Commentators offer a range of explanations for last week’s Vatican “assessment” charging a group that includes the largest number of US Catholic sisters, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) with “serious doctrinal problems” and “radical feminism.”
One frequent explanation is that the report was issued in retaliation for support given the 2009 Affordable Care Act (ACA) by Network, a Catholic social justice lobby with close ties to the LCWR. For example, in a BBC News interview several days after the release of the assessment, Sister Simone Campbell, Network’s executive director, acknowledged “a strong connection” between Network’s challenge to the US bishops over the ACA and the Vatican accusations.
No doubt there is some truth to this analysis. But it’s worth noting that the Vatican launched the investigation that culminated in this document in January 2009, more than a year before Congress passed the ACA. Given the speed with which Rome does things, it’s more than likely that while the sisters’ support for the ACA contributed to the harshness of the statement, it by no means caused it. Indeed, Pope John Paul II mandated a previous investigation of US religious in 1983, though the outcome of that process was less brutal than the current one has proven to be.
In point of fact, throughout the history of the Church, bishops and popes have struggled mightily to keep committed celibate Catholic women under control. Already in the early Christian centuries male church leaders forced virgins to describe themselves as “brides of Christ” rather than use the male martial imagery they had come to use during the Roman persecutions. The early equality between male and female desert monastics was likewise undercut when eighth century bishops began taking control of women’s monasteries and ordained monks to the priesthood for the first time (but not nuns, of course.) And as, throughout the following centuries, groups of dedicated Christian women came together—canonesses, Beguines, beatas, recluses—popes, bishops, and male theologians went to great lengths to rein them in.
In the 12th century, Aelred of Rievaulx forbade women recluses to so much as talk alone with their confessors; Gregory IX imposed cloister on all Franciscan sisters except those in the house led by their foundress, Clare of Assisi; and in 1917, after a century marked by the foundation of innumerable active (that is, non-cloistered) congregations of sisters dedicated to serving the needs of the sick and the poor, the new Vatican Code of Canon Law cloistered them all, imposing rigid rules that undercut their ministries.
As the century moved on, however, relations between the Vatican and the sisters seemed to improve. In its effort to respond to the horrors of the twentieth century, the Vatican ordered the sisters to become better educated, to update their rules and habits, and to begin meeting together for the sake of greater effectiveness.
Already in 1929 Pope Pius XI had stressed the need for better prepared Catholic school teachers; in 1950, Pius XII called a meeting of the heads of all religious orders for the purpose of further advancing their collaboration; and in 1952 he called a meeting of women’s superiors, during which he urged the sisters to update and educate themselves for the purpose of attaining attain equal footing with their secular counterparts.
The Vatican also called for the formation of the US Conference of Major Superiors of Women, the group that eventually morphed into the currently-maligned LCWR. Ironically, the American women’s congregations at the time felt no need for the Conference, but organized it out of obedience to the Pope. Finally, the Second Vatican Council called the sisters to renew their congregations, return to the charism of their founders, and revise their constitutions, a call Pope Paul VI seconded. The sisters embraced Vatican II renewal immediately, with all their hearts, more so than any other group in the church.
So how, you may wonder, did the sisters and the Vatican get into the current conundrum? In much the same way that the rest of the Catholic Church did in the decades after Vatican II.
Conservative commentators argue that the sisters misinterpreted the teachings of Vatican II, or didn’t study them at all, and abandoned the way of life to which they were vowed. More illuminating, I believe is a comment made in 2005 by Sister Mary Daniel Turner, an LCWR executive director who, in the 1970s, led the organization through some of its most significant transformations: “Each time the church takes a step forward,” she said, “it takes a step back.” At Vatican II, the church called its members to respond to the “signs of the times,” to recognize “the universal call to holiness” that made clergy, religious and laypeople equal, to respond to the “joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties” of modern men and women.
But when the “People of God” began to do this, the Vatican and the bishops realized with a shock what it actually meant, and they didn’t like it.
In point of fact, according to papers released in 2011 by the moral theologian Germaine Grisez, papal buyers’ remorse had become evident even before the closing of the Council, when Pope Paul VI made clear that he would not reverse the church’s earlier condemnation of artificial contraceptives under any circumstances. And in 1968 he was true to that promise, absolutely forbidding, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, the use of artificial contraceptives. In so doing the pope overrode the recommendations of the birth control commission formed during Vatican II, a commission that included married lay people. So much for the equality that came with the “universal call to holiness.”
