10/20/17

Time to end celibacy and ban on females in priesthood: cleric

Fr Paddy O’Kane

By Brett Campbell

A Londonderry priest has called on the Catholic Church to acknowledge changing times and “take another look” at its position on celibacy and women priests.

Fr Paddy O’Kane, of Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty, said such a move could help address a growing crisis which has left a quarter of parishes around the world without a resident priest.

“Many priests might choose to be celibate, but for those who want to get married it should be an option,” he added.

Fr O’Kane warned the shortage of clergy is impacting on dioceses across Ireland. “Priest-less parishes are appearing all over Ireland and may be here in this diocese before long,” he added.

“The Church needs to adapt to these changing times. We may have to take another look at celibacy and women priests.”

Writing for Derry Now, Fr O’Kane also hinted that Pope Francis may soon fulfil a special request by Brazilian bishops to allow married Anglican converts to resume their priestly ministries.

Such a move in a country which has 140 million Catholics would alleviate the severe problem which is also manifesting itself throughout Ireland.

Earlier this year the Pope said he may consider ordaining married men – under very specific circumstances – to counter the shortage of clergy, but ruled out dropping celibacy as a requirement for the priesthood.

“This year the national seminary in Maynooth had only eight students entering to study for the priesthood – half of these will probably leave during their training,” Fr O’Kane said.

The priest admitted that while his own celibacy had allowed him to live a life devoted to serving others, it had come at a personal cost.

“There are times I miss having a family and there are many times of loneliness and there have been times I have only held on to my faith by a hair’s breadth,” he said.

Fr O’Kane also expressed surprise at the number of pilgrims he has encountered who support a change in position.

Complete Article HERE!

10/19/17

NZ priest’s secret children to come out of hiding

The secret children of a Catholic priest in New Zealand are about to reveal their identity to their local bishop, and a New Zealander who personally briefed the Pope on the topic says the Vatican has recognised the right to know one’s parents

By Phil Pennington

The adult siblings are among thousands internationally who have contacted the Coping International website, which offers support to the children of clergy.

The site’s founder Vincent Doyle – an Irish man who himself is the son of a priest – said he expected many more New Zealanders who are priests’ children, or their mothers, to come forward as they gained courage to speak up.

“We’ve been contacted from a number of people in New Zealand – one family where there’s more than one child to the same priest, to the same woman – but they’re going to be making moves in the coming future to the respective diocese and they’ll be contacting the bishop concerned.”

The family had contacted his website in the last three months, and granted him permission to speak a little about their situation, but most details remained confidential such as how many children there were and where they had grown up.

They were among 13,500 people worldwide who had been in touch with Mr Doyle since he started the website in late 2014.

Vincent Doyle meets Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations, in mid-October to talk about the children of clergy.

His site gained international prominence in August this year when featured in a new series by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight unit, which is famous for exposing clerical sex abuse of children.

The response to the website has forced the Vatican to acknowledge the issue, and last month it began working on guidelines for how to respond.

“The expectation would be that the [priest] should go and be a father to his child,” said Bill Kilgallon, an Aucklander who personally briefed the Pope last month on the issue as part of the Pontifical Commission to help protect children.

Mr Kilgallon said the Catholic Church had no idea yet how many children have been conceived by priests.

The search phrase “I am pregnant and the father is a Catholic priest” featured in about 1500 of 96,000 hits on Coping International’s website, which its founder pointed out would be mostly from English speakers with Internet access.

“How many don’t fall into that category?” Mr Doyle said.

A psychotherapist in his 30s, he found out six years ago that his godfather, Father John Doyle, was also his biological father.

He made the realisation when he came across some poetry the priest had written, and had since taken his father’s name.

The church hierarchy had mostly responded well when children had come forward, Mr Doyle said, although some priests had been shocked or resistant.

The youngest child they had been alerted to was just three years old, and the oldest an 80-year-old woman. In one case, they knew of a priest who had six children by different women, while one priest who worked in the United States had a family in the Philippines.

Mr Doyle insisted the clerical response was not the priority for his organisation, but rather the goal was to help children whose mental health had suffered without knowledge of their father, or having to keep that knowledge secret as with the New Zealand family.

