U.S. Church News


Update: Bishops' abuse response must trump all other issues, advisers say

By Carol Zimmermann Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Bob Roller

Father David Whitestone, chair of the U.S. bishops' National Advisory Council, speaks Nov. 13 at the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller) See BISHOPS-NAC Nov. 13, 2018.

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- A group that has been advising the U.S. bishops for 50 years on multiple issues chose to speak to the bishops in Baltimore Nov. 13 on just one issue: the clergy sexual abuse crisis itself and ways to move forward from it.

"We are facing painful times as a church," Father David Whitestone, chair of the bishops' National Advisory Council, told the bishops at their fall general assembly. This sense weighed heavily upon the council members during their September gathering, he noted.

"The depth of anger, pain and disappointment expressed by members of the NAC cannot begin to be expressed adequately in words," he said.

The priest, who is pastor of St. Leo the Great in Fairfax, Virginia, in the Arlington Diocese, noted that progress has been made since the bishops developed the 2002 "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," but he stressed that more needs to be done. "We can never become complacent. We must recommit to the ongoing care of all victims in their healing."

"Wounds inflicted, even many years ago, are no less real because of the passing of time nor are the demands of justice less urgent," he said.

Father Whitestone said the depth of the anger expressed by NAC members in the current church climate is "also an expression of our love for the church."

He said the abuse crisis has done great harm to the faith of many Catholics, particularly as it has come to light that the crisis is more than just sexual abuse committed by priests but predatory behavior of bishops against seminarians. The priest said Catholics should demand more of the clergy, deacons, priests and bishops than that they simply not break civil laws.

The response to this crisis needs to be more than issuing statements of regret and even establishing new mechanisms and procedures, he said, stressing instead that there should be a "new and radical recommitment to personal and institutional purification" and true repentance of past sins and facing consequences of these sins.

Members of the NAC did not vote on any other issues facing bishops as way of saying: "There is no single issue more pressing as a church than the crisis we are now facing."

All 35 voting members of the committee attending the September meeting agreed that the current scandal is of such urgency and importance that it must be the highest priory for the bishops' fall assembly to begin to restore trust and credibility.

Retired Army Col. Anita Raines, an NAC board member, said the group approved of some action items the bishops were only discussing at the assembly and now not voting on as per a request from the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops.

In particular, the advisory group supports the development of third-party system that would obtain confidential reports of abuse by bishops, Raines said, as well as the development of a code of conduct for bishops; an audit of U.S. seminaries to investigate possible patterns of misuse of power; establishment of special commission for review of complaints against bishops; and an independent investigation of allegations against Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, former cardinal-archbishop of Washington.

Father Whitestone stressed that while the advisory group recognizes the significance of this scandal in the church it also knows that the church is "more than this crisis" and has a mission to continue to preach the Gospel.

He said Catholics have gone through a range of emotions as this crisis has unfolded but those committed to the church want to help it move forward.

"The bishops needn't bear the burden of setting the course of the way forward alone." He said the lay faithful want to help and urged the bishops to let them.

"We as a church will move forward," he added.

The speakers received an extended standing ovation from the bishops.

U.S. bishops discuss proposed restrictions on prelates removed from office

By Carol Zimmermann Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register

Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis attend a news conference Nov. 13 at the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register) See BISHOPS- Nov. 13, 2018.

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- During the second day of their annual fall assembly in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops discussed, even though they weren't voting on, procedures they could use to restrict bishops removed from their position or reassigned due to sexual abuse allegations or "grave negligence in office."

This protocol can be viewed as a resource for bishops responding to specific cases. It does not offer new penalties or impose an obligation on bishops, said Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, who is chairman of the the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance.

"Only the Holy Father can remove a bishop from office," he said Nov. 13, stressing that the protocols were meant as guidelines pointing out the disciplinary actions that could be taken as part of canon law.

The document presented to the bishops explains what exactly a resigned bishop, referred to as "bishop emeritus," cannot do.

Quoting the "Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops," written by the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops in 2004, it notes that the relationship with the diocesan bishop and the bishop emeritus should be "marked by a fraternal spirit."

The bishop emeritus, it adds, ideally would not interfere directly or indirectly with the governance of the diocese and would carry out his activity "in full agreement with the diocesan bishop and in deference to his authority."

In cases where a bishop emeritus' resignation or removal was due to allegations of sexual abuse of minors or sexual misconduct with adults or due to grave negligence of office, it says the diocesan bishop should invite the bishop emeritus to "refrain from the exercise of publish ministry."

If the bishop emeritus does not agree to cooperate, the diocesan bishop should "request further and swift intervention from the Holy See regarding those matters outside his competence."