US sisters themselves began slamming into the buyers’ remorse of the institutional church around the same time. Already in 1967, the rollback of the renewal the sisters had undertaken with such commitment began to come into focus. When the cardinal archbishop of Los Angeles forbade the Immaculate Heart Sisters there from implementing the changes agreed upon at their renewal chapter, including modernizing their habit and educating their young sisters before sending them out to teach, the Vatican backed the cardinal, although these were changes the Vatican itself had called for. Ultimately, a majority of IHMs abandoned their status as Catholic sisters under canon law.
When LCWR members proposed a motion protesting the treatment accorded the IHMs, the Vatican representative at their meeting prevented the motion from coming to a vote. In the years that followed, the LCWR protested to Rome repeatedly what appeared to them unjustifiable intrusions by the Vatican and the bishops in decisions over which the Council had given them discretion.
I could go on but you get the idea. The recent investigation of the LCWR and accusations of doctrinal infidelity and radical feminism against the group are one more sad chapter in the long history of popes and bishops attempting to bring Catholic sisters to heel.
There is one significant difference, however. In part because of the Vatican’s own demand that they become so, the sisters currently under attack are the most highly educated women in the history of the church.
And because of the sisters’ hard, able, for the most part financially uncompensated work, Catholic women in the US today are also vastly more educated, competent, and professional than Catholic women of any previous generations. Think here, if you will, of Nancy Pelosi, recent occupant of the highest position of power a woman has held in the history of the US government. Think of Kathleen Sebelius. Think, for that matter, of me. We Catholic women understand the enormous debt we owe our sisters, and we are not pleased to have their faith denigrated in such a vile fashion even as they move into old age.
To paraphrase Sister Simone Campbell, I don’t think the boys have any idea what they’re in for.
Complete Article HERE!
An Irish priest at the center of a gay porn controversy has asked to leave his parish and take sabbatical leave from the priesthood, he said Sunday.
Father Martin McVeigh has admitted he destroyed a memory stick containing “inappropriate imagery” ahead of a church investigation into reports he accidentally showed pictures of naked men to parents of children preparing for their First Holy Communion.
The incident happened at the start of a PowerPoint presentation at a grade school in Pomeroy, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland in March, said the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady.
Parents said in a statement they were “horrified” by what they saw and called for action to be taken against the priest.
The church reported the incident to police, who said no crime had been committed.
In a statement Sunday, McVeigh apologized “for the hurt caused” and “his failure to check his presentation in advance.”
However, he insisted he “was not responsible for the presence of the offending images and in this respect I ask you to accept my innocence.”
The priest also confirmed he had destroyed the memory stick that contained the images.
He said: “After the images were inadvertently shown, I immediately removed the memory stick from the laptop. In my shock and upset and in my concern to ensure that the images would never be shown again, I destroyed it later that evening.”
McVeigh described the past month as “the most difficult” of his life and said he would be taking a break.
“In the hope of bringing resolution and healing to the division and pain within the parish, I have taken the decision to ask Cardinal Brady to allow me to leave the parish of Pomeroy and to take sabbatical leave,” said McVeigh, adding: “The memory of this awful episode will remain with me for the rest of my life.”
Brady said he accepted McVeigh had no advance knowledge of the pornography.
In a statement Sunday, Brady said it had been “a traumatic time for the whole parish community and for Father McVeigh personally.” The cardinal also apologized for the incident.
He issued an update on the church investigation, saying other computers used by McVeigh had been “forensically examined by an independent technical expert and no inappropriate imagery has been found.”
Brady added an additional laptop stolen from the local church sacristy since the March 26 meeting “did not form part of the technical examination.”
The cardinal said he had accepted McVeigh’s request for leave on the understanding he would return to the diocese on its completion.
The latest controversy comes after a series of child sex abuse scandals involving Catholic Church clergy in Ireland. The government-backed investigations say thousands of children have been abused by priests and other church figures over the last 80 years.
In March, the Vatican released a major report into the problem, begging forgiveness from victims. However, victims hit out at the report’s finding that new safeguards are working.
Complete Article HERE!
A Catholic priest admitting a sexual relationship with a teen said he had been the victim of an attempted gang rape by fellow seminarians, according to testimony in a clergy-abuse trial.
