Priest describes senior Vatican Cardinal’s comments as ‘like Trump’

Fr Tony Flannery, a co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, said there are “polarised positions” in the Church and in the Vatican itself on possible reform

By Noel Baker

A Redemptorist priest who has been suspended from active ministry for the past eight years has described comments by a senior Vatican Cardinal as “like Trump” amid a deepening row over potential reforms in the Catholic Church.

Fr Tony Flannery, a co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests and an advocate of the ordination of women priests, made his comments after a report this week in the National Catholic Reporter quoted Cardinal Luis Ladaria of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) as saying it had done “everything possible” to come to some type of resolution with him, but this had been unsuccessful.

In the same article, Cardinal Ladaria defended his office’s request that Fr Flannery sign four strict oaths of fidelity to Catholic teaching, saying while this was “very unpleasant”, it was required to maintain fealty to Church guidelines.

The Cardinal was quoted as saying: “We have tried always to maintain our respect towards Fr Flannery, but the duty that we have, according to the arrangement of the church, is to protect the faith and therefore to indicate some things that do not conform with this faith.”

Fr Flannery, 73, had said that unless he signed the oaths he had been informed he should not return to public ministry.

The row has now deepened, with the ACP tweeting a link to the NCR article and stating it is “very disturbed” by the comments as to the nature of the engagement with Fr Flannery.

It said if the report had quoted the Cardinal accurately “then it must be said, that he is misleading Catholics and the public. This is disturbing.”

Fr Flannery himself tweeted on Tuesday night “Ladaria is a Jesuit; he knows what ‘dialogue’ entails. He must know this statement is false. This has upset me this evening”.

He told the Irish Examiner he has no intention of leaving the priesthood or the Redemptorists, but could not rule out the possibility that he might be fired.

He said in eight years he had had no direct correspondence from the CDF and so the Cardinal’s assertion to the contrary was, in his view, “totally false”.

“The only thing I can compare that to is Trump,” he said, adding that what was said is “clearly contrary to all the evidence”.

Fr Flannery said there are “polarised positions” in the Church and in the Vatican itself on possible reform, but that the recent issue over the oaths of fidelity “in tone and content is like something from the 19th century”.

“To some extent this is like the end of the road in dealing with the Vatican,” he said.

In a comprehensive statement issued earlier on his website by way of response to the comments made by the Cardinal, Fr Flannery said the CDF under Cardinal Ladaria or his two predecessors “never communicated directly with me”.

“How do you dialogue with someone when you won’t speak to them?” he asked.

He said he was “totally unaware” of any other discussions held at a higher level and added: “All I ever got were demands for statements and signatures, and lists of punishments meted out to me. In fact the very first I knew of the whole process was, in 2012, when I was presented with two documents, outlining my ‘heretical’ writings, and the sentence being imposed. And the Cardinal says they have done everything to dialogue with me.”

Complete Article HERE!

Ex-altar boy says he was abused by Cardinal McCarrick

— and witnessed more at beach house

In this Nov. 14, 2011, file photo, then Cardinal Theodore McCarrick prays during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall assembly in Baltimore. A lawyer says the key accuser in the sex abuse case against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has met with New York City prosecutors, evidence that the scandal that has convulsed the papacy is now part of the broader U.S. law enforcement investigation into sex abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church.

By Abbott Koloff & Deena Yellin

Geoffrey Downs said he was a teenage altar boy in the 1980s when former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick abruptly pinned him to a wall and sexually abused him as they prepared for services in Metuchen.

McCarrick, who would go on to become one of the most prominent clerics in the U.S. Catholic Church, allegedly said he could arrange for the two to go to a Jersey Shore beach house where they could have “alone time.”

Downs, who sued McCarrick and the Metuchen diocese last week, said he knew about that house because he’d been there a few years earlier on a retreat with a group of altar boys. He said he had been awakened by a sound just before dawn, and witnessed a priest sexually abusing a young boy.

“I was well aware of the beach house and what it could mean,” Downs, 53, said in an interview Monday.

His lawsuit is the second civil complaint alleging child sex abuse at a Jersey Shore home used by Catholic clergy and connected to McCarrick. In a suit filed last month, a man said he was abused by the former cardinal at a beach house where the prelate allegedly shared boys with other clerics. The abuse allegedly occurred in the early 1980s, when McCarrick was the Metuchen bishop, about the same time as the activity alleged in Downs’ lawsuit.

