals of protection and healing.”

In a letter sent to the priests of the Washington archdiocese on Aug. 13, Wuerl wrote that he was shocked at having to confront allegations of abuse almost from the beginning of his ministry in Pittsburgh.

“I cannot fully express the dismay and anger I felt, when as a newly installed Bishop of Pittsburgh in 1988, I learned about the abuse some survivors experienced in my diocese,” he said.

The cardinal said that the experience of meeting with victims of abuse “urged me to develop quickly a “zero tolerance” policy for clergy who committed such abuse,” and that he put in place procedures to ensure allegations were addressed “fairly and forthrightly.”

In his written testimony to the grand jury, Wuerl recounted that in his first months as Bishop of Pittsburgh he had to meet with two brothers who had been victims of abuse. Wuerl said he was profoundly affected by the experience and came away with “a permanent resolve that this should never happen again.”

In 1989, Wuerl established a diocesan committee to evaluate policies for responding to abuse allegations. This committee grew to become the Diocesan Review Board, nearly a decade before the Dallas Charter called for every diocese to have such a body.

In his letter to the priests of Washington, he said that he had tried to live up to his own zero-tolerance standards.

“The diocese [of Pittsburgh] investigated all allegations of child sexual abuse during my tenure there and admitted or substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse resulted in appropriate action including the removal of the priest from ministry,” Wuerl wrote to the Washington presbyterate.

What constitutes “appropriate action” is something that has changed in the years since the sexual abuse crisis at the turn of the millennium and the formation of the Dallas Charter by the United States bishops.

As Bishop of Pittsburgh, Wuerl says he implemented of a policy that formally encouraged Catholics making complaints to also report them directly to law enforcement agencies, and sometimes informed civil authorities himself, even against the express wishes of the person making the allegations.

Of the 19 priests whose original allegations were handled by Wuerl, 18 were immediately removed from pastoral assignments and a kept away from any further contact with children.

But, when allegations could not be satisfactorily established,  many of these were given administrative positions in the diocesan chancery, something which would be considered inappropriate under current standards. Unlike the worst examples of earlier abuse cases in dioceses like Boston and Los Angeles, Wuerl is adamant that he never moved an accused or suspected abuser from parish to parish, or left them in parish ministry.

Indeed, from his first year in Pittsburgh, Wuerl acted publicly on issues related to clerical sexual abuse, even in the face of Church opposition.

In 1988, the year he arrived in Pittsburgh, Wuerl removed Fr. Anthony Cipolla from ministry following accusations the priest had molested a teenage boy. Following appeals by Cipolla, the Vatican ordered that the priest be returned to ministry but Wuerl categorically refused, flying to Rome and presenting evidence and arguments in person to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. Rome eventually reversed its position and upheld Wuerl’s decision.

While cases of suspected abuse since 2002 have been handled according to the USCCB’s “Essential Norms,” the Cipolla case served as an important template in the 1990’s, making it easier for other bishops to remove priests accused of abuse from active ministry. 

Coming hard on the heels of the revelations about Archbishop McCarrick, who preceded Wuerl in Washington, D.C., the cardinal has found himself on the receiving end of very pointed and sustained criticism. Appearing on “CBS This Morning” ahead of the report’s release, he was pointedly asked if he had any intention of resigning. He is likely to face renewed scrutiny and even more difficult questions in the weeks ahead.

Pennsylvania grand jury report details decades of clerical abuse allegations

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 4:27 PM

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 14, 2018 / 02:27 pm (CNA).- A redacted grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses was released Tuesday, following an 18-month investigation into thousands of alleged instances of abuse spanning several decades.  

The report, detailing allegations made in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton, was released Aug.14. It reported on evidence of systematic abuse and cover-ups going back seven decades within these dioceses.

About half of Pennsylvania’s nearly 3 million Catholics live within these six dioceses.

The 884-page report was written by 23 grand jurors, who spent some 18 months investigating the six dioceses, examining half a million pages of documents in the process. The FBI assisted with the investigative process.

The report claims to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests and presents a devastating portrait of efforts by Church authorities to, ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations - either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal.

The report also identified a series of practices present in different ways across the dioceses which together amounted to a “playbook for concealing the truth.”

These include use of phrases like “boundary issues” or ”inappropriate contact” instead of explicitly referring to rape and sexual abuse, assigning priests to investigate their peers, instead of using qualified and objective personnel, and a reliance on psychological assessments and diagnoses based upon the self-reporting of clerics.

Due to laws regarding the statute of limitations, nearly every abuse allegation cannot be criminally prosecuted, although two indictments have been filed. So far, one priest, Fr. John Sweeney, has been convicted of sexually assaulting a student in the early 1990s.

The released report was partially redacted, which Attorney General Josh Shapiro was displeased about. The redactions were due to ongoing appellate litigation.

The grand jury report contains the names of 301 men. Some names were not released due to the aforementioned ongoing court cases. Details of their crimes were also redacted.

The number of victims was estimated to be in the thousands, but the true number was not quantifiable, the report said. The majority of the victims in cases examined by the grand jury were male. The ages of the victims ranged from pre-pubescent to young-adult seminarians.

The offending priests are accused of a variety of crimes, including rape, molestation, and groping. The report states that some of the priests were able to manipulate their victims with alcohol and pornography.

Approximately two-thirds of the accused priests have died. The youngest offender named in the report was born in the 1990s.

Overall, nearly one-third of the accused priests came from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the highest percentage. The second-highest by number was the Diocese of Scranton, with 55 priests within the diocese, as well as four members of the Society of St. John, identified in the report.

A total of 10 priests from Pittsburgh were identified only as “Pittsburgh Priests #1-10,” as they could not be directly identified. Two priests from Harrisburg were similarly only identified as “Harrisburg Priest #1” and “Harrisburg Priest #2.”  

The Dioceses of Harrisburg and Erie have already released the names of the priests who were credibly accused of sex crimes, and the remaining dioceses pledged to do so upon the release of the grand jury report.

On August 1, Harrisburg released a list of 71 accused priests, deacons, and seminarians, which the diocese admitted was “overinclusive.” The grand jury report contained 45 names from Harrisburg, including three former seminarians.

Erie’s list included 62 people, including laypersons, who were accused of sex crimes over the last 70 years. A total of 41 people from Erie were included in the report, including one former seminarian.

In the Diocese of Allentown, 31 priests were listed, plus two members of the Carmelites, and a lay person employed as a basketball coach at a school in the diocese.

