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Elisabeth Dias at Time magazine reported this week on a letter from a group of evangelicals who advise President Donald Trump. The letter was sent to Pope Francis requesting a meeting.According to that article, and a subsequent article in The Washington Post, the letter was sent through the Archdiocese of Washington. Well, I remember writing letters to Santa Claus as a boy and to similar effect: A source at the archdiocese told me that they certainly did not forward any such letter to the Vatican and, in fact, they never would because any such letter would be redirected to the papal nuncio. "Ah!" you object. "Why would evangelicals know to go to the papal nuncio?" Well, remember they got Kim Davis in to see the pope through the nuncio. And the "they" in question is not a figment of my imagination. Kim Davis' lawyer was Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, and the current letter was signed by Johnnie Moore, a former vice president at Liberty University and colleague of Staver's."We think it would be of great benefit to sit together and to discuss these things," the letter to the pope reads in part. "Then, when we disagree we can do it within the context of friendship. Though, I'm sure we will find once again that we agree far more than we disagree, and we can work together with diligence on those areas of agreement." How lovely.I have a message for Pope Francis too: Don't do it! Better to meet with the dubia cardinals than with these pastors who seek to give cover to a presidency that is repulsive to almost everything we Catholics believe about the social and political significance of the Gospels. It is a trap.The outlines of the trap were set forward in the very same article that provoked the letter: the Civilta Cattolica article by Fr. Antonio Spadaro and Presbyterian Pastor Marcelo Figueroa that discussed the alliance of conservative Catholics and fundamentalist evangelicals, and the regrettable consequences of that alliance. I have written about that article extensively and need not revisit my arguments here except to note that the signatories of the letter demonstrate better than any argument I can make how right Spadaro and Figueroa are.The author of the letter, Johnnie Moore, is also a kind of spokesman for the pastors who support Trump. I first encountered him when researching my biography of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. Moore was a traveling companion and communications expert for Falwell and went on to become a vice president at Liberty University, the school founded by Falwell père and now run by Falwell fils. As I made clear in the epilogue to that book, there is no person in America who is more responsible for the rise of the "nones" than Falwell, that he "provoked many Americans to see a lack of religious affiliation as preferable to accepting his brand of conservative Christianity." During last year's campaign, many of my friends and colleagues were surprised by the warm embrace Trump received from Falwell Jr. Not me. The crude politicization of the faith that was the trademark of Falwell Sr. had been passed on to the son, and he wasn't going to let Trump's vulgarity or seeming lack of Christian formation get in the way.Another signatory of the letter is Pastor Paula White, a prosperity Gospel preacher from Florida whose prayer Donald Trump Jr. credited with repairing the teleprompter that had broken just as he prepared to address the Republican National Convention. (You can't make this stuff up.) The prosperity Gospel is arguably the grossest aberration of the Christian faith to emerge from contemporary fundamentalism, gross not only in how it distorts the Gospel but also in how the pastors who extol it seem to make millions of dollars while doing so. Pastor White, like all evangelicals, is a great defender of traditional marriage from the scourge of gay marriage. In fact, she likes marriage so much she has had three of them, just like President Trump.Then there is my personal favorite evangelical pastor, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. This is the same pastor who wrote that Barack Obama was "paving the way" for the Antichrist. The same pastor who said that businesses that were "transgender-friendly" were a greater threat to the United States than ISIS. The same pastor who said Jesus Christ would not protect undocumented immigrants. I am all for ecumenism, but I do not worship the hateful God that Pastor Jeffress invokes with such regularity and with such simplistic callousness.What these pastors share is a willingness to squeeze the Christian Gospels into a pre-arranged ideological narrative, and when the fit is obviously inexact, the ideology wins, not the Gospels. It would be one thing for the pope to meet with Christian pastors who simply have a different interpretation of the Bible. But there is nothing to be gained from a meeting in which the agenda is political and the interlocutors have shown themselves to be more concerned with their political orthodoxy than anything else. This invitation is a set-up, an attempt to get a photo op with the smiling pope, a blessing on their mission to help Trump "make America great again."That mission is not Pope Francis' mission. He does not seek to reduce the Christian Gospels to a prop for Americanism, still less a prop for the consistently xenophobic and occasionally racist nationalism that is at the heart of Trump's political creed. These fellow travelers in clerical garb are not seeking a meeting of the minds with the pope. They are seeking political advantage. I fear that they were encouraged in their letter by some conservative Catholics, which would, again, only prove the point made by the original article in Civilta. I am confident our Holy Father is astute enough to see through this faux ecumenism to the political agenda at its core, and that he will want no part in it.
Australia's Ballarat diocese accused of breaking Church sex abuse guidelines by challenging compensation claimThe Diocese is alleged to be denying the circumstances of the victim's abuse, despite fact it was accepted by the Court three years agoThe Diocese of Ballarat, one of the Catholic bodies most scrutinised by Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, has been accused of breaking the Church’s guidelines in resisting a compensation claim by a victim of laicised priest Gerald Ridsdale.The guidelines state a claimant cannot be required to prove the elements of an abuse case that the Church authority had already accepted to be true.But lawyer Paula Shelton said the Diocese was challenging parts of her client's claim that were accepted by a court when Ridsdale was convicted of the abuse. Her client was seven years old when sexually abused by Ridsdale, who is now in jail, in 1980.She told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on 6 August that the Diocese was now denying the circumstances of his abuse, despite the fact they were accepted by the Victorian County Court when Ridsdale was sentenced three years ago."What is very irritating and irking to our clients is that we have these bishops who show up ... at the Royal Commission and say they're going to treat these plaintiffs compassionately and this is what we get," Ms Shelton said.Her client, called "John", said: "I'm tired dealing with an organisation that seems to have no moral compass."Ballarat's Bishop Paul Bird, in a statement to the ABC, rejected suggestions his diocese was not following the church guidelines, which were drawn up by the Church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council."If we are not able to resolve the claim through alternative dispute resolution and the claimant begins litigation, we seek to cooperate fully as indicated in the TJHC guidelines," Bishop Bird said. "For example, we do not require a claimant to prove a matter which we know to be true or have accepted as true."In his civil claim, "John" said two former bishops of Ballarat who oversaw Ridsdale, Sir James O'Collins (1941-71) and Ronald Mulkearns (1971-97), failed to take reasonable steps to ensure his safety, instead moving Ridsdale from parish to parish.Meanwhile, legislation to establish a national redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse is due to be debated by Federal Parliament in the next few weeks. The scheme will allow states, territories and non-government institutions - including the Catholic Church, which has committed to the scheme - to join on a "'responsible entity pays" basis and has been a key recommendation of the Royal Commission.Subject to the passage of the legislation, the scheme is due to begin operations in 2018.
Bishop Cantu calls for diplomacy to ease U.S.-North Korea differencesWASHINGTON (CNS) -- Diplomacy and political engagement are necessary to resolve the differences between the United States and North Korea and avoid a military conflict, the chairman of a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committee said in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.Writing Aug. 10, Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, echoed a recent call from the Korean bishops' conference to support talks to secure the peaceful future of the Korean Peninsula.Bishop Cantu acknowledged that the escalating threat of violence from North Korea's leaders cannot be "underestimated or ignored," but that the "high certainty of catastrophic death and destruction from any military action must prompt the United States to work with others in the international community for a diplomatic and political solution based on dialogue." [Something that, alas, has never been the strong suit of the truculent current occupant of the White House.]The letter follows days of back-and-forth threats between President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un. Trump has threatened to unleash "fire and fury like the world has never seen" in response to Kim's warnings of imminent attacks on the U.S. [If memory serves me correctly, another US President described the 2003 invasion of Iraq as an example of the "shock and awe" military doctrine, which involved "the use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force." The world is still dealing with the fallout from that lamentable military campaign. Then again, the current US President seems to have a woefully shallow grasp of history and geopolitics.] Meanwhile, Kim has said his country was preparing to fire missiles into waters around Guam, a U.S. territory in the western Pacific Ocean with two military bases. [Guam has a population of more than 160,000 souls - do their lives matter to these sparring demagogues?]
The angry talk between the leaders has escalated since the Aug. 5 passage at the United Nations of new economic sanctions threatening to cut off a third of North Korea's exports. Russia and China, two of Pyongyang's few economic trading partners, supported the sanctions. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations also adopted a statement expressing "grave concern" over North Korea's actions related to the development of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems.From North Korea came an announcement that the country is reviewing plans to strike U.S. military targets in Guam with medium-range ballistic missiles to create "enveloping fire." In response, the Archdiocese of Agana, Guam, in an Aug. 9 statement said everyone there should "stay grounded in the peace of Christ. Look to God during these difficult times when world peace is threatened and pray always.""Please pray that the Holy Spirit will instill in the leaders of our country and all the nations the virtues of wisdom and understanding to promote peace rather than war."The statement, issued by Father Jeffrey C. San Nicolas, a spokesman for the archdiocese, also reiterated what Guam's governor, Eddie Calvo, has advised, that all on the island "remain calm and trust that the security of our island is in good hands with local and national defense forces in place to address such threats.""This is the time for all of us to come together," the priest said. "If a family member, co-worker or neighbor is troubled, take time to talk to them, pray for them and remind them of the providence of Our Lord. We place our complete trust in our God."In his letter Bishop Cantu said his committee agreed with the stance of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea in its support for South Korean President Moon Jae-in's proposal for humanitarian and military talks with North Korea."In solidarity with the Catholic Church in Korea and the efforts of the South Korean government, we urge the United States to encourage and support these talks," Bishop Cantu wrote. "This avenue, unlike most others, offers the Korean Peninsula a future free from military conflicts or crises, which could simultaneously threaten entire nations and millions of lives in the region."A former Vatican diplomat supported such talks.In an interview with Vatican Radio Aug. 9, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, former Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, said that "instead of building walls and creating dissidence or admitting the possibility of recourse to violence," both countries must have a constructive approach that benefits the people.A former member of the U.N. Panel of Experts tasked with monitoring and implementing North Korea sanctions also called for calm and a negotiated solution to the differences between the two countries.George A. Lopez, chair emeritus of peace studies at the University of Notre Dame, told Catholic News Service Aug. 10 the interests of both countries can be addressed at the negotiating table."We need somebody to talk about what are the underlying security needs of both North Korea and the United States and is there a forum to talk about that," Lopez said. "If the U.S. issued a simple pledge that we seek no first use against North Koreans, we seek some way to bargain this out, you'd get some response to that."Asian nations want stability rather than uncertainty and that will require that talks get underway to assure the peaceful co-existence of both countries, Lopez said. "So how do we get there?" he asked.Bishop Cantu's letter reminded Tillerson that "this crisis reminds us that nuclear deterrence and mutually assured destruction do not ensure security or peace. Instead, they exacerbate tensions and produce and arms races as countries acquire more weapons of mass destruction in an attempt to intimidate or threaten other nations."The bishop also cited a call in July by agencies of the U.S. and European Catholic bishops for all nations to develop a plan to eliminate nuclear weapons from their military arsenals.A joint declaration released by the USCCB and the Conference of European Justice and Peace Commissions called upon the U.S. and European nations to work with other nations to "map out a credible, verifiable and enforceable strategy for the total elimination of nuclear weapons."Bishop Cantu and Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, conference president, signed the statement.Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, the Catholic peace organization, told CNS the organization was praying that both nations would step away from potential confrontation. She said Aug. 9 Pax Christi expected to release a statement on the situation within days.
