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Catholic Charities unveils plan to fight chronic homelessness in Southern Nevada

Las Vegas, Nev., Feb 17, 2019 / 04:48 pm (CNA).- As part of a new nationwide program, Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada is hoping to reduce chronic homelessness in the area by 20 percent in the next five years.

Las Vegas is one of five cities taking part in the Healthy Housing Initiative – a partnership announced Feb. 13 between Catholic Charities USA, local Catholic Charities and Catholic health care agencies. Detroit, Portland, St. Louis, and Spokane are also part of the initiative.

Deacon Thomas Roberts, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, said the partnership simultaneously tackles shelter issues and the root problems beneath many cases of chronic homelessness – mental health and addiction.

“We think that it’s important to recognize the reasons why people have become chronically homeless and to address those issues,” he told CNA. “I think that is where we can have really meaningful change.”

Within five years, the project hopes to have built 100 homes, in either one or two buildings. Roberts said this will be enough to support 20 percent of the just over 500 chronically homeless individuals surveyed to be in south Nevada. He explained that the chronically homeless are those who have been homeless for at least two years.

The initiative does not stop with housing development. Instead, it includes plans to develop mental health offices in the housing units or transportation to a location off campus.

“Often, because [homeless people] don’t have transportation, if you don’t bring the resources close to them or provide them access to get to resources, you have got them housed but you have not addressed the underlying cause of what got them homeless,” Roberts said.

Having worked for Catholic Charities for six years, Roberts has witnessed homeless people continue to abuse alcohol and drugs as they struggle with mental health issues. This creates additional obstacles for people during their rehabilitation, he said.

He also pointed to the 2018 housing survey from Help Hope Home, which found that out of 16,641 cases of homelessness last year, nearly half were linked to mental health or addiction.

“Half of the people are stepping up and saying that mental health and addiction are primary cause for homelessness,” he said.

“If you don’t address that along the way, then people get into housing and they fall right back into…where they started.”

Roberts said the partnership will unite the strengths of three different organizations: Catholic Charities USA offers institutional and financial resources; Dignity Health can implement mental health and addiction programs; and the local Catholic Charities branch understands the regional community and can execute programs accordingly.

The initiative is a practical implementation of social justice, rooted in faith, he said, pointing to Pope Francis’ emphasis on caring for the vulnerable.

“As the Pope would say, we should be medics and we should smell like the sheep,” said Roberts. “Homelessness, mental illness, and addictions are ground zero for hopelessness, so it’s exactly where the Church belongs.”

 

Pope Francis asks for prayers ahead of Vatican abuse summit

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2019 / 04:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Sunday asked for prayers for a meeting of the presidents of bishops’ conferences around the world, which is slated to take place later this week.

During his weekly Angelus address Feb. 17, the pope invited Catholics to pray for the four-day event, which he said he wanted to hold “as an act of strong pastoral responsibility before an urgent challenge of our time.”

The Feb. 21-24 summit on the protection of minors in the Church will focus on the themes of responsibility, accountability, and transparency of bishops. It will also include testimony of victims of abuse, Mass, and a penitential liturgy.

The meeting will take place just days after the announcement of the Vatican’s decision to laicize former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who the CDF found guilty last week of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

Before the Angelus, Pope Francis spoke about the beatitudes as recounted in the Gospel of Luke. This passage, he said, “invites us to reflect on the profound meaning of having faith, which consists in totally trusting the Lord.”

It is also an invitation to reflect on idols; those things which the world proposes as shortcuts to happiness, “magical solutions to every problem,” making it easy to fall into sins against the first commandment by replacing God with worldly pleasures and comforts, he said.

But Jesus tells us, “blessed the poor, the hungry, the afflicted, the persecuted,” Francis said. And at the same time, he admonishes those who are satisfied and seen well in the eyes of the world, because God alone “can give to our existence that fullness so desired.”

He said: “With these words, strong and incisive, Jesus opens our eyes, shows us with his gaze, beyond appearances, beyond the surface, and teaches us to discern situations with faith.”

It is very important that, like God and with him, people are close to the poor, to the afflicted, he emphasized. “We are happy if we recognize ourselves in need of God.”

Jesus heals the infection of a worldly spirit, helps people to see what really satisfies, gives joy and dignity, meaning and fullness to one’s life, he said.

“May the Virgin Mary help us to listen to this Gospel with open mind and heart, so that it may bear fruit in our lives and become witnesses of happiness that does not disappoint.”

How to pregame Lent: Septuagesima, Carnival, and Shrovetide

Denver, Colo., Feb 17, 2019 / 04:21 am (CNA).- Sunday, Feb. 17 is Septuagesima Sunday, followed by Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima Sundays. Sunday kicks off Carnival season, which comes right before Shrovetide, which culminates in Shrove Tuesday - more popularly known as Mardi Gras.

If all but the last of those holidays sounds foreign to you, you are likely not alone - they haven’t been officially a part of the Roman Rite’s liturgical calendar since the 1960s, after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

These strange-sounding days once marked a period of pre-Lenten preparation and feasting that is still observed by some rites within the Catholic Church and other Christian traditions.