Downs’ complaint, filed Aug. 11 in Middlesex County, alleges he was abused by McCarrick in 1982 or 1983, when he was 15 or 16 years old, at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Metuchen. He said he didn’t know the bishop but had seen him celebrating Mass at the parochial high school he attended. Downs said he was abused just the one time, and that he recoiled from McCarrick and then quit going to church altogether.

The ex-cardinal was defrocked last year amid allegations that he sexually abused children and harassed adult seminarians, becoming the highest-ranking American Catholic official to be punished over accusations of sex abuse. Downs’ was the fourth suit filed in New Jersey over the past nine months alleging McCarrick sexually assaulted a child.

McCarrick’s attorney, Barry Coburn, declined to comment. McCarrick has denied allegations that he sexually abused minors.

Downs said he didn’t talk about the encounter until recently, when he began reading about others abused in the Catholic Church and “started realizing it wasn’t an isolated incident.” The lawsuit says he visited the shore house about a year before he was abused by McCarrick.

“A year prior to the abuse Plaintiff had attended an altar boy retreat at the Diocese Beach House and had observed another boy being sexually abused by an unknown priest,” the lawsuit alleges.

Downs, who now lives in North Carolina, said in the interview that the beach house visit may have been earlier, around 1980, which would have been a year before McCarrick took over as bishop of Metuchen. Downs said McCarrick wasn’t there during the visit. His group of altar boys was getting ready to leave the house after a retreat while another group had just arrived. He said he woke up just before dawn when he heard sounds coming from another room.

“The door was cracked,” Downs said.

He said he “peeked in” and saw a priest and an altar boy who was about his age, 12 or 13 years old. The priest was standing, he said, and holding the boy from behind while touching him in a sexual way. Downs said he ran when the priest turned toward the door. He said he didn’t recognize the priest or the boy, and that they didn’t show up for breakfast that morning.

Downs said he does not know the location of the house. The lawsuit filed last month alleged that McCarrick ran a sex ring out of a Sea Girt home — but the attorney who filed it has since said he may have been mistaken about the location.

The Metuchen Diocese didn’t purchase the Sea Girt home until 1985, several years after the alleged abuse outlined in the suits would have occurred. But the Sea Girt property has also been mentioned in accusations that McCarrick sexually harassed adult seminary students on overnight trips there, pressuring them into sharing a bed with him and changing into bathing suits while he watched.

The diocese has said it does not know of another shore home it owned in the early 1980s. Property records show the Metuchen Diocese sold the Sea Girt home to the Newark Archdiocese in 1988 and later owned another house in Brick Township, which it sold to Newark in 1997.

McCarrick led the Metuchen Diocese from 1981 to 1986 before moving to Newark, where he was the archbishop until 2000.

Downs said he visited the Jersey Shore house just once but remembers other groups had gone there for retreats. He said that when he was abused years later, he froze and didn’t hear everything the prelate said. But he remembers McCarrick saying “he could help me with my grades, and could arrange for alone time at the beach house at the shore.”

“When he said that, it touched a nerve and freaked me out because I remembered what happened at the beach house,” Downs said.

Downs’ attorney, Derek Braslow, said in court papers that at least seven people have told the Vatican they were abused by the former cardinal as minors. Church officials have been conducting an investigation of McCarrick but have not yet issued a report revealing the findings.

The recent lawsuits are among more than 100 filed against the Catholic Church in New Jersey under a law that took effect Dec. 1, 2019, suspending the statute of limitations for civil sex abuse cases for two years.

Church officials have said they knew of no allegations against McCarrick involving minors until two years ago, when they removed him from active ministry. They have acknowledged settling two claims brought by adult seminary students in 2005 and 2007.

In the late 1980s, at least two seminary professors sought to intercede on behalf of students who had complained about McCarrick and trips to the shore. One of the professors wrote a letter to the Vatican when McCarrick was named archbishop of Washington, D.C., in 2000. Months later, McCarrick was promoted to cardinal.

Evidence has surfaced showing that the Vatican placed restrictions on McCarrick’s ministry in 2008, shortly after settling the two seminarians’ claims. But McCarrick ignored the restrictions and traveled as he pleased as an emissary of the church, according to letters released by one of his former secretaries.

Complete Article HERE!

Disgraced West Virginia bishop Michael Bransfield was told a year ago to make restitution.

His successor says Bransfield has gone incommunicado.

Michael J. Bransfield, then-bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., in 2015.

