Catholic bishops ask US Supreme Court to review California’s sex abuse law

FILE UNDER: Insulated, monolithic, callous, tone deaf church power structure

by Emily Hoeven

Could California find itself in another conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court?

Nine California Catholic dioceses and archdioceses have asked the nation’s highest court to review their case against a 2019 law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, which created a three-year window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file legal claims against alleged perpetrators at school, church or elsewhere, regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. The law also allowed defendants to be sued for a new offense: “cover up” activity.

In the April 15 petition, which was first reported last week by the Catholic News Agency, lawyers for the Catholic bishops assert the law is unconstitutional because California already gave victims a chance to sue in 2002 — when it opened a one-year portal for sex abuse survivors to file claims with no time limit attached — and because it retroactively adds new liabilities.

  • The lawyers wrote: “Review is critical now, before the Catholic Church in the largest State in the union is forced to litigate hundreds or thousands of cases seeking potentially billions of dollars in retroactive punitive damages under an unconstitutional double-revival regime.”
  • They added that their clients have already paid more than $1.2 billion to resolve claims filed during the original one-year window, and “to finance these settlements, they expended significant resources, sold vast swaths of Church property, and in some cases exhausted or relinquished insurance coverage for past and future abuse claims.”
  • The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests slammed the bishops’ petition: “The 2002 window lasted one year, barely enough time for victims to find their courage or their voices. Many only heard about the window or found their courage too late. This new three-year window is allowing survivors in a huge state the time to speak out, get help, and come forward. We believe it is that bravery that is scaring California’s Catholic bishops.”

Newsom’s office declined to comment: “We have nothing to add at this time,” Daniel Lopez, Newsom’s deputy communications director, told me in an email.

But the petition, which came came less than a month before Politico published a draft U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion showing justices are poised to overturn the federal constitutional right to an abortion, could spark the latest standoff between California and the high court.

In other reproductive justice news: Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Monday that Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes dropped criminal charges against Adora Perez, whom he had previously charged with manslaughter after she delivered a stillborn baby while high on methamphetamine. “California law is clear: We do not criminalize people for the loss of a pregnancy,” Bonta said.

Complete Article HERE!

I have been Catholic all my life. A new Milwaukee Archdiocese policy on transgender people has driven me from my church.

Archbishop Jerome Edward Listecki

By Anne Curley

As a cradle Catholic whose values were shaped by 12 years of Catholic education and 60-plus years of Mass attendance, I feel great gratitude for the countless caring sisters, priests and Catholic laypeople who have guided and inspired me through much of my life. I’ve been proud to be associated with the good done by Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable organizations throughout the world.

So it’s with real sadness that I’ve joined the throng who have left the church.

The recently released policy of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on how to treat transgender individuals has made it impossible for me, in good conscience, to call myself a Catholic.

I didn’t come to this decision lightly. When friends would ask, “How can you be a Catholic despite (choose one or more) the clergy sex abuse scandal, the ban on women priests, the treatment of homosexuality as a disorder, the rules on birth control … I had three well-honed responses:

“A 2,000-year-old, global institution doesn’t change quickly,” “Show me a major human institution that isn’t a mixed bag of strengths and corruption,” and “It’s the good, grace-filled people that keep me hanging in there — not the policies.”

Still, I can’t say I relished the mental gymnastics required to justify why I continued to be a practicing Catholic.

The justifications ran out when I read “Catechesis and policy on questions concerning gender theory,” a stunningly harsh new directive from the archdiocese covering Catholic parishes, organizations and institutions.

In no uncertain terms, it spells out how all employees, volunteers and vendors at these institutions are to treat transgender individuals. Among other dictates, it includes, “Recognize only a person’s biological sex,” “No person may designate a ‘preferred pronoun’ in speech or in writing” and “All persons are to follow the dress code or uniform that accords with their biological sex.”

The document begins by saying, “’The truth will set you free.’ Christ’s words to his disciples call Christians in every age to embrace the truth of who we are as children of God, for only in embracing this truth can we be set free.”

I believe that truth is embedded in each of us — that God implanted a unique identity that is ours alone to experience, express and put to good use during our time on Earth.  The fact that society is becoming more accepting of differences in our identities — race, sexual orientation and gender expression being prime examples — strikes me as part of God’s unfolding plan to enable each of us to achieve our full potential.

I am not an expert on it, but I think it’s safe to say the subject of gender identity is complex, nuanced and not a good candidate for rigid rules. What I know for sure is that my Catholic education taught me Jesus identified with those whom the rule-makers rejected. I learned that he reserved his harshest criticism for religious leaders who piled heavy burdens on others. Thanks to my Catholic formation, I know that to be Christian means to uplift the dignity of others, especially those who most need uplifting.

So how can I be a committed Christian and go along with a policy that, instead of emphasizing compassionate care, institutionalizes the oppression of people because of who they are?

What would Jesus do?

Complete Article HERE!

