Msgr. Lynn got standing ovation at Chaput dinner, say those at event

Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former church official awaiting trial for allegedly protecting sexually abusive priests, drew words of encouragement from Philadelphia’s new archbishop and a standing ovation from scores of priests at a private gathering last month, according to people familiar with the event.

During the invitation-only dinner for Archbishop Charles J. Chaput at a parish hall in Montgomery County, Chaput singled out Lynn in the crowd and noted how difficult the ordeal has been for him, according to one priest who attended and two people briefed by others at the gala.

Much of the audience, which included hundreds of priests, then stood and applauded, said the sources, who asked not to be identified.

The exchange, in a banquet room at St. Helena’s in Blue Bell, spanned just seconds in a talk by Chaput on changes and his vision for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. But it reflected one of the strongest signals of support for Lynn since his arrest and suspension from ministry in February.

It came as Chaput, who last month took the helm of the 1.5 million-member archdiocese, strives to bond with his new flock and the hundreds of priests who are the face of the church in the region’s towns and parishes.

Told how sources described the event, Donna Farrell, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, declined this week to discuss what she said was a private gathering for Chaput and the priests. She said Chaput was away at a retreat and would not elaborate on his remarks.

Chaput, who previously headed the Archdiocese of Denver, has spoken only sparingly of the sex-abuse allegations involving the Philadelphia priests, saying he needed time to absorb the facts and issues.

But in an interview with the Associated Press the day before his Sept. 8 installation, Chaput said of the case against Lynn: “It’s really important to me, and I think to all of us, that he be treated fairly and that he not be a scapegoat.”

Jeffrey Lindy, one of Lynn’s defense attorneys, said he was gratified to hear about the ovation for the monsignor. “He’s a real good person,” Lindy said.

Citing a gag order in the case, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said Tuesday that the office had no comment.

Lynn, 60, faces a March trial in Philadelphia, along with two priests, a defrocked priest, and a former Catholic school teacher.

Two of the clerics and the teacher are charged with raping a 10-year-old altar boy at St. Jerome’s, a Northeast Philadelphia parish in the late 1990s. The other priest allegedly molested a 14-year-old boy at his apartment in 1996.

Lynn is not accused of assaulting children, but rather of conspiracy and endangerment for taking steps that enabled the other priests to allegedly molest the boys.

As the secretary for clergy from 1992 until 2004, he recommended where archdiocesan priests are assigned. That included assignments for those who had previously been accused of molesting children. He is believed to be the first church official in the nation charged with covering up clergy sex abuse.

When he announced the charges in February, Williams, the prosecutor, said Lynn “went out of his way to put known abusers into contact with adolescents.”

Lindy and Thomas Bergstrom, Lynn’s attorneys, have called the allegations untrue, unfair, and the product of overzealous prosecutors.

The archdiocese is paying their fees.

After Lynn’s arrest, some parishioners at St. Joseph’s in Downingtown, where he has been pastor since 2002, praised his work there. And several priests have attended his pretrial hearings, flanking him outside the courtroom.

The criminal charges accompanied a grand jury report that accused the archdiocese of failing in its efforts to root out abusive priests and help victims.

Responding to that report, Chaput’s predecessor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, placed two dozen other priests on administrative leave while the archdiocese reexamines old allegations that they sexually abused or acted inappropriately around children. Those reviews are pending.

Like Lynn, the suspended priests are barred from publicly celebrating Mass, ministering as a priest, or returning to their parishes. But Lynn and many of the others on leave were invited to the dinner for Chaput in the week after his Sept. 8 installation. Some but not all the suspended priests attended, the sources said.

The arrests and suspensions rocked the archdiocese and strained the relationship between the administration and some parish priests.

In July, scores of area priests formed an independent group, the Association of Philadelphia Priests, to unite their interests and serve as an advocate for priests’ rights and church reform. The leaders of the group met privately with Chaput last month and found him to be “open, supportive, and encouraging,” according to a note posted on their website.

In his remarks to the Associated Press about Lynn, Chaput also said it was important that “those that are conducting the trial treat him fairly, and that they don’t pore into his life responsibility for things he didn’t do.”

Last month, Lynn’s attorneys asked Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to dismiss the charges, move the trial out of the region, or at least lift her gag order, which bars the defendants and attorneys from publicly commenting on the case.

In their motions, Bergstrom and Lindy complained that court filings by prosecutors had “created a one-sided, and, in certain cases, a distorted view” of Lynn and grand jury testimony he gave seven years ago about his handling of abuse accusations.

Sarmina could rule on those motions Friday, when all sides are due in her courtroom for a status hearing.

Also pending is a request by prosecutors to question Rigali’s predecessor, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, in open court. His attorney has argued that the 88-year-old cardinal, suffering from dementia and cancer, is unfit to testify.

