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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08/9/16

‘Spotlight’ sex abuse priest hangs himself in jail

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Brazil – A Brazilian priest mentioned in the Catholic clergy sex abuse film “Spotlight” was found dead in a prison cell after he was arrested again for suspected pedophilia, authorities said on Monday.

Father Bonifacio Buzzi, 57, hanged himself with a sheet in a jail in the state of Minas Gerais where he was taken after his arrest on Friday, the state government said in a statement.

Young christian priest in cassock arrested and handcuffed

A decade ago Buzzi was convicted of abusing a 10-year-old boy in Mariana, Minas Gerais and jailed from 2007 to 2015. He was arrested last week following criminal complaints that he had molested two boys aged 9 and 13.

Buzzi was cited among the pedophilia cases listed at the end of “Spotlight,” the Oscar-winning 2015 film based on the Boston Globe newspaper’s investigation of sexual abuses by Catholic priests and efforts by the Boston Archdiocese to cover them up.

Allegations against Buzzi first emerged in the 1990s in his home state of Santa Catarina. In 1995 he was convicted of molesting two boys in his parish near Mariana after their parents accused him of performing oral sex on their children.

Buzzi got a reduced sentence and the Catholic Church obtained a court order allowing him to serve it out at the home of the local archbishop.

Complete Article HERE!

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08/4/16

How to Prevent Suicide in Clergy Abuse Victims

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By Jennifer McGregor*

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Image via Pixabay by ibrahim62

In recent years, the Vatican released its records of sexual abuse punishment, revealing an alarming 3,400 cases since 2004. Of course, these are only the offenders who were caught. The actual number of abusers and victims remains unknown, often leading the victims to depression, addiction, and suicidal thoughts.
Children who suffer from any form of abuse have a much greater risk for addiction, and with such startling revelations brought to light in recent months, it’s a good idea for every family to be aware of helpful steps to take to minimize the negative consequences if abuse has occurred in any situation. If you suspect a child has been abused or know a child who has been victimized by a clergy member or any trusted adult, here are a few ways to help the child cope and reduce the risk of suicide.

Seek Therapy

Overcoming something as traumatic as sexual abuse, particularly by a trusted individual like clergy members, is not something easily done. Victims of abuse need counseling with a trained professional, preferably one with experience with this brand of abuse. It will take extensive knowledge of the human mind, trauma, and how it affects a person as they age to mitigate the negative effects of the abuse.
Common results of childhood trauma are mistrust of adults, increased risk of addiction and suicide, PTSD, and depression. A good treatment program has the potential to eliminate many of these consequences.

Monitor Addictive Substance Use

If you know a child or an adult who has been sexually abused by a clergy member – or abused in any circumstance by a trusted adult, recently or in the past, it is important to observe their use of substances like alcohol, nicotine, prescription drugs, or illicit drugs. The risk of a childhood abuse victim becoming an addict is much higher than their peers, meaning at the first sign of overuse, help is needed. What’s more, these risks exist even decades after abuse has occurred, with some victims turning to drugs or alcohol later in life.

Offer Healthy Outlets

The reason addiction and suicide are so common in childhood abuse victims is the need to escape from the trauma. Victims use substances or more drastic measures to forget about the abuse they suffered and rid themselves of the effects of that abuse. With this in mind, it is important to provide healthy outlets for beneficial forms of escapism and healing.

Some good options include yoga, meditation, and gardening. Yoga combines the benefits of exercise (endorphins, physical wellbeing) with the mental benefits of a meditative practice (silencing the mind). Meditation offers similar benefits with more focus on relaxation and serenity.
Gardening has been shown to be extremely beneficial in many ways. By tending to plants, people feel useful and excited when their plants flourish.

Preventing suicide in abuse victims can be a complex task. It should not be taken on by loved ones alone but rather should be undertaken with the assistance of a therapist. The love and support of family can mean the world but even the most supportive family cannot always undo the emotional damage that has been done. Let the counselor work on the mental side while you and your other loved ones focus on positive outlets and prevention of addiction.

*Jennifer McGregor

has wanted to be a doctor since she was little. Now, as a pre-med student, she’s well on her way to achieving that dream. She helped create PublicHealthLibrary.org with a friend as part of a class project. With it, she hopes to provide access to trustworthy health and medical resources. When Jennifer isn’t working on the site, you can usually find her hitting the books in the campus library or spending some downtime with her dog at the local park.

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03/15/16

Fr. Virgilio Elizondo Reportedly Takes His Own Life

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By Robert Rivard

fr.-virgil-elizondo-notre-dame-lecture

Fr. Virgilio Elizondo, one of San Antonio’s most accomplished and beloved Catholic priests whose work brought him recognition in Latin America and Europe and an esteemed faculty position at the University of Notre Dame, reportedly died of a self-inflicted gunshot at his home Monday afternoon, according to sources in the Catholic community.

Friends spoke of being devastated and in disbelief as the news made its way through Elizondo’s large circle in the city. Elizondo, 80, a Westside native and the son of Mexican immigrants, became a beacon for Catholics and non-Catholics inspired by his deep appreciation of mestizo history, culture and spirituality. His own roots gave him a grounded understanding as a theologian of what the poor and oppressed throughout Latin America were experiencing under the rule and repression of  military dictatorships in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. For Elizondo, liberation theology that swept the continent in those decades was one and the same with his mestizo-rooted theology.