“Septuagesima is kept in the personal ordinariates established by Pope Benedict XVI for former Anglicans, now within the full communion of the Catholic Church,” said Father James Bradley, a priest from the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the United Kingdom.  

“Septuagesima is still marked in the older Anglican prayer books, and is part of the Anglican patrimony preserved by Divine Worship: The Missal, used by the ordinariates,” Bradley told CNA.

Pre-Lent Sundays: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, Quinquagesima

Septuagesima is the ninth Sunday before Easter, or the third Sunday before Lent.  The name comes from the Latin word for seventieth, since the Sunday falls roughly within 70 days of Easter Sunday. The succeeding Sundays are also named for their distance from Easter: Sexagesima (60), Quinquagesima (50). Quadragesima Sunday (40) is the first official Sunday of Lent.  

Septuagesima Sunday is also symbolic of the 70 years of Babylonian captivity.

“Whilst Lent mirrors the 40-year exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, to freedom in the Promised Land, Septuagesima mirrors the 70 years of the Babylonian captivity. Both lead from captivity to freedom, and so also point to salvation won for us by Christ: freedom from slavery to the Promised Land of Heaven,” Bradley said.

Septuagesima Sunday traditionally marked the beginning of some of the more somber practices that characterize the season of Lent - it was the day when the saying or singing of “Alleluia” would be suspended until Easter, and the first day that priests would wear penitential purple vestments. The last alleluias would traditionally have been sung after Vespers the previous night.

In ordinariate communities, the “goodbye” to the Alleluia takes place on the Sunday before Septuagesima, when the hymn “Alleluia, song of gladness” is traditionally sung, Bradley said.

“This is an English translation of an 11th century hymn, wishing ‘farewell’ to the Alleluia, which disappears from the liturgy until Easter, replaced instead by a Tract (verses typically of the Psalms sung instead of the ‘Alleluia’),” he said.  

“The idea of ‘burying the Alleluia’ for the length of these penitential seasons is taken one step further in some places, where a depiction of the Alleluia is literally buried until the chanting of the great Paschal Alleluia during the Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter,” he added.

Septuagesima was also, in the early Church, the beginning of the Lenten fast, since according to the old liturgical calendar, Thursdays and Saturdays, in addition to Sundays, were days that Christians would not fast.

“Just as Lent today begins 46 days before Easter, since Sundays are never a day of fasting, so, in the early Church, Saturdays and Thursdays were considered fast-free days. In order to fit in 40 days of fasting before Easter, therefore, the fast had to start two weeks earlier than it does today,” Catholic author Scott P. Richert noted in a 2018 article for ThoughtCo.

Farewell to meat, cheese, fun: Septuagesima-tide, Carnival, and Shrovetide  

Septuagesima Sunday traditionally kicks off a season known by various names - Septuagesima-tide, or Carnival (typically the name for more worldly celebrations during this time), or Shrove-Tide (particularly in Anglican traditions). The point of the season, Bradley said, is to prepare well for Lent.

“Pope Saint Paul VI is said to have described the progressive move toward Lent in Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, like church bells that call the faithful to worship, 15, 10, and 5 minutes before Mass,” Bradley said.

“Each week in the lead-up to Lent is a nudge that the great and holy fast is around the corner, and our preparations for this should intensify.”

These days were also practical for Christians in pre-refrigeration days - they would use the pre-Lenten season to use up the rich, perishable foods such as meat and cheese that they had in their house before Lent began, and the unused foods would spoil, Michael P. Foley, Catholic author and associate professor of Patristics at Baylor University, noted in a 2011 article.

Days of preparation for Lent are also found outside the Roman liturgical traditions, Bradley said.

“For example, in the East Syrian liturgy (as celebrated by the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church), the week before Septuagesima is marked by Moonnu Nombu, which recalls Jonah remaining three days in the belly of the whale. Moonnu Nombu is a short, three day fast, in preparation for the coming major fast of Lent.”

In Byzantine and Orthodox traditions, they even have designated “meatfare” and “cheesefare” Sundays, which focus on clearing the house of meats and dairy, respectively.

“Similarly, in Russia and other Slavic countries the week before Lent is called ‘Butter Week’; in Poland it is called ‘Fat Days,’” Foley noted. 

Carnival is the term for the more festive, wordly events associated with the pre-Lenten season, and is celebrated throughout the world with parades, parties and feasts. Still, the word itself is Catholic in origin, coming from Latin Carnem levare (carnelevarium) which means "withdrawal" or "removal" of meat, according to “The Easter Book” by Father Francis X. Weiser, S.J.

The intensity of some Carnival celebrations comes from the intensity of the fasting of old, which was much more restrictive than it is today, Weiser noted.

“The intensity of this urge, however, should not be judged to stem from the mild Lenten laws of today but from the strict and harsh observance of ancient times, which makes modern man shiver at the mere knowledge of its details. No wonder the good people of past centuries felt entitled to ‘have a good time’ before they started on their awesome fast,” he said.

“Carnival music” has Spanish, Portuguese, Native American and African influences, and is typically associated with the regions of the Caribbean and Brazil, which has some of the largest Carnival celebrations in the world.

