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Abuse survivor says new Vatican panel must achieve real change

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Catholic News Service

DUBLIN — The lone clerical abuse survivor nominated by Pope Francis to sit on the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said the commission needs to achieve concrete change in order to “show other survivors that the church is going to get it right.”

Marie Collins, who was abused by a chaplain as a sick 13-year-old at Crumlin hospital in Dublin in the 1960s, told Catholic News Service that many survivors will be watching the new Vatican commission “with interest, but many will have written it off as merely a PR exercise.”

Irish abuse victim Marie Collins, left, who was assaulted as a 13-year-old by a hospital chaplain in her native Ireland, attends a 2012 vigil in Rome. Collins is the lone clerical abuse survivor nominated by Pope Francis to sit on the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

“Survivors will not be satisfied with more words or promises, they need to see real change,” she said.

Collins, who campaigns on behalf of abuse victims, said her priority is “a strong worldwide child protection policy which would include sanctions for any member of the church in a position of authority who ignored these rules.”

She added that too many bishops who have protected abusive priests have been allowed to remain in place undisciplined.

“I would like to see the way survivors and their families have been treated change. The concentration on often-abusive legalistic responses instead of caring for those hurt needs to end,” she said.

The cultural attitude within the church and laws that “categorized child abuse as a moral lapse rather than a criminal offense also have to be tackled,” she told CNS.

The Dubliner is seeking greater transparency because “the secrecy of the past led to enormous failures.”

The initial eight members of the commission will be free to decide what issues they are going to deal with, how they are going to work and who else will join the commission, Collins told CNS.

Though it is in its early stages, she said her understanding is that the commission will make its recommendations directly to Pope Francis and will not communicate through any Vatican departments.

Asked who else she would like to see on the new commission, she told CNS she would like to see Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin because he “is the template for how child protection should be handled at ground level,” and also Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who really “got it” when it came to addressing clerical sexual abuse.

Collins told CNS that she met another commission member, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, in 2011 as he led the Vatican investigation of the Archdiocese of Dublin and was “very impressed with his openness and his ability to listen.”

She also worked with another member of the commission, Baroness Sheila Hollins, during the Toward Healing Symposium at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 2012.

“I feel we worked very well together. She is very devoted to the cause of the vulnerable adult and has great expertise in this field. I am looking forward to working with Cardinal Sean and Baroness Hollins.”

However, Collins said she was “disappointed” listening to Pope Francis’ recent comments when he said no one has done more on the issue of child sexual abuse than the church, and yet the church is the only one to be attacked.

[“He seemed to miss the point that the huge anger directed at the Catholic Church has not been caused by the fact it had abusers in its ranks but by the unique situation whereby those in authority were willing to protect these men. This has been shown in inquiry after inquiry around the world,” she told CNS.

She said it was up to the new Vatican commission to change the pope’s mind on this.

Asked what it means to have a survivor on the commission, Collins said in the past there had been a fear of survivors and “an inability to handle their justified anger.”

At other times, survivors were seen as people who could be placated by words of apology but this “underestimated the damage done to lives and the hurt and anger and thirst for justice that so many survivors feel.”

“In this context it is a big step for the church to include a survivor on the commission, but a very necessary one,” she commented.

She has already been contacted by many survivors and survivor groups from various parts of the world. The majority responded positively, wanting her to take their particular concerns to the commission. She said some have suggested that she is a “token survivor” appointed just to give the church good public relations.

“I have remained a Catholic but not without much difficulty and struggle,” she told CNS. “There have been periods when practicing my faith has been impossible. I have tried to separate the institution of the church from the faith. My belief in God has never wavered. Being appointed to the commission has not changed anything in this regard.”

 

 

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World Meeting of Families in Phila. next year will engage all society

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next year will be open to families and people of different faiths, including no faith at all, to engage the wider society in dialogue and to serve and strengthen all families, organizers said.

