SF church asks Archbishop Cordileone to re-schedule visit because he’s unvaccinated

St. Agnes Church, San Francisco

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The news that Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone is unvaccinated just cost him a visit to a church in San Francisco.

“Because Cordileone is not vaccinated and we’ve had breakthrough vaccinations in the church, I’m not comfortable. I’m not comfortable with him coming unvaccinated,” said Rita Clunies-Ross, St. Agnes Catholic Church parishioner.

December 19 was the day Archbishop Cordileone was scheduled to visit Saint Agnes Church. Several weeks before his visit, churchgoers like Rita Clunies-Ross voiced concerns. Now this church is taking a stance.

“I called him and spoke with him and asked him to re-schedule his visit for a later time because many people in the parish had expressed concern about this. I feel it is important that everyone feel safe, and we all do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially now with the new Omicron Variant. These are stressful times enough and I felt his pastoral visit to us would be overshadowed by concerns about the pandemic,” said a bulletin Pastor George Williams posted on the church’s website, letting the parishioners know Archbishop Cordileone won’t be visiting them for now.

The San Francisco Archdiocese has been outspoken about the COVID vaccine, encouraging San Franciscans to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the archbishop is unvaccinated.

“It’s not that he is saying we don’t want you. We would more than welcome you here if you came vaccinated, if you respect the community you are visiting,” said Clunies-Ross.

In a statement the Archdiocese responded, “Health care decisions are a very personal matter. Archbishop Cordileone has every confident in Father Williams’ ability to know his people well, and respond to their sensitivities with compassion.”

In August, Pope Francis urged people to get vaccinated, calling it an act of love.

During an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Cordileone said his personal doctor told him, “it’s probably not necessary for him to be vaccinated,” citing his “immune system is strong.”

“If there was some health reason I could see it. There is not religious reason from the Catholic Church that would stop you from being vaccinated. I can’t see another reason,” said Clunies-Ross.

Pastor Williams said to ABC7 news, “It’s our policy here that all the priests who celebrate Mass need to be vaccinated out of concern for our parishioners. When I explained this to his Excellency, he graciously understood. We look forward to his visit when circumstances permit.”

Complete Article HERE!

Right-wing Catholic cult, Opus Dei, accused of exploiting women

Josemaria Escriva

by Barry Duke

FOUNDED by Josemaría Escrivá, above, now a saint, Opus Dei has long been accused of secrecy, elitism, cult-like practices, and political involvement with right-wing causes, such as the rule of Francisco Franco in Spain.

Now the organisation, according to Religion News Service, is being accused by a group of women of labour exploitation, as well as abuse of power. Often minors at the time, they laboured under “manifestly illegal conditions” that included working without pay for 12 hours-plus without breaks except for food or prayer, no registration in the Social Security system and other violations of basic rights.

The women are demanding financial reparations from Opus Dei and that it acknowledges the abuses and apologises to them. They also want those responsible punished.

A total of 42 women have lodged a complaint with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. One is Lucia Gimenez, 56, who joined the Catholic group in her native Paraguay at the age of 14 with the promise she would get an education. But instead of math or history, she was trained in cooking, cleaning and other household chores to serve in Opus Dei residences and retirement homes.

For 18 years she washed clothes, scrubbed bathrooms and attended to the group’s needs for 12 hours a day, with breaks only for meals and praying. Despite her hard labor, she says:

I never saw money in my hands.

The complaint says that the Argentine and Paraguayan citizens worked for the movement in Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Italy and Kazakhstan between 1974 and 2015.

Opus Dei – Work of God in Latin – was founded by the Spanish priest Escrivá in 1928, and has 90,000 members in 70 countries. The lay group, which was greatly favored by St John Paul II, who canonized Escrivá in 2002, has a unique status in the church and reports directly to the Pope.

According to RNS the women in the complaint have one thing in common: humble origins. They were recruited and separated from their families between the ages of 12 and 16. In some cases, like Gimenez’s, they were taken to Opus Dei centre in another country, circumventing immigration controls.

