07/4/17

Spike in suicides among Irish Catholic priests reported amid low morale over decline and abuse scandals

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By James Macintyre

At least eight priests in Ireland have committed suicide in the past 10 years, according to recent reports given at meetings of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

The alarming figure comes as the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports on a severe dip in morale and a mental health crisis among Irish clergy, caused by abuse allegations and declining numbers being ordained as well as other factors.

This has sparked calls for a confidential helpline to be set up for priests needing support.

At a recent ACP meeting, an attendee said: ‘Our morale is affected because we are on a sinking ship. When will the “counter-reformation” take place? We’re like an All-Ireland team without a goalie. We need a national confidential priests’ helpline. We’re slow to look for help.’

According to the CNA, concerns over a severe dip in the morale and well-being of priests in the country have been raised by the 1,000-member ACP in at least three different meetings in recent months.

Roy Donovan, a spokesperson for the ACP, said in May that as well as the priests who are speaking up, he believes many more elderly churchmen are suffering in silence, and have no outlet for help.

Ireland is facing a serious vocations crisis: In 2004, the country had more than 3,100 priests, but by 2014, the last year from which figures are available, the number had declined by more than 500 to 2,627. The number of active priests is likely closer to just 1,900, according to CNA.

The shortage has led to a phenomenon called ‘clustering’, where several parishes are combined into one because of lack of leadership, increasing priests’ workload and subsequent stress, and forcing many to work well beyond retirement years because of the lack of new vocations.

‘These men lived through a time when there were plenty of vocations and their churches were full at Mass, so there’s a loss of esteem. Also, in the past they would have had live-in housekeepers. Now most don’t and are on their own and so feeling a lot more isolated and lonely, as well as feeling nervous and more vulnerable,’ Brendan Hoban, one of the founders of ACP, said during a meeting in November 2016.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in Ireland has, like elsewhere around the world, been rocked by a sex abuse scandal that began in the 1990s and resulted in a massive decline in both vocations and in the faith of the laypeople.

The CNA reported minutes from the ACP meetings showing that priests reported being disheartened by the declining faith in the people they serve, ‘who have so little contact with the church from First Communions to funerals’.

The minutes added that priests’ confidence ‘has been eroded when we see so many people going through the motions of faith’.

More recently, the Church in Ireland has also been hit by negative headlines rsurrounding the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam. The priests noted that the sisters there ‘did a disservice by not clarifying exactly what happened. They need to do so immediately. It makes our job impossible, especially as we face a storm on abortion next year’.

The country is also facing an ongoing, heated debate about whether or not to legalise abortion.

The priests agreed that they need to be better about asking for help when they need it.

‘We need to unmask and say ‘I need help!’ There is a great sense of ‘being alone,’ making our own way in the diocese,’ the priests said. ‘There is a lack of dialogue among priests in the diocese. Yet, people are fantastic and generous in parishes, if given half-a-chance.’

Complete Article HERE!

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06/29/17

Cardinal George Pell charged with historical sex offences

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Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest ranking Catholic, has been charged with historical sex offences.

By Nino Bucci, Tom Cowie, Nick Miller

Victoria Police has confirmed Cardinal Pell has been charged on summons over multiple allegations and is due to face Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18 for a filing hearing.

A statement from the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney said Cardinal Pell had been informed of Victoria Police’s “decision and action”.

“Cardinal Pell will return to Australia, as soon as possible, to clear his name following advice and approval by his doctors who will also advise on his travel arrangements.

“He said he is looking forward to his day in court and will defend the charges vigorously.

“He has again strenuously denied all allegations.”

Cardinal Pell is the third most senior Catholic at the Vatican, where he is responsible for the church’s finances.

He is likely to step aside from his Vatican post while he fights the charges.

Victoria’s Deputy Police Commissioner, Shane Patton, confirmed in a brief press conference on Thursday morning that Cardinal Pell had been issued with multiple charges relating to historical sexual abuse allegations.

The charges were served on Cardinal Pell’s legal representatives in Melbourne on Thursday, Mr Patton said.

“There are multiple complainants relating to those charges,” he said.

Mr Patton said there had been a lot of speculation about the process that has been involved in the investigation of Cardinal Pell.

“The process and procedures that are being followed in the charging of Cardinal Pell have been the same that have been applied in a whole range of historical sex offences, whenever we investigate them,” he said.

