31 May 2010

Yet another attempt

The Associated Press has published an article by Matt Sedensky - written with the help of Nicole Winfield who has often gotten things Catholic wrong - titled, "Future pope refused defrocking of convicted priest."

That headline, naturally, is misleading and not quite true as we will see. The text of the article follows, with my comments and emphases:
The future Pope Benedict XVI refused to defrock an American priest who confessed to molesting numerous children and even served prison time for it, simply because the cleric wouldn't agree to the discipline. The case provides the latest evidence of how changes in church law under Pope John Paul II frustrated and hamstrung U.S. bishops struggling with an abuse crisis that would eventually explode.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press from court filings in the case of the late Rev. Alvin Campbell of Illinois show Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, following church law at the time [There are three things to remember here: 1). as the Prefect of the CDF, Cardinal Ratzinger did not have the authority to deal with such cases on his own until 2001; 2). the Prefect of the CDF cannot change canon law; and, 3). nothing in canon law prevented a Bishop from reporting an abusing priest to the civil authorities], turned down a bishop's plea to remove the priest for no other reason than the abuser's refusal to go along with it.

"The petition in question cannot be admitted in as much as it lacks the request of Father Campbell himself," Ratzinger wrote in a July 3, 1989, letter to Bishop Daniel Ryan of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill.

With the church still recovering from a notable departure of priests in the 1970s to marry, John Paul made it tougher to leave the priesthood after assuming the papacy in 1978, saying their vocation was a lifelong one [which is only partly true; Holy Orders continues after death]. A consequence of that policy was that, as the priest sex abuse scandal arose in the U.S., bishops were no longer able to sidestep the lengthy church trial necessary for laicization [they could if the priest himself requested "laicization." This was an unintended consequence of holding priests to the commitment they made before God].

New rules in 1980 removed bishops' option of requesting laicizations of abusive priests without holding a church trial [this doesn't seem entirely right to me. Can someone clarify this?]. Those rules were ultimately eased two decades later amid an explosion of abuse cases in the United States.

Campbell's bishop had requested that he be quickly defrocked, in part to spare the victims the pain of a trial, but Ratzinger's response was in keeping with church law at the time. Bishops retained the right to remove priests from ministry or to go through with a trial and recommend to Rome a cleric's defrocking, and nothing prevented them from reporting such crimes to police as they should have done, the Vatican has argued [and quite rightly, at that, but notice how it is only glossed over here and not taken credibly].

"Nothing in the new code prevented a bishop from exercising his discretion to restrict ministry or to assign a priest to a job where he was out of contact with the public," said Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican's attorney in the U.S.

Campbell's is one of several decades-old cases to emerge in recent months raising questions about Ratzinger's decisions and the church law [he couldn't change the law] he was following involving abusive priests as head of the Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog office, a position he took in 1981 [the CDF was not responsible for such cases until 2001; the media still hasn't quite picked up on this necessary bit of information. I don't know why this is so difficult to grasp]. The round of scandals worldwide left the Vatican [Really? Perhaps people within the Vatican did so, but the Vatican itself did not do so] initially blaming the media and groups supporting abortion rights and gay marriage, but recently Benedict has denounced the "sin" that has infected the church.

John Paul's views on laicizations were made known in a 1979 letter to priests, in which he wrote that their ordination was "forever imprinted on our souls" and that "the priesthood cannot be renounced." Ryan, in his letter to Ratzinger, quoted Campbell saying essentially the same thing: "Once a priest, always a priest."

"The whole idea was that the priesthood was so sacred you couldn't kick these guys out," said the Rev. Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer who reviewed the Campbell case and who has advocated for abuse victims. "It wasn't that it wasn't possible - it was possible - but the practice had been not to accept the petition unless the priest accepted."

Campbell's misdeeds date back at least 15 years before his defrocking [his is a sad history].

As an Army chaplain, he was reprimanded and ultimately left the service after abusing at least one boy, according to military and church correspondence. An Army letter in his file said he had exploited his rank and position as a chaplain "by engaging in indecent homosexual acts" with a child under 16 who had been under his supervision.

Even so, Bishop Joseph McNicholas, then at the helm of the Springfield diocese, wrote to him, "Be assured that we will welcome you with open arms here at home." While church officials overseeing clergy in the military were alerted of Campbell's actions, and reference is made to the molestations in Ryan's letter to Ratzinger, it's not clear whether McNicholas knew.

Campbell became a pastor upon his return to the diocese. In at least three instances after returning to diocesan work, he was forced to depart jobs as parish pastor or administrator "for reasons of health," a euphemism for sexual abuse [in these cases] used within the church that Ryan himself put in quotes.

After workers at a rape crisis center alerted authorities that they were treating one of Campbell's victims, police found he had been plying boys with video games, bicycles, watches and other gifts to get them to the waterbed in his second-floor rectory bedroom. Ryan sent Campbell to a New Mexico treatment facility after the arrest.

Campbell was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 1985, after admitting to molesting seven boys during his time as pastor of St. Maurice Parish in Morrisonville, Ill. He was released in 1992 after serving about seven years for sexual assault and sexual abuse.

Ryan apparently waited four years after Campbell went to prison, according to church files, before asking for the priest's defrocking. It's unclear what accounted for the delay.

In his 1989 letter to Ratzinger, Ryan outlined Campbell's many offenses against children and asked for his laicization. He pointed out the local notoriety of the priest's case and said his crimes and those of another abusive priest had already cost the diocese $1.5 million in damages and legal fees.

"I fear the infliction of further pain upon the victims of his criminal activity and their families," Ryan wrote. "I fear that the diocese will suffer further pastorally and in public relations, to say nothing of greater financial damage."

Ratzinger refused [given the circumstances, it wasn't his place to grant], citing Vatican policy, and told the bishop to proceed with a church tribunal [in effect, follow the canons].

It is unclear whether a church trial was ever held for Campbell. After his release from prison, he was cajoled by Ryan and his subordinates into accepting his defrocking. Three years after Ryan's initial letter to Ratzinger, the bishop's request to Rome was granted.

For bishops attempting to remove a child molester without a church trial or the priest's cooperation in the 1980s, requests were rebuffed and sent back to diocesan tribunals where the cases could stagnate for years [that isn't necessarily the fault of the Vatican]. While a full-fledged canonical trial could make sense given such a serious crime, bishops found them virtually inapplicable, in part because the statute of limitations very often had expired well before allegations had even been reported. Bishops' hands, in some cases, were tied.

"In that case, it was tied by the universal law of the church," said Monsignor Kenneth Lasch, a retired priest and canon lawyer who has advocated for abuse victims. "Rome would take the position at that time that unless he was convicted canonically, they wouldn't laicize."

Lena defended the church's handling of cases, but said it has been improved with revisions.

"Is our criminal justice system broken because procedures are complex, or because they are designed to ensure that an innocent person is not wrongly convicted? Any mature criminal justice system - including the canonical system - has two duties: to punish the guilty and, of no less importance, to protect the innocent from mistaken prosecution. Sometimes, in a rush to judgment, people forget about the latter," Lena said.

"And of course, legal systems can always be improved. I think the consensus is that the implementation of SST and the procedures developed in its wake improved the canonical system," he said.

SST is short for "Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela," John Paul's 2001 letter that, among other things, mandated all abuse cases would be overseen by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger's office [why is this noted so late in the article? It really ought to be at the beginning].

Kathie Sass, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Springfield, said no one familiar with the intricacies of the Campbell case was still working in the tribunal and able to talk.

Sass said Ryan, who lives in a nursing home outside the diocese, was unable to respond to questions. He retired in 1999 under a cloud of accusations of sexual relationships with male prostitutes and at least one priest; his successor found that he had engaged in "improper sexual conduct," allegations Ryan denied.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that in Campbell's case "and hundreds like it, Ratzinger chose to put concerns about dangerous pedophiles and the church's reputation above concerns about children's safety."

Others believe the ultimate blame lay with John Paul, whose policies the cardinal was interpreting.

"Ratzinger was just obeying his boss," said Doyle.

John Paul "certainly, I would say, is more culpable than Benedict," said Lasch.

The Vatican previously accepted involuntary laicizations, but turbulence of the 1970s, in which the Catholic Church suffered a huge worldwide loss of priests, helped push John Paul to revise the policy and promulgate the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which emphasized more due process rights for priests and discouraged penal sanctions [why is this being said again? Was the article not long enough?].