They claim that Opus Dei priests and other members exercised “coercion of conscience” on the women to pressure them to serve and to frighten them with spiritual evils if they didn’t comply with the supposed will of God. They also controlled their relations with the outside world.

Most of the women asked to leave as the physical and psychological demands became intolerable. But when they finally did, they were left without money. Many also said they needed psychological treatment after leaving Opus Dei.

Said Sebastián Sal, the women’s lawyer:

The hierarchy (of Opus Dei) is aware of these practices. It is an internal policy of Opus Dei. The search for these women is conducted the same way throughout the world. … It is something institutional.

The women’s complaint also points to dozens of priests affiliated with Opus Dei for their alleged:

Intervention, participation and knowledge in the denounced events.

The allegations in the complaint are similar to those made by members of another conservative Catholic organisation also favoured by St John Paul II, the Legion of Christ. The Legion recruited young women to become consecrated members of its lay branch, Regnum Christi, to work in Legion-run schools and other projects.

Those women alleged spiritual and psychological abuse, of being separated from family and being told their discomfort was “God’s will” and that abandoning their vocation would be tantamount to abandoning God.

Pope Francis has been cracking down on 20th-century religious movements after several religious orders and lay groups were accused of sexual and other abuses by their leaders. Opus Dei has so far avoided much of the recent controversy, though there have been cases of individual priests accused of misconduct.

Josefina Madariaga, Director of Opus Dei’s press office in Argentina, told the AP.

We do not have any official notification from the Vatican about the existence of a complaint of this type. If there is a traumatic experience or one that has left them with a wound, we want to honestly listen to them, understand what happened and from there correct what has to be corrected.

She added that all the people currently “working on site are paid,” adding that some 80 women currently work for Opus Dei in Argentina.

However, she said:

In the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, society as a whole dealt with these issues in a more informal or family way.

Opus Dei has made the necessary changes and modifications to accompany the law in force today.

Beatriz Delgado, who worked for Opus Dei for 23 years in Argentina and Uruguay, said she was told that

I had to give my salary to the director and that everyone gave it. … It was part of giving to God. They convince you with the vocation, with ‘God calls you, God asks this of you, you cannot fail God.’ … They hooked me with that.

So far, the Vatican has not ruled on the complaint and it’s not clear if it will. A Vatican spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for information.

If there is no response, the women’s legal representatives say they will initiate criminal proceedings against Opus Dei:

For human trafficking, reduction to servitude, awareness control and illegitimate deprivation of liberty.

Complete Article HERE!

Historic gathering with bland agenda unlikely to stem decay in the Catholic Church

The number of Catholics in Australia is in decline.

By Paul Collins

Like it or not, Catholicism is still enormously influential in Australia. It is Australia’s largest non-government employer through its schools, hospitals and aged care with around 230,000 people working directly for the church. It also runs many voluntary organisations, like the Saint Vincent de Paul Society with some 20,700 members and 41,150 volunteers with a huge impact on social welfare.

Despite this, Catholicism’s reputation has been effectively trashed in the media and wider community by the sexual abuse crisis and church leaders’ appalling, long-term failure to deal decisively with clerical abusers. The revelations of the royal commission reinforced the church’s toxic reputation.

The result: people are abandoning Catholicism in droves. The percentage of self-confessed Catholics in the population has dropped from 27 per cent in 2001 to 22.6 per cent in the 2016 census. Of the 5.3 million Catholics in 2106, only 11.8 per cent attended Mass regularly.

In an attempt to respond, Australia’s 46 bishops are gathering with 99 invited priests, 25 religious sisters and around 110 laypeople from across Australia in a Plenary Council in early October to try to sort out the church’s future.

To prepare for the plenary, a nationwide consultation was held with Australian Catholics. The response was enormous: more than 222,000 people participated, with 17,457 written submissions from groups and individuals. Issues emerging from the consultation focused around clerical control, lack of leadership, accountability, marginalisation of laypeople in decision making, election of bishops, gender and sexual issues, ministry, especially that of women, married priests, the church’s role in a secular culture and relationships with the wider community.

