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Some things we have been reading  
Esther Yu-Hsi Lee      Aug.19, 2014


Between five and ten migrant children have been killed since February after the United States deported them back to Honduras, a morgue director told the Los Angeles Times. Lawmakers have yet to come up with best practices to deal with the waves of unaccompanied children apprehended by Border Patrol agents, but some politicians refute claims that children are fleeing violence and are opting instead to fund legislation that would fast-track their deportations.


San Pedro Sula morgue director Hector Hernandez told the Los Angeles Times that his morgue has taken in 42 dead children since February. According to an interview with relatives by the LA Times, one teenager was shot dead hours after getting deported. Last year, San Pedro Sula saw 187 killings for every 100,000 residents, a statistic that has given the city the gruesome distinction as the murder capital of the world 

Read more

Pope phones family of slain U.S. journalist
Francis X. Rocca      Aug.21, 2014

Pope Francis phoned the bereaved family of a U.S. journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Syria.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the pope phoned relatives of the late James Foley on Aug. 21 to console them for their loss and assure them of his prayers.


The call to the Foley family in Rochester, New Hampshire, came in the afternoon New Hampshire time. Father Lombardi released no additional details.
Read more

Faith, prayer sources of strength for slain U.S. journalist, his family
CNS      Aug.20, 2014

In April 2013, the parents of slain U.S. journalist James Foley attended a prayer vigil at Marquette University in Milwaukee to pray for their son, who at that time had disappeared in Syria.

Before Diane and John Foley had confirmation that spring that their son was missing, Diane said she just felt it -- he had missed one of his usual phone calls home -- and once they knew for sure, the couple said they were relying on their Catholic faith to cope and leaning on prayer to bring him home.

. . . .

That strong faith will likely help the couple, who are members of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Rochester, get through the fact that their 40-year-old son was beheaded by militants with the Islamic State extremist group, known as ISIS. 

. . . .

ISIS said they killed James Foley in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes on the militants' strongholds and the group said it would kill another U.S. hostage.

News of his grisly death has sent shock waves around the world, eliciting prayers and statements of support for the family from Catholic leaders, the Marquette community, reporters' organizations, fellow journalists and many others.

 "The brutality of this act is itself evidence of an unspeakable evil that is rampant and inhuman," New Hampshire Bishop Peter A. Libasci of Manchester. "To the prayers that have been offered since his captivity almost two years ago, we now add our prayers for James' eternal rest and, in Christ Jesus Our Lord, James's future resurrection to eternal life."

"Our prayers also must accompany a sorrowful mother, a grieving father, a deeply pained family and countless friends who have kept vigil all this time," he said. "May we also pray for those who have embraced the way of darkness and death, that they may turn away from this terrible evil now and forever."

News reports said the Foleys' pastor, Father Paul Gousse, was at the family's house for about 45 minutes Aug. 19. He left without speaking to reporters. The parish posted a notice that the church would be open to all to join in prayer for Jim, his family, friends, colleagues "and all who are still in danger."

Read more

Elderly Iraqi Christians defy ISIS, flee to camp
Simon Caldwell      Aug.20 2014

A group of 11 sick, disabled and elderly Iraqi Christians - including an 80-year-old woman with breast cancer - defied terrorists who ordered them to convert to Islam or be beheaded, saying they preferred death to giving up their faith.

The united resistance prompted the Islamic State extremists to drop their demands and order the Christians to immediately leave their village of Karamless after first robbing them of their possessions, according to one of the survivors.

Sahar Mansour, a refugee from Mosul, told Catholic News Service in an Aug. 18 e-mail that the group turned up at Ankawa refugee camp, where she is living, after they were released by the Islamist fighters. They had remained behind in Karamless because they were too weak to flee when the town was overrun by Islamic State militants the night of Aug. 6-7.
. . . . 

Mansour said the elderly told the militants that the Islamic State had nothing to gain from the conversion of a group of sick, disabled and elderly people.

 "When ISIS heard that they told the people to leave Karamless immediately, without taking anything, to leave with only with the clothes they were wearing," she said.

"ISIS took all their money from all of them and their gold," Mansour said, adding that one person had the courage to ask the terrorists to return some of their money so they could buy food for their journey to the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

The group of five men and six women later arrived at the Kalak checkpoint, the gateway to Kurdish-controlled territory, in two cars. There, they were allowed to contact relatives already in refugee camps, who were taken to meet them, Mansour said.

