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Pope Francis admits mistake in approving lenient sanctions against priest abuser


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has endorsed an approach of “zero tolerance” toward all members of the church guilty of sexually abusing minors or vulnerable adults.

U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, is president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Pope Francis address the commission this week and called Cardinal O’Malley a “prophet” in the church who has come forward to shine light on the problem of abuse and to urge the church to face it.(CNS /Paul Haring)

Having listened to abuse survivors and having made what he described as a mistake in approving a more lenient set of sanctions against an Italian priest abuser, the pope said he has decided whoever has been proven guilty of abuse has no right to an appeal, and he will never grant a papal pardon.

“Why? Simply because the person who does this (sexually abuses minors) is sick. It is a sickness,” he told his advisory commission on child protection during an audience at the Vatican Sept. 21. Members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, including its president, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, were meeting in Rome Sept. 21-23 for their plenary assembly.

Setting aside his prepared text, the pope said he wanted to speak more informally to the members, who include lay and religious experts in the fields of psychology, sociology, theology and law in relation to abuse and protection.

The Catholic Church has been “late” in facing and, therefore, properly addressing the sin of sexual abuse by its members, the pope said, and the commission, which he established in 2014, has had to “swim against the tide” because of a lack of awareness or understanding of the seriousness of the problem.

“When consciousness comes late, the means for resolving the problem comes late,” he said. “I am aware of this difficulty. But it is the reality: We have arrived late.”

“Perhaps,” he said, “the old practice of moving people” from one place to another and not fully facing the problem “lulled consciences to sleep.”

But, he said, “prophets in the church,” including Cardinal O’Malley, have, with the help of God, come forward to shine light on the problem of abuse and to urge the church to face it.

Typically when the church has had to deal with new or newly emerging problems, it has turned to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to address the issue, he said. And then, only when the problem has been dealt with adequately does the process for dealing with future cases get handed over to another dicastery, he added.

Because the problem of cases and allegations of abuse are “grave” and because it also is grave that some have not adequately taken stock of the problem, it is important the doctrinal congregation continue to handle the cases, rather than turning them over directly to Vatican tribunals, as some have suggested.

However, he said, the doctrinal congregation will need more personnel to work on cases of abuse in order to expedite the “many cases that do not proceed” with the backlog.

Pope Francis told commission members he wants to better balance the membership of the doctrinal team dealing with appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse. He said the majority of members are canon lawyers, and he would like to balance out their more legalistic approach with more members who are diocesan bishops and have had to deal with abuse in their diocese.

He also said proof that an ordained minister has abused a minor “is sufficient (reason) to receive no recourse” for an appeal. “If there is proof. End of story,” the pope said; the sentence “is definitive.”

And, he added, he has never and would never grant a papal pardon to a proven perpetrator.

The reasoning has nothing to do with being mean-spirited, but because an abuser is sick and is suffering from “a sickness.”

The pope told the commission he has been learning “on the job” better ways to handle priests found guilty of abuse, and he recounted a decision he has now come to regret: that of agreeing to a more lenient sanction against an Italian priest, rather than laicizing him as the doctrinal team recommended.

Two years later, the priest abused again, and Pope Francis said he has since learned “it’s a terrible sickness: that requires a different approach.


Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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In Ireland, U.S. cardinals praise role of immigrants


Catholic News Service

KNOCK, Ireland — Two American cardinals of Irish descent praised the role of immigrants, especially Irish, in building the United States.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York stands with Franciscan University of Steubenville students who came to see the cardinal open the novena in Knock, Ireland, Aug. 14. (CNS photo/Sarah Mac Donald)

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York stands with Franciscan University of Steubenville students who came to see the cardinal open the novena in Knock, Ireland, Aug. 14. (CNS photo/Sarah Mac Donald)

The United States is “a nation of immigrants and we are proud of that,” New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan told Catholic News Service at the Marian shrine of Knock, where he delivered a keynote opening a novena.

He said that while everybody was talking about the so-called immigrant problem, “We in United States would say the immigrants are not a problem, the immigrants are a gift.

“If there is one thing we have done well, it is to welcome the immigrant. Every person in the United States, unless you are Native American, is a descendant of an immigrant,” he told CNS.

Recalling that his own great-great-grandfather came to America from Ireland, he commented, “We didn’t have this intense anti-immigrant sentiment back then; America was known as a land of welcome, and there weren’t these restrictions.”

Rebuffing this anti-immigrant mentality he said: “There is an unfortunate inaccurate uncharitable stereotype of the immigrant. Some of the most patriotic and loyal Americans are immigrants because they love their adopted country. They are more patriotic and loyal than we are.”