Canonist warns Church oversight of troubled lay groups has ‘no teeth’Through the years the Vatican has developed strong rules and regulations to fight sex abuse in the clergy, but two recent sex abuse scandals in Catholic lay associations show that in these cases the Church is still very slow to respond and that often local bishops fail to exercise the necessary monitoring.ROME - In an effort to respond to cases and allegations of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church over the years, Pope Francis has affirmed a “zero tolerance” policy and stressed that the Vatican must be committed to enforcing accountability.Yet two recent scandals suggest that while the Church may have developed strong controls over clergy, in cases that involve lay organizations, it sometimes struggles to impose effective oversight.“Let’s put it this way: The process in the Church for dealing with lay people has got no teeth,” Father Francis Morrissey, a Canadian expert on canon law, told Crux.One case is rooted in Peru, where the leader of a lay Catholic movement called the Sodalitium of Christian Life was accused of sexually and physically abusing members.The other is set on the southern Italian island of Sicily, where a movement known as the “Catholic Culture and Environment Association” (ACCA) is under scrutiny for allegations against its lay leader, Piero Alfio Capuana, accused of sexually abusing at least six underage girls over a period of 25 years.Among the things both situations have in common is that Church officials have been accused of being slow to respond.In the case of the Sodalitium, allegations began to emerge in press reports in 2011, with no action by either Church authorities or the Peruvian justice system.In a statement, the Sodalitium said that since 2014, meaning three years after the allegations first appeared, the accused lay leader, Luis Fernando Figari, has “intensified his life of retirement.”While the Vatican officially recognized the Sodalitium as a lay association in 1997, the ACCA in Sicily is publicly listed as civil and does not appear on the website of the Diocese of Acireale, where it’s located.A day after the arrest of Capuana on August 1, the diocese released a statement expressing “disconcert and pain for the victims” but stressing that the “nature of the association is civil.” It also said that though a diocesan priest offered catechesis at the association’s headquarters, he did so “with no suspicion of the occult perpetration of criminal acts.”The statement concluded with the diocese hoping that the civil court will bring forward its proceedings and establish responsibility, so that “justice may be done.”The archdiocese declined to give Crux any further comment on the subject.According to a pre-trial detention order from the local police for Capuana and his accomplices, which was obtained by Crux, the former bishop of the diocese appears to have been aware of the abuses taking place in ACCA for some time.“In order to stop Capuana from continuing in the abuses,” the mother of one of the victims told prosecutors, “I visited the bishop of the Diocese of Acireale, who was at the time Pio Vigo. The prelate, having spoken to us, told us that he had been aware of the facts for more than thirty years.” [Thirty years?! And he never lifted a finger to do something about it, or report Capuana to the civil authorities?! Great balls of fire!]“Capuana,” she added, “continued with his behavior also because he was protected by ‘strong’ powers,” although she didn’t specify what those “powers” were.Experts on Church law say the diocese may not be able to disassociate itself from responsibility for the association, whatever its precise ecclesiastical standing.“I am not sure (the diocese) can simply wash its hands,” said Morrisey, pointing to canon 305 of the Code of Canon Law.That canon states: “All associations of the Christian faithful are subject to the vigilance of competent ecclesiastical authority, which is to take care that the integrity of faith and morals is preserved in them, and is to watch so that abuse does not creep into ecclesiastical discipline.”Claudia Gianpietro, an Italian canon law expert, said that associations such as ACCA “are subject to the supervision and jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop.”She pointed to a 1920 Vatican ruling affirming that the bishop of Corrientes, Argentina, could monitor a local lay association of St. Vincent de Paul, saying that even if he can’t “direct” such organizations if they don’t have specific ecclesiastical approval, he nevertheless has “the right and obligation to be vigilant.”Despite the fact that ACCA was founded by a priest, Father Roberto Cavalli, who was a ‘spiritual son’ of Padre Pio, the famed 20th century Capuchin stigmatic and healer, the association acted without any official oversight from the local diocese.“The bishop should pay a canonical visit to the private association, in accordance with the law and the statutes of the association,” Gianpietro said.Furthermore, canon 300 of the Code states, “No association is to assume the name Catholic without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.” Crux has not been able to establish whether the ACCA, which includes the word ‘Catholic’ in its name, ever obtained the consent of the diocese.Considering that members of ACCA met every Sunday for Mass at their local parish, and that a diocesan priest, according to the diocese’s statement, visited the headquarters of the association for catechesis, it’s fair to assume that if local ecclesiastic authorities had wanted to exercise oversight over ACCA, they had opportunities to do so.In the case of Sodalitium, being officially recognized, the Vatican was “the competent ecclesiastic authority” for monitoring its teachings and members.At the time, Crux reached out to then-Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, who said the years-long delay in dealing with the allegations was due to “the complexity and diversity of positions and interpretations” regarding the accusations against Figari, as well as legal issues.So far, Figari has been neither judged nor sentenced, either by civil authorities in Peru or by the Church’s own tribunals. In 2017, the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life directed that Figari be “prohibited from contacting, in any way, persons belonging to the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, and in no way have any direct personal contact with them.”The Sodalitium agreed in January to pay $2.8 million to more than 66 people who reported physical and sexual abuse by Figari.When St. Pope John Paul II in 2003 allowed a statute of limitations under canon law to be set aside on a case-by-case basis for sexual abuse of minors by clergy, the change did not apply to laity, making it more complicated to pursue ecclesiastical sanctions alongside whatever civil or criminal liability the individual may face.The situation may be different for the 73-year-old Capuana, who allegedly continued to abuse underage members of the association up to the present time, and now risks spending six to 12 years in prison on criminal charges.“Clerics, religious people and lay people who commit such abuses should be brought to justice,” Gianpietro said.
Crucial test for Benedictine monks’ new leader as order faces sex abuse inquiryRadio show regular Christopher Jamison takes over as abbot president at a time when the Catholic order is under intense scrutinyHe has been an abbot, an author, a TV star and a radio breakfast show regular and has been described as the country’s most influential Benedictine monk since Cardinal Basil Hume. Now Christopher Jamison is to attempt his most important role: saviour of the reputation of his monastic order.At the start of August the monks of the English Benedictine Congregation – an association of 13 Roman Catholic communities of monks and nuns – elected Jamison as their leader. His installation as abbot president came just days after Professor Alexis Jay confirmed that the public inquiry she is chairing into child sexual abuse in England and Wales would focus its hearings during October and November on scandals at Benedictine schools and monasteries. The choice of Jamison was almost certainly no coincidence.The Benedictines have been mired in controversy for 20 years following a series of revelations about sex abuse scandals at their prestigious private schools, Ampleforth, Downside, Worth and St Benedict’s, Ealing, west London. And with both the independent inquiry into child sex abuse, led by Jay, and a separate crown court trial of a Benedictine abbot on child sex abuse charges taking place this autumn, the order and its educational establishments will be under severe scrutiny.Listeners to Chris Evans’s Radio 2 breakfast show, used to Jamison’s spiritual musings in its Pause for Thought slot, may be surprised to learn that he is taking on the difficult task of leading the order. Jamison is most at ease in front of a microphone and a camera. He has a knack of making Catholicism clear to a secular audience.But that audience may become more hostile on hearing reports of evidence given to the Jay inquiry. The inquiry has also put on hold its hearings into St Benedict’s School, and its former abbot Laurence Soper is due to face trial in the autumn, charged with a series of offences against children.The Benedictine order was one of the biggest in Britain before the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII from 1536 onwards. After they returned to England in the 19th century and the English Benedictine Congregation was refounded, the monks’ focus turned to parish work and founding schools. The English Benedictines have had a history since then of educating the children of England’s most influential and wealthiest Catholic families, as well as a reputation for being rather patrician in their own right – something that appears to have rubbed off on many of the order’s pupils.Among those educated at Benedictine schools in Britain are the chancellor of Oxford University, Lord (Chris) Patten, the Downton Abbey writer Lord (Julian) Fellowes, the broadcaster Edward Stourton, the novelist Peter Ackroyd and the actors Rupert Everett and James Norton.Stourton, reflecting on his education at Ampleforth, said: “I came away – and I think many of my contemporaries would share this feeling – with a strong consciousness of the Order of St Benedict’s past and its roots in imperial Rome, a very Benedictine sense of what it means to live in a community, and an awareness of being part of a worldwide institution that, while being deeply English in the way we experienced it, predated nation states. I think that last gift made it easier to understand the universality of the Catholic church.”This illustrious history is unlikely to count for much during the coming inquiry. Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon and the author of Betrayed: The English Catholic Church and the Sex Abuse Crisis, believes that the sometimes rarified social ambience surrounding the Benedictines has not been conducive to openness and transparency. “There is something elitist about these Benedictine organisations. I have noticed that often victims were not out of the top drawer socially. There is a massive culture of snobbery and a view sometimes that we have our own way of doing things, that investigations can be tiresome.”Police investigations have uncovered abuse at Benedictine schools stretching back to the 1960s. Three Ampleforth monks and a lay teacher have been convicted of assault. At Downside, four monks have faced police inquiries and two others have been put on restricted ministry. A former headmaster of the junior school at Ealing was convicted of abuse and the senior school’s deputy head of possessing child abuse images; its former abbot, who also taught at the school, awaits trial. All three institutions have since carried out their own investigations and changed their governance to improve child protection and safeguarding.But Scorer said that the Jay inquiry should recognise that abuse at Benedictine schools was not only in the past. “The abuse inquiry goes back many years but it must look at the past decade with a laser eye,” he said. “I am aware of a very recent case where there was a breach of trust and the pupil says the problem was well known but not acted upon.”Jamison will also need to consider the plight of monks who have been accused of sex abuse and then cleared. At Ampleforth the current abbot, Cuthbert Madden, was investigated by police and exonerated but has still not returned to his monastery nearly a year later as he awaits approvals from church safeguarding officials.The new abbot president first became known to the public in 2005 as the star of BBC2’s highly popular series The Monastery, which took viewers inside Jamison’s abbey at Worth. Five young men of varying faiths and none were filmed as they shared the monastic life of work, prayer and recreation. The show led to a media career for Jamison, who went on to publish several books, make a follow-up TV series on silence, pop up as a frequent commentator on Catholic issues and later join Evans’s breakfast show.He has not always been a popular figure among colleagues; his own monastery failed to re-elect him as its abbot after his first eight-year term – a highly unusual step, which some ascribed to Jamison exhausting his fellow monks with his desire for change. Austen Ivereigh, a former pupil at Worth who went on to found the media organisation Catholic Voices, said: “Christopher is an unusual monk because he is an off-the-charts extrovert while monks are often introverted people.“He’s an extraordinarily dynamic leader – energetic, visionary and bold. He’s essentially a missionary monk who loves to connect the insights of his ancient monastic tradition to the contemporary world. He’s steeped in that tradition but happily navigates a high-profile world. I’d say he’s the most influential Benedictine monk since Cardinal Basil Hume. He’s not afraid of change that’s needed.”For the English Benedictine Congregation, that is precisely what is required. In the past four decades, the order’s numbers have fallen sharply. In 1973 there were 530 monks and 136 nuns but this has dropped to roughly 280 monks and 35 nuns today. There are fewer than a dozen novices.The church in England and Wales was one of the first Catholic congregations to improve protection of minors with new safeguarding policies; these will also be scrutinised by the Jay inquiry. Meanwhile, abuse crises have beset the Catholic church around the world. Pope Francis has set up a pontifical commission, and in a letter to bishops, leaked in January, he said child sexual abuse is a “sin that shames us” and there must be zero tolerance for offenders.A Long HistoryCirca 480 St Benedict believed to have been born in Norcia, Umbria, Italy.529 Founds monastery at Monte Cassino, where he writes his rule of monastic life.597 St Augustine of Canterbury and his monks establish first English monastery.1536 Monasteries dissolved by Thomas Cromwell, acting for Henry VIII.1802 Ampleforth founded, followed by Downside in 1814.1976 Ampleforth abbot Basil Hume appointed archbishop of Westminster.2004 Downside monk and teacher jailed for downloading pornographic images of children and indecent photos of pupils.2005 Two monks jailed for abuse of schoolboys at Ampleforth. Police inquiries reveal abuse in school goes back at least 40 years.2005 Abbot Christopher Jamison of Worth stars in BBC TV series The Monastery.2017 Jamison appointed abbot president of the English Benedictine Congregation.November 2017 Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse due to hear evidence regarding English Benedictine Congregation.