"It didn't have any provisions in it for involuntary laicizations," said Msgr. John Alesandro, a canon lawyer and professor at Catholic University. "But I think most canonists believed that whether it was in the Code of Canon Law or not, the pope could do it."

John Paul did not, and as the abuse crisis exploded in the Catholic Church in the United States, bishops grew frustrated.

Alesandro sat on a Vatican-commissioned panel examining the policy, which ultimately was revised under "Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela." In 2003, new revisions gave bishops the right to ask the Vatican to laicize a priest through a speedier administrative procedure [at Cardinal Ratzinger's urging and insistance. Why is this fact left out?], or for the CDF itself to forward a defrocking case directly to the pope if the evidence is overwhelming.

30 May 2010

He'll be here soon

The State Journal-Register's Steven Spearie has an written an article about Bishop Paprocki titled, "Paprocki looking forward to challenges as Springfield bishop."

The text of his article follows, with my emphases and comments:

Walk the streets of South Austin Boulevard in Cicero, especially around the offices of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and you’re likely to see Polish flags hanging next to Mexican flags in the windows of tidy bungalows, near where parents pick up their children from St. Frances of Rome School.

This is the neighborhood the [Most] Rev. Thomas Paprocki has called home since 2003, when he was named an auxiliary bishop. The Poles are the latest arrivals to Cicero — a town more associated with gangster Al Capone — following a wave of Hispanics in the late 1970s and ‘80s.

Paprocki is a native son of Chicago. A civil and canon, or church, lawyer, he speaks five languages, Spanish and Polish among them.

Next month, Paprocki, 57, will be installed as the ninth bishop of Springfield’s Catholic diocese. He says he first visited the capital city as an eighth-grader, digests Abraham Lincoln biographies (a favorite is Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals”), and most recently has been acquainted with Springfield through Catholics at the Capitol.

Paprocki’s region of the Chicago archdiocese covers part of Cook County, with 400,000 Catholics concentrated in 60 parishes. The expansive Springfield diocese encompasses 28 counties from the Missouri to the Indiana border, with a Catholic population of fewer than 150,000.

“Is it going to be challenging in a more rural area? The challenge will be covering more ground, getting to know the lay of the land, contrasted to here,” said Paprocki, in a recent interview in his Cicero office.

The bottom line is that I’ve met people from all walks of life. Human nature is the same everywhere. It doesn’t change all that much.

“I don’t feel like I’m at that much of a disadvantage.”

Astute, affable

Paprocki will have to navigate more than the back roads of central Illinois.

The 2006 Roberts Report, which cited misconduct by some of the top leaders of the Springfield diocese and a “permissive culture” cultivated by then-Bishop Daniel Ryan, is still fresh in many minds.

In addition, many diocesan priests are overextended and, especially in rural areas, must cover multiple parishes.

Paprocki also comes to Springfield at a time when American Catholics are leery of church hierarchy in general [I'm not so sure that's true, at least among Catholics who actively practice their faith]. Polls reflect historically low job-approval numbers in light of continuing sexual abuse revelations in the church [obviously].

Comments Paprocki made in 2007 about large monetary damages to victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by church authorities have been characterized by some as slighting victims, although he clarified those remarks in an op-ed piece in The State Journal-Register earlier this month [so why bring it up? And why not mention again here what he said in his clarification?].

Those inside the church believe Paprocki’s intellect and his passion for social justice — in 1996, he helped co-found a Chicago legal clinic whose clients pay fees on a sliding scale — will win over local Catholics.

“I think Bishop Paprocki will be a powerful voice for Catholic social teaching in the state capital,” said Thomas Peters, who maintains the website AmericanPapist.com.

The Rev. Kevin Vann, a Springfield native and bishop of the Fort Worth, Texas, diocese, says of Paprocki: “He’s astute, he’s affable, and he’s well-respected for his thought and intellect. He’ll bring those gifts and talents, and people will recognize that very quickly.”

Vann said he’s worked with Paprocki on a national level in the area of canon law.

Promotion no surprise

Few were surprised by Paprocki’s ascendancy. The former chancellor for the Chicago archdiocese also had been rumored for a recent opening in the Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., diocese.

But Paprocki may be uniquely suited to be a state capital bishop. As an attorney -- Paprocki earned his degree from the DePaul University College of Law after becoming a priest and is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association – he will have extra cachet around the Capitol and in the circle of attorneys in Springfield.

“I’m not going to Springfield as a lobbyist or with an agenda,” Paprocki maintains. “No one said anything to me about a personal agenda.

“The qualities I have can certainly be helpful to relationships I have (with legislators, many of whom are attorneys.) There’s an instant rapport. It facilitates the conversation.”

Paprocki also has attended Catholics at the Capitol events for the last two springs. The initiative, organized through the Catholic Conference of Illinois, brings Catholics together to press legislators on a number of issues, from funding community organizations and parishes in providing English classes to immigrants to opposing legislation for same-sex marriages.

Paprocki is no stranger to speaking the church’s mind from the pulpit or elsewhere.

In face of the Freedom of Choice Act in 2008, Paprocki said Catholic hospitals would have to close if federal law required them to perform abortions.

When former Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed an emergency regulation requiring Illinois pharmacists to accept and fill prescriptions for contraceptives – the use of which, by Catholics [and the will of God], goes against church teaching – Paprocki, who comes from a family of pharmacists, scolded the governor in front of attendees at a 2005 memorial Mass in Chicago for Pope John Paul II.

“Afterwards, the governor shook my hand and said something to the effect, ‘I understand why you said what you said,’“ recalls Paprocki. “He didn’t engage me in a conversation and, of course, he didn’t rescind the order.”

‘Work of the devil’

After Paprocki’s Springfield appointment in April, some national media outlets picked up on comments he made in Grand Rapids, Mich., at a 2007 “red Mass” for members of the legal profession, in which he maintained that the “free exercise of religion for Catholics” was under attack because of excessive payouts to victims of sexual abuse. He insisted such settlements weren’t punishing the proper authorities, but rather “the average parishioner or donor whose financial contributions support the church.”

At the time, Paprocki added that the principal force behind the attacks against bishops and priests “is none other than the devil.”

In a recent interview, Paprocki says his point wasn’t to blame victims, nor was it to call the filing of such lawsuits “the work of the devil.”

But Paprocki stuck to his position that, if paying claims prevents the church from doing charity work, that would be “an evil thing.”

Track record questioned

David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), says Paprocki’s clarifications are too little, too late.

“He’s stayed silent all these years,” says Clohessy from St. Louis. “Now that he’s been promoted, his harsh comments won’t go away, and he’s ‘misunderstood.’ That’s pretty disingenuous. [It's disingenuous to be misunderstood?]

“If he believes (such attacks) were inspired by the devil, who knows what other bizarre notions he has?"

Clohessy said the Chicago archdiocese has “a long and very disturbing track record” on clergy sex crimes and cover-ups and that Paprocki [I've not seen Clohessy speak well of any record or effort of any Churchman, which would seem to make him a more than biased source], as Cardinal George’s liaison to the Office of Professional Fitness Review, had a duty to speak up over the years.

Paprocki, who became vice-chancellor of the Chicago archdiocese under Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, architect of one of the most comprehensive policies regarding sexual abuse of minors, says he’ll do what he can in Springfield with regard to the issue. But he’s also aware of “how people view leadership in the church right now.”

“Bishops are the successors of the apostles. Look at that first group. These were men with recognizable flaws and even gospel writers addressed that, yet he put them in charge of the church,” says Paprocki.

“We shouldn’t pretend bishops or priests are perfect. I had to smile at a recent newspaper headline I saw: ‘Pope admits church sins.’ Hello? Isn’t that why we’re here?”

Paprocki says he’s aware of the 2006 Roberts Report, which confirmed serious, but not criminal misconduct by eight priests in the Springfield diocese, including a number in high leadership positions. He said he will read the full text.

“I do have to say that (former Springfield) Bishop (George) Lucas did a credible job of addressing what was in that report, and I’m grateful for that,” says Paprocki. “I have the sense that things are in pretty good shape (in the diocese.)”

As for priests covering multiple parishes, some at some distance apart, Paprocki says the ideal set-up is “one pastor, one parish,” though the reality is often something else.
“It’s tough on priests and challenging for people,” allows Paprocki, who hopes to boost vocations in the diocese.

