04/29/13

Newark Archbishop John Myers must go: Editorial

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For background story see HERE!

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board

After all the Catholic Church has been through, it is beyond infuriating that Newark Archbishop John J. Myers can be so neglectful of his duty to protect children from sexual predators.

He should resign immediately and apologize to the families whose children he left exposed, barring some stunning new disclosure that could exonerate him in the face of the damning facts presented by The Star-Ledger’s Mark Mueller in today’s edition.

john_myers_newark

The case concerns Michael Fugee, a priest who was convicted in a sexual abuse case in 2003 after he confessed to fondling a 14-year-old boy, and being a compulsive masturbator obsessed with penis size.

The conviction was overturned when a higher court found the judge had given improper instructions to jurors. Instead of trying Fugee again, as they should have, prosecutors allowed him to avoid jail by joining a program for first-offenders.

Part of the deal was an agreement that Fugee signed, along with the archdiocese, committing all parties to keeping Fugee away from minors.

Fugee was not to work in any position involving children, or have any affiliation with youth groups. He could not attend youth retreats, or even hear the confessions of children.

With the full knowledge and approval of Myers, Fugee did all of those things. Look at the picture of him clowning around with children in today’s paper, and it makes you want to scream a warning. The agreement was designed to prevent exactly that.

This is not the first time Myers has shown contempt for the safety of children in his flock. While many bishops are making a sincere efforts to rehabilitate the church, Myers has shown a pattern of leniency toward pedophiles, indifference to potential victims, and a haughty disdain for those who dare to question his judgment.

Before this latest flare-up with Fugee, Myers had promoted him to an influential position in the church as co-director of the office that helps guide young priests, sending precisely the wrong message. Earlier this year, Fugee was found to be saying Mass and living at the rectory of a church in Rochelle Park. Parishioners had not been told of his criminal past, so again, children were exposed. In 2009, Myers appointed Fugee chaplain of St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, again without telling the hospital about Fugee’s restrictions.Michael Fugee

Unlike some other bishops, Myers will not release the names of priests who have been credibly accused of abuse.

In 2004, he wrote a letter of recommendation to six dioceses in Florida for one priest, a week after learning the priest had been accused of assaulting a woman after breaking into her house. The same year, he banned one priest from public ministry after investigating an allegation that he had abused a boy, but did not notify laypeople or other priests. In 2007, he did not tell laypeople about a credible finding of molestation against a priest working in Elizabeth and Jersey City, information that was finally turned up by a victims’ group.

Fugee is, or at least was, the real danger. He seems to think he can break the rules. It is Myers’ job to stop him, and he is instead enabling him.

He is refusing to discuss any of this. Our hope is the prosecutors press him to do so. He is a part to the agreement on Fugee, which was signed by the archdiocese’s vicar general on behalf of Myers, and which has clearly been broken.

In the meantime, for the sake of the children, Myers should step down.

Complete Article HERE!

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04/29/13

O’Brien scandal: Vatican calls halt to new bishops

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The Vatican has called a halt to the appointment of any more Scottish bishops until a full investigation into the Cardinal Keith O’Brien scandal is completed by Rome.

By Gerry Braiden

In the first known move in relation to the crisis since the election of Pope Francis, Scotland’s leading Catholic cleric Philip Tartaglia was given the news at a meeting in the Vatican this week.

o'brianCardinal O’Brien resigned from his position as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh two months ago amid confessions of gay sexual activity spanning decades.

The move by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, one of the front-runners in the recent conclave to elect a new pope, means three dioceses – Paisley, Dunkeld and Edinburgh – will not have their vacancies for a bishop filled.

Another two with ageing bishops, Motherwell and Galloway, will not have their churchmen replaced.

Canadian Cardinal Ouellet is the current prefect of the Congregation for the Bishops, which oversees the selection of new bishops.

Serving and former trainee priests have claimed to have been abused by Cardinal O’Brien, who remains a cardinal.

In another move, it is understood the Congregation for the Bishops has instructed the Pope’s ambassador in the UK to keep the book open on Cardinal O’Brien and continue to gather evidence. The demand is another indication Pope Francis is turning his attention to the crisis engulfing the Catholic Church in Scotland.

It also wants evidence on the allegations of a “gay mafia”, sexual bullying and open sexual relationships in seminaries made in a recent book by a serving priest in Lanarkshire, Father Matthew Despard.

Meanwhile, it is understood Cardinal O’Brien has been seeking clarification from the Papal Nuncio in London as to the status of the investigation into the claims.

He has been given assurances no decision has as yet been taken to remove him from the clergy or demote him.