The gathering Sept. 22-27, 2015, “is meant to be a gift not just for Catholics in Philadelphia, but for every person of good will in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the surrounding regions and the wider world,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, center, looks on as Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, right, speaks during a press conference with a delegation from Pennsylvania at the Vatican March 25 to discuss the September 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Meetings that bring together thousands of people from many different parts of the world with different experiences are a source of “tremendous joy” and grace and “have the power to transform, in deeply positive ways, the whole public community,” the archbishop said at a Vatican news conference March 25.

Archbishop Chaput visited the Vatican with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter as part of a delegation of government, religious and community leaders meeting with Vatican officials to plan the 2015 international family gathering. They also expected to have an audience with Pope Francis during their March 24-26 visit.

While the delegation leaders vowed to convince the pope to travel to Philadelphia to celebrate the closing Mass of the eighth World Meeting of Families, Archbishop Chaput said confirmation of the pope using the occasion to make his first pastoral visit to North America was not expected “anytime soon.”

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which is helping prepare the meeting, said confirmation could come as late as six months before the event.

The aim of the global gathering will be to help all families of the world and accompany them “with an intelligent, courageous and loving” pastoral approach, the Italian archbishop said.

Archbishop Paglia called for intelligence in being able to read the current situation of today’s families; “courage to face the complex and numerous problems; (and) love for trying to solve them, keeping ever present the Gospel of the family and life.”

Vatican and church organizers are looking for the widest participation and input possible, the two archbishops said, including from members and representatives of other Christian churches and communities, different religions and women and men who are not religious, but are committed to “bringing peace and good will to our world.”

People from different Christian communities and faiths who place value on the family “can teach us something,” Archbishop Chaput said, and “we are sincere about being available and open to all kinds of input.”

When asked to what extent the gathering will open discussion up to the realities of single-parent homes, the divorced and same-sex couples, Archbishop Chaput said the church “always embraces people who differ with the church and I hope that’s a stance we all take.”

“I think all of us here have someone in our family who is divorced and maybe remarried again,” he said, or “have family members who are in a same-sex relationship.”

These are the reality facing many people today, “so not to deal with those kinds of issues” would be to ignore the situation many people live in, he said.

“But we’re not going to start to focus on the problems and the conflicts,” Archbishop Chaput said. “We certainly want everyone to have a chance to speak when those opportunities are provided, but we’re not going to be promoting positions that are contrary to the church’s expectations about family life either.”

It is a Catholic gathering and it will emphasize Catholic teaching about the family and openness to life, he said.

A marriage is more than problems. “It’s a grace, it’s a gift and we really want to start there and not start off with problems and differences and condemning. We want it to be an occasion of honest reflection, the joyful commitment to family life,” he said.

Corbett and Nutter told Catholic News Service they are excited about hosting the World Meeting of Families and would love to have Pope Francis attend. They cited a real need to help today’s families.

The family is “so important to society and, particularly in this day and age, I think we see very much a greater need for greater emphasis on the family,” Corbett said.

More attention and focus on the family “would help solve some of the problems of cities and countries,” he said.

Nutter said making Philadelphia the destination of a papal visit would have “great meaning to the millions of Catholics and other people of faith” in the United States.

The pope “is a world leader, and so whether you are Catholic or not, people are paying attention to what’s going on with Pope Francis, and certainly with the Catholic Church,” he said.

 

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Today is the feast of the Annunciation

March 25th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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Gospel

Luke  1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God

to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,

to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,

of the house of David,

Detail from an icon depicting the Annunciation is from St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Edmonton, Alberta. CNS/Western Catholic Reporter

and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

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‘God’s Not Dead,’ he’s stacked this drama’s deck

March 25th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , , ,

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Catholic News Service

A classic bit of impertinence from 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche notwithstanding, it seems that “God’s Not Dead.”

Willie and Korie Robertson star in the movie “God’s Not Dead.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. (CNS photo/Icon Media Group)

While that may be a welcome piece of news to those who were entertaining any doubts, the message movie that endeavors to proclaim such reassurance from the big screen turns out to be earnest but ineffective.