"The diocesan bishop will inform the bishop emeritus that public notice will be given concerning the matter, reminding him of the words of Pope Francis, 'The crimes and sins of sexual abuse of minors may no longer be kept secret,' and his promise that those responsible will be held accountable."

The protocol also notes that even though the bishop emeritus has the "right and responsibility to preach the word of God everywhere, a diocesan bishop may expressly forbid it in particular cases within the diocese. He may also request that the Holy See extend this prohibition more broadly or deny the exercise of the right entirely."

Other stipulations include:

-- The bishop emeritus can be denied the ability to witness marriages and the public celebration of other sacraments or rites in the church.

-- The diocesan bishop may adjust the benefits given to a bishop emeritus such as not funding travel or secretarial assistance.

-- Diocesan bishops can decided if "the privilege of burial in the cathedral church is due the bishop emeritus or if other arrangements should be made."

-- Participation in the USCCB plenary sessions would be determined by USCCB president, in consultation with the Administrative Committee.

No vote was to be taken on this protocol since the Vatican Congregation for Bishops asked the USCCB to delay any formal action approving the hand-in-hand protocols pending further review of their compliance with canon law and the pending meeting of presidents of bishops' conferences around the world in Rome in February.

Further discussion on the topic was scheduled for Nov. 14, the closing day of the public session of the bishops' meeting.

Florida bishop elected next USCCB treasurer starting fall 2019

By Dennis Sadowski Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters

Attendees are seen Nov. 12 at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops general assembly in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg, Florida, will be the next treasurer of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, taking office next November.

Bishops voted 157-87 for Bishop Parkes as treasurer-elect Nov. 14 during their fall general assembly.

Votes also were cast for a new chairman of the Committee on National Collections and chairmen-elect for the committees on Catholic Education; Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations; Divine Worship; Domestic Justice and Human Development; Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and Migration.

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of the Anchorage, Alaska, was elected to chair the Committee on National Collections. He outpolled Bishop Thomas A. Daly of Spokane, Washington, 137-111. Archbishop Etienne will replace Bishop Joseph R. Cistone, 69, of Saginaw, Michigan, who died Oct. 16; he was voted in as chairman-elect at the November 2017 assembly and was to have taken office at the end of this year's assembly.

In February, Bishop Cistone announced that he had begun treatment for lung cancer. The bishop was optimistic about what was to be a six-month treatment. He had experienced a persistent cough and labored breathing since September 2017, and he sought tests that diagnosed the cancer.

Bishop Parkes will succeed Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr, who is starting his third and final year of his three-year term. The St. Petersburg prelate will serve one year as treasurer-elect and then start a three-year term in office at the conclusion of the 2019 fall general assembly.

The treasurer also chairs the Committee on Budget and Finance and serves as vice chairman of the Committee on Priorities and Plans.

Bishops also voted for chairmen-elect of five committees. Those elected will serve for one year before beginning three-year terms at the conclusion of the bishops' 2019 fall general assembly.

Those elected include:

-- Committee on Catholic Education: Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, California, over Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, 142-103.

-- Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations: Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey, over Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, 168-77.

-- Committee on Divine Worship: Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, over Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, 132-113.

-- Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development: Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City over Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, 140-105.

-- Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth: Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco over Bishop John F. Doerfler of Marquette, Michigan. The vote finished in a tie at 125 votes each, but Archbishop Cordileone became the chairman because he has been a bishop longer.

-- Committee on Migration: Auxiliary Bishop Marie E. Dorsonville-Rodriguez of Washington, over Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, 158-88.

The bishops also re-elected one member and elected two new members to the Catholic Relief Services board of directors. Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, was re-elected. New members are Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese of the Military Services USA and Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake City.

Bishops offer perspectives on next steps forward in addressing abuse

By Mark Pattison Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register

Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, gestures during a news conference Nov. 13 at the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register) See BISHOPS- Nov. 13, 2018.

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Although unable to vote on specific proposals on episcopal accountability standards and other protocols to address the current clerical sex abuse crisis facing U.S. Catholicism, two bishops suggested items on which a consensus could be built among the nation's bishops.

"We were reminded of the nagging reality of the McCarrick situation and how that weighs heavily right across the country," said Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance during a Nov. 13 news conference following that day's session of the bishops' Nov. 12-14 fall general meeting in Baltimore.

"I thought that was an important takeaway," he said.

News reports first surfaced in June detailing allegations from decades before against retired Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington when he served as a priest and bishop in New York and New Jersey. After further allegations continued to emerge over the summer, Archbishop McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals, and has moved to a monastery in Kansas.

"It was interesting to see how the 'metropolitan in the region' started to evolve in the discussion," said Bishop Deeley, who characterized the discussion as "kind of freewheeling."