“Cardinal Pell has been treated the same as anyone else in this investigation.”

Police did not take any questions during the press conference and did not detail what the allegations were.

Mr Patton said it was important that due process was followed.

“Preserving the integrity of that process is essential to us all and so for Victoria Police, it is important that it is allowed to go through unhindered and allowed to see natural justice is afforded to all the parties involved, including Cardinal Pell and the complainants in this matter,” he said.

All was quiet at Cardinal Pell’s Roman residence as the news broke.

He lives in a block of apartments on a square just outside the Vatican walls, metres from St Peter’s Square, and a minute’s walk from the doors to the Basilica.

Security is tight in this part of Rome – an army jeep with two alert, armed soldiers sits on the corner of the square, another on the other side of the wall – and the police presence in this part of the city is constant.

But there were no lights on in the building and the city was quiet in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Thursday is a public holiday in Rome – the fiesta of St Peter and St Paul. It’s a day when many natives traditionally head to the beach.

But despite the apparent peace in Rome, the announcement is set to send shockwaves through the Catholic Church in Australia and around the world.

Cardinal Pell has retained leading Victorian criminal barrister, Robert Richter QC, and it is likely some of the argument that Mr Richter will make in court will concern the question of whether Cardinal Pell can receive a fair trial given the large amount of pre-trial publicity.

As Australia has no extradition treaty with the Vatican, Cardinal Pell may avoid prosecution should he choose not to return to Victoria, but he is expected to come back to fight the charges.

Three detectives from Victoria Police’s Sano Taskforce travelled to Rome to interview Cardinal Pell about the allegations last year after he was declared unfit to travel to Australia.

He has repeatedly and emphatically denied all allegations, but said he would continue to co-operate with the police investigation.

Cardinal Pell was a priest in Ballarat before becoming Archbishop of Melbourne and then being appointed as a Cardinal.

The Catholic Archdiocese in Melbourne has been contacted for comment.

When it comes to historical sex abuse prosecutions, the charge an alleged offender faces, and the applicable maximum penalty, is determined by when the alleged offence occurred. There have been several overhauls of sexual offence laws since the 1980s.

Complete Article HERE!

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06/27/17

Crisis in Irish Catholic priesthood revealed at meetings of clergy

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Meeting in Limerick hears call for confidential helpline for priests

Priests heard there were “too many Masses in near-empty churches”.

By

Eight priests have taken their own lives in the past 10 to 15 years in Ireland, a meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in Cavan has been told.

At another such meeting in Co Limerick, there was a call for the setting up of a national confidential priests’ helpline

Minutes of the latter meeting in Caherconlish quote one attendee as saying: “Our morale is affected because we are on a sinking ship. When will the ‘counter-reformation’ take place? We’re like an All-Ireland team without a goalie. We need a national confidential priests’ helpline. We’re slow to look for help.”

Reports from both meetings appear on the ACP website.

Among reasons given at the Cavan town meeting for the crisis in the Irish Catholic priesthood were living alone, retirement, health issues, sexual abuse accusations, as well as “workload; being gay; clustering; priests rights; bullying; etc.”

There were also very poor welfare supports when a priest gets ill. “We are reluctant to talk and say we are tired, struggling, lonely or depressed. This can be very disheartening,” the meeting was told.

The Cavan meeting was attended by priests from the Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Clogher, Kilmore, and Meath dioceses.

Motions of faith

As disheartening was that so much work by priests was “for people who have so little contact with the church from First Communions to funerals”, the meeting heard. Priests’ confidence “has been eroded when we see so many people going through the motions of faith”.

The Limerick meeting of priests from the Archdiocese of Cashel as well as Killaloe and Limerick dioceses was told there were “too many Masses in near-empty churches. The church has survived in other parts of the world without all the Masses.”

It was claimed priests were “in denial about vocations – not facing reality – we are part of a dying system,” and that “we need to unmask and say ‘I need help.’ There is a great sense of ‘being alone’.”

It was said the Bon Secours Sisters, who managed the controversial Tuam Mother and Baby Home, “did a disservice by not clarifying exactly what happened. They need to do so immediately. It makes our job impossible, especially as we face a storm on abortion next year.”

There was also criticism of how bishops dealt with media at both meetings.

Complete Article HERE!

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06/23/17

Illinois Catholic bishop decrees no Holy Communion, funerals for same-sex couples

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Bishop Thomas Paprocki leads the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Ill.

