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Missouri bishops release letter urging USCCB action on sex abuse crisis

St. Louis, Mo., Nov 12, 2018 / 03:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of Missouri released a letter Monday expressing support for proposals meant to help address the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, shortly after the Holy See directed that the proposals not be voted on at the US bishops' general assembly this week.

“We must keep at the forefront the survivors of the horrendous evil that was perpetrated against children, minors, and seminarians, who suffered greatly and whose faith in the Church, in many cases, has been destroyed,” the Missouri bishops wrote.

“A culture of silence and cover-up by the hierarchy has brought the Church to this moment of crisis.”

The bishops released the letter Nov. 12. It was dated Oct. 6 and was addressed to Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette in Indiana, chairman of the US bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People. An enclosed statement was also released.

Earlier in the day, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the US bishops' conference, had announced that the the American bishops would not yet be voting on two of the proposals, at the instructions of the Congregation for Bishops.

These items include a new code of conduct for bishops, and the creation of a lay-led body to investigate bishops accused of misconduct.

In their letter, the Missouri bishops wrote that they hoped their statement could help to provide direction for the fall general assembly, taking place in Baltimore Nov. 12-14.

While supporting the action items which were to have been voted on, the Missouri bishop had said, “we fear these measures will not be enough in either substance or timeliness to meet the demands that this pastoral crisis presents.”

“We must pay attention to that which threatens our communion with one another. Transparency, accountability, and genuine reform in the way in which the Church handles issues of abuse of power by the hierarchy are required,” they wrote.

In the letter the bishops expressed support for the establishment of a third-party hotline for complaints of sexual abuse by a bishop; the development of policies to restrict bishops who have been removed or resigned because of allegations; and a full investigation of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, with “competent laity” given access to “appropriate files held by the Holy See” as well as the relevant chanceries.

“We bishops need to publicly renew our commitment to utilizing the charisms of the laity in our exercise of pastoral governance as bishops,” they wrote.

“We cannot solve this crisis on our own. We need the laity to help us.”

McCarrick was able to perpetrate years of sexual abuse against seminarians while operating at the highest level of the Church in the United States. The bishops said many believe “there has been a breach of trust between the Church in the United States and the Holy See over the Archbishop McCarrick scandal and the consequent refusal to take immediate action for those reponsible. This breach of trust is already catastrophic and endagers the very communion of the Church.”

They noted that the Church's credibility “has already been seriously damaged by a persistent silence and inaction over many decades,” and said that the “immediate acceptance of resignations from all hierarchs who voluntarily resign because of their complicit action or inaction in the Archbishop McCarrick scandal would regain credibility and trust.”

“On behalf of our people, we recommend a complete and transparent investigation into Archbishop McCarrick’s advancement in responsibilities and how he continued to function as a Cardinal when his misconduct with seminarians and others was known,” the bishops wrote.

In addition, the bishops endorsed a revision of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to include measures to hold bishops accountable.

They also called on all diocese and eparchies, as well as religious institutes, societies of apostolic life, and secular institutes to release all known names of clerics credibly accused of abusing a minor.

Robert Carlson of St. Louis and his auxiliary and Mark Rivituso, W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, James Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and Edward Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau all signed the letter.

Four kidnapped priests in southern Nigeria have been released

Benin City, Nigeria, Nov 12, 2018 / 02:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Four priests who were abducted in Nigeria's Edo state last week were released Friday night.

The priests were rescued by police operatives Nov. 9. According to The Punch, the captors fled as a rescue team of police from Edo and Delta states approached.

The Nov. 6 kidnapping was originally reported as occurring in neighboring Delta state, and only one of the victims was identified as a priest.

The priests who were taken hostage are Fr. Emmanuel Obadjere of the Diocese of Warri, Fr. Victor Adigboluja of the Diocese of Ijebu-Ode, Fr Anthony Otegbola of the Diocese of Abeokuta, and Fr. Joseph Ediae of the Archdiocese of Benin City.

Fr. Mike Oyanoafoh, chancellor of the Benin City archdiocese, said the priests had been taken to a hospital in Benin City for treatment.

They had been travelling from Orerokpe to Akahia, for an alumni reunion at All Saints major seminary. They were taken from their car somewhere between Abraka and Urhonigbe.

The Warri diocese said it was suspected that the gunmen who abucted the priests were Fulani herders.

It is unclear whether a ransom was paid for the priests' release.

Violence against Christians has significantly increased in Nigeria in recent years, with the radical Islamist group Boko Haram threatening safety in the north, and smaller violent gangs threatening security in the south.

In recent months, several priests and religious have been kidnapped in southern Nigeria.

One priest was abducted in Edo in April, six women religious in January, and another priest in October 2017.

Abuse victims challenge US bishops to confront problems

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2018 / 01:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two victims of clerical sexual abuse addressed members of the US bishops’ conference Monday and shared how the bishops' action, or inaction, on the abuse crisis has shaped their lives.

Teresa Pitt Green, who identified herself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by multiple priests, spoke first. She detailed how the abuse she suffered led her to leave the Church, but she has since returned as she believes steps have been taken better to ensure child safety.

“My story is only one story, and my healing is only one healing,” she said Nov. 12. She considers herself to be one of the “lucky ones,” as her family stood by her after she revealed her abuse. Despite this, she said her family was “bruised” by her abuse and suffered deeply as a result.

Abuse victims are portrayed as the “damaged goods of our age,” and often suffer from drug addictions, problems with relationships, and other mental health issues, she said.

Green did, however, offer praise for the work done by the bishops in order to ensure that Catholic environments are safe for children. She noted that while child sexual abuse continues today, it is “very unlikely” that the abuse is occurring in Catholic institutions.

“I’m not saying there’s not enormous improvements, but I’m saying you’ve permitted me to come back to the Church,” she said.

