How Vermont’s Catholic Church stashed away a half-billion dollars in assets

The Cathedral of St. Joseph in Burlington. Seen on Friday, November 15, 2019.

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When Vermont’s Catholic Church recently came clean about its half-century-long history of child sex abuse claims against 10% of its clergy, many wondered how much money the state’s largest religious denomination had on hand to deal with a potential new wave of lawsuits.

The statewide Diocese of Burlington’s latest public financial statement lists $16 million in unrestricted net assets.

But that figure doesn’t include an estimated $500 million in property that church leaders stashed into trusts more than a decade ago to protect those assets from priest abuse settlements.

In the spring of 2006, then-Bishop Salvatore Matano began to see how much the scandal, first exposed by the Boston Globe, would cost the church.

The Vermont diocese had paid one accuser $20,000 to drop his court case in 2003. A year later, two more men demanded $120,000 and $150,000 respectively before they agreed to settle. In 2006, the church, facing a six-figure debt and a seemingly endless series of civil lawsuits, saw individual settlement claims rise to nearly $1 million.

That’s when Matano hatched an idea. The bishop told his attorney to place each of the diocese’s local parishes — some 130 at the time — into separate trusts whose holdings could only be tapped for “pious, charitable or educational purposes,” shielding the property from potential multimillion-dollar jury verdicts.

“In such litigious times, it would be a gross act of mismanagement if I did not do everything possible to protect our parishes and the interests of the faithful from unbridled, unjust and terribly unreasonable assault,” Matano wrote in a private letter to concerned Catholics.

Soon after, the diocese’s lawyer quietly sent a stack of two-page “deed into trust” form letters to municipal clerks throughout the state.

Although news reports revealed the diocese’s initial idea for shielding assets 13 years ago, details about how the church carried out the plan, what it stockpiled and where everything would lead haven’t been reported until now. As renewed scrutiny of priest misconduct raises new questions about the diocese’s capacity for future payouts, the trusts could soon be tested.

‘The information we have is sufficiently compelling’

Ever since 17th century Catholic explorer Samuel de Champlain inspired the name of the Green Mountain State — “Voilà les monts verts!” he reportedly exclaimed four centuries ago — the church has played a prominent role in Vermont history, boasting as many as 157,000 members as late as 1980.

But its reputation was besmirched when former residents of Burlington’s now-closed St. Joseph’s Catholic orphanage spoke publicly in the 1990s about enduring physical and psychological abuse during the facility’s operation from 1854 to 1974.

The diocese offered each orphanage resident $5,000 to drop their right to sue. As many as 160 considered the deal and more than 100 accepted payment, according to news reports from the time.

When the press reported on a statewide priest misconduct scandal in the early 2000s, church leaders used a similar strategy to keep survivors from talking.

The idea initially worked. In the fall of 2003, the diocese settled the first lawsuit for a small unspecified sum.

“I’m not going to tell you the amount, although it’s relatively low,” the accuser’s lawyer said at the time of a figure reported to be $20,000. “It was never about the money, it was getting the church to recognize what they did was wrong. We don’t think this is the end of the story. We think there are other victims out there.”

Other survivors weren’t as easily satisfied. A year later, the diocese settled two more cases for $120,000 and $150,000. The church also revealed it had spent more than $700,000 to squash earlier lawsuits dating back to 1950 and another $2 million for orphanage-related compensation, counseling and legal fees.

The diocese doesn’t have insurance for abuse cases and therefore must pay for settlements with assets on hand. (Church leaders stress they don’t tap regular collection money or the diocesan Bishop’s Fund for settlements.)

By 2005, more than a dozen people had filed lawsuits seeking liens on church property totaling up to $30 million.

“We believe the information we have is sufficiently compelling that seven-figure verdicts are quite likely,” their lawyer, Jerome O’Neill of Burlington, said at the time about the possibility of jury trials. “We want to make sure that there are sufficient assets available if we are successful in our actions.”

Former Vermont Catholic Bishop Salvatore Matano speaks in Chittenden Superior Court in 2008.