“If the bishop is a good shepherd to us and we learn from that, then we become better shepherds for our people,” says Monsignor Kenneth Steffen of Marine, who knows Paprocki through canon law circles.

Runner, athlete

When Paprocki was officially appointed a bishop in 2003, Pope John Paul II took note of his enthusiasm for marathon running – he’s competed in 16 of them since 1995 – and noted in a letter that Paprocki would “run an even harder race for the people of Chicago.”

“St. Paul made several references to running, ‘to run in such a way as to get the prize,’“ says Paprocki. “My involvement with sports started as a boy. I started running for fitness.”

Chicago White Sox and Chicago Blackhawks posters line the walls outside Paprocki’s office. “The Holy Goalie” has skated at practices with the Blackhawks and the Columbus Blue Jackets and he’s still active in a house league in Chicago.

“I’ve learned a great deal from sports competition,” says Paprocki. “The discipline of being a runner. The great deal of concentration it takes to keep the puck out of the net.

“All translate to life lessons.”

Installation

Attending the installation of the Most Rev. Thomas J. Paprocki as the Springfield Catholic diocese’s ninth bishop? You’ll need a ticket.

The Formal Rite of Reception and Installation at the newly renovated Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception June 22 will include Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George. Celebrations welcoming Paprocki begin June 21 with a 7 p.m. evening prayer, also at the downtown Cathedral and also by ticket only. There he will be welcomed by civic, religious and lay leaders.

About 50 bishops are expected to attend the installation, including Paprocki’s immediate predecesor and Omaha, Neb. archbishop, George Lucas and Ft. Worth, Tex. bishop Kevin Vann, a Springfield native and former pastor at Blessed Sacrament Church.

29 May 2010

Oh, happy day!

From the Catholic Times:

Deacon Stephen A. Thompson and Deacon Paul Kala will be ordained priests for the Springfield diocese on May 29 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield. Cardinal Francis George, OMI, of Chicago will preside at the 10:30 a.m. Mass.

Deacon Kala, 34, a native of Ghana in West Africa, was ordained to the diaconate June 20, 2009, at St. Agnes Church in Springfield, by Archbishop-designate George Lucas.

Deacon Thompson, 39, a Wood River native, was ordained to the diaconate Sept. 26, 2009, at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Alton, by Bishop Victor Balke, a native of the Springfield diocese, who is the retired bishop of Crookston, Minn.

The Springfield see has been vacant since July 2009, when Bishop George J. Lucas was installed Archbishop of Omaha. The diocese’s recently named bishop, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, will be installed June 22 at the cathedral.

Rev. Mr. Paul Kala

Deacon Paul Kala, 34, is a native of Ghana in West Africa. As an infant he was very sick and near death. His mother, a young Muslim woman, was carrying him in her arms when she encountered a missionary priest.

“She asked him to baptize me, and he did,” said Deacon Kala. Several days later he was well. “She had vowed if I got better she would serve God. I firmly believe in God’s divine grace and love and mercy. It is one of the things that has brought me this far.”

Unlike his brothers, John and Francis, Deacon Kala did not begin school until he was 12. The family lived at a retreat center where his mother worked. The director of the center was a priest whose dedication to his vocation inspired Kala.

After high school he went into the sciences, “but quickly realized the Lord had something else he wanted me to do,” said Kala. He entered the seminary, studied for the Society of African Missions (SMA), and moved to Chicago for graduate studies.

“I told my spiritual director at Mundelein I wanted to go to a diocese where they need priests to work. Father John Titus visited me in 2006, and invited me to the Villa at Springfield in December” to visit with the bishop, seminarians home for Christmas and priests of the diocese at their annual gathering.

He interned at St. Mary Parish in Paris under Father David Zimmerman. “Father Zimmerman and the people of St. Mary’s were wonderful to me. It became my home away from home.” He then served an internship at St. Peter in Quincy, and spent the past few months at St. Alexius in Beardstown.

Vesting him at ordination will be Father Christopher Brey, pastor of St. Alexius.

He had hoped his mother, Juliana, and a brother, John, would be able to attend his ordination, but they are unable to attend. He is looking forward to seeing them on a visit to Ghana in June.

Rev. Mr. Stephen A. Thompson

Deacon Thompson is the son of Kenneth and Juanita Thompson of Bethalto. He grew up in St. Bernard (now Holy Angels) Parish, in Wood River, attended PSR classes, and went to public schools. He joined the Marines, fought in Desert Storm and, upon returning home after his military service, enrolled in business classes at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. He worked in the computer industry, eventually writing and setting up computer programs.

He was active at Holy Angels Parish, serving as a lector and in other areas and was also active in the Knights of Columbus. He was enrolled in the diocesan lay ministry program, when the formation program for deacons was established in the diocese, and asked to be enrolled in it. Father John Titus, pastor at St. Charles Borromeo in Charleston, who was vocations director for the diocese at the time, suggested Thompson consider the priesthood.

“I decided to try it, discovered I liked it, and went on to later serve an internship under Father Titus. He is a great mentor,” Deacon Thompson said.

“I had taken business classes at SIU, but the seminary calls for an entirely different way of studying and concentration. They do a very good job in the seminary to prepare you for parish life, and to teach you about things that will arise in your ministry.”

Deacon Thompson received his philosophy degree from Conception Seminary College in Conception, Mo., and his theology degree at Mundelein Seminary.

“I’ve really thought about why it was that God called me, but then I’ve come to realize, it’s not about me. It’s about everyone coming together to give me the support I needed to hear and answer his call.”

Deacon Thompson will be vested by Father Mark Schulte, pastor at St. Aloysius in Springfield, who is a former pastor at St. Bernard.

Please pray for these Deacons today as they are ordained to the priesthood. It will be a glorious day for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.

(And, even after these two are ordained, I will still be the youngest priest of the Diocese, five years later.)

28 May 2010

The fifth anniversary

Five years ago today, the Most Reverend George J. Lucas, now Archbishop of Omaha, through the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the laying on of hands, ordained me to the Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Deo gratias!

26 May 2010

A tasty treat

Last evening I made a batch of meatballs. A Catholic Mom in Hawaii noticed this on Facebook and asked for my recipe.

It comes from Art Gingsing's book, Mr. Food Cooks Pasta and is called "My own Italian meatballs." They are very easy to make and quite tasty.

The ingredients include (for 12 golf ball size meatballs):
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper (I alway use 1 1/2, sometimes a bit more)
  • 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Mix everything together, form the mixture into meatballs and bake them at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

(Last night I wasn't paying attention and grabbed a wedge of Romano cheese. That work well in the meatballs, but not quite as well as Parmesan does.)

The cheese helps to form a bit of a crunchy layer on the outside while the meatballs remain soft on the inside. I've found them to be good in a pasta, on a meatball sandwhich and even as a simply and easy snack throughout the day.

They've always been a hit whenever I've made them; give them a try yourselves.

25 May 2010

Papal homily for Pentecost

The text of the Holy Father's Pentecost homily, with my emphases and comments, follows:

Dear brothers and sisters,

In the solemn celebration of Pentecost we are invited to profess our faith in the presence and in the action of the Holy Spirit and to invoke his outpouring upon us, upon the Church and upon the whole world. Let us make our own, and with special intensity, the Church’s invocation: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus!”

It is such a simple and immediate invocation, but also extraordinarily profound, which came first of all from the heart of Christ. The Spirit, in fact, is the gift that Jesus asked and continually asks of his Father for his friends; the first and principal gift that he obtained for us through his Resurrection and Ascension in to heaven.

Today’s Gospel passage, which has the Last Supper as its context, speaks to us of this prayer of Christ. The Lord Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, follow my commandments; and I will pray to the Father and he will give you another Paraclete who will remain with you forever” (John 14:15-16).

