Priests’ group demands Martin statement over editing of video

Words of welcome for gay people from Cork-born bishop removed from promo clip

Bishop David O’Connell speaking in the original version of a video promoting the World Meeting of Families 2018.

By Patsy McGarry

The Association of Catholic Priests has said it find it “impossible to understand” why words of Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles had been edited out of a promotional video for the World Meeting of Families 2018.

It has called on Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who is hosting the event which will take place at the end of August, to issue a statement clarifying the matter.

Words of welcome from the Cork-born Bishop David O’Connell for gay people raising children and people in second marriages were removed from the video.

“Pope Francis, he gets it. Today there are all sorts of configurations of families – mum and dad; mum or dad on their own; gay couple raising children; people in second marriages,” he said. These have been cut.

A spokeswoman for the World Meeting of Families 2018 has insisted however that everyone will be welcome to the event which is being hosted by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin at the end of August next.

She noted how, in Amoris laetitia, “Pope Francis specifically stresses that ‘every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration’ . . . as is repeated throughout the parish programme.

“The meeting has always been understood as a meeting open to all. This remains the position of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the association, which represents between a third and a half of Catholic priests in Ireland, said it was concerned that “following the earlier removal of photographs from a leaflet, the organisers of the World Meeting of Families have now also removed the words of Bishop O’Connell” from their promotional video.

“His words were such that we find it impossible to understand how anyone who supports the message of PopeFrancis could object to them.”

It was the case that “no clear statement has been made as to why these actions were taken, and on whose direction. Both leave themselves open to interpretations which are very damaging to the WMOF.”

It asked: “Who is making the decisions? Where is the funding coming from? Has the source of the funding anything to do with the decisions being made?

“Without clear explanations, questions like these, and many others, will continue to be asked.”

The ACP concluded: “We believe that it is important that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin makes a statement clarifying why these two alterations were made, who decided on them, and why. Otherwise any further effect to present the WMOF as a welcoming place for everyone will be seen for what it is, empty rhetoric.”

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican sex abuse envoy returns with more than he expected

This photo released by Francisco Arevalo shows Archbishop Charles Scicluna, center, posing for a photo with members of the religious Marist congregation, after Isaac Givovich, fourth from left, gave his testimony as part of his child sex abuse investigation in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. Scicluna, an envoy sent by Pope Francis, is gathering testimonies regarding Bishop Juan Barros allegedly covering up sexual abuses committed by Vatican-condemned priest Fernando Karadima. Second from left is Spanish Priest Jordi Bartolomeu who is assisting Scicluna. The rest are members of the religious Marista congregation: Jaime Concha, far left, Asuncion Lavin, third from left, Eduardo Arevalo, fourth from right, Jorge Franco, third from right, Juan Pablo Arevalo, second from right, and Gonzalo Dezerega, far right.

The Vatican’s leading expert on clerical sex abuse wrapped up his fact-finding mission to Chile on Thursday and headed to Rome to brief the pope, concluding one of the most extraordinary months in the Catholic Church’s long-running saga of coming to terms with priests who rape children and the church hierarchy that protects them.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna plans to present not only a report about Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of witnessing their abuse and ignoring it. Scicluna is also bringing back testimony from Chilean victims of other abusers in the Marist Brothers, Salesian and Franciscan religious orders and how their accusations were mishandled, confirmation that the Chilean Catholic Church has a very big problem on its hands, and to date hasn’t handled it very well.

“In those situations that seem pertinent, Monsignor Scicluna will provide the respective background to the Holy See,” said the spokesman for the Chilean bishops’ conference, Jaime Coiro.

Expectations in Chile are high that something has to change, and that the problem isn’t just about Barros and Francis’ 2015 decision to appoint him as bishop of Osorno, Chile over the objections of many Chilean bishops. Barros had been a top lieutenant to Chile’s most prominent predator priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, but he denies victims’ accusations that he witnessed and ignored their abuse.

Victims say the Barros affair is merely emblematic of a culture in the Chilean church to cover-up for abusers, give them minimal sanctions or move them around rather than adopt the “one-strike-and-you’re-out” policy adopted by U.S. bishops after the sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002.