The Diocese of Greensburg had the fewest number of accused priests, with a total of 20 priests identified.

The grand jury report covered all accusations of abuse during the last 70 years, from 1947 until 2017 within the dioceses subject to investigation.  

Data provided by the Dioceses of Greensburg and Pittsburgh showed that most of the alleged abuse occurred during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Greensburg did not list any abuse claims from the 2000s or 2010s.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh saw the number of reported abuse incidents spike during the 1980s, with slightly more than 80 allegations. In the 2000s, there were fewer than 10 reported.

The Dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, and Scranton did not provide hard numbers on the timeline of abuse incidents, but each explained how they have taken steps since the mid-80s to early 90s to implement policies within their dioceses to prevent abuse.

Over the past several decades, the Church in the United States implemented a series of proactive steps intended to create a safer environment for children. These included a tougher screening process for seminarians, trainings for parish workers on how to identify and prevent abuse, and new policies on how a diocese should respond to reported misconduct.

 

 

Denver archbishop reflects on McCarrick abuse crisis

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 3:01 PM

Denver, Colo., Aug 14, 2018 / 01:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver issued a letter to the archdiocese on Monday, offering practical advice on and spiritual insights into the sexual abuse scandal centered on Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

During his annual silent retreat last week, the archbishop said he reflected on the scandal in his prayers. He encouraged the clergy and laity to work toward healing and greater prevention methods.

“Some have felt that the Lord has abandoned the Church,” he said in his Aug. 13 letter. “Personally, I am deeply sorry that both laity and clergy have had to experience this type of betrayal.”

The archbishop challenged the archdiocese to participate in opportunities of healing.

“I am asking every priest in the archdiocese to offer a Mass each month in reparation for the sins committed by cardinals, bishops, priests and deacons, and for all sins committed by clergy and lay people against the commandments of our Lord, as well as to pray for healing for the victims of sin.”

“Too many seminarians, priests and bishops knew of Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior and did not restrain him,” he said. “Due to this, I call on the U.S. bishops’ conference to ask for and allow an independent investigation that includes members of the lay faithful and those clergy who had nothing to do with the matter.”

In June, Pope Francis removed McCarrick from ministry after an allegation he sexually abused a minor almost 50 years ago was ruled credible. In late July he resigned from the College of Cardinals, and the pope ordered him to adopt a life of prayer and penance pending a canonical process. Other allegations of sexual abuse and coercion have since been raised, and have brought to the public eye past legal settlements involving alleged misconduct while head of two New Jersey dioceses.

Archbishop Aquila said the Church’s abuse scandals originate from complacency, and a culture influenced by the sexual revolution.

“We must recognize that complacency about evil and sin is present both in the Church and the world and has led us to where we are today. This culture of complacency among clergy and laity must come to an end!”

“Sadly, too many, both clergy and lay, have listened more to the world than to Christ and the Church when it comes to human sexuality.”

He said the sexual revolution pushed the culture from the proper understanding of the human dignity. The Church has taught on human sexuality for centuries, said the archbishop, noting Catholics have given testimony to “the healing, freedom and joy it brings” in its practice.

The Church, he said, must respond with a greater closeness to Christ and return to the path of grace that highlights the dangers of sin and the fulfilment of truth. He stressed the aspects of the faith which strengthen the Church’s members.

“Charity and truth must always go together. A disciple should never lead someone into sin or condone sin,” he said.

“The Father has given us his son Jesus, the Beatitudes, the Gospels, the truth, and his commandments out of love for us to keep us on the narrow way of love. He is merciful in all that he has given to us.”

Chilean officials raid bishops' conference amid abuse investigation

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 1:47 PM

Santiago, Chile, Aug 14, 2018 / 11:47 am (CNA).- Officials of the Investigative Police of Chile (PDI) raided Tuesday the offices of the Chilean bishop’s conference to seize information and statements from alleged victims of abuse perpetrated by the Congregation of the Marist Brothers.

According to Chilean officials, police are investigating 38 claims of sexual abuse related to the Marist congregation.  

Government officials and members of the PDI’s Sex Crimes Division arrived at 9:15 a.m. at the downtown Santiago headquarters of the bishops’ conference, to carry out a search order from Chilean regional prosecutor Raúl Guzmán, who is overseeing the national government’s investigation of cases related to the Marist Brothers.

After the search, which lasted for about 90 minutes, the prosecutor told the press that "we are collecting and complementing the information we have already received, particularly about the identification of victims who have lodged complaints about abuses of various types."

He also stressed that these records are "related to facts that we are investigating, which can be constitutive of crime, and which involves both victims and potential defendants."

After finishing the raid, the prosecutors and the PDI went to the headquarters of the Marist Brothers, in the commune of Providencia, to specify a new procedure.

The raid is the latest of several that have occurred in Chile in the context of abuse investigations. Other raids took place in the Diocese of Rancagua, the Military Bishopric and the Ecclesiastical Court of Santiago.

The Congregation of the Marist Brothers in Chile has undertaken a canonical investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against some of its members.

In February of this year, some alleged victims of abuse perpetrated by Marist Brothers met with Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Pope's envoy to Chile, who was investigating the accusations of cover-ups made against Bishop Juan Barros or Osorno.

Spanish priest Jordi Bertomeu, who acted as the notary of those meetings, recorded that the papal envoy reminded the victims of their "right to denounce civilly" the abuse they had reported.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

House arrest for Australian archbishop convicted of not reporting abuse

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 12:17 PM

Adelaide, Australia, Aug 14, 2018 / 10:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An Australian court ruled Tuesday that Archbishop Philip Wilson, who was convicted in May of failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse disclosed to him in the 1970s, will serve his 12-month sentence under house arrest.

Archbishop Wilson, 67, resigned as Archbishop of Adelaide July 30.

The prelate will be eligible for parole after six months, and will be serving his sentence at the home of a relative in New South Wales, wearing a tracking device.

The archbishop's lawers have said they will appeal the conviction.

The Archdiocese of Adelaide stated Aug. 14 that Bishop Gregory O'Kelly of Port Pirie, who is serving as apostolic administrator of Adelaide, is “keeping Archbishop Wilson in his prayers as he formally commences this stage in his life, while also remembering the victims and survivors of abuse in the Church.”

Archbishop Wilson was convicted May 22 of concealing abuse committed by a fellow parish priest in New South Wales in the 1970s.