Here the praying heart of Jesus is revealed to us, his filial and fraternal heart. This prayer reaches its apex and its fulfillment on the cross, where Christ’s invocation is one with the total gift that he makes of himself, and thus his prayer becomes, so to speak, the very seal of his self-giving for love of the Father and humanity: Invocation and donation of the Spirit meet, they interpenetrate, they become one reality. “And I will pray to the Father and he will give you another Paraclete who will remain with you forever.” In reality, Jesus’ prayer -- that of the Last Supper and the prayer on the cross -- is a single prayer that continues even in heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father. Jesus, in fact, always lives his priesthood of intercession on behalf of the people of God and humanity and so prays for all of us, asking the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles -- we listened to it in the first reading (Acts 2:1-11) -- presents the “new course” of the work that God began with Christ’s resurrection, a work that involves man, history and the cosmos. The Son of God, dead and risen and returned to the Father, now breathes with untold energy the divine breath upon humanity, the Holy Spirit. And what does this new and powerful self-communication of God produce? Where there are divisions and estrangement he creates unity and understanding. The Spirit triggers a process of reunification of the divided and dispersed parts of the human family; persons, often reduced to individuals in competition or in conflict with each other, reached by the Spirit of Christ, open themselves to the experience of communion, can involve them to such an extent as to make of them a new organism, a new subject: the Church. This is the effect of God’s work: unity; thus unity is the sign of recognition, the “business card” of the Church in the course of her universal history. From the very beginning, from the day of Pentecost, she speaks all languages. The universal Church precedes the particular Churches, and the latter must always conform to the former according to a criterion of unity and universality. The Church never remains a prisoner within political, racial and cultural confines; she cannot be confused with states not with federations of states, because her unity is of a different type and aspires to transcend every human frontier.

From this, dear brothers, there derives a practical criterion of discernment for Christian life: When a person or a community, limits itself to its own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign that it has distanced itself from the Holy Spirit. The path of Christians and of the particular Churches must always confront itself with the path of the one and catholic Church, and harmonize with it. This does not mean that the unity created by the Holy Spirit is a kind of homogenization. On the contrary, that is rather the model of Babel, that is, the imposition of a culture of unity that we could call “technological.” The Bible, in fact, tells us (cf. Genesis 11:1-9) that in Babel everyone spoke the same language. At Pentecost, however, the Apostles speak different languages in such a way that everyone understands the message in his own tongue. The unity of the Spirit is manifested in the plurality of understanding. The Church is one and multiple by her nature, destined as she is to live among all nations, all peoples, and in the most diverse social contexts. She responds to her vocation to be a sign and instrument of unity of the human race (cf. “Lumen Gentium,” 1) only if she remains free from every state and every particular culture. Always and in every place the Church must truly be catholic and universal, the house of all in which each one can find a place.

The account of the Acts of the Apostles offers us another very concrete indication. The universality of the Church is expressed by the list of peoples according to the ancient tradition: “We are Parthians, Medes, Elamites …,” etc. One may note that St. Luke goes beyond the number 12, which always expresses a universality. He looks beyond the horizons of Asia and northwest Africa, and adds three other elements: the “Romans,” that is, the western world; the “Jews and proselytes,” encompass in a new way the unity between Israel and the world; and finally “Cretans and Arabs,” who represent the West and the East, islands and land. This opening of horizons subsequently confirms the newness of Christ in the human space, in the history of the nations: The Holy Spirit involves men and peoples and, through them, it overcomes walls and barriers.

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit manifests himself as fire. His flame descended upon the assembled disciples, it was enkindled in them and gave them the new ardor of God. In this way what Jesus had previously said was realized: “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I long that it already be burning!” (Luke 12:49). The Apostles, together with the faithful of different communities, carried this divine flame to the far corners of the earth; in this way they opened a path for humanity, a luminous path, and they worked with God, who wants to renew the face of the earth with his fire. How different this fire is from that of wars and bombs! How different is the fire of Christ, spread by the Church, compared with those lit by the dictators of every epoch, of last century too, who leave a scorched earth behind them. The fire of God, the fire of the Holy Spirit, is that of the bush that burned without being consumed (cf. Exodus 3:2). It is a flame that burns but does not destroy, that, in burning, brings forth the better and truer part of man, as in a fusion it makes his interior form emerge, his vocation to truth and to love.

A Father of the Church, Origen, in one of his homilies on Jeremiah, reports a saying attributed to Jesus, not contained in the sacred Scriptures but perhaps authentic, which he puts thus: “Whoever is near me, is near the fire” (“Homilies on Jeremiah,” L. I [III]). In Christ, in fact, there is the fullness of God, who in the Bible is compared to fire. We just observed that the flame of the Holy Spirit burns but does not destroy. And nevertheless it causes a transformation, and it must for this reason consume something in man, the waste that corrupts him and hinders his relations with God and neighbor.

This effect of the divine fire, however, frightens us, we are afraid of being “burned,” we prefer to stay just as we are. This is because our life is often formed according to the logic of having, of possessing and not the logic of self-giving. Many people believe in God and admire the person of Jesus Christ, but when they are asked to lose something of themselves, then they retreat, they are afraid of the demands of faith. There is the fear of giving up something nice to which we are attached; the fear that following Christ deprives us of freedom, of certain experiences, of a part of ourselves. On one hand, we want to be with Jesus, follow him closely, and, on the other hand, we are afraid of the consequences that this brings with it.

Dear brothers and sisters, we always need to hear the Lord Jesus tell us what he often repeated to his friends: “Be not afraid.” Like Simon Peter and the others we must allow his presence and his grace to transform our heart, which is always subject to human weakness. We must know how to recognize that losing something, indeed, losing ourselves for the true God, the God of love and of life, is in reality gaining ourselves, finding ourselves more fully. Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus already experiences in this life peace and joy of heart, which the world cannot give, and it cannot even take it away once God has given it to us.

So it is worthwhile to let ourselves be touched by the fire of the Holy Spirit! The suffering that it causes us is necessary for our transformation. It is the reality of the cross: It is not for nothing that in the language of Jesus “fire” is above all a representation of the cross, without which Christianity does not exist.

Thus enlightened and comforted by these words of life, let us lift up our invocation: Come, Holy Spirit! Enkindle in us the fire of your love! We know that this is a bold prayer, with which we ask to be touched by the flame of God; but we know above all that this flame -- and only it -- has the power to save us. We do not want, in defending our life, to lose the eternal life that God wants to give us. We need the fire of the Holy Spirit, because only Love redeems. Amen.
The translation comes from Zenit.

Good news and bad news

The bad news is that vandals struck Saint Rose of Lima church in Maywood, California.

The good news is that the police are calling it a "hate crime." I was beginning to wonder if a hate crime could be committed against Christians.

The Holy Goalie at the game

The American Papist spotted Bishop-Designate Paprocki at the Stanley Cup game.

Good news in lawsuit against Holy See

John Allen... His text follows, with my emphases and comments:

In a strongly worded brief for the United States Supreme Court, the Obama administration has sided with the Vatican in an Oregon lawsuit that names the Holy See as a defendant for its role in the sexual abuse crisis [this is good news, and common sense].

In effect, the brief asserts that the standards for an exception to the immunity that foreign governments enjoy under American law have not been met in the Oregon case.

Filed on Friday, the brief stops short of recommending that the Supreme Court directly take up the case of Doe v. Holy See, originally filed in federal district court in Oregon in 2002. Instead, it suggests that the Supreme Court set aside the 2009 ruling of an appeals court that allowed the case to go forward, sending it back for further consideration.

Experts say this is the first time the United States government has officially expressed an opinion about efforts to sue the Vatican in American courts [but how often has this happened before?], as opposed to the pope personally. In 2005, the U.S. State Department recommended dismissing Pope Benedict XVI from a Texas lawsuit over the sexual abuse crisis, on the basis of a separate personal guarantee of immunity enjoyed by heads of state. The judge in that case complied.

Friday’s brief was filed by the Acting Solicitor General of the United States, the top deputy to Supreme Court nominee Elana Kagan, as well as by officials from the Attorney General’s office and the State Department.

The brief asserts that the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit made a mistake in ruling that a district court in Oregon has jurisdiction over the claim that the Vatican is liable for sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests.

Though the legal fine points are complicated, the Obama administration’s brief makes a distinction between two questions:

• The jurisdictional standards for suing a foreign government under the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act;
• The liability standards for holding an employer responsible for damages caused by an employee under Oregon law.

Essentially, the brief argues that before a court can even consider the second question, it has to resolve the first – and that in the case of the suit against the Vatican, the standards for overcoming sovereign immunity have not been met.

The brief does not address the substantive question of whether Catholic priests are actually Vatican “employees” for purposes of American civil law [As I've said before, if priests are not "employees" of their Bishops or Dioceses for purposes of American civic law, Bishops cannot be "employees" of the Vatican].

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act recognizes the general immunity of foreign governments to being sued in American courts, but also lays out nine exceptions, including the “tort exception” invoked in the Oregon case. It holds that a government can be sued for harms caused by its employees and agents in the course of performing duties within the scope of their employment.