By Michelle Boorstein

More than a year after Pope Francis ordered ousted West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield to make personal amends for alleged sexual and financial misconduct, his successor bishop says he has yet to hear from Bransfield about a restitution proposal.

Last Tuesday, MetroNews, a West Virginia news site, quoted Bishop Mark Brennan as saying that he had not heard from Bransfield in “many months, and I would not expect to. … Whatever he is doing, he is doing and is in a dark hole. We do not know exactly what he is up to; we have not been in communication.”

In July 2019, Francis forbade Bransfield, a well-connected Philadelphian who had held prominent national spots in the Catholic Church, from celebrating Mass and from living in West Virginia. Bransfield had led the church there for 13 years. In November, Brennan had proposed, per Francis’s demand, a specific proposal for Bransfield’s restitution.

Some experts say the restitution package was a first for a bishop. Brennan called for his predecessor, now 76, to pay the diocese nearly $800,000, to apologize to victims, to lose his place in the diocesan cemetery, and to lose the normal bishop retirement package and instead receive a lower stipend equal to that of someone who had been a priest for 13 years.

Diocesan spokesman Tim Bishop on Monday referred The Washington Post to a July 28 letter Brennan wrote to the diocese. The letter only briefly mentioned Bransfield, saying that neither Brennan nor the papal nuncio — the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States — had heard back from Rome since November “on the plan of amends I submitted.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Brennan in the MetroNews report is saying Rome needs to approve of Brennan’s plan, Bransfield’s response or both.

Bransfield declined to comment Monday, and his lawyers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Post in 2019 obtained an internal church investigation that found Bransfield, as bishop in one of the country’s poorest states, spent millions of dollars of diocesan money on chartered jets, lavish furnishings at his official residence and nearly 600 cash gifts to fellow clergymen. The Post also found that $21 million was moved from a church-owned hospital in Wheeling, W.Va., to be used at Bransfield’s discretion. The money was moved into the Bishop’s Fund, a charity Bransfield created with the stated purpose of helping residents of West Virginia, tax filings showed.

MetroNews quoted Brennan last week as saying Bransfield “would not come up with his own plan and did not admit to his actions. Brennan previously told MetroNews that Bransfield told him he did not know who he needed to apologize to.”

Francis was the one who initially called for Bransfield to make amends, Brennan said told MetroNews.

“I wasn’t sent in to demand that. They demanded that. They asked me to work with him, and let me tell you, that was not easy to do,” Brennan said.

Bransfield has denied wrongdoing, saying that his staff in Wheeling was responsible for diocesan finances and which accounts checks came from. He has told The Post that he thinks he greatly improved the financial health of the diocese during his tenure and that gifts and lavish perks were within church culture norm. He has denied the claims of seminarians and priests who said he sexually harassed them.

Complete Article HERE!

What is a priest worth?

Latest Ted McCarrick news says it depends on the lawsuit

McCarrick was appointed cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.

By

There’s a book out there asking: “What is a Girl Worth?” Written by former gymnast Rachael Denhollander, it asks who is going to tell little girls that the abuse done to them years ago was monstrously wrong and that it actually matters that their perpetrators are punished.

There also needs to be a book asking “what is a priest worth?”

For two years now, we’ve been looking at the news reporting about the sex scandal that surrounded the now-former Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and how “everyone” knew he was dallying with seminarians and sharing beds with them at his New Jersey beach cottage back in the 1980s.

After the news about McCarrick broke on June 20, 2018, it took the MSM a month to get all the major details together — and still they missed a few. This New York Times piece says the sexual activity that McCarrick carried on with his protégé Robert Ciolek stayed above the waist. The paper hinted in the next paragraph that another seminarian or young priest involved with McCarrick had endured far worse sexual abuse, but unless you knew how to read between the lines, you missed it.

But the late Richard Sipe, a Benedictine priest-turned-psychotherapist, had posted on his web site 10 years beforehand accounts of very R-rated sexual activity McCarrick foisted on his underlings. Many journalists read it, but we didn’t know how to prove it. At the time, the church attitude I picked up was that nothing happened at that cottage and that the seminarians and young priests involved should get over it.

The thought that some could be scarred sexually for life never occurred to anyone. Who could they talk about this with? Who’d believe them? Because of what had been done to them, they were abandoned to mull over some very dirty thoughts while at the same time berating themselves for not fighting back.

Finally, last week, a bunch of media, including a consortium of New Jersey newspapers, reported a juicy lawsuit against McCarrick that threatens to expose some of the nastier details. Written by Newark Star-Ledger reporter Ted Sherman on the NJ.com site, the story was worth the wait.