Clerical abuse scandal hits Argentine president's school BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- Rufino Varela was a distraught, confused 12-year-old when he went looking for help from the school chaplain to tell him he'd been sexually abused by a mason at his family's home.Instead of aiding, Varela says, the Rev. Finnlugh Mac Conastair took off the boy's pants, flogged him and fondled him in a room below the chapel at one of Argentina's most prestigious schools. Then, the Irish priest known by many as "Father Alfredo," offered him candy and told him that they should keep it as a secret with God."I had come looking for help, but I felt that it was a punishment from God," Varela said. "I came back to the classroom, holding back tears, went home and never spoke about it."The secret was kept for nearly four decades. But in recent months, Varela's decision to break his silence has led several other former students to denounce clerical abuse at a school that has educated President Mauricio Macri and many other members of Argentina's elite.The case is one of several that have shown the church has not been spared sexual scandals even in the home territory of Pope Francis, who has pledged a zero-tolerance policy against abuses that have rocked the church around the world.While the pope had no connection with the abuse at the time - he led the Argentine branch of the Jesuit order with no relationship to the school - Varela said he received a call from the pontiff this year after revealing the abuse publicly.The Cardenal Newman school was launched in Argentina in 1948 by the Christian Brothers, a religious order founded two centuries ago to focus on educating disadvantaged youth. In recent years, it has faced abuse claims at many of the schools it has opened worldwide.At the time of Varela's 1977 encounter with Mac Conastair, the socially conservative church school had evolved into something of a refuge for children of the rich.Varela said he decided to confront Newman authorities about the abuse after he heard that the school planned to add a crown to the lion in its coat of arms in honor of Macri, a 1976 graduate who was elected president in 2015."Instead of a crown, it would give me more comfort to see a whip or a crown of thorns," Varela said in a letter to the rector. "This would be in remembrance of the aberrations that many others suffered."Varela said Newman's rector, Alberto Olivero, then met with him, offered psychological treatment and tried to dissuade him from going public with the story. The school refused to comment and referred questioners to written statements.Frustrated at the lack of public acknowledgement, Varela said, he spoke to Argentina's La Nacion newspaper in December 2016. He also began writing about it on Facebook.In February, his phone rang and Pope Francis was on the line. The pontiff expressed his solidarity and apologized on behalf of the church. "He told me that I needed to understand that I was a very important part of a broken link," Varela said.The Vatican doesn't confirm or deny such calls, saying they are part of Francis' pastoral activities.Varela said about 20 other former students have contacted him to describe similar abuse carried out by Mac Conastair, a Passionist, and by at least one Christian Brother priest at the school. At least four of the ex-students repeated accounts of witnessing or suffering abuse to The Associated Press, though it is not clear if the others had reported the incidents earlier. Both of the priests have died.Pedro Ellis told the AP he was about 14 years old when Mac Conastair called him into his room. With the excuse of giving him a sex talk, he asked him to get naked and lie down on his bed."He touched my buttocks and then, he introduced one or two fingers inside my rectum," Ellis told the Associated Press.Ellis, now 52, said that he's considering seeking compensation for the abuse.Julio Castano said the chaplain he'd seen as "God's representative on earth" called him into his room in 1979 and fondled the then 12-year-old."I decided it was now time to tell it, so we can get this off our backs," said Castano, who until then, had not told anyone else publicly or informed the school.Another former student alleged that the Brother John Derham sat him on his lap in the school library and kissed him on the mouth. A fourth ex-student, Guillermo Newbery, 68, told the AP that he witnessed Derham make students sit on his lap during his class, saying he would "caress students excessively, rubbed them and hugged them inappropriately."Newbery said he told his parents in 1963 and they reported it to the school's Parent Association. Derham died in 1986.After Varela spoke to the press, Olivero sent a letter addressed to the Newman community and acknowledged the abuse of at least one student 40 years ago.A copy of the letter was posted on the school gate. Without naming anyone, it said that the Christian Brothers apologized "for the abuse that all former students could have suffered as a result of the inadequate and unjustified behavior" of the chaplain.The head of the Christian Brothers for Latin America, Hugo Caceres, sent Varela a letter expressing "solidarity and Christian compassion" for all abuse victims.At the time of Varela's abuse, the rector was John Burke, an Irishman who was in charge of Newman from 1979-1996. Burke was later named member of a Christian Brothers committee for safeguarding children in Europe.Burke confirms he learned of the abuse in 1980, but said he didn't know the identity of the victim until Varela went public."Towards the end of the school year of 1980, I was made aware of a complaint of inappropriate behavior by the college chaplain towards a pupil whose identity was not known or revealed to me," Burke said in a statement to the AP.It wasn't clear how Burke had learned of the case, though Varela said that he once told lay brother Desmond Finnegan, who counseled him to remain quiet about the incident and pray for the elderly chaplain.In an odd twist, Burke said he sought advice about the case from a lawyer who turned out to be Varela's father, a judge in charge of child protection cases."I can understand your shock at hearing that I had spoken with your father concerning the priest," Burke wrote in a June 2016 letter to Varela. Varela said his father died without ever learning of the abuse of his son.Burke told Varela that, "I took immediate and what I judged to be appropriate measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all the pupils in the school and of every person who had contact with the chaplain."The measures included "immediate removal of the chaplain by his religious superior and the Bishop of the Diocese."Records obtained by the AP show that Mac Conastair was transferred to the San Cayetano vicary, but it's unknown whether he had contact with other children before he died in 1997.Clerical abuse experts say Burke's action was significant because in the 1970's there were no church rules for reporting such crimes."It sounds like at least John Burke took some action and the bishop forced the priest out of the school," said Maeve Lewis, executive director of victims group One in Four. "That happened here (in Ireland) all the time and no one brought it to the attention of their bishop."But Varela remained frustrated at the failure of Burke, the school and the Brothers to acknowledge the "abhorrent sexual and psychological abuses" in public."I am not the only victim of Newman School. We both know it," Varela wrote in a letter to Burke in October 2016. He also criticized for former rector for failing to mention the abuse when he spoke at an annual alumni dinner attended by Macri that month.A video published online by Newman's alumni association five years ago, shows Burke referring to Derham as his novice master and praising him as "the most extraordinary person."In March 2017, the church held a Mass to apologize to Varela and any other victims."The church has asked for pardon and I renew that request here, in my diocese, to all those people who have been victims of abuse, whether as children or youths, by members of our hierarchy," San Isidro Bishop Oscar Ojeda said in his homily.He said church leaders have a duty to bring such cases before both civilian and canonical courts - a reference to procedures adopted in response to an avalanche of complaints that church leaders had long been too slow in responding to abuse cases.In Argentina, two priests and three other men were arrested last year and charged with sexually abusing more about 20 students at the Antonio Provolo Institute, a school for the hearing impaired. One of the priests had been accused of abusing students at Provolo's Verona, Italy, school, and was even identified to Francis as an abuser in a letter in 2014, but no action was taken against him by the Vatican.The Champagnat school founded by the Marist Brothers in downtown Buenos Aires recently reported that a lay brother allegedly abused a former student 38 years ago. The elite school, whose alumni include former Argentina President Fernando de la Rua, said the brother had carried out directorial duties at the school over the last decade. It said an investigation had been launched and that the person, who was not named, had been sent to a nursing home for "old and sick brothers."Varela said he expects more from the church."You ask yourself: Why are these people still free?" Varela said.