Sarmina postponed a hearing on the matter last month.

Full Article HERE!

MN diocese declares majority of Catholics “not in good standing” because they support teh gay

Catholic? Supporter of marriage equality? The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC — humorously, the same acronym used for the Metropolitan Community Church) and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have some bad news for you. You are not “in good standing with the Church.”

In response to the formation of Catholics for Marriage Equality (CME), a group of Catholics opposed to the marriage equality ban set for the ballot in 2012, the MCC and the Archdiocese have issued a joint statement for-shaming these Catholics for not hating gays as much as the Church. From the statement:

A group calling itself “Catholics for Marriage Equality MN” seeks to confuse Catholics and the public about authentic Church teaching related to matters of marriage and sexuality. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Minnesota Catholic Conference wish to make it known that this group does not speak for the Catholic Church, is not an agent or entity of the Archdiocese, MCC, or the universal Church, and has no authority to determine what does and does not constitute Christian doctrine and morality. The Archdiocese asks that Catholics avoid associating themselves with this group, and not be deceived by its messages, which are in conflict with the fundamental teachings of the Church.
“Catholics for Marriage Equality MN” attempts to convince Catholics that they can be in good standing with the Church and oppose Church teaching about human sexuality and marriage, which centers on the complementarity of the sexes and the mutual self-gift of loving spouses in marital union. The group also misleads people by proposing a false ecclesiology that undermines the legitimate authority of the bishops and the Magisterium as the authentic guardian, interpreter, and teacher of the faith handed to the apostles by Jesus Christ.

Full Article HERE!

125 priests, lay clergy involved in sex abuse cases

In July 2011, Pope Benedict XVI had publicly expressed his shame over the evils of clerical child abuse during a visit to Australia, saying he was deeply sorry for the abuse of children by predatory priests, and now in September 2011, just two months after the Pontiff s eyebrow-raising statement, a former Aussie priest has been charged with 60 fresh offences relating to sex assaults on boys while he was working at a Sydney boarding school during the 1970s and 80s.

Interestingly, as an in-depth research conducted by The News International on this subject shows, this particular incident has surfaced hardly four months after the Vatican had issued guidelines for bishops worldwide on May 16, 2011, whereby they were directed to develop clear and coordinated procedures for dealing with the sexual abuse allegations by May 2012 and cooperate with the police in investigating allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy, though they were asked not make such reporting mandatory. (Reference: The New York Times edition of May 16, 2011).

This is what the Agence France-Presse (AFP) had reported on the latest Sydney incident: Police would not confirm the identity of the man, saying only that they had arrested a 65-year-old on Tuesday (September 13) in southwestern Sydney and that he has since been released on bail.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) said the suspect was a former Catholic priest who taught at the prestigious St Stanislaus College in Bathurst, west of Sydney, in the 1970s and 80s.

The college, according to the Paris-based AFP, had made headlines last month after former students came forward alleging they were molested during late-night prayer sessions.

The AFP had further stated in its afore-cited report: The former priest has already appeared in Bathurst Local Court in August on 33 other charges relating to sexual assault and gross acts of indecency on juveniles aged between 10 and 18. Reports said his court appearance prompted eight more alleged victims to make further allegations against the former cleric.

A latest September 15, 2011 report carried by the website of Swissinfo, a nine-language news and information platform produced by Switzerland s Public Broadcasting Corporation, the Catholic Church in this touristy Alpine nation has released new details of sexual abuse committed by priests and pastoral workers over the past 60 years.

Swissinfo states: Overall, 146 victims came forward to report abuse to Swiss dioceses in 2010 the first year in which detailed statistics have been presented by the church. The abuse was carried out by 125 priests and lay clergy, an expert commission of the Swiss Bishops Conference said on Thursday (September 15). The statistics broke down in more detail who the victims and perpetrators were and when the incidents had taken place since 1950. Abuse ranged from sexual harassment to rape. Most of the victims were teenage boys (25 per cent) and adult men (23 per cent). Another 20 per cent were children aged below 12 years. Half of the incidents were carried out by parish priests and 26 per cent by ordained men.

The official Swiss website had maintained, Most of the abuse happened between 1950 and 1980. Ten per cent of cases took place during the past decade. Confirmation of the abuse first came to light more than 16 months ago when the church announced cases reported from January-May 2010.

Although the Catholic sex abuse cases in nations like Canada, Ireland, the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Belgium, France, and Germany etc have received significant media attention since the 1980s, after Father Donald Roemer of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had pleaded guilty to felonious sexual abuse of a minor, most television channels and newspapers on the planet are now using the harshest possible language against the church and the clergy while reporting these incidents.