There are currently five Chilean dioceses that need new bishops, including Santiago, where the archbishop, Cardinal Riccardo Ezzati, turned 76 in January and is due to retire. That sets the stage for the potential that a new course could be charted in Chile if Francis chooses to take it.

“This isn’t just about Bishop Barros. This is much bigger,” historian and author Marcial Sanchez told CNN Chile on Thursday. “We can’t continue sweeping the dirt under the carpet.”

Pope Francis dispatched Scicluna and a Vatican expert on abuse in the region, the Rev. Jordi Bertomeu, to Chile on Jan. 30 following Francis’ problematic visit to Chile and even more problematic press conference coming home. Francis had strongly defended Barros, pronounced himself “certain” that Barros was innocent of cover-up and repeatedly said that accusations against him were “calumny.”

Francis gave the impression that he didn’t know that victims themselves had placed Barros at the scene of their abuse and had been denouncing him for years. The Associated Press, however, reported that Francis had received a letter in 2015 from Juan Carlos Cruz, a Karadima victim, detailing his abuse, Barros’ failure to acknowledge it, and questioning Barros’ fitness to lead a diocese as a result.

Francis’ about-face decision to send in Scicluna, the Catholic Church’s most credible figure on fighting abuse, signaled he wanted to get to the bottom of the Barros affair once and for all. But Scicluna’s decision to take testimony from other Chilean victims — made possible thanks to emergency gall bladder surgery that forced him to stay in Chile for an extra week — signaled that there was a bigger problem at hand and that his mandate was expanding.

Cruz said the fact that Scicluna and Bertomeu chose to interview victims completely unrelated to the Barros case “shows that this goes way beyond Juan Barros.”

“I think that if the pope doesn’t do anything, and focuses only on Barros, it will not go over well since the Chilean church needs an extreme cleansing,” he said.

Anne Barrett Doyle, of the online abuse database BishopAccountability.org, had actually illustrated the problem facing the Chilean church on the eve of Francis’ Jan. 15-21 trip to Chile and Peru. She and other survivors’ advocates held a press conference in Santiago to unveil research showing nearly 80 credibly accused priests and brothers in Chile, many of them even superiors of religious orders.

One month later, Barrett Doyle said it was “encouraging” that Scicluna had come and had even expanded his mandate to take testimony from other victims. But she said time will tell if Francis and the Vatican act on Scicluna’s findings. She said the bigger problem was the Chilean hierarchy and its approach to investigating abuse, which she said remained “in the dark ages.”

“The Chilean church desperately needs systemic reform,” she said.

She noted that the Chilean church’s 2015 sex abuse policy — mandated by the Vatican in 2011 — “contains no zero tolerance provision, no mandated reporting for clergy, and a rejection of the church’s responsibility to make reparation to victims.”

In fact, efforts by Karadima’s victims to obtain damages from the church through civil litigation accusing church leaders of cover-up have been met with a campaign to discredit the victims. And yet elsewhere, dioceses in the U.S. have paid out millions of dollars in settlements and litigation acknowledging wrongdoing. Dioceses in Europe and Australia have created compensation schemes to help victims pay for the therapy many have needed to cope with the lifelong trauma the church had caused them.

A lawsuit seeking less than a million dollars, lodged by Cruz and two other Karadima victims, was rejected by Chilean courts but is on appeal.

Scicluna and Bertolomeu will return to Rome just days after Francis wrapped up his latest periodic meeting of cardinal advisers, who discussed ways to speed up the processing of cases at the Vatican’s backlogged Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. One proposal that has been discussed for years is to create regional tribunals around the world to hear cases.

One of Francis’ key cardinal advisers, who spent three days with him this week in private, was Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz, who has acknowledged he shelved the initial investigation into Karadima because he didn’t believe the victims.

Complete Article HERE!

In Vatican Magazine Exposé, Nuns Reveal Their Economic Exploitation

Nuns at a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis with members of different religious orders in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican last month.