“Though it varies from country to country, Carnival music has a common origin in bidding a fond farewell to fun before the forty-day fast of Lent,” Foley noted.

One last chance: Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday

The last day before Ash Wednesday, the official start of Lent, is called Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, depending on the country or region.

“Mardi Gras” is French for Fat Tuesday, the biggest celebrations of which in the United States take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, with parades and parties on Bourbon Street and throughout the city. 

Besides being the last day to clear the house of indulgent foods, it is also traditionally the last day to clear the soul from sin before the start of the Lenten season. According to Weiser, the name “Shrove Tuesday,” typically more common in Anglican areas, was thus called because it was a day to be “shriven from sins.”  

The ubiquitous pancake breakfasts, most often associated with parish breakfasts sponsored by the Knights of Columbus in the United States, may also have their origins in Shrove Tuesday, as pancakes were a traditional English food served on the day to rid the house of any last sugar, butter and eggs.

Lent this year begins on March 6.

 

Analysis: Pope Francis' position on Venezuela

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2019 / 11:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis’ recent letter to Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro confirmed the Holy See’s position on the Venezuelan crisis, while demonstrating that Maduro has become an increasingly isolated global figure.

While the Holy See has long maintained its diplomatic ties with Venezuela, and for this reason a papal representative to Caracas took part in Maduro’s swearing in for his second term Jan. 10, Pope Francis and the Holy See’s diplomacy has always been on the Venezuelan bishops side, and backed their efforts to restore social peace, relief the population and call for new and free elections.

The pope’s letter, however, showed that Maduro’s request for a mediation can take place only under some specific conditions.
 
This is the reason why the letter was not leaked by Maduro’s entourage, but from other sources that gave it to the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera. The Holy See Press Office limited itself to saying that it would not commentc on a private letter, indirectly confirming that the pope might have actually written the letter.
 
The letter, two pages and a half long, is dated Feb. 7, 2019, and it is addressed to “Excelentismo señor Nicolas Maduro Moros, Caracas” (To Most Excellent Mister Nicolas Maduro Moros).
 
The pope did not refer to Maduro as president, and in that way his letter backed the Venezuelan bishops. Gathered for their 111st plenary assembly on Jan. 9, the bishops said that “Maduro’s claim to start a new presidential mandate on Jan 10 is illegitimate at his roots, and paves the way for the unrecognition of the government, as democratic foundations on justice and right are lacking.
 
In the letter, Pope Francis reminded Maduro that the Holy See has been committed to mediation in the past, but in all of the attempts “what had been agreed in the meetings was not followed by concrete action to carry out the accords,” and that “words seemed to delegitimize
the good propositions put into a written form.”
 
Pope Francis also stressed that he did not back “any kind of dialogue,” but only “the dialogue that takes places when all conflicting parties put the common good above any other interest and work for unity and peace.”
 
Pope Francis also recalled a letter by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of State, that set the conditions for a dialogue: liberation of political prisoners, re-establishment of the constitutional assembly, open access for humanitarian aid, free political elections.
 
Those conditions are still in effect.

The letter is tailored in a perfect diplomatic style.

On one hand, Pope Francis takes the bishops’ position. On the other hand, he places the Holy See in the middle between two positions: that of the US and Europe, eager to recognize Juan Guaidò as interim president; and that of China, Russia, Turkey and Iran, who are on the opposite position.
 
As a diplomatic habit, the Holy See never breaks diplomatic ties. Papal ambassadors are called to stay on the ground as long as it is possible, to support the bishops and to carry on institutional dialogue that can resolve into an aid for population.
 
For example, the Holy See never broke diplomatic ties with Cuba, not even when Castro regime persecuted Christians. In fact, ties stayed because there was an ongoing persecution.

Read through this lens, the Secretariat of State’s decision not to meet at an institutional level the delegation Guaidò sent to Italy for talks with Italian government on Feb. 11 should be no surprise.
 
The Holy See makes no interference in domestic policies, and the meeting with Guaidò could have been instrumentalized. The delegation reportedly met with Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, deputy to the Secretariat of State, who is Venezuelan. The meeting was framed as a meeting of a Venezuelan that works in Secretariat of State and his concerned for his country and some representatives coming from his country.
 
Pope Francis’ statements on the matter have always been prudent. Coming back from Panama on Jan. 28, Pope Francis told journalists that it is not his role as a pastor to pick political sides, and said he is terrified of the possibility of a bloodshed there.
 
However, the narrative that presents the pope on a different side from that of Venezuelan bishops is not correct at all.
 
It must not be forgotten that Pope Francis, after a visit from the presidency of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, said his voice “resounds in the voice of the Venezuelan bishops.”
 
Pope Francis’ followed each step of the Venezuelan crisis. On April 10, 2014 he addressed an appeal to political leaders of Venezuela and asked to respect truth and justice. On March 1, 2015, the Pope condemned the death of some students involved in pacific protests.
 
The Holy See accepted to conduct a facilitation of the dialogue in October 2016, and on Dec. 2, 2016 Cardinal Parolin stressed the four conditions. Coming back from Egypt on Apr. 29, 2017, Pope Francis denounced that the government did not accomplish these conditions.
 