Pity poor college freshman Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper). No sooner does Josh stroll onto the picturesque campus of his new university than he encounters Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo), the militantly atheistic faculty member who presides over the introductory philosophy course for which committed believer Josh has ill-advisedly registered.

Nearly the first order of business in Radisson’s class is for each student to write out, sign and pass to the end of the row the succinct formula: “God is dead.” Not surprisingly, Josh demurs; astoundingly, no one else in the packed lecture hall seems to have the least objection to fulfilling so flagrantly inappropriate a requirement.

Josh’s stand-out obstinacy drives his infuriated instructor to challenge him to a multipart debate on the subject of the Almighty’s existence, with Josh’s classmates as the jury and the lad’s grade for the course hanging in the balance.

Josh takes up the gauntlet, despite the active discouragement of his believing but ambitious girlfriend Kara (Cassidy Gifford), who thinks he should go with the flow to avoid ruining their perfect future together. He is pre-law, after all.

So the stage is set for a rather dreary exchange of views, angry on Radisson’s side, meek but steadfast on Josh’s’ during which such names as Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking get bandied about for one side’s benefit or the other’s. Josh. no flat-Earther he. insists that both the Big Bang theory and the hurried pace of early evolution weigh on the side of a Creator and correspond to the symbolic details contained in the Book of Genesis.

Subplots abound around this core story. One involves strictly brought-up Muslim lass Ayisha (Hadeel Sittu). Though she dislikes the headscarf her traditionalist father makes her wear, and ditches it as soon as he drops her off on campus each morning, her inclusion in the movie seems, initially, to hold out the hope that the filmmakers are taking a broad view, and that believers of all stripes are eventually to be seen rallying to the cause.

Alas, not a bit of it. Ayisha harbors a secret, one that only reinforces the rigid presuppositions on offer here.

Other characters being made to conform to the script’s cramped and caricatured worldview include crassly materialistic business exec Mark (Dean Cain), his hippy-dippy main squeeze Amy (Trisha LaFache) and Josh’s fellow student and newfound pal, People’s Republic of China-bred Martin (Paul Kwo), to whom any mention of matters divine apparently comes as a shock.

On the side of the angels, meanwhile, lurk the local minister, Rev. Dave (David A.R. White), his missionary best friend, Rev. Jude (Benjamin Ochieng), as well as Radisson’s beleaguered (and possibly live-in) love interest Mina (Cory Oliver), a semi-closeted Christian for whose timidly proffered ideas her companion has only scorn.

There might be the kernel of an intriguing documentary buried within director Harold Cronk’s stacked-deck drama, given the extent of real-life academic hostility toward religion. But even faith-filled moviegoers will sense the claustrophobia of the echo chamber within which this largely unrealistic picture unfolds.

The film contains mature themes, brief domestic violence, a potentially upsetting accident scene and vaguely implied cohabitation. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG, parental guidance suggested. Some material may be not suitable for children.

 

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Our Lenten Journey: Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 25th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized

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Click here for today’s Scripture readings:
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/032514.cfm

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Mixed results for Catholic schools in spring sports openers

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For The Dialog

 

Spring sports kicked off over the weekend. We’ll start with baseball.

St. Elizabeth was on the wrong end of a 3-0 decision at home vs. Conrad on Saturday. Conrad pitcher Mike Awtry threw the complete game, giving up three hits and striking out eight. St. Elizabeth pitcher Jared Harrison surrendered three runs in five innings and had one of his team’s three hits, a double. Read more »

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A preview of the first full week of boys spring sports

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For The Dialog

 

The first full week of games kicks off this week and here is the boys’ preview of games and matches this week. As always outdoor sports are weather-permitting, so check the school’s website.