Discussing Pope Francis’ September visit to the United States, he said the pope was particularly concerned about the treatment of immigrants and had suggested that America “might be a light to the rest of the world, showing it how to welcome and embrace and assimilate the immigrant.”

Cardinal Dolan said Pope Francis expressed a desire to see the work of American Catholic charities helping immigrants because New York is synonymous with the Statue of Liberty. He also wanted to see an inner city Catholic school, so he is scheduled to visit Our Lady Queen of Angels in Harlem, and there he will also meet about 150 immigrants and some of the charities working with them. He is also scheduled to meet with immigrants in Philadelphia.

Cardinal Dolan said that during his week in Ireland, more than 160 Americans had visited ancient places of pilgrimage, and many of the people they met expressed gratitude to the U.S. bishops and Catholic leaders for their “call for sound and fair immigration reform” in the United States.

Separately, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston led 1,500 people commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed Into Heaven and St. Nicholas in Galway Aug. 14. Boston Cardinal Richard Cushing represented Blessed Paul VI at the dedication of the cathedral in 1965.

In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley spoke of the deep historic links between the United States and Ireland and particularly between his city of Boston and Galway.

He noted that Massachusetts was a Puritan colony that was historically hostile to Catholicism, where Catholics were forbidden residence, priests imprisoned, and an effigy of the pope was burned every November on Boston Common.

But all of this changed following the 19th-century famine in Ireland that sent millions of Irish across the sea to start a new life and to send help back to those who stayed behind.

“As a young seminarian, I was here in Ireland when John F. Kennedy, the first Irish Catholic president of the United States, came to visit the land of his ancestors. He received the cead mile failte, the 100,000 welcomes of the Irish people,” he recalled.

“In Boston, we are very proud of our Irish heritage,” he said.

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Four major snowstorms: Boston won winter this year, parishes are digging out

February 24th, 2015 Posted in Featured, National News Tags: , , ,


Catholic News Service

BRAINTREE, Mass. — With record snowfall for this time of year, parishes all over the Archdiocese of Boston face more than just the issue of digging out after each storm.

Pastors interviewed by The Pilot, Boston’s archdiocesan newspaper, explained the impact of snowstorms, this year piled one on top of the other in one week. As of Feb. 24, Massachusetts was still digging out of 8 feet of snow left by four major winter storms.

A man shovels a sidewalk after heavy snowfall in Boston Feb. 10. With record snowfall for this time of year, parishes all over the Archdiocese of Boston face more than just the issue of digging out after each storm. (CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters)

A man shovels a sidewalk after heavy snowfall in Boston Feb. 10. With record snowfall for this time of year, parishes all over the Archdiocese of Boston face more than just the issue of digging out after each storm. (CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters)

With a variety of conditions facing urban, suburban, and somewhat rural parishes, The Pilot contacted pastors for their thoughts on the impact of blizzards and snowstorms in the parishes they serve.

Father Thomas S. Domurat, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer in East Boston, explained that in the tight streets of Boston parking remained limited if available at all, but the parish was facing additional challenges as a result of snowbanks piled high in the street.

“Our parking lot, a third of it is in snowbanks, so that reduces the amount of area for parking. We also had to wait a few days to get the rubbish removed because the removal truck couldn’t get in because of the large snowbanks outside. It couldn’t make the turn, so we had to bring the rubbish out onto the street one day for them to come get it. So, there is all kinds of issues involved, and it’s going to have an impact,” he said.

During the snowstorms themselves, parishes have faced the possibility of having to remain closed or cancel Mass. Father Domurat said as long as he is there, he lives on the premises, no such thing will happen.

“I never cancel. I’m here, so I’m going to say Mass. I go over to the church at 6 o’clock and if somebody comes, they can join me. If not, I would say Mass myself,” he said.

Reduced Mass attendance when parishioners simply cannot get to Mass because of whipping winds or driving snows has a twofold impact on the parish.

“Because people cannot find a place to park, they will not be able to come here for Mass, which means our collection was down over $2,000 last weekend and our plowing bill was over $2,000,” Father Domurat said in an interview after the Feb. 15 snowstorm.

As many parishes and buildings in Massachusetts do, the parish in East Boston also faces issues with ice dams, a buildup of ice near the eaves of a pitched roof that can lead to water damage and leaking.

“If this ice keeps building up in the gutters, we could end up with ice dams and leaks coming in. It’s hard to get some of that off because the roof is so high,” Father Domurat said.

In contrast, Father John E. Sheridan serves what is called the Cranberry Catholic Collaborative, which includes Sacred Heart in Middleborough, Sts. Martha and Mary in Lakeville, and St. Rose of Lima in Rochester.