AP - Priests who fail to tell police about suspected child sexual abuse should face criminal charges, even when they learn of abuse during a confidential religious confession, Australia’s most powerful investigative authority recommended on Monday.Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse — the nation’s highest form of inquiry — recommended that all states and territories in Australia introduce legislation that would make it a criminal offense for people to fail to report child sexual abuse in an institutional setting. Clergy who find out about sexual abuse during a religious confession would not be exempt from the law.“The right to practice one’s religious beliefs must accommodate civil society’s obligation to provide for the safety of all and, in particular, children’s safety from sexual abuse,” the commission wrote in a report released Monday. “Institutions directed to caring for and providing services for children, including religious institutions, must provide an environment where children are safe from sexual abuse. Reporting information relevant to child sexual abuse to the police is critical to ensuring the safety of children.”Current laws on reporting knowledge of crimes vary across Australia. In some jurisdictions, information received during religious confessions — which are considered highly confidential by churches — is considered privileged, and thus exempt from mandatory reporting requirements.The royal commission has been investigating since 2013 how churches and other institutions responded to the sexual abuse of children in Australia over the last several decades. The reporting requirement it urged Australia to adopt was one of 85 recommendations it made in a report aimed at revamping the criminal justice system to ensure fairer treatment of victims of child sexual abuse.The reporting mandate would apply to people who failed to tell police that they knew, suspected or even should have suspected that an adult associated with their institution was sexually abusing a child.If such a law was actually imposed in Australia, priests would ostensibly have to choose between following criminal law or canon law, which forbids them from revealing anything they hear during confession.In its report, the commission acknowledged the significance placed upon the confidentiality of religious confessions, particularly by the Catholic Church. But the commission also said it had learned of cases in which abusers had confessed to clergy that they had sexually assaulted children and then went on to reoffend, before seeking forgiveness yet again.The issue of whether religious confessions should be considered privileged has long plagued governments and courts across the world.In the United States, the Louisiana state Supreme Court ruled last year that state law does not require a priest to notify authorities after hearing evidence of child abuse from a child making a confession. That ruling came amid a lawsuit against Catholic authorities by parents who say their daughter was sexually abused by a parishioner at a local church.Ireland introduced legislation in 2012 that made it a legal requirement to report knowledge of crimes against children, and made no exemption for priests who received information about crimes during confession. How that law has been applied since then, though, is unclear; Australia’s royal commission noted in its report that the issue has yet to be tested in Ireland’s courts.Cathy Kezelman, president of the Australian victims’ advocacy group, Blue Knot Foundation, applauded the commission’s recommendations.“The recommendation around religious confession is most welcome, as although Blue Knot Foundation respects the right of all religions to practice their religion, children must be protected from the insidious crime of child sexual abuse,” Kezelman said in a statement. “There should be no exemption in that regard, the confessional included.”
The Catholic Church has signalled it will oppose any move to force priests to report details of child sexual abuse received during confession, despite calls from the royal commission to make it a legal requirement.Clergy who fail to report information about child sexual abuse heard during confession would face criminal charges under a series of sweeping changes to the criminal justice system recommended in a new report.The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has detailed 85 proposed changes to the law in a report released on Monday.There should also be "no excuse, protection nor privilege" for priests who fail to alert police because the information was received in confession, the report said."We are satisfied that confession is a forum where Catholic children have disclosed their sexual abuse and where clergy have disclosed their abusive behaviour in order to deal with their own guilt," it said.But the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, said protections for confession should be respected."Confession in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest," Archbishop Hart said in a statement."It is a fundamental part of the freedom of religion, and it is recognised in the law of Australia and many other countries."It must remain so here in Australia. Outside of this all offences against children must be reported to the authorities, and we are absolutely committed to doing so."The royal commission said it had heard evidence of multiple cases where abuse was disclosed in confession, both by victims and perpetrators."We heard evidence that perpetrators who confessed to sexually abusing children went on to reoffend and seek forgiveness again."We have concluded that the importance of protecting children from child sexual abuse means that there should be no exemption from the failure to report offence for clergy in relation to information disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession."The royal commission also called for greater use of evidence by multiple victims in relation to a single perpetrator, arguing the exclusion of this evidence in the past has led to "unwarranted acquittals".People who fail to protect a child from a substantial risk of sexual abuse would also be liable to prosecution under the recommendations.The offence would be committed if the person fails to report to police in circumstances where they know, suspect, or should have suspected an adult associated with the institution was sexually abusing or had sexually abused a child, the report said.There would also be a lower threshold for when reporting is required under the proposed changes.The 85 recommendations also include:changes to police responses, such as improvements to investigative interviewing techniquesmeasures to improve "courtroom experiences" for victims, such as by pre-recording evidence, including in cross-examinationsthe removal of "good character" as a mitigating factor in sentencing "where that good character facilitated the offending"requiring sentences to be set in line with current sentencing standards instead of those in place at the time of offending, subject to the maximum sentence that applied at the time of the offenceextending grooming offences to cover when an offender builds trust with a parent or carer to get access to a child"The criminal justice system is often seen as not being effective in responding to crimes of sexual violence, including child sexual abuse," the report said.The Catholic Church's Trust Justice and Healing Council had made a submission to the commission, arguing that religious confession should remain a privileged communication under Australian law.It said requiring clergy to disclose the contents of confession would interfere with a person's private communication with God, and the Catholic Church in Australia did not have the power to interfere with the "seal of confession".In its report, the royal commission said it made recommendations to state and territory governments, not the church."We acknowledge that if this recommendation is implemented then clergy hearing confession may have to decide between complying with the civil law obligation to report and complying with a duty in their role as a confessor," the commission's report said.Lawyer Vivian Waller, who has represented victims of child sexual abuse, welcomed the recommendations as important reforms to the criminal justice system."I think it's about time the Catholic Church was dragged out of the dark ages," she said."We can no longer think about sexual offending against children as some kind of forgivable sin."Religious experts have questioned whether priests would break canon law to report offences, suggesting they may instead continue to respect the confidential nature of confession.However, Ms Waller said clergy could still be caught breaking the law.Data reveals 7 per cent of Australian priests working between 1950 and 2009 have been accused of child sex crimes."It may be the case that priests elect not to follow the law and do take the confessions of a particular offender to the grave — perhaps it will be very difficult to detect and prosecute those kinds of cases," she said."But in the circumstances where it is the child who's going to the priest ... there's a fair chance at some point or another that that child will find their way to a person who will listen to them, who will take their account seriously and that could well lead to those priests who don't follow the law being charged."The former NSW director of public prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery, said he believed there was legal precedent to remove the confidentiality rules that priests were bound by during confession.He said many professions were bound by mandatory reporting rules, and priests should be no different."That privilege has been taken away from certain professionals but priests remain," he said."The confidentiality of the confessional has been maintained even when communications to doctors, psychiatrists and even lawyers that have been involved any kind of illegality have had their confidentiality removed."Mr Cowdery said the success of any such legislation would depend on all state and territories agreeing on a national framework, "not just piecemeal responses state by state and territory by territory".Victims' groups also raised concerns about the creation of a "failure to report" offence, which would also apply when a person knew, suspected or "should have suspected" that child sexual abuse was occurring.The People With Disability Australia group stressed the need for victims to consent, and told the royal commission there were good reasons survivors did not wish to have crimes against them reported.The group said it could affect whether or not victims disclosed their abuse, if they knew matters would have to be reported to police.But the Care Leavers Australasia Network submitted that the offence was a useful tool to encourage reporting."Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to ensure that the right thing is done is through the threat of a penalty or punishment," the group said.Other groups also raised concerns that in a family violence situation, a parent may be unable to report abuse, and should not be charged for failing to report.NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said his Government would "carefully consider the recommendations".
The archbishop officially promoting Blessed Oscar Romero’s cause for sainthood said he hopes the process will conclude within a year and Catholics around the world will honor St. Oscar Romero, martyr.“Keeping alive the memory of Romero is a noble task, and my great hope is that Pope Francis will soon canonize him a saint,” Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the postulator of the Salvadoran archbishop’s cause, said in a homily Aug. 12 in London.In an interview with Vatican Radio’s English program, Archbishop Paglia was more specific: “We could hope that in the next year perhaps it is possible” that the Congregation for Saints’ Causes will have completed its review of an alleged miracle attributed to Blessed Romero’s intervention and present its findings to the pope. Recognition of the miracle would clear the way for canonization.Archbishop Paglia, in addition to promoting Blessed Romero’s sainthood cause, is president of the Pontifical Academy for Life and chancellor of Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.The biggest hurdle in the sainthood cause was obtaining recognition that Blessed Romero, who was shot while celebrating Mass, was a martyr, Archbishop Paglia said in London. Some church leaders, including some who worked in the Roman Curia, had insisted Blessed Romero was assassinated because of his political position.But, Archbishop Paglia said, “The essence of his holiness was his following the Lord by giving himself completely for his people.”Still, he told the congregation in London celebrating the 100th anniversary of Blessed Romero’s birth, “Romero was not a Superman. He was afraid of dying, and he confessed that to his friends on a number of occasions. But he loved Jesus and his flock more than he loved life. This is the meaning of martyrdom.”“Love for Jesus and the poor is greater than love for oneself: This is the power of Romero’s message,” Archbishop Paglia said. “A simple believer, if overwhelmed by love, becomes strong, unbeatable.”