A First in 643 Years? Anti-Gay Denver Archbishop Warns of Catholic ‘Schism’

Archbishop, Samuel J. Aquila

By

Denver’s Archbishop, Samuel J. Aquila, has entered the fray in an internecine battle which some fear could split the Catholic Church. Last week, Aquila joined 73 other bishops from around the globe in signing an open letter to the bishops of Germany regarding a series of reform-minded conferences in the German church known as the Synodal Path.

Triggered by revelations of priestly sexual abuse in the German Church, the Synodal Path–also translated as Synodal Way–is intended to bring together clergy and laypeople to address the exercise of power and authority within the church, and has waded into topics regarding sexual morality, priestly celibacy, and the role of women in the church. The assembly first met in 2019 and is scheduled to conclude in 2023, per Catholic News Agency.

Georg Bätzing, chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, emphasized the importance of the process in healing the church from years of scandals and abuse, saying, “only in this way will we achieve new credibility and new trust in the public and among the faithful, which we have squandered.”

In February, the assembly signaled its support for amending church teachings on homosexuality and same-sex relationships. According to reporting from ABC after the synod’s February meeting, the group “approved at an assembly last week calls to allow blessings for same-sex couples, married priests and the ordination of women as deacons. It also called for church labor law to be revised so that gay employees don’t face the risk of being fired.”

It was this stance which elicited the response from Aquila and the others.

The letter, titled a “Fraternal Open Letter of Correction,” lists as its primary concern that the German bishops’ actions “undermine the credibility of Church authority…and the reliability of Scripture.” The bishops who signed the letter warn that the Synodal Path process “has implications for the Church worldwide,” and that “the potential for schism” in the church will “inevitably result.”

Dovetailing neatly with current culture war issues in American politics, the signatories of the letter accuse the German bishops of being influenced not by Scripture but by “contemporary political [and] gender ideologies.” The letter goes so far as to say that the reform-minded German bishops, “display more submission and obedience to the world and ideologies than to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”

Aquila, Archbishop of a diocese which encompasses all of northern Colorado, is more than a signatory to the letter, though. He is also featured in the text. In the opening paragraphs of the letter, the bishops recommend that the German church leaders read a previous open letter published by Aquila in May 2021, which covered much of the same ground.

For church observers, it’s no surprise that Aquila is featured prominently in the recent letter. The socially conservative clergyman, no stranger to controversy, has waded into a number of culture war battles over the years. Aquila, who famously blamed LGBTQ people for priestly sexual abuse of children, is a staunch opponent of abortion rights for women and was a driving political force behind the anti-abortion ballot measure, Prop. 115, in 2020. Abortion is not the only issue on which Aquila is outspoken, though. In 2019, he opposed a sex-ed bill at the state legislature. In May 2021, he made headlines again when he argued in favor of denying Communion to President Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic. Later, in August of the same year, Aquila came out in strong opposition to vaccine mandates as the Delta variant of Covid-19 spread worldwide.

Now that high-ranking church officials–the German bishops, archbishops, and cardinals participating in the Synodal Path process–are attempting to bring some of these more open-minded, liberal social positions into the Catholic church, it is to be expected that Aquila will remain on the front line of the internecine dispute.

Asked about the Denver Archbishop’s role in drafting the text of the letter which has sent waves through the global church, Aquila’s office declined to comment.

As for the German bishops engaged in the synodal process, they do not seem to make much of Aquila’s broadside. “I can reassure you with an open heart: these fears with regard to the synodal path of the Catholic Church in Germany are not correct,” Bätzing wrote in a reply on Saturday, adding that the Synodal Path, “in no way undermines the authority of the Church.”

With the synodal process not scheduled to conclude until 2023, it’s likely that the ongoing saga will continue to pit traditionalist elements of the Catholic church against a more reform-minded generation of clergy who are seeking to rehabilitate the church and its work after decades of scandal. It is this conflict–between the old and the new, as much as between the old and the young–which has prompted concerns of schism.

If indeed the Catholic church did schism, or split, it would be the first such event since the Western Schism of 1378 gave rise to the Avignon Papacy 643 years ago. At the time of that schism, the Catholic church was the dominant political force in western Europe, and the seven decades of chaos caused by the split helped to decide the future of the continent.

Governments no longer rise and fall by the power of the Papacy, though, and the new cries of schism are more about deciding the future of the church than the future of Europe. Catholic church membership has declined precipitously in the past two decades, with a 2021 Gallup survey showing a nearly 20% slide since the year 2000 with little sign of stopping.

Last month, Bätzing criticized “certain elements” within the church for being “ill-suited for a multicultural world in a culturally diverse era.” The warning is one Aquila might do well to heed as he presides over an increasingly diverse congregation, with research showing that Hispanic churchgoers account for 55% of the Archdiocese’s membership–and 70% of its membership under the age of 30.

The German bishops engaged in the Synodal Path believe the church must adapt and present a vision for the future if it’s going to reclaim its relevance.