By

Sister Marie told of nuns who worked long hours to cook and clean for cardinals and bishops, without being asked to break bread at the same table.

Sister Paule pointed out that many nuns did not have registered contracts with the bishops, schools, parishes or congregations they worked for, “so they are paid little or not at all.”

Sister Cécile said that “nuns are seen as volunteers to have available at one’s calling, which gives rise to abuse of power.”

These stories — told by sisters using pseudonyms — were revealed Thursday in an exposé about how nuns are exploited by the leaders and institutions of the Roman Catholic Church. The article, by the French journalist Marie-Lucile Kubacki, was published in the March edition of Women Church World, the monthly magazine on women distributed alongside the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

he stories amount to a distress signal about the unfair economic and social conditions many nuns experience, as well as the psychological and spiritual challenges that many face.

“In the eyes of Jesus we are all children of God,” said the nun identified as Sister Marie, “but in their concrete life some nuns do not live this, and they experience great confusion and discomfort.”

The article was part of an issue dedicated to “Women and Work,” which touched on subjects already familiar to readers of the women’s magazine, like maternity and women in the church, but also the gender pay gap and unpaid domestic work.

It came about after discussions with nuns and observations about how they were treated in the Vatican, where they often provide “subordinate services,” said Lucetta Scaraffia, a feminist intellectual and the editor of Women Church World, which was introduced under Pope Benedict XVI.

Lucetta Scaraffia, editor in chief of Women Church World.

Though convents also depend on the money generated by the sisters living there, many nuns, unlike priests, are not paid, or are poorly paid, when they attend conferences or when they preach, she said.

But the article, “The (Nearly) Free Work of Sisters,” noted that it was not just a question of money. A bigger problem, the article pointed out, is that many sisters say that while male vocations are valued, the work of women is not.

“Behind all this is still the unfortunate idea that women are worth less than men, and above all that the priest is everything while sisters are nothing in the church,” Sister Paule said in the article.

The article confirmed that while women have been clamoring to have a greater role in the decision making of the male-centric Catholic Church, the road is still steep.

Still, some efforts are underway to address the problem. The annual Voices of Faith conference, which aims to showcase the “underutilized potential of women to exercise leadership at all levels of the Catholic Church” will take place at the Vatican on March 8.

And a “Manifesto of Women for the Church,” also published in the March issue of Women Church World, calls for giving women “roles that are coherent with our competences and capacities.” The document has circulated on social media and is being shared by women who are active in church institutions and parishes throughout Italy.

Pope Francis, who is said to read the magazine, has raised the matter of women’s roles in the church before, but his concerns have yet to be translated into concrete changes.

At an audience in May 2016, Francis was asked by one of the 900 leaders of female religious orders and congregations who form part of the International Union of Superiors General why the organization was not given a bigger say in the operation of the church.

Pope Francis leading a Mass for priests and nuns at the Vatican last month.

Francis said at the time that “very often I find consecrated women who perform a labor of servitude and not of service,” and he urged the sisters to “have the courage to say no” when their superiors “asked for something that is more servitude than service.”

Sisters should be in the streets, in schools and with the sick and poor rather than carrying out errands for a parish priest, he said.

“When a consecrated woman is asked to perform a work of servitude, the life and dignity of that woman are demeaned,” the pope said. “Her vocation is service: service to the church. But not servitude!” (His comments that day were overshadowed by an off-the-cuff comment about setting up a commission to study whether women could serve as deacons in the church.)

The pope has said that his concerns apply to women in the church in general. In its Friday edition, which came out Thursday, L’Osservatore Romano published a preface written by the pope for a Spanish-language book on Francis and women.

The pope wrote that he was concerned about a chauvinist mentality that persists in societies that leads to acts of violence. “And I am concerned that in the church itself, the role of service to which every Christian is called, often, in the case of women, slides into roles of servitude rather than service,” he wrote.

Paola Lazzarini Orrù, a sociologist and one of the authors of the manifesto in the magazine said some parishes had begun to invite women to speak during Mass. “Priest have begun to understand this is an issue that can no longer be ignored,” she said.