‘This was much more than we wanted to pay’

Soon after, O’Neill scored big when a judge ordered the Vermont Attorney General’s office to share the priest misconduct files it obtained from the diocese. The lawyer received hundreds of pages of paperwork chronicling the fact the church knew several of its priests had faced accusations of child sex abuse for decades but did nothing to alert the public or police.

By the spring of 2006, O’Neill had 17 new clients and a slate of trials set to start the day after Easter. What the public didn’t know: the first of those cases centered on claims against the former Rev. Edward Paquette, who secret files showed to be the worst serial predator of all the state’s clergy.

A court order restricted anyone involved from talking publicly. But privately, O’Neill and church leaders understood the value of the papers the lawyer held in his hands. If they were introduced in court, a shocked jury might award a survivor a multimillion-dollar verdict.

The church seemed ready to reject escalating settlement demands as Burlington’s Chittenden Superior Court screened jurors for the first Paquette trial in April 2006. Then the judge, gaveling in proceedings, announced the parties had forged a last-minute agreement for a record $965,000.

“This was much more than we wanted to pay,” the diocese’s lawyer said outside court. “But we decided that it would be the best to minimize the cost.”

Church leaders had hoped the settlement would keep the accuser from talking publicly. But once the court lifted its gag order upon the close of the trial, O’Neill — whose client hadn’t signed a nondisclosure agreement — surprised everyone by revealing all of the evidence.

The documents showed Vermont Catholic leaders knew two other states had dismissed Paquette for child sex abuse before they assigned him to Rutland in 1972, Montpelier in 1974 and Burlington in 1976.

“The dossier is large and the history long,” the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, had warned his Green Mountain State colleagues in a letter about the priest’s record of molesting boys.

For the first time, the public had a glimpse of what the diocese had covered up for decades.

‘Unbridled, unjust and terribly unreasonable assault’

By the first week of May 2006, the church, suddenly in debt more than $1 million and facing a rising number of lawsuits, was studying its financial options. It soon made headlines by announcing it wanted the judge who oversaw the $965,000 settlement to be barred from presiding over the remaining cases.

“The diocese has great concern over the lack of a level playing field,” its lawyer said at the time. “We’re not trying to hide anything. We’re trying to keep prejudice from building.”

Unbeknown to the public, another church attorney was mailing two-page form letters to municipal clerks to secure parish property into individual local trusts.

“This deed into trust shall operate as an assignment of all personal property, tangible and intangible, fixed or moveable, together with all accounts, funds, benefices and entitlements, related to the ownership, operation, management, control, preservation and use of the herein conveyed real estate,” each document says.

As outlined in the papers now on file in town clerk’s offices, the diocese’s bishop is the “trustee” of each trust, each parish pastor is the “trust administrator” and each parish finance council forms the “trust advisors.”

“Thus, the present diocesan protocols and regulations for the administration of parishes remain, in effect, unchanged,” Matano wrote in his private letter to concerned Catholics.

Speaking at a 2006 Mother’s Day reception at the Woodstock Inn, Matano told attendees the trusts were “an extra layer of protection” from anyone seeking to tap church assets.

“I’m really in a no-win situation,” he said. “I want to be sensitive to victims, but I don’t want to inflict pain on innocent parishioners. It’s certainly just to ask the church to be accountable, but is it just to destroy parishes, schools and other agencies of care to do so?”

Learning about Matano’s statement about protecting the church from “unbridled, unjust and terribly unreasonable assault,” the national Survivors Network of those Abused by Priest blasted the bishop for “attacking deeply wounded men and women who were raped as kids by priests.”

“How can you lash out at them and call their long overdue, David vs. Goliath effort an ‘unbridled, unjust and terribly unreasonable assault?’” survivors wrote in a letter to Matano.

‘It has a very serious impact on a small, rural diocese’

O’Neill responded more strategically. The lawyer, knowing the church doesn’t pay taxes and its properties aren’t listed at fair market value, sought assessments of the holdings’ true financial worth.

Former state economist Arthur Woolf reviewed insurance and municipal records to place a “market value” of all Vermont Catholic Church-related property at between $270 million and $500 million.

An insurance company, for its part, estimated the replacement cost of all parish, school and support buildings at $400 million, noting the number didn’t put a price tag on the underlying land.