There have also been discussions in Church circles that the Catholic hierarchy was of the view the storm around Cardinal O’Brien had passed and that it wanted to brush the matter under the carpet.

There have been claims that, having removed himself from public life, the only punishment he would face was not having a burial at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh.

However, the moves in recent days gave a clear indication the Vatican has not closed the book on the Cardinal O’Brien fallout and has extended its interest into Father Despard’s claims.

One source said: “Philip Tartaglia was meeting with Ouellet over the situation Scotland has faced for several years. It needs new bishops.

“But Ouellet’s made it clear: no new broom until Rome gets to the bottom of all that’s happened here. Scotland’s not the Holy Father’s priority, but this book and the Cardinal have brought disgrace to the Church. Utterly discredited it in the eyes of the world and Francis wants cleansing.”

Another said: “Were the Congregation for the Bishops simply to give the nod for new blood now, the Church would face ever more accusing of trying to sweep things under the carpet. It doesn’t want that here.”

The Vatican did not respond to a request for an update on the investigation into Cardinal O’Br ien. No-one was available at the Papal Nuncio’s office.

Cardinal O’Brien was also contacted but he was unavailable.

A spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Media Office said: “Since the complaints against the Cardinal went directly to the Vatican it will be for them to deal with and decide what action to take.”

Three priests and a former priest made allegations of “inappropriate” behaviour against Cardinal O’Brien. He apologised and asked forgiveness from those he had offended as he stepped down.

Complete Article HERE!

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04/29/13

Women Catholic deacons ‘no longer taboo’

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Germany’s top Roman Catholic has called for women to be allowed to become deacons, which would enable them to perform baptisms and marriages outside of mass – a novelty for Catholic women.

Archbishop of Freiburg Robert Zollitsch, who chairs the German Bishops’ Conference, called for the change at the end of a four-day meeting to discuss possible reforms.

Archbishop of Freiburg Robert ZollitschThe conference, the first of its kind, invited 300 Roman Catholic experts to propose reforms. Zollitsch’s comments echo year-long calls from the Central Committee of German Catholics to permit women to become deacons. On Sunday, Zollitsch said that aim was no longer a ‘taboo.’

Zollitsch said the Catholic Church could only regain credibility and strength by committing to reform. He described an “atmosphere of openness and freedom” at the conference.

Deacons assist priests during church services and can perform baptisms and marriages outside of mass. Their primary role however is to serve the needy in their community and their duties are considered secular rather than pastoral.

Another proposal to emerge from the conference was to extend the rights of remarried divorcees to sit on church bodies such as parish councils. Conference members also discussed the possibility of granting them the right to receive Holy Communion and attend confession.

“It’s important to me that, without undermining the sanctity of marriage, these men and women are taken seriously within the church and feel respected and at home,” said Zollitsch. At present the reforms remain speculative and there is no proposed time-frame for their implementation. The position of divorcees remains highly controversial within the Church.

The conference also touched on the difficulty, particularly in eastern Germany, of recruiting people to work for Catholic institutions such as hospitals and kindergarten. At present the Church can only employ Roman Catholics. However Zollitsch called for work permits to be extended to non-Catholics and to those with “different lifestyles.” This would technically apply to homosexual people too. However Church labour reforms are unlikely to be introduced in the next three years.

While reform might be slow to come, the sentiments expressed at the conference are a signal to many that change is on the way. “I have never experienced a process of strategy development as transparent as this one,” said Thomas Berg, of the Baden-Württemberg Leadership Academy, who attended the conference.

Complete Article HERE!

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04/28/13

Kentucky woman ordained as priest in defiance of Catholic church

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By Peter Smith

In defiance of Roman Catholic authority and doctrine, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests ordained its first Louisville-area priest on Saturday.

Rosemarie Smead weeps openly as almost entire congregation comes to lay their hands on her head in blessing, as she was ordained Roman Catholic priest during Celebration of Ordination in LouisvilleRosemarie Smead of Bedford, Ky., a retired Indiana University Southeast counselor-education professor, was ordained during the two-hour service hosted by a bishop of the movement, Bridget Mary Meehan.

Several other women priests in the movement, in white robes and red stoles, gathered from around the country to participate in a ceremony patterned on traditional Catholic ordination liturgy but suffused with feminist imagery. About 200 people attended the service at St. Andrew United Church of Christ, most of them coming forward to lay hands on Smead in blessing.

The Vatican has stated that as a matter of unchangeable doctrine, the Roman Catholic Church must follow the example of Jesus, who appointed only men as his apostles.

It says anyone who participates in a ceremony purporting to ordain a woman is automatically excommunicated. Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz reiterated that stance in a statement saying the association has no connection to the Roman Catholic Church and that Catholics should not support or participate in Saturday’s event.