On April 30, 2017 after the prayer of Regina Coeli, Pope Francis spoke of the “dramatic news” on Venezuela and “the worsening of clashes there, with many people reported dead, injured and detained”, and appealed “to the government and all the members of Venezuelan society to avoid any further forms of violence, to respect human rights and to negotiate solutions to the serious humanitarian, social, political and economic crisis that is exhausting the population”.
 
The action of bishops moved along with Pope Francis’ declaration. This combined action encouraged all the local and regional Catholic realities of Latin America to take a common stance: the Conference of Religious Brothers and Sisters in Venezuela, the Jesuits of Venezuela, but also the Colombian, Ecuadorian, Uruguayan, Chilean and Bolivian bishops conference took strong stances on the Venezuelan crisis, which weakened Maduro position.
 
Despite the will to keep a diplomatic neutrality, also the Holy See diplomacy was very active.

Cardinal Parolin, who was nuncio to Venezuela from 2009 to 2013, stressed on May 13, 2017 that “the only solution for Venezuela is elections.”

On Aug. 4, 2017, the Pope sent via the Secretariat of State a communiqué asking “all the political actors, and in particular the government, to ensure the full respect of the human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as of current Constitution; to suspend initiative like the new constitutional assembly that, instead of favoring reconciliation and paz, foster a climate of tensions and confrontations; to create conditions for a negotiated solution”.
 
It is also noteworthy that, in his urbi et orbi message of Christmas 2018, Pope Francis included Venezuela among the countries that are enduring serious humanitarian crisis, on a par with Yemen, Syria and Nicaragua: the decision turned out to be prescient.
 
The pope also spoke about Venezuela on his new year speech to the diplomatic corps, and said that he wishes “that peaceful institutional means can be found to provide solutions to the political, social and economic crisis, means that can make it possible to help all those suffering from the tensions of recent years, and to offer all the Venezuelan people a horizon of hope and peace.”
 
The pope’s letter to Maduro comes at the end of a path that the pope and the Venezuelan bishops have been following since the beginning. The Holy See will never break diplomatic ties, and will always seek dialogue and reconciliation. But, on the other hand, bishops on the ground are backed in supporting the population and to work for the common good.
 
This is, in the end, how the pontifical diplomacy works.

 

Analysis: After McCarrick sex abuse verdict, money and power questions remain

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The Holy See announced Saturday the conviction of Theodore McCarrick on charges of the sexual abuse of minors and adults - aggravated by the abuse of power - and solicitation in the confessional. The administrative penal process imposed a penalty of laicization.

 

A special congresso of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith imposed the Jan. 11 decision. It was appealed to the Feria IV, the regular meeting of the CDF’s full episcopal membership, who rejected the appeal on Feb. 13. No further appeal is possible.

 

The final disposition of McCarrick’s case marks the end of a luciferian fall from grace by a man once seen as the leader of the Catholic Church in the United States, and one of the most influential cardinals world-wide.

 

To go from membership in the college of cardinals in June to being expelled from the clergy altogether in February is unprecedented.

 

While the intervening months have seemed interminable for many Catholics in the pews, as accusations mounted and details of abuse emerged, the canonical process which declared McCarrick guilty proceeded at lightning speed by Vatican standards.

 

Now that the McCarrick verdict is announced, just in time for the pope’s looming summit on sexual abuse, many of the former archbishop’s former colleagues are hoping he will exit the news along with the clerical state.

 

But McCarrick’s laicization answers few of the questions raised by his case, the most pressing of which is how a man with an obviously scandalous track record was able to rise so high in ecclesiastical responsibility.

 

Since the first allegation against McCarrick was made public in June, a number of accounts have emerged apparently showing that Rome was aware of McCarrick’s behavior, or at least his proclivities, for years.

 

Former apostolic nuncio to Washington, Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, has said that he first heard accounts of McCarrick’s misbehavior in 1994.

 

Fr. Boniface Ramsey raised the issue of McCarrick’s misconduct with seminarians at the now infamous beach house to Cacciavillan’s successor in 2001, receiving a tacit receipt of the allegations – together with a request for any related information about a Newark priest – from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State in 2006.

 

In January, CNA broke the news that McCarrick’s eventual successor in Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, had delivered a similar accusation about McCarrick, seminarians, and the New Jersey beach house, to the nuncio in 2004.

 

During this decade, McCarrick rose seemingly unchecked to become archbishop of the American capital see, a cardinal, and a wielder of enormous diplomatic influence, both within the Church and in the wider world.

 

Despite repeated calls from across the Church in the United States, and a rather qualified response from Rome, any serious account of how and by whom McCarrick was shielded for so long seems unlikely – at best.

 

Lurking behind the headlines of sex abuse remains the perennial question concerning murky Vatican affairs: what about the money?

 

McCarrick’s reputation as a cardinal with ready access to money was undisputed during his time in office, and is believed by many to have tipped the balance in favor of his laicization instead of a life of prayer and penance.

 

Ordinarily concerns about laicizing a cleric often center on their ability to provide for themselves if they are either infirm or of advanced age - McCarrick is 88.  