In the article, Sister Cécile said it was time for nuns to speak out. “Now when I am invited to hold a conference, I no longer hesitate to say I want to be paid, and how much I expect,” she said.

“It’s a question of survival for our communities,” she added, because she and her sisters live off this income.

But “change is difficult,” Ms. Scaraffia said. “Many prelates don’t want to hear these things, because it is easier to have nuns” who play subservient roles.

Complete Article HERE!

New Survey: Catholic Women “Disengaged & Disengaging” — And Don’t Listen to US Bishops

By

Nearly five years into Pope Francis papacy, with its great expectations for a revival of Catholicism among the flagging faithful, a new large-scale survey of American Catholic women finds the flock faithful but disengaged from the rituals of the church and eager for a greater female presence in its institutions.

The survey of some 1,500 self-identified Catholic women was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University for America magazine.

The survey found that while 98 percent of American Catholic women say they believe in God in some way, only about one-third (35%) attend mass even fairly regularly, and just under one-third (30%) say they attend confession once a year, which is a significant repudiation of the bedrock obligations of Catholicism by women who call themselves Catholic.

“While Catholic women remain affiliated with the church, they are disengaged and disengaging,” said Rev. Matt Malone, S.J., editor in chief of America, who called the survey a “wake-up call” for the U.S. Catholic leadership.

“We are at a crisis point” in American Catholicism, Notre Dame professor Kathleen Sprows Cummings told America, noting that historically “it’s always been the women who are more engaged” in the church.

And levels of engagement were even lower for women born after Vatican II, with fewer than 20% attending mass once a week. Overall, only 35% of Catholic women said attending mass weekly was very important to their sense of being a Catholic. The most important factors to respondents’ sense of being Catholic was “helping the poor” and “receiving the Eucharist/Holy Communion,” with nearly half (45%) saying both were very important to their sense of being Catholic.

Despite low levels of regular engagement with the obligatory rituals of the church, 82% of the respondents said they never had considered leaving the church. Twelve percent of the women surveyed had considered leaving the church for a time, while six percent had left but returned—most commonly because they had disagreed with the church’s stance on a particular issue, often regarding sexuality and reproductive rights, and the status of women in the church.

Overall, women were fairly satisfied with their level of inclusion in their local churches. A total of 57% said the priests in their parish did a good job of including women in the parish community and half felt women were well-represented on parish councils and in lay ministry positions. However, the survey also showed that women clearly were looking for greater formal inclusion in the ministry of the church. Sixty percent of the women surveyed supported women being ordained permanent deacons, which had been raised as a possibility by Pope Francis, while another 33% weren’t sure; only 7% of women opposed the ordination of women as deacons.

Women of the Baby Boom generation showed the most support for women deacons, with 65% registering approval, while Millennials showed the lowest levels of support, at 53%. And just over 50% of women who attend mass weekly support women deacons.

In another sign that Millennial Catholic women may be trending more conservative then their mothers and grandmothers—possibly because so many more progressive-leaning women have left the church—one-quarter (26%) report using natural family planning as a method of contraception, which is the second-highest rate following women born before the availability of modern contraceptives.

Politically, the women who responded to the survey trended Democratic. Some 60% were either Democratic (41%) or leaned Democratic (18%), while just under one-quarter (24%) were Republican and 14% leaned Republican. Three-quarters of the Catholic women surveyed said they planned to vote in the 2018 mid-term elections, which the survey notes would be equivalent to 18.7 million voters. More Catholic women said they intend to vote for Democrats (55%) than Republicans (37%).

Republican Catholic women were three times more likely than Catholic Democratic women to say that Catholic social teaching would help them decide how to vote, but even then only 20% looked to Catholic social teaching. Not surprisingly, 38% of Republican Catholic women said “protecting life” was very important to their sense of being a Catholic, while for Democratic Catholic women, “helping the poor” was most important, with 52% citing this value. Neither Democratic nor Republican women pay much attention to the statements of the U.S. bishops, with only 7% saying they were helpful in deciding how to vote.