The victims of the scandal, Peter Creigh and another altar boy who is unnamed for legal reasons, said they both had told Wilson of their abusive experience with Fr. James Fletcher.

The archbishop has maintained his innocence throughout the process, saying he had no recollection of the accusations, and insisting that if he had been notified of the scandal, he would have offered pastoral care to the victims and their families, and reported the event to his superiors.

He was sentenced July 3 to a 12-month sentence.

Archbishop Wilson submitted his resignation to Pope Francis July 20, after having said initially he would only do so if his appeal failed.

He said he changed his mind because “there is just too much pain and distress being caused by my maintaining the office of Archbishop of Adelaide, especially to the victims of Fr. Fletcher,” and he had become “increasingly worried at the growing level of hurt” his conviction had caused.

Cardinal Tagle: Flood victims can find support in Catholic Church

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 11:33 AM

Manila, Philippines, Aug 14, 2018 / 09:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic parishes and assistance centers are ready to help victims of storms and major floods in the Manila area, said Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila over the weekend.

“To our brothers and sisters affected by the flooding, just go to your parishes and social action centers if you are in need of help,” the cardinal told Radio Veritas Aug. 12. “Those who want to send their help in any way they can, they can contact our parishes and social action centers and they will be willing to accept them.”

The cardinal has asked for prayers for those affected by recent flooding, while also warning against the dangers of environmental destruction.

“Part of our call is for everyone not to add to what could destroy our environment,” he said.

The southeast monsoon, drawing more force from a tropical storm, brought rains and floods to the Manila area over the weekend. Floodwaters exceeded six feet in depth.

The storms have affected more than 1.1 million people. At least three people were killed and about 60,000 people were displaced from their homes and took refuge in evacuation centers, CBCP News reports.

More flooding is expected in the next few days.

Cleanup has begun in Manila, including efforts to remove the debris and garbage that the floods left on roads and streets.

The cardinal linked the piles of garbage to human action.

“Often times, we are the first ones who are affected by the damages we have caused our common home,” he said. “So this may serve as a reiteration of our call for us not to add anymore to the destruction of our planet.”

He encouraged Filipinos to “forget about our culture of just throwing around anything and everything.”

“Let us stop being disrespectful and indifferent of our common home,” he said.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said Caritas affiliates in Manila, Antipolo and Pasig provided food relief to at least 1,500 families since Saturday.
 
 

 

Church in Australia should not be tax exempt, former government official says

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 8:01 PM

Canberra, Australia, Aug 13, 2018 / 06:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A former tax official has said Australia should revoke the non-profit tax status of the Catholic Church in the country, due to widespread clerical sex abuse, which was detailed in an extensive report released last year.

Former assistant taxation commissioner Terry Hamilton expressed his concern about the charity tax status to the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), according to the Guardian Australia.

Hamilton argued that the hundreds of cases of clerical sex abuse against minors, as well as failures to report such abuse, constituted crimes that broke the laws of Australia which would disqualify the Catholic Church for the tax exempt status.

For churches to qualify for tax breaks in Australia, they must be established religious institutions that reflect a religious character and do not break Australian laws.

“These institutions attract significant financial benefits particularly through tax exemptions and charity status,” Hamilton said, according to the Guardian Australia.

“The associated crimes in these cases breach the taxation law obligations that must result in a forfeit of tax exemptions and the registration of tax-exempt charities. I notified the prime minister and the treasurer of these breaches, in particular those relating to the Catholic church.”

The ACNC, which is responsible for deciding which entities do and do not qualify for tax exempt statuses, told the Guardian that Hamilton would need to fill out a separate form for each charity with which he had concerns, rather than filing a concern against the Catholic Church as a whole. The ACNC can revoke tax exempt statuses, issue formal warnings, or suspend responsible parties of charities that are found in violation of their standards.

The ACNC told the Guardian that it was unable to comment further on the cases raised by Hamilton due to privacy provisions, but that they were focusing on “ensuring charities have appropriate governance in place to safeguard vulnerable people, particularly children.”

In a wide-ranging report released in December 2017, Australia’s royal commission found serious failings in the protection of children from abuse in the Catholic Church and other major institutions.

Church officials in Australia apologized for the suffering caused and pledged their commitment to ensuring justice, while also noting the impossibility of violating the secrecy of sacramental confession.

The report was the result of an investigation in which the commission reviewed thousands of accounts of child abuse from figures in major institutions. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was established in 2013 to investigate the handling of child sex abuse allegations by religious groups, schools, government organizations, and sporting associations.

Of the institutions examined, the most accusations were brought against the Catholic Church, in which more than 4,000 cases of child abuse reportedly occurred, making up 61.8 percent of all reported child abuse cases from religious entities.

In a previously released portion of the report, the commission found that seven percent of Catholic priests in Australia serving between 1950 and 2009 have been accused of child sex crimes.

There have been multiple calls to revoke the Church’s charity tax status since the release of the grand jury report, including from members of the Australian Sex Party and from Care Leavers Australasia Network.

Costa Rican bishops deplore ruling legalizing gay marriage

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 7:34 PM

San José, Costa Rica, Aug 13, 2018 / 05:34 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Costa Rican Bishops' Conference lamented a ruling by the Constitutional Chamber of the nation's Supreme Court which mandated legal same-sex marriage in the country.

“In a democratic and pluralistic society like ours, legal recognition can be given to persons of the same sex that live together,” the bishops said. However, they continued, it would be “unjust if such recognition would claim to equate same sex unions with marriage.”

“Wanting to not discriminate against homosexual people does not authorize the State to confound the natural order of marriage and the family,” the bishops warned.

In a 6-1 vote on August 8, Chamber IV of the Costa Rican Supreme Court struck down a provision prohibiting marriage “between persons of the same sex” and gave the National Assembly 18 months to adopt legislation recognizing same-sex unions.

The decision was issued in response to a legal petition challenging the constitutionality of Article 14, Subsection 6 in the Code on the Family. The legal challenge was filed by the former president of the Diversity Movement, Marco Castillo, and by the lesbian couple Laura Flores-Eztrada Pimentel and Jazmín Elizondo.

“We reiterate our respect for the Costa Rican legal order, but we deplore that the Constitutional Chamber did not dismiss the petition…thus calling into question the origin and natural function of the family,” the bishops' conference said in an Aug. 9 statement.