Read more
Special U.S. collection urged to help those suffering in Middle East
CNS       Aug.19, 2014

The president of the U.S. bishops' conference Aug. 19 asked Catholic bishops across the country to take up a special collection for humanitarian needs and pastoral support for Christians and other victims of violence in the Middle East.

 . . . .

Funds from the collection will be used by Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development organization, and other Catholic agencies "working in partnership with the local church" to meet the most urgent humanitarian needs of people in the three countries, he said in a letter to his fellow bishops.

The agencies also will use the money to help refugees who have fled Iraq, Syria and Gaza to neighboring countries. 

Read more

St. Louis archbishop urges prayers for peace to calm chaos in Ferguson
CNS    Aug.20, 2014

Residents of Ferguson "are struggling to find peace in the chaos" that has followed the shooting death of an unarmed teen by a police officer and "as people of Christ, we are struggling to find direction in the unrest," said Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis.

 "We are all aware of the turmoil and tragedy our St. Louis community is experiencing," he said in a letter Monday to Catholics of the archdiocese.

 After visiting Ferguson, about 11 miles from downtown St. Louis, and offering prayers at a memorial there to 18-year-old Michael Brown, Carlson said he has been observing and reflecting "through much prayer" on what has taken place on a daily basis since the Aug. 9 shooting, the events that have gone back and forth from peaceful protests to violence and looting.

. . . .

"I find strength in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: 'Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,' " Carlson said. "In all circumstances, but especially in these difficult times, we are all called to be instruments of peace through our words and actions."


He quoted Pope Francis as saying: "All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace."

Read more
Catholic, Orthodox patriarchs visit Irbil to support displaced Iraqis
Doreen Abi Raad      Aug.20, 2014


A delegation of Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs visited Irbil, Iraq, to show their support and solidarity with the more than 100,000 Christians and minorities displaced in the country by the advance of Islamist militants.

. . . .

Cardinal Rai left Beirut with Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan and Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II.

Upon their arrival in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq, the prelates were joined by Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad and local officials, including Kurdistan's Regional Interior Minister Karim Sinjari and Irbil Governor Nawzad Hadi.

The patriarchs visited refugees and prayed with them at three churches in Irbil hosting refugees from the Ninevah Plain. The refugees fled after being told by the Islamic State militants to convert to Islam, pay the Islamic jizya tax, or be killed. Many were robbed of their possessions before being forced to flee. 

Read more

Cardinal, patriarch call for international action to liberate Iraq
Cindy Wooden       Aug.18, 2014


Pope Francis' personal envoy to the suffering people of Iraq joined the Chaldean Catholic patriarch in launching an appeal to the international community Aug. 18, pleading for help to liberate villages controlled by the Islamic State terrorists and to provide the displaced with international protection.

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who has been in Iraq since Aug. 13 at the pope's request, and Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad said international action is necessary to provide the displaced with basic necessities like food and water, but also to guarantee the possibility of their survival in Iraq.


In their appeal, the cardinal and patriarch asked nations to "take their moral responsibility seriously" by helping to liberate villages in northeastern Iraq captured by the Islamic State militants.

The Christians, Yezidis and other minorities forced out of their villages because they would not convert to the militants' idea of Islam just want to return to their homes and live in peace, the cardinal and patriarch said. 
Read more

Pope discusses Iraq crisis
 CNS     Aug.19, 2014


Pope discusses Iraq crisis


LCWR Assembly Examines Key Challenges and Opportunities
LCWR      Aug.18, 2014


At the annual assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), held August 12-15, the approximately 750 participants discussed some of the essential considerations facing religious life and its leaders under the theme of "Holy Mystery Revealed in Our Midst." 


In a reflection delivered at the opening of the assembly, biblical scholar Sister Nancy Schreck, OSF explored some of the long biblical history of God working with people in the mystery of darkness. Noting that mastery of navigating the dark takes time, she said, "all we need do is to ask the mystery of darkness to teach us, to follow the darkness wherever it leads, and to become intimate with darkness."


Later in a keynote address entitled "However Long the Night," she noted that religious life finds itself in a "middle passage" with the "in-breaking of something new, of major shifts in our world view with the concurrent breakdown of so much of what is familiar." The task of remaining in the uncertain place, she added, "is to describe events that shatter all that one knows about the world and the familiar ways of operating within it." It is from this middle space, she noted, that women religious are called to bear witness to what they know.

 Sister Carol Zinn, SSJ delivered a presidential address using the metaphor of music to describe the challenges for Catholic sisters today. She noted, "This assembly comes at a time when our consciousness is increasingly heightened to the lamentations of our world, country, church, and vocation. We are called to stand in those lamentations singing the music in God's heart."

