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US nuncio to Encuentro: Missionaries must first know the joy of Christ

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 21, 2018 / 10:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A missionary disciple is one who has encountered Christ personally and is then able to bring him to others, Archbishop Christophe Pierre said Thursday at the National V Encuentro.  

Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, addressed approximately 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic and Latino background gathered for the summit in Grapevine, Texas, Sept. 20. The event is the culmination of four years of consultation and workshops at the parish, diocesan, and regional levels of the Church in the U.S.

This year, the National Encuentro’s theme is “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” or “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God.”

Pierre said he believes, as do Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, that one must first encounter the person of Christ before one can become a missionary.

“For (Pope Francis), the whole missionary endeavour begins with an encounter with Christ,” Pierre said.

“The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus,” Pierre said, quoting the beginning of Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium. “Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”

Benedict also began his first encyclical reflecting on the personal encounter with Christ which every Christian must have, Pierre noted.

“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction,” Pierre said, quoting Benedict’s 2005 encyclical Deus caritas est.

This joy of encountering Christ breathes life into the missionary, who is then able to go out and encounter God’s people, Pierre said.

A Church filled with “missionary impulse” is one that channels her “customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures...for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation,” Pierre noted, referencing Evangelii gaudium.

“Just as wind pushes against a sail and causes a boat to move upon the water, so too the Spirit of God pushes the whole Church to go forth into the world, attentive to the signs of the times and the needs of the people, jettisoning that which is obsolete,” Pierre said.

The missionary spirit which leads to a conversion of heart must be inspired by belief in the God and the Church, Pierre added.

“We have to believe in the Church, this is important today not to forget...believe in the Church who makes Christ incarnate in the culture and among the people,” he said.

This conversion of heart and a missionary spirit must happen within pastors and Church leaders as well, Pierre noted, as they listen to and learn from the different people whom they serve.

“People’s religious experiences, including those of the Latinos, are an authentic place of encounter with God,” he said. “Pastoral conversion means moving from mere conservation to a decidedly pastoral ministry. Pastoral and missionary conversion go hand in hand with a conversion of attitudes and a conversion of statues.”

A Church full of missionary spirit is one that accompanies people and remains united - in a word, a missionary Church has “synodality,” he said, something that can be seen incarnate in the mission of Encuentro.

“The Encuentro process has shown the effectiveness of synodality in the Church,” Pierre added. “Listening, speaking, participating by asking critical questions and discerning the path forward .if Communion is a sharing of the faithful in the mysteries of faith and mission of the church, synodality is a sign and fulfillment of communion.”

Another characteristic of a missionary Church is joy, Pierre said. It celebrates “even small victories in the work of evangelization” and is nourished by the Eucharist, the sacrament in which “Christ is among us, and the joy that he has won is preserved and shared.”

Finally, Pierre said, a missionary Church is one that is not afraid to go to the “peripheries”, both geographical and cultural, to encounter people and bring Christ to them.

“It is my sincere hope that as we gather for these days, we may be the church that Christ wants us to be,” Pierre concluded.

“With (Jesus) at the center of our lives, our conversations and our ministries, confident that with the Virgin of Guadalupe to accompany us and intercede for us, may we always move forward in hope, making known the joy of the Gospel.”

Blessed Stanley Rother shrine fundraising campaign surpasses initial goal

Oklahoma City, Okla., Sep 21, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City announced Tuesday that its capital campaign, one of the goals of which is the construction of a shrine for Blessed Stanley Rother, had surpassed its original $65 million goal.

“I have been grateful and humbled by the generosity of families across the archdiocese who have supported this historic campaign,” Archbishop Paul Coakley said Sept. 18. “We have been blessed to have the powerful witness of Blessed Stanley to help guide us as we build upon his legacy for future generations.”

In addition to the shine for the Oklahoma priest who was martyred in 1981 in Guatemala, the One Church, Many Disciples campaign will fund local parishes and schools, renovation of the cathedral, evangelization efforts, faith formation endowments, and retirement for elderly priests.