But that’s where democracy and consultation ended. The plenary organisers watered down these issues into a 69-page, bland, cautious document lacking any sense of crisis, written by an archbishop, a priest and two laypeople, entitled Continuing the Journey.

A victim of historic sex abuse by a WA priest has been awarded a massive payout.

This document constitutes the agenda for the plenary. It doesn’t reflect community concerns and the hard questions expressed in the consultations, but replaces them with generic, vague and frustratingly generalised concerns like “prayer”, “conversion”, “formation”, “structures”, “institutions”, and “governance”. This rhetoric doesn’t encourage discussion of the practical and hard questions that the church faces and understandably many committed Catholics have already lost faith in the plenary process.

The plenary’s first session meets next Sunday. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it will employ a “multi-modal” format, combining in-person and online engagement. A second session will meet in October 2022. Bishops alone will have a deliberative vote. It will be their conclusions that go to the Vatican for approval and given the snail’s pace of Rome, it’ll be 2024 before anything practical begins.

Australia is an object lesson in what not to do when planning church renewal. Don’t go the way that gets you caught-up in a morass of church law and hands over all decision-making power to bishops, not all of whom, it is clear, are really committed to the plenary process, let alone to reforming the church. The fundamental mistake was using a church law-regulated plenary process as the way of confronting Catholicism’s woes. The suspicion is that the bishops chose this precisely because it was tightly controlled by law, allowing them to manage it.

It would have been much better to have had a less-structured national assembly, where a variety of views could be expressed freely, and indicative votes could show what the local Catholic community wanted, leading to concrete actions. While Catholicism remains very influential in Australia through its ministries, the number of active Catholics continues to shrink and the church is increasingly a hollowed-out institution. It’s unlikely that the Plenary Council will do much to halt that decay.

That is unless the bishops put aside their clerical habits and let the faithful in the pews have a much greater say.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

Pope Francis wants every Catholic to have a say. Why haven’t US Catholics heard about it?

By Phyllis Zagano

Pope Francis’ plan is for ordinary Catholics to have their say. It begins with the coming synod, which opens in Rome on Oct. 9 and in every diocese in the world on Oct. 17.

The problem: No one seems to know about it. The bigger problem: U.S. bishops don’t seem to care.

It’s called “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” While Pope Francis truly wants all Catholics to pray and talk about the needs of today’s church, his plan depends on diocesan participation. As the U.S. bishops fulminate over which Catholic politician can receive Communion, they’ve done little to plan for the worldwide discussion on the needs of the church. They were asked to get organized last May. They haven’t.

Here’s how things are supposed to work. Last May, Rome asked every bishop for the name of the person managing his diocesan synodal process. The bishop then is to open his local synod Oct. 17, collect input from parishes, and report to his national episcopal conference.

The conferences — in North America the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops — will then gather the results for the members of the 16Ordinary General assembly of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled for October 2023 in Rome.

Folks in Central and South America, as well as in Australia, Germany and Ireland, jumped at the idea. Their meetings are already underway. The USCCB named an elegantly trained and experienced national coordinator, Richard Coll, but U.S. dioceses seem behind the curve.

If a sample of the 10 New York dioceses is any indication, the diocesan synods will have a bumpy start even once they get going. While Rome asked all dioceses to submit the names of their synod coordinators in May, few, if any, seem to have plans.

One week after being queried, only three of the 10 New York dioceses had responded. Two sent the names of diocesan coordinators, and one said it was too early to give any information. (One of the two offered up the bishop and the coordinator for a phone call. But only one.)

To be fair, the Vatican’s synod office published the synod handbook, called a vademecum, and the synod’s preparatory document just a few weeks ago, on Sept. 7.

But “synodality” has been in the air for years, gaining prominence after the Second Vatican Council.

Rome announced the next synod’s theme in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began. Lockdown-time pushed the culminating Rome meeting back one year, to October 2023, giving interested bishops and episcopal conferences more planning time.