“There have been efforts to kind of stifle their wellbeing, and to keep them quiet and enforce secrecy,” Mr Doyle said.

“This secrecy more than often comes from family or relatives or friends: the community around you. Not the Pope, the Vatican, the bishop, especially in today’s society in a country like New Zealand.

“They must, must get this right. This is the first time in history the church has really done this … they can’t just put out some guidelines… If they mess this up they will traumatise thousands of people.”

Mr Kilgallon acknowledged there might be complications, such as a priest’s financial obligations to a child, or the need for DNA paternity testing, but these were purely secondary to the primary responsibility of the priest.

“We’ve acknowledged … children have rights and one of the rights is to know their parents.”

“The difficulty is when children are born in a situation where the father is a priest who’s not supposed to be in a relationship and fathering children. This can often lead to the relationship being kept secret, the identity of the father being denied to the child.”

Complete Article HERE!

10/19/17

Coming Out and Faith: A Catholic Queer Woman Latches on to Hope

This month LGBT Americans observed National Coming Out Day, which serves as a call to be out and proud and a recognition that showcasing your identity is an empowering act that can also help change anti-LGBT attitudes. But one’s religious beliefs can sometimes complicate coming out. The Advocate has interviewed people from a variety of faiths about how their religion affected their coming-out and vice versa. In the first in this series, we speak to a graduate student at a Roman Catholic college.

By Trudy Ring

Elizabeth Sextro realizes the Roman Catholic Church probably won’t change its teachings on homosexuality in her lifetime — but that doesn’t keep the 20-something theology graduate student from identifying both as a queer woman and a faithful Catholic.

Reconciling these two identities was “definitely a difficult process,” says Sextro, who’s working on a master’s degree in theological studies at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry. Nevertheless, she says, “it’s who I am.”

Sextro, a self-described “cradle Catholic” originally from St. Louis, came out as queer in 2012, when she was an undergraduate at Loyola University in Chicago. “Coming out at college was really easy,” she says. “I had a lot of supportive friends.”

She was able to resolve any conflict between her queer and Catholic identities, she says, through her studies and through talking with those supportive friends who had been through similar experiences.

It also helped that Loyola, like Boston College, is run by the Jesuits, a Catholic religious order known for scholarship and progressive ideology. She studied queer theology, which rejects the idea that LGBT people are abnormal or disordered, as the Catholic Church has long held, and she had a faculty mentor, a straight layman, who encouraged her.

Coming out to her parents was more problematic. They aren’t quite at a place of acceptance even now, she says, but they have advanced to the point that she can bring her female partner home. “We still have work to do,” Sextro says of her family relationship.

There is certainly still work to do in the church, where, she says, the faithful are far ahead of the hierarchy. “I see gay people everywhere” when she attends Catholic services, says Sextro, who divides her time between a couple of congregations in Boston.

The church deems same-sex relationships sinful, and it expects Catholics with same-sex attractions to avoid acting on them. The catechism — a summary of church doctrine — holds that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” Pope Francis, while more conciliatory toward LGBT people than his predecessors were, has held to traditional doctrine. But many in the church are rejecting anti-LGBT teachings and recognizing that the language in the catechism is harmful, Sextro notes.

“It’s going to be baby steps from here on out,” she says of the process of changing the church. It may even have women priests before it discards anti-LGBT doctrine. “It’s not going to happen in my lifetime, but hopefully it will,” says Sextro, who expects to finish her master’s degree in the spring, then aims to eventually get a Ph.D. and teach at the university level.

One of the main reasons she stays in the church, she said, is to help that change along. “I stay because there is more work to be done in the church and because I feel committed and responsible as an aspiring theologian myself to offer a critical perspective to the Catholic Church,” she says. “That’s not to say that I have not considered leaving — I certainly have. That would be a heck of a lot easier. But I borrow from one of my professors at the [School of Theology and Ministry] in saying this: If you are looking for a perfect church in this life, you will be looking forever. No church is perfect, and I stay because I can offer something to the church as a queer woman and theologian that may bring the church a little bit closer to working toward justice. I wouldn’t stay if I didn’t have hope.”

For LGBT Catholics to be out and proud can contribute to change, she says, but she recognizes that coming out is an individual decision. “Coming out is really difficult,” she says. “No one should feel pressure to come out in order to advance a certain cause.”