In the Doe v. Holy See case, a district court found that sexual abuse of a minor is clearly outside the scope of employment of a Catholic priest, meaning the things a priest is supposed to do on behalf of the church. Nevertheless, Oregon law also recognizes liability if the acts that led up to a harm being caused do fall within the scope of employment. Under that principle, church officials could be held liable if a priest’s normal pastoral activity created the conditions in which he was able to commit an act of sexual abuse.

On that basis, both the district court and the appeals court ruled that the lawsuit against the Vatican could proceed.

The Solicitor General’s brief, however, asserts that the courts are mistaken. The broader liability standard under Oregon law, the brief says, only applies if the court has jurisdiction in the first place – and, according to the brief, the tort exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act requires that the wrongdoing fall within the scope of employment.

“A court may not use a state liability rule to expand the grounds on which the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act permits the court to exercise jurisdiction over a foreign sovereign,” the brief says.

The brief asks the Supreme Court to make clear that an exception to the normal presumption of immunity applies “only if the tort itself was committed by the employee while acting within the scope of his office or employment.”

In general, the brief argues that exceptions to sovereign immunity ought to be narrowly construed, not expanded beyond the limits intended by Congress.

“Improperly subjecting a foreign state to suit can in some circumstances raise foreign relations and reciprocity concerns,” the brief asserts [this isn't so much a concern, I expect, with the Holy See per se, but with the precendent it would set toward other nations].

Observers say that Lena [the lawyer for the Holy See] may file a response to the Solicitor General’s brief, arguing that its legal analysis supports stronger action from the Supreme Court than simply sending the case back to the appeals court for reconsideration. Lena could ask that the Supreme Court dismiss the case entirely.

If the case survives that challenge, the next step may be for the district court in Oregon to consider requests from plaintiff’s lawyers to depose top Vatican officials and to request access to Vatican records. Observers say that the district court judge in Oregon has seemed more inclined to support broad requests for depositions of Vatican officials than the judge in the O’Bryan v. Holy See case in Kentucky, another instance of the Vatican being sued for its role in the sexual abuse crisis.
I haven't seen this story yet in the mainstream media, but I may have just missed it.

21 May 2010

It's a strange world

They say that when you get a pet you often get one very much like yourself, whether intentionally or not. This is proving to be the case with Claire, my twelve-week (or so) lab and rottweiler mix puppy, in more ways than one.


I am not what one might call an "excitable" person. Even when I am internally bursting with excitement, externally the only really visible sign of this excitement is that I start speaking more quickly than I normally do. Either that or mouth lifts a bit to form a subtle smile. Sometimes, though rarely, both happen.

When the Pope arrived in Sydney for the World Youth Day, I was very happy and extremely excited, though if a stranger looked at me he would likely not have noticed.

When the soccer team scored a goal, I was happy, though, again, a stranger might not have known, unless he saw me applaud.

Claire, too, is generally calm and quiet. Except on days before a storm system moves in.

Whereas my arthritis acts up considerably two days - generally - before a weather pattern arrives, Claire becomes exceedingly hyper the day before a system moves in.

Together, we make a pretty good forecasting team. If what I at first feel remains dubious, I can simply ask Claire in the morning what she feels and she can either verify or correct my initial thought. Though tiring, it is handy.

I can also be rather stubborn. Claire, too, is stubborn, though she has by far outdone me on that one. Hopefully we can work on that together.

More on Knightly discipline, or the lack thereof

Thomas Peters comments rightly on the Knights of Columbus' refusal to remove it's members who publicly advocate abortion and gay marriage, saying:

Marella’s argument confuses the Knights of Columbus with the Church. Being expelled from the Knights of Columbus, after all, is simply not the same as being excommunicated from the Church or being barred from receiving Communion by the local bishop. The Knights are a private, lay organization which operates by its own rules. In fact, membership in the Knights, in some ways, is more demanding than membership in the Church (when viewed in secular terms – Knights owe dues, for instance), so it is reasonable to claim that one can lose membership in the Knights without endangering the prerogative of the bishops [more].

A 3-step process?

On this dreary I am trying to catch up a bit of reading. Since moving to Virden several journals were set aside as I sought to settle in, among them, regretfully, First Things.

In the October 2009 issue, Douglas Farrow makes an interesting observation about the course of Pope Benedict XVI's three encyclical letters, suggesting:
Think of Benedict's work as a three-step process. In his first encyclical, he said the Church is the community of love that mirrors God's own being. In his second, he noted the hope of salvation that the Church announces to the world. Now, in his third encyclical, Benedict announces that, what the Church is, human society is to become. He takes the catholicity of the Church as a sign of promise for the wholeness of humanity, and he offers, along with his encouragement, an admonishment and a warning: This way forward, not that.
If Farrow is correct - and I suspect he may well be - the Holy Father offers an intriguing vision for the future, one not far from the thought of the Church Fathers.

19 May 2010

An unfortunate decision

Catholic World News reports that the "Knights of Columbus refuse to allow suspension of members who promote abortion, gay marriage."

The text of the article follows, with my emphases and comments:

The leadership of the Knights of Columbus (K of C) has forbidden local councils to take any action against members of the Catholic fraternal organization who support legalized abortion or same-sex marriage.

A Massachusetts K of C member had proposed a resolution, to be taken up by the group's state convention, calling for the suspension of membership of any politician who gave public support to abortion and same-sex marriage. That resolution was declared inappropriate by the Supreme Advocate of the K of C, John Marrella.

In a letter to the Massachusetts K of C leadership, Marrella declared that "a subordinate council may not impose fraternal discipline with respect to a public figure's official actions on matters pertaining to faith and morals. Rather, any such discipline must be made by or at the direction of the Supreme Board of Directors." [I suppose this makes sense...maybe.]

"We recognize that some of our members who are public figures may use their public position to advocate or support policy positions that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church on matters of faith and morals," Marrella conceded in his letter. He went on to admit that such public advocacy "contradicts the Catholic identity and mission of the Order." [If it contradicts the identity and mission of the Order, then why shouldn't such members be removed, either locally or nationally?]

Nevertheless, the top legal official of the K of C said that any action taken against K of C members who are public figures would "necessarily affect the entire Order." For that reason, he said, any disciplinary action should be taken by the group's top leadership.

Marrella went on to say that the K of C would not go further than the American bishops in taking public action against members whose public stands conflict with Church moral teachings. "If the public figure's bishop has not excommunicated him for his public positions on issues relating to matters of faith and morals, it would be highly inappropriate for the Knights of Columbus to do so," he wrote. [Does that mean if an official's bishop has declared him excommunicate the Order will remove his membership? Perhaps the casting out of such members from the Knights of Columbus were spur the bishops to a more unified action.]

The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, which had supported the proposed resolution at the state convention, decried the intervention by the top K of C office as an "abdication of responsibility." C.J. Doyle, the executive director of the Catholic Action League, said: "This letter effectively kills any grassroots initiative within the Knights to address the scandal of pro-abortion pols in the Order."

The Catholic Action League charged that the K of C's refusal to take action against pro-abortion members would allow the continuation of a public scandal [I agree]. "In the 37 years since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Board of Directors has never, to public knowledge, removed a single pro-abortion political figure from the Knights of Columbus," Doyle noted. "In Massachusetts, a majority of Knights serving in the Legislature voted in 2007 against a constitutional amendment restoring traditional marriage, and voted in 2005 for a law which compels Catholic hospitals to distribute the so-called morning-after pill to rape victims."

Benefits of the non-worker

Said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi recently:

If you want to be creative, and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work, focus on your talent, your skill, your passion, your aspirations, because you will have healthcare. You don't have to be job locked.
Seems to me a most unwise model and way of thinking.

I am very much in favor of promoting the arts and of fostering the return to truly noble music, poetry, painting, statuary, etc., but I am also in favor of people working for a living.

Many of the great works of art were made by truly skillful artists who found patrons - both ecclesial and secular - to commission them. These patrons provided for the cost of the materials, the labor and the needs of the artist (food, housing, etc.). This seems to me a better model than simply handing things out to people.

It was the Apostle himself who said to Timothy, "And whoever does not provide for relatives and especially family members has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (I Timothy 5:8). Saint Paul also wrote to the Church at Thessalonika, "In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat" (II Thessalonians 3:10).

Capello tip to the Creative Minority Report:

Why get your facts in order before writing an article?