Matano, who steadfastly confined his media comments to diocesan-run press outlets, defended the trust idea in a rare 2006 interview. Noting “this is not in any way intended to penalize victims,” the bishop said the plan was designed to reassure Vermont churchgoers who feared the potential loss of their parish holdings.

“They had no part in these awful events of the past,” he said. “I think it’s unfair to penalize them and say they are responsible.”

St. Stephen Catholic Church in Winooski. Seen on Friday, November 15, 2019.

Matano wasn’t the only Catholic official aiming to shield assets. U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, for example, was head of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 2007 when he worked to move nearly $57 million in church holdings into a cemetery trust to protect them “from any legal claim and liability,” he wrote in a letter to the Vatican.

O’Neill believes the act of shifting assets into trusts broke Vermont’s fraudulent deeds law, which bars any transfer “with intent to avoid a right, debt or duty.” He filed state and federal cases in 2009, charging the diocese not only shielded parish property but also $3.8 million into a pension fund and another $3.7 million into a Vermont Catholic Charities account.

“You can’t take property you have, transfer it and then say it’s beyond the reach of your creditors,” the lawyer explains today.

Headlines about the trust plans soon gave way to news of more lawsuits, more settlements and a string of trials. Juries went on to slam the church with a record $8.7 million verdict in May 2008, a nearly $3.6 million verdict in December 2008 and a $2.2 million verdict in October 2009.

“It’s a very, very large amount of money,” Matano told reporters at the time. “It has a very serious impact on a small, rural diocese.”

To ensure the church paid, a judge placed liens not only on the 32-acre Burlington headquarters and the site of the former St. Joseph’s Orphanage but also a portion of its investment portfolio. By the start of 2010, a second judge overseeing more than two dozen additional lawsuits proposed merging the cases into an unprecedented joint trial.

The diocese, fearing bankruptcy, announced it wanted to settle rather than try to defend against the cases.

With most of its assets in the trusts, the church raised $10 million by selling its Old North End offices and campus — the largest open tract of land on the Lake Champlain waterfront in the state’s most populous city — to the alternative liberal arts Burlington College in 2010.

“This will be truly transformative for the college,” the school’s head, Jane O’Meara Sanders, said at the time.

That was not to be. Instead, the financial burden of the purchase led to the closing of Burlington College in 2016 and caught Sanders in a federal investigation as her husband, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, launched his first White House bid. A Justice Department review reportedly concluded last year without charges. But the resulting headlines — “Wife’s Failure to Save College Is Still Looming Over Sanders,” the New York Times reported on its front page this past summer — continue to reverberate through a second campaign cycle.

The former diocese headquarters is now the site of a 700-unit housing and business complex.

‘Who’s controlling the puppet strings?’

The diocese hoped it was finished with lawsuits, only to find itself again under scrutiny when 2018 BuzzFeed published an article titled “We Saw Nuns Kill Children: The Ghosts of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage.” The story led church and law enforcement leaders to launch separate misconduct investigations and the state Legislature to remove a statute of limitation restriction for survivors to file civil cases.

O’Neill has five new lawsuits pending.

“We’ll see if we can resolve them,” he says today. “If not, we go forward with litigation.”

The former St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage in Burlington where the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington used to be headquartered. Seen on Thursday, November 14, 2019.

Matano’s successor, Vermont Catholic Bishop Christopher Coyne, isn’t looking for a fight. Calling for the church to be “fully honest about these sins of our past,” Coyne has released accusers from past nondisclosure agreements and worked with a local and state task force of police and prosecutors now investigating the history of church-wide misconduct.

“I think Bishop Coyne is trying to deal with the legacy problem of abuse,” O’Neill says. “I perceive him as someone who wants to be fair. But whether the amount of money the diocese has is adequate to resolve the cases remains to be seen.”

The diocese didn’t respond to calls for comment other than to report Coyne was away this past week at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops annual general assembly in Baltimore, Maryland. He’s returning home to a church that’s financially stable. But that could change if the latest lawsuits go to trial.