So, what does all this talking (or not talking) mean? Synodality — the word comes from the Greek, meaning “common road” — is Francis’ way of listening to the periphery. Francis is known to have said “the periphery is the center,” and he wants the bishops atop the pyramid in the hierarchical church to recognize that. He wants to hear from ordinary Catholics, as well as from their bishops.

Francis has already acted on a few requests for changes from 2019’s Pan-Amazon synod aimed at broadening participation. In January of this year, he changed canon law to allow women to be installed as lectors (readers during Mass) and acolytes (altar servers), lay ministries required prior to diaconal ordination.

The synodal process, when properly done, brings about prayerful discernment and an understanding of what the church needs going forward.

The process itself is the beginning and the end of synodality. If everyone has a voice, not on defined doctrine but on the relatively mundane issues of who gets to do what (married priests, women deacons, parish leadership, control of funds and properties), then the process will have met its goal.

What are the chances of success? That depends on whom you ask.

For bishops cemented in clericalism, they will begin to pay lip service at best to a process deeply inserted into the church. They are likely to survey the usual suspects, choosing whom to hear and what to report. Their “success” will be maintaining control.

Success for bishops not focused on controlling power will be listening and honestly reporting the needs of the people.

What gets to Rome from individual national conferences is critical, but what remains to be seen is how the periphery makes its voices heard. The coming synod may depend more on social media and less on diocesan bishops. But you never know.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic group opposes Colorado bill that would give child sex abuse survivors the ability to sue their abuser at any time

Lawmakers looking at two bills on topic, one dealing with statute of limitations and another to hold organizations more accountable

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For decades, survivors of childhood sexual abuse and their advocates have urged states to let them hold abusers accountable in civil court, no matter how long it’s been since the abuse. A bipartisan bill in the Colorado Legislature to do just that so far appears to have widespread approval, but it’s not without opposition from the Colorado Catholic Conference — a church embroiled in a sex abuse scandal in Colorado, the U.S. and around the world.

There is no expiration date in Colorado to bring criminal charges against a person accused of child sex abuse, but the statute of limitations to sue an individual is only six years after a victim turns 18. Last year’s effort to change the latter failed.

The renewed push to eliminate the statute of limitations for lawsuits against alleged child sex abusers saw an unanimous Senate vote this week — a vote Wheat Ridge Democratic Sen. Jessie Danielson called “historic.” But the bipartisan bill, which now heads to a House committee, doesn’t apply to civil claims that will have already expired by the time it takes effect, which was a sticking point over constitutionality concerns last year.

That’s why lawmakers have introduced a second (also bipartisan) bill to create a new cause of action to allow people abused as children to sue public and private institutions like churches, schools and the Boy Scouts for past abuse that occurred under their watch. Both the Colorado Catholic Conference and the Boy Scouts, which is also facing abuse allegations in the state, are opposed.

Republican Rep. Matt Soper of Delta is one of the sponsors on both bills, partly because one statistic about childhood sexual abuse sticks with him: Victims often don’t disclose the abuse until their 50s.

“And usually, it’s not a one-off instance. It’s usually over and over again by a family member, a close family friend, someone who’s in a position of trust like a teacher or a priest or a club leader, or a trainer,” Soper said. “And it takes years and years for that individual to be able just to share their story.”

That was James “Jeb” Barrett’s experience. The child sexual abuse survivor and leader of the Denver Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests (or SNAP) chapter grew up in Montana, and said he was sexually abused as a child by multiple adults he trusted — a teacher, an uncle, a priest and Scout leader. His partner, who had also been abused as a child, died by suicide.

It took him until he was 63 to talk about his abuse, he said. He’s now 81, and understands firsthand the effects of childhood trauma, including dealing with addiction.

Other times, the adults in a child’s life don’t believe them, furthering that trauma. On the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. Brittany Pettersen shared the story of her own mother, who was sexually abused at a young age for years by Pettersen’s grandfather. Pettersen’s mom eventually told her mother, who didn’t believe her daughter.