This morning Nicole Winfield wrote another piece for the Associated Press questioning whether Bishops are employees of the Holy See. Her article, "Pope-bishop relationship key in sex abuse defense," follows, with my emphases and comments:

VATICAN CITY — The pope appoints bishops, issues rules bishops are supposed to follow and accepts their resignations. Bishops take a vow of obedience to the pontiff and can't switch jobs without his approval.

But is the pope their boss? Are bishops Vatican employees or officials [as we saw yesterday (here and here), they are not employees of the Vatican. And additional reason is this: under canon law each bishop has whatever authority he needs to govern his Diocese. From the stand point of ecclesiology, in each Diocese the entire Church is present locally when the clergy and laity gather around their bishop]?

Those questions are very much at the heart of lawsuits in the United States seeking to hold the Holy See liable for the failure of bishops to stop priests from raping and molesting children. The Vatican filed a motion to dismiss one such suit in Kentucky on Monday, arguing in part that bishops aren't Vatican employees and that Rome therefore can't be held liable for their actions [which is a true argument even from the point of US federal law].

The motion also charges that the statute of limitations had expired on the plaintiffs' claims and that the lawsuit should be thrown out as a result [when you're already ignoring one federal law and international law, why not ignore another?]. It notes that there was no law in Kentucky requiring bishops to report pedophile priests to police at the time the abuse occurred [a weak argument, to be sure, but it is the reality. When you're arguing from the law, the law as it is - or was - must be used and upheld].

The case is significant because it represents the farthest any case has gotten in a U.S. court trying to place blame for the clerical abuse scandal on Rome, not just the priests who abused children and the bishops who failed to turn them into police [still, I ask where is the blame on the psychologists who said repeatedly that abuser priests were fit and safe for ministry? Where is the blame on law enforcement officials who did not press charges against abuser priests? Why is the blame being laid solely on Church officials when others also are at fault?].

The lawyer for the victims in Kentucky, William McMurry, says he doesn't have to prove bishops are employees of the Vatican to hold them liable but merely demonstrate they are Vatican "officials."

"Anybody walking around knows that a bishop is an official of the Holy See," McMurry said [that's actually not quite accurate. If such were the case, when a bishop said this or not one could logically conclude it was also the thinking of the Holy See. We've seen many instances in recent years where this is simply not the case].

McMurry filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2004 on behalf of three men who said they were abused by priests as children [I wonder, was abuse ever proven?]. They allege the Vatican orchestrated a decades-long cover up of priests sexually abusing children throughout the U.S.

McMurry is seeking class-action status, saying there are thousands of victims nationally [But he only represents three. If his argument is sound, where are the others?]. The lawyer, who represented 243 sex abuse victims who settled with the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2003 for $25.3 million, is seeking unspecified damages from the Vatican.

Usually foreign countries are immune from civil actions in U.S. courts, but there are exceptions to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act which courts have said were applicable in this case [Clearly, this is not quite settled, or else there would be no point to this present case (see the next paragraph)].

The statute says that plaintiffs can establish subject matter jurisdiction over a foreign sovereign, if a crime was committed in the United States by any official or employee of the foreign state and that the crimes were committed within the scope of employment.

Nicholas Cafardi, a canon lawyer and former dean at the Duquesne University School of Law who consulted with the Vatican on the upcoming filing, said bishops were neither employees nor officials of the Holy See.

Being an official, he said, means you act on behalf of an organization. "American bishops do not act on behalf of the Holy See." Bishops are even less employees of the pope, since employment requires some level of day-to-day control that doesn't exist [Precisely].

"That's a complete rewriting of Catholic theology," he said. "Under Catholic theology a bishop is just as much a member of the college of bishops, is just as much a successor of the apostles as is the Bishop of Rome" — the pope.

But Marci Hamilton, a law professor who is co-counsel for the plaintiffs in two other sex abuse cases that have targeted the Holy See, said the Vatican very much exercised the day-to-day control necessary to prove bishops were Vatican employees when it came to clerical sex abuse.

Rome directed how bishops were to handle such cases and bishops couldn't take action to laicize an abuser without Rome's consent, she said. Nowhere did the Vatican tell bishops to report abuse to police or provide for protection for children, she said [And nowhere did the Vatican tell bishops not to report abuse to police or provide for protection for children. I thought lawyers were trained in logic.].

"He's an employee for the purposes of child sex abuse because he's under day-to-day control, which is the benchmark on this issue, and is never allowed to act independently on that issue," she said [nonsense].

Hamilton cited recently revealed documentation in the case of a Milwaukee priest, the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, who allegedly abused up to 200 deaf boys from 1950 to 1974. The files are the basis for the latest lawsuit targeting the Holy See [the basis of which is false as has been repeatedly shown on these pages using the documention on the New York Time's web site which it used to write a very inaccurate and blatantly false story].

Correspondence between the diocese and Rome shows how the bishop tried to bring a canonical trial against Murphy, wrote letters to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [30 years after civil authorities pressed no charges, and to the man who was not responsible for such cases at the time], now the pope, seeking guidance on how to proceed but was eventually told to stop the trial [he was not told to stop and the trial never began because the priest died] by Ratzinger's deputy after Murphy said he was old and ill and just wanted to die a priest.

The bishop, she said, "was literally an agent or an employee of their (Rome's) decision making" [What rubbish! The letters back to the Archbishop offer suggestions, not directions. Clearly, Ms. Winfield has again not done her homework].

The Vatican argued in its motion that bishops in no way satisfied any of the 14 points of a common law employment test which courts can use to determine whether employers are liable for the actions of their employees [read that again: bishops do not fit any one of fourteen points under which employees fall]: The Vatican doesn't pay the bishops salary or benefits, bishops don't work on its behalf or on property owned or operated by it, it said.

Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican's attorney, urged the court to use common law employment factors — not Kentucky state law. Hamilton said that was problematic since the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act incorporates relevant state law.

The motion also suggested that the court avoid using the religious nature of the relationship between bishops and the pope as a basis for civil liability because it entangles the court in an analysis of religious doctrine that U.S. courts generally avoid [Well, if you're willing to ignore current law, why not ignore a key point of the Constitution, as well?].

Edward Peters, the Vatican's expert witness and a canon lawyer at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, said in a declaration that debates over the relationship between bishops and the pope had led to disputes as profound as to result in the Great Schism of 1054.

"Explaining the relationship between the pope and the bishops is extraordinarily complicated for even the best theologians, canonists, and historians," he said. "To my knowledge, no civil or canonical court has ever previously attempted to resolve this issue."

McMurry, the plaintiffs defendant, stressed in his lawsuit the actual actions the Holy See takes on the ground: The Vatican creates, divides and realigns archdioceses; creates, appoints and assigns bishops; and promulgates laws and regulations for bishops to follow [And? Bishops do some of the same on a smaller scale but that does not make me an employee of the bishop or even his official].

McMurry repeated those criteria in a 2008 petition to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, urging it to modify its decision to say bishops were Holy See "officials" as well as "employees" as the district court had held. In parts of the decision, the appeals court refers only to "employees."

The court denied his petition. But McMurry claims the issue before the district court remains whether bishops are officials. Lena didn't address the matter at length in his filing, noting that under the Holy See's own law a diocesan bishop is not an "official" and that the issue in U.S. courts is governed by the law of the sovereign.

18 May 2010

From his own pen

Father John Malloy, SDB has posted a few rather frightening quotations from President Obama's books.

Rosary for the Bishop

I recently learned a new web site to encourage and foster prayers for Bishops: Rosary for the Bishop.

The site seems a great idea and through it you can schedule when to pray the rosary each month for your Bishop. You can even have the site send you a reminder. Go sign up!

A stupid headline

The State Journal-Register carries an Associated Press article titled, "Bears in Illinois? Sighting means its possible."

Maybe my logic is flawed, but if a bear is seen in Illinois would that not mean that there are bears in Illinois, or at least one?

And we're supposed to trust the AP with real news.

Sex abuse FAQ

The Office of Media Relations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has put together an FAQ titled "Questions and Answers Regarding the Canonical Process for the Resolution of Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests and Deacons."

Employee or contractor?

One of the happy benefits of this blog is that it brings me in contact with people who often have a different view or take than I do. One of my regular readers and I do not always see eye to eye, but we generally are able to have a good discussion nonetheless and for this I am grateful.