Part of being a person of faith, she adds, is “putting trust in something outside of yourself” and realizing that some things are out of your control. That approach is also helpful when thinking about progress in the church — knowing she can make a contribution, but she can’t make it all happen, she says. And then there is what Emily Dickinson called “the thing with feathers — that perches in the soul … and never stops.”

“I’ve really latched on to hope,” Sextro says. “And I think hope is huge.”

Complete Article HERE!

10/14/17

The Catholic Church knew he was an abuser, but helped him get a job in public schools

Melanie Sakoda holds a sign as she participates in a demonstration with SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, outside of the offices of the San Francisco Archdiocese in 2010.

By Rick Anderson

[T]ime and again, the record shows, Brother Edward “Chris” Courtney was accused of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic schools where he taught, and the church responded by moving him to another jurisdiction.

That makes his case similar to those of hundreds of other priests and brothers who committed sexual abuse before the problem exploded into national consciousness more than 15 years ago.

What sets Courtney apart is this: According to a lawsuit settled last week in Seattle’s King County Superior Court, he was ultimately shuffled off to a public school, where he continued to commit sexual assault.

Edward Courtney in an undated photo

Courtney, now 82 and retired in Hawaii, was a member of the Christian Brothers religious order who has been accused of assaulting at least 55 boys during his three decades as a Catholic school educator in a variety of jurisdictions from New York to Seattle.

It was in Seattle, where he served as principal of a parochial school, St. Alphonsus, that his Catholic school career came to an end after allegations of groping. Catholic and Christian Brothers officials then wrote letters of recommendation to the state school system and, ignoring a legal requirement, never reported his history of sexual assaults. That omission allowed Courtney to obtain his license to teach in public schools, where the assaults continued, according to the lawsuit and criminal court records.

The Seattle Archdiocese agreed to pay $1.3 million to one of Courtney’s public school victims — an unidentified male who was sexually assaulted in the early 1980s at a now-closed Tacoma-area school. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain also issued an apology.

The church and the Christian Brothers’ congregation have now paid out an estimated $30 million in court settlements to Courtney’s nationwide victims, 52 of them in one settlement alone that caused the congregation to declare bankruptcy in 2011.

In a news release, the Seattle Archdiocese pointed to changes it had made in the wake of the church scandal that began unfolding in 2001 with a Boston Globe investigation of abuse by priests. Now, criminal background checks are required for all archdiocese employees and volunteers who have unsupervised contact with children.

Courtney, however, did not have a criminal record until after he began teaching in the public school system and was convicted of assaulting a student at an Othello, Wash., elementary school.

Jason Amala, one of the latest victim’s Seattle attorneys, said in a statement this week that he was unaware of “another case where the defendant [the archdiocese] removed a known abuser from their private school system and then actively helped them get a job in the public school system.”

Mary Dispenza, leader of Seattle SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) praised the settlement and noted that a second, similar lawsuit accusing Courtney of molesting another public school student is currently moving through the courts.

Last year, the Seattle Archdiocese issued a list of 77 priests, brothers (including Courtney), deacons and a nun identified as sexual predators. The archdiocese has not provided any details of the alleged offenses.

Court files, though, lay out Courtney’s story.

Problems surfaced nearly immediately after the Seattle-born brother took his first permanent assignment in 1960, at age 22, at New York City’s Sacred Heart School. Christian Brothers records state that he began to prey on grade school students and was transferred to Brother Rice High School in Chicago, where more problems soon arose.

He was moved to St. Laurence High School in Burbank, Ill., where he was also accused of abuse. The allegations continued after his transfer in 1968 to Brother Rice High in Birmingham, Mich. Two years later, he was sent to St. Leo High in Chicago, where — following more abuse allegations — he was transferred back to St. Laurence.

He was asked to leave St. Laurence following an allegation involving a freshman boy. This time, the church and congregation sent him far afield — to the West Coast, where he wound up at O’Dea High School in Seattle in the mid-1970s, records show.

Within two months, he was coaching intramural basketball at O’Dea and the complaints started again. One student said he was attacked by Courtney in a locked classroom. The boy’s father later confronted school officials, who asked Courtney to make a public apology.