Janice Sevre-Duszynska of Lexington, Ky., a priest in the women’s ordination movement, gave opening remarks Saturday, saying there is archaeological and documentary evidence that the early church ordained women — interpretations that have been disputed by supporters of male-only ordination.

Meehan said the decade-old Women Priest movement is an act of justice defying what she called an unjust Vatican law. She said the movement’s bishops were ordained by an unidentified bishop in communion with Rome.

“Sexism in church and society is sinful and should always be challenged,” Meehan said. She said if women were in Catholic leadership, the church’s position against artificial birth control would be lifted.

The liturgy included invocations to numerous female Catholic saints, to God as mother and father and to “Christ-Sophia,” invoking a biblical term for divine wisdom that service leaders said reflects the feminine aspect of God.

After a series of solemn ordination vows, Smead prostrated herself before the altar for several minutes during quiet music and prayer. Participants presented Smead with ceremonial vestments of priestly ministry, and Meehan anointed her hands with oil.

“You’re in for quite a spiritual adventure,” Meehan told Smead.

“It’s just so overwhelming,” Smead said afterward. Smead, who previously lived as a cloistered nun, marched for civil rights and worked for years with troubled youth in Alabama before a quarter-century career at IUS, said the ordination “just raised up 70 years of longing in me to be able to fulfill this.”

Two of Smead’s former IUS students gave testimonials during the ordination, lauding her for providing career and personal guidance, and a niece, nephew and in-law of Smead read Scriptures.

The Rev. Jimmy Watson, pastor of St. Andrew, said the church agreed to host the service after considering a passage in the book of Acts in which the apostle Peter was told by God to bring the gospel to Gentiles.

“I knew there would be some pressure not to do something so illegal,” Watson said. “… We decided that we could not stand in God’s way.”

Complete Article HERE!

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04/27/13

Anti-Gay Pastor Leading 2013 National Day of Prayer

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Pastor Greg Laurie says America is experiencing a “total moral meltdown”

Washington – The Honorary Chairman of next week’s National Day of Prayer has a history of speaking out against LGBT Americans. Pastor Greg Laurie is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in California and is a part of Harvest Ministries. Laurie will be in Washington DC next week to lead events at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill as part of the 2013 National Day of Prayer.

Pastor Greg Laurie

that’s funny, he dresses like a gay man.

Pastor Laurie insists that being gay is a sin. His organization, Harvest Ministries, claims LGBT people are “denying and disobeying God.” A “Statement on Homosexuality” on the Harvest website reads: “A person may be born with a greater susceptibility to homosexuality, just as some people are born with a tendency to violence and other sins. That does not excuse the person’s choosing to sin by giving in to sinful desires. If a person is born with a greater susceptibility to anger/rage, does that make it right for him to give into those desires? Of course not!”

“Pastor Laurie’s message is out of step with what the majority of people of faith across this country believe,” said Dr. Sharon Groves, director of HRC’s Religion & Faith Program. “In greater numbers than ever before, people of faith are feeling compelled to speak up and organize for equality – because of their faith.”

Pastor Laurie’s implication that being gay is a choice is not only inaccurate; it’s also a dangerous assertion. The nation’s leading medical organizations are in lockstep agreement that efforts to change one’s sexual orientation can have harmful consequences. Full statements from the medical groups are available on HRC’s website. Earlier this week, a one-time leading advocate of efforts aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation issued an apology and denounced the dangerous practices. John Paulk, who was once associated with the ex-gay group Exodus International, says change efforts are harmful and don’t work. Data indicates that youth exposed to practices aimed at “changing” their sexual orientation are more prone to suicide attempts, depression, and drug use.

Last week, Pastor Laurie appeared on James Dobson’s “Family Talk” program, warning that our nation was experiencing a “complete, total moral meltdown.” James Dobson is the founder and chairman emeritus of the anti-gay group Focus on the Family, an organization that has blasted relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples and attacked the idea of same-sex couples raising children. Dobson’s wife, Shirley, is the Chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

“People of faith are guided by the core tenets of their faith to love their neighbor as yourself and judge not,” added Groves. “Pastor Laurie’s offensive teachings stand in direct contradiction to the core values of many people of faith and an increasing number of religious institutions that have encouraged full inclusion. It is time for him to listen to the religious voices that recognize supporting all LGBT people as a faith value.”

Laurie will be participating in a prayer breakfast at the Pentagon next Thursday morning. Laurie and Dobson will then lead the official observation of the National Day of Prayer from an event on Capitol Hill.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Complete Article HERE!

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