 

Sources close to the former cardinal have previously told CNA that while McCarrick declined to draw a salary or a pension from any of the three dioceses he led, he does have access to a private income, unconnected to the Church.

 

One source close to McCarrick described him as “not without resources,” and that McCarrick received an income from annuities purchased over several years.

 

The size and sources of McCarrick’s private means remain unclear, especially if, as those close to him claim, he previously declined a salary or pension as a bishop.

 

Other unanswered questions about McCarrick’s finances concern the Archbishop’s Fund, a charitable fund under his personal control from 2001 until June of last year. CNA has confirmed that McCarrick was able to arrange for other institutions with which he was affiliated to give hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for his “works of charity and other miscellaneous expenses.”

 

McCarrick gave over control of the fund to the Archdiocese of Washington during June 2018.

 

While the archdiocese told CNA in August last year that the fund was audited annually and that “no irregularities were ever noticed,” it would not confirm the balance of the fund at the time McCarrick turned over control, how much money had passed through the fund over the years, or where it had gone.

 

McCarrick was known for both his institutional charitable support and also for more personal acts of generosity.

 

In September 2018, a former curial official, a cardinal, recalled McCarrick’s habit of doling out large sums, in cash, to senior officials in Rome.

 

“When he would visit Rome, Cardinal McCarrick was well-known for handing out envelopes of money to different bishops and cardinals around the curia to thank them for their work,” the cardinal told CNA.

 

“Where these ‘honoraria’ came from or what they were for, exactly, was never clear – but many accepted them anyway.”

 

Tracking the flow and effects of money in Rome has eluded generations of reforming efforts. Pope Francis began his reign by showing serious signs of reforming intent, setting up the Council for the Economy and the Prefecture for the Economy. But despite early efforts, attempts at financial transparency have met with numerous setbacks, and significant internal resistance.

 

Meanwhile, in his seismic “testimony” released in August last year, former papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano said that McCarrick’s rise was opposed by at least some senior curial figures, including Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re as head of the Congregation for Bishops. But no clear account has emerged of who championed McCarrick’s cause, or if they may have benefited from his largesse.

 

Beyond the Vatican, questions remain unanswered in Washington, DC, where the State Department has declined to answer questions about the nature and scope of work undertaken by McCarrick on behalf of the United States.

 

In addition to serving as a flying Vatican envoy to China, McCarrick was invited to serve on the U.S. Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad in 1996. From 1999 to 2001 he was also a member of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom.

 

Former President Bill Clinton once opined that the “litany of countries” visited by McCarrick “sounds more suited to a diplomat than an archbishop,” while praising the former cardinal’s work.

 

Although McCarrick made several overseas trips on U.S. business, in September 2018 the State Department avoided direct comment on whether his denunciation for sexual abuse had prompted a review of his work.

 

McCarrick’s own former auxiliaries in Newark and Washington, many of them now far advanced in their own careers, have also remained largely silent. Almost nothing is known, for example, about circumstances around settlements made by several of McCarrick’s former dioceses in New Jersey.

 

While the Diocese of Metuchen has said that the matter was forwarded at the time to the nuncio in Washington, only a cover letter has been released thus far, and it is not known exactly what level of detail made its way to Rome – or what if any action was taken there and by whom.

 

Meanwhile, McCarrick’s former auxiliary bishop in Washington, newly-minted camerlengo Cardinal Kevin Farrell, has insisted he never had any suspicion about the man with whom he shared an apartment and described as his mentor.

 

Whatever friends McCarrick may have acquired to help him along his rise seem to have deserted him as fast as he fell. Those same people, in Rome and the United States, now have a vested interest in seeing McCarrick banished from conversation, just as he is banished from the clerical state.

 

Some media outlets have tried to construct a narrative focused on “conservative” and “liberal” bishops and argued over which pope or popes could be held most responsible for McCarrick’s rise and fall.

 

But others have observed what appears to be a significant generational divide. Older bishops seem to experience this crisis through the lens of 2002 and its aftermath, and are therefore concerned about protecting the image and resources of the Church, while many younger prelates seem focused on revealing the full truth about sexual misconduct in the Church, regardless of the consequences, as the only sure remedy to a generational scandal.

 

The willingness of American bishops to insist on a full reckoning for McCarrick’s rise, as well as fall, could prove a strong indication of the extent to which there has been a change of attitude among the hierarchy about episcopal transparency.

 

Many are arguing that, with the maximum penalty already imposed on McCarrick, the only people who can now be harmed by further disclosures about his career are those who most want his name, and their links to it, forgotten.

 

Without answers about how he was able to rise so high and go unchecked for so long, his punishment by Rome appears, to many, to be a sentence without conviction, and McCarrick may be gone, but not forgotten.

U.S. bishops react to McCarrick laicization

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2019 / 09:32 am (CNA).- Bishops from across the United States have reacted to the news that Theodore McCarrick has been found guilty of sexual abuse and expelled from the clerical state.

 

The disgraced former cardinal and archbishop of Washington and Newark was found guilty in a Vatican decision announced Saturday.

 

A Vatican administrative penal process concluded that McCarrick had solicited sex in the confessional and molested minors and adults, crimes aggravated by his abuse of authority. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handled the canonical process, imposed a penalty of laicization.