Settling what he thought were the last of the abuse cases long ago, O’Neill dropped his fraudulent deeds fight and allowed the six-year statute of limitations for contesting the issue to pass. But if a future jury awards a big payoff to one of his clients, the lawyer believes a judge could rule the parish trusts to be diocesan assets and therefore available for tapping.

“The fact the bishop is the trustee makes the trusts more vulnerable to attack,” he says. “You’d have to have a judgment before it became a real issue, but if the diocese is unable to pay, we will have no hesitancy to reach for those assets. The church may have transferred them, but who’s controlling the puppet strings?”

Not Matano. He left Vermont in 2013 to become bishop of the larger Diocese of Rochester, N.Y. — which recently became the 20th nationwide to seek bankruptcy protection from creditors impacted by church’s misconduct scandal.

Complete Article HERE!

This St. Louisan Became A Female Priest

— And Defied Centuries Of Catholic Tradition

Elsie McGrath said becoming an ordained Catholic priest was “a monumental step forward in educating people about what the church really ought to be.”

Elsie McGrath never thought of herself as a rulebreaker.

But in 2007, she broke one of the most fundamental rules in Roman Catholicism when she became an ordained priest.

She was later excommunicated, along with fellow priest Rose Marie Hudson and Bishop Patricia Fresen, who ordained the two.

Women are barred from joining the Roman Catholic clergy, but McGrath is hopeful that will change. Last month, Pope Francis caused a stir when he said the Vatican would explore the possibility of female deacons, a class of ministry allowed to oversee weddings and baptisms but not provide Communion.

McGrath spoke with St. Louis Public Radio’s Shahla Farzan about her call to priesthood and her hopes for the future of the Catholic Church.

On converting to Catholicism

I became a Catholic in 1956 after I married a Catholic at the age of 17. There was nothing to it, because Catholics in those days were very “tunnel vision” and out to save the world all by themselves. Nobody could be saved if they didn’t join the fold, and there was nothing to joining the fold except saying, “Yes, yes, yes” and not questioning anything.

Having been raised as, “Do what we tell you and always obey the rules and everything will be wonderful,” I thought: “This is pretty good. I’ll just be Catholic, and I will do as they say and obey the rules and everything will be good.” And then Vatican II happened, and everything started falling apart. I felt they were abandoning me, taking away my security blanket of having all the answers and leaving me looking for my own answers. And then I started getting enlightened and got on the bandwagon for changing things.

On watching her husband, Jim, become an ordained deacon

I had already gotten an undergraduate degree in theology from St. Louis University. My plan was to go into a master’s program after I got my undergrad degree, but because (Jim) was going into the diaconate, I put that off until he was finished because we went through his diaconate formation together. All of the women were encouraged to do the classes with their husbands, which was a four-year preparation at that time. I went through the whole thing with him because he was so enthusiastic about it, and I was so happy for him that he was making this move.

Jim became a deacon in 1996. I was good with it right up until the very moment that we went into the cathedral for the ordination ceremony. We walked down the aisle together as couples. When we got to the altar rail, the women got to move out of line and sit down in the pew and the men advanced up onto the altar. At that point is when I first realized how absolutely awful and unjust this whole thing was. I felt like I had been stabbed. I was totally unprepared for the reaction I would have.

McGrath converted to Catholicism at age 17, when she married her husband, Jim. When he became an ordained deacon in 1996, she said she realized “how absolutely unjust and awful” it was that women were not allowed to join the Catholic clergy.

On meeting Bishop Patricia Fresen, the leader of the women priests movement

Becoming a priest was literally the farthest thing from my mind, except for the injustice of women not being allowed to. In 2006, Patricia Fresen came to St. Louis, and I thought, “I really need to go hear what this woman has to say, because I have discounted these women priests, but I really don’t know anything about them.”

My friend called and said, “I’m going to have a little wine-and-cheese party at the house on Friday evening for Patricia Fresen to be able to meet a few people. Why don’t you come over?” Well, I didn’t really want to do that. I didn’t want to meet her up close and personal, but I went. I walked into the front door of the house, and Patricia was sitting right there. As I walked in, we locked eyes with each other. I had no idea it was her, but I said to myself, “I have got to meet this woman.” The funny thing is that I had not an inkling that this was ever in my mind or my heart until I locked eyes with Patricia Fresen.