"From the bottom of my heart, I can't thank you enough."

Green said that her heart was “full of forgiveness,” and that her heart was full as she had found her savior in the Lord. Even after doing 12-step programs, reading self-help books, and attending therapy sessions, she found the she still needed a savior.

She was, however, extremely critical of some of the bishops present, saying that “the Lord has cried more tears on his cross because of some decisions that some of you have made.”

“I don’t know how you bear it. My heart breaks. And I will continue to pray for you,” she added.

Luis A. Torres, Jr., a victim of clerical sexual abuse as a teen, spoke after Green. Torres, a native of Brooklyn, is a former altar boy, and said that he “truly experienced God’s love” in his early life. He attended Catholic schools, and that he “was always surrounded by the most wonderful, giving, holy people.”

These people were “deserving of my trust. Except for my abuser.”

The priest who abused him acted in a manner that was “inconsistent with everything I have learned about God.”

While many abuse survivors turn to drugs or other forms of self-medication, Torres instead pursued higher education and law school. He said these accomplishments served as a sort of “armor” against his feelings of pain from being abused.

“Abuse of a child is the closest that you can get to murder and still possibly have a breathing body,” he said. Abuse, especially from a trusted figure, “mortally wound(s) the spirit and soul of that child,” especially if the abuser is a priest.

Torres took a more critical look on the status quo of the Church than Green, saying that he believed that “the heart of the Church is broken, and (the bishops) need to fix this, now.” He was critical at how the Church sometimes views victims of abuse as “money grubbers” or people out to cause trouble.

“We need to do better,” he said, adding that abuse survivors should not be viewed as “adversaries,” “liabilities,” or even “scary.”

The words and actions of the bishop have caused victims harm, he said, and have helped to drive them from the Church. He said that he expected “better” from the bishops, and that he still expects them to behave better.

What the Church needs now, Torres said, was for the bishops to work to inspire Catholics with their action, “which is needed right now,” and not in the coming months.

He reminded the bishops that their initial calling was not to be a CEO or an administrator, or prince, but rather to be a priest. He implored them to “be the priests that you were called to be.”

“Please, act now, be better.”

Cardinal DiNardo: Vatican directive came from Congregation for Bishops

Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The directive not to vote on the proposals which had been expected to form the basis for the response of the Church in the US to the sexual abuse crisis came from the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said Monday.

The president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops was speaking at the first press conference held at the bishops' autumn General Assembly in Baltimore Nov. 12.

He indicated that the directive came not from Pope Francis, but directly from the Congregation for Bishops.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, who spoke at the press conference, told CNA that he did not know whether the American members of the congregation played a role in the decision.

The American members of the Congregation for Bishops are Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago, and Donald Wuerl, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington.

A source close to Wuerl told CNA that he did not believe the cardinal had been involved in the decision.

DiNardo had announced the decision earlier in the day to “a visibly surprised conference hall.”

DiNardo said that the Holy See insisted that consideration of a code of conduct for bishops and a lay-led body to investigate bishops accused of misconduct be delayed until the conclusion of a special meeting called by Pope Francis for February.


Coyne told CNA that the bishops would also suspend their vote on establishing a third-party reporting system for complaints about episcopal conduct.

The Congregation for Bishops asked for the delay so that bishops around the world can be “on the same page,” and learning from each other, the bishops said. The importance of further precision in canon law was also raised.

Joining DiNardo and Coyne at the press conference was Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette in Indiana.

DiNardo said he found Rome's decision to be “quizzical,” and suspected the Congregation for Bishops thought the US bishops might be moving too quickly.

“I'm wondering if they could turn the synodality back on us. My first reaction was, this didn't seem so synodical; but maybe the Americans weren't acting so synodically either. But it was quizzical to me, when I saw it.”

DiNardo said the bishops have not lessened their resolve for action, and that they are not pleased by the Holy See's decision. He indicated that they will continue to push for action on the sex abuse crisis: “we're disappointed, because we're moving along on this.”

Speaking to how Catholics can trust their leaders, he asked that they retain faith in the bishops' commitment to reform, watching their efforts. He acknowledged that people have a right to scepticism, but also to hope.

The cardinal said he had proposed an apostolic visitation to deal with the problem, but that Rome had disagreed with that approach.

While acknowledging their disappointment in the decision from Rome, the bishops also spoke of the importance of their own obedience. DiNardo said they were responsible to be attentive to the Holy Father and his congregations, and Bishop Coyne said bishops are by nature collegial, “so when the Holy See asks us to work in collegiality, that's what we do.”

Vatican Christmas stamps feature artwork by inmate

Vatican City, Nov 12, 2018 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The artwork featured on the Vatican’s postage stamps for Christmas 2018 were painted by a man serving a life-sentence in a Milanese prison.

The two stamp designs, painted by Marcello D’Agata, depict the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Nativity of Christ.

The postage stamps were unveiled by Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan at a Nov. 9 presentation in the Milan prison and can be purchased at the Vatican City post office. They are available in denominations of 1.15 or 1.10 euro ($1.29, $1.24), which is the postage required to mail directly to Europe and the Mediterranean region.

An Italian journalist had the idea for the Vatican stamps after having followed a philately initiative within the Milan prison for several years.

According to L’Osservatore Romano, a Vatican-supported newspaper, D’Agata was drawn to art from an early age. “I confess that as a child, as soon as a blank paper appeared before me, I never failed to draw on it,” he told the newspaper.

“Of course, they were just scribbles, but I liked it so much, because on those papers I gave shape and color to my emotions and, most of all, to my dreams.”

D’Agata said he had fallen away from artistic expression until a few years ago, when the director of the prison allowed a group of prisoners to take part in a drawing course, which served as a “source of inspiration and the dormant talents came back to life.”