The Blessed Stanley Rother shrine will be built in Oklahoma City off of I-35, and will house the relics of the martyr. According to the Oklahoma City archdiocese, it will include a 2,000-seat church, a chapel, ministry and classroom buildings, a museum, and a pilgrim center.

One-third of parishes in the archdiocese have completed the capital campaign, 34 are in its midst, and 32 will begin in January 2019.

Given the success of the campaign, Archbishop Coakley has announced a challenge goal of $80 million.

Father Rother was beatified Sept. 23, 2017 in Oklahoma City.

Fr. Rother was born March 27, 1935 in Okarche, Okla., and entered seminary soon after graduating from Holy Trinity High School.

Despite a strong calling, Rother would struggle in the seminary, failing several classes and even out of one seminary before graduating from Mount St. Mary's in Maryland. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Oklahoma City and Tulsa in 1963.

He served for five years in Oklahoma before joining the Oklahoma diocese's mission in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, a poor rural community of mostly indigenous persons where he would spend the next 13 years of his life.

The work ethic Fr. Rother learned on his family’s farm would serve him well in this new place. As a mission priest, he was called on not just to say Mass, but to fix the broken truck or work the fields. He built a farmers' co-op, a school, a hospital, and the first Catholic radio station.

Over the years, the violence of the Guatemalan civil war inched closer to the once-peaceful village.
Disappearances, killings, and danger soon became a part of daily life, but Fr. Rother remained steadfast and supportive of his people.

In 1980-1981, the violence escalated to an almost unbearable point; Fr. Rother was constantly seeing
friends and parishioners abducted or killed.

In January 1981, in immediate danger and his name on a death list, Fr. Rother did return to Oklahoma for a few months. But as Easter approached, he wanted to spend Holy Week with his people in Guatemala.

The morning of July 28, 1981, three Ladinos, the non-indigenous men who had been fighting the native people and rural poor of Guatemala since the 1960s, broke into Fr. Rother's rectory. They wished to disappear him, but he refused.

Not wanting to endanger the others at the parish mission, he struggled but did not call for help. Fifteen minutes and two gunshots later, Father Stanley was dead and the men fled the mission grounds.

Though his body was buried in Okarche, Fr. Rother's heart was enshrined in the church of Santiago Atitlan where he served.

Fr. Rother's cause for beatification was opened in 2007, and his martyrdom was recognized by the Vatican in December 2016, which cleared the way for his beatification.

His body was exhumed from the Okarche cemetery in May 2017, and re-interred at a chapel at Resurrection Cemetery in Oklahoma City.

Blessed Stanley Rother's feast is celebrated July 28 in the dioceses of Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Little Rock.

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 / 05:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying he regrets having failed to report the abuse of a minor, WBAY reported Thursday.

“I failed to report to local authorities an incident of abuse of a minor by a priest in 1979 and, as a result, this priest was able to abuse again several years later,” Bishop Morneau wrote in a letter to Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, which WBAY says was published in The Compass, the Green Bay diocesan paper.

“I intend to spend my time in prayer for all victims and survivors of sexual abuse and I will do corporal works of mercy in reparation for what I failed to do,” Bishop Morneau wrote.

Bishop Morneau, 80, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Green Bay in 1966, and appointed auxiliary bishop of the diocese in 1978. He was consecrated a bishop Feb. 22, 1979. He remained auxiliary bishop until 2013, when he reached the age of 75.

WBAY reports that Bishop Morneau says he mishandled the case of former priest David Boyea, who was convicted of child sexual assaul in 1985.

“Looking back, I should have handled this situation differently than I did at the time. At the time, I was asked by the family of the victim to arrange an apology from the offending priest, which I did. I felt at the time I had done what was asked of me by helping the parties to reconcile,” the bishop wrote.

“The measures taken were ultimately insufficient to protect others from abuse from this same priest. I very much regret and apologize for this, especially to those victimized following my mistake in this regard.”

Bishop Ricken wrote in The Compass, according to WBAY, that “Bishop Morneau is a good and faithful man who did what he felt was right at the time, realizing now that he could have and should have done more to protect the innocent.”