In collaborative ministry, Father Sheridan could drive about 18 miles, according to Google Maps, on a day with Masses scheduled at all three churches.

“It’s been extraordinary. We have had to change Mass schedules. We have had to encourage people to stay home sometimes. It’s been very difficult to visit people, to get to places. It’s a glorious mess,” he said.

He said his staff has been very understanding as conditions changed with the weather, and schedules had to be adjusted. Father Sheridan said the parishes have chipped in to clear snow.

“The team of our three churches has really come together to make sure that all three churches, including the entire campus of Sacred Heart which has a very big campus, and they have worked their heads off to clear as much as they could,” he said.

Father Sheridan said communication became a key element to facilitate cooperation between the three parish communities. He said the collaborative used its website at cranberrycatholic.org, its Facebook page and a platform called Flocknote — an email and text messaging system developed specifically for churches to keep the three parishes connected.

“It’s been a great blessing of technology,” he said.

On his Facebook page, Father Sheridan regularly posts photos of the sun rising as he begins his day. In recent weeks the foreground has a thick coating of snow over what is normally a lake near where he lives in Lakeville. A photo of snow whipped up by the wind tagged at Sts. Martha and Mary bears the caption “Fiercely beautiful.”

“It is God’s creation. Beautiful as it is, it is also challenging. God presents these unique situations to us, and calls on us to give it our best,” Father Sheridan said.
By Christopher S. Pineo


Pineo is a reporter at The Pilot, newspaper of the Boston archdiocese.


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One year later: Boston still strong



Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley joins the family of Boston Marathon bombing victim Martin Richard at the finish line for a wreath-laying ceremony in Boston April 15. Martin’s sister, Jane, wipes her face as she stands with her mother, father and another brother. The ceremony was one of many events marking the first anniversary of the bombing. Young Martin was killed in the attack, just a few days shy of his ninth birthday.

(CNS photo/Brian Snyder, Reuters )

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Q&A: Cardinal O’Malley calls pope’s impact on church ‘amazing”


Catholic News Service

BOSTON — Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley spoke to The Pilot, the archdiocesan newspaper, March 4 about the impact Pope Francis has had on the Catholic Church and the world since his March 13, 2013, election. The interview was conducted at his residence at the Cathedral the Holy Cross in Boston.

Q: How would you characterize the first year of Pope Francis’ pontificate?

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley gestures during a March 4 interview at his residence, the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Cardinal O’Malley said with his “refreshing style” and accessibility, Pope Francis’ impact on the world is “amazing.” (CNS photo/Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot)

A: For many people it has been a year of surprises. The Holy Father has such a refreshing style and a desire to be close to people and accessible. He is even accessible in the way he expresses himself. He has made quite an impact on the world. I don’t remember any other pope whose daily homily was followed so assiduously by so many around the globe. Before, we used to think that the Holy Father’s travel and linguistic abilities were the way he communicated, but this man communicates without leaving home and without saying anything except in Italian. It is amazing.

Q: You recently saw Pope Benedict at the Feb. 22 consistory. A year ago, the whole world was wondering what it would be like to have two living popes. What were your thoughts at the time, and what do think now?

A: It is the same as having a bishop emeritus in the diocese. It is a delicate position; the retired bishop cannot interfere, but he can be supportive and helpful. Obviously, I think that is what we are experiencing with Pope Benedict, who has publicly said that his task is going to be to pray for the church and he is leading a very contemplative existence. And yet, he is still alive and it is wonderful when he participates in some of these more public events; just as in any diocese when the former bishop is invited back to be present for the chrism Mass or some other diocesan celebration.

Q: Some are describing this papacy as a kind of break with the past, rather than continuity with a different style. How would you describe this papacy compared to the previous papacies?

A: In my lifetime every papacy has been very different from the one that went before. As a child, it was Pius XII and he was an aristocrat, very ascetic. He sort of exuded holiness and there was a great reverence and awe about his person. But he ate alone; he was very isolated. Suddenly there comes John XXIII who was entirely different. He had a great sense of humor, he was always joking, was very close to people, came from peasant stock. Even physically, he looked so different. And then we had Paul VI who was in many ways a more modern pope. He began to travel. And then of course John Paul II whose papacy had such a profound influence on the situation in the world, changed the Iron Curtain. The Holy Father became present personally to millions and millions of Catholics. So each pope has been very, very different.