For Democratic women the specific Catholic teaching that was important to them and likely to effect how they voted was on care for the environment, with 47% saying it affected how they voted. For Republican women, the most important teaching that affected how they voted was on abortion, with 51% citing this teaching, making it the single most salient teaching on Catholic voting behavior. The least important issue across the board was the church’s teaching on artificial birth control.

The survey portrays a church in which not only are many of its followers deeply disengaged from the sacramental life of the church, but as divided as American society in general over key social issues.

Fallen Kings: How Cardinal Law’s Reign Cemented The Church’s Fading Power


Cardinal Law celebrated mass in April 2005 inside St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

By

When the cardinal’s residence was built in the 1920s atop a hill in the leafy, most western outpost of Boston, it was modeled after an Italian palazzo. The grand mansion, replete with ornate mahogany and marble appointments, has stood as a testament to the Boston Archdioceses’ stature in the very Catholic city of Boston. Political candidates — local and national — would come calling, and even the Pope came to visit.

When Cardinal Bernard Law took up residence in the Renaissance Revival mansion, Boston’s Roman Catholic movers and shakers would flock to the backyard for his garden party fundraisers.

Today, it’s a steady stream of students hauling backpacks, and members of the public traipsing across that same property. The mansion, now owned by Boston College, has been gutted and converted to an art museum and meeting rooms — a remarkable fall from grace that parallels that of the Boston Archdiocese itself.

A total of 65 acres of prime church property – possibly its most valuable in Massachusetts — was sold in a fire sale, after the clergy sexual abuse crisis, when the church was struggling to pay some $85 million dollars in settlements to victims. In the years since, the cost of settling claims surpassed $200 million, and the church’s declining fortunes have been more than just financial.

Cardinal Law’s death this week reawakened a flood of emotion and anger over the decades of sexual abuse that finally came to light in 2002, and at the archbishop’s role in allowing predator priests to move to new parishes, where they would prey on more unsuspecting victims. The revelations that began in Boston eventually engulfed the church worldwide, and the reverberations continue to be felt, nowhere more so than in the once all-powerful Boston Archdiocese.

“The church’s influence took a big hit in 2002, that’s undeniable,” says Domenico Bettinelli, who used to be director of new media for the Archdiocese, and now works as an anti-abortion rights activist. “There’s no doubt that since the great scandal broke … our public voice has been muted in many ways because our moral authority has rightly been questioned.”

It’s a far cry from the old days, when the church was almighty, and the cardinal was closer to king, according to Thomas P. O’Neill III, former Massachusetts state legislator and lieutenant governor. He’s also son of the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tip O’Neill.

“When my dad served in the state legislature and Cardinal [Richard James] Cushing said [to do] something, I can assure you, a Catholic majority in the state legislature paid attention to it, and did it,” says O’Neill.

Powerful ambitions

Cardinal Law long hoped he could also command that kind of obedience, after he arrived in Boston in 1984. With his booming baritone, and penchant for the regal trappings of the office, he did engender a deference and reverence that was in no small part derived from his influence with the Vatican. As one of the most senior American prelates, he was as well-connected as he was well-regarded outside Boston. He had the ear of Pope John Paul II, and was talked about as the man who might become the first American Pope. He was in regular conversation with President George H. W. Bush, and was a player on the world stage, instrumental in arranging the Pope’s first visit to Cuba; He was described in a 1990 newspaper article as “the first Archbishop of Boston to have a foreign policy.”


Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law conducts his first Mass after being appointed a Cardinal, at Our Lady of Victories Church in Boston.

A 1990 Boston Globe story, headlined “The Cardinal’s Ambitions,” outlines a typical week in Law’s life;

“He had mulled over Third World debt with Mexican bankers in Washington, D.C., brainstormed anti-abortion strategy with U.S. bishops in New York City, and jolted a visiting Northern Ireland official with a pointed question about conditions in Catholic schools there. The following Sunday he would leave for Cuba and his second tete-a-tete with Fidel Castro.”