This month, a flood of pilgrims will make their way to the small town of Ciudad Barrios in El Salvador. They will be celebrating the centenary of Blessed Oscar Romero, who was born there on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1917. There will be thanksgiving for Romero’s life and prophetic ministry, and fervent prayers for genuine lasting peace in that violence-stricken country. They will also be praying for Romero’s prompt canonisation, which could be as soon as next year. He was shot dead on March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass at the cancer hospital where he lived, and in 2015 he was beatified as a martyr killed “out of hatred of the faith”.Romero never forgot his origins: the second of eight children, he came from a family of modest means. Throughout his life he lived simply – but he was no simpleton; he was intelligent and far from naïve. He showed great humility but he was not a doormat. He was open but shrewd; he was well read and cultured; he knew the great spiritual writers and he studied assiduously all the teaching documents that came from the Vatican. After ordination in Rome in 1942 he began a doctorate in ascetical theology – but World War II made it impossible for him to continue.Blessed Oscar Romero was a phenomenal evangeliser. He was a self-effacing man with a special gift from God – his spectacular talent as a preacher. I have sat through hour-long sermons in his cathedral. He unpacked the Gospel and presented it as truly Good News to his people, to his poor. Then, through pastoral programmes, he set about making that Good News a reality in their lives.He reflected on the Word of God, he absorbed and he inhabited the Word of God; simultaneously he listened, he sensed and he put himself alongside the poor. If it’s not too fanciful, one might describe Romero’s homiletic style as the Word of God seeping into his people’s ongoing history. There are few who more authentically represent “the shepherd who smells of the sheep”, in Pope Francis’s oft-quoted phrase.Romero’s episcopal ministry, and his very way of being and living, were a beautiful blend of orthodoxy and orthopraxis, of right teaching and right action. Benedict XVI once said that orthodoxy without orthopraxis is empty and void; whilst orthopraxis without orthodoxy is blind. Romero was the man of the synthesis. His rich prayer life, when he put everything before God, was intrinsically linked with action to support and defend the poor through social projects and the legal aid office. Witnessing to faith and promoting justice were intimately fused in Romero’s life. He was a contemplative in action – a special mix of Ignatian discernment and Carmelite spirituality.Romero was a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. For three dramatic years he was in the spotlight in San Salvador – a parallel to Jesus’s three-year public ministry. We can look to Romero’s preaching and teaching, like Jesus, speaking truth, bringing and being good news to his poor. The crowds who followed Jesus were akin to Salvadorans who eagerly listened on transistor radios to Romero’s every sermon and his inspirational advocacy for human rights, for community organising and for non-violence.We learn that early in Jesus’s ministry the Pharisees began to plot against him. Likewise, we know that members of the landed oligarchy, and even some fellow bishops, sought Romero’s removal from office. Romero had his John the Baptist in the person of Fr Rutilio Grande, assassinated immediately after Romero became archbishop. At that juncture Romero wrote: ‘‘My new post seems to have put me on the road to Calvary.’’ Like Jesus, it ended for Romero in a public execution.There is still much speculation about who exactly carried out the assassination – and the identity of the gunman that day is unknown. But as with the Crucifixion, there were many culprits. The lead conspirator, ‘‘Caiaphas’’ perhaps, was retired Major Roberto D’Aubuisson. He moved with the knowledge and support of the military top-brass and those wealthy Salvadorans who financed his death squad – the Sanhedrin, if you like. And the crowd yelling “crucify him” were the newspapers, their owners and editors who published lies and vile insults – falsely accusing Romero of being a traitor to the country and preaching fratricidal hatred.Romero had the overwhelming support of the clergy and Christian communities. Yet, as a constant thorn in the side of the military and legal establishment and an embarrassment to many wealthy Catholic families, he was constantly portrayed as the black sheep, out of step with the hierarchical Church. It’s not difficult to imagine them shouting in unison: “Who will rid us of this turbulent priest?” Certainly, champagne corks popped and fireworks went off when the news of Romero’s assassination came through.But in the end, they have given to the whole universal Church a glorious martyr. Thanks be to God.
Last week in the Catholic Herald, Francis Phillips noted the many “traditionally Catholic features” of some High Anglican parishes, and wondered why more Anglo-Catholics (like me) do not join the Ordinariate. We have our theological reasons, of course. But there are also more practical and immediate considerations which Catholic readers may not have considered.First, the system of alternative episcopal oversight allows our parishes to place themselves under the supervision of a male “flying bishop” who does not ordain women to the priesthood. On both the Anglo-Catholic and conservative evangelical wings of the church, “church within a church” structures are growing and flourishing. These structures are likely to become even more powerful over time.Second, despite the best efforts of Pope Benedict, it is an open secret that the Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales has never been keen on the Ordinariate. It has become something of a disfavoured ghetto. Even if a priest or parish has a dubious relationship with the CofE hierarchy, crossing the Tiber is unlikely to improve matters.Third, Cof E clergy are allowed a certain latitude to run their parishes as they see fit. Many of the more Anglo-Papalist parishes use the Roman Rite, entirely unadapted. A few others still use the English Missal, a singularly marvellous liturgy that combines a beautiful translation of the Tridentine Rite in a 16th-century hieratic dialect with the highlights of the Book of Common Prayer. This is all almost certainly against canon law, but the bishops generally look the other way. Such freedom is generally not the practice of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, which, from the outsider’s perspective, seems rather more controlling of its priests and parishes.Fourth, Anglo-Catholicism has its own martyrology, a source of huge pride. Go to the great Anglo-Catholic shrines and someone will inevitable pin your ears back with the story of the 19th-century priest who went to prison for such offences as putting candles on the altar and wearing eucharistic vestments. Men such as Fr Alexander Heriot Mackonochie (the “martyr of St Alban’s”), Fr Arthur Tooth and Fr Pelham Dale fought heroically for their vision of the catholicity of the Church of England. Their successors are not likely to walk away from such a past easily.On top of all that, of course, any priest going to Rome has to sign up to Apostolicae Curae, admitting the invalidity of their previous ministry. Is it a surprise that most do not?
US men's religious orders commit to working for papal encyclical on nonviolenceThe umbrella group of the leaders of U.S. Catholic men's religious orders has committed to working to persuade Pope Francis to write a new encyclical letter focused on shifting church teaching away from just war theory towards Gospel nonviolence.In a resolution adopted Aug. 3 at its annual assembly, The Conference of Major Superiors of Men declared it would "use both our individual charisms and experience as religious leaders to ... invite Pope Francis to offer an encyclical on nonviolence, which would include a shift to a just peace approach for transforming conflict.""We recognize that violence is too often pervasive in our societies, including in the form of structural and cultural violence," states a rationale listed under the resolution. "For example, we must change economic structures and investments that perpetuate preparations for war and the proliferation of weapons in our society.""We need a deeper understanding of Gospel nonviolence to better live out our faith, transform our societies, and 'build bridges' as well as cultures of just peace," the rationale continues.In calling for a new papal encyclical on nonviolence, the men religious are echoing a similar call made last year by a landmark Vatican conference that was held to re-evaluate the church's long-held teachings on just war theory.After a three-day event hosted by the former Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the international Catholic peace organization Pax Christi, members of the April 2016 conference asked Francis to consider writing an encyclical letter, or some other "major teaching document," reorienting the church's teachings on violence."There is no 'just war,'" the some 80 participants of the conference said in their appeal at the time.Just war theory is a tradition that uses a series of criteria to evaluate whether use of violence can be considered morally justifiable. First referred to by fourth-century bishop St. Augustine of Hippo, it was later articulated in depth by 13th-century theologian St. Thomas Aquinas and is today outlined by four conditions in the formal Catechism of the Catholic Church.A number of theologians have criticized continued use of the theory in modern times, saying that both the powerful capabilities of modern weapons and evidence of the effectiveness of nonviolent campaigns make it outdated.The Conference of Major Superiors of Men was founded in 1956 and is the canonically recognized conference of Catholic religious brothers, priests and candidates in the U.S. According to figures from Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, there are about 16,000 religious brothers and priests in the U.S.This year's CMSM assembly was held in Scottsdale, Arizona from Aug. 1-4.
Gregory on Charlottesville: Bishops must speak, because silence is approvalArchbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, the highest-ranking African-American prelate in America, said on Monday that all bishops in the country, including those who lead dioceses without tremendous racial diversity, have to speak out in the wake of Charlottesville -- because, he warned, silence will be seen as approval.Especially in the wake of last weekend’s racially charged tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, the highest-ranking African-American prelate in the United States, says it’s time for him and his fellow bishops to step up - and, to be clear, he means all of them.“For bishops who govern local churches that don’t have a very diverse community, they too have to speak,” Gregory told Crux on Monday.“The people in their pews, whether they have African-Americans or Hispanics or Asians, or even Muslim neighbors, they have to know that silence in these matters is construed as approval,” Gregory said.“We all must raise our voices in condemning the vile acts that have taken place, and also standing in solidarity and union with those who are speaking out in their communities,” he said.Gregory spoke on “The Crux of the Matter,” Crux’s weekly radio program that airs Mondays at 1 pm E.T. on the Catholic Channel, Sirius XM 129.Now closing in on 70, Gregory came of age in the 1960s and, as a teenager, was involved with the Civil Rights Movement. He says he recalls being “mesmerized” by the quality of leadership it attracted - pointedly, he added, from both blacks and whites. He said he saw some of that same spirit among the counter-protestors in Charlottesville.“As you look, and as I think the nation looked, at the counter-protestors in Charlottesville, and those people who are voicing their outrage today, the images are of a very diverse group of people,” Gregory said.“There are many, many young white, Hispanic, black, Asian people who are protesting, publicly, because they are offended, and they want to offer hope, I believe, to the next generation, to their children and grandchildren,” he said.Gregory is a Chicago native, who’s previously served as an auxiliary in the Windy City and as bishop of Belleville, Illinois. He remains the lone African-American ever to have served as president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and he picked a whale of a time to do it - 2001 to 2004, during the white-hot period of the sexual abuse scandals, when Gregory is remembered for his firm commitment to a “zero tolerance” policy and his grace under pressure.When the U.S. bishops in 2016 decided to convene a task force on race relations in the wake of a series of police shootings that once again spotlighted racial disparities in America, it was also Gregory they turned to for leadership.On other fronts in his Crux interview, Gregory said:Immigration and the race problem are really two sides of the same coin – whether the United States wants to be one, inclusive country, or not. “If we think that we can solve this problem simply by focusing on race, we will leave the head of this dragon unaffected,” he said.He confirmed that the U.S. bishops are currently working on a successor document to 1979’s “Brothers and Sisters to Us,” the bishops’ last pastoral statement on race. This time, he said, it will have a broader focus, including not simply African-American concerns but also those of Hispanics, Asians, and other communities.He called on Catholic institutions in America to make a serious push to teach the history of African-American Catholicism. “There have been giants within the Catholic church, who’ve been faithful, who’ve been leaders, who’ve been involved with the life of the church, and they happen to have been African-Americans, people of the African diaspora, whatever their origins,” he said. “Their contributions have been extraordinary, and life-giving for our church.”The following are excerpts from the Gregory interview, which I conducted.Crux: Like many Americans, I sat Saturday and watched the images roll in from Charlottesville with a mixture of disbelief and dismay. Where were you, and what was your initial gut reaction?Gregory: On Saturday, I was at a ceremony in one of our parishes celebrating confirmation with about 50 of our young people. When I heard about this event, the ceremony had concluded. I was very grateful that I had spoken to those young people about an issue that, I think, is paramount in this entire episode.We’re a country comprised of peoples of different ethnic, language, cultural and racial heritages, and we have to be, in this country, together, respecting the diversity and the differences, but desiring to be one nation, with no one segment of that nation claiming superiority, authority or privilege over another.The community I was with is largely Hispanic, and