 

“The imposition on former Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of the penalty of his dismissal from the clerical state, thus prohibiting him any type of priestly ministry, underscores the gravity of his actions,” a Saturday statement from the Archdiocese of Washington reads.

 

McCarrick was Archbishop of Washington from 2001 until his retirement in 2006.

 

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the Vatican’s penalty is “a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated.”

 

“No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the Church. For all those McCarrick abused, I pray this judgement will be one small step, among many, toward healing,” Dinardo said.

 

DiNardo said that his fellow bishops were strengthened in their resolve to be accountable to the Gospel, and that he is grateful for the way Pope Francis has responded to claims of abuse.

 

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, archbishop of McCarrick’s former diocese of Newark, said in a statement that McCarrick and other clerical abusers had “violated a sacred trust” and “caused incalculable harm” to the lives of victims - young and old.

 

“To all those abused by clergy, especially the victims of Theodore McCarrick, I continue to express my profound sadness and renew my heartfelt apologies for the life-long suffering you have endured,” Tobin said.

 

“Despite the reprehensible misconduct and crimes of all who have abused minors, we must challenge ourselves to continue to follow Christ our Redeemer in our Church, where the healing power of God’s love is manifest each day.”

 

The Archdiocese of Washington expressed hope the Vatican decision will assist survivors with the healing process, and reassure those who have “experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done.”

 

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey, another of McCarrick’s former diocese, released a statement Saturday in which he reflected on the “range of emotions” those in his diocese were feeling as the news of McCarrick’s laicization continues to sink in. 

"Today I am praying particularly for those lay people and priests who are survivors of Theodore McCarrick,” Checchio wrote.

"While the news does not take away the pain these survivors have experienced, it is hopefully a further step in their healing and a statement by the Church that these crimes and sins are certainly not to be tolerated, in any way."

Checchio noted that McCarrick was in fact the founding bishop of the Metuchen diocese after its creation in 1981. 

"Theodore McCarrick will always be associated with the history of our diocese and his legacy has become one of scandal and betrayal,” he wrote.

"However, I was reminded in prayer that our diocese is not founded on Theodore McCarrick, but Christ the Lord, who renews His Church in every age...I am grateful for the leadership of Pope Francis in acting decisively, in expediting this process and coming to this appropriate conclusion.”

Checchio reiterated his support for "all those who have been abused and victimized by members of the clergy” and encouraged victims to come forward. 

"Since the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first believers, up and down the ages, the Church has been beset by scandals and divisive betrayals,” he reflected. 

"However, those failings do not define our Church, but rather testify to the truth that Christ continues to work through the failures by calling us all to a life of repentance and holiness."

Since last summer, McCarrick has been in residence at a Kansas friary, living a life of “prayer and penance” at the orders of Pope Francis, pending the outcome of his canonical process.

Now that McCarrick has been laicized, it is unclear if and for how long he will remain at the friary, or where he will go from there. McCarrick is 88 years old.

What does it mean to be laicized, defrocked, or dismissed from the clerical state?

Denver, Colo., Feb 16, 2019 / 06:43 am (CNA).- Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was laicized this week, after he was found guilty of sexual abuse and other canonical crimes. But what does it mean to be “laicized,” “defrocked,” or “dismissed from the clerical state?”

Ordination, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a ‘sacred power’ which can come only from Christ himself through his Church.”

The Church says ordination marks a person with an irremovable imprint, a character, which “configures them to Christ.” Ordination, in Catholic theology, makes a permanent change that the Church has no power to reverse.

“You are a priest forever,” the Letter to the Hebrews says.

This change is referred to as an ontological change, or a change in being itself.

In addition to making an ontological change, ordination also makes a legal change in a person’s status in the Church. By ordination, a person becomes in canon law a “cleric.” The word “cleric” is derived from the Greek word for “casting lots,” a process of selection similar to drawing straws or rolling dice, because in Acts 1:26, Matthias is added to the 11 remaining apostles after lots are drawn to select the right person.

A cleric, or a sacred minister in the Church, is an ordained man who is permitted by the Church to exercise sacred ministry. A cleric is bound to certain obligations, among them is usually celibacy in the Latin Catholic Church, and he possesses certain rights, among them is the right to be appointed to pastoral leadership positions in the Church. Clerics have the right to be financially supported by the Church, and are bound by obedience to the pope and to local Church authorities.

While ordination can never be lost - no power on earth can erase the sacramental imprint of ordination - a person can lose the legal status of being a cleric- this is what is referred to as “laicization.”

When a person loses the clerical state, he no longer has the right to exercise sacred ministry in the Church, except the extreme situation of encountering someone who is in immediate danger of death.

Someone who has lost the clerical state also no longer has the canonical right to be financially supported by the Church.

Often, a man who is laicized is also dispensed from the obligation of celibacy, and permitted to marry - but this is not always the case, especially when someone has been involuntarily removed from the clerical state.

Ordinarily, the Church does not permit a person who has been dismissed from the clerical state to teach, as a layman, in a Catholic college or school, to be a lector or extraordinary ministry of Holy Communion, or to exercise other functions in the name of the Church. This is determined on an individual basis, and exceptions and dispensations can be made.