But at home, the Catholic Church’s influence was on a slow decline that had begun under Law’s immediate predecessor, Cardinal Humberto Sousa Medeiros, who largely refrained from politics. By the time Law came to town, shifting demographics and changing social mores had significantly changed the landscape, further diminishing the church’s authority. And much as he wanted to reclaim the clout wielded by Cardinal Cushing, Cardinal Law never quite could.

“Law wanted to play that role and recreate that world, in a sense, but that world was already gone,” says James O’Toole, a history professor at Boston College, and former archivist for the Archdiocese of Boston. “There was a kind of polish to him as someone who knew what position he was in, and he was going to run with that, but he wasn’t able to do it.”

“By the time I got [into politics], you weighed everything that was being said by the church hierarchy, and you did it respectfully,” says O’Neill. “But did you follow blindly? No. Those days were all gone by the time I got there. [Lawmakers] paid attention to [Cardinal Law] … but they did not always comply.”

The election of 1986, O’Toole says, already revealed how the cardinal’s rigid Roman orthodoxy, and rightward leaning wasn’t flying with his Massachusetts flock. Cardinal Law lobbied for two referendum questions: one to ban state funding for abortion, and the other to permit some state support of parochial schools.

“Cardinal Law campaigned very strongly on both of those issues and he lost both of them decisively,” O’Toole says.


Cardinal Bernard Law embraced and kissed by Pope John Paul II as he is officially installed as cardinal by the Pontiff during a solemn Consistory in St. Peter’s Square in 1985.

By the time another decade passed, the gap had so swollen between Boston’s Catholic Church and Boston Catholics on social issues, leaving Cardinal Law venting that both Massachusetts senators and the governor were wrong on the abortion issue.

“Only I am right,” he said.

A few years later, the church would also falter in its efforts to block gay marriage, as lawmakers were paying more heed to the voice of their constituents, than the cardinal’s’s.

“There used to be an assumption that [the archdiocese] was speaking for the majority of people in the church,” says State Rep. Byron Rushing. “But the average Roman Catholic state representative or state senator knew that there were many Roman Catholics in their district that are in favor of it. They weren’t all on the same page … [like] in the old days.”

Still, the institutional power of the Catholic Church in heavily Catholic Boston, would continue to earn Law a ranking by Boston Magazine as one of the three most powerful figures in Boston, even through the late 90s.

Protecting its own

Indeed, former Attorney General Martha Coakley says that sway was what enabled the Archdiocese to keep the lid on the clergy abuse and on what higher-ups were doing that allowed the abuse to continue.

“The church as an institution was incredibly powerful in Boston, in protecting its records and using its authority to cover up what was in retrospect, an awful conspiracy to hide [the abuse] and protect the church’s reputation,” she says.

Furious backlash

But when the 2002 sexual abuse crisis threw the church into turmoil, and prompted a furious backlash, it was all over. With the church under siege, the balance of power shifted abruptly.

Law became the “poster boy” for the church’s cover up. The cardinal’s mansion was surrounded every day by swarms of protesters calling for his resignation. From his mightiest perch, he was reduced to being grilled by victims’ lawyers, under oath, about what he knew and when he knew it. One attorney recalls that when pressed during a deposition, Law turned to his attorney, protesting and asking if he really had to answer. The answer came back that yes, he did.


Philippine President Corazon Aquino receives Holy Communion from Cardinal Law during Mass at St. Ignatius Church in Newton, Mass. in 1986.

“The church lost all its influence,” Rushing says. On Beacon Hill, the church’s longtime lobbyist, who’d been a fixture at the statehouse, didn’t even dare show up.

“I would joke with him,” Rushing recalls. “You know like, ‘You can always come into my office, because I know you don’t want to go anywhere else in the building.'”

The cardinal, never shy to testify himself on legislation or use his bully pulpit, was rendered effectively mute. He was side-lined on issues he would have been spearheading, like a Boston Hotel workers strike that involved poor and immigrant workers.

Legislation moved through the State House, including requiring health insurance to cover contraception, and hospitals to offer the morning-after pill. On the other hand, Rushing says the church’s retreat was a big blow to other progressive/liberal efforts he would have liked the church’s help on, like increased assistance to the poor people and immigrants.

