Cardinal Pell under attack from within over bishops’ grand house in Rome

A LEADING Catholic priest has criticised Cardinal George Pell for reserving a “grand apartment” for himself at the Australian church’s new guest house in Rome, saying “the ethics of our secular state are higher than those of our church”.

Father Eric Hodgens, of Melbourne, an elder statesman among the clergy, also savaged Australia’s Catholic bishops for what he regards as an abject performance during their five-yearly visit to Rome last month, particularly in failing to stand up for Bill Morris, sacked earlier this year as bishop of Toowoomba.

“They eat their own when fingered by Rome,” Father Hodgens wrote of the bishops in The Swag, the national journal of Catholic priests. “How can you trust them?

”They are reckless with our patrimony. They seem incapable of protecting their own rights, let alone ours, in a system which is corrupt by today’s secular standards. No wonder the attitude of so many priests and observant laity is moving from disappointment to disgust,” he wrote.

Father Hodgens said the Domus Australia guest house in Rome – a beautifully refurbished old religious house with 33 rooms for paying visitors, a richly restored grand chapel and organ and a 150-seat auditorium opened by Pope Benedict XVI last month – cost between $30 million and $85 million, according to different estimates.

He said Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, had hoped all Australian dioceses would pay for it, but only Melbourne, Perth and Lismore had made contributions and the Sydney Archdiocese had paid the bulk.

He said Catholics of the four dioceses were not consulted, there was no prospect of a reasonable financial return and no accountability. “What does it say of us who trust bishops?
The ethics of our secular state are higher than those of our church.”

Secrecy also surrounded the sacking of Bishop Morris, who never saw the charges against him or the report by an “inquisitorial visitor”, Archbishop Charles Chaput, then of Denver, he said.

“And the Australian bishops simply rolled over … . they thanked their humiliators for being generous with their time,” Father Hodgens wrote.

“Thank God we live in a secular state and not in a Catholic theocracy,” he said.

Cardinal Pell is overseas but a Sydney Archdiocese spokeswoman said the total cost to develop the Australian pilgrim centre in Rome was similar to that of a new parish or school, ”not the excessive amounts quoted by some ill-informed sources”, and the investment was expected to pay its way.

”Domus Australia was funded by the transfer of an underutilised property investment to this purpose and by borrowings and donations,” she said.

”No money raised through parish collections has been used in this initiative.”

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Former Woodland priest arraigned in Sacramento on 7 counts of child molestation

Former Woodland Holy Rosary Catholic Church Priest the Rev. Uriel Ojeda has been arraigned on seven counts of child molestation, the Sacramento Bee reported Friday.

Ojeda, who served in Woodland from 2007 to 2009, was later transferred to Redding. He did not enter a plea in the brief proceeding in Sacramento Superior Court, according to the Bee.

He spoke only to confirm his name, and to confirm that he knew the identity of his accuser, whose name is not being released.

About a dozen supporters showed up on Ojeda’s behalf, the Bee reported.

Ojeda surrendered to Sacramento police Wednesday night. He is accused of lewd and lascivious acts with a 14-year-old girl on four different dates in 2007 and 2009.

Ojeda’s attorney, Jesse Ortiz, asked that people “not make any judgments on this case until all the facts are known.

“Father Ojeda is a good man who has dedicated his life to helping people,” he said.

On Thursday at a news conference Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto stressed the diocese’s quick response to the allegations, which he said were brought by the family of the alleged victim on Tuesday.

Soto said church officials immediately contacted Child Protective Services and Sacramento police. California law requires clergymen to report suspicion of child sexual abuse.

Ojeda was one of the youngest priests in the diocese, and was hailed as a key link between the church and the Hispanic community in a 2007 profile in The Sacramento Bee. The newspaper reported that he tended to Latino Catholics at the hospital and in the farm fields, where he was recognized by his distinctive yellow truck with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the back window.

Then a vicar at Holy Rosary Parish in Woodland, Ojeda was known for being involved in the community and offering free guitar and drum lessons to parishioners. He played bass in a church band, wore Converse tennis shoes and likes Spider-Man comics, the Bee reported.

Ojeda came to Woodland in August 2007. At the time he told The Democrat he was one of 475 men to be ordained to the priesthood for service throughout the United States in 2007.

He was ordained June 29, 2007, at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento. He joined Holy Rosary Catholic Church for his first priestly assignment.

Ojeda was born in Point Pleasant, N.J., but grew up in Colima, Mexico. At the age of 18 he enrolled in Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Ore., where he spent four years studying for his Bachelor of Arts degree, and a further four obtaining his Master of Divinity degree. He spent another year studying English, followed by a yearlong internship at the Cathedral in Sacramento.

Soto said the family of the alleged victim approached the diocese on Tuesday and church officials immediately contacted Child Protective Services and Sacramento police. He said the diocese has offered to help the family.

The bishop said the diocese wants to encourage any other potential victims to come forward and that it will make announcements in parishes where Ojeda has served, including Redding and Woodland.

“Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of Father Ojeda or other abuse needs to contact the diocese,” Soto said.