On being called to the priesthood

I questioned my own motives, especially because this all happened so quickly and I was completely unprepared for it. I kept wondering, “Why are you really doing this? Are you trying to prove something? Does this have to do with your ego?” It took me from June until November to come to the conclusion that this was something that I really, really was being called to do.

This had nothing to do with me personally; this was what the spirit within me was leading me to, and it made perfect sense. Why else would I have spent all of those years getting all of those theology degrees? Everybody would say, “What are you going to do with that? I guess you think you’re going to be a priest or something?” I would say: “I just love theology. I can’t get enough of it.” The more I know of it, the better I can help the people that I’m working with in the church. This was a monumental step forward in educating people about what church really ought to be.

On her ordination ceremony

[Archbishop] Burke made it clear that anyone who even attended this “attempted ordination ceremony” was going to be excommunicated right along with us. Some of them knew that they were treading on thin ice, but they wanted to be there anyway. [Editor’s note: McGrath’s husband died in 1998.]

We had scads of religious sisters there. We had a drum circle before the ceremony in the corner of the synagogue, and most of them were religious sisters. They didn’t say anything, they didn’t look up, they didn’t look around. And when it came time for everything to start, they just kind of quietly disappeared again.

The whole ceremony was just otherworldly. It was almost like I was floating above somewhere and looking down on what was happening. We processed back out of the sanctuary and the three of us are standing there, Patricia and Ree (Rose Marie Hudson) and me. Here comes this guy straight up, almost ahead of everybody. He works his way through all of those people, and he serves all three of us with the latest document from Burke, the summons. It said, “You have just committed the gravest of sins and you have until,” I believe, “December the third to recant.” In March, the actual decree of excommunication showed up.

On being excommunicated from the Catholic Church

Excommunication is literally a contract. It’s a legal document, and that means that it has to be accepted by both parties for it to actually be in force. We see ourselves as Roman Catholic women who have chosen to be ordained and model a new way of being in the church. We do not accept excommunication, and therefore, we’re not excommunicated.

We don’t need “the Church.” Whenever we talk about “the Church,” we’re literally talking about the hierarchy of the church. But the church itself is us. Our choice is to remain in the church and effect change from the bottom up, because that’s the only way change ever happens anywhere.

On leading Therese of Divine Peace, a Roman Catholic congregation in St. Louis 

We have about two dozen faithful members. Everyone is welcome at the table; that is the biggest thing. You don’t have to show papers to receive Communion. At the famous Last Supper, Jesus even served Judas before Judas left the room. If this is the sacrament of unity, how can anybody possibly be barred from the table? If you believe that you are in a community of people who are faithful to living the way Jesus did, what’s going to stop you from sharing bread and wine?

The Roman Catholic piece keeps a lot of people away from us for two very big reasons. One, they don’t want anything to do with the Roman Catholic Church anymore. Or two, they don’t want to take the chance of getting in trouble, because the Roman Catholic Church is so important to them.

On the possibility of women being ordained in the Catholic Church

Pope Francis has done a lot to move things along from the stagnation that we were in with the two before him. He’s softening his stance because he’s understanding that we might have something important to offer the church.

We absolutely know that it will change. Anybody could throw out a figure of when this is going to happen. We’re not going to see it happen from this particular lifetime, but that’s what we’re doing it for.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope compares politicians who rage against gays to Hitler

The Catholic Church leader also denounced a resurgence in anti-Semitism in Europe

By Philip Pullella

Pope Francis said on Friday politicians who rage against homosexuals, gypsies and Jews remind him of Hitler.

“It is not coincidental that at times there is a resurgence of symbols typical of Nazism,” Francis said in an address to participants of an international conference on criminal law.

“And I must confess to you that when I hear a speech (by) someone responsible for order or for a government, I think of speeches by Hitler in 1934, 1936,” he said, departing from his prepared address.

“With the persecution of Jews, gypsies, and people with homosexual tendencies, today these actions are typical (and) represent ‘par excellence’ a culture of waste and hate. That is what was done in those days and today it is happening again.”

During the 1933-45 Nazi regime in Germany, six million Jews were killed and homosexuals and gypsies were among those sent to extermination camps.