“This bill is about slightly giving back to ensure (adults abused as children) actually feel for the first time in their life they have the justice they’ve been seeking, the acknowledgement they’ve been seeking for their entire life,” the Lakewood Democrat said.

After years of advocating for policies like the two in front of lawmakers, Barrett said he’s hopeful this time.

“It’s incrementally moving toward the openness, accountability and transparency that we need across the board,” and “justice,” he said.

Support and constitutionality concerns

At least one of the new bills has the support of the Victim Policy Institute, which lobbied heavily against it last year. And, as expected, survivors who’ve advocated for legislation in prior years are back this year, “so their story shapes public policy, so what happened to them doesn’t happen to any other child victim in the future,” said Raana Simmons, director of policy for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

If Colorado approves an elimination of the statute of limitations for civil claims, it will join 12 other states and the U.S. territory of Guam, according to Philadelphia-based Child USAdvocacy.

Kathryn Robb, executive director of the agency and a survivor herself, testifies in statehouses across the country. She said the country is starting to understand how long it takes to disclose abuse and the effects of this trauma on children’s brains and behavior.

“This is happening all over the country right now … because as a society, we are recognizing the enormous problem we have with child sexual abuse,” she said.

A prime example of the widespread nature of child sex abuse is the allegations against Catholic priests. A recent Colorado investigation revealed accusations against dozens of priests for allegedly sexually abusing at least 212 children over the past 70 years, and the church paid nearly $7 million to victims.

The Colorado Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s three dioceses — Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo — said it has supported unlimited time to seek criminal charges but not, as proposed in the bill, for civil statutes.

In a statement, the group said it supports “reasonable and fair extension of the civil statute of limitations; however, statutes of limitations must have a sensible time limit to ensure due process for all parties involved.”

The Boy Scouts of America also has been dealing with allegations of childhood sexual abuse across the country, with at least 16 Colorado men joining nearly 800 who signed onto a lawsuit in 2019, saying it happened to them when they were scouts. (A Boy Scouts internal investigation found abuse stretching from the 1940s to 2016.)

The Denver Area Council of Boy Scouts of America supports the bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil claims, Scout Executive and CEO Chuck Brasfeild wrote in a statement. But the group is concerned about the other bill — creating a new cause of action against an organization that either knew or should have known about the risks and concealed abuse — which, Brasfeild said, appears to be an unconstitutional overreach.

The Colorado Catholic Conference also opposes that measure, saying: “Passing a bill with constitutional and due process problems does not put victims first. It will only delay opportunities for survivors to receive compensation and not promote true restorative justice. The Catholic Church in Colorado is eager to ensure survivors of abuse receive the support they need for true healing.”

But the bill sponsors say that’s the reason they created the measure — expected to have its first Senate committee hearing next week — so victims can sue abusers and the organizations that protected them regardless of when the abuse happened instead of using what’s referred to as a “lookback window” to revive old claims.

Legislative lawyers said a “lookback window” violates the state’s constitution, according to bill sponsors Commerce City Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Soper.

“We really wanted to respect our state’s constitution,” Soper said. “Otherwise, why are we here?”

Ted Trimpa, a Colorado lobbyist for the Victim Policy Institute based in Washington, D.C., had argued against the bill last year, saying it didn’t go far enough without the “lookback window.” He believed Colorado lawmakers should have taken the issue to court because other states have successfully won such challenges.

This year, his organization is reviewing whether it will support the civil cause of action bill and is supporting the statute of limitations bill, Trimpa said.

Danielsen said she is urging lawmakers to “think about the adults who endured this kind of abuse in their past because it was traumatic and caused lifelong damage and pain and suffering” — people who have had to seek treatment for years. It will shift the cost from the victims to the abusers as well as prevent young kids from having to face abusers in criminal court, she said. Instead, parents will be able to pursue civil action on their children’s behalf.

Approving this bill, she added, gives lawmakers the opportunity to “stand on the side of survivors and protect those who can’t protect themselves.”

Complete Article HERE!