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Irish Panel on Abuse Cites Failures by Church

Authorities in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland were slow or did nothing to notify civil authorities and the Vatican of hundreds of allegations of clerical child sexual abuse over several decades, according to independent audits of six dioceses published simultaneously on Wednesday.

The church-sponsored National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland found allegations of widespread abuse in every diocese it investigated, saying that 85 priests in the six dioceses had been accused of 164 sexual assaults on children since 1975, but that only 8 were convicted. Of the 41 still alive, 30 no longer serve as priests.

Many victims, police investigators and advocates dismissed the report as another whitewash by the church. One victim, Martin Gallagher, said on RTE, the national broadcaster, that it was not “worth the paper it’s written on.”

The audits cover the Archdiocese of Tuam and the Dioceses of Raphoe, Derry, Dromore, Kilmore, and Ardagh and Clonmacnois. Most attention focused on the northwestern rural Diocese of Raphoe, where a notorious pedophile priest, the Rev. Eugene Greene, was based.

Father Greene was allowed to serve in eight parishes during 25 years of abuse he inflicted on children. In 2000, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to 41 charges of sexual assault against 26 victims from 1962 to 1985. He was released in 2008.

In the case of Raphoe, the church panel concluded that successive bishops — including the present one, Bishop Philip Boyce — had displayed “significant errors of judgment.”

“Too much emphasis was placed on the situation of the accused priest and too little on the needs of their complainants,” the report found. “Judgments were clouded, due to the presenting problem being for example, alcohol abuse and an inability to hear the concerns about abuse of children, through that presenting problem. More attention should have been given to ensuring that preventative actions were taken quickly when concerns came to light.”

In a written statement issued after the publication of the audit, Bishop Boyce acknowledged “very poor judgments and mistakes” and apologized for them.

“There were horrific acts of abuse of children by individual priests that should never have happened, and if suspected should have been dealt with immediately in the appropriate manner,” he said. “Insufficient emphasis was placed on the needs of victims, often in the misguided attempt to protect the reputation of the church.”

Although the board, under the stewardship of its chief executive, Ian Elliott, concluded that all of the dioceses concerned were now carrying out stringent child protection measures, the audits have been criticized for failing to specify the past errors referenced in the reports and, in large part, those responsible for them.

For instance, the audits failed to uncover any documents in diocesan files pertaining to Father Greene, something that Bishop Boyce described as “incredible.”

“It is hard to credit that no word was passed on to the authorities, and it was probably the culture of the time that people didn’t speak to anyone,” he said.

A former police detective who investigated Father Greene rejected this explanation and described the Raphoe report as “a whitewash and an insult to victims.”

The former detective, Martin Ridge, was quoted in The Donegal Democrat, a local newspaper, as saying, “What we witnessed in west Donegal was just carnage that you wouldn’t ascribe to any civilized society.”

Maeve Lewis, executive director of a victims’ advocacy group, One in Four, welcomed the audits’ findings of significant progress in “putting in place child protection measures in the six dioceses.” But she remained concerned about “the number of priests against whom allegations have been made who are still in ministry.”

The Catholic Church in Ireland has been devastated in recent years after reports detailed decades of clerical sexual abuse of children.

Complete Article HERE!

Delaware men settle $7 million church sex abuse case

Fourteen Delaware men who said they were sexually assaulted as children have reached a $7 million settlement with three Catholic church institutions, sparked by the state’s sexual abuse law, two of the victims announced on Thursday.

The settlement includes nine alleged victims of former Capuchin Friar Paul Daleo and five victims of former St. Edmond’s Academy lay teacher and wrestling coach John Fleming, the victims said. Daleo also worked at Saint Edmond’s Academy in Wilmington, Delaware.

Matthias Conaty and Jeff Rose, who say they were abused in the late 1970s and early 1980s, announced the settlement outside the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington.

In February, the diocese paid a $77.4 million settlement to 146 victims of sexual abuse, forcing it to declare bankruptcy.

“It’s been a painful day, but in some ways it’s a day of triumph,” Conaty, 43, who wore a chain around his neck with a picture of himself from the period of abuse. “The voice I couldn’t use as a little boy was found.”

Former Capuchin Daleo told Conaty he loved him and subjected him to “every form of abuse,” Conaty said.

No one answered the telephone at Daleo’s home in Jersey City, New Jersey. Reached at his home in Pennsylvania, former lay teacher Fleming asked how much money the case was settled for and declined to comment further.

During the news conference Rose, 42, who says Fleming abused him in 1983, felt ill and had to be aided by others.

“It’s been pretty emotional,” he said. “I’ve kept it to myself for a long time.”

Child abuse accusations have rocked the Catholic Church in the United States since 2002, and the church has paid out some $2 billion in settlements to victims.

In addition to Wilmington, Delaware several other Catholic dioceses have filed for bankruptcy because of sexual abuse claims including Portland, Oregon, Milwaukee, San Diego, Spokane, Washington and Davenport, Iowa.

According to the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group, the settlement the Delaware settlement reached on Thursday was reached with institutions that hired and supervised the predators.