Courtney refused and was sent to a retreat in Canada for sexual deviancy treatment. When he returned to O’Dea, new abuse reports surfaced. He was moved to a Catholic elementary school and then to St. Alphonsus, where he was named principal.

It wasn’t long before complaints surfaced from St. Alphonsus students, including two boys who said Courtney had groped them.

Courtney admitted to the youths’ charges and agreed to resign. But with the archdiocese’s help, he ended up as a public school teacher in Seattle, Tacoma and central Washington. The Christian Brothers even paid Courtney’s way at Seattle University to earn accreditation so he could become a school principal.

When molestation accusations once again surfaced, Courtney took flight — aware this time that public school officials had alerted police.

Three years later, he was arrested in Nevada and returned to Washington. But with his past unknown to the court, he pleaded guilty in 1989 to one count of indecent liberties and was given a suspended sentence of 24 months and ordered to register as a sex offender — for one year.

The extent of his serial attacks began to come to light about four years ago following a $16.5-million agreement with the bankrupt Christian Brothers, when 52 of 400 U.S. abuse claimants named Courtney as their attacker, records show.

Courtney, who did not respond to phone messages at his home in Oahu this week, denied in a 2009 court deposition he committed any serious offenses over the years. He “improperly touched” some students, he said, but he was young and “I guess that’s maybe why I didn’t realize that these things bothered others as much. I don’t know.”

Complete Article HERE!

10/10/17

Number of women accusing Catholic priest of sexual abuse rises to 23

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian (right) and Robert Hoatson (left) at a news conference held by Road to Recovery, a non-profit charity that assists victims of sexual abuse, outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Friday Oct. 7, 2016.

BY

The number of women alleging they were abused as children by a Catholic priest in Queens has swelled to 23, the Daily News has learned.

The accusers of former Rev. Adam Prochaski, ranging in age from 39 to 57, say the priest abused them in the Holy Cross parish in Maspeth between 1972 and 1994. The women were between 11 to 16 years old when the abuse allegedly took place.

Mitchell Garabedian, their lawyer, said he’s been contacted by women now living in six states, as well as Canada and London. When he first came forward with the allegations, there were 15 accusers.

“Many of them claim he abused them for years in the school, the church, the rectory, and some were abused in his car,” Garabedian said.

“The police are investigating this matter. I have forwarded many of my clients’ names to them and I am informed they are interviewing my clients.”

Diocese of Brooklyn spokeswoman Carolyn Erstad said the growing number of accusers is “terrible.”

“Anytime there is news of another survivor, it is devastating to the diocese, the clergy, the faithful,” she said. 

“It is important for people to know that while the allegations against Prochaski are surfacing for the first time, all of the alleged incidents coming to light took place decades ago and before sweeping reform was implemented to ensure the protection of children and the prosecution of perpetrators.”

Garabedian was portrayed by the actor Stanley Tucci in the Oscar-winning 2015 film “Spotlight,” about The Boston Globe’s investigation into clergy sexual abuse in Boston.

The Brooklyn Diocese created a fund this year for alleged victims of sexual abuse. It has said that according to records, two women came forward to report Prochaski in 1994. Those complaints were not turned over to authorities until 2002 and 2003.

Adam Prochaski is accused of abusing 23 children as a priest at Holy Cross Church in Maspeth between 1972 and 1994.

The Queens district attorney’s office told the Daily News it investigated a range of allegations against multiple priests referred to it by the church in 2002.

“The allegations were reviewed by the experienced career prosecutors of our Special Victims Bureau,” said Kevin Ryan, a spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

“Unfortunately, all of the allegations dated back many years — even decades — and therefore were not prosecutable within the statute of limitations.”

Garabedian said many of the alleged victims are first-generation Polish immigrants.

Prochaski had a program of bringing in young women from Poland, according to several people familiar with his work.

The diocese said Prochaski was suspended in 1994 after two women made allegations against him. He left the priesthood in 1995.

However, the official Catholic directory shows he was absent on sick leave or other leave from 1994 through 2002. Garabedian said that suggests the church was protecting him.

“The question remains, where were the supervisors, and why weren’t they protecting the children?” Garabedian said.

Complete Article HERE!