Documents show the priest had admitted to the Philadelphia archdiocese in 1992 that he had sex with the high school student for several years. An archdiocesan treatment center concluded the priest was not a pedophile, but was affected by his “traumatic sexual development.” He remained in ministry for another decade.
It’s not clear if the trauma reference was to the alleged seminary assault. The priest told a therapist he had been tied down by several seminarians who tried to rape him and that a friend came to his rescue. But the same friend later twice abused him, the priest told the therapist, according to documents read in court.
The Associated Press is not naming the priest, who graduated from seminary in 1974, because he may be a sexual-assault victim.
The testimony came in the child-endangerment trial of Monsignor William Lynn, the longtime secretary for clergy in Philadelphia. Prosecutors say he helped keep dangerous priest-predators in jobs where they could continue to abuse children.
The priest discussed Monday stayed in active ministry until the national priest-abuse scandal broke in 2002. His ministry was supposed to be strictly supervised so he was not alone around adolescent boys, but he lived alone in a parish rectory in Lower Merion one year, and had little if any supervision after leaving the hospital in 1993, prosecutors allege. He remains a priest today, but lives a private life of “prayer and penance.”
On cross-examination, defense lawyer Jeffrey Lindy noted that Lynn got the priest to admit to the sexual relationship with the teen the same day the complaint came in to Lynn in 1992, and soon had him being evaluated. However, a detective on the stand noted that police, had they gotten such an admission, would have pursued criminal charges.
Neither the priest’s admission — nor the scores of other abuse complaints brought to the archdiocese from 1948 through the 2005 grand jury report — were ever referred to police or prosecutors.
The priest’s alleged victim had disclosed the abuse to another priest during marriage preparation. That priest and the fiancee — by then the accuser’s ex-girlfriend — went to the archdiocese in July 1992. Lynn’s office never tried to interview the accuser.
There was no follow-up testimony Monday on the seminary rape allegation. The Philadelphia archdiocese runs St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, but can’t comment because of a gag order.
Meanwhile, Lynn’s lawyers are preparing for a potential showdown this week with a key trial witness.
A man who said he was raped by two priests and his fifth-grade teacher at a northeast Philadelphia parish is scheduled to testify Wednesday.
The defense wants to challenge his credibility. But if they do, the judge is likely to let jurors hear that one of the priests has pleaded guilty.
Defrocked priest Edward Avery, 69, pleaded guilty days before trial to sexually assaulting the northeast Philadelphia altar boy in 1999. He is now in prison, serving 2 1/2 to five years for sexual assault and conspiracy.
Judge M. Teresa Sarmina is also pondering whether jurors can hear that five other people have come forward since 2010 to say Avery molested them as children. Defense lawyers say those allegations are beyond Lynn’s control, since he left office in 2004.
But Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said Lynn left “a powder keg” in place after the first complaint was filed in 1992.
“Lynn put a powder keg out there whose name was Avery. If that powder keg explodes, a kid gets raped,” Blessington said.
Complete Article HERE!
IT is an astonishing thing that historians will look back and puzzle over, that in the 21st century, American women were such hunted creatures.
Who thinks it’s cool to bully nuns? While continuing to heal and educate, the community of sisters is aging and dying out because few younger women are willing to make such sacrifices for a church determined to bring women to heel.
Yet the nuns must be yanked into line by the crepuscular, medieval men who run the Catholic Church.
“It’s not terribly unlike the days of yore when they singled out people in the rough days of the Inquisition,” said Kenneth Briggs, the author of “Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church’s Betrayal of American Nuns.”
How can the church hierarchy be more offended by the nuns’ impassioned advocacy for the poor than by priests’ sordid pedophilia?
How do you take spiritual direction from a church that seems to be losing its soul?
It has become a habit for the church to go after women. A Worcester, Mass., bishop successfully fought to get a commencement speech invitation taken away from Vicki Kennedy, widow of Teddy Kennedy, because of her positions on some social issues. And an Indiana woman named Emily Herx has filed a lawsuit saying she was fired from her job teaching in a Catholic school and denounced as a “grave, immoral sinner” by the parish pastor after she used fertility treatments to try to get pregnant with her husband.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York recently told The Wall Street Journal that only “a tiny minority” of priests were tainted by the sex abuse scandal. But it’s a global shame spiral. The church leadership never recoiled in horror from pedophilia, yet it recoils in horror from outspoken nuns.
In Philadelphia, Msgr. William Lynn, 61, is the first church supervisor to go on trial for child endangerment. He is fighting charges that he may have covered up for 20 priests accused of sexual abuse and left in the ministry, often transferred to unwitting parishes.