The institutions are New Jersey-based Capuchin Franciscan Province of the Sacred Stigmata of St. Francis, St. Edmond’s and the order that runs it, the Brothers of the Holy Cross of the Eastern Province of the United States of America Inc.

Conaty, who works in marketing, founded Child Victims Voice, an advocacy organization, and encouraged Delaware legislators to adopt the Child Victim’s Act of 2007.

The law eliminated the civil statute of limitations on sex abuse and allows a two-year window to file civil suits for victims for whom the statute of limitations had passed, which include the 14 men.

A similar window to report sexual abuse is being considered in other states, including Pennsylvania, where the Penn State scandal will hopefully influence its passing, Conaty said.

At Penn State, Jerry Sandusky, longtime former assistant to legendary football coach Joe Paterno, has been charged with sexually abusing eight boys over more than a decade. The case forced the firing of Paterno and the university president.

Under this settlement, the Capuchins and Saint Edmond’s must release documents outlining the “black-and-white, gory details” of the abuse and any cover-up, Conaty said.

James Green, an attorney for Saint Edmond’s, said complaints against Fleming in 1984 led to his termination. Fleming is now a registered sex offender.

Daleo left the school around the same time and there have been no allegations of abuse since then, Green said.

“Two people have ever been complained about in the history of Saint Edmond’s — Daleo and Fleming,” Green said in a telephone interview.

“There will be nothing else” in the documents, he added.

Nick Mormando, the newly elected provincial minister for the Capuchins, said by telephone: “I apologize to the victims and families that went through a lot of pain and suffering. I hope this brings peace.”

Calls to the Brothers of the Holy Cross were not returned.

Complete Article HERE!

Belgian Catholics issue reform manifesto

The week before the start of Advent, four Flemish priests issued a church reform manifesto that called for allowing the appointment of laypeople as parish pastors, liturgical leaders and preachers, and for the ordination of married men and women as priests.

By the week’s end more than 4,000 of publicly active Catholics had signed on to the “Believers Speak Out” manifesto. By Dec. 1, the number of signers had reached 6,000.

Among the supporters are hundreds of priests, educators, academics and professional Catholics. Two prominent supporters are former rectors of the Catholic University of Leuven, Roger Dillemans and Marc Vervenne.

“These are not ‘protest people.’ They are people of faith. They are raising their voices. They hope their bishops are listening,” said Fr. John Dekimpe, one of four priests who launched the manifesto.

“Some people are fearful about approaching church leadership,” said the priest, who lives in Kortrijk. “Is this being a dissident? I don’t think so. The Belgian church is a disaster. If we don’t do something, the exodus of those leaving the church will just never stop. … I really want the bishops to reflect deeply about the growing discontent of so many believers.”

Among the manifesto’s demands, made “in solidarity with fellow believers in Austria, Ireland and many other countries,” are that:

  • Parish leadership be entrusted to trained laypeople;
  • Communion services be held even if no priest is available;
  • Laypeople be allowed to preach;
  • Divorced people be allowed to receive Communion;
  • “As quickly as possible, both married men and women be admitted to the priesthood.

So far there has been no official reaction from Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, the Catholic primate of Belgium, any of the other Belgium bishops, or the Vatican. Privately, and off the record, one Belgian bishop has applauded the manifesto.

Jürgen Mettepenningen, a Leuven theologian and former press officer for Léonard, told the Belgian newspaper De Morgen that he hopes the manifesto can lead to a well-thought-out church reform. “When I reflect on what I have written and said over the past years, I can only say that the spirit of the manifesto is the very same spirit in which I have been trying to work to make the church more credible: true to the faith.”

Last year, after reports of abuse rocked the Belgian church, an independent commission discovered sexual abuse in most Catholic dioceses and all church-run boarding schools and religious orders. The commission said 475 cases of abuse had been reported to it between January and June this year.

In one of the more prominent cases, Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe was forced to resign after admitting to years of abusing his nephew. In April of this year, he told Belgian television that he had molested another nephew and that it had all started “as a game.”

The full text of the manifesto, “Believers Speak Out”:
Parishes without a priest, Eucharist at inappropriate hours, worship without Communion: that really should not be! What is delaying the needed church reform? We, Flemish believers, ask our bishops to the break the impasse in which we are locked. We do this in solidarity with fellow believers in Austria, Ireland and many other countries, with all who insist on vital church reform.

We simply do not understand why the leadership in our local communities (e.g., parishes) is not entrusted to men or women, married or unmarried, professionals or volunteers, who already have the necessary training. We need dedicated pastors!

We do not understand why these our fellow believers cannot preside at Sunday liturgical celebrations. In every active community we need liturgical ministers!

We do not understand why, in communities where no priest is available, a Word service cannot also include a Communion service.
We do not understand why skilled laypeople and well-formed religious educators cannot preach. We need the word of God!

We do not understand why those believers who, with very good will, have remarried after a divorce must be denied Communion. They should be welcomed as worthy believers. Fortunately, there are some places where this is happening.
We also demand that, as quickly as possible, both married men and women be admitted to the priesthood. We, people of faith, desperately need them now!

Complete Article HERE!