Obviously this is the first pope from Latin America. His whole pastoral experience has been much different from that of European bishops and he certainly brings a freshness and excitement to the task. But, when you look at the history of the church, we have had popes who have been so different one from another and even as I say, in modern history. Each one brings his own gifts and we have been so blessed by the presence of popes who have been holy men, very wise men, very pastoral men, and whose leadership has been a very positive thing in the life of the church. This has not always been the case in our 2000 year history, but certainly in modern history we been blessed by the popes that we have had.

Q: At last year’s consistory right before the conclave, then-Cardinal Bergoglio spoke about his views on the current state of the Catholic Church. Those themes have characterized his first year as Pope Francis. One of them was how the church needs to come out of herself and go to the peripheries, geographical and existential. Why is this emphasis important today?

A: There is always a danger of the church retreating to the sacristy and abdicating our responsibility to do precisely what Jesus tells us to do, make disciples of all nations, to leave behind the 99 and go in search of the one lost sheep. The Lord in the Gospels is always reaching out to people on the periphery; the lame, the blind, the halt, the tax collector, the prostitute, the foreigner and the Lord brings them center stage. So, the Holy Father is simply reminding us that this is what the Gospel is about, that these people on the periphery become the protagonists of Jesus’s ministry and they need to be the object of our love and our pastoral care.

Q: Another topic the pope spoke about was the danger of spiritual worldliness in the Catholic Church that may require a push for reform. How do you see that playing out now?

A: Well, the Holy Father is concerned about careerism in the church and he is constantly reminding people that the Holy Father is not a monarch surrounded by a court, but is a bishop of the community of faith and that is the perspective that he wants to communicate and for people to embrace. His decision to live at the Domus Sanctae Marthae is certainly not because the apartments in the apostolic palace are so luxurious, but because he does not want to be isolated. He wants to be part of the community and be connected to people. For him, the culture of encounter is what the church needs to be about and he is certainly modeling that for us in so many ways.

Q: Regarding that reform, you were appointed to the Holy Father’s “G-8” Council of Cardinals last April and recently returned from Rome, where you attended the third meeting of the council. Why do you think reforming the Roman Curia is such an important issue?

A: The Roman Curia is not a very large organization, but it is the only organization that the Holy Father has to help him perform his ministry. Obviously, he wants the Curia to be at the service of the universal church and to do that there needs to be greater efficiency, transparency, collaboration among the different departments, or dicasteries as they are called, and a greater focus on collegiality, involvement with bishops around the world and the local churches. I think the Holy Father feels a very strong mandate because prior to the conclave it is something the cardinals spoke about so much.

Of course, it all took place within the context of Vatileaks and all the other problems that have surfaced about the Vatican bank. These situations should never exist and the Holy Father is striving to make a Curia that will be more pastoral and will be at the service of the entire church and be able to communicate that vision and enthusiasm for the joy of the Gospel that he is always preaching about. He is also concerned about the spiritual welfare of the people in the Curia. He wants them to feel that they are there not just for a job, but they are part of a mission and that mission comes from Christ. To be able to carry it out we need to attend to our own interior life so that we have a sense of vocation and that we are being led by God’s grace to seek God’s will and to embrace it joyfully and generously in our lives.

Q: Beyond the ongoing work to reform “Pastor Bonus” (Blessed John Paul’s 1988 apostolic constitution on the structure and responsibilities of the Curia), so far two main outcomes from the group have been announced: a commission to work on child abuse prevention worldwide and the creation of a new economy secretariat to oversee Vatican finances. Can you comment on their importance?

A: The focus of the commission will be child protection. In other words, to make sure that all of the practices of the church are geared towards creating safe environments and having in place practices that will help; not just how to respond in cases of abuse, but how to avoid it. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, particularly when it is something as tragic as child abuse. The Holy Father is very committed to a policy of no tolerance and is anxious to have this commission formed to be able to work with the bishops’ conferences who have been asked to develop clear guidelines and policies around this whole area of child protection. We are very edified by how many people have already volunteered to be a part of this.

Q: The other development was the creation of this new Economy Secretariat headed by Cardinal Pell….

A: I think it is very, very important. There were two commissions working very hard. The former commission of Benedict XVI that was looking at the bank and now the commission the Holy Father has had looking at the overall financial picture of the Vatican. It is a question of stewardship, of trying to make sure the church’s resources, which are limited, are used for the mission of the church, for the works of mercy, the care of the poor, for works of evangelization. We want to avoid any waste and to make sure that there is great transparency so that people have trust that when they make a donation to the church will be used for the purposes for which it has been entrusted to the church.

Cardinal Pell is an extraordinary individual; he is a man of great, great energy and vision and determination. He has been involved in many of these issues in the Holy See for a long time so he has an understanding of the challenges. It was very generous of him to be willing to sacrifice his own ministry in the Archdiocese of Sydney to come to Rome and dedicate himself to this very important work. I told the Holy Father that the job was very difficult; it requires a rugby player.