On the other side of the conflict to determine the future of the church, however, Aquila and his co-signatories have a vision for the future which looks strikingly like the past.

As for which faction will chart the course for the globe’s 1.2 billion Catholics, or preside over an historical schism , only time will tell.

Complete Article HERE!

Cologne Catholic Church funds paid for priest’s gambling debts

The revelation that a priest’s debts were repaid from a fund to compensate sex abuse victims has prompted outrage in Cologne’s Catholic community.

Cologne’s Archbishop Woelki has previously faced mounting criticism over his handling of reports of sexual abuse

Catholics in the archdiocese of Cologne on Saturday expressed shock that the church had paid more than €1 million to clear the private debts of a priest.

The news provoked particular outrage as it emerged that the money came from a compensation fund for the victims of sexual abuse, who have so far received only a small fraction of the amount used for the priest’s debt.

What are the revelations?

As far as has become known so far, the diocese initially paid almost €500,000 ($540,000) for the priest to clear his gambling debts.

Since the money was apparently not taxed correctly, a total of €650,000 in income tax, including interest, had to be paid in arrears. The money was said to have been paid from a social fund of the diocese, from which compensation for victims of sexual abuse is also paid.

What’s the reaction?

Johassen Norpoth, spokesman for the council to the German Bishops’ Conference that assists abuse victims, said the archdiocese had been considerably less generous to those who suffered abuse.

Norpoth told Saturday’s Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper that, after years of struggle, 60% of the victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and other church employees, had received less than €20,000.

“Victims of sexual abuse, some of them without a secure income like that of a priest, have been fobbed off with an amount less than 2% of what the church is paying out for a priest who has got into financial difficulties,” Norpoth said.

Maria Mesrian, spokeswoman for the Catholic reform initiative Maria 2.0, said the way the money was paid back had been irresponsible.

She said victims of abuse had been offered “ridiculous sums, while millions were being wasted on an unnecessary religious college or the private gambling debts of a priest,” referring to a previous dispute over the funding of a Cologne religious college.

Cologne’s Archbishop Woelki

Church vows no repeat

The archdiocese said the events had taken place in the final years of former archbishop Joachim Meisner, and had been taken over by his successor Rainer Maria Woelki after he took office in 2014.

The archdiocese said such a case could no longer occur in the same way “because we have learned from the case and the contact between the human resources department and the clergy is more intensive and better.”

Woelki has faced mounting criticism over his handling of reports of sexual abuse in Cologne — Germany’s largest Catholic archdiocese. The cardinal offered to resign as archbishop, but Pope Francis has yet to make a decision.

Woelki also raised eyebrows earlier this month after describing the pope as an “old man.”

Complete Article HERE!

Priest says it’s ‘sad’ Catholic Church will bless tractors but not same-sex couples when they marry

Kellie Harrington and Mandy Loughlin on their wedding day.

By Sarah Mac Donald

A well-known priest has congratulated Olympic medallist Kellie Harrington and her wife Mandy Loughlin on their wedding and criticised the Catholic Church’s stance on same-sex blessings as “out of date”.

Fr Paddy Byrne, parish priest of Abbeyleix, Ballinakill, Raheen in Co Laois, lamented the “sad” fact that he can bless tractors and cars but not a loving same-sex couple.

Speaking to the Irish Independent he said the boxer and healthcare worker “encompasses and personifies all that Christianity is about”.

In a tweet, Fr Byrne described Kelly Harrington as “a national treasure” and said he wished her and her partner health and happiness.

“I find it sad that as church we can bless cars, tractors…I’m not assuming this couple may want such ritual, but for many likewise who do we should,” he wrote.

He was congratulated by Labour TD, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, for his comments.

Fr Byrne told the Irish Independent the Church’s ban on same-sex blessings is “one of the reasons why the level of practice among under 60s at the moment is in freefall”.

He added: “It is not about diluting the truth of Christianity – it is about embracing the consequences of the radical love of Jesus Christ.”

Referring to the sense of exclusion many gay couples feel within Catholicism, he asked: “How can we continue to alienate these couples at such a happy moment in their lives and not offer at least some form of recognition – spiritual nourishment – and ritual?”

He said he did not know Kellie personally or anything about her religious background or tradition, but he felt it was a “paradox” that cars and tractors can be blessed when a committed couple could not.

“I wanted to acknowledge a happy moment in her life particularly in the context of Holy Week, which is a narrative about inclusion, love and welcome.

“These couples aren’t from the moon, they are from loving families, they are our siblings, they are our people, they are us – they are humanity.”

Stressing that he was “not a maverick in any way”, he said people on the ground in the Church buy into the need to offer gay couples a ritual to mark their commitment.

“I speak on behalf of the vast majority of the members of the parishes that I serve and particularly the younger members of those parishes. I speak on behalf of clergy as well. The majority of us find it not just disappointing but almost embarrassing that we cannot celebrate these occasions in our churches,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!