Pope Francis did not name any politicians or countries as the targets of his criticism.

In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro had a history of making homophobic, racist and sexist public remarks before he took office on Jan. 1. He told one interviewer he would rather have a dead son than a gay son.

In May, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah extended a moratorium on the death penalty to incoming legislation prohibiting gay sex, seeking to temper a global backlash led by celebrities such as George Clooney and Elton John.

The United Nations had warned Brunei it would be violating human rights by implementing Islamic laws that would allow death by stoning for adultery and homosexuality.

In recent weeks, Pope Francis has also denounced a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.

On Wednesday, in improvised remarks at his general audience, he said: “Today the habit of persecuting Jews is beginning to be reborn. Brothers and sisters: this is neither human nor Christian; the Jews are our brothers and sisters and must not be persecuted! Understood?”

Last week, a Vatican cardinal said he was “disgusted” by anti-Semitic abuse directed at an 89-year-old Italian senator and Holocaust survivor, who was given police protection after receiving death threats.

In July, a European Union study said young Jewish Europeans experience more anti-Semitism than their parents, with a rise in abuse coming in emails, text messages and social media postings.

More than 80% of Jews of all ages said they felt anti-Semitism had increased on the Internet over the past five years and around 70% said they faced more hostility in public, the study found.

Complete Article HERE!

A tale of two priests and the future of the Catholic Church

By Bob Kustra

Recent news of the Vatican defrocking a Boise priest now serving 25 years without parole for possessing violent and extreme child pornography brought back memories long forgotten. Raised in the Catholic Church, I spent my youth as an altar boy with clergy officiating at daily Masses, funerals, weddings and who often assumed administrative or teaching roles in the Catholic schools I attended.

One priest, the principal of my high school, invited his favorite students to his cabin on the river to fish and enjoy water sports in the summer. Looking back on it all, it never once occurred to me during those outings that some of the questions he would ask about our personal lives might be an indicator of some repressed sexual desires that the church seemed to ignore with its vow of celibacy for priests.

It wasn’t until a few years ago when I read an account of the director of the film, “Guardians of the Galaxy”, James Gunn, that I realized the same priest/principal who was befriending boys in my high school was also prominent in the young life of this successful director in a parish across town from my experience. According to Gunn, that same priest would give young boys in his class alcohol and pornography.

In July 2019, the St. Louis Archdiocese would release the names of St. Louis priests with “substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.” And there on the list was the priest that James Gunn and I encountered in our formative years. He had risen to a top administrative post in the Archdiocese, but it was only after his death that the Archdiocese would identify him as a child abuser.

He died of cancer in 2000 in retirement and was never held accountable. Like Gunn, I was never victimized by this priest, but how many young students around us were violated by this man and had their lives ruined or destroyed in the process?

Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist (Boise, Idaho)

Years later, when I was lieutenant governor of Illinois, the flip side of this sad tale of priestly abuse would enter my life when I was asked by Father Mike Ivers to walk the streets of the near west side of Chicago to see firsthand the impact of failed government policies on the powerless and the poor. Father Mike was pastor of a parish in Chicago’s North Lawndale community, drug- and gang-infested at the time. It was a dangerous assignment for a white priest who requested parish work on Chicago’s south and west side and who, at one point in his ministry, was threatened with a gang hit.

Father Mike fought for his parishioners before the Chicago Housing Authority to improve housing conditions. He worked with police and the courts to rescue juveniles from gangs and a criminal justice system that too often consigned them to a life of crime. He would rail against social service agencies that failed to protect children. But he saved most of his wrath for his own church and its mishandling of countless cases of priest pedophilia. He would take on the Cardinal in advocating for a tougher stance against accused priests and the system of assignment that moved pedophiles from parish to parish.

Father Mike Ivers was a man who lived his faith daily and never once strayed from his priestly vows. He officiated at our daughter’s wedding and at my father’s funeral. We attended Mass at his parish and met some of the finest people of faith we’ve met in our lives. My office staff would assist at Christmastime with the distribution of gifts to kids whose families couldn’t afford Christmas presents. Throughout our friendship, Mike talked often about the toll the celibacy vow had taken on the priesthood, about how its refusal to ordain women held back the church from being the religious and community force it could be in our lives.