Reader Steve raised an excellent question in the com box of my post on a recent AP article when he asked, "Father, if bishops are not employed by the Vatican, how is it that the Vatican ... has the right to appoint a bishop, remove a bishop or limit his authority ... or accept his resignation?"

In such cases we have to go with federal (and perhaps state) law. By analogy, we can use the example of the relationship of priests to their bishops.

Under federal tax law (as it has been explained to me), priests are neither employees of the Diocese nor of the Bishop but are, rather, "independent contractors." Such is the case even though the Bishop appoints a priest to a parish and can remove him at will and even though - in this Diocese, at least - I cannot spend more $5,000 of parish funds on a single expenditure without permission of the Bishop. A pastor takes an oath of office and reports to his Bishop, but he still is not an employee of the Bishop under federal law. I cannot be away from my parish for more than a week without informing my Bishop and if I am away from my parish for more than a month I must seek his permission. All this proves McMurry's argumentation false; using his arguments, a Bishop would not be an employee of the Pope or of the Vatican under federal law.

17 May 2010

The AP's at it again

Nicole Winfield, who routinely gets things Catholic not quite right, has written a piece for the Associated Press titled "Vatican details US sex abuse defense."

Quite naturally and expectedly, the headline is misleading. The text of the article follows, with my emphases and comments:

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican on Monday [this is part of why the headline is misleading; it hasn't happened yet] will make its most detailed defense yet against claims that it is liable for U.S. bishops who allowed priests to molest children, saying bishops are not its employees and that a 1962 Vatican document did not require them to keep quiet, The Associated Press has learned [had the AP not been hiding under a rock, listening to what knowledgeable and credible people have been saying for years, or actually read Church documents, it would have already known this].

The Vatican will make the arguments in a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds filed in Louisville, Ky., but it could affect other efforts to sue the Holy See.

The Vatican's U.S. attorney, Jeffrey Lena, said it will include a response to claims that the 1962 document "Crimen Sollicitationis" [which is available in English on the Vatican web site]— Latin for "crimes of solicitation" — barred bishops from reporting abuse to police.

Lena said Sunday there is no evidence the document was even known to the archdiocese in question — much less used — and that regardless it didn't mandate that bishops not report abusive priests.

Lena said the confidentiality imposed by Crimen did not trump civil law and was applied only in formal canonical processes, which bishops had the discretion to suspend if there was a conflict with reporting laws [you'll find the evidence that what Lena says is true in paragraph 33].

"It is important that people — particularly people who have suffered abuse — know that, contrary to what some plaintiffs' lawyers have consistently told the media, the canon law did not bar reporting of these crimes to the civil authorities," Lena told the AP [it is also important that news agencies do their homework and investigate the claims of lawyers before publishing erroneous material time and again].

The document describes how church authorities should deal procedurally with cases of abuse of children by priests [no, it doesn't. It describes the procedures for dealing with a priest "has attempted to solicit or provoke a penitent, whosoever he or she may be, to immoral or indecent acts, whether by words, signs, nods, touch or a written message, to be read either at that time or afterwards, or he has impudently presumed to have improper and indecent conversations or interactions with that person" (1). This may include children, but it may well also include adults. Perhaps Ms. Winfield should read the document; one will note that she strangely provides no quotations from the document in her article. I found the english translation with a simple Google search], cases where sex is solicited in the confessional — a particularly heinous crime under canon law — and cases of homosexuality and bestiality.

The attorney behind the Kentucky case, William McMurry, said in a recent e-mail that the document is "a smoking gun."

"It's evidence of a 'written' policy that demands no mention be made by a bishop of priest sex abuse," he said [the confidentiality note pertains especially to witnesses who know both the accused and accuser; the confidentiality is demanded while trying to determine the credibility of an accusation]. "Since our case, and no other, is about holding the Vatican accountable for the bishops' failure to report to civil authorities, any policy that gags the bishop is relevant and material."

The Holy See is trying to fend off the first U.S. case to reach the stage of determining whether victims actually have a claim against the Vatican itself for negligence for the failure of bishops to alert police or the public about Roman Catholic priests who molested children.

The case was filed in 2004 by three men who claim they were abused by priests decades ago and claim negligence by the Vatican. McMurry is seeking class-action status for the case, saying there are thousands of victims across the country [yet he now only represents three of them?]. McMurry also represented 243 sex abuse victims who settled with the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2003 for $25.3 million.

The Vatican is seeking to dismiss the suit before Pope Benedict XVI can be questioned or documents subpoenaed [Note that Ms. Winfield doesn't bother to mention that the Pope - as a Head of State - has diplomatic immunity under international law. This, really, is the heart of this case. Those who want this case to move forward have no qualms about ignoring international law].

Its motion is being closely watched as the clerical abuse scandal swirls around the Holy See, since the court's eventual decision could have implications for a lawsuit naming top Vatican officials that was recently filed in Wisconsin and another one in Oregon is pending before the Supreme Court.

The Vatican is expected to assert that bishops aren't its employees because they aren't paid by Rome, don't act on Rome's behalf and aren't controlled day-to-day by the pope — factors courts use to determine whether employers are liable for the actions of their employees, Lena told the AP [all of which is true which would mean that the bishops are not, in fact, employees of the Vatican].

He said he would suggest to the court that it should avoid using the religious nature of the relationship between bishops and the pope as a basis for civil liability because it entangles the court in an analysis of religious doctrine that dates back to the apostles [which really isn't the place of the Supreme Court. Remember that separation of Church and State clause? That may soon be violated in a way heretofore unimaginable].

"He (McMurry) wishes to invoke religious authority to construct a civil employment relationship, and our view is that it's an inappropriate invitation to the court to consider religious doctrine," Lena said. "Courts tend to avoid constructing civil relationships out of religious materials."

McMurry has alleged that the Vatican had clear and direct control over bishops, mandated a policy of secrecy [both claims are quite incorrect], and is therefore liable for the bishops' failure to report abuse. He is seeking unspecified damages [wouldn't the psychologists who told the bishops certain priests were "cured" and could safely be placed back in ministry more liable? Why is there no lawsuit against them?].

McMurry has said that based on district and appellate court rulings, he doesn't need to prove bishops were employees of the Vatican but merely "officials." He noted that they take an oath of office. The pope appoints, disciplines and removes bishops.

If a bishop wants to spend more than $5 million he must ask permission from Rome, and if he wants to take a three-month sabbatical, he needs the Holy See's OK, said McMurry's main expert witness, the Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, a canon lawyer who worked at the Vatican's U.S. nunziature [that would be nunciature].

"For the defense to claim that what's necessary is to show day-to-day monitoring is unrealistic," Doyle said. "That is not a viable argument to show the Vatican has direct control over the bishops."

The AP in March reported on an outline of the Holy See's strategy in Kentucky that was contained in a litigation plan filed with the court. On Monday, the Holy See is expected to flesh out that outline by filing a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the court doesn't have jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which protects sovereign states from being sued in U.S. courts except under certain circumstances. [Again, let's just toss aside international law.]

Lena provided some details of the Vatican's approach to the AP ahead of the court filing. The motion also seeks to dismiss the case on the grounds that plaintiffs haven't stated a claim and attacks the factual basis for jurisdiction, including whether the 1962 document ever appeared in the diocese.

Lena has said even Doyle has rejected theories that the document was proof of a Vatican-mandated policy of cover-up. Doyle has said it was evidence of a culture of secrecy that the Catholic Church has perpetuated for centuries.

The Holy See has in previous court filings noted Doyle's own writings and depositions in U.S. court cases against archdioceses, including in Louisville, where Doyle said he hadn't found "any written evidence that the procedures outlined in Crimen were used in a prosecution in the archdiocese of Louisville."

On Sunday, Doyle said his words had been misconstrued.

"He's clearly misunderstood, misconstrued or twisted the things I've said and radically changed their meaning," Doyle said. "I made that statement as an expert witness to indicate the intended negligence on the part of the bishops, not the lack of existence of the law."

He said bishops around the country were all informed about Crimen, and the fact that it remained confidential didn't mean they didn't know about it. He noted that several bishops have said in depositions that they knew of Crimen's existence or had been taught it in seminary [but did the bishops of the priests who allegedly abused Lena's plaintaffs?].

"The fact that the document was not publicly known is not any way evidence that it was not a viable piece of ecclesial legislation, because it was," he said.