The Costa Rican bishops' conference recalled the words of Pope Francis, who said in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, “Same sex unions may not simply be equated with marriage. No union that is temporary or closed to the transmission of life can ensure the future of society.”

“No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole. The contrary is true: it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries,” the pope said in that document.  

In their statement, the bishops noted that “the Church maintains her conviction that the family continues to be, and always will be, the basic cell of society because in it the future citizens of all of society are procreated and brought up.”

“The family possesses a specific and original social dimension as a primary place of interpersonal relationships, the primary and vital cell of society: it is a natural institution, the foundation of people's lives and the prototype of every social organization,” they stated.

Therefore, the bishops concluded, “it is clear in the natural order of things, that family, the basic cell of society, is founded on monogamous and heterosexual marriage from whose conjugal love are generated children, and therefore deserves the protection of the State.”

 

Workshop teaches how to teach Gregorian chant to children, teens

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 6:42 PM

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 13, 2018 / 04:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Parish music directors, teachers, priests, and religious sisters gathered near San Francisco last week for a workshop helping them learn how to teach children and teens how to sing Gregorian chant.

The Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship held a Teaching Children's Chant Camp Workshop in Menlo Park, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, Aug. 9-12.

Among those participating were three religious sisters of the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa.

“Our mission at the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa is to teach joyfully the truth, goodness and beauty of our faith; we work with a lot of children and teens in Catholic schools,” Mother Teresa Christe explained, “So we are very grateful for this Benedict XVI Institute workshop.”

The Marian Sisters were founded by Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa in 2012. The community has a focus on teaching and evangelizing in parishes and schools.

Two Missionaries of Charity also attended the workshop. One of them, Sister Maximiliana, said they were participating because of their after school program “which prepares the children we work with from poor families for consecration to Mary. We want to learn how to teach children so they can sing beautifully for the Mass.”

Before the workshop, 25 Missionaries of Charity from across the San Francisco bay area had attended another event organized by the Benedict XVI Institute to learn how to chant more beautifully.

The workshop was directed by Mary Ann Carr-Wilson, who has helped pioneer chant camps for children.

Carr-Wilson emphasized the importance of respecting children as you teach them: “Give them a high aim. Let them know what they are doing in helping sing the Mass: praying not performing, with all the angels and saints. They respond.”

Rather than focusing solely on performance techniques, the institute incorporates catechesis and works to help participants deepen their understanding of the Mass, including their ability to offer intentions for their participation in the liturgy.

The workshop aims to help both teachers with experience with music generally, or with chant in particular.

Aaron Fidler teaches music at Kolbe Academy and Trinity Prep, a Catholic classical school in Napa. A violinist with extensive teaching experience, he expressed appreciation for help with his new task of preparing the school's choir to chant at Mass.

And Mary Castaneda, a music director from Washington state, said she has long taught chant to adules, but is “now teaching chant to children and teens. It’s really useful to get a sense from Mary Ann what she does that young people respond to.”

The Benedict XVI Institute was founded by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco in 2014.

It aims to form the Catholic imagination through beauty, and to promote the vision of the Second Vatican Council, whose constitution on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, said that Gregorian chant is “specially suited to the Roman liturgy” and that “therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”

With inmate's fate unclear, Florida bishops pray to end death penalty

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 6:41 PM

Tallahassee, Fla., Aug 13, 2018 / 04:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic bishops of Florida have asked for continued prayers for an end to the death penalty following the stay of an inmate’s execution. They had previously asked Gov. Rick Scott to commute the inmate’s death sentence and cited Pope Francis’ new catechism revisions on the death penalty.

“Please continue to pray for victims of crime, those on death row, and for an end to the use of the death penalty,” the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said Friday afternoon.

Jose Antonio Jimenez, now 54 years old, was convicted of the 1992 murder of Phyllis Minas, a 63-year-old woman. He had been scheduled to be executed at 6 p.m. Aug. 14.

On Aug. 10 the Florida Supreme Court unanimously granted a request to grant the stay, without stating a reason, the Florida News Service reports.

Jimenez’s lawyer Marty McClain had requested the stay, citing several issues. These included a pending Supreme Court decision that could affect Florida’s lethal injection protocol.

McClain also said he had discovered that the North Miami Police Department had not previously provided to Jimenez’s lawyers the 80 pages of records related to the investigation of the murder.

McClain told the Florida News Service that the records include handwritten notes by investigators who interviewed Jimenez after his arrest that contradict their testimony. He contended that they show the investigators were willing to give “false and/or misleading deposition testimony” in order to facilitate Jimenez’s conviction.

Catholic prayer vigils had been scheduled across the state to pray for the victim, the aggressor, their families and society, as well as to pray for the end of the death penalty.

After the stay was announced, many of these vigils were set to continue in the dioceses of St. Petersburg, Orlando, Pensacola-Tallahassee and Venice.

However, organizers canceled some Catholic prayer vigils that had been scheduled in the Archdiocese of Miami and the dioceses of St. Augustine, Pensacola-Tallahassee, and Palm Beach.

“We pray for Ms. Minas and for consolation for her loved ones. All of us are called to stand with victims in their hurt as they seek healing and justice,” Michael Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in an Aug. 9 letter. “We invite people across Florida to join in this prayer. Both victims of crime and offenders are children of God and members of the same human family.”

Sheedy, speaking on behalf of the state’s Catholic bishops, said Gov. Scott has a “difficult task as governor” but still asked him to commute Jimenez’s death sentence and all death sentences to life without possibility of parole.

The letter to the governor cited Pope Francis’ revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty.

The Florida bishops’ conference further commented in an Aug. 10 statement.

“Given the development of doctrine involving the death penalty, the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s treatment of the topic was revised earlier this month,” the bishops’ conference said.

The relevant section of the Catechism now reads “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” It calls for the Church “to work with determination for its abolition worldwide,” the bishops’ conference said.

Drawing from the Catechism, Sheedy told the governor that the change “reflects the growing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of great crimes and that more effective forms of detention have been developed to ensure the due protection of citizens without definitively depriving the guilty of the possibility of redemption.”

In addition to prayers for Minas, her family and her friends, Sheedy voiced prayers for Jimenez and “all those facing execution.”

 

Veritatis splendor to be theme of Courage conference

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 5:31 PM

Hartford, Conn., Aug 13, 2018 / 03:31 pm (CNA).- An upcoming conference in Connecticut will offers Catholic leaders in medicine and ministry the practical and pastoral tools to reach out to people with same-sex attraction while upholding Church teaching.