Somehow the Philadelphia church leaders decided that the Rev. Thomas Smith was not sexually motivated when he made boys strip and be whipped playing Christ in a Passion play. Somehow they decided an altar boy who said he was raped by two priests and his fifth-grade teacher was not the one in need of protection.
Instead of looking deep into its own heart and soul, the church is going after the women who are the heart and soul of parishes, schools and hospitals.
The stunned sisters are debating how to respond after the Vatican’s scorching reprimand to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the main association of American Catholic nuns. The bishops were obviously peeved that some nuns had the temerity to speak out in support of President Obama’s health care plan, including his compromise on contraception for religious hospitals.
The Vatican accused the nuns of pushing “radical feminist themes,” and said they were not vocal enough in parroting church policy against the ordination of women as priests and against abortion, contraception and homosexual relationships.
In a blatant “Shut up and sit down, sisters” moment, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, noted, “Occasional public statements by the L.C.W.R. that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.”
Pope Benedict, who became known as “God’s Rottweiler” when he was the cardinal conducting the office’s loyalty tests, assigned Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to crack down on the climate of “corporate dissent” among the poor nuns.
When the nuns push for social justice, they’re put into stocks. Yet Archbishop Sartain has led a campaign in Washington to reverse the state’s newly enacted law allowing same-sex marriage, and he’s a church hero.
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic lobbying group slapped in the Vatican report, said it scares the church hierarchy to have “educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue.”
She told NPR that it was ironic that church leaders were mad at sisters over contraception when the nuns had committed to a celibate life with no families or babies. Given the damage done by the pedophilia scandals, she said, “the church’s obsession, at times, with the sexual relationships is a serious problem.”
Asked by The Journal if the church had a hard time convincing the flock to follow its strict teachings on sexuality, Cardinal Dolan laughed: “Do we ever!”
Church leaders behave like adolescent boys, blinded by sex. That’s the problem with inquisitors and censors: They become fascinated by what they deplore.
The pope needs what the rest of us got from nuns: a good rap across the knuckles.
Complete Article HERE!
Staged Reading of Controversial New Play To Benefit
SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)
New York, NY (April 3, 2012) Impetus Ensemble is proud to present a special presentation of this ambitious new play set against the backdrop of the Catholic sex abuse scandal.
Based on factual material, “VATICAN FALLS” follows the life of one survivor who struggles with understanding how those closest to him could damage him the deepest. The multi-genre, non-linear play probes the conflicting feelings involved in most sexual abuse situations and dares to confront the truth about the ever-growing scandal and the Church’s complicity in it.
“VATICAN FALLS” was set to have its World Premiere in Rome, Italy, last May but was cancelled the night before opening amidst controversy and claims of death threats. This will mark the first U.S. presentation of the play to an audience since the last workshop in 2010.
Recent headline news reports about the Catholic Church putting legal pressure on SNAP to hand over more than two decades of confidential information has put the group at the forefront of a major battle with Vatican attorneys wishing to silence them once and for all. SNAP is holding steadfast in their efforts to protect the privacy of victims, witnesses–even journalists who have come to them for help in the past. All proceeds from this Benefit will go directly to these brave men and women. We hope to raise awareness about the real facts concerning the scandal and about this very important group that has provided a safe haven for survivors since 1988. SNAP recently filed a lawsuit against the Vatican for crimes against humanity.
“VATICAN FALLS” features: Francesco Andolfi, Carlotta Brentan, Drew Bruck, Matthew Crooks, Carlos Dengler, Joshua Dixon, Lucia Grillo, Kalen J. Hall, Liza Harris, Devon Talbott & Rob Ventre. Stage Directions: Cali Gilman. Musical Director/Arranger: Brad Gardner. Songs written by Claudio Procopio & Frank J. Avella.
The National Comedy Theatre is located at 347 West 36th St. (between 8th & 9th Aves), NYC. Tickets range from $20 to $50. Reservations via: VaticanFalls.com or call 973-715-2356.
Frank J. Avella (Author) recently completed Nemesis, The Mad Ones & Consent, a semifinalist for the O’Neill Playwrights Conference. Consent will be workshopped at the Celebration Theatre in West Hollywood, CA this Fall. Frank is currently working on his 17th full-length play and adapting Consent for the screen. Seven of his works have been produced in NYC (Unhinging, 3 Cains, Michael’s #1 Fan, Lexy, About Christine, The Bubble, Greener); one was produced in Cincinnati (Iris). Frank did his Grad work in Cinema Studies & Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He is a film journalist for newyorkcool.com and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.