Experts respond to new policies for handling allegations against bishops

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2018 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- Following the announcement of new policies for bishops by the USCCB, experts in the fields of law and child protection have been considering their potential effectiveness. The measures were formulated by the U.S. bishops’ conference’s Administrative Committee in response to the recent scandal involving Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

In a statement released Sept. 19, the bishops’ conference said that in addition to backing a full inquiry into the McCarrick scandal, they would establish a third-party mechanism for reporting allegations of misconduct against bishops.

A Code of Conduct for bishops, and a clear policy for handling “restricted” bishops who had resigned or been removed from office following accusations would also be produced.

Ed Mechmann, a civil lawyer and head of public policy and director of the Safe Environment Office for the Archdiocese of New York, welcomed the plans.

“The USCCB’s announcement is a good first step,” he told CNA. While hailing the measures as progress, Mechmann said that the Church needed to get better at ongoing reform.

“Adapting to changed circumstances is a hard thing. Some organizations are more nimble than others and the U.S. bishops are not by nature very nimble. I think we need to see, and will see, a better process of incremental change emerge.” 

Mechmann specifically singled out the proposed independent reporting system as an encouraging reform.

“The third-party reporting mechanism is a great idea. All Catholics, especially victims, need to be able to have faith that when they report something, action will be taken.”

Much of the criticism from the current scandal has focused on what actions bishops took - or did not take - in response to allegations made against one of their peers. Addressing what has been seen as an accountability gap for bishops has been a crucial priority for Church authorities.

While the Essential Norms adopted by the U.S. bishops’ conference in 2002 have contributed to a sharp downturn in the number of cases of abuse involving priests, those norms did not extend to bishops. Only the Holy See, as an exercise of papal authority, can impose disciplinary measures on bishops, and this has hampered efforts by the American hierarchy to self-police.

Mechmann suggested that the application of current standards and procedures to bishops as well as priests should be a priority.

“We do not know how many complaints against bishops, as bishops, are likely to be received. I would suggest that if the complaint concerns actions committed while he was a priest - as was the case with some of the McCarrick allegations - there shouldn’t be anything stopping the current Essential Norms and the Dallas Charter being applied, since both of those concern priestly ministry.”

But Mechmann acknowledged that extending the reach of existing norms would require Roman approval.

“In a sense all bishops are priests too, and ideally the norms and charter would already be applied to bishops, though this seems to need the approval of Rome. I think American Catholics as a group tend to be impatient with technicalities like this, they want to see progress and the USCCB’s plan is a solid beginning.”

Fr. Giovanni Capucci, a priest of the Archdiocese of Denver who teaches canon law at St. John Vianney Seminary, told CNA that the difficulty lay in the U.S. bishops’ conference having to deal with issues it was never intended to handle.

“The challenge facing the USCCB, or any bishops conference, is that they were not created to be legislative bodies. The areas in which they can make binding rules for all the bishops of a country is very narrowly limited and prescribed explicitly by the Holy See,” Capucci told CNA.

“Trying to arrive at new norms or processes, even in response to grave scandals, is simply not what they were created to do.”

He explained that while many Catholics would like to see swift, decisive action from the American bishops, as an institution, the USCCB is geared more towards being a communal forum than a deliberative body.

“From that perspective, the proposals are a commendable effort and a necessary one. But they probably also reflect the farthest they can go within the limits of their authority,” Capucci said.

Both Capucci and Mechmann agreed that further reforms were likely, noting that the statement of the Administrative Committee underscored that the announced measures were only a first step in a continuing process.

Capucci told CNA that “it is up to the Holy See to determine if the USCCB will be given more authority to act, and they seem to have been clear that they consider this a first step. Time will tell what else may be achieved.”

Ed Mechmann pointed out that, in the meantime, more could be done by U.S. dioceses themselves.

“Currently, the charter and norms are working, but the outcomes and applications are not uniform across all dioceses. Even the terms ‘sexual misconduct’ or ‘abuse’ don’t necessarily mean the same thing in all dioceses,” he said.

“What’s misconduct in New York needs to be misconduct across the river in Newark. I think working on a better process of incremental and ongoing reform will yield better results, near and long term, than becoming locked into a cycle of responding to major crises.”