The 2018 Truth and Love Conference will be held at St Thomas Seminary Conference Center October 22-24 in Bloomfield, Connecticut. At the center of the formation event will be the encyclical Veritatis splendor, written 25 years ago this August by Pope John Paul II.

The theme of the event will be “Proclaiming the splendor of truth with love.” The gathering will look to answer questions about sexual identity and instruct pastoral leaders and medical professionals to care for people with same-sex attraction.

The fourth event of its kind, the conference is an initiative of Courage International, a Catholic apostolate that offers support for people with same-sex attraction who have chosen to pursue a chaste lifestyle. As part of the same organization, EnCourage supports family members and friends of people with same-sex attraction, aiding them in encountering their loved ones with compassion.

Speakers for the event will include experts on natural law, psychology, and Christian anthropology. Participants will be given practical resources to compassionately communicate the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

Presenters at the conference will include Father Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage International; Dr. John Grabowski, theological advisor to U.S. bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family, and Youth; and Dr. Michael Horne, director of clinical services for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.

Testimonies of people with same-sex attraction will also be shared, witnessing to the importance of the Church and friendships that have led them to grow in chastity and sanctity. Testimonies will be heard from Daniel Mattson, Catholic author of the book “Why I Don't Call Myself Gay,” and Courage members Paul Darrow and Rilene Simpson, featured in the documentary Desire of the Everlasting Hills.

The first Courage meeting was held in 1980, and the initial group developed the five foundational goals of Courage – chastity, prayer and dedication, fellowship, support, and good role models.
 

 

Cardinal Wuerl lays out plan for lay involvement in bishops' accountability

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 4:30 PM

Washington D.C., Aug 13, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl has laid out his vision for lay participation in new oversight structures as part of the ongoing response to recent scandals in the Church in the United States. He is one of several bishops pressing for collaboration between laity and bishops to ensure accountability in the Church hierarchy.

Writing on the website of the Catholic Standard, the magazine of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Wuerl said that there was a well-established theological framework for greater lay participation as the Church faced the “current challenging situation and seek some structural and authentically Catholic response.”

Referring to the widespread sexual abuse crisis at the beginning of the millennium, during which there was an outcry at the failure of dioceses to respond properly to allegations of abuse, the cardinal said bishops had acted to make meaningful changes.

“In 2002, when we faced the terrible crisis of clergy child abuse, the bishops produced the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Later that same year, the ‘Essential Norms,’ created to implement the Charter, were also approved, by both the bishops and the Holy See.”

In recent weeks the credibility of the Dallas Charter has been questioned by many commentators, who have pointed out the prominent role Theodore McCarrick played in drawing up its provisions and speaking out against abuse.

Others have noted that the failure to apply the Charter and Essential Norms to bishops as well as priests and deacons was deliberate. While this was done following legitimate questions about the authority of the U.S. bishops’ conference to pass binding rules for dealing with bishops, in hindsight it appears to have further tainted the work of 2002.

But Cardinal Wuerl said that much practical good was achieved in Dallas and in the years that followed, noting that even the most recent crises concern past and not contemporary allegations.

“It seems fair to say that the Charter worked and continues to work. Almost all of the cases of clergy abuse that we hear today are from a period of time prior to the Charter.”

Wuerl said that many of the Dallas reforms could be adapted or expanded to include the consideration of allegations made against bishops.

“A key component in the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is both the National Review Board that oversees diocesan compliance with the Charter, and the local diocesan review boards that review allegations with a view to determining their credibility. What would be helpful today is that the same type mechanism be now made available when dealing with allegations of abuse or misconduct by a bishop.”

The cardinal made the specific suggestion that one or more such boards be created, with membership including laity, men and women, as well as bishops. These could be established “either at the national level or at the regional or provincial level” and be charged with assessing the credibility of accusations made against bishops.

“It seems that at the service of both accountability and transparency, such boards that reflect the makeup of the Church, laity and clergy, would help to highlight this new level of accountability,” Wuerl wrote.

“The results or findings of these review boards would be presented to the Holy See’s representative, the Apostolic Nuncio. Thus there would be clearly the recognition that the final judgment rests with the divinely established head of the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Rome.”

Other bishops, like Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany, have made their own calls for increased lay participation in assessing allegations of bishops. In Bishop Scharfenberger’s case, he suggested a lay-led panel be formed, independent from the hierarchy, saying that “to have credibility, a panel would have to be separated from any source of power whose trustworthiness might potentially be compromised.”

In setting out his own proposal Cardinal Wuerl emphasized that the bishops and faithful were part of the one Body of Christ, and that bringing accountability would be a mutual endeavor.

Both proposals come ahead of the next general session of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in November, to be held in Baltimore.

Wuerl has previously said that it would be unacceptable for bishops to wait until then to propose responses to the crisis, telling the National Catholic Reporter that “We need to be doing things in anticipation of November so that when we get to November ... we would go into this meeting with a lot of work already done and a lot of testing of the ideas already in place.”

So far, the discussions have focused on how to involve laity in an eventual new structure or process, but others have questioned whether any process involving American bishops can be credible.

One canon lawyer who has worked on sexual abuse cases which involved American bishops in the process told CNA they were unconvinced.

“If there is going to be a proper tribunal [panel of judges] for a case against an American bishop, the last people I would want involved are other American bishops,” the canonist said.

“However good their intentions, I would always have concerns about their objectivity when dealing with these issues - because of personal connections and because the issue of sexual abuse is so charged in the American Church.”

Bishop Conley gives update on diocesan allegations, review policies

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 1:50 PM

Lincoln, Neb., Aug 13, 2018 / 11:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a listening session at a local church in Lincoln, Nebraska, Bishop James Conley updated members of his diocese on a review of policies for handling allegations of abuse and misconduct by priests.

“This transparency and objectivity I promise you will include a thorough review of our safe environment policies and procedures by an outside investigator,” he said Aug. 10 to those gathered at St. Wenceslaus Church in Wahoo.

The bishop responded to several allegations against priests in the Diocese of Lincoln that have recently been published online.

“These allegations have already resulted in the start of a thorough review of our policies and procedures regarding how we respond to allegations made against diocesan priests.”

Conley said that he has presented several cases to the Diocesan Review Board, and is continuing to meet with the board for further counsel. He has assembled a group of senior advisors – including staff members, a mental health expert, and officials from the Archdiocese of Omaha – to help evaluate allegations of abuse.