In a mid-career correction, Mike realized his own need for an intimacy that he felt should only be achieved with the sacrament of matrimony. He wanted to marry. And because his church forbade married priests, he left the church and his beloved parish. He married, assumed a new life and career in social services.

What happened next you would think is the work of a novelist twisting and turning the plot. It was not. Father Mike, this arch-critic of Archdiocesan complicity in priestly child abuse, was succeeded as pastor of his parish by a priest who became the most notorious child sex-abuser in the history of the Chicago Archdiocese. In yet another failure of the Archdiocese, the priest was not removed after the first offense and went on to commit more crimes of pedophilia. He was sentenced to prison, served his term and has since been confined indefinitely to a state facility for sex offenders for his failure to even admit he has a problem.

Mike Ivers died a few years ago, a humble servant of his God, a man who lived the good life and along the way enriched the lives of his parishioners, friends and family. His life offers hope to Catholics who decry the church’s role in these scandals over the years but look to a time when priests like Mike Ivers are the stories in the news, not pedophiles and church officials who cover up.

There is one thing missing from this account. That would be the Vatican dropping the vow of celibacy from priests’ ordinations. On a recent visit to South America, Pope Francis seemed open to married priests and enhanced roles for women in the church. Will the Vatican admit men and women to the priesthood without the requirement of celibacy? Who knows, but that’s when I know my friend Mike Ivers will rest in peace.

Complete Article HERE!

Priests’ group calls for ordination of women to end ‘injustice’

Church’s failure to ordain women as priests ‘massive injustice’, says priest

By

A Catholic priests’ group has said it will continue to advocate for the ordination of women within the Church.

Speaking ahead of the Irish Association of Catholic Priests annual general meeting on Wednesday, spokesman Fr Roy Donovan from the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly said the organisation would discuss the ordination of women and married deacons.

The Catholic Church’s treatment of women as second class citizens and its failure to consider the ordination of women to the priesthood is a “massive injustice at the heart of the Church”, Fr Donovan said

A discussion around the ordination of married deacons, in light of the recommendations from last week’s Amazon synod, will also be top of the agenda at the association’s AGM in Athlone on Wednesday, confirmed Dr Donovan.

Many priests who have left the ministry to get married could bring a “huge richness and wisdom” to the Church if they were allowed to return as leaders, he said.

Despite the recent summit’s more open minded approach to the ordination of married deacons in the Amazon region, it continues to fail to address the issue of inequality for women within the Church, said Fr Donovan. “Women can’t become deacons at the moment which means there’s no opportunity to become leaders. The synod has left women as second class citizens. The Church is not treating women as human beings and it’s a massive injustice at the heart of the Church.”

While Pope Francis has shown openness towards the issue of married deacons, Fr Donovan does not expect him to be equally accepting of the ordination of women. “He doesn’t have it in him to embrace full equality for women. But we’re running out of time. The Church needs these changes now and women need these changes. Obviously he’s trying to keep a balanced approach but he’s moving very slowly, he needs to crack the egg now.”

Survey

Citing the results of a survey carried out in the Killala diocese earlier this year which found nearly 70 per cent of parishioners backed women being ordained to the priesthood, Fr Donovan said it was clear the general public wanted to see equality of the sexes within the Church. With the low number of men entering the vocation at crisis level, immediate changes are needed to ensure the survival of the Church, he said.

At present, with the collapse in numbers, priests are unable to fully retire, said Fr Donovan, adding that between 25-30 men aged over 75 had remained on as curates in his own parish to “keep the system going”.

“A lot of priests are over-worked and I think more and more priests are going to retire early rather than bolstering up this dysfunctional system. The reality is in the next 10 years there will be lots of parishes without priests.”

Wednesday’s AGM will also discuss the recently updated charter of fundamental rights for the Church which states that all Catholics should be treated equally and that there is “no place among Christ’s faithful for any discrimination on the basis of gender, nationality, language, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, age, social status, political or theological views”. The topic of how the late Fr Seán Fagan was silenced by the Church is also expected to be discussed.

Complete Article HERE!