. . . .

During the assembly, the LCWR officers updated the members on their work with the bishops delegated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to implement a mandate of reform. Following discussion of the update, the members offered direction to the LCWR national board and to the LCWR presidency for its work with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain.

Immediately following the assembly, the 21-member LCWR national board held a three-day meeting that began with a one-hour session with Archbishop Sartain. At the conclusion of its meeting, the board issued the following statement:

Our study, discernment, and prayer led us to reaffirm our strong belief that ongoing conversation with church leadership is key to building effective working relationships that enable both women religious and church leaders to serve the world. It is our deepest hope to resolve the situation between LCWR and CDF in a way that fully honors our commitment to fulfill the LCWR mission as well as protect the integrity of the organization.


We will continue in the conversation with Archbishop Sartain as an expression of hope that new ways may be created within the church for healthy discussion of differences. We know that thousands of persons throughout the country and around the world long for places where they can raise questions and explore ideas on matters of faith in an atmosphere of freedom and respect. We believe that the ongoing conversations between CDF and LCWR may model a way of relating that only deepens and strengthens our capacity to serve a world in desperate need of our care and service.

Read more
Sister Elizabeth Johnson: 'The waste of time on this investigation is unconscionable'
Heidi Halll      Aug.16, 2014

A nun who drew U.S. Catholic bishops' ire with what they consider radical feminist writings fired back Friday (Aug. 15), saying their investigation of women's orders is wasteful when financial mismanagement and sexual abuses are being covered up.

 Sister Elizabeth Johnson, a theology professor at Fordham University, accepted the Leadership Conference of Women Religious' top award and then lambasted bishops for criticism of her book "Quest for the Living God," saying it appears they've never read it.

 "To this day, no one, not myself or the theological community, the media or the general public knows what doctrinal issue is at stake," she told the Nashville assembly of about about 900 sisters representing 80 percent of the nation's nuns.

In her 20-minute acceptance speech, followed by a standing ovation, Johnson suggested the conference's support of her work prompted the investigation by the church's top enforcer of orthodoxy, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. 

Read more

Sister Acts
Nicholas Kristof      Aug.16, 2014

In an age of villainy, war and inequality, it makes sense that we need superheroes. And after trying Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, we may have found the best superheroes yet: Nuns.

"I may not believe in God, but I do believe in nuns," writes Jo Piazza, in her forthcoming book, "If Nuns Ruled the World." Piazza is an agnostic living in New York City who began interviewing nuns and found herself utterly charmed and inspired.

. . . .

One of the most erroneous caricatures of nuns is that they are prim, Victorian figures cloistered in convents. On the contrary, I've become a huge fan of nuns because I see them so often risking their lives around the world, confronting warlords, pimps and thugs, while speaking the local languages fluently. In a selfish world, they epitomize selflessness and compassion.

There are also plenty of formidable nuns whom even warlords don't want to mess with, who combine reverence with ferocity, who defy the Roman Catholic Church by handing out condoms to prostitutes to protect them from H.I.V. (They surely don't mention that to the bishops.)

. . . .

Pope Francis, so far, has continued the crackdown, but he seems more enlightened than his predecessors and maybe he'll understand that battling nuns is hopeless. Nuns are iron women - and sometimes that's more than a metaphor. 

. . . . 

Forgive us for having sinned and thought of nuns as backward, when, in fact, they were among the first feminists. And, in a world of narcissism and cynicism, they constitute an inspiring contingent of moral leaders who actually walk the walk.

So a suggestion: How about if the Vatican spends less time investigating nuns and the public spends less time mocking nuns - and we all spend more time emulating nuns?

Read more

Conscience, 'sensus fidei' and the sisters
Christine Schenk      Aug.14, 2014

. . . .

Too often, Catholics raised in our "pay, pray and obey" Catholic culture are unaware that it is not only our right, but sometimes our duty to speak about matters concerning the good of the church (Code of Canon Law 212.3). Most are surprised to learn the authentic teaching of the church is that whenever there is conflict between one's conscience and church teaching, one must always obey one's conscience. St. Thomas Aquinas says: "Anyone upon whom the ecclesiastical authority, in ignorance of the true facts, impose a demand that offends against his clear conscience, should perish in excommunication rather than violate his conscience."

. . . .

Building on the bishops' norms, two prominent theologians, Fr. Richard McCormick and St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, also published guidelines.  McCormick's four criteria are implied in those developed by Johnson that I have reprinted below, so I won't list them separately here. 


[T]he following guidelines, as well as those from U.S. bishops, are helpful for any troubling conflict between conscience and church teaching.