He has also held several listening sessions at parishes affected by recent allegations against priests.

Conley held a listening session at St. Peter’s parish last Monday to discuss the behavior of pastor Fr. Charles Townsend. He said the message from the 500 attendees was clear: “they desire transparency and objectivity, and that is my promise to you and all the faithful in the diocese as I move forward.”

The bishop had previously addressed the allegations against Townsend in an Aug. 4 letter, saying that last year he “received a report that Fr. Townsend had developed an emotionally inappropriate, non-sexual relationship with a 19-year-old male which involved alcohol.”

Upon receiving the report, he said that he immediately withdrew Townsend from ministry and sent him to a treatment center in Houston before allowing him to return to ministry.

Conley said that he attempted to act with integrity, telling the parishioners that the priest had gone away for health reasons. But while he did not cover up the situation or oblige anyone to keep silent about it, he said he regrets failing to act with more transparency.

“Even though we were not legally obligated to report the incident, it would have been the prudent thing to do. Because the young man had reached the age of majority, we did not tell his parents about the incident.”

In his Aug. 4 letter, Bishop Conley said that he had removed Fr. Townsend from ministry in order to consult with the diocesan review board, reported the incident to civil authorities, and met with the young man and his parents to ask for forgiveness.

At the Aug. 10 listening session, Conley said that Fr. Townsend has now resigned his pastorate.

“The matter has been reported to authorities and is being investigated,” he said. The investigations will look into Townsend’s behavior, as well as the response of Bishop Conley and his staff.

Conley said that he cannot comment further while the civil and Church investigations are underway, but will offer an update when they have concluded.

The bishop also discussed three other diocesan priests. He said that he is concerned by the behavior of Fr. Patrick Barvick, whom he had previously instructed not to be alone with women. He has asked the priest to step aside from the parish temporarily while he evaluates the situation.

Fr. Steve Thomlison has submitted his resignation as pastor of St. Stephen in Exeter and St. Wenceslaus in Milligan, Conley continued. The resignation came during a meeting “to discuss a past incident in the military that was a concern.”

Conley clarified that the incident did not involve an offense against a minor or a parishioner, and that Thomlison received an honorable discharge from the military.

“I am committed to getting Father the care he needs. Please join me in praying for Father Thomlison,” the bishop said.

He also addressed the case of now-retired priest Fr. James Benton, who was accused in 2002 of touching a minor inappropriately during a camping trip that had taken place during the early 1980s.

“That matter was fully investigated by the Lincoln Diocese. The allegations could not be substantiated,” Conley said.

In the fall of last year, Fr. Benton resigned his pastorate after being accused of sexually abusing two family members more than 25 years prior, he said.

Conley said the allegations were handled by the Diocesan Review Board and referred to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which returned the matter to the bishop to take action.

He said he prohibited Benton from exercising public ministry in the diocese and restricted him from being alone with minors. The priest is now retired.

Bishop Conley reiterated his commitment to transparency and encouraged anyone who has experienced abuse by a member of the diocese to file a report with law enforcement authorities.

“I want to repeat to you that I am sorry for the manner in which I have responded to allegations of improper behavior brought against Lincoln priests,” he said. “I hope you forgive me.”

 

J.D. Flynn, editor-in-chief of Catholic News Agency, previously served as special assistant to Bishop Conley and director of communications for the Lincoln diocese. Flynn has recused himself from coverage of this story to avoid a conflict-of-interest. He was not involved in the assigning, reporting, editing or oversight of this story.

Monks arrested over suspected murder of Coptic Orthodox bishop

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 1:37 PM

Cairo, Egypt, Aug 13, 2018 / 11:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Egyptian police have arrested two men, one a monk and one a former monk, over the death last month of Bishop Epiphanius, the abbot of St. Macarius Monastery.

Bishop Epiphanius' body was found July 29, with injuries to his head and back that suggest that he had been hit by a sharp object. St. Macarius is a Coptic Orthodox monastery in Egypt's Beheira governorate, about 60 miles northwest of Cairo.

Isaiah al-Makary, whose name in the world is Wael Saad, was expelled from the monastery a few days after Bishop Epiphanius' death. He was charged with the bishop's murder Aug. 11.

The Egypt Independent reported that Saad confessed to the murder the following day, and said that another monk, Faltaous al-Makary (Raymond Rasmi Mansour) had assisted in the crime.

Faltaous, 33, was detained Aug. 13. He had attempted suicide the previous week and was being treated at a hospital in Cairo.

Saad was expelled from the monastery Aug. 5, for “inappropriate actions which violate monastic behavior and way of life,” the Egypt Independent reported. The Coptic Orthodox Church said that his dismissal had been decided on before the bishop's death.

After Saad's confession, his lawyer, Amir Nasif, withdrew and declined to defend the suspect.

Tawadros II, Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria, announced Aug. 2 that Coptic Orthodox monasteries will stop accepting seminarians for one year, Egypt Today reported.

The Church has also instructed its monks to close their social media accounts, and has suspended the ordination of monks for three years.

According to The Coptic Orthodox Church Centre, Bishop Epiphanius was born June 27, 1954 in Egypt's Tanta governorate. He joined St Macarius Monastery in February 1984, and became a monk in April of that year. He was ordained a priest Oct. 17, 2002, and in 2013 was elected abbot and consecrated a bishop.

The Coptic Orthodox Church is an Oriental Orthodox Church, meaning it rejected the 451 Council of Chalcedon, and its followers had historically been considered monophysites – those who believe Christ has only one nature – by Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox, though they are not considered so any longer.

Pittsburgh bishop says not all grand jury accusations are 'substantiated'

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 11:30 AM

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 13, 2018 / 09:30 am (CNA).- Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh has confirmed that some of the priests named in the Pennsylvania grand jury report into sexual abuse remain in active ministry. The report is expected to be released at 2 p.m. on August 14.

Bishop Zubik made the announcement while speaking to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on August 10. At the same time, the bishop stressed that there is “no priest or deacon in an assignment today against whom there was a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse.” He also pledged to meet with parishioners in the days following the report’s release to underscore how and why an allegation was found to be unsubstantiated.

Canon law provides that, whenever an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is received by diocesan authorities, the bishop is obligated to hold a preliminary investigation to determine if there is a “semblance of truth” to the claim. This standard, canon lawyers say, is minimal and only determines if the accusation is not “manifestly false or frivolous.”