Some Catholics, including members of the pope’s own Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, have advanced the idea of regional or national tribunals to handle sexual abuse  cases. The impetus for this is the known backlog of cases facing the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which has not - as yet - been given the resources and manpower required to process its caseload effectively.

More than that, Mechmann said, giving local authorities the power to try local abuse cases would demonstrate accountability.

“We want to get to a place where American problems are being handled locally, and the bishops here need to ask for and receive the authority to deal with our own issues,” Mechmann said.

Mechmann also told CNA that “people don’t want to hear that our issues are being palmed off on a handful of hard-working but clearly over-stretched priests in Rome. That looks like shifting responsibility for our own messes, and it extends the time it takes to deal with these matters. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Fr. Capucci sounded a note of caution about the concept of regional or national tribunal, saying that the idea is “not entirely novel, and it’s not clear if this is necessarily the best way forward. The American experience of special norms for marriage tribunals, for example, was not a universally positive experience,” he told CNA.

“The important thing is that cases of abuse are dealt with, dealt with swiftly, and handled by qualified staff who can deliver an outcome people can have faith in - always keeping the needs of victims at the front of their work” Fr. Capucci said.

The extent to which individual bishops welcome and adopt the reforms willingly could prove crucial to their effectiveness. In response to the new policies, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles praised them as an effective point of departure for an ongoing process of reform.

“It is only the beginning of what needs to be done. But I believe it is a good, solid beginning,” he said in a statement released Sept. 20.

“This is a time for prayer and penance and purification for those of us who are bishops and priests. And as we work for the renewal and reform of the Church, we are asking humbly for your assistance and expertise — as mothers and fathers, and as faithful Catholics in all walks of life.”

'Leave no stone unturned,' Cardinal Dolan tells NY archdiocesan investigator

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 / 01:48 pm (CNA).- The Archbishop of New York has announced the appointment of an archdiocesan special counsel, who will be tasked with an independent review of protocols for responding to allegations of sexual abuse.

At a press conference Sept. 20, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said that retired federal Judge Barbara Jones will undertake “an exhaustive study of our policies, procedures, and protocols on how we deal with any accusation that comes to us about an alleged abuse of a young person by a priest, deacon, or a bishop.”

“I have promised her complete access to our records, personnel, and to me personally,” Dolan said.

The cardinal said that in recent months clergy members, Catholics, and other community members have conveyed to him the importance of “accountability, transparency, and action.”

“I also hear them honestly say to me something that stings me very much: ‘Cardinal Dolan, we’ve been so let down that we’re beginning to lose trust in you bishops.’”

“If I lose the trust of my people and this community, I don’t have a lot left,” Dolan said.

Dolan said that Jones would “conduct an independent, scrupulous review to see if there are gaps, if there are things we should be doing and are not, and, hopefully, to affirm that we are doing our best to live up to the promises we bishops made to our people in 2002.”

Jones has also been asked to “enhance and strengthen our protocols for accusations of inappropriate behavior by anyone abusing his or her position of authority,” he added. She will also be tasked with reviewing policies and protocols related to workplace sexual abuse and harassment.

“Even our many critics do admit we’ve made a lot of progress in dealing with abuse of minors; now we need to be certain we are doing the same for responding to allegations of abuses of position and power.”

During the press conference, Jones told Dolan that she is “ready to help,” adding that “the cardinal has told me to leave no stone unturned.”

“My review will focus on the efficacy of [archdiocesan] programs, and whether the archdiocese has followed its existing protocols in addressing reports of abuse. Where I see deficiencies or gaps or non-compliance with current procedures, I will identify them to the cardinal for his review and remediation.”

In her work for the Archdiocese of New York, “I will also review the procedures followed in every new case of abuse to ensure that the Archdiocese has followed its protocols. I will make the results of those reviews available to the cardinal before he makes a final adjudication in each case,” Jones said.

Jones has a long record of investigating complex organizations. She began her legal career in the Organized Crime and Racketeering Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, serving as a part of the agency’s Manhattan Strike Force in the 1970s. She was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York from 1977 to 1987, leading an organized crime unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, before becoming a high-ranking prosecutor in the New York district attorney’s office.