  • Responsible dissent begins as an act of conscience and continues as part of a committed life in the Church. It is not habitual but arises in particular instances out of concern for the truth. It requires a certain discipline in order to be done well. The value guiding it in all cases should be the common good. Differing with institutional authorities in the church must always be for the church, for the present and future growth of the whole community in truth and love. With that controlling value in place, several discrete norms shape individual and corporate dissent. 
  • Responsible dissent takes place in the context of a deep and abiding assent to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the church's tradition which interprets it.
  • At the outset, the presumption is in favor of the particular teaching. One should try through prayer and study with an open mind to appreciate the reasons for the present position. If, through this effort, serious and well-founded reasons for holding a contrary opinion persist so that it is impossible in integrity of mind and heart to agree, then one must disagree.
  • There should be self-criticism about motivation, testing whether dissent is driven by innate hostility or some other hidden agenda, rather than by sincere conviction of the truth.
  • Since public dissent can detract from certain community values, it must be weighed and decided that the good to be accomplished is in proportion to the possible harm that might result.
  • The manner of dissent should be respectful of the leadership office in the church, not impugning it although disagreeing in this instance.
  • Presentation of one's views should also respect the consciences of others in the community who disagree, and the situation of those who have not investigated or cannot investigate complex issues.
  • While clear in resistance, the voice of dissent should be inviting a dialogue, rather than competitive in a win-lose way. The overall purpose is to promote the truth in love by urging the teaching office of the church to deeper listening and reflection.
  • Over the years, informed, responsible disagreement has been a gift to the church whereby the criticism born of love has empowered growth.

. . . .

But it is nothing short of ironic that the recent sensus fidei document, issued with the approval of M�ller himself, says: "Those who exercise authority in the church will take care to ensure that there is responsible exchange of freely held and expressed opinion among the People of God. More than this, they will set up norms and conditions for this to take place."


It seems to me that this is exactly what the LCWR assemblies have been doing for the past 40 years. The sisters' right to a venue in which "freely held and expressed opinions" can be exchanged is explicitly promoted by the latest teaching of the church.

Read more

Persons or Principles
John Chuchman      Aug.12, 2014


Dogma, doctrine,

principles, norms, systems,
rites, rituals, ideas
lack the turbulence of life,
the richness of
empirical concrete experience.
However clearly defined
and authoritatively promulgated,
however easy to conceive and express,
Church dogmas and doctrines,
rules and regulations,
are detached, abstract, colorless
and remote from reality.

results in uniformity, rigidity,
remote from the real world.
Human Experience with other real people
does not merely stimulate thinking
and critical conversation,
but also
rouses fantasy, imagination, emotion,
spontaneity, creativity, and innovation
appealing to
the total person.

I cannot enter a relationship
with a doctrine or dogma,
but I can
with another person.

I can reason, argue, discuss, dialogue,
and theologize with an Other.
We can share our Stories
with each other
which cannot be replaced
or even matched by
abstract ideas, concepts,
and dogmas.

We cannot be reduced to a formula.

Only people can draw people.
No Church principle or doctrine or creed
can be attractive
in the most profound and comprehensive
sense of the word.
make ideas, principles visible,
giving them flesh and blood
embodying them
for Others.
Church norms
cannot be imposed on us,
having no voice,
having no true appeal
and no real authority,
remaining ineffective
without human experience.

People have words and voice
to call us,
to appeal to us,
with Freedom,
in Justice,

Only a person,
not a doctrine or dogma,
can make sweeping demands on us,
can invite, summon, challenge us.

Only a person
can reach my Center,
my True Self,
stirring me to a rich encounter.

Doctrine, dogma, principles,
rules, rites, rituals,
are not the reality
which they attempt to regulate.
Of themselves,
they have no reality in the world.

A person is real.
Unlike an idea, norm, rule, or regulation,
a person cannot be made obsolete
by an Other;
a person is irreplaceable.
Only a person
can stimulate people
to follow him/her.

Has Church lost
the Person of Jesus
preferring instead
dogma, doctrine, rules, regulations,
rites and rituals?



Pope Francis' Flights Yield Candid Conversations
Elisabetta Povoledo      Aug.19, 2014


Francis is not the first pope to answer journalists' questions on a broad range of topics during the empty flight time on papal trips. But he has managed to turn these impromptu news conferences into front-page-grabbing events. 