many of these wonderful people are living on edge because some of them lack proper documentation. I spoke to those young people, in the ceremony at confirmation, not knowing what was going on in Charlottesville, about their dignity, their importance to the church and to our nations, and how they have a place, a very important place. I was happy to recognize that.Listening to you speak, I’m struck that often we treat the “racial” issue as basically a “black” concern, and immigration as an “Hispanic” topic. Are you saying they’re really two sides of the same coin, meaning whether we’re going to be one, inclusive nation, or not?Exactly.When we last talked in our interview in Orlando [during the July 1-4 “Convocation of Catholic Leaders” sponsored by the U.S. bishops], I referenced the preparation that is now ongoing for a pastoral statement on racism [forthcoming from the U.S. bishops’ conference]. I spoke, and I think we both agreed, that it has to be broader than simply race.The issues that we confront in our nation at this time, and perhaps have always had before us, are about seeing other people as ‘the other,’ as though they don’t belong, as though they don’t have dignity, as though they don’t have rights.The pastoral statement, which will be a successor statement to the bishops’ 1979 statement ‘Brothers and Sisters to Us,’ has to broaden the horizon to include other cultures, other races, other languages, because if we think that we can solve this problem simply by focusing on race, we will leave the head of this dragon unaffected.On the racial dimension, you know I grew up in rural Western Kansas. I was born in 1965, so I came of age in the 1970s. I must have been about 10 when I first realized there was a racial problem in America, and I remember asking my mom what it was all about. God love her, she told me it was in the past, and by the time I grew up it wouldn’t be an issue. Here I am, 52 years old, and it’s obviously still around.If a young kid came up to you today and asked what the racial issue is all about, what would you say?First of all, John, I applaud your mother, because her answer to you, I think, reflects the hope that people of her generation, now our generation, have that we can solve this issue, that it’s not intractable.Having said that, we also have to be realists. The realism we need is to understand that it’s always just under the surface. We have to both offer hope to our young people, but also realism that it’s not a ‘done’ issue.I’ve got a few more years attached to me than you do. As I was growing up, I was a part of the Civil Rights Movement as a teenager. I was always mesmerized by the quality of leadership that came from the African-American community. I was also impressed by those wonderful white people who joined in the leadership and in the struggle. We still have those people around.As you look, and as I think the nation looked, at the counter-protestors in Charlottesville, and those people who are voicing their outrage today, the images are of a very diverse group of people. There are many, many young white, Hispanic, black, Asian people who are protesting, publicly, because they are offended, and they want to offer hope, I believe, to the next generation, to their children and grandchildren.Over the weekend, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and Bishop Frank Dewane, who chairs your committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued a statement explicitly condemning ‘the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-nazism.’ Crux did a story on it, and when we tweeted it out, one African-American priest commented, ‘That’s great, but the real issue is what bishops are going to do to fight racism in their dioceses.’So, let me put that question to you: What should Catholic leaders be doing?First of all, I was very grateful that Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Dewane issued those statements in their capacity as leadership in the conference. That’s important.But I think the observation made by the priest you spoke with is equally important. This is not an issue that can be solved on the global horizon, it has to be solved in the local community. It has to be solved in local dioceses, and in local parishes. Bishops, as I intend to do, must offer guidance to their pastors and to their people, including in Sunday worship opportunities that will be forthcoming. We have to help our children understand the importance of racial dignity and harmony, and that has to be done on the local level.You’ll recall that the task force I led [a body created by the U.S. bishops in 2016, in the wake of a series of racially charged police shootings], in the report I issued, I said that bishops working on the local level, in dialogue with their ecumenical and interfaith partners, have to bring the issue to their people. We as Catholics believe in the principle of subsidiarity, that is, issues, problems and opportunities have to be solved or taken advantage of on the local level.People have to see, and hear, and believe, that they have an important role to play, even if it’s simply to join others in prayer and solidarity.For bishops who govern local churches that don’t have a very diverse community, they too have to speak. The people in their pews, whether they have African-Americans or Hispanics or Asians, or even Muslim neighbors, they have to know that silence in these matters is construed as approval. We all must raise our voices in condemning the vile acts that have taken place, and also standing in solidarity and union with those who are speaking out in their communities.Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville, Illinois, one of your fellow African-American prelates, spoke recently at the National Black Catholic Congress about what he described as the frequent ‘invisibility’ of African-American Catholics in the larger church. Very concretely, what’s one thing Catholic communities all across the country could do to signal that they want to hear the voices of African-American Catholics?Well, Bishop Braxton is certainly one of the most informed and, I would say, erudite, of local African-American leaders. One of the things is to make sure that the voices, the gifts, the art, the music, the language, of the African-American community is woven into our ecclesial experiences. Black art, black music … inviting our kids to study and to know about the wonderful black American heroes and heroines that we have, and who’ve been a part of our church from its very beginning.Going back to the 1960s that were formative years for both of us, one of the key moments in the Civil Rights Movement and the way it played out was highlighting black history. Up until that time, many Americans never even knew about the artists, the poets, the scientists that the African-American community has produced. Black history began to bring that reality into play.We still have a long way to go, but I think a similarly inclusive effort must also be a part of our church experience. Our young people, our adults, should be fully aware that there have been giants within the Catholic church, who’ve been faithful, who’ve been leaders, who’ve been involved with the life of the church, and they happen to have been African-Americans, people of the African diaspora, whatever their origins. Their contributions have been extraordinary, and life-giving for our church.
Co-author of 'ecumenism of hate' article defends intervention as opening important debateThe article claimed some evangelical fundamentalists and Catholic conservatives were using faith to advance a right-wing political agendaA friend of Pope Francis who co-authored an article arguing Catholic and Evangelical groups in the United States were advancing an “ecumenism of hate” has defended the intervention as opening up an important debate. Marcelo Figueroa, a Protestant pastor who has known the Pope for years, wrote in the Vatican-backed La Civilta Cattolica publication that some Evangelical fundamentalists and Catholic conservatives were using faith to advance a right-wing political agenda. It went on to say that President Donald Trump had tapped into this by promoting an “apocalyptic geopolitics” citing the president’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon, a Catholic, as supporting a “theopolitical vision of Christian fundamentalism.”The article, which Figueroa wrote with Fr Antonio Spadaro, another papal ally and editor of La Civilta Cattolica, has provoked a storm of controversy among Catholics in the United States. While the piece was praised in some quarters as a necessary intervention, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia described the authors of being “wilfully ignorant” and said evangelicals and Catholics were working together on issues such as sexuality, freedom of religion and abortion. [Just goes to show how narrow Chaput's perspective is. After the horrific events in Charlottesville, perhaps Chaput will have cause to remember these words from the Spadaro-Figueroa article: "... the most dangerous prospect for this strange ecumenism is attributable to its xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations. The word “ecumenism” transforms into a paradox, into an “ecumenism of hate.” Intolerance is a celestial mark of purism. Reductionism is the exegetical methodology. Ultra-literalism is its hermeneutical key."]But in an interview with The Tablet, Figueroa said the wide ranging reaction shows the importance of the issues raised in the article although admitted they had “no idea it would be a big deal.” He and Fr Spadaro had simply focused on outlining the “religious and ecumenical phenomenon” in the United States and had “tried to be respectful” in their reflections. “All the opinions, reactions and points of view, both for and against, are welcome and show that it was necessary to open this debate,” the pastor, who the Pope appointed as editor-in-chief of the first Argentine version of L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, said. “The article describes a religious and ecumenical phenomenon developing in the United States that both of us know and have studied, although of course no one has the absolute truth or complete knowledge,” he explained in a written Spanish interview. “Although we’ve talked about this phenomenon in the USA it is also emerging in other countries, especially in Latin America where I have been studying ecumenism for more than two decades.”The Argentine pastor said his decision to write came out of a “deep personal dialogue” with Fr Spadaro and was a “reflection and interpretation” of Francis’ words and ecumenical gestures. La Civilta Cattolica is a Jesuit journal with each article vetted by the Holy See’s Secretariat of State. In their article the pair write that the Pope is offering a counter-narrative to a religious agenda based on fear while refusing to give legitimacy to those who want a “holy war” and to build “barrier fences crowned with barbed wire.” Figueroa stressed that there are elements of the “ecumenism of love, encounter, peace, prayer” in the United States and that the article was not an exhaustive study. “The article did not intend to study all the expressions of ecumenism and American religiosity, but to emphasise an aspect we thought was important, opening it up to serious and respectful debate,” he told The Tablet.
The West has failed to do enough to protect Christian minorities in the Middle East, the Syriac Catholic Patriarch has said.“I can tell you, we’ve been not only abandoned by the Western countries, but even we have been betrayed,” Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan told The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego.He made the comments in a recent interview at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Syriac Catholic Parish in El Cajon.While the Christian minority in Syria and Iraq is composed of “peaceful people” who have been “working honestly for the well-being of their countries,” he said, these Christians are neither oil-rich nor do they represent a terrorist threat to the West. Therefore, he said, they have been essentially ignored by the West and “abandoned to our destiny.”The Syriac Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic church in communion with the Pope. Among the Catholic hierarchy, a patriarch is outranked only by the pope.Patriarch Younan, whose see is based in Beirut, visited Our Mother of Perpetual Help on July 24 as one stop on his pastoral visit to the Syriac Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance, which has its headquarters in New Jersey. The eparchy includes all Syriac Catholic parishes and missions in the United States and Canada.The patriarch was accompanied by the head of the eparchy, Bishop Yousif B Habash, and Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yousif Abba of Baghdad.In conversation with The Southern Cross, Patriarch Younan lamented the “horrendous war” in Syria that is now in its seventh year and he contested the claim, which has been made by Western governments and media, that there is a moderate Muslim faction among the rebel forces.“It’s a lie,” he said.Meanwhile, the situation in Iraq remains grim, he said. In that country, since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, “chaos” continues to reign, he said, and more than 140,000 Christians — about a third of whom are Syriac Catholics — have fled the country.This exodus has been a “real tragedy” and poses a grave threat to the continued existence of the region’s Christian community, which is not seeking any special privileges but simply the ability to live and worship without fear, he said.“We Christians in the Middle East … are the indigenous communities of these countries,” Patriarch Younan said, noting that it was in this region that Christianity was born. “We’ve been there for millennia and we have been always persecuted. And now … our very survival is at stake.”Many Syriac Catholics have simply given up on the possibility of stable government in their homeland and have relocated to other countries, like the United States, where they have been able to practice their faith in freedom and safety at parishes such as Our Mother of Perpetual Help.Patriarch Younan, who as a priest helped establish Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in 1994, said he hopes that the opportunities afforded by life in the United States will allow these members of his flock to grow even stronger in their faith. Through his pastoral visit, he hoped to impart a hopeful message to the first-generation immigrants and to encourage younger generations to walk a “path of joyful service.”Regrettably, Patriarch Younan said, Western leaders have succumbed to “pandering” and utilizing “politically correct language” in their dealings with the Middle East.He said that, unless the United States and European nations demonstrate that they have the political will to speak honestly with the region’s leaders, helping them to create “a civilized constitution” and insisting that they separate religion and politics, “there is no hope for the future.”
