Francis agrees to possibility of setting up commission to study women deacons in early Church

In an audience with female religious superiors, the Pope has agreed to back the establishment of a commission to study women deacons in the early Church. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini proposed such a move back in the 90’s. The Italian diocese of Padua, began experimenting some time ago

The female diaconate: a possibility for today?
The female diaconate: a possibility for today?


Pope Francis has said he wants the study of the female diaconate in the early Church to resume. He talked about this during his audience with the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), whom he received in the Vatican. This is not a new question and was in fact mentioned again recently. After the clear message John Paul II sent out when he reacted to the Anglicans’ open approach by issuing the “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” letter (1994), categorically rejecting the possibility of ordination for women in the Catholic Church, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini spoke of the possibility of studying the institution of the female diaconate, which is not mentioned in the papal document. The Archbishop of Milan at the time said: “There have been female deacons in the Church in the past, we could consider this possibility.” Some early Church historians pointed out that women were admitted to a specific diaconal service of charity which differs from today’s concept of the diaconate as the first step towards priesthood.

During the question and answer session that took place during the meeting, the Pope was asked, amongst other things, why the Church excludes women from the diaconate. Women religious told the Pope that women served as deacons in the early Church and asked: “Why not construct an official commission that might study the question?” The Pope responded that he had spoken about the matter once some years ago with a “good, wise professor” who had studied the use of female deacons in the early centuries of the Church. Francis said it remained unclear to him what role such deacons had. “It was a bit obscure,” said Francis. “What was the role of the deaconess in that time?” “Constituting an official commission that might study the question?” the pontiff asked aloud. “I believe yes. It would do good for the church to clarify this point. I am in agreement. I will speak to do something like this.”

“I accept,” the pope said later. “It seems useful to me to have a commission that would clarify this well.”

According to an ancient tradition, deacons were in fact ordained “not to the priesthood but to the ministry”. There is some historical evidence of the presence of female deacons both in the western and eastern Church. This evidence relates also to liturgical ordination rites as well. What needs to be looked into further, is what type of ministerial figures they were, what their roles within the community were. The magisterium considers the diaconate as the first step in the ordained ministry and reserves this function as well as that of the presbyterate and the episcopate to men.

By announcing his approval of the setting up of a study commission on the female diaconate in the early Church, Francis intends to verify whether and how this form of service can be brought up to date, believing that the role of the permanent female deacon could be reinstituted in the modern day. In the early days of Christianity females deacons did exist (St. Paul mentions them) and there is documentary evidence showing that in 3rd century Syria, there were female deacons who assisted the priest with female baptisms. This role is also mentioned in apostolic constitutions dating back to the 4th century, which contain references to a specific ordination rite that differed from the ordination rite reserved for male deacons.

Some forms of female diaconal service have been institutionalised for some time now, as is the case with the diocese of Padua, where said forms of service were introduced by the former bishop Antonio Mattiazzo. Although these women do not wear a religious habit, they have taken vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, meaning they have been consecrated as “diocesan apostolic collaborators”. The northern Italian diocese defined the role and tasks of this new form of service as such: “This form of female diaconal service is inspired by the Gospel. For female apostolic collaborators entering the apostolic diaconate is a life choice that is approved and oriented by the bishops”. One of the tasks of female deacons is to proclaim the Gospel message, educate people about the faith, do charity work for the poor, distribute Holy Communion, enliven the liturgy and manage structures such as schools and institutes.

Pope Francis has spoken on many occasions about the need for the Catholic Church to value the role of women. But he has always avoided presenting this as a form of female “clericalisation”. “I don’t know where this idea sprang from. Women in the Church must be valued not ‘clericalised’. Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism,” Francis said in an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa in December 2013, in response to a question about whether the Church would have women cardinals in the future.

In September 2001, the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger, along with his “colleagues”, cardinals Medina Estevez (Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship) and Castrillón Hoyos (Congregation for the Clergy), signed a brief letter, approved by John Paul II, which stated that “it is not licit to put in place initiatives which in some way aim to prepare female candidates for diaconal ordination”. The text referred to the diaconate as a sacrament and first step towards priesthood.

New studies on the female diaconate in the early Church, on the duties and responsibilities of female deacons compared to those of their male counterparts and on the types of ordination rite, could open up new possibilities and new forms of consecrated service besides the already existing women’s religious orders.