Case in point: Monday's return flight from a five-day trip to South Korea. During an hourlong conversation with journalists, the pope touched on military intervention in Iraq and expressed a desire to travel to China, even "tomorrow." He said that preparation of cause for the beatification of �scar Romero, the Salvadoran archbishop slain in 1980, was well along and that he hoped to visit the United States next year, perhaps stopping in New York. He also suggested that he was open to following the example of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, and retiring.

Francis even spoke about his own death, though reporters on the flight noted that it was in a joking manner.  

Read more

Pope backs military force to protect Iraq minorities
Alan Gomez,      Aug.18, 2014

Pope Francis on Monday endorsed military action to stop Islamist militants from attacking religious minorities in Iraq, a rare pronouncement that goes against the Vatican's usual guidance against the use of force.


Francis cautioned that no country should act alone, and he called for an agreement within the international community, possibly through the United Nations, before embarking on a military campaign. He also warned against an all-out war, insisting that force could be justified only to "stop" the Islamic State, Muslim extremists who have forced Iraqi Christians and members of the Yazidi sect to convert to Islam. Those who refused have fled, and some have been executed by the militants. 

Read more

Korean paper: 'We were intoxicated under a holy spell'
Thomas C. Fox       Aug,21 2014

Like a fine wine, the aftertaste in Seoul, South Korea has been overwhelmingly positive in the three days since Pope Francis left following his five-day pastoral visit.  The media has been aglow with praise.

Francis touched the hearts of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, believers and non-believers as well.

One example, an essay a professed atheist, professor of sociology at Seoul National University, Song Ho-keun, wrote in the Korean JoongAng Daily. Staff of the  JoongAng translated Song's essay into English.

"We were intoxicated under a holy spell over the last several days while we had Pope Francis with us here in Korea. It was like coming to the bosom of home after an arduous journey. Troubles drifted away, pains diminished and the world looked peaceful and worthy of living," wrote Song. "The pope's visit touched even an atheist like me." 

Read more

Pope Francis celebrates reunification Mass as North Korea issues threats
Steve Finch       Aug.18, 2014
Pope greets religious leaders
Pope Francis greets Han Yang-Won, chairman of the Association for Korean Native Religion, and other religious leaders at Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul

Pope Francis led a reunification mass in Myeongdong Cathedral in Seoul on Monday that was overshadowed by a war of words between North and South Korea ahead of the pontiff's departure. 


In a ceremony shunned by the state-run Church in North Korea, the pope called on the divided peninsula to forgive "unreservedly" in the elusive quest for peace. 


"God's urgent summons to conversion also challenges Christ's followers in Korea ... to reject a mindset shaped by suspicion, confrontation and competition, and instead to shape a culture formed by the teaching of the Gospel and the noblest traditional values of the Korean people," he said during his homily inside Seoul's 130-year-old Gothic revival cathedral. 


But the pope's five-day visit ended as it had begun: with a warning from North Korea that it would attack the South unless the government in Seoul canceled an annual military exercise scheduled to start the same day.

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Hopes rise for closer Sino-Vatican ties
Kor Kian Beng      Aug.19, 2014

Hopes of improvement in the strained relations between China and the Vatican have risen after Beijing allowed Pope Francis to enter its airspace en route to South Korea last week, making him the first pontiff to do so since 1989.

Positive signs were also seen in Beijing's response to reports of the Pope's telegram of blessings sent to president Xi Jinping last Thursday from his flight.

. . . .

Analysts say the ball is now in China's court, though many do not bear high hopes for a rapprochement in Sino-Vatican ties, which were severed in 1951, two years after the Chinese Communist Party took power.

Dr Anthony Lam of the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Hong Kong believes the Pope's Asian tour, his first since becoming pontiff in March last year, has sparked overly optimistic hopes for Sino-Vatican ties. 

Read more

China to Pope Francis: Don't 'interfere' with religion
Josephine McKenna      Aug.20, 2014

China has reacted cautiously to a bid by Pope Francis to open new dialogue with Beijing, with some officials quick to warn the Vatican not to "interfere" with the country's religion.

On his return flight from a five-day tour of South Korea, Francis said he was ready to go to China -- "For sure! Tomorrow!" -- after receiving a positive response to two goodwill telegrams he sent to President Xi Jinping as the pope flew over Chinese airspace.

. . . .

The state-run Catholic Patriotic Association was quick to respond to the pope's overtures for greater dialogue, albeit with a warning. 


"China will always safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity and it never allows foreign forces to interfere with religion. The Vatican should respect China in terms of the personnel of a diocese," Liu Yuanlong, vice president of the association, told the state-run Global Times in a report also published in English.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs is unhappy with the Vatican's diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, while the Vatican is unhappy with Beijing's strict control of religious institutions, particularly the appointment of bishops.