In 1995 Jones was appointed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. She retired from the court in 2013.

During her time on the bench, Jones presided over U.S. v. Windsor, a case that challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act’s definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In a 2012 decision upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Jones found that definition violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“I approach this importance assignment with an open mind and an understanding of the scope and scale of the issues that challenge the archdiocese. I have already begun an initial review of the archdiocese’s past efforts,” Jones said Thursday.

“Based upon this review I certainly see a robust infrastructure in place with the archdiocese but my job now will be to evaluate the effectiveness of the existing programs and policies in that infrastructure.”

Dolan told reporters that he has asked Jones to provide a public report on her findings at the conclusion of her work.

“The cardinal has asked me to be rigorous in my examination and to call out deficiencies as I see them. He has assured me that he will take appropriate action as expeditiously as possible, based upon my recommendations,” she added.

“I would not have taken this assignment without these assurances.”

 

Catholic Charities is collecting airline miles to reunite refugee families

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2018 / 11:14 am (CNA).- Catholic Charities USA has announced a new initiative to help refugees and people seeking asylum to reunite with their family members through donated airline miles.

The national charity organization is partnering with Miles4Migrants, a volunteer-run nonprofit that works to reunite families separated by conflict and persecution through donations of both money and miles.

Catholic Charities agencies will work to help Miles4Migrants identify refugees and people seeking asylum who have received government approval for migration travel but are in need to airfare to be reunited with their loved ones.

Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, emphasized that the organization’s work is focused on “caring for the most vulnerable among us.”

“It is in that spirit that we support our agencies’ efforts to assist immigrants and refugees who arrive in this country,” she said in a Sept. 20 statement. “We are excited for the increased opportunity this partnership provides to reunite families separated at our borders.”

Catholic Charities USA represents 166 diocesan Catholic Charities agencies, many of which work locally with immigrants and refugees, through resettlement asssitance, foster care and other services.  

Seth Stanton, CEO and co-founder of Miles4Migrants, said he is excited about the partnership with Catholic Charities.

“Our shared mission and values around keeping families together create a strong foundation, and we look forward to working together to reunite many refugee and asylum seeking family members in the years to come,” he said in a statement.

Miles4Migrants has recently expanded its domestic operations to aid families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, a culmination of four years of listening to and empowering Catholics of Hispanic background throughout the U.S.

“For the Church in the United States, not only did we see the leadership of our beautiful, diverse Hispanic community, but we see a leadership for the entire Church,” Bishop John Barres of Rockville Centre said in a video released ahead of the meeting.

The National V Encuentro (Fifth Encounter), to be held in Grapevine, Texas Sept. 20-23, is the culmination of four years of consultation and workshops at the parish, diocesan, and regional levels of the Church in the U.S.

This year’s theme is “Discípulos Misioneros: Testigos del amor de Dios” or “Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of the love of God”.

Delegates to the Encuentro were selected from the 165 dioceses and the nearly 250,000 people that participated in the local process over the past year. They will discuss topics already explored at the local levels that particularly pertain to Hispanics, such as the accompaniment of immigrants, access to higher education, lay leadership formation, and community outreach and evangelization.

The five main objectives of the meeting are: to encounter the needs and aspirations of Catholics of Hispanic background; to promote leadership opportunities for them; to develop new ways to form and encourage them in their vocations; to invite all Catholics to accompany Catholics of Hispanic background; and to develop “initiatives that prepare Hispanic Catholics to share and celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ and to become leaven for the Reign of God in society.”

Speakers at the National V Encuentro include Auxiliary Bishop José Arturo Cepeda Escobedo of Detroit, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Sr. Ana María Pineda from Santa Clara University in Calif., Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R. of Newark, and Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus.

The National V Encuentro also includes daily Mass, a daybreak rosary, a bishop and young adult dinner encounter, and regional, inter-regional, and ministerial small group sessions.

Parish and diocesan leaders are hopeful ahead of the meeting that it will continue to bear the good fruit they are already seeing at the parish and diocesan level.