Laura Caparrotti has a Master Degree in Performing Arts, Cinema and Theatre History from the University “La Sapienza” in Rome. She also studied with Nobel Prize Dario Fo, among others. After ten years of professional theatre in Italy, she relocated to New York, where she continues to direct and/or perform. She is the Founding Artistic Director of the Italian Theater Company in NY Kairos Italy Theater.
The Diocese of Stockton has settled a civil lawsuit and will pay $3.75 million to a plaintiff who accused removed priest Michael Kelly of sexually molesting him.
Trotter, of Fairfax, was an altar boy at Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton under Kelly’s direction more than 20 years ago. He said he recovered memories of the abuse years later and that the emotional fallout has prevented him from working as an airline pilot.
Trotter revealed his name to encourage other abuse victims to come forward and begin the healing process, he said.
“I wasn’t able to be strong as a child,” Trotter, 37, said Friday at University Plaza Waterfront Hotel in Stockton. “I finally took care of that little boy inside me.”
Trotter filed suit, his attorneys said, since the statue of limitations didn’t allow for a criminal trial.
Church officials agreed to pay to avoid further litigation after a jury on April 6 found Kelly liable of sexually assaulting Trotter.
Kelly, who had taken the stand once, departed to his native Ireland – citing health reasons – two days before he was scheduled to testify in the phase of the trial that focused on the diocese’s liability.
The diocese had to consider the jury’s verdict against Kelly and the priest’s departure in deciding whether to settle or continue arguing, said defense attorney Jim Goodman of San Francisco.
“We just felt it was in the best interest of everybody to bring the second phase of the trial to an end,” Bishop Stephen Blaire said, adding the settlement isn’t an admission of negligence on the diocese’s part.
“I don’t think a settlement in any way conveys anything other than an agreement, and I would hope people would not take it that way,” he said.
Jury members found Kelly liable after seven weeks of testimony. Because it was a civil trial, Trotter’s legal team did not have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt abuse had occurred; they had to prove it was more likely than not that the molestation and rape occurred.
“This case has always been (based) on no hard evidence,” said David Edwards, who served as jury foreman.
Edwards of Tracy said the jury looked at complaints by various parents at different parishes where Kelly served.
“For me there just was just too much inappropriate behavior by Father Kelly,” said Edwards, 47. “It was just too hard to dismiss.”
Jurors also considered that some church staff, who became mandatory reporters in 1998 by law, testified that had the complaints taken place at this time, versus 20 years ago, they would have reported the incidents to law enforcement for further investigation.
After the settlement was announced Friday, some of the jury embraced Trotter and his family.
Most headed to a news conference to learn more about Trotter.
At the conference, John Manly, Trotter’s lead attorney, urged law enforcement officials to investigate the diocese’s handling of clergy sexual misconduct.
Blaire said the diocese has clear procedures and policies for investigating allegations, including a review board made up of community members, law professionals and abuse survivors.
“If anybody wants to come in and examine the way we conduct our investigations, I welcome them to do that,” Blaire said.
Blaire said the diocese already has education and training programs for personnel and for youth.
“But I think this will be an opportunity to review all of that. If we need to make some improvements, we can do that.
“We’re always concerned about the impact of these kinds of situations on parishioners. What is most important to me is to reassure them that our No. 1 concern, our No. 1 priority, is the safety and the protection of our young people.”
Now, Blaire said, he must reach out to the people of St. Joachim’s Church in Lockeford, Kelly’s last parish, where he was highly supported.
The priest, who is presumed to be in Ireland, is still under investigation by the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office for sexual abuse allegations from when he served at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in San Andreas a decade ago.
Although the investigation was opened when a former altar boy reported being abused, it continues because investigators have identified additional alleged victims and need to conduct additional interviews, said Sgt. Chris Hewitt, a department spokesman.
“When we first learned of the accusations, it was reported to the Calaveras sheriff,” Blaire said. “That was several months ago. … We just have to wait and see what their investigation turns up.”
Manly, of Newport Beach-based Manly & Stewart, also represents the first victim who came forward from Calaveras County.
The diocese oversees parishes in Calaveras, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties.