A person can lose the clerical state because he has requested it through a special petition to the pope personally, or he can lose it as a penalty for committing an ecclesiastical crime. There are even provisions which allow for a priest or deacon who has abandoned his ministry to be removed from the clerical state after a protracted period of time, and through a specified canonical process.

Losing the clerical state as a penalty comes after a person has committed some crime. But it is not the case that everyone who has been laicized has done something wrong- the Church does not suggest that it is immoral for a priest or deacon to request laicization, and there are many legitimate reasons a priest might do so, though these are often deeply personal.

A laicized priest is no longer referred to as “Father,” or by any other honorary title given to clerics.

After McCarrick was laicized, the Church will no longer have responsibility to provide him with housing, medical care, or any other financial benefits. He will not be permitted to celebrate Mass or any other sacraments, except in situations he is unlikely to encounter, such as being with a person in danger of death.

It is not yet known whether McCarrick will leave the Kansas friary where has been living a life of prayer and penance. Though he is reported to have some financial means at his disposal, and is likely entitled civilly to a Church pension, it is not yet known what options are available to him.

Ed. note: This story was updated Feb. 16, after McCarrick was laicized.

Australian bishop urges faithful to fight ‘radical’ abortion bill

Adelaide, Australia, Feb 16, 2019 / 05:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A local bishop is speaking out against a bill to remove regulations on abortion in Adelaide, Australia, saying it would be the nation’s most radical abortion law.

“The unborn deserve love and protection, not destruction,” said Bishop Gregory O’Kelly SJ, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Port Pirie.

He warned that the legislation being considered “drastically reduces safeguards for the unborn” and would allow abortions “even well into the ninth month of pregnancy.”

In a Feb. 14 letter to the people of his diocese, O’Kelly said the faithful “should all be extremely concerned about the proposed Abortion Law Reform Bill.”

The Adelaide proposal would place abortion under the regulations of the state’s health laws, rather than the state’s criminal code. This would remove current rules such a requirement that a woman be a resident in South Australia for at least two months before procuring an abortion.

The legislation would also ban protestors from entering within 150 meters of an abortion clinic.

Greens MP Tammy Franks introduced the bill to Parliament and it will be debated in the comings weeks, with a vote later this year.

Similar legislation was recently passed in Queensland.

“This bill treats abortion simply as a medical procedure without moral significance,” O’Kelly said in his letter. “There is no need for a medical opinion or a doctor’s involvement and no reason need be given for an abortion. It will be the most radical abortion law in the country.”

“We believe life to be a gift of God, to be cherished and revered,” the bishop continued. “Christ said that he came that we might have life and have it to the full. Abortion is the destruction of the human life, an act that defies the sacred.”

He urged people to contact their local Member of Parliament and ask them to vote against the bill.

Bishop O’Kelly also published a letter from Dr. Elvis Šeman, a gynecologist and member of the Guild of St Luke.

The doctor stressed the adverse effects that abortion can have on a woman’s physical, psychological and emotional health.

He warned that the proposed legislation “aims to radically deregulate abortion and outlaw two important things - conscientious objection to abortion and the freedom to pray and offer pregnancy support near abortion clinics.”

Under the bill, he said, abortion could “be performed by a non-medical provider, using any method and for any reason (including sex-selection for social reasons), at any gestation (up to term), leaving babies born alive to die, and using SA Health funding without the accountability of reporting.”

Furthermore, Šeman warned, “Imposing a 'health access' zone makes pregnancy support services unlawful within 150m, restricts freedom of speech, denies potential support to vulnerable women who are ambivalent or may have been coerced, and provides excessive powers to police.”

The doctor also emphasized the need to do more for women facing difficult pregnancies.  

“As a Church community, I believe that, with few notable exceptions, we have done poorly in supporting those women and their families facing an unplanned pregnancy. They are left at the mercy of a health system which fast-tracks women to abortion and offers no alternatives.”

Bishop O’Kelly agreed that the Church must reach out to women in need.

“We believe our main focus should be on supporting women who find themselves faced with an unplanned pregnancy and are grappling with this terrible choice,” he said, “while also offering our unequivocal support and prayers to those women who are experiencing grief and loss.”

 

McCarrick abuse trial: A CNA timeline

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2019 / 02:14 am (CNA).- Theodore McCarrick has been laicized, nearly 10 months after sex abuse allegations against him were first made public. Here is a timeline of major events since last summer.

June 20
The Archdiocese of New York announces that an allegation of sexual abuse by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been found to be “credible and substantiated.” 

July 19
The New York Times reports a new allegation by a man who says he was McCarrick serially abused him beginning in 1969, when the man was 11 years old.

July 28
Pope Francis accepts the resignation of McCarrick from the College of Cardinals and suspends him from the exercise of any public ministry. He directs McCarrick to observe a life of prayer and penance, pending the canonical process against him.

August 16
The U.S. bishops’ conference calls for a Vatican-led investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up surrounding McCarrick.