“We lost that lobby,” Rushing says. “They just stopped doing it.”

Shortly after the crisis, some Catholic priests in Massachusetts were even flouting the church by speaking out against a ban on gay marriages in Massachusetts, prompting a stern rebuke from above.

At the same time, the church’s financial clout took a nosedive as well. Angry, disillusioned parishioners were leaving in droves, and donations — from collection plates and large institutions— were drying up. After the crisis, the annual Boston Catholic Appeal plummeted to half of what it was.

“Everything went right over the cliff,” said one church official, not authorized to speak on the record. “We were basically in a freefall.”

O’Neill says the Catholic faithful began to distinguish between the mission of the church, and the institution of the church, and found ways to support the former but not the latter. He says that’s still happening, as he saw recently, when fundraising for a local Catholic school.

“In the old days the Catholic Church would support it almost in its entirety,” he says. “Today, you have private folks making contributions directly to [foundations that support that mission] as opposed to through the apparatus of the archdiocese.”

Climbing out out of crisis mode

By all accounts, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, has worked small miracles to restore confidence in the church. Soft-spoken, and low key (he’s way more comfortable in the traditional plain brown habit of his Franciscan order, than the regal garb that Cardinal law favored), O’Malley, has showed genuine compassion for the victims, and a deep commitment to their healing and to church reform. Church officials say attendance has finally stabilized, and donations have climbed back up to pre-crisis levels.

The coffin of former Archbishop of Boston U.S. Cardinal Bernard Law at the St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday.

“If you told me before Sean O’Malley had become the cardinal of Boston, that anyone could have come and done the repair that Sean O’Malley has done, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have believed you,” says O’Neill. I think everybody — even Catholics not practicing today — have a very deep seated respect for Cardinal O’Malley.”

Politically, the Archdiocese is slowly recovering some of its voice, but seems to be strategically picking and choosing its fights, to stay more in sync with Boston Catholics. For example, O’Malley has been championing the cause of undocumented immigrants and speaking out on opioid addiction, violence prevention, and education.

“We’re out of crisis mode now, and Cardinal O’Malley is much more engaged politically,” the church official says.

The church recently managed to pull off a legislative win, helping to defeating a measure that would have allowed physician assisted suicide. But Bettinelli cautions even that vote doesn’t necessarily mean an upswing in the church’s influence.

“Lawmakers are voting “based on their faith,” he says. “But I don’t think it’s necessarily because they are being influenced by [O’Malley].”

Catholic participation remains low; just about 20 percent attend weekly mass, compared to 70 percent in the 1970’s, according to the church. Money remains tight, and despite the softer tone coming from both Pope Francis and Cardinal O’Malley, doctrine is not budging on issues like abortion, contraception, or gay marriage, and so the chasm between the church and many of its parishioners on social issues is only widening.

“The rigid school of catholic doctrine … doesn’t sell in the 21st century,” says says Lawrence DiCara who was Boston City Council president in the 1970s.

Close to 70 parishes have been eliminated since 2004, a trend almost surely accelerated by the scandal, but reflective of the broader shift of Catholic America from the old heartland of Boston, N.Y., Chicago and Philly, to the South and Southwest.

Today, as Cardinal O’Malley tries to reboot and boost the Catholic Church, in keeping with his more down-to-earth style, he lives in a modest rectory in the heart of Boston, far from the once majestic mansion that was home to his predecessors.

O’Neill was one of the “movers and shakers” who once reveled at the big parties at Cardinal Law’s residence. “Those were the happy days,” he sighs.

He was also there for the small, private meeting, when a handful of Law’s closest confidantes told His Eminence it was time to quit.

“That was the end of it,” O’Neill says.

Now, he says, “this church is a church in repair, and we have a long way to go.” Then, ever faithful, he adds, “But I think the [new] leadership is destined to do the right thing, and get us to that point.”

As O’Toole puts it, “it’s dangerous for a historian to talk about the future but … the revival will come at some point. You know maybe 100, or 200 years from now … But I don’t think [this decline] will be permanent.”

Complete Article HERE!