Pope Francis dumps 2 more bishops as housecleaning continues


Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a Mexican bishop who reportedly shielded a priest accused of sexually molesting an 11-year-old boy, and on Wednesday (July 15) the Vatican announced that a Brazilian archbishop who spent $600,000 on renovations to his home and offices had been dismissed.

The moves are the latest signs that Francis is pursuing a hierarchical housecleaning that aims to address the heart of the clergy sex abuse scandal — accountability for bishops — while also removing prelates who don’t reflect the humble and simple lifestyle he says is key to promoting the gospel.

Bishop Gonzalo Galvan Castillo
Bishop Gonzalo Galvan Castillo

Both Bishop Gonzalo Galvan Castillo, 64, of the Diocese of Autlan in Mexico, and Archbishop Antonio Carlos Altieri, 63, of the Archdiocese of Passo Fundo, Brazil, were well under the canonical retirement age of 75.

They both also resigned under the canon law that says a bishop “who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”

That is the statute that is usually cited when a bishop has been forced to step down by Rome because of a scandal.

Galvan’s resignation was quietly noted in a Vatican bulletin on June 25, but Mexican media reports noted that the bishop had been under fire for years for refusing to report to police or remove from ministry a priest, the Rev. Horacio Lopez, suspected of abuse.

Archbishop Antonio Carlos Altieri
Archbishop Antonio Carlos Altieri

In 2009, a 24-year-old man identified only as Eric reported to Galvan that Lopez had sexually molested him when Eric was 11. Eric’s parents also demanded that Galvan take action to prevent the priest from harming other children, but Galvan reportedly transferred Lopez to another parish. The priest’s current whereabouts were not known.

Over the past year, Francis, who was elected pope in 2013, has taken increasingly forceful and unprecedented steps to hold bishops accountable if they do not protect children from abusers.

Earlier this year he established a Vatican commission — which includes two victims of clergy abuse — to set policies for the wider church, and in June he set up a Vatican tribunal to judge and possibly discipline bishops who cover up for abusers, a first.

Two U.S. bishops have also been forced to resign in recent months in the wake of clergy abuse scandals on their watch.

The announcement on Wednesday that Altieri had resigned followed a Vatican-ordered investigation of his archdiocese by Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes.

According to Catholic World News, Altieri had alienated many priests for spending $600,000 on a renovation of his residence, the archdiocesan offices and the seminary. He also instituted a 10 percent diocesan “assessment” on parish income and had questionable policies on accepting seminarians who left other dioceses and religious orders.

In March of last year, Francis accepted the resignation of a German bishop, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, who was dubbed “the Bishop of Bling” after revelations that the price tag on renovations to his home and diocesan offices had skyrocketed to some $40 million.

They included luxury amenities such as a $300,000 ornamental fish tank, $2.4 million for bronze window frames and $240,000 for a spiral staircase.

The bishop also had a free-standing bathtub, created by French designer Philippe Starck and featuring headrests at both ends, installed at a reported cost of about $20,000.

That all came to light just a few months after Francis was elected pope and began inveighing against churchmen who live like princes instead of leading humble lives marked by simplicity and service.
Complete Article HERE!

Local Gay Catholics React to Archbishop’s Statement on Fired Gay Teacher

Via Shutterstock

Yesterday, we reported that Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput issued a statement over the recent termination of openly gay Waldron Mercy Academy teacher Margie Winters. In it, he stated that was “very grateful to the Religious Sisters of Mercy and to the principal and board members of Waldron Mercy for taking the steps to ensure that the Catholic faith is presented in a way fully in accord with the teaching of the Church.” We wanted to see the reaction of local gay Philadelphians who identify as Catholic (or, in some cases, recovering Catholics), so we asked them how the rhetoric from Chaput and other Catholic leaders impacts their faith and belief in the Church.

“Obviously I don’t agree with [the Church’s] decisions. It’s a shame but every religion has it’s oddball decisions and leading characters. I respect their decision as it’s still technically okay to discriminate against someone’s sexual orientation, though I personally don’t think you should be allowed to do so. I do still think certain messages religion brings, including togetherness and treating others respectfully, is still important for people to hear. If [the teacher’s firing] is based on her marriage and not her performance, then that goes against the core teachings I was brought up to believe.”-Matt O’Neill

“I don’t that that it is right, obviously. I feel that with Catholics, we are kind of forced to believe certain things, and some things I do just because that is how I was raised and how most of my family is. Do I think that it is necessarily right? No. I believe that even though that Catholics believe that being gay is wrong, I still believe when I die that I will go to heaven, at least that is what I pray for everyday. I hardly go to church anymore not do I believe in confession. I guess it is just being raised Catholic that I still believe in some of the beliefs but not necessarily all of them. One of the stories from the bible that I remember being told when I went to Catholic schools is the story of Mary Magdeline, who was basically a hooker and when people were going to ‘stone’ her for what she was doing, Jesus stopped it and said something like ‘let he who is without sin, cast the first stone’ and no one threw a stone. This resonates a lot with me because I feel that in that scenario, Jesus doesn’t judge, and no one else shouldn’t either. Even though that Catholics believe being gay is a sin, there are many other sins that people do. However, I feel like if I have good morals and a firm belief in God, I will eventually get accepted into heaven.”-Michael Niedbalski