I first met Elizondo in El Salvador while living there during the civil war years. We later became friends when my family moved to San Antonio in 1989. Kenneth Woodward, the longtime religion editor at Newsweek and author of numerous books on Catholicism and faith, told me at the time that Elizondo was one of the most remarkable priests he knew and that I should do whatever it took to get to know him once I arrived in San Antonio.

“Yes, Virgil Elizondo was an important theologian, but he was much more than that: He was a great priest,” Woodward said Monday evening. “Virgil was the face of the Church, and therefore of Christ, to literally thousands, in San Antonio and around the world. Tonight, the whole Catholic world weeps.”

Woodward, a Notre dame graduate, was a friend of Elizondo and Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, who served as president of Notre Dame from 1952-1987. He said it was a world that welcomed Elizondo. Despite his own humble beginnings, Elizondo learned to speak multiple languages and lectured widely on three continents. He authored numerous books, including “The Future is Mestizo” in 1992; “Guadalupe: Mother of the New Creation” in 1997; and “Galilean Journey: The Mexican American Promise” in 2000. His books remain in print, often assigned by theology professors at other major universities.

One of Elizondo’s proudest moments was being named a professor of pastoral and Hispanic theology at Notre Dame, the citadel of Catholic education, and a fellow at the university’s Institute of Latino Studies.  In 1997, he received the Laetare Medal, the highest honor conveyed by Notre Dame.

 


 
Elizondo downplayed his own many accomplishments, and few outside the archdiocese or his circle of friends knew that after receiving his undergraduate degree in chemistry from St. Mary’s University in 1957, he went on to earn a graduate degree in pastoral studies from Ateneo University in Manila in 1969, and his Ph.D in theological studies from the Institut Catholique in Paris in 1978. He was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees from around the world.

He served as rector of San Fernando Cathedral in the late 1980s and early 1990s and was credited with resurrecting the parish community there. His understanding of the power of media led him to do extensive work with the archdiocese’s television station, and his Spanish-language Mass at San Fernando was broadcast each Sunday to more than one million people throughout Latin America. He was a co-founder with then-Archbishop Patrick Flores of the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio and a strong advocate for the city and region’s working poor. He was fond of telling stories about his own happy childhood and close-knit family, poor in material goods, rich in spirit and faith.

Elizondo was named secondarily in a May 2015 lawsuit filed by a John Doe in Bexar County that accused Jesus Armando Dominguez, then a student at Assumption Seminary here, of sexually molesting him from 1980-83 while the boy lived at a local orphanage and was mentored by Dominguez. In the lawsuit, the John Doe claims he approached Elizondo to report the molestation, only to be kissed and fondled by him while the two were in a vehicle together. Elizondo vigorously denied the charges in a public statement and in conversations with friends, and said he was prepared to fight the allegation legally.

Dominguez, who was later ordained in San Bernardino Diocese in California, disappeared in 2005 amid criminal charges of sexually molesting a number of boys. He reportedly fled to Mexico and was never arrested. He was defrocked as a priest and the diocese settled numerous lawsuits out of court for substantial cash payments, admitting that Dominguez had molested numerous boys.

Until the 2015 lawsuit, no such charges were ever leveled against Elizondo over his long and distinguished career as a writer, academic and parish priest. No other charges subsequently surfaced, either, but in the aftermath of widespread media reports of the Catholic Church and its failure over many decades to address the issue of priests who were sexual predators, a story first told in-depth by the Boston Globe and later memorialized in the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight,” the allegation against Elizondo took its toll. The affable, gregarious San Antonio native largely withdrew from public life here after the lawsuit was filed.

Shortly after midnight, the archdiocese released this statement from Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller:

“I join the priests of the Archdiocese of San Antonio as we are deeply saddened and stunned by the news of the death of Father Virgilio Elizondo on March 14. This is an occasion for great sorrow, as his death was sudden and unexpected.

“Father Virgil had served as rector of San Fernando Cathedral, and pursued scholarly work in Latino theology, evangelization, faith and spirituality, and culture. He had also been a long-time theology professor at the University of Notre Dame, and was the author of several books.

“At this devastatingly sad time for Father Virgil’s family – especially his sister – as well as his brother clergy, co-workers and friends, we offer our most profound sympathies. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all. I pray for all those who mourn Father Virgil and for the repose of his soul. In this Year of Mercy, we now commend him to the saving mercy of our God, who is compassionate and full of mercy and love. This is most fitting and proper.

“Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.”

Funeral arrangements will be announced soon, according to the statement.

Complete Article HERE!

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06/25/13

Fr Matt Wallace suicide ‘shows pressure on priests’

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A Catholic priest has said the death of a colleague at the weekend has highlighted the growing pressures they face.

Father Matt Wallace, from the parish of the Holy Trinity in west Belfast, took his own life.Father Matt Wallace

The funeral of the County Wexford-born priest was held in Belfast on Tuesday.

It was told that the growing demand on a diminishing number of priests is physically and mentally challenging and for some it is becoming intolerable.

Father Martin Magill, from the nearby St Oliver Plunkett parish, said fellow priests were stunned by the nature of Fr Wallace’s death and he said the tragedy highlighted the difficulties facing many priests.

“I suppose the word torture would come to mind to some extent when there are mental health issues, when we’re battling with our own particular issues,” he said.

“It can be a sense of being plagued, it could certainly be a sense of being tortured as well.”

Fr Magill said the church and society now need to consider why a well respected priest like Fr Wallace could no longer cope with his own difficulties.

Fr Wallace, 69, was based in west Belfast for four decades. His death followed a number of months on sick leave.

Complete Article HERE!

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