“The Church needs women to become a part of the decision-making process and for them to head up an office in the Vatican,” Pope Francis said, responding to six questions put to him at a meeting with 900 nuns from across the world. Speaking in the Nervi hall, he explained that “the Church should involve lay and consecrated women in consultations but also in decision-making because it needs to hear their point of view. This growing role women are playing within the Church is not feminism but co-responsibility which is a right of all Christians, men and women alike.” Francis also underlined that “too many consecrated females are mediocre women rather than people who engaged in the ministry of service. Consecrated life,” he added, “is a path of poverty, not suicide”.

Complete Article HERE!

Priest guilty of trying to lure girl

14-year-old said a strange man told her to get into his car

By Jessica Prokop

Michael T. Patrick
Michael T. Patrick

A Catholic priest entered a guilty plea Friday, court records show, to trying to lure a 14-year-old girl into his car as she was walking home from school in Vancouver’s Image neighborhood.

Michael T. Patrick, 59, the former pastor of St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Scappoose, Ore., entered the plea in Clark County Superior Court to attempted luring but did not admit to the conduct. Patrick initially faced a charge of luring in connection with the 2014 incident.

David Renshaw, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Portland, said Tuesday that Patrick is not assigned to a parish and has not been since his arrest. Renshaw said Patrick’s status will not change until the Archdiocese has completed its investigation.

Patrick will be sentenced May 23 in Superior Court. He could face up to a year behind bars and two years’ probation. However, the prosecution will recommend that he serve six months in jail and a year of probation, court records show. The defense is free to argue for a lesser sentence.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in Superior Court, the teen was walking west on Northeast 28th Street near 138th Avenue on March 10, 2014, when she noticed a man looking at her “strangely” from inside a blue 2007 Honda Pilot that was traveling east on 28th Street.

A short time later, the girl said the vehicle passed her again, but this time it was headed west on the street. The vehicle then pulled over in the bike lane, and the driver opened the window and told her to get inside, the affidavit said.

She told the driver “no” and began walking faster. The man, later identified by police as Patrick, drove alongside her, asking her several more times if she wanted a ride, according to court records. She declined each time. Patrick continued to follow her as she turned north on Northeast 132nd Avenue, court records said.

Patrick allegedly said, “Come on, cutie,” which alarmed the girl and prompted her to run to an in-home day care center on the east side of the street, according to court documents. There, she called her mother for advice.

Her mother said the girl was crying and sounded frightened. The girl waited at the residence until the man drove away, then ran home, the affidavit said.

Vancouver police located Patrick the same day, based on his license plate number. He denied the accusations.

Police then brought the girl to the front of his Vancouver residence, and she identified him as the man who had attempted to lure her, according to court records. She said he was still in the clothes he had worn earlier when he spoke to her.

Patrick was arrested April 2, 2014, on a warrant at Los Angeles International Airport when he re-entered the United States after a trip to Australia. He was then extradited to Clark County.

Complete Article HERE!

A long overdue quest for healing and justice

Brian McDonnell, 70, was abused by a priest at the now-closed St. Gregory's in West Philadelphia.
Brian McDonnell, 70, was abused by a priest at the now-closed St. Gregory’s in West Philadelphia.

by Mike Newall

There is a bill before the state Senate that would do something real – something lasting – for survivors of sexual abuse. Something that would allow so many the opportunity for justice they have long been denied. Something that could help them heal – that could help them ease and carry their burdens.

Passed by the House on April 12, H.B. 1947 would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for sexual abuse and extend the civil statutes by 20 years, until victims turn 50. It would allow victims to sue over abuse that occurred decades ago.

The bill does not go far enough. As written, it would offer no recourse to the many victims of the Catholic Church abuse scandal who are older than 50. But it would represent real and significant progress.

“It would be a big victory,” said John Salveson, an abuse survivor from Wayne and the founder of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse. “We have been trying to do this for years. The resistance has just been impossible to overcome.”

It has, of course, taken way too long for legislators to get to the point where the impossible now seems possible.

It took two scathing Philadelphia grand jury reports – one in 2005, another in 2011 – outlining decades of sexual abuse of children by priests and other clergy and decades of cover-up by the church hierarchy.