“It inspired people who may have been not as active in the parish...they’re really taking the leadership position seriously, it’s the missionary discipleship that we’re all called to,” Thomas Lyons, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, said in a video about local Encuentros.

Local Encuentro participant Alejandra Mancilla from Pelican Rapids, Minn. said the local Encuentro helped her to understand her English-speaking brothers and sisters, and to see more opportunities to serve with them.

“Even though we were at the same parish, we didn’t have many joint activities,” she said in the video.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which held their diocesan Encuentro in January, reported that 3,000 people participated in the V Encuentro process at 65 parishes throughout the archdiocese.

In his reflection at the L.A. Encuentro, Archbishop Jose Gomez encouraged other Hispanics to see themselves as leaders and members of the Church, and not outliers.

“We are not new-comers or late-comers or outliers,” Gomez said. “The first Catholics in this country were Latinos! From Spain and from Mexico! Never forget that, my brothers and sisters!”

The National V Encuentro comes at a time when Hispanics make up one of the largest contingents of the Catholic Church in the country, representing about 40 percent of the Church in the United States in 2016.

The Hispanic population is particularly large among youth and young adults in the Church in the US: 50 percent of Catholics ages 14 to 29 are Hispanic, and 55 percent of Catholics under 14 are Hispanic. Though immigration rates from Hispanic countries have begun to slow in recent years, the percentage of Hispanics in the Church in the US is expected to continue growing during the next decade.

Hispanics have also contributed to religious renewal in the Bible Belt, where some Protestant churches are closing doors while some Catholic churches are bursting with new, mostly Hispanic, members.

The first National Encuentro in the United States was held in 1972, and it is a process that has continued at local, regional, and national levels ever since. The most recent Encuentro prior to the Grapevine meeting was held in 2000, with a related youth meeting held in 2006.

According to a letter issued by the U.S. bishops’ conference, the V Encuentro is an opportunity “to listen with profound attention to the needs, challenges and aspirations that the growing Hispanic/Latino population faces in daily life. It especially prepares us as a Church to better recognize, embrace, and promote the many gifts and talents that the Hispanic community shares in the life and mission of the Church and in the society.”

“The main objective (of Encuentro) is to find new ways of responding to the Hispanic and Latino presence in the Church, and for Hispanics and Latinos to better respond as missionary disciples in service to the entire Church,” Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, Assistant Director of Hispanic affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a video message produced by the bishops’ conference.

In his 2016 message for the V Encuentro, Pope Francis said that it was a way for the Church to discern how to “best respond to the growing presence, gifts, and potential of the Hispanic community.”

“Mindful of the contributions that the Hispanic community makes to the life of the nation, I pray that the Encuentro will bear fruit for the renewal of the American society and for the Church´s apostolate in the United States.”

Commentary: Getting to forgiveness

Denver, Colo., Sep 19, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).-
I have spent most of this summer angry with Christ’s Church.

When the first credible allegation against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick- my own former bishop- was announced, he was the focus of my anger. I marveled that a man of God could act with such cruelty toward children, seminarians, and priests.

As the weeks passed, my anger spread beyond McCarrick. First it spread to the bishops who were negligent or selfish enough to allow him to continue in ministry, and then to the institution itself- to a Church structure that seems often to reward mediocrity and punish holiness, a system that allows the sacraments of God to be tied up with hubris and the callow self-interest of twisted men.

If I’m being honest, I have also spent most of this summer deeply wounded. Disappointed that men I know- bishops I love, and admire, and respect- failed to intervene in ways that might have prevented harm to children, to priests, to souls, and to the Church. I’m hurt by indecision, incompetence, and indecency, and I’m angry at those who have hurt me.

The apologies from bishops have sounded self-serving, bureaucratic, and mechanical. Their pledges to change ring hollow. The pope-the Vicar of Christ-has not yet given me a satisfying explanation, or a word of helpful consolation.

I’m angry about those things.

I’ve knelt down before Christ with that anger, that pain, with exasperation and a deep sense of disappointment. I’ve asked him to take it from me. He has not yet done so.

Summer is fading now, but my anger is not. These are not wounds which time will easily heal. But it has become apparent to me that I can’t continue to live this way.