This afternoon, Appoquinimink visits St. Mark’s for a boys lacrosse game at 3:45 p.m. The Spartans are coming off a tough 7-5 loss to an out-of-state team over the weekend. It is Appo’s first game of the season; they lost in the first round of last season’s tournament to the Spartans, 15-5. Read more »

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Michigan bishops call judge’s ruling on same-sex marriage ban ‘regrettable’

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LANSING, Mich. — A U.S. District Court judge’s March 21 ruling that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional does not change the fact “marriage is and can only ever be a unique relationship solely between one man and one woman,” said the state’s Catholic bishops.

“Nature itself, not society, religion or government, created marriage. Nature, the very essence of humanity as understood through historical experience and reason, is the arbiter of marriage, and we uphold this truth for the sake of the common good,” they said in a statement released by the Michigan Catholic Conference in Lansing.

“The biological realities of male and female and the complementarity they each bring to marriage uniquely allows for the procreation of children,” they said.

The Catholic conference is the public policy arm of the state’s bishops.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a Detroit-area couple who are raising three children together, filed suit in 2012 to challenge the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The law also prohibits same-sex couples from jointly adopting children; only heterosexual married couples are allowed to do so.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in Detroit overturned the same-sex marriage ban, which voters passed overwhelmingly in 2004, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution because it deprives same-sex couples the same rights guaranteed to heterosexual couples. He also said barring same-sex couples from adopting children was unconstitutional.

“Many Michigan residents have religious convictions whose principles govern the conduct of their daily lives and inform their own viewpoints about marriage,” Friedman wrote in his 31-page ruling. “Nonetheless, these views cannot strip other citizens of the guarantees of equal protection under the law.”

Friedman did not stay his ruling, and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a request for an emergency stay with a federal appeals court March 21 to prevent same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses immediately.

Late March 22 the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati granted the stay until at least March 26. Before the appeals court acted, however, several hundred same-sex couples went to county clerks’ offices around Michigan to get married.

With Friedman’s ruling, Michigan becomes the 18th state to allow same-sex marriage.

An AP story said that DeBoer and Rowse were not among the couples who went immediately to get a marriage license. The couple will get married, DeBoer told AP, “when we know our marriage is forever binding.”

In their statement, Michigan’s Catholic bishops said the judge’s decision “to redefine the institution of marriage by declaring Michigan’s Marriage Amendment unconstitutional strikes at the very essence of family, community and human nature.”

“In effect, this decision advances a misunderstanding of marriage, and mistakenly proposes that marriage is an emotional arrangement that can simply be redefined to accommodate the dictates of culture and the wants of adults,” they said. “Judge Friedman’s ruling that also finds unconstitutional the state’s adoption law is equally of grave concern.”

“Every child has the right to both a mother and a father and, indeed, every child does have lineage to both,” the bishops said. “We recognize not every child has the opportunity to grow in this environment, and we pray for those single mothers and fathers who labor each day to care for their children at times amid great challenges and difficulties. They deserve our constant support and encouragement.”

The bishops declared, “Persons with same-sex attraction should not be judged, but rather accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

“We rejoice with those brothers and sisters in Christ living with same-sex attraction who have found great freedom through Jesus’ call to chastity communicated through the church,” they said, adding that those struggling to live “in harmony” with church teaching on sexuality continue to pray and seek the Lord “with the help and guidance of the church.”

The Catholic Church teaches that sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman is sinful.

They also said they would work through the Michigan Catholic Conference and with other supporters of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage to appeal Friedman’s “most regrettable ruling.”

Signing the statement were Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron; Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing; Bishop Paul J. Bradley of Kalamazoo; Bishop Joseph R. Cistone of Saginaw; Bishop John F. Doerfler of Marquette; Bishop David J. Walkowiak of Grand Rapids; and Msgr. Francis J. Murphy, diocesan administrator of Gaylord.