Had all been well at the Vatican and had the followers of Christianity been happy with their religious leaders, the CNN would not have aired these words in its September 16, 2010 report when the Pope was about to start his visit to Britain: There has already been widespread outcry over the estimated 12 million pounds ($18.7 million) British taxpayers are having to pay for the visit, though Christopher Patten, the Prime Minister s representative for the papal visit, has pointed out that one day of last year s G-20 summit in London cost 20 million pounds. Criticism has also focused on the armed police squads needed to protect a religious figurehead previously targeted by attackers. Along with anger about the Vatican s response to child and sexual abuse, there is criticism over the pope being granted a state visit, given the Catholic Church s attitudes towards gender equality and homosexuality.

The CNN had further reported on September 16, 2010: British people feel overwhelmingly that the Pope has not done enough to punish priests who abuse children. Three out of four British people and two out of three Catholics in the country say he should do more to punish the abusive clergy.

Till date dozens (if not hundreds) of the accused priests have been forced to resign in every nook and cranny of the globe. Many of these priests, whose crimes fell within statutes of limitation, are languishing in jail. Some have been defrocked. (Reference: The New York Times of August 31, 2006).

For example, Bernard Francis Law (born 1931), Cardinal and Archbishop of Boston had resigned after Church documents were revealed which suggested he had covered up sexual abuse committed by priests in his archdiocese. On December 13, 2002, Pope John Paul II had accepted Law s resignation as Archbishop and had posted him to the American Catholic church in Rome. (Reference: The New York Times of May 28, 2004).

Similarly, James Porter (1935-2005) was a Roman Catholic priest who was convicted of molesting 28 children. He had admitted sexually abusing at least 100 children of both sexes over a period of 30 years, starting in the 1960s. (References: The Boston Globe of April 13, 2004 and NBC News Channel report of February 11, 2005).

In 1995 Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer had to resign from his post as Archbishop of Vienna, Austria, over allegations of sexual abuse, although he remained a Cardinal. (Reference: The BBC report of April 14, 1998)

On April 7, 2010, it was revealed that a former bishop of the Norwegian Catholic Church, Georg Muller, had confessed to the police in early January 2010 that he had sexually abused an under-age boy 20 years earlier. Muller was made to step down as a bishop in July 2009. (Reference: Reuters report of April 7, 2010).

Various lawsuits against the custodians of the church have been filed in the United States and Ireland etc till date, whereby plaintiffs have alleged that some priests had sexually abused minors and that their superiors had conspired to conceal and otherwise abet their criminal misconduct.

Some had even accused the incumbent Pope for covering up complaints against his subordinate colleagues.

On 22 April 2010, a lawsuit was filed in the Milwaukee Federal Court by an anonymous plaintiff against the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI for having covered up abuse cases to avoid scandal to the detriment of the concerned children.

In February 2011, two German lawyers initiated charges against Pope Benedict XVI at the International Criminal Court.

In 2004, the John Jay Report, commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, had tabulated a total of 4,392 American priests against whom allegations of sexual abuse had been made. (References: The National Catholic Weekly edition of March 22, 2004 and the 2004 Catholic News Service Report titled John Jay Study Reveals Extent of Abuse Problem )

The Catholic News Service (CNS) is an American news agency covering the Roman Catholic Church since 1920 and is a leading source of news for Catholic print and broadcast media throughout the world.

A glance through the above-quoted references, particularly the 2004 Catholic News Service Report, shows that the 2004 John Jay Report was based on surveys completed by the Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States. It was based on a study of 10,667 allegations against 4,392 priests accused of engaging in sexual abuse of a minor between 1950 and 2002.

The John Jay report, whose printed version had caught the light of the day in June 2004, had stated that there were approximately 10,667 reported victims (younger than 18 years) of clergy sexual abuse during this period: Around 81 percent of these victims were male. While 22.6 per cent were age 10 or younger, 51 per cent were between the ages of 11 and 14, and 27 per cent were between the ages to 15 to 17 years.

Of these 4,392, approximately 56 per cent had one reported allegation against them; 27 per cent had two or three allegations against them; nearly 14 per cent had four to nine allegations against them; three percent (149 priests) had 10 or more allegations against them. These 149 priests were responsible for almost 3,000 victims, or 27 percent of the allegations. Almost 70 per cent of these priests were ordained before 1970.

In 2009, the former Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan, had ignited heated discussions amongst his followers and Catholic Scholars when he said the church should consider ending celibacy rules and allow priests to marry.

The 76-year-old cardinal, who had presided over 2.5 million New York Catholics for at least eight years, had made these comments at the end of his stipulated tenure on March 10, 2009, but it was enough to get tongues wagging about the centuries-old church requirement.

According to the New York Times, the Vatican had signalled in the past that it was a closed issue, despite some indications of a discussion in the 1960s.

However, the last three popes, including Pope Benedict, have killed any discussion of lifting the celibacy rules, the newspaper had reported.