Anger can be righteous, holy even, and the source of purifying fire and sanctifying justice. But anger can also be self-righteous- prideful and self-indulgent. Anger can fester and furrow into bitterness, seducing us into believing that we, not God, are fit to judge the souls of other men.

That kind of anger is destructive, not righteous. It leads to our damnation. And it can only be defeated by forgiveness.

In 1997, Pope St. John Paul II explained that neither souls nor communities can find peace “unless an attitude of sincere forgiveness takes root in human hearts. When such forgiveness is lacking, wounds continue to fester, fueling in the younger generation endless resentment, producing a desire for revenge and causing fresh destruction.”

“Offering and accepting forgiveness is the essential condition for making the journey towards authentic and lasting peace.”

God will call each one of us to forgive his Church. To forgive the men who have wounded Christ’s body. To forgive those bishops who have been negligent, selfish, or evil.

We won’t all forgive at the same time- it is far easier for me to talk about forgiveness than it is for the victims of abuse, or their families.  But I have allowed my own righteous anger to become something else.

For me, it’s time to forgive.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It doesn’t even mean letting go of righteous anger. I am angry at sin, and at sinners, and among them are the bishops of our Church. I expect our bishops to act rightly, but I don’t yet trust that they will. We need accountability, and I intend to insist on it, in every way that I can. Justice demands that.

We also need a spiritual renewal in our Church, and among our leaders. We need bishops who want to be saints. We need bishops who take governance seriously, who take doctrine seriously, who take sacred worship seriously.

Forgiveness is not a capitulation to how things are, to the detriment of how they ought to be.

In one sense, forgiveness changes very little. But what forgiveness might change is me. Forgiveness means that I’ll try to help build up the Body of Christ. That I’ll try to assist the bishops in fulfilling the call God gave them. Forgiveness will mean that I’ll try to pray for our bishops, and that I’ll try very hard to mean it.  

None of that will be easy. But anger, resentment, and bitterness have become a poison to me. And they have eternal consequences. To have eternal intimacy with God, I need the Church. I’m called to communion with her. And that’s what matters in the end. I’m still angry. But I’ll learn to forgive the Church, or I’ll be damned.

Bishop Cozzens: The light shines in the darkness

St. Paul, Minn., Sep 19, 2018 / 04:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a column in The Catholic Spirit last week, Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of Saint Paul and Minneapolis reflected on the light being shone on sins committed by members of the Church, and God's ability to bring good out of evil.

“As the psalms teach us, we should not be afraid to acknowledge our deep feelings to God in prayer,” Bishop Cozzens wrote Sept. 13. “Acknowledging our feelings is the first step to bringing them into the light of God, so we can begin to see with his eyes. As we keep praying, we will begin to see how God is bringing good. We will receive from God his way of seeing.”

The bishop prefaced his column with St. Paul's exhortation to a virtuous life from his epistle to the Ephesians, and he then said that “All of us have felt the pain of the “works of darkness” which have once again come to light in our Church.”

The Saint Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese's bankruptcy is coming to an end, he wrote, as the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released and “we were horrified by … the widespread corruption that seems to surround the life of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.”

“Now the accusations of cover-up have enveloped the Holy Father himself. I know many of you, like me, have felt shaken and overwhelmed.”

While anger, hurt, and discouragement “are justified and need to be acknowledged, we also need to remember how God works,” Bishop Cozzens wrote.

“God always brings good out of evil. The truth is that the clouds always seem darkest when the light shines on them, and the only way the healing of this cancer of sexual immorality in our Church can ever come is through the light shining on it.”

The shame of sexual abuse can now be carried by everyone in the Church, he said. “I willingly stand in the darkness of this shame because I want the healing of victims and the purification of the Church. I believe that this shame coming into the light is a great good, because I want the Church to face her own darkness so that she can heal.”

Bishop Cozzens wrote of the need for practical reform in the Church, including accountability structures for bishops, and reiterating his belief “that there needs to be independent lay-led means developed to investigate these issues and review them.”

“But we also need holiness, which always comes through repentance and spiritual purification. Only when we repent for our sins, and do the penance necessary to heal the wounds, can new life come.”