 

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Two priesthoods that span 75 years of ministry in the diocese

March 24th, 2014 Posted in Our Diocese Tags: ,

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Father Williams Jennings, left, ordained in 1940, is the oldest priest of the Diocese of Wilmington. Father Chris Coffiey, was ordained in 2013. for the diocese. (Courtesy Diocesan Vocations Guild)

The oldest priest of the Diocese of Wilmington, Father William Jennings, left, who will celebrate his 101st birthday in June and was ordained to the priesthood in 1940, meets the youngest priest of the diocese, Fr. Chris Coffiey, age 26, ordained in 2013, at the Little Sisters of the Poor’s Jeanne Jugan Residence in Newark.  Father Coffiey, associate pastor at St. Mary of the Assumption in Hockessin, was at the Jeanne Jugan Residence on March 22, where Father Jennings lives, to conduct a Lenten Day of Reflection for the Diocesan Vocations Guild.

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Boston cardinal, abuse survivor named to Vatican panel on protecting minors

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, four women— including a survivor of clerical sex abuse — two Jesuit priests and an Italian lawyer are the first eight members of the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Pope Francis established the commission in December; announcing the first members March 22, the Vatican said they would help define the tasks and competencies of the commission and help identify other potential members.

Irish abuse victim Marie Collins has been named to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. CNS/Reuters

Cardinal O’Malley is also one of eight members of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis on the reform of the Roman Curia and governance of the church. When the child protection commission was announced, Cardinal O’Malley told reporters it would take a pastoral approach to helping victims and preventing abuse, given that much of the Vatican’s attention thus far had been on implementing policies and legal procedures for investigating allegations of abuse and punishing guilty priests.

The cardinal said the commission would look at programs to educate pastoral workers in signs of abuse, identify means of psychological testing and other ways of screening candidates for the priesthood, and make recommendations regarding church officials’ “cooperation with the civil authorities, the reporting of crimes.”

The first eight members of the commission include Marie Collins, who was born in Dublin. At the age of 13, she was sexually abused by a Catholic priest who was a chaplain at a hospital where she was a patient.

Addressing a major conference in Rome in 2012 on the protection of children, she said being abused led to depression, despair and deep loss of trust in the Catholic Church. “Those fingers that would abuse my body the night before, were the same fingers that would give me holy Communion the following day,” she said.

In 1997, the priest that had abused her, and other young girls over a period of three decades, was finally brought to justice. She founded an organization to help victims of sexual abuse, worked with the Archdiocese of Dublin to set up its child protection office and helped draft the child protection policies of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the commission would take “a multi-pronged approach to promoting youth protection, including: education regarding the exploitation of children; discipline of offenders; civil and canonical duties and responsibilities; and the development of best practices as they have emerged in society at large.”

“In this way, and with the help of God, this commission will contribute to the Holy Father’s mission of upholding the sacred responsibility of ensuring the safety of young people,” Father Lombardi said.

Jesuit Fathers Hans Zollner and Humberto Yanez, who also were appointed to the commission, were instrumental in organizing the 2012 conference where Collins addressed representatives of bishops’ conferences and religious orders from around the world.

Father Zollner, a German psychologist and psychotherapist, chaired the committee that organized the conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University and is chairman of the steering committee of the Center for Child Protection that developed out of the conference. Father Yanez, director of the moral theology department at the Gregorian, was a member of the conference’s theological board.

Meeting reporters in 2013 to discuss follow-up to the conference, Father Zollner said: “Unfortunately, the matter will be with us for a long time. The church is working much more than people know, but is also the object of criticism because of its errors, its failures and the sins of the past. This is why it is extremely important to continue the work of prevention with every available means.”

In addition to Collins, the other women on the commission are: Hanna Suchocka, a former professor of law, who served as prime minister of Poland, 1992-93, and Polish ambassador to the Vatican, 2001-13; Catherine Bonnet, a French child psychiatrist specializing in helping victims of incest; and Baroness Sheila Hollins, a mental health specialist who has focused her research on people with learning disabilities.

The eighth member of the commission is Claudio Papale, an Italian who holds degrees in both civil and canon law and works in disciplinary section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The office is responsible for investigating allegations against priests.

 

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