More recently, it took the equally indefensible revelations in a March grand jury report on the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, where church leaders, prosecutors, and police reportedly ignored decades of abuse allegations.

It took the indictments, a few weeks later, of three Franciscan leaders in Johnstown who prosecutors say covered up for a friar who abused at least 100 children over two decades.

It took too much.

And the bill would not be even a possibility if it were not for the committed leadership of State Rep. Mark Rozzi (D., Berks), the bill’s driving force and an abuse victim himself, who told the Inquirer that he is pushing for its passage with “full guns blazing.”

That is welcome news.

I have covered this story since the first whispers of scandal seeped from the Philly Archdiocese in 2002, first for Philly’s alternative weekly newspapers and then as a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. Over the years, I have spoken with dozens of survivors.

People like Brian McDonnell, 70, who was abused by a priest at the now-closed St. Gregory’s in West Philadelphia. Brian suffered years of mental illness, the manifestations of which, his doctors said, were inextricably intertwined with his abuse. His family had to fight the archdiocese to help navigate the maze of mental health treatment.

Brian died in April, apologizing to his relatives for being a “burden.” He was the furthest thing from that to the people who loved him. But how could you blame him for thinking it? It’s exactly how the church he loved so much treated him.

I have spoken, too, with relatives of victims who did not survive, but were lost to drugs or suicide, to the toxic shame and anger that swallow so many victims.

People a bill like this could have helped.

Like James Spoerl, who was 44 and lived in Northeast Philadelphia. He suffered through years of depression and addiction stemming from abuse he suffered at the hands of a priest as a 9-year-old altar boy at St. Cecilia Parish.

The statute of limitations had expired when James stepped forward in 2002. It was too late for a civil suit. His mother, Catherine, became her son’s advocate, struggling with the archdiocese, she says, to get him the proper therapy and addiction treatment he needed.

“Their response has always been cold and formal,” she said of the archdiocese, a sentiment echoed by many Philadelphia survivors. “They have lacked compassion, attentiveness, empathy, and a repenting spirit.”

Meanwhile, James documented his anguish in his journals.

“I forgive you [expletive] for the cover-up of abuse and all the children you sent to hell here on earth,” he wrote of the church on one page.

James Spoerl died March 30, after battling diabetes and other illnesses.

His mother is now fighting for other mothers’ sons.

“My son did not live long enough to see a change,” she said of the bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations. “But I hope that others who are waiting to be heard are soon granted this right. No human being should be denied this right.”

No, they should not.

Complete Article HERE!

Gay man settles with Catholic school that pulled job offer

Matthew Barrett (right) says his job offer at Fontbonne Academy in Milton, Massachusetts, was rescinded when he listed his husband as an emergency contact.
Matthew Barrett (right) says his job offer at Fontbonne Academy in Milton, Massachusetts, was rescinded when he listed his husband as an emergency contact.


BOSTON — A Boston man who had a job offer from an all-girls Catholic high school rescinded after administrators learned that he was in a same-sex marriage has settled a lawsuit with the school.

The Boston Globe reports 45-year-old Matthew Barrett’s confidential settlement with Fontbonne Academy comes nearly five months after a Massachusetts judge found the Milton school had discriminated against Barrett.

Fontbonne Academy officials pulled their offer of a food service position to Barrett in 2013 after he listed his husband as an emergency contact.

Ben Klein, Barrett’s attorney, says the settlement means that the December Superior Court ruling against the school will stand, establishing a legal precedent that employers have no religious justification for discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

In December 2015, a superior court judge rejected Fontbonne’s claim that hiring Barrett would infringe on its constitutional rights because it views his marriage to a man as incompatible with its religious mission.

The judge said Barrett’s duties as a food services director did not include presenting the teachings of the Catholic Church.

“As an educational institution, Fontbonne retains control over its mission and message. It is not forced to allow Barrett to dilute that message, where he will not be a teacher, minister or spokesman for Fontbonne and has not engaged in public advocacy of same-sex marriage,” Norfolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins wrote.

The judge also found that a religious exemption to the state anti-discrimination law applies only if a religious organization limits admission to people of a certain religion. Fontbonne is open to students and employees of all faiths, with the exception of its administration and theology faculty.