If the accusation is not demonstrably false, the case is sent to Rome for further consideration at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who determine how the canonical process should proceed.

While Bishop Zubik said he would not comment on specific individuals or allegations until the report was released, he underscored that all those priests still in active ministry named in the report had had their cases re-examined by the diocese’s independent review board – in each case finding the accusations remained unsubstantiated.

Seeking to illustrate that some claims could simply be false, Zubik made reference to his own experience. In 2011, he said, a man accused him and several others of past sexual abuse after being denied a parish volunteering position because of his criminal record. Local law enforcement, the diocesan review board, and Vatican authorities were all informed.

Fortunately for the bishop, the accuser had previously sent him an email threatening retaliation. The local district attorney investigated and dismissed the allegations, calling them “offensive.” 

In that case, it was fortunate that there was clear evidence of malicious intent by the accuser, Zubik said, but that is not always the case.

“I often say to myself, ‘What if that email wasn’t there?’” he told the Post-Gazette. Without such clear proof, it would have been a matter of I-say-he-says and Zubik said he “could swear on a stack of Bibles I didn’t do what I was charged with” but it might not have been enough to stop a presumption of guilt.

“Maybe that’s where my sensitivity comes to people who have been accused, to say just because somebody’s been accused doesn’t necessarily mean they're guilty.”

Zubik also pointed out that it was not always easy to come to a firm assessment of an allegation.

“What if the activity that was reported was not child sexual abuse? Or what if it was by third-hand source, and with every effort to try to reach out to the victim, the victim never came forward? Well, how could you see that as substantiated?”

The bishop’s remarks echo concerns raised by some of those named in the report, who have challenged their inclusion in the final publication, saying that they have been denied due process of law and risk permanent damage to their reputations. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed, delaying publication and ordering the names of those appealing to be redacted while they hear further legal arguments.

It is not known if any of the Pittsburgh priests referred to by Zubik have participated in the legal appeals which have delayed the release of the report.

Teens are requesting plastic surgery to look like Snapchat filters

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 6:56 PM

Boston, Mass., Aug 12, 2018 / 04:56 pm (CNA).- Social media is increasingly making teens dissatisfied with their appearance and obsessed with achieving a filtered version of “perfection,” even going so far as to pursue plastic surgery, say medical professionals.

Dr. Neelam Vashi, director of Ethnic Skin Center at Boston University’s School of Medicine, published an article analyzing the new trend in Jama Facial Plastic Surgery last week.

“A new phenomenon, dubbed ‘Snapchat dysmorphia,’ has patients seeking out cosmetic surgery to look like filtered versions of themselves…with fuller lips, bigger eyes, or a thinner nose,” she said.

Among Snapchat’s more popular features are its facial filters, which change users’ appearance in a phone camera. New filters are offered regularly. Some change a person’s face to look like animals, superheroes, or inanimate objects. Others create a more subtle, modified version of the users themselves – smoothing their skin, whitening their teeth, narrowing their face, enhancing their lips and eyes.

Before photo-editing was readily available for the public to use, Vashi wrote, people idolized the often-unrealistic beauty of celebrities, who were the only people with easy access to photo-editing technology.

But now that the general public has access to this technology, she said, it has altered their expectations of beauty. Instead of bringing photos of celebrities to plastic surgery consultations, patients are bringing in pictures of themselves, with specific angles or lighting.

“I just see a lot of images that are just really unrealistic, and it sets up unrealistic expectations for patients because they’re trying to look like a fantasized version of themselves,” she told Inverse.

According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, more than half of clinicians in 2017 saw patients asking to “look better in their selfies.”  

Dr. Laura Cusumano, a postdoctoral fellow at Potomac Behavioral Solutions in Arlington, Va., works with patients struggling with body image and has seen the same trend. She said the idealization of celebrities has morphed into users of social media idealizing altered images of themselves.

“In recent decades, American media has propagated a distorted view of beauty, privileging certain body types, skin tones, hair colors, and facial features. Beauty ideals have come in the form of celebrities, whose ‘perfect’ images are often Photoshopped,” she told CNA.

“With the advent of social media, the ability to alter one's appearance is literally at one's fingertips. Applications like Snapchat provide the opportunity for users to discover the ‘perfect’ image of themselves to share with their peers and the world.”

Cusumano voiced concern that Snapchat Dysmorphia may lead young people to compare their bodies not only with digitally altered images of themselves, but also with similar images of family and friends. This could lead to eating disorders, self-esteem problems, and other issues, she said.

She also worries that the new trend may push ill individuals further into Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a condition related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in which individuals suffer from “excessive preoccupation with perceived defects or flaws in their physical appearance.”

“They become obsessed with what they consider to be imperfections, and they often spend a great deal of time trying to examine, improve, or mask their supposed flaws,” she said. The disorder is associated with anxiety and depression, as well as shame and low self-esteem.

Cusumano said nearly 75 percent of people with the disorder seek surgery, cosmetic treatment, and dermatological work. She said these individuals may also encounter suicidal ideation.

When asked about how to correct this trend of Snapchat Dysmorphia, she said people should pay attention to how social media is affecting their life, noticing whether they find themselves becoming jealous of other users.  

People may need to take a temporary break from social media or follow accounts designed to spread positive messages about the human body, she said.

Cusumano also stressed the importance of recognizing the dignity of the human person.

“Remembering that you are created in the image and likeness of God and asking God to help you see yourself as He sees you is a wonderful way to work on transforming your self-image,” she said.
 

 

Fight evil with action – not apathy, Francis says

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 7:31 AM

Vatican City, Aug 12, 2018 / 05:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- It is not enough for Catholics to not do bad things, they must counter evil by actively living out charity in the performance of good deeds, Pope Francis told young people and others in St. Peter’s Square Sunday.

“If we do not oppose evil, we feed it tacitly. It is necessary to intervene where evil spreads; because evil spreads where there are no daring Christians who oppose with good, ‘walking in love,’ according to the warning of St. Paul,” the pope said Aug. 12.

Speaking to around 90,000 people in St. Peter’s Square and the adjoining street before the recitation of the Angelus, Francis warned that people are guilty of the sin of omission when they could do something good but choose not to.

“It is not enough not to hate, it is necessary to forgive,” he said. “It is not enough not to have a grudge, we must pray for [our] enemies… it is not enough to not speak badly about others, we must stop when we hear someone talking badly.”

The pope addressed, in particular, Italian young people, who had made a pilgrimage to Rome as a way to pray for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on youth, urging them to be “protagonists of the good!”