From the $3.75 million payout, $2 million will be paid by insurance, and the rest will come from the diocese’s reserves.
The diocese already has paid millions of dollars in settling past cases of sex abuse by priests.
It includes a $7 million payout to brothers John and James Howard, who said they were molested by now-defrocked Priest Oliver O’Grady while he served at Sacred Heart Church in Turlock. O’Grady was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison over the Howards’ abuse and was the focus of the documentary film “Deliver Us From Evil.” Overseen by then-Bishop Roger Mahony, the diocese was criticized for covering up O’Grady’s abuses.
Mahony, recently retired as archbishop of Los Angeles, in 2007 settled with more than 500 victims – for a total of $660 million – and publicly apologized for the abuses by priests.
But Blaire stood by Kelly.
“We defended him because we believed he was innocent,” Blaire said. “The jury made a decision, and I respect that decision.”
Complete Article HERE!
A priest in the Belleville diocese at odds with his bishop over the wording of the Catholic Mass said the former Archbishop of St. Louis – now head of the Vatican’s highest court – said he should have been removed from his parish long ago.
The Rev. William Rowe said Belleville Bishop Edward Braxton told him in a meeting Tuesday that if he refused to resign as pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Mount Carmel, Ill., the bishop would use canon – or church – law to remove him. Rowe said he asked Braxton if he could appeal a removal, if it came to that.
Rowe said Braxton told him that he could appeal an eventual removal to the Vatican’s version of the supreme court, called the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. But, Braxton said, he had already spoken to the head of that court – former St. Louis archbishop, Cardinal Raymond Burke – in February, and that Burke told Braxton that Rowe should have been removed “a long time ago,” according to the priest.
“The understanding there is that I’m done,” Rowe said.
Messages left with the offices of Braxton in Belleville and Burke in Rome were not returned Wednesday morning.
Rowe said Braxton told him that on two recent trips to Rome several bishops asked him about Rowe’s case, and encouraged him to remove the priest. The bishop told him the bishops had heard about two civil weddings outside the church Rowe had performed for couples whose previous marriages had not yet been annulled. Braxton “said Rome was aware of those weddings and upset about that before the liturgy thing,” Rowe said.
For decades, Rowe has deviated from the language of the Roman Catholic Mass, a highly prescribed liturgical rite, parts of which are as old as Christianity itself. In December, the Vatican introduced a new English-language translation of the Roman Missal – the book of prayers, chants and responses used during Mass. The new translation rendered some of the language in the Missal closer in spirit to the original Latin. Critics of the new translation have said the English is clunky and awkward for priests and laity.
Most of the prayers read by priests from the Missal during Mass cannot be changed. But there has never been an established penalty for improvising non-alterable prayers, and bishops have traditionally looked past an individual priest’s extemporizing. Last June, Braxton had sent a letter to all the priests in the Belleville Diocese warning that “it will not be acceptable for any priest or any parish to refrain from using the new prayers due to their personal preference.”
Rowe offered Braxton his resignation October 12, 2011, after a meeting during which the bishop barred the priest from improvising prayers during Mass. Braxton didn’t accept Rowe’s resignation until Jan. 30, 2012. Canon law says a bishop must accept a priest’s resignation within three months of the original offer. Rowe has since retracted his resignation offer.
Complete Article HERE!
The Catholic priest who headed the diocese’s Northern Virginia office responsible for protecting children from sexual abuse was placed on administrative leave Wednesday while he is investigated for alleged sexual misconduct with a teenage boy.
The Rev. Terry W. Specht, 59, who has been pastor of Holy Spirit Church in Annandale since 2007, denies the allegation of misconduct in the late 1990s. Specht was a parochial vicar at St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax at the time.
Staff at Holy Spirit declined to comment Wednesday, and e-mails to parishioners weren’t immediately returned.
From 2004 until last year, Specht was director of the Office of Child Protection and Safety, which trains church employees and volunteers to spot abuse and monitors youth activities “to ensure that all contact with young people is appropriate,” its Web site says.
The diocese has a separate victims’ assistance office that is typically the main contact for people coming forward with complaints.
“Any allegation of abuse deepens the pain felt by all Catholics, and particularly survivors of abuse,” said Arlington’s bishop, Paul Loverde, adding that he has appointed an “independent investigator” to review Specht’s work while he headed the child-protection office.