He carried his doubts and disappointment across miles and decades, from childhood to adulthood, and finally at the age of 48 to the kitchen table of a modest house outside of Buffalo. There, he would ask an elderly aunt and uncle to help him answer the question that had troubled him all his life: Why had his father always seemed to dislike him so much?With his parents already dead, Jim Graham pleaded with his Aunt Kathryn and Uncle Otto to tell him the truth about his family. Finally, Kathryn unfolded a newsletter published by a Catholic religious order and slid it across the table. She jabbed a finger at a picture of a sad, balding figure wearing a priest’s clerical collar.“Only the principals know for sure,” she said, “but this may be your father.”Jim Graham studied the picture. Those were his eyes, his nose, his mouth. Then he skimmed the obituary of the priest, the Rev. Thomas Sullivan, a cleric who had graduated from Boston College and trained for the priesthood in Tewksbury. If a life can have a crystallizing moment, for Jim Graham that 1993 meeting was it, discovering that his father might have been a Catholic priest, rather than John Graham, the distant man who raised him with scarcely a kind or comforting word.Jim Graham couldn’t know in that moment that the stunning secret which had seemed his alone was not that unusual. By any reasonable measure, there are thousands of others who have strong evidence that they are the sons and daughters of Catholic priests, though most are unaware that they have so much company in their pain. In Ireland, Mexico, Poland, Paraguay,and other countries, in American cities big and small — indeed, virtually anywhere the church has a presence — the children of priests form an invisible legion of secrecy and neglect, a Spotlight Team review has found.Their exact number can’t be known, but with more than 400,000 priests worldwide, many of them inconstant in their promise of celibacy, the potential for unplanned children is vast. And this also comes through loud and plain: The sons and daughters of priests often grow up without the love and support of their fathers, and are often pressured or shamed into keeping the existence of the relationship a secret. They are the unfortunate victims of a church that has, for nearly 900 years, forbidden priests to marry or have sex, but has never set rules for what priests or bishops must do when a clergyman fathers a child.The church likewise makes no formal provision for the support — emotional and financial — of the mothers involved, or their children, allowing priests who father children to treat their secret offspring as a crisis to be managed rather than a life to be nurtured.Sometimes, these sons and daughters are young when they learn of their father’s identity, and first feel the absence of a true paternal presence and bond.“All I ever wanted was for him to take me out in public for an ice cream and say, ‘I’m so proud of my daughter,’ ” said Chiara Villar, a 36-year-old suburban Toronto woman who has known that her father was a priest since she was a toddler, but was told to refer to him outside the home as an uncle. “I just wondered why he couldn’t be my dad, so I started to take the blame on myself.”Others, like Jim Graham, make the discovery as adults. For a few, the knowledge comes as a relief, the answer to years of longstanding doubts and troubling questions. But many others are shattered by the blunt truth, and their feelings of disillusionment and abandonment can lead to lives scarred by sundered relationships, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts. Many find their faith in the church itself broken, as they recognize that an institution held out as a beacon of moral truth has countenanced, or looked past, priests who father children but shun a father’s responsibilities of support, attention, and love.Emily Perry learned that her father was a priest in perhaps the most shocking way possible: Her older brother saw a TV report about a Salem priest who had fathered two children and later abandoned their mother to die when she overdosed on sleeping pills in 1973. Perry’s brother soon learned that the Rev. James D. Foley was their father and shared the cruel news.“The first time I went to church after the story came out and I found out he was my father, it really bothered me,” said Perry, who was 31 and living in Stoughton when she learned the truth in 2002. “I walked into the church and said, ‘Wow, this is more important to you than your own child or the woman who bore your own children?’ James Perry and his sister, Emily, discovered that their father was a priest, the Rev. James D. Foley, and that he had left their mother under disturbing circumstances.Still more children of priests, especially those put up for adoption, never know the identity of their biological fathers.Church regulations provide nothing in the way of direction to priests on what they should do if they father children, relying on the priests’ generosity — or, simply, their conscience — to determine how much support to provide. And though priests have doubtless been fathering children throughout the long history of the celibacy requirement, canon law is silent on the subject of a bishop’s responsibility when one of his priests fathers a child.Some priests in cases reviewed by the Globe took their responsibility seriously. They were devoted fathers, albeit in private. Some promised the women who mothered their children that they would leave the priesthood, though few ever did; and still others consoled the women with assurances that it was only a matter of time before the church dropped the celibacy requirement, which pope after pope, including Francis, has declined to do.But even in cases where the priest tried to be a good father, the tension between the demands of faith and the demands of family can be wrenching. Villar’s mother finally stopped believing the man who fathered Chiara would keep his word when he vowed to abandon the priesthood; she wound up marrying another man.Often, the priests failed to take full financial or legal responsibility for their children, and neither the church nor the women who bore their children took any legal action. In 10 cases reviewed closely by the Globe, only two of the mothers went to court to obtain child support, while others left it up to the priests to decide how much to provide for their offspring, and found scant help there.Six children received no financial support from their biological fathers at all. And priests who did provide child support made the payments, in some cases, on the condition that their identities remain secret.In some cases, the demand for secrecy was unnecessary. The mothers were devout Catholics who deferred to the men who were not only the fathers of their children, but representatives of God. Their deference echoes that of victims of clergy sexual abuse who told the Spotlight Team investigating that scandal that they were often reluctant to report their abusers, imagining they themselves were somehow to blame for what had been done to them, since their abusers were considered holy men.The plight of the children of priests is a global phenomenon, but a strikingly little-studied subject. Much of what is known must be inferred from studies like A.W. Richard Sipe’s “A Secret World” — still the landmark examination of priests and sexuality 27 years after its publication. Sipe found that nearly 30 percent of Catholic clergy were in regular or occasional sexual relationships with women, while approximately half were leading celibate lives.Vincent Doyle, the son of a priest and founder of Coping International, a website that offers support for the children of priests, noted that if only 1 percent of the 400,000 priests worldwide have fathered a child, there would be a minimum of 4,000 sons and daughters of priests who may need emotional and other assistance from the church.Priests fathering children has been a fact of church life for so long that the Irish, to name just one example, have put a name to it. The Irish surname McEntaggart, for instance, comes from the Gaelic for “son of a priest,” while the surname McAnespi is commonly thought to mean “son of a bishop.”It was a plain fact of life, but not of public discourse.“People knew, but didn’t talk,” Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told the Globe.But global leaders are beginning to pull back the curtain on the phenomenon. Three years ago, in a blistering report on clergy sexual abuse, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child worried that Catholic priests were coercing women who bore their children into remaining silent in exchange for financial support.The UN committee asked the Vatican to “assess the number of children fathered by Catholic priests, find out who they are and take all necessary measures to ensure that the rights of those children to know and to be cared for by their fathers is respected.” The committee gave the Vatican until Sept. 1 of this year to respond.Recently, the Vatican’s office at the United Nations in Geneva invited Doyle to meet with its ambassador, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, adding that the office is “constantly” working on a response, although it declined to provide details.“Since we are getting closer to the finalization of the work we are not in the position to release any declaration or forecast on the Report,” read the e-mail Doyle received.MARIA MERCEDES DOUGLAS met the man who would endlessly complicate her life at an upscale bar while visiting friends in Buffalo in the early 1970s. Extraordinarily handsome, with jet black hair and a chiseled jaw, Anthony Inneo wasn’t wearing his clerical collar, Douglas recalled, and claimed to be a social worker. Before long, the two struck up a friendly conversation, mostly about real estate investing. “He would never give you the idea he was a priest,” she said in a Globe interview.After the encounter, Douglas, who had been living in Madrid, returned to Spain and resumed her life. She exchanged letters with Inneo and, after running low on funds, decided to move to Buffalo to be near her friends. There, she quickly found a job as a music teacher and began an intimate relationship with the man who had charmed her in the Buffalo bar. When Inneo finally told her that he was a Catholic priest, she could hardly believe it.“It was like a bad joke,” Douglas said.Inneo promised to leave the priesthood. Douglas, a working, single mother who had fled the Communist regime in her native Cuba, chose to believe him. She traveled the short distance to Niagara Falls, Canada, where Inneo served as a priest, and moved into the church rectory. She said she worked as a housekeeper, played the organ during church funerals, and continued her intimate relationship with a man who had promised to live a life without sex.All the while, Douglas said, Inneo pocketed the money she earned, promising to invest it in a better future — principally real estate — that they would share when he left the priesthood.“ ‘Just give me a chance, just give me a chance,’ he always said,” Douglas recalled.Douglas resolved to be patient, until she was faced with another surprise. “I got pregnant with Chiara,” she recalled. “It was a shock. I didn’t know what to do.”She told Inneo, but he still wasn’t ready to leave the priesthood and she grew convinced he never would. She had met his domineering mother and other family members while posing as Inneo’s “friend” and felt certain his family’s religious beliefs and his own devotion to the clerical life were too strong to be set aside. She was sure he would never openly acknowledge he had fathered Chiara Villar.The truth would have to remain their secret, a choice that, however generously intended, would prove damaging to Villar. “I said, ‘Your father is a secret and you have to keep it a secret.’ Because Anthony would deny he was her father and it would be hurtful to her,” Douglas told the Globe.Her mother’s admonition could scarcely have been more confusing to Villar. Just before she started kindergarten, in the mid-1980s, she was told never to let anyone know that the man she knew as “Papi” was her dad. And if anyone asked, she was to tell them Inneo was her uncle.Always a dutiful daughter, Villar took the instructions to heart, though it was impossible for her to understand why she had to lie — or to imagine the price she would later pay for living that lie.“I don’t think either one of them understood the psychological trauma that telling me that I had to lie would cause,” Villar said.Inneo had been a frequent visitor to the small apartment where Villar lived with her mother and her older sister. He delighted in lifting his daughter high in the air so she could reach for his nose, and he took hours of video of himself playing with his baby girl. “I was the light of his world,” Villar said.But the lie governed her life.When her mother dropped the young girl off for a visit with her father at the rectory, Villar would sprint from her mother’s car to where Inneo was waiting by an open door. “I’d quickly run inside because I was afraid of anyone seeing me with my dad, because it was clear to me I was to hush up,” she said.As she grew older, Villar occasionally played the rebellious teenager during these visits, lighting a cigarette or telling her father she was having sex, which wasn’t true, to spur his concern and remind him she needed his attention. For a few hours the act would work, until the visit drew to a close and her Papi once again became Father Inneo.