“Personally, the hypocrisy and passive-aggressive bigotry and ignorance they spew made me feel very unwelcome. This sort of rhetoric is what drove me from their church, but I don’t think it by any means is an exclusively Catholic message. However, it has to be partially responsible why so many Catholic schools have shut their doors and the church itself is failing. When you alienate so many people and the people who care for them, it can’t be surprising when many feel unrepresented and unwelcome. It definitely did harm to me growing up in that mentality. The message I got as a prepubescent boy was that unless you were married to a woman with children, then you didn’t matter, unless you wanted to become a priest. Frankly those were the only options presented to me. And the Catholic church’s archaic stance on safe sex and abstinence-only policies for their students definitely had a contributing factor in my seroconversion and HIV status at the age of 17.”-Greg Schell

“I am embarrassed to be Catholic. I go back to what I was taught in Catholic school. They beat this one phrase in your head: ‘Judge not least ye be judged!’ That gives me the strength at times to continue, knowing that those hiding behind religion will be judged by God at the End of Days. What hurts me so much about this is the Catholic Church moved their priests around who molested their own parishioners and protected them, yet they will viciously go after the LGTB community and call us, me, a sinner or unclean when their own priests hurt kids both mentally and physically.”-Patrick Hagerty

“Chaput’s statement does not dishearten me because it does not reflect the living Church. It reflects a stagnant, dying Church. Years ago, myself and a fellow gay Catholic started a young adult Catholic community in Philadelphia. The majority of our young adult Catholics (straight and gay) attend mass every Sunday, are involved in parish-life, serve their local communities, and also disagree with a number of the Church’s teachings, especially its position on homosexuality. Catholics that disagree with Church leadership, and its antiquated teachings, have found voice, and have found one another. We’re not going anywhere. Together, we have found ways to work around those, like Chaput, who interfere with our faith, and our unconditional love for all others, without distinction. While sometimes difficult to see, many Catholics are promoting LGBT-friendly changes within the Church, its affiliated organizations (including Catholic schools), and in communities near and far. Such change has emerged, is occurring, and will continue to unfold in spite of leaders like Chaput. And this change is only fueled by a Pope who appears to be far more loving and compassionate than our Bishop Chaput.”-Seth Jacobson
Complete Article HERE!

Vatican sex abuse trial halted as ex-archbishop falls ill

Jozef Wesolowski in a 15 March, 2013 file photo
It is not clear why the 66-year-old was hospitalised

he trial of a former archbishop charged with child sex offences has been adjourned after the defendant fell ill hours before he was due to appear in court at the Vatican.


Jozef Wesolowski, 66, is accused of paying for sex with children in the Dominican Republic from 2008-2013.

He is being treated in intensive care for an unspecified illness.

Wesolowski is the first high-ranking Catholic to stand trial in the Vatican on sex abuse charges.

He has already been found guilty by a special church tribunal and defrocked.

His case is seen as a test of Pope Francis’ push to tackle sex offenders.

Wesolowski, who is originally from Poland, had been recalled from his role as the Vatican’s envoy to the Dominican Republic in 2013 after allegations surfaced accusing him of abusing boys there.

The trial opened but the accused was not there

He is also charged with possession of child pornography.

If convicted, he could face between six and 10 years in a Vatican jail.

Pope Francis has overhauled the Vatican’s justice system to allow bishops to be tried in the Papal state, after the church was accused of not doing enough to tackle sex crimes against children.
Complete Article HERE!

Vatican trial for Józef Wesołowski a pivotal moment for Pope Francis

Now-defrocked Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, papal nuncio for the Dominican Republic, led a Mass in Santo Domingo in 2013.


Ultimately, it’s the threat of criminal sanctions from Vatican tribunals that underlies new accountability measures Francis has created to face the two most chronic sources of scandal he inherited when he was elected in March 2013 – sexual abuse and financial misconduct.

The Wesołowski trial is the first major test of that criminal justice system under Francis. And it will have a great deal to say about whether this pontiff’s celebrated vow that there will be no “daddy’s boys” on his watch, meaning clerics able to remain above the law, actually has teeth.

Now 66, Wesołowski was born in Nowy Targ, Poland, in 1948, and ordained a priest by Cardinal Karol Wojtyła of Krakow, the future St. John Paul II, in 1972. Wesołowski served as a papal diplomat in a variety of nations in the late 1990s and 2000s, eventually being named the nuncio, or ambassador, to the Dominican Republic in 2008, holding the rank of archbishop for papal envoys.

He resigned as the nuncio to the Dominican Republic in 2013 amid allegations of child abuse, including charges that he was in the habit of picking up underage “shoeshine boys” in Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, and paying them for sexual acts.