The wisdom of the cross is instructive in this time, he said, writing: “The cross was a great evil. When the Son of God came to earth to reveal the love of the Eternal Father, we human beings hung him up on a tree to die. Yet he turned this great act of evil into the greatest gift for us. Through the suffering love of Christ, through his self-gift, the cross became a source of love and redemption for us. The cross teaches us that God’s greatest power is the ability to bring good out of evil. If we learn to receive God’s love in our darkness, even darkness can become a source of life.”

“All things,” even “our own sins,” even “the sins of bishops” “work for good for those who love God,” he wrote, quoting St. Paul.

“This is the profound truth Jesus teaches us through his death and resurrection: There is nothing so evil that it cannot be taken up by God and turned into a potential good,” Bishop Cozzens wrote.

“All evil brought into the light of the merciful love of God can become a good. This is the truth of healing, healing for victims/survivors, healing for our Church. The healing begins to happen when we are not afraid to bring the shadows into the light and try to see with God’s merciful eyes.”

Bishop Cozzens noted the good of the 90 men whom he is serving as interim rector of St. Paul Seminary. They are pursuing priesthood “in the face of this shadow over the Church because they desire to live holiness and give an authentic witness to the truth of Christ’s love. They inspire me to do the same. I see this same inspiration in the holy lives of many of our lay people.”

“If there are more shadows to be exposed, may they be exposed,” the bishop concluded. “I would rather live in a Church that is humbled and purified than one that is happy and numb.”

U.S. bishops announce new abuse-prevention measures and call for McCarrick investigation

Washington D.C., Sep 19, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference has announced new accountability measures in response to recent clerical sex-abuse scandals. The reforms include the establishment of an independent reporting mechanism to receive complaints against bishops, and the development of a Code of Conduct for bishops.

A statement released Sept. 19 by the USCCB’s Administrative Committee said that the new steps being taken to combat abuse are “only the beginning,” and that consultations were underway with laity, clergy, and religious on how better to “repair the scandal and restore justice.”

The Administrative Committee’s statement announced four key policies.

The first is the creation of a confidential, third-party reporting mechanism to handle “complaints of sexual abuse of minors by a bishop and sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with adults by a bishop.” This system, the statement said, will direct those complaints to the appropriate civil and ecclesiastical authorities.

The statement also said that the USCCB’s Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance had been instructed to develop proposals for policies to address restrictions on bishops who have either resigned or been removed following “allegations of sexual abuse of minors or sexual harassment of or misconduct with adults, including seminarians and priests.”

The Administrative Committee also announced it has begun a process for developing a Code of Conduct for bishops regarding the “sexual abuse of a minor; sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with an adult; or negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases.”

Finally, the statement said, the committee supported a full investigation into the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, including the allegations made against him concerning the sexual assault of minors, adults, seminarians, and priests, and the Church’s response to those allegations.

“Such an investigation should rely upon lay experts in relevant fields, such as law enforcement and social services,” the statement said.

Recognizing the widespread criticism of Church authorities in the wake of recent scandals, the committee said they “welcome and are grateful for the assistance of the whole people of God in holding us accountable.”

“This is a time of deep examination of conscience for each bishop. We cannot content ourselves that our response to sexual assault within the Church has been sufficient.”

The bishops also urged any victims of abuse to come forward, either to Church authorities or to civil law enforcement.

“To anyone who has been abused, never hesitate to also contact local law enforcement.  If you don’t feel comfortable for any reason with the Church providing help, your diocese can connect you with appropriate community services. With compassion and without judgement, the bishops of the United States pledge to heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us.”

According to the statement, the committee met to discuss the proposals last week. The announcement also follows a Sept. 13 meeting between Pope Francis and senior U.S. bishops, led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the bishops’ conference.

“Some bishops, by their actions or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the Church as a whole. They have used their authority and power to manipulate and sexually abuse others. They have allowed the fear of scandal to replace genuine concern and care for those who have been victimized by abusers. For this, we again ask forgiveness from both the Lord and those who have been harmed. Turning to the Lord for strength, we must and will do better,” the statement said.