At the time, Barrett’s attorney, Ben Klein of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said Fontbonne was liable to pay damages for lost wages and compensatory damages for discrimination.

“Marriage equality has been the law of Massachusetts for over a decade, and it is now the law of the land. But you can’t have equality if you can get married on Saturday and fired on Monday,” Klein said.

Fontbonne released a statement Wednesday saying it “expresses deep gratitude to Mr. Barrett for his willingness to come together with us in a spirit of conciliation.”

Complete Article HERE!

Devout Catholic catalogues clergy’s crimes, offers victims comfort

Sylvia MacEachern’s website go-to gathering place for church abuse victims

By Simon Gardner

Sylvia MacEachern has dedicated years of her life to tracking and cataloguing convicted child molesters and alleged abusers connected to the church.
Sylvia MacEachern has dedicated years of her life to tracking and cataloguing convicted child molesters and alleged abusers connected to the church.

Mike Fitzgerald is a 60-year-old truck driver who grew up on a farm near Bancroft, Ont.

Mike Fitzgerald, 60, was in his teens when he says he was sexually assaulted by a priest in Bancroft, Ont.

It’s with some trepidation that I ask him if we can meet at the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica, a grand Catholic church located in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. He readily agrees, but when I meet him and his wife Marla on the steps of the cathedral he admits to feeling uncomfortable.

“The good father destroyed my faith in the Catholic Church forever,” he explains.

When I hear about what happened to Fitzgerald when he was a teenager in the early 1970s, his bitterness comes as no surprise.

Fitzgerald grew up in a devout Catholic family. There was even talk of him becoming a priest.

He was musical, and when he turned 17 he agreed to help the parish priest, Father Henry Maloney, form a choir.

Because his family’s farm was about 35 kilometres from Our Lady of Mercy Church in Bancroft, it was decided Fitzgerald would move into a room in the church rectory.

He says he and his family had no idea he was about to fall into the clutches of a child molester.

‘You are going to sleep with me now’

“I remember very clearly the day I came home to the rectory and Father had moved all my personal belongings into his bedroom and said, ‘You are going to sleep with me now,'” Fitzgerald recalls.

Father Henry Maloney was a member of the clergy until he died in 1986.
Father Henry Maloney was a member of the clergy until he died in 1986.

In his lawsuit against the Pembroke Diocese, he claimed Maloney repeatedly sexually assaulted him.

“It started out with groping, fondling and it eventually culminated in August of that year with anal rape. And there was some physical damage the next day. I had to go and see a doctor and [Maloney] told me I should not go to my own family doctor. I should go to his doctor, who turned out to be just the same.”

The lawsuit against the diocese was settled last year. The terms are confidential and Fitzgerald will only say it’s given him some degree of financial security.

In their original statement of defence, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Pembroke said it had no knowledge of any abuse by Maloney, denied anything occurred, and said that if there was abuse — the diocese was not to blame.

The archdiocese declined to comment for this story. (During negotiation between the diocese and Fitzgerald’s lawyer, it was revealed that another lawsuit claiming abuse by Maloney was filed. The allegations, which have not been proven in court, date back to the late 1940s.)

Fitzgerald’s focus is now on recovery. For years he was angry, bitter and racked with sexual insecurities.

Rogues’ gallery of abusers, suspects

Though unable to forgive, these days Fitzgerald seems more at peace.

He credits much of his recovery to an unlikely saviour: a grandmother of 11 who maintains a website from her home in Fitzroy Harbour, a community on the outskirts of Ottawa.

People who meet Sylvia MacEachern are typically struck by her intensity, her deep outrage at the plight of abuse victims —  and her unshakable devotion to the Catholic faith..

For years MacEachern has been a familiar face at trials and investigations into church abuse scandals. As a result, she’s amassed a huge collection of files, transcripts and other documents.

Sylvia’s Site, as she calls it, is a WordPress-based blog and database launched in 2010.

Sylvia MacEachern runs her website from her home in Fitzroy Harbour, Ont.
Sylvia MacEachern runs her website from her home in Fitzroy Harbour, Ont.

Since then, the website has showcased an ever-expanding rogues’ gallery of Catholic Church abusers or suspects. As well, the site is increasingly becoming a conduit for victims to describe their painful memories, and often, to express their anger.