He noted that because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in every baptized person, Christians must strive to live their lives “in a coherent manner,” renouncing evil, temptation, and sin, saying “no” to a culture of death, and by adhering to the good and doing good.

St. Paul urges in his letter to the Ephesians, remove “all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling… along with all malice” and replace it with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness, “as God has forgiven you in Christ,” Francis said.

He explained that many times he has heard people say that they do not hurt anyone with their actions – “All right but are you good?” the pope asked. To not do harm, but meanwhile neglect to live out the virtues, leads to apathy and indifference, he said.

Such an attitude is contrary to the Gospel and contrary to the character of young people, “who by nature are dynamic, passionate and courageous.”

“Remember this,” he said, quoting St. Albert Hurtado: “It is good not to do evil, but it is bad not to do good.”

Noting the walking pilgrimage many of those present had made to reach Rome, he said, “therefore, you are trained and I can tell you: walk in love!”

“Let’s walk together towards the next Synod of Bishops… May the Virgin Mary support us with her maternal intercession, so that each of us, every day, with deeds, can say ‘no’ to evil and ‘yes’ to good,” he concluded.

Canadian bishops: Keep palliative care distinct from assisted suicide

Sat, 08/11/2018 - 6:35 PM

Ottawa, Canada, Aug 11, 2018 / 04:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the age of legal assisted suicide and euthanasia, palliative care must remain as a distinct form of care that attends to the needs and dignity of the whole person at the natural end of their life, the Catholic bishops of Canada have said.

The bishops gave their recommendations in a submission for a national public consultation, in response to the passing of a new bill on the development of palliative care in the country.

The bishops’ document focused on numerous questions and suggestions for healthcare providers, and was developed with the assistance of the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada, the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, and multiple other resources.

“The investment of the Catholic community in healthcare is inspired by Christ,” Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in the bishops’ submission. “It is a response by Christians to be healing hands for the sick; to provide compassionate care for those in need; to accompany the dying with self sacrifice, and to bear witness to the inviolable dignity of the human person and our common responsibility to love our neighbour and to serve and protect human life at every stage.”

He also noted that despite the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada, the Catholic Church remains “strongly opposed” to the practices.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia were legalized by the Canadian Senate 44-28 in June 2016. However, the move was met with pushback from some lawmakers, who underscored their concerns over euthanasia for minors and additionally said the legislation would conflict with conscious protections for medical institutions.

Some of these concerns were raised again in the recent case of a Canadian man, Roger Foley, who suffers from an incurable disease and claims that despite asking for home care, the medical team at an Ontario hospital would only offer him medically assisted suicide.

Foley has filed a lawsuit and provided Canada’s CTV News with two separate audio recordings, in which medical personnel appear to offer him assisted suicide.

Due to the opportunity for coercion, the bishops in their statement noted multiple times that it is imperative that assisted suicide and euthanasia are not included as part of palliative care programs.

“While euthanasia and assisted suicide are also referred to as Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), these are not to be admitted within the definition and practice of palliative care,” Gendron noted, a stance which is in keeping with the World Health Organization’s definition of palliative care, along with that of many other secular providers.

Palliative care providers must also be careful not to reduce their practice strictly to science, Gendron said, and must take into account not only the physical but also the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of people at the end of their lives.

In an interfaith statement signed by the Catholic bishops of Canada, palliative care is defined in this way: “As a comprehensive approach to end-of-life challenges, palliative care combines pain management with efforts to attend to a patient’s psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual needs, as well as caregiver support. We affirm the World Health Organization’s definition of palliative care, as well as the official positions of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, and the Canadian Medical Association that the practice of palliative care does not include interventions which intentionally cause the death of the patient. This has been central to the philosophy of palliative care and is a fundamental distinction that must be maintained.”

However, while the Catholic Church recognizes life as a good, the bishops’ statement also included a definition of palliative care which clarified that patients and doctors are not required to do everything possible to avoid death if a life has reached its natural conclusion and medical intervention would not be beneficial.

“So while life is a penultimate good, requiring us to take reasonable care of our lives, we are not morally obligated to seek or undergo burdensome therapies ‘at all costs’ that provide no benefit. Nor at the same time are clinicians morally obligated to ‘do everything possible’ if life has reached its natural conclusion and it is no longer medically appropriate. Such a stance is known as vitalism and is rejected by the Catholic moral tradition,” according to Covenant Health’s definition of palliative care included in the bishops’ statement.

A Catholic approach to palliative care is a “person-centered approach,” the bishops said, “which draws deeply from the scriptural understanding of healing, compassion and love.”

This approach takes account of a patient’s “body, mind and spirit” and tries to relieve human suffering while also attending to “the transcendent needs of the dying person and his/her loved ones, with special solicitude for the poor and disadvantaged.”

There also needs to be more and better information available about palliative care resources for patients and their families in Canada, the bishops said. They advocated for public awareness campaigns about palliative care implemented in the country’s health care systems, including resources that would take into account the needs of different cultures or of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.

Furthermore, they advocated for the continued development of palliative care as a branch of medicine, one that would be of the highest quality and equally accessible by all Canadians, and which receives sufficient government funding.

In a person-centered approach to palliative care, people must never be reduced to statistics, and patients must never be made to feel that they are a burden on themselves or others, the bishops noted. They also advocated for better sick care leave so that patient-identified caregivers may better accompany their friends and loved ones at the end of their life.

The bishops also announced that they will be partnering with several other organizations in order to develop educational material and to promote palliative care within parishes and within their own health care system.

“For Catholics, the parish is a primary place where questions about life and suffering – both their meaning and purpose – are explored in silent prayer as well as in dialogue with others,” the bishops said. “For this reason, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, in partnership with Pallium Canada, Dominican University College, the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada, and the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF), has adopted the parish as a locus for canvassing and raising awareness about palliative care.” They also emphasized the need to offer care to family members and caregivers, even after a patient’s death.

“Those in the palliative care delivery team often extend their contact with the patient’s self-identified caregivers beyond the patient’s death,” the bishops noted. “In doing so, the members of the palliative care delivery team can offer the bereaved support and serve as a catalyst for the bereaved person’s healing and forgiveness. Such final reconciliation can help a person achieve a sense of closure and peace.”

The bishops’ document was submitted to the “Let’s Talk Palliative Care” and “The End of Life Care Team” at the conclusion of the consultation.