He is known only as “Doe 14.”

Raised in a devout Catholic family, he attended St. Francis Xavier in Newark and Essex Catholic in East Orange in the Archdiocese of Newark, participating in church and youth activities.

And by the time he was a teenager, his lawyers say he was being groomed for a role in what they called a “sex ring” involving then-Bishop Theodore McCarrick, the 90-year-old now defrocked and disgraced former cardinal who was cast out of the ministry last year over decades-old sexual abuse allegations.

In a lawsuit, they charged other priests served as “procurers” to bring victims to McCarrick at his beach house on the Jersey Shore, where he “assigned sleeping arrangements, choosing his victims from the boys, seminarians and clerics present at the beach house,” and that they were paired with adult clerics.

At this point, allow me to note that I wrote something similar two years ago here at GetReligion, quoting from the Sipe website and other documents I had amassed about this scandal. I even named names of some of the priests involved, although I didn’t realize it was at the level of a “sex ring.”

In a press conference on Wednesday, attorneys for the now 53-year-old victim serving as the plaintiff in the lawsuit detailed a sordid, predatory scheme of sexual abuse involving McCarrick and other members of the clergy involving at least seven children, including Doe 14, that they said played out over dozens of years…

According to the lawsuit, much of what allegedly transpired occurred at a Sea Girt beach house that has been the focus of other complaints involving charges of abuse by McCarrick of seminarian students, who he allegedly would bring down to the Jersey Shore.

“McCarrick would creep into this kid’s bed and engage in criminal sexual behavior and whisper, ‘It’s okay,’” said Anderson.

Sherman mentioned names of other accused priests who participated in the abuse. For this story to come out in New Jersey is sweet revenge, in that I know folks at the Star-Ledger were aware of the rumors a decade ago. Like me, they were stymied by the victims’ refusals to go on the record.

Because the press conference (see the above video) was virtual, lots of media were listening.

Be sure to look at the video, as it has a photo of the beach house; the first time I’ve seen what it looks like. I actually drove to Sea Girt, the New Jersey town in which it’s located, back in 2009 in a fruitless search for the address.

The Washington Post gave us an organized list of the accused:

The accused clerics aside from McCarrick are: the Rev. Anthony Nardino, Brother Andrew Thomas Hewitt, the Rev. Gerald Ruane, the Rev. Michael Walters and the Rev. John Laferrera. They were all priests in Newark. None could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Ruane, Walters and Laferrera are on Newark’s list of credibly accused clerics. Hewitt and Ruane are deceased, the list says. Hewitt is on the list of credibly accused clerics from the Christian Brothers, the order to which he belonged, according to a ProPublica investigation of accused clerics. Hewitt was the boy’s principal at the time the abuse occurred, the suit alleges.

The New York Post was also at this July 22 confab and included a ripe quote from the attorney representing the victims.

(Jeff) Anderson said decades of alleged sexual abuse have been covered up by the Catholic Church.

“All of it cloaked in papal power,” he said.

Which takes us to the next shoe that needs to drop, which we’ve been waiting for a long time.

Tmatt reminded us earlier this month that a long-delayed Vatican report on McCarrick — and how church officials ignored the open secret of his sexual predilections for years — still has yet to come out.

Justice delayed is justice denied, right?

What is a priest worth? What is a seminarian worth? As reporters probe further, we’re learning that, for far too many officials in the Catholic Church, they weren’t worth much. Then, this National Catholic Register editorial points to one of the biggest questions that continues to loom over this scandal:

… After all this time, Catholics in the United States are still waiting for answers about which Church leaders, here and in Rome, knew about McCarrick’s scandalous situation but failed to take meaningful disciplinary and preventive actions — and possibly even facilitated and abetted his meteoric rise to prominence.

That’s far too long to wait.

The question, of course, is this: Who were the bishops and cardinals who lifted McCarrick high into church leadership? And what about the bishops and cardinals that McCarrick brought to power?

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

Grand Rapids judge leaves church after being denied communion for being gay

Judge Sara Smolenski

By Alexis Stark

On Nov. 23, 2019, Judge Sara Smolenski received a call from the Rev. Scott Nolan at St. Stephen Catholic Church.

Nolan requested that Smolenski, who presides over Grand Rapids’ 63rd District Court, abide by the teachings of the Roman Catholic church and not take communion because she is married to a woman. Some churches have taken similar action against leaders who support abortion rights.