Some bishops began advocating on the floor of the meeting Nov. 13 for a greater role for archbishops, who serve as metropolitans for the regions in which they serve. The archbishop of Cincinnati, for example, serves as the metropolitan for all Ohio Latin-rite dioceses. The archbishop of Boston serves as metropolitan for the six states of New England.

Archbishops were being recommended as a possible avenue for being told of allegations against bishops and a starting point for determining the credibility of such allegations; the archbishop also could persuade a bishop to step aside at least temporarily from his diocese as an investigation got underway.

Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens of St. Paul and Minneapolis said he sensed a "firmer resolve" among the bishops around a whole range of issues, signaling a "culture change."

Those issues, Bishop Cozzens added, include the involvement of the laity in a process of investigating allegations.

"We've seen lots of comments and questions about transparency, questions about lists, questions about laity and review boards," he said. "The principles around how our proposals were built were not questions, just how they are put in practice."

Bishop Cozzens added, "It was expressed by several bishops today that there was a desire to work with the Holy Father, but to let the Holy Father know what are our needs ... and what we're hearing from our people, the laity, what we're hearing form the National Advisory Board. Certainly, that's something the Holy Father's going to want to listen to."

He termed it as "one of the clearly felt needs of the body (of bishops) because of the desire we all have to exercise that accountability whatever way we can fraternally."

Responding to the notion that the bishops cannot police themselves, Bishop Deeley said about such responsibility, "I do not acknowledge turning it over" to civil authorities, because in doing so, "we evade the responsibility ourselves."

Bishop Deeley recalled how the Portland Diocese dealt with sex abuse allegations against priest when his predecessor, Bishop Joseph J. Gerry, headed the diocese. He "needed the help of the attorney general of Maine," who in turn collaborated with each of the district attorneys in the state's 16 counties.

"Consultors went through all the cases. The ones who had accusations or allegations of any kind were studied by the attorney general," Bishop Deeley said. "It was a cooperative, collaborative process. That's a fine way to do it, if that's possible."

Update: Kentucky nonprofit recruits 'water women' in bid to rid Haiti of cholera

By Dennis Sadowski Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Corey Ohlenkamp, courtesy Water With Blessings

Water With Blessings members wade a shallow river to reach a remote community in Anse-a-Veau, Haiti. (CNS photo/Corey Ohlenkamp, courtesy Water With Blessings) See HAITI-WOMEN-WATER Nov. 13, 2018.

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Ursuline Sister Larraine Lauter has a vision of virtually eliminating the threat of cholera across Haiti.

She's counting on young mothers and a simple high-tech water filtering system manufactured by a Florida company. It costs $60 to ship, install and train users how to operate the system to achieve what some might consider impossible.

Sister Lauter's 10-year-old organization, Water With Blessings, based near Louisville, Kentucky, has distributed filters and prepped thousands of women in maintaining the system in the impoverished nation since 2012.

The program, called Village by Village, started in Verrettes, Artibonite department, from where cholera spread beginning in 2010.

Sister Lauter said reports of cholera in communities with the system in place have dwindled to zero.

Haiti has been plagued by the water-borne disease that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea since October 2010, when U.N. troops from Nepal dumped untreated human waste into a river in the central part of the country. Left untreated, cholera can kill a person within hours of the onset of symptoms.

In eight years, nearly 9,800 people have died from the disease, according to the Haiti's Ministry of Public Health and Population. The number of deaths this year through Oct. 20 stood at 38, down from 159 in all of 2017, the government reported.

Sister Lauter has found that women are the key to success.

"A great untapped resource in human development is young mothers, if you can seek them out. They're literally out of sight, often the least educated and thought to be the least likely to succeed in their community," she told Catholic News Service.

Each "water woman" who joins the effort must agree to maintaining the water system, which serves four households. Each system consists of a filter about the size of the cardboard toilet paper tube, a hose and a 5-gallon bucket.

"This program is very radically rooted in Catholic social teaching, and one of those teachings, which is very poorly understood, is subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is that you take the power for the solution to very lowest level possible," she said.

"There is a very strong spiritual basis in that it is about making a promise or signing a covenant in however you understand God."

The Sawyer PointOne filter is the centerpiece of each system. It is produced by Sawyer Products based in Safety Harbor, Florida. The company has supplied water filtering systems for outdoor enthusiasts for more than 30 years.

The hollow-fiber-membrane filter is dense enough to block the passage of bacteria and other harmful microscopic life. The design also allows for easier cleaning and a longer life in the field, said Darrel Larson, the company's international director.

He told CNS the company's owners are motivated by their faith to make the filters available at discounted prices to nonprofits such as Water With Blessings.

"It's just a bit of a call of God on the people who own the company to be able to use this as a resource to make the world a better place," he said.