August 17
CNA interviews reveal numerous Newark priests claiming McCarrick had a widely-known reputation for sexual advances toward seminarians.

August 25
Former apostolic nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano releases a “testament” claiming that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on McCarrick by Benedict XVI but chose to repeal them.

August 26
Asked during an in-flight interview about Vigano’s letter, Pope Francis says he “will not say a single word” on the subject and instructs journalists to use their “journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions.”

August 30
Archdiocese of Washington confirms that seminarians were permitted to serve as assistants to McCarrick while the archbishop was being investigated for the alleged sexual abuse of a teenager.

September 12
Pope Francis calls for all the presidents of the Catholic bishops’ conferences of the world to meet at the Vatican Feb. 21-24 to address the protection of minors.

September 19
The administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announces new accountability measures, including a code of conduct for bishops and the creation of an independent reporting mechanism for complaints against bishops. The committee also calls for a full investigation into the allegations against McCarrick and the Church’s response to these allegations.

September 28
The Diocese of Salina and Archdiocese of Washington announce that Archbishop McCarrick has begun his life of prayer and penance at St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary in Victoria, Kansas.

October 6
The Vatican announces that Pope Francis has ordered a review of all Holy See files pertaining to allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of McCarrick.

November 12
U.S. bishops gather for an annual fall meeting in Baltimore; the Vatican instructs them to delay until after the February meeting a vote on two proposals intended to be the foundation of the U.S. Church’s response to the abuse crisis.

November 14
The U.S. bishops fail to pass a resolution that would have “encouraged” the Holy See to release all documents on the allegations of misconduct against McCarrick.

December 27
James Grein testifies in a canonical deposition by the Archdiocese of New York, saying he was serially sexually abused by McCarrick, beginning when he was 11 years old.

January 11
McCarrick is laicized. Also known as losing the clerical state, he no longer has the right to exercise sacred ministry in the Church, except in the extreme situation of encountering someone who is in immediate danger of death. In addition, he no longer has the canonical right to be financially supported by the Church.

January 14
Archbishop Vigano writes an open letter urging McCarrick to publicly repent of the sexual abuse and misconduct of which he has been accused.

February 13
McCarrick appeals decision against him.

February 15
Appeal rejected and decision confirmed.

McCarrick laicized by Pope Francis

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2019 / 01:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered this week the laicization of Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop emeritus of Washington.

Once a powerful figure in ecclesiastical, diplomatic, and political circles in the U.S. and around the world, McCarrick, 88, is now removed from the clerical state. He was publicly accused last year of sexually abusing at least two adolescent boys, and of engaging for decades in coercive sexual behavior toward priests and seminarians.

The CDF conducted an administrative penal process which found McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power,” according to a Feb. 16 Vatican communique.

An administrative penal process is a much-abbreviated penal mechanism used in cases in which the evidence is so clear that a full trial is unnecessary.

Because Pope Francis personally approved the guilty verdict and the penalty of laicization, it is formally impossible for the decision to be appealed.

According to a Feb. 16 statement from the Vatican, the CDF issued the decree Jan. 11 finding McCarrick guilty. This was followed by an appeal, which the CDF rejected Feb. 13.

McCarrick was notified of the decision Feb. 15 and Pope Francis “has recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law, rendering it a res iudicata (i.e., admitting of no further recourse.)”

CNA contacted McCarrick’s canonical advocate this week, who declined to comment on the case.

The allegations of sexual abuse against McCarrick became public in June 2018 when the Archdiocese of New York reported that it had received a “credible” allegation that McCarrick sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s, while serving as a New York priest. McCarrick stepped down that same month from all public ministry at the direction of the Holy See.

In July, Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals, ordering McCarrick to a life of prayer and penance pending the completion of the canonical process concerning the allegations. Since the end of September, McCarrick has been residing at the St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary in Victoria, Kansas.

Key among McCarrick’s accusers is James Grein, who gave evidence before specially deputized archdiocesan officials in New York on Dec. 27.

As part of the CDF’s investigation, Grein testified that McCarrick, a family friend, sexually abused him over a period of years, beginning when Grein was 11 years old. He also alleged that McCarrick carried out some of the abuse during the sacrament of confession - itself a separate canonical crime that can lead to the penalty of laicization.

The CDF has also reportedly received evidence from an additional alleged victim of McCarrick - 13 at the time the alleged abuse began - and from as many as 8 seminarian-victims in the New Jersey dioceses of Newark and Metuchen, where McCarrick previously served as bishop.

As emeritus Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and also as Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark, McCarrick occupied a place of prominence in the US Church.

He was a leading participant in the development of the 2002 Dallas Charter and USCCB Essential Norms, which established procedures for handling allegations of sexual abuse concerning priests.

Though laicized, McCarrick does not cease to be a bishop, sacramentally speaking, since once conferred the sacrament of ordination and episcopal consecration cannot be undone.

The penalty of reduction from the clerical state - often called laicization - prevents McCarrick from referring to himself or functioning as a priest, in public or private. Since ordination imparts a sacramental character, it cannot be undone by an act of the Church; but following laicization he is stripped of all the rights and privileges of a cleric including, in theory, the right to receive financial support from the Church.