Read more

Pope likely to approve decision by Cardinal Sean Brady to step down
Sarah MacDonald     Aug.14, 2014


Cdl. Brady Pope Francis is expected to accept the resignation of Cardinal Sean Brady as Primate of All Ireland in the coming months. 


The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland wrote to the Vatican several weeks ago indicating that he is prepared to step down, it has been learned.

The decision by Cardinal Brady, who became Primate in 1996, to submit his notice almost a month before his birthday has been seen as surprising in religious circles.

Cardinal Brady, who turns 75 on Saturday, does not automatically abdicate the role as he can only retire with the Pope's permission.

. . . .

Sources have indicated that the Vatican is under pressure to accept Cardinal Brady's resignation immediately following calls by two Irish survivors of clerical abuse, who met the Pope on July 7, for him to stand aside. 

Read more

SNAP conference opens by looking back, looking ahead
Brian Roewe     Aug.2, 2014

. . . .

The conference brought together 350-plus people for a three-day conference that will see SNAP leaders like Clohessy, its president and founder Barbara Blaine and Peter Isely, but also Fr. Tom Doyle, attorney Jeffrey Anderson, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke (an original member of the U.S. bishops' National Review Board), and Jennifer Haselberger.


Those outside of SNAP who spoke Friday night also offered praise for its efforts of the past quarter century, but more than that posed a question: how will those efforts look in the years ahead?

Pointing to an increasing awareness of the abuse issue in other parts of the globe, in part because of SNAP's efforts, journalist Jason Berry said as "this critical mass will keep building," it's important for the group to think about its long-term plan.
 Read more

Cardinal George Pell backs Vatican over dealings with abuse victims
AShannon Deery      Aug.21, 2014

Giving evidence to the abuse royal commission via videolink from Rome Cardinal Pell said the Vatican was right to refuse to release papal documents relating to every abuse case involving an Austrlian cleric. Describing those documents as "internal working documents of another sovereign state" Cardinal Pell said the Church had provided 5000 pages of documents which he deemed sufficient.


In a letter to the commission in July Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin refused a request by commissioner Justice Peter McClellan for documents with respect to "each case" of clerical abuse.


He said the Commission wanted to understand the extent to which Australian clerics accused of child sexual abuse had been referred to the Holy See. The Cardinal outraged victims by admitting he hadn't been following the Royal Commission because he had been busy in Rome.


The comments sparked audible gasps from victims who had turned out to watch his evidence. 

Read more

Fury over cardinal's testimony to Australian abuse inquiry
Thomas Oriti       Aug.22, 2014

Support groups for child sexual abuse victims have expressed their outrage after Cardinal George Pell's testimony at the royal commission in Melbourne last night.


Cardinal Pell appeared at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse via videolink from the Vatican.


Saying it would not be appropriate for legal culpability to be "foisted" on church leaders, he drew an analogy between the Catholic Church and a trucking company, citing a hypothetical example of a case involving a woman who was molested by a truck driver.


"It would not be appropriate, because it's contrary to the policy, for the ownership, leadership of that company to be held responsible," Cardinal Pell said.

"Similarly with the church and the head of any other organisation. 

Read more

ATA Blasts Pell for Child Abuse Comparison
ATN      Aug.22, 2014

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has slammed Cardinal George Pell for comparing the Catholic Church's responsibility for child abuse to trucking companies that employ drivers who molest women, describing his comment as insulting.

ATA chair Noelene Watson says Pell's comparison is uncalled for.

. . . .

"These comments are a desperate attempt to deflect attention from the Royal Commission being faced by the Catholic Church and other institutions that deal with children.


"Cardinal Pell must realise that he cannot solve these problems by insulting Australia's hardworking truck drivers who deliver the goods we use every day." 

Read more

Abuse compensation doesn't recognise harm: Church
AAP      Aug.20, 2014

Catholic Church payouts to victims of pedophile priests don't recognise the harm they have suffered, a lawyer for the Melbourne archdiocese says.

Many victims have told the abuse royal commission they've received only "token amounts" in compensation under the church's Melbourne Response scheme for handling clergy sex abuse complaints.

Lawyer Richard Leder, who represents the Melbourne archdiocese, said it was clear now that the capped payouts set under the Melbourne Response don't recognise the harm suffered by victims.

"It is clear that for some victims the ability to receive only up to $75,000 in lump sum compensation indicates that the compensation component of the Melbourne Response is not achieving the objective that it was set out to achieve in terms of delivering a financial recognition of the harm.