“Behind closed doors, he was my dad, but in an instant, when I walked out to my mom’s car, it was like, ‘OK, Chiara, God bless you.’ It was all so Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Villar said.The burden of secrecy never affected Villar’s grades at a local Catholic school. In fact, she was an A student and the prom queen. By all appearances, she was doing beautifully.She wasn’t. Feeling guilty and unworthy of her father’s love, she punished herself in various ways, including regular cutting.“I started to take the blame on myself. I started to contemplate whether I was even important enough to live. I started to cut myself because I loved this man so much,” Villar said.THOUGH CHURCH LEADERS seldom discuss it, evidence that priests fathering children is a systemic problem within the church has grown steadily more urgent — and public — over the last 30 years.In the 1990s, leaders of several women’s religious orders issued a series of confidential reports to the Vatican saying that the sexual abuse of nuns by priests living in Africa and other parts of the developing world required immediate attention. One report described a 1988 incident in Malawi in which the local bishop dismissed leaders of a women’s congregation after they complained that local priests had impregnated 29 sisters.In the report, Sister Maura O’Donohue said she was aware of similar incidents in more than 20 countries, including the United States, Ireland, and Italy.In another report, O’Donohue, a doctor with the Medical Missionaries of Mary, wrote that a leading African priest said “quite openly” that “celibacy in the African context means a priest does not get married but does not mean he does not have children.”According to the National Catholic Reporter, which reviewed the still-confidential reports and revealed their existence in 2001, the senior nuns who described the problem also provided documentation that in “a few extreme instances priests impregnated nuns and then encouraged them to have abortions.”But, as it did with early reports of clergy sexual abuse, the Holy See treated the pregnancies as an isolated phenomenon, rather than a sign of a widespread but hidden problem. “A few negative situations must not make us forget the often heroic faithfulness of the vast majority of monks, nuns, and priests,” a Vatican spokesman said at the time.Meanwhile, there were fresh accounts of priests who had fathered children. And the drumbeat of scandal grew louder, even as the church continued to treat each incident as an unfortunate exception.Perhaps most famously, Eamonn Casey, a charismatic bishop in Galway, was forced to resign in 1992 following revelations that he had fathered a child with an American woman, Annie Murphy, who teamed up with a writer to publish a gushy book about their affair, “Forbidden Fruit.”Annie Murphy and her son, Peter, then 17 and living in Connecticut, became instant celebrities. “I talked to an Irish [reporter] in the morning and went to school and thought, ‘OK, that will be it,’ ” Peter Murphy recently told the Globe. “But when I came home, I’d say there were more than 100 reporters slathering round our condo complex.”A stream of similar scandals followed Casey’s downfall, each publicly treated as an outlier:In 2006, a Mexican priest, the Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, was forced to resign and relinquish his position as leader of the influential religious order the Legionaries of Christ after formal charges by the church that he sexually abused seminarians and fathered several children by at least two women.In 2009, the president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, acknowledged he was the father of a 2-year-old boy who was conceived while Lugo was a Catholic bishop. The mother said that Lugo began the affair when she was 16 and studying for her confirmation.In 2012, the popular Los Angeles bishop Gabino Zavala quietly resigned after revealing to church officials that he was the father of two teenage children who were living with their mother in another state. The archdiocese said it would offer the mother support, including help with college expenses.There are many more. Anecdotal evidence is so abundant, in fact, that at least one noted Catholic scholar believes the children of priests may outnumber the victims of clergy sexual abuse. In the United States alone, more than 18,500 people have alleged they were victims of clergy sexual abuse since 1950, according to information gathered by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and reviewed by the Globe.. Paul Sullins, a priest and sociologist at The Catholic University of America, said his belief that priests with children may be more numerous than priests who abuse children is based on common sense: “It’s a much less common impulse for an adult male to want to have sex with a child than it is to have sex with a woman.”Sullins, who has a wife and children, is one of about 125 Catholic priests in the United States who were permitted to remain married after serving as clergy in the Episcopal Church and converting to Catholicism.Yet in his recent book, “Keeping the Vow: The Untold Story of Married Catholic Priests,” Sullins favors maintaining the celibacy requirement.“Celibacy is a difficult bar for a young man to overcome to become priest, so young men who do overcome that bar are going to be the most highly committed young men,” he said in an interview. “I think that has tremendous advantages for the church.”JIM GRAHAM LEFT his elderly aunt and uncle in the Buffalo suburb of Kenmore that day in 1993 with a stirring need to know whether it was true, as his aunt had suggested, that the Rev. Thomas Sullivan was, in fact, his father.Finding the answer would not be easy because “the principals,” as his aunt called them, were dead. Sullivan had died in March 1993, according to the obituary his aunt showed him. And Graham’s mother, Helen, had died the previous November.But Graham soon learned that there might be documents that told the story. He learned from a close friend of his mother’s that she had moved from the Buffalo area to Manhattan with Jim when he was still a toddler.There, she entrusted him to the care of a Catholic orphanage, the New York Foundling Hospital, and took a nursing job at a Queens hospital.When Graham received his records from the orphanage, he felt he’d struck gold: A cover letter referred to John Graham, the Buffalo gas station owner who had raised him, as his stepfather. And the records referred to Jim Graham as an “o.w. child,” or a child born out of wedlock.He was not John Graham’s son after all.The records, more than 30 typed pages covering the year 1947, indicated that Helen Graham had hoped to gain sole legal custody of Jim Graham as well as two older sisters, both fathered by John Graham and still living in Buffalo. The records referred to a sympathetic “alleged father” of young Jim Graham living nearby and said that Helen Graham was so fearful that her husband would discover her whereabouts that she was going by her maiden name, Helen O’Connell.A family photo showed Jim Graham with his mother, Helen Graham, at Rockaway Beach in New York in 1947, when he was a full-time resident of the Foundling Hospital, an orphanage.She had good reason to fear: John Graham was planning to divorce his errant wife and win legal custody of all three children. He soon headed to New York City to gather evidence that Helen was having an affair.A transcript of their divorce proceedings, which a detective agency located for Jim Graham, shows that in the early morning hours of July 29, 1947, John Graham, his brother Otto Graham, a friend, and several private investigators went to an apartment at 332 W. 45th St., where they believed John Graham’s wife was staying. After persuading the superintendent to give them a key to room number 5, they barged in on an unsuspecting couple.“When you walked into the room what did you see?” the judge in the divorce case asked Otto Graham, the elderly uncle Jim would later confront at his breakfast table.“We saw a man getting out of bed. He was unclothed. He was just slipping on a pair of pants,” Otto Graham answered.“What else did you see in the room?” the judge asked.“We found Mrs. Graham in the room. She was just getting out of bed and putting a smock on,” Otto Graham answered.“Did you know the man?” the judge asked Otto Graham.“Yes, sir,” he replied.“Where did you know the man from?” the judge asked.“From Buffalo,” Otto Graham said.That was all he was asked to say, but it was enough: John Graham won full custody of all three children. After that, Helen O’Connell made yearly visits to Buffalo to see Jim Graham and his two older sisters.The fate of her lover was scarcely less bleak. Jim Graham obtained some of Sullivan’s personnel records from the Eastern Province of the Oblates in Washington, D.C., and they told the story of a priest facing an emotional crisis after something “serious” happened in Buffalo around the time Jim Graham was born.First, Sullivan was transferred from Holy Angels Church in Buffalo to the Oblate College in Newburg, N.Y., on or before Jan. 1, 1947, about the time Jim Graham’s mother left for New York City. The transfer was made, the records say, “to protect him and save him” from “a serious occasion.”A month later, however, Sullivan departed the college without leaving a forwarding address, saying he did not intend to return. “I have heard that he wishes to be left strictly alone and that he is through with the Oblates,” one notation said.‘I look so much like my father. I must have been a constant reminder of the man who took his wife away.’Still, it wasn’t long before Sullivan had a change of heart. The records show that just two months after John and Otto Graham caught Helen Graham in bed with her lover, Sullivan attempted to return to the life of a priest.It would not be easy. The Oblates suspended many of his privileges, and, for the next 16 years, Sullivan lived on the grounds of a retreat and religious shrine in upstate New York, translating religious texts and performing menial tasks.Eventually, after Sullivan was deemed “rehabilitated,” and after completing assignments in Georgia, Nebraska, and Ohio, he returned to the Lowell area, where he had attended the local schools, and moved into the Oblate Infirmary in Tewksbury. He died there in 1993 after what his obituary describes as “a long illness.”Jim Graham still visits Sullivan’s grave in the small cemetery on the infirmary grounds. He now thinks he understands why his stepfather, John Graham, treated him so indifferently.“I look so much like my father,” Graham said. “I must have been a constant reminder of the man who took his wife away.”Today, Graham is seeking official confirmation from the Oblate order in Rome that Sullivan was his father, but to no avail. The Globe attempted to interview officials in the Oblate order, but requests delivered through mail and e-mail remain unanswered.“I have tenaciously and respectfully approached the church, all the way to Rome, to tell me the truth,” Graham said. “So far, they have not cooperated.”Jim Graham visited the grave of the man he believes was his father, the Rev. Thomas S. Sulllivan, in Tewksbury.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe StaffTHE CHURCH’S FAILURE to act in his case with either candor or mercy left Jim Graham one painful step short of a certain answer to the question that drove him for so long. More painful still was that he would never have a chance to try to forge a relationship with Father Sullivan, dead by the time Graham began his quest. He will never know whether Sullivan would have embraced or shunned him, his secret child.Many other children of priests do get that chance, but often find frustration and sorrow in the effort to build a paternal bond. Of the sons and daughters of priests interviewed by the Globe, no one tried harder to win a father’s love than Chiara Villar. After marrying and giving birth to twin girls, Villar and her husband began making weekly visits to the Rev. Anthony Inneo at his home.Before long, Inneo was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. And when Inneo’s family moved him to a home for the elderly without telling her, Villar was heartbroken.But Villar eventually found her father’s address, and, when she visited him, her father no longer recognized her. She showed him photos of his two granddaughters on her phone and told him that they loved him. Then, Villar bade her Papi a final farewell.“He hid me all his life and would ultimately get Alzheimer’s and truly forget me,” she said.
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