“It felt like being invited to someone’s house for dinner, but you can’t eat the food,” Smolenski said.

After local media covered her marriage to Linda Burpee, Smolenski did not expect her sexual orientation to be an issue in her home parish. During an interview with WOOD-TV, Nolan said Catholic teaching gave him no choice in making his decision.

Since that phone call, Smolenski’s story of discrimination reached local and national media outlets. She also faced responses from people who accused her of going to the media.

“I never called the media, but when they reached out, I chose to speak out,” Smolenski said.

In response to Nolan’s decision, some parishioners wrote a letter urging the community to write to Grand Rapids Bishop David Walkowiak and Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron.

Rev. Scott Nolan

“The St. Stephen community is experiencing a crisis of leadership involving selective discrimination against gay parishioners … these acts have been destructive to the culture of inclusion and diversity that are hallmarks of St. Stephen,” the letter read.

Smolenski said there were other parishioners who didn’t question the incident. St. Stephens also kept mailing parish contribution envelopes to Smolenski’s home, even after she and her spouse stopped attending mass. Nolan didn’t respond to a request for comment for the story.

“For months, I was so sad,” Smolenski said. “I’m still very sad about it. I stopped going to St. Stephens because it makes me feel too sad. Then I became angry. Now I think I’m past the anger because I know that’s not how all priests feel.”

When Fountain Street Church’s Minister for Spiritual Life and Learning, the Rev. Christopher Roe, first heard about Smolenski’s story last year, he responded with grief and sadness.

“I found it so disappointing that someone would experience such discrimination in their spiritual home,” Roe said. “I’m not Catholic, but I understand Catholics to be deeply rooted in tradition; it’s embedded in your identity and your family’s identity.”

Roe also reflected on the vulnerability and ripple effects of someone in the public sphere experiencing discrimination because of their identity.

“For anyone who has experienced any kind of trauma in their life, there are different things that can trigger it. With Sara’s situation, whether you’re Catholic or not, I think it stirred up a lot of trauma, specifically experiences of rejection or discrimination, for a lot of people in our church and the spiritual community,” Roe said.

As much as the last six months have dampened her spirits, Smolenski’s faith remains unshaken. Depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, when churches begin opening their doors again, she is unsure about what church she will call home.

Despite the Catholic church’s theological understanding that same-sex marriages live in opposition of biblical teachings, Smolenski continued attending the church she was baptized and raised in because it fit for her.

“I grew up in that church. It helped form my faith. I never had a priest tell me I wasn’t welcome or could not be a part of the church because of I was gay,” Smolenski asserted.

This incident also further solidified her doubts regarding the Catholic church’s institutional view on who is worthy of communion and by extension, God’s love.

“It’s not perfect; I’m not perfect,” Smolenski said. “When that priest told me I couldn’t have communion, I really felt like I knew what discrimination meant. It becomes personal when someone says you aren’t welcome.”

As a Catholic, Smolenski chooses to believe in the Christian teachings that God does not make mistakes and Jesus loves and accepts all people, regardless of sexual orientation, race, or background.

“I’m not ashamed of who I am; I’m proud. Jesus doesn’t make mistakes, so none of us were born as mistakes,” Smolenski said.

Though hurt by the incident, Smolenski felt encouraged by the support from her community and across the country. She even received an invitation from a Catholic church in Ireland.

“A man named Angus from Ireland wrote me a letter telling me I was welcome to his village’s Catholic church anytime,” Smolenski said. “I kept a notebook full of hundreds of notes, emails and handwritten letters of support. They were so powerful.”

Today, Smolenski questions the Catholic church’s discrimination, arguing that it excludes God’s children from practicing their faith in their church community.

“How can this rule be applied so discriminately? Why are the rules different from one church to another, priest to priest,” Smolenski said.

Earlier this month, the Detroit Archdiocese fired Terry Gonda, St. John Fisher Catholic Church’s music director, for being married to a woman. According to the Detroit Free Press, her firing occurred nine days after the U.S. Supreme Court granted federal job protections for LGBTQ employees, although churches are exempt.

Given the increased progressive activism during the Trump era and the Black Lives Matter movement’s increased visibility, Smolenski reflected on her role in creating change and challenging institutional discrimination.

“We have to use our voice, especially white people, because that’s how change is going to happen with any form of discrimination,” she said. “We need to do what is right and I don’t think that’s what the Catholic church is doing.”

Complete Article HERE!