"I'm absolutely supportive of the commitments that the archbishop has made to review those matters," Mr Leder told the royal commission on Wednesday.

Read more

Vatican saved priest despite abuse finding
Sarah Elks     Aug.12, 2014

ABC TV's Four Corners last night revealed the results of a 1997 church investigation into Peter Searson that concluded he had for years sexually abused girls at the parish of Doveton, outside Melbourne.


However, Searson successfully appealed to Rome the ruling by the church's internal Independent Commissioner into Sexual Abuse, Peter O'Callaghan QC, who had been appointed by Cardinal Pell, then archbishop of Melbourne. Searson argued Mr O'Callaghan didn't have the jurisdiction to make such a finding.

. . . .

"I didn't do nothing; I certainly did," Cardinal Pell told the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse last year.
. . . .  

Much later, Searson was removed from the Doveton Parish. Police charged him for physically assaulting a boy and he received a suspended sentence. He died in 2009. He was never charged with child sex offences.

Graeme Sleeman, then the principal of the Holy Family School, resigned in disgust in 1986, alleging to Catholic education officials Searson was interfering with girls, terrorising boys and stealing money.


However, he was told to take the allegations out of his resignation letter. In 2005, he was offered a $150,000 settlement, which required him to stay silent. He said it was "hush money".

Read more

View program 

Gabe Toro       Aug.10 2014

. . . .

Deadline reports that Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Aaron Eckhart, Liev Schreiber and Stanley Tucci will star in Spotlight. The film concerns a Boston Globe investigation into a Catholic priest abuse case that reveals a decade-long cover-up on the part of the church. 


Academy Award nominee Tom McCarthy wrote the script for the film along with Josh Singer, and Open Road is set to distribute the film, which is being made with the assistance of Participant Media. McCarthy, an actor, writer and director who has steadily moved behind and in front of the camera, should bring a sure hand and an even-keeled approach to the film.  . . . .


The Spotlight Team of reporters that discovered this coverup and inspired the name of the new film includes Globe editor Marty Baron (Schreiber), Spotlight editor Robby Robinson (Keaton), and reporters Michael Rezendes (Ruffalo), Sascha Pfieffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll, who uncovered a massive backlog of coverups when investigating what they thought was merely a local case.  

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Judge upholds order for breach-of-terms payment in Kansas City
Brian Roewe      Aug.21, 2014

A circuit judge has upheld an arbiter's decision that the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese pay $1.1 million for breach of terms of a 2008 settlement that included measures intended to prevent further sexual abuse of children by clergy.


Jackson County Circuit Judge Bryan E. Round ruled Aug. 14 that "there can be no doubt that the diocese, through its leadership and higher-level personnel, failed in numerous respects to abide by the terms" of the 2008 settlement, according to The Kansas City Star. In addition to awarding $10 million to 47 plaintiffs, that settlement included 19 nonmonetary commitments aimed at preventing abuse and helping survivors.


"The Diocese paid less in damages for agreeing to the non-economic terms demanded by the Plaintiffs," Round said in his decision. "When the Diocese breached the non-economic commitments, it effectively received the benefits without paying for it." 

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Probation decision coming for KC Bishop Finn
KMBC     Aug.23, 2014

A judge is expected to decide soon whether to dismiss probation for the highest-ranking U.S. church official convicted of a crime related to the child sexual abuse scandal.

 The Kansas City Star reported that Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker filed a probation status report for Bishop Robert Finn on Friday. Finn leads the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. He was convicted in September 2012 of one misdemeanor for failing to report child abuse suspicions.

 While offering no opinion on whether probation should be dismissed, Baker did praise two diocese employees' efforts to keep the diocese in compliance with the terms of the probation.

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Judge upholds order for breach-of-terms payment in Kansas City
Kansas City Star ed.    Aug.20, 2014


The only reassuring news to come out of an arbitrator's recent finding against the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is that its Victim Advocacy Program, created in 2008 in response to the priest abuse scandal, is operating well.

But every other conclusion of the arbitrator - upheld last week by Jackson County Circuit Judge Bryan Round - brought shame to the diocese and provided more than enough reasons for Bishop Robert W. Finn, already convicted of a misdemeanor, to resign.

 In ordering the diocese to pay $1.1 million for violating its agreement with sex abuse victims, arbitrator Hollis Hanover was blunt: "Where they (the victims) expected protection, they received desertion; where the assertion of authority on their behalf was required, they received betrayal."