Q: One of the perceptions about this papacy is that the pope is going to change church teaching. What is your reaction to that?

A: I like the phrase that someone said, that he is not changing the lyrics but only the melody. Sometimes the church’s message was perhaps too harshly presented to people and out of context. He is trying to show us the whole context of the demands of discipleship. The whole context is in the context of God’s love and mercy and desire to accompany us and to forgive us when we fall and to help us overcome our weaknesses and to have a sense of connectedness to the Lord and to one another.

Q: But there is a widespread opinion that changes are going to take place not only on style but on substance, for instance, on the current norms for divorced and remarried Catholics. Would you comment on that perception?

A: Obviously, when it comes to the church’s teaching on the permanence of marriage, there is no way to change that. Now, the Holy Father and many people would obviously like to see a possibility for people to reconnect with the sacraments. Many of the cardinals were insistent that we must look for better ways to do annulments in a way that can be done with greater expediency. But this is certainly something that will be talked about and discussed at the upcoming synods. Regardless of whatever happens, the church’s teaching on the permanence of marriage is not something that can ever be changed.

Q: The pope has made some high profile statements on homosexuality and pro-life issues that people are seeing as a change in direction. What is your perspective on what the pope has said and on how it is being interpreted across the Catholic Church and society at large?

A: The church’s teachings, particularly when they are demanding on people’s lives, often are rejected out of hand. I think, as I said before, the Holy Father is trying to give us the context in which we live those teachings. That context is one of living God’s love and his mercy and to be instruments of mercy in the world, helping people find the strength to live a life of discipleship that cannot be lived alone but in community. The Holy Father talks about the art of accompaniment and the culture of encounter and in our culture, which is so individualistic, the demands of the Gospel of course become impossible. When a person becomes truly part of a community of faith and begins to experience the joy of the Gospel the Holy Father is always speaking about, they experience God’s love in their life; then what before seemed impossible and unreasonable suddenly becomes feasible and begins to make sense.

Q: The Holy Father’s first trip outside the Vatican was to the Italian island of Lampedusa where he spoke about the plight of immigrants. Do you think that his emphasis on immigration will have an impact on the U.S. immigration debate?

A: I hope so. The Holy Father talked about the globalization of indifference and we cannot be indifferent to human suffering. We cannot pretend that people are not trying to get into Europe and into the United States; they are trying to escape some horrific economic or political situations to be able to have a better life for their children. I remember when I was bishop in Florida, there were boats arriving, rafts really, and small boats arriving from Cuba and Haiti to Florida and after the Red Mass we were having breakfast with the governor, who was Jeb Bush at the time, and I said to him, “You know Mr. Bush, if the O’Malleys and the Bushes were in Haiti now, they’d be building a boat.”

The other thing is that, as I always say, Europe would love to have our problems. The immigrants who come here, their children will be Americans. Despite the xenophobia and some of the problems we have, we are a nation of immigrants and people do assimilate into this country and they have brought such energy and such a work ethic and family values and other wonderful things that have redounded to the strength and glory of this country. To pretend that somehow immigration is bad for us is nonsense.

Q: The pope has spoken of the church as a field hospital. What do you think is the role of the church as society becomes more secularized?

A: I see it, particularly in the United States, as moving away from being a cultural Catholicism, a tribal Catholicism where if you were Italian, Polish or Irish, you automatically received all the sacraments and went to church and so forth. And now it is becoming much more intentional, depending much more on the individual. This will mean a new kind of evangelization that will be much more focused on meeting each individual and personally inviting them and mentoring them in the life of faith. We can no longer depend on cultural background to be enough. Where that is as a starting point, that’s wonderful, but the personal conversion to the Lord and the experience of his love and grace in our lives and a sense of community is all very important. Obviously a priest cannot do this on his own. The new evangelization is going to depend very much on an army of lay people feeling responsible for their church and for them to be messengers of the good news to their families, their neighbors and the community at large.

Q: The past year has been full of very important moments. What do you anticipate moving forward?

A: It is hard to forecast but obviously the enthusiasm that the Holy Father’s simplicity, joy and accessibility has created, not just in our own Catholic community, but in the larger society, is something that I think has been helpful to the world. Even the situation in Syria where the Holy Father called for prayer and a solution was found. It was a very moving thing; we are reminded that when we all come together in faith and hope and put our trust in the Lord and when we invoke his guidance and blessing on our endeavors that wonderful things can happen.

Enrique is the editor of The Pilot, newspaper of the Boston archdiocese.


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