Father Maloney is one of about 350 people listed in the “accused” section of MacEachern’s website. The alphabetical catalogue includes clergy members who were charged and convicted for their crimes, but also those who have successfully appealed, who reached settlements with their alleged victims, or who have simply been named in investigations.

‘The Mother Theresa of Fitzroy Harbour’

MacEachern’s mission to document alleged crimes by Catholic clergy has made her a thorn in the side of the Church.

But her status as an outspoken critic predates her website. I recall speaking with a senior Church official about 25 years ago who was incensed over a publication called The Orator.

The magazine exposed divisions within the Church and criticized the more liberal practices that were taking hold. MacEachern was its editor.

“They don’t love me,” she says with a sly grin.

Hundreds of victims who have stumbled across Sylvia’s Site and made contact with her feel differently.

“I call Sylvia the Mother Theresa of Fitzroy Harbour, Ontario,” says Fitzgerald. “She has been the shoulder that hundreds of us have leaned on. I don’t know where she gets her patience from. She has been a godsend to us.”

MacEachern now describes herself as “Orthodox Catholic,” but she was born in Northern Ireland into a staunchly Protestant family. Much to the shock of her father, she married a Catholic man and converted to the faith.

Her doubts about the Church started in the early 90s when a popular and respected Ottawa priest was charged with molesting boys at a summer camp for underprivileged kids.

MacEachern says she was shocked by the “abysmal” way the archdiocese treated the victims, and disgusted by the level of denial among parishioners even after the priest pleaded guilty.

At first she didn’t realize how important the site would become to victims.

Website unites victim, alleged abuser’s relative

Father Henry Maloney died in 1986, but Sylvia’s Site has now drawn together Mike Fitzgerald and one of Maloney’s relatives.

“I got a telephone call from Sylvia. She said you are not going to believe this but an extended member of your abuser’s family has contacted me and would like me to release your telephone number to her,” says Fitzgerald.

He says he’s since formed a “warm relationship” with the priest’s relative. The messages between them, he says, are full of “love, compassion, kindness, everything I have been looking for for some time.”

There are now plans for the two to meet in person, possibly as soon as the mid-May. Fitzgerald predicts it will be an emotional moment.

MacEachern says she’s never seen a relative reach out to a victim like this, but she wishes it would happen more often.

Film Spotlight ‘stirring something in a lot of them’

MacEachern says the number of victims contacting her is growing. She credits the acclaimed film Spotlight.

Mike Fitzgerald grew up on his family's farm near Bancroft, Ont.
Mike Fitzgerald grew up on his family’s farm near Bancroft, Ont.

The movie centres around a group of investigative journalists at The Boston Globe who expose how the Catholic Church covered up abuse perpetrated by a network of nearly 90 priests in the Boston area.

“It’s stirring something in a lot of victims. They are suddenly getting in touch,” MacEachern says.

MacEachern says Fitzgerald is one of hundreds of victims she’s communicated with since starting Sylvia’s Site.

“You will have a grown man or woman who one day decides to Google the name of their priest molester. Most of them can’t explain why. They hit the site and discover, ‘Gosh, he’s already been charged and convicted, gosh, he’s dead, but there has been several lawsuits.’ They suddenly realize, ‘I am not the only one.'”

She adds that many victims take their secrets to the grave, or only disclose their experiences near the end of their lives. It’s rare for her to hear from men in their 20s or 30s, she says.

Church ‘hijacked’

About a year ago, an 82-year-old man from Toronto contacted her and covertly described being abused in his youth by a priest.

“This man got in touch with me and had very specific instruction to call him at a certain time of day when his wife would be sleeping. He did not want her to know and he’s 82 years old. He had never told a soul. He didn’t want his wife to know because she is a practicing Catholic and he was afraid it would destroy her faith.”

Some question how she keeps her own faith, but she insists it’s not her devotion to Catholicism that’s been shaken, but her confidence in those in charge.

“I tell people our Church has been hijacked by these fellows.”

MacEachern firmly believes the only way forward is to clean house. She says clergy members who abuse children must be defrocked.

“Any priest who lays a wayward hand on any child, or on an adult for that matter, he doesn’t belong in the priesthood. Get him out.”

Complete Article HERE!