Wesołowski was recalled to Rome in August 2013 and faced an internal ecclesiastical probe, which led to his being laicized, or removed from the priesthood, in June 2014. In itself, laicization is a rare step for a bishop, and a clear signal the Vatican believes the charges against him have merit.

Since the scandal broke, the question has arisen of why Wesołowski hasn’t been sent packing back to the Dominican Republic to face criminal charges. While the Vatican has said it would comply with any extradition request, it also insists that because Wesołowski was holding a Vatican passport at the time of the alleged crimes he first has to face sanctions under the Vatican’s own criminal law.

In effect, Francis himself created the legal basis for the trial in July 2013 by issuing an edict known as a motu proprio specifying that criminal laws of the Vatican City State are also applicable to employees, such as ambassadors, stationed in other parts of the world.

Last month a Vatican spokesman announced the Wesołowski trial would open on July 11, and predicted it would wrap up early in 2016. In addition to his conduct in the Dominican Republic, Wesołowski faces charges related to pornographic images reportedly discovered on a personal computer while living in Rome after his recall.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the trial would draw upon both information transmitted by investigators in the Dominican Republic and IT analysis by Vatican experts. The Vatican’s criminal tribunal is headed by a lay jurist named Giuseppe Dalla Torre, a longtime professor of law at the University of Bologna.

The Vatican does not have jury trials. Hearings are conducted before a judge, and if the initial procedure results in a conviction the accused party can appeal to a three-judge tribunal and ultimately to a Corte di Cassazione, or Supreme Court. Accused parties have the right to a public defender.

If he’s convicted, Wesołowski could face a sentence of six or seven years in prison on each count as well as a steep fine. That term could be served in a Vatican facility, though in the past when a Vatican court has imposed a lengthy sentence it’s generally been served in an Italian prison.

Aside from the details of Wesołowski’s personal situation, his case is key because no matter what happens it will set a precedent.

The last time a Vatican criminal court held a high-profile trial it was October 2012. And it lasted only four days. Former papal butler Paolo Gabriele admitted to stealing Vatican documents and leaking them to an Italian journalist, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He was given a full pardon by Pope Benedict XVI two months later.

This time around, presumably, if Wesołowski is convicted a pardon seems highly unlikely.

With Gabriele, Benedict himself was the injured party and fully within his rights to decide to let the perpetrator off the hook. With Wesołowski, the real injured parties are the minors he allegedly abused, and Francis probably would not take it upon himself to waive the legal consequences of Wesołowski’s actions.

Ultimately, it’s precisely those consequences that form the bedrock of the pope’s new accountability systems. Both with sexual abuse and also various financial crimes, such as money-laundering and embezzlement, the new systems envision preliminary investigations by Vatican agencies, whose ultimate power is to refer the matter to the Vatican’s criminal prosecutor for possible charges.

Insiders and outsiders alike thus will be watching to see how Wesołowski’s trial plays out.

If the impression is of foot-dragging and cover-up, the take-away will be that promises of accountability ring hollow. If the trial unfolds in a transparent manner and, assuming guilt is established, a sentence commensurate with the crimes is imposed, then reasonable observers will conclude that the era of “daddy’s boys” in the Church really is over.

Francis, of course, knows what’s at stake. That’s why throughout this busy week on the road, he’ll no doubt keep one eye on what’s happening back in Rome.
Complete Article HERE!

Oregon Catholic priest put on leave amid hidden camera probe

By Shelby Sebens

 An Oregon Catholic priest has been placed on leave by the Archdiocese of Portland as police investigate who placed a hidden camera, carefully disguised as an electrical outlet, in a church bathroom, the archdiocese said on Thursday.

The camera was discovered in late April near a toilet in the men’s bathroom of the St. Francis Catholic Church in Sherwood by a church member who took it immediately to Father Ysrael Bien, a police statement said.Fr.-Ysrael-Bien

But Bien didn’t report the camera to police until May 20 when he reported it stolen, Sherwood police spokesman Ty Hanlon said. Police are investigating how the camera wound up in the bathroom.

Bien has not been charged with a crime or named as a suspect. But the Archdiocese of Portland placed him on administrative leave last week in response to his failure to immediately report the hidden camera to police.

“It is deeply troubling that well-established Church protocols for the protection of parishioners were not followed,” Archbishop Alexander Sample said in a statement. “Finding a hidden camera in a church restroom should have been the cause for prompt and decisive action.”

Pat McCormick, spokesman for the Archdiocese, referred questions to the Sherwood Police Department. Bien could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Archdiocese assisted the parish in hiring investigators that conducted a sweep of the St. Francis school and parish and found no additional hidden cameras, according to the statement. Though the camera is missing, police said when it was found it did not contain a memory card.

“At the time of discovery it was not recording people,” Hanlon said.

Though police have conducted several interviews and searches related to the disappearance of the camera, they have not been able to identify a suspect, he added.

Complete Article HERE!