After 20 years in the Navy, Specht, a native of Pennsylvania, became a priest in Arlington in 1996. He worked with multiple ministries focused on youths. From 2000 to 2004, he was chaplain and assistant principal at the 1,000-student Paul VI Catholic High School, one of four Catholic secondary schools in the diocese.
Specht has been more visible than many priests, and until late Wednesday he maintained a Twitter account on which he posted and commented on various conservative issues, poking fun at President Obama and more liberal Catholics who support gay rights. The photo on the account was of a bulldog.
“The investigation is in its initial phase, and no final determination has yet been made regarding the allegation,” said a statement from the diocese, adding that officials were working with Fairfax County police.
A man came to the diocese in late January with the complaint and within a week officials contacted the police, diocesan spokesman Michael Donohue said.
Neither he nor the police would specify if the allegation involved one incident or more, or what sort of evidence was presented. Donohue said that an accusation itself would not automatically trigger the administrative-leave process.
“The bishop has looked at the information provided from the very beginnings of this and made a determination that it was best to put Reverend Specht on administrative leave,” he said.
There have been no other allegations of misconduct against Specht, Donohue said.
Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said the investigation, which began in February, continues.
Becky Ianni, an advocate for clergy sex-abuse survivors in Northern Virginia, said the allegation is disturbing.
“It’s just frightening to think that this is the person educating people and perhaps he is a predator,” she said.
Complete Article HERE!
Have you tweeted at #WhatSistersMeanToMe about the nuns in your life?
Rev. James Martin, culture editor for America magazine, wrote an ode to the sisters and launched a the hashtag to rally praise for them after the major group of women religious (their proper title although nuns and sisters fit headlines and Twitter counts better) now that some are under fire.
The Vatican wants the powerful women’s voices to stress the Catholic vision for marriage and sexuality and to spend more time campaigning against abortion,gay marriage, and women’s ordination.
Subtext: Stop contradicting the bishops on public policy issues such as President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Reuter’s coverage spotted it in the Vatican report last week which…
found that the nuns promoted political views at odds with those expressed by U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”
You may remember 2010 when the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the umbrella group representing 55,000 sister and nuns, determined that the Obama proposal did not provide funding for abortion and came out in support of its passage. Bishops were outraged.
Now the Vatican has cracked down on the LCWR. According to Religion News Service’s David Gibson last week,
One of the groups singled out in the criticism is Network, a social justice lobby created by Catholic sisters 40 years ago that continues to play a leading role in pushing progressive causes on Capitol Hill.
The Vatican announcement said that “while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death.”
… Increasingly, however, the hierarchy in Rome and the U.S. is focusing on promoting doctrinal orthodoxy and curbing dissent.
Internal Catholic church discipline is not a topic up for public polling.
The Catholic News Agency carried the Vatican and bishops’ side of the nuns story with not a single sister quoted. It concluded with Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who:
“expressed hope that the new measures will help “provide a stronger doctrinal foundation” for LCWR’s “many laudable initiatives and activities.”
But many U.S. Catholics are outraged at an image of the social justice sisters getting rebuked.
American Catholics love their nuns. They may joke about the sisters and laugh at stereotypical ruler-slapping teachers. However, they know very well, says Martin. He wrote:
More often than not, it is women religious who precede the men in working with the poor, in giving voice to the powerless and in dying on the fields of martyrdom. It is the women who do, do, do, and have done so with little recognition and historically even less pay, and all in a church where women’s voices are often unheard, ignored or denied.
Martin told Melinda Henneberger,of the Washington Post, it was
… a good time to express gratitude for the unbelievably inspiring work that Catholic sisters do and have done: For God, for the church and for the poor…I couldn’t imagine my life or the church without these women.
Among the early tweets ad #WhatSistersMeanToMe:
“In my darkest hours of doubt, it was the sisters that brought me the light,” tweeted former Congressman Tom Perriello (D-Va.) in response.
Sister Joan Chittister, a former president of the nuns’ leadership conference, told Reuters:
… the nuns saw themselves as helping, not hurting, the church. Their difficult questions must be asked, she said, if the church is to remain vibrant, relevant and respected. “When you begin to suppress that, it’s immoral,” Chittister said. “It’s a mistake for the church. And it’s despair for its people.”
… The nuns’ motto, declared on their website: “We risk being agents of change within church and society.”
DO YOU THINK … nuns have overstepped — or sidestepped — their spiritual roles or is the Vatican missing the point? Even if you’re not Catholic, has your life been influenced by sisters’ activism?
Complete Article HERE!