He also said he hopes "that I am dead wrong in my opinion that this Diocese as presently constituted will not mend its ways."

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Global religious hot spots get their own U.S. envoy
Lauren Markoe      Aug.21, 2014

As the Islamic State tears across Iraq and Syria this summer, sending religious minorities fleeing for their lives, Congress created a new job at the State Department - one the president needs to fill immediately, say those who pushed for the position.

The job: "Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia."

. . . .

Advocates for global religious freedom have lobbied for the position for years, and some say it is possible that the White House will combine the envoy's duties with those of the larger portfolio of the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

The White House on Wednesday (Aug. 20) declined to comment on that possibility. In July, President Obama nominated Rabbi David Saperstein for the ambassador-at-large job; his nomination is pending before the Senate. 

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Never War


Whisked Away by the Vatican
Laurie Goodstein      Aug.23, 2014

He was a familiar figure to the skinny shoeshine boys who work along the oceanfront promenade here. Wearing black track pants and a baseball cap pulled low over his balding head, they say, he would stroll along in the late afternoon and bring one of them down to the rocky shoreline or to a deserted monument for a local Catholic hero.

The boys say he gave them money to perform sexual acts. They called him "the Italian" because he spoke Spanish with an Italian accent.

It was only after he was spirited out of the country, the boys say, his picture splashed all over the local news media, that they learned his real identity: Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican's ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

. . . .

Mr. Wesolowski has already faced the harshest penalty possible under the church's canon law, short of excommunication: on June 27, he was defrocked by the Vatican, reducing him to the status of a layman. The Vatican, which as a city-state has its own judicial system, has also said it intends to try Mr. Wesolowski on criminal charges - the first time the Vatican has held a criminal trial for sexual abuse.

But far from settling the matter, the Vatican has stirred an outcry because it helped Mr. Wesolowski avoid criminal prosecution and a possible jail sentence in the Dominican Republic. Acting against its own guidelines for handling abuse cases, the church failed to inform the local authorities of the evidence against him, secretly recalled him to Rome last year before he could be investigated, and then invoked diplomatic immunity for Mr. Wesolowski so that he could not face trial in the Dominican Republic. 

. . . .
According to experts in international law, the Vatican could have waived diplomatic immunity. In Santo Domingo, there have been small protests and petitions signed by more than a thousand people calling on the Vatican to extradite Mr. Wesolowski to the Dominican Republic. Advocates have accused the government of acquiescing to the church. "We think there has been a lot of impunity in this case, and no transparency," said Sergia Galv�n, executive director of the Women and Health Collective, which represents abuse victims. "If he's no longer a diplomat, if he was stripped of that title, he no longer has immunity." 

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Okla. archbishop relieved at return of consecrated Host
CNA      Aug.21, 2014


Oklahoma City's archbishop voiced relief that satanists organizing a black mass in the city returned a stolen Host which was to be desecrated, restating his concern that the event should happen at all.

The Host was given to a priest Aug. 21 by an attorney representing Adam Daniels, who organized the black mass.

"I am relieved that we have been able to secure the return of the sacred Host, and that we have prevented its desecration as part of a planned satanic ritual," Archbishop Paul Coakley said Aug. 21.

. . . .

Daniels had said that as far as he knew, the Host was consecrated and that it had been "mailed to us by (a) friend."

His decision to return the Host quickly followed upon the Aug. 20 filing of a lawsuit filed on behalf of the archdiocese, charging that the Host had been stolen from the Church. 

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The sign of peace edict has Francis' fingerprints 
Nathan Chase       Aug.15, 2014

The blogosphere has been alight talking about the new circular letter issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) on the Ritual Expression of the Gift of Peace at Mass.

. . . .

What clues does this letter give us about any "Francis effect" at the CDW?

. . . . 

Moving beyond the rumours and to the text, it is clear that some of Pope Francis' social concerns were brought into the document. Nowhere is this more apparent than in section 7:

"Today, a serious obligation for Catholics in building a more just and peaceful world is accompanied by a deeper understanding of the Christian meaning of peace, and this depends largely on the seriousness with which our particular Churches welcome and invoke the gift of peace and express it in the liturgical celebration."


This section epitomises Pope Francis' approach to life, the Church, and the sacraments. This suggests that it was either included at the request of the Pope or that it was put into the letter as a tip-of-the-hat to Francis' "reform programme". This leads me to think that it is not "business as usual" at the CDW. While the document outlines liturgical abuses, the document is quite tame, at least compared to documents coming out of Rome in recent years. All this suggests that Pope Francis' reform agenda is affecting the CDW. 

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