The company also has donated filters to agencies responding after natural disasters, including those serving families in Puerto Rico and Texas after the 2017 hurricanes.

Beyond Haiti, Water With Blessings has identified more than 82,000 water women in more than 45 countries.

Sister Lauter told CNS she believes the system can solve Haiti's cholera dilemma quicker and at far less cost than the years-long efforts of the U.N. and larger and more well-known nongovernmental agencies.

She estimated that for $30 million to $35 million, her organization could install the filtration systems across Haiti. She is soliciting donations to accomplish that goal.

"Our model requires a lot of intensive training of these women. It's the responsibility of local leadership. We are trusting that all people, even the most poor, have the capacity to love and serve others, because they are made in the image and likeness of God," she said.

Sister Lauter added that her organization will continue introducing filters as widely as possible in Haiti until the disease is eradicated.

"To me the number of deaths mean nothing until they're truly zero," she said. "That's what we're aiming for."

Update: Bishops overwhelmingly approve pastoral against racism

By Mark Pattison Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Bob Roller

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, La., center, attends morning prayer Nov. 13 at the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller) See BISHOPS- Nov. 13, 2018.

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops overwhelmingly approved a pastoral letter against racism Nov. 14 during their fall general meeting at Baltimore.

The document, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," passed 241-3 with one abstention. It required a two-thirds vote by all bishops, or 183 votes, for passage.

"Despite many promising strides made in our country, the ugly cancer of racism still infects our nation," the pastoral letter says. "Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love," it adds.

Bishops speaking on the pastoral gave clear consent to the letter's message.

"This statement is very important and very timely," said Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky. He appreciated that the letter took note of the racism suffered by African-Americans and Native Americans, "two pieces of our national history that we have not reconciled."

"This will be a great, fruitful document for discussion," said Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond, Virginia, in whose diocese the violence-laden "Unite the Right" rally was held last year. Bishop Knestout added the diocese has already conducted listening sessions on racism.

Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham, Alabama, what he called "ground zero for the civil rights movement," said the pastoral's message is needed, as the civil rights movement "began 60 years ago and we're still working on achieving the goals in this document."

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said he was grateful for the pastoral's declaration that "an attack against the dignity of the human person is an attack the dignity of life itself."

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix said the letter will be welcome among Native Americans, who populate 11 missions in the diocese, African-Americans in Arizona -- "I think we were the last of the 50 states to be part of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday," he noted -- and Hispanics, who make up 80 percent of all diocesan Catholics under age 20.

"This is very important for our people and our youth to know the history of racism," he added.

Bishop Shelton T. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, said an electronic copy of "Open Wide Our Hearts" would be posted "somewhat immediately," with a print version available around Thanksgiving.

"Also, there will be resources available immediately" now that the pastoral letter has been approved, including Catholic school resources for kindergarten through 12th grade, added the bishop, who also is chair of the bishops' Subcommittee on African American Affairs.

"'Open Wide Our Hearts' conveys the bishops' grave concern about the rise of racist attitudes in society," Bishop Fabre said Nov. 13, when the pastoral was put on the floor of the bishops' meeting. It also "offers practical suggestions for individuals, families and communities," he said.

"Every racist act -- every such comment, every joke, every disparaging look as a reaction to the color of skin, ethnicity or place of origin -- is a failure to acknowledge another person as a brother or sister, created in the image of God," it adds.

"Racial profiling frequently targets Hispanics for selective immigration enforcement practices, and African-Americans for suspected criminal activity. There is also the growing fear and harassment of persons from majority Muslim countries. Extreme nationalist ideologies are feeding the American public discourse with xenophobic rhetoric that instigates fear against foreigners, immigrants and refugees."

"Personal sin is freely chosen," a notion that would seem to include racism, said retired Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Nov. 13, but "social sin is collective blindness. There is sin as deed and sin as illness. It's a pervasive illness that runs through a culture." Bishop Fabre responded that the proposed letter refers to institutional and structural racism.

An amendment from Bishop Ramirez to include this language in the pastoral was accepted by the bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, which guided the document's preparation.

Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont, Texas, said Nov. 13 the pastoral "gives us a wonderful opportunity to educate, to convert," adding that, given recent incidents, the document should give "consideration to our Jewish brothers and sisters." Bishop Fabre replied that while anti-Semitism is mentioned in the document, future materials will focus on anti-Semitism.

A proposed amendment to the pastoral to include the Confederate battle flag in the pastoral alongside nooses and swastikas as symbols of hatred was rejected by the committee.

"Nooses and swastikas are widely recognized signs of hatred, the committee commented, but "while for many the Confederate flag is also a sign of hatred and segregation, some still claim it as a sign of heritage."

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