The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Ill., is calling on priests there to deny Holy Communion and even funeral rites to people in same-sex unions unless they show “some signs of repentance” for their relationships before death.

The decree by Bishop Thomas Paprocki also said that people “living publicly” in same-sex marriages may not receive the sacrament of confirmation or be admitted to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a process by which many converts become Catholic, preparing them for baptism and confirmation.

At the same time, Paprocki said that children living with a Catholic parent or parents in a same-sex marriage may be baptized. But when it comes to same-sex unions, priests cannot bless couples, church property cannot be used for ceremonies and diocesan employees are forbidden from participating, the decree said.

The bishop’s decree has not yet been made public by the diocese, but was sent to clergy and diocesan staff in an email last week. That email, in turn, was shared with other clergy around the country, as well as Catholic LGBT organizations, which posted the document and condemned it as unduly harsh, particularly in light of Pope Francis’s more compassionate posture.

“Although some other bishops and dioceses have instituted similar policies in part, this document is mean-spirited and hurtful in the extreme,” Christopher Pett, incoming president of DignityUSA, said in a news release by the organization that rallies the church for full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics.

Although same-sex marriages have been legal across the United States since the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the decree reiterates church teaching that marriage is a “covenant between one man and one woman.” The church’s official catechism states that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”

Four years ago, after gay marriage was legally recognized in Illinois, Paprocki “performed an exorcism in response to the law, suggesting politicians were ‘morally complicit’ in assisting the sins of same-sex couples,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

The 64-year-old bishop, trained as a lawyer as well as priest, has served the Springfield diocese since 2010. He was previously a priest and auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and is known for his passion for running and penchant for playing hockey.

In a statement provided to The Post, the bishop said of the decree: “These norms are necessary in light of changes in the law and in our culture regarding these issues.” The decree states:

Jesus Christ himself affirmed the privileged place of marriage in human and Christian society by raising it to the dignity of a sacrament. Consequently, the church not only has the authority, but the serious obligation to affirm its authentic teaching on marriage to preserve and foster the sacred value of the married state.

Last year, the pope released a 256-page document, “The Joy of Love,” which affirmed the church’s traditional views on marriage, as The Post reported. At the same time, the pope said unconventional unions are not without their “constructive elements.” He called on the church’s clergy to be pastoral and not to use doctrine as a weapon.

Other clergy have also embraced a more welcoming approach. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, recently welcomed dozens of gay and lesbian Catholics to worship. “I am Joseph your brother,” Tobin told the group, according to a New York Times report. “I am your brother, as a disciple of Jesus. I am your brother, as a sinner who finds mercy with the Lord.”

The Rev. James Martin’s latest book — “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the L.G.B.T. Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity” — also calls for a gentler approach. Of the Paprocki decree, the noted Jesuit author, said in a pointed Facebook post:

If bishops ban members of same-sex marriages from receiving a Catholic funeral, they also have to be consistent. They must also ban divorced and remarried Catholics who have not received annulments, women who has or man who fathers a child out of wedlock, members of straight couples who are living together before marriage, and anyone using birth control. For those are all against church teaching as well. Moreover, they must ban anyone who does not care for the poor, or care for the environment, and anyone who supports torture, for those are church teachings too. More basically, they must ban people who are not loving, not forgiving and not merciful, for these represent the teachings of Jesus, the most fundamental of all church teachings. To focus only on LGBT people, without a similar focus on the moral and sexual behavior of straight people is, in the words of the Catechism, a “sign of unjust discrimination.”

Complete Article HERE!

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06/22/17

New York Senate Kills Child Abuse Bill After Millions In Lobbying By Catholic Church

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Shame, Shame, SHAME!

The New York State Senate struck down a bill Wednesday that would have loosened the statute of limitations of child molestation for the 11th year in a row. “New York has the worst laws on the books anywhere in the country pertaining to the statute of limitations for crimes of child sexual abuse,” Senator and Bill Sponsor Brad Hoylman (D) said.

This year, the bill, called the Child Victims Act came closer than ever to passing. It received support across the aisle in both the Senate and Assembly. It passed in the Assembly for the first time since 2008. The bill died before it hit could the Senate floor.

Right now, victims have until the age of 23 to come forward and file claims, but the bill would have given them something invaluable. The bill would have given child victims until the age of 28 to file criminal claims, and 50 to file civil claims.

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