NBC television reported on March 23, 2009: Cardinal Egan s remarks come at the end of his tenure as New York Archbishop, raising questions about the motivation behind them. Was the conservative Cardinal giving a matter of fact response to a question of church law or was he really a reformer at heart? Regardless of his intent, the timing of these remarks has raised eyebrows. In 2003, 163 priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese had petitioned the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to consider the idea of lifting the celibacy rules because of the shortage of priests. Their petition was adamantly denied.

A thorough study of books like The struggle for Celibacy: the culture of Catholic seminary Life by Paul Stanosz and The Power of Abstinence by Kristine Napier would reveal that Celibacy (state of being unmarried) is viewed differently by the Catholic Church and the various Protestant communities

In the Latin Catholic Church, clerical celibacy is mandated for bishops and, as a general rule, for priests and for deacons who intend to become priests.

In Eastern Christianity, which comprises the Christian traditions and churches that developed in the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, Northeastern Africa, India and parts of the Far East, celibacy is mandatory for all bishops and for any priest who has been ordained while unmarried or who has lost his wife.

On the other hand, most Protestant churches are known to reject clerical celibacy.

It is common knowledge that in recent past, both Protestants and Catholics have agreed on numerous issues, yet clerical celibacy remains a dividing point between the followers of the two faiths in Christianity.

The Vatican, over the years, has allowed married priests to function by accepting them into the ranks of the Roman Catholic priesthood.

A sharp decline in the number of Catholic priests, the exodus of thousands of pastors who marry and leave the priesthood, coupled with sexual scandals of clerics and the lawsuits being filed against many of them for sexually abusing children in their care, has sparked international debates to eliminate the celibacy requirement for the priesthood and institute the ordination of married priests.

Full Article HERE!

Bishops warn of ‘national conflict’ over gay marriage

The nation’s top Catholic bishop issued a stern challenge to the Obama administration’s decision not to support a federal ban on gay marriage, and warned the president that his policies could “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions.”

In a letter sent Tuesday (Sept. 20), Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he and other prelates have grown increasingly concerned since the administration announced last February that it would no longer defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in court.

The Obama administration says it believes the law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman is unconstitutional.

Dolan said the bishops are especially upset that the administration and opponents of DOMA are framing their argument as a civil rights issue, which he said equates “opposition to redefining marriage with either intentional or willfully ignorant racial discrimination.”

He also argued that traditional marriage is best for society, and that treating gay marriage as a civil right would lead to discrimination against believers and against church agencies that could not, for example, accommodate gay couples as adoptive parents.

“The administration’s failure to change course on this matter will … precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions,” Dolan warned.

The two-page letter was followed by a three-page analysis from the USCCB’s legal staff that charges the administration with “hostility” to traditional marriage and a “new, more aggressive position” on behalf of gay marriage. In especially strong language, it also argues that the administration treats millions of Americans who oppose gay marriage “as if they were bigots.”

The tenor of the bishops’ warning appears to signal an escalation in their battle against gay marriage, as well as a hardening of their opposition to Obama just as the 2012 presidential campaign gets underway. The bishops’ new hard line was welcomed by conservatives, and it comes as Obama is facing record-low opinion ratings.

The bishops’ stance carries risks, however, as voters appear to be focused on the state of the economy more than gay marriage. Moreover, polls show a steady erosion of opposition to gay rights of all kinds among the U.S. population, with Catholics more open to endorsing gay relationships than many other faith groups.

The bishops have been careful to frame their opposition to Obama’s policies in the context of religious freedom and defending the right of individuals and religions to act according to the dictates of their conscience.

On Monday (Sept. 19), the day before Dolan sent his letter to Obama on gay marriage, the bishops of Washington, Maryland and Delaware sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that strongly objects to proposed regulations mandating health care coverage of contraception.

For the Catholic Church, which considers the use of artificial birth control a sin, the mandate is “a radically new and unprecedented attack on religious freedom,” said Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien and Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly.

Full Article HERE!

Theologian Hans Küng on Pope Benedict ‘A Putinization of the Catholic Church’

On Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Germany for a long-awaited visit. Prominent Swiss theologian Hans Küng explains to SPIEGEL why the papal visit will do little to help the crisis in the Church and compares Benedict to Vladimir Putin in the way he has centralized power.

Full Interview HERE!

Hans Küng, 83, was one of the Catholic theologians who, like the then-theology professor Joseph Ratzinger, helped shape the Second Vatican Council at the beginning of the 1960s and pushed for more openness within the Catholic Church. In 1979, Küng, who was teaching theology in the German city of Tübingen at the time, publicly criticized the dogma of papal infallibility. The Vatican responded by revoking his permission to teach. Today, Küng is still a Catholic priest and heads the Tübingen-based Global Ethic institute, which he founded.