14 May 2010

The forgotten Apostle

Whenever I ask people who the Eleven chose to replace Judas so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: "His office let another take" (Psalm 109:8). I do not think my question has yet been answered, a most unfortunate sign of a lack of knowledge of the College of the Apostles and of the Scriptures.

They chose Matthias - whose feast we celebrate today - because, as Peter said, "it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with with us a witness to his resurrection" (Acts 1:21-22).

The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI devoted one of his Wednesday general audience addresses to the figures of Judas and Matthias. He said this of Matthias:

In conclusion, we want to remember he who, after Easter, was elected in place of the betrayer. In the Church of Jerusalem two were proposed to the community, and then lots were cast for their names: "Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias" (Acts 1: 23).

Precisely the latter was chosen, hence, "he was enrolled with the eleven apostles" (Acts 1: 26). We know nothing else about him, if not that he had been a witness to all Jesus' earthly events (cf. Acts 1: 21-22), remaining faithful to him to the end. To the greatness of his fidelity was later added the divine call to take the place of Judas, almost compensating for his betrayal.

We draw from this a final lesson: while there is no lack of unworthy and traitorous Christians in the Church, it is up to each of us to counterbalance the evil done by them with our clear witness to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

A most edifying meeting

Over the past two months I have had the pleasure of meeting with several of the area Protestant ministers in Virden and Girard to work together to strengthen the pro-life movement in our area and to be of support to mothers in crisis pregnancies and to women who had abortions. This will be our primary concern.

We want to work together and to coordinate our efforts to have the greatest witness possible to the value, dignity and worth of every human life, from the moment of conception to natural death.

I am very excited about the direction in which this group is headed and can already foresee many blessings coming through our coorperation. I was particularly edified by our meeting this afternoon.

We agreed today to work toward having a time of prayer on the first Tuesday of each month for Christians to gather to pray for a greater respect for life. These services will alternate between Girard and Virden and will also be held at differing churches. Through these services we hope to pray for a wide range of concerns, both local and national.

We also hope to provide one another with a list of resources each of our churches provides so that we can be aware of all options and helps available in our communities. Looking at all of our services together will help us to see if we are offering all that we can and need to offer.

Might I ask you to keep these endeavors in your prayer? Please pray that by our common witness the Spirit might convert the hearts and minds of many.

13 May 2010

Caption contest

Caption away:

Photo source: Reuters/Jose Manuel Ribeiro

Pope: I have come to entrust priests to Mary's maternal protection

Today the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at the esplanade of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

The text of his homily follows, with my emphases:

Dear Pilgrims,

“Their descendants shall be renowned among the nations […], they are a people whom the Lord has blessed” (Is 61:9). So the first reading of this Eucharist began, and its words are wonderfully fulfilled in this assembly devoutly gathered at the feet of Our Lady of Fatima. Dearly beloved brothers and sisters, I too have come as a pilgrim to Fatima, to this “home” from which Mary chose to speak to us in modern times. I have come to Fatima to rejoice in Mary’s presence and maternal protection. I have come to Fatima, because today the pilgrim Church, willed by her Son as the instrument of evangelization and the sacrament of salvation, converges upon this place. I have come to Fatima to pray, in union with Mary and so many pilgrims, for our human family, afflicted as it is by various ills and sufferings. Finally, I have come to Fatima with the same sentiments as those of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta, and the Servant of God Lúcia, in order to entrust to Our Lady the intimate confession that “I love” Jesus, that the Church and priests “love” him and desire to keep their gaze fixed upon him as this Year for Priests comes to its end, and in order to entrust to Mary’s maternal protection priests, consecrated men and women, missionaries and all those who by their good works make the House of God a place of welcome and charitable outreach.

These are the “people whom the Lord has blessed”. The people whom the Lord has blessed are you, the beloved Diocese of Leiria-Fatima, with your pastor, Bishop Antonio Marto. I thank him for his words of greeting at the beginning of Mass, and for the gracious hospitality shown particularly by his collaborators at this Shrine. I greet the President of the Republic and the other authorities who serve this glorious Nation. I spiritually embrace all the Dioceses of Portugal, represented here by their Bishops, and I entrust to Heaven all the nations and peoples of the earth. In God I embrace all their sons and daughters, particularly the afflicted or outcast, with the desire of bringing them that great hope which burns in my own heart, and which here, in Fatima, can be palpably felt. May our great hope sink roots in the lives of each of you, dear pilgrims, and of all those who join us through the communications media.

Yes! The Lord, our great hope, is with us. In his merciful love, he offers a future to his people: a future of communion with himself. After experiencing the mercy and consolation of God who did not forsake them along their wearisome return from the Babylonian Exile, the people of God cried out: “I greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being exults in my God” (Is 61:10). The resplendent daughter of this people is the Virgin Mary of Nazareth who, clothed with grace and sweetly marvelling at God’s presence in her womb, made this joy and hope her own in the canticle of the Magnificat: “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”. She did not view herself as a fortunate individual in the midst of a barren people, but prophecied for them the sweet joys of a wondrous maternity of God, for “his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Lk 1:47, 50).
This holy place is the proof of it. In seven years you will return here to celebrate the centenary of the first visit made by the Lady “come from heaven”, the Teacher who introduced the little seers to a deep knowledge of the Love of the Blessed Trinity and led them to savour God himself as the most beautiful reality of human existence. This experience of grace made them fall in love with God in Jesus, so much so that Jacinta could cry out: “How much I delight in telling Jesus that I love him! When I tell him this often, I feel as if I have a fire in my breast, yet it does not burn me”. And Francisco could say: “What I liked most of all was seeing Our Lord in that light which Our Mother put into our hearts. I love God so much!” (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 42 and 126).

Brothers and sisters, in listening to these innocent and profound mystical confidences of the shepherd children, one might look at them with a touch of envy for what they were able to see, or with the disappointed resignation of someone who was not so fortunate, yet still demands to see. To such persons, the Pope says, as does Jesus: “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mk 12:24). The Scriptures invite us to believe: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29), but God, who is more deeply present to me than I am to myself (cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, III, 6, 11) – has the power to come to us, particularly through our inner senses, so that the soul can receive the gentle touch of a reality which is beyond the senses and which enables us to reach what is not accessible or visible to the senses. For this to happen, we must cultivate an interior watchfulness of the heart which, for most of the time, we do not possess on account of the powerful pressure exerted by outside realities and the images and concerns which fill our soul (cf. Theological Commentary on The Message of Fatima, 2000). Yes! God can come to us, and show himself to the eyes of our heart.

Moreover, that Light deep within the shepherd children, which comes from the future of God, is the same Light which was manifested in the fullness of time and came for us all: the Son of God made man. He has the power to inflame the coldest and saddest of hearts, as we see in the case of the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:32). Henceforth our hope has a real foundation, it is based on an event which belongs to history and at the same time transcends history: Jesus of Nazareth. The enthusiasm roused by his wisdom and his saving power among the people of that time was such that a woman in the midst of the crowd – as we heard in the Gospel – cried out: “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that nursed you!”. And Jesus said: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” (Lk 11:27-28). But who finds time to hear God’s word and to let themselves be attracted by his love? Who keeps watch, in the night of doubt and uncertainty, with a heart vigilant in prayer? Who awaits the dawn of the new day, fanning the flame of faith? Faith in God opens before us the horizon of a sure hope, one which does not disappoint; it indicates a solid foundation on which to base one’s life without fear; it demands a faith-filled surrender into the hands of the Love which sustains the world.

“Their descendants shall be known among the nations, […] they are a people whom the Lord has blessed” (Is 61:9) with an unshakable hope which bears fruit in a love which sacrifices for others, yet does not sacrifice others. Rather, as we heard in the second reading, this love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7). An example and encouragement is to be found in the shepherd children, who offered their whole lives to God and shared them fully with others for love of God. Our Lady helped them to open their hearts to universal love. Blessed Jacinta, in particular, proved tireless in sharing with the needy and in making sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. Only with this fraternal and generous love will we succeed in building the civilization of love and peace.

We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. Here there takes on new life the plan of God which asks humanity from the beginning: “Where is your brother Abel […] Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!” (Gen 4:9). Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end… In sacred Scripture we often find that God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: “Do you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?” (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 162).

At a time when the human family was ready to sacrifice all that was most sacred on the altar of the petty and selfish interests of nations, races, ideologies, groups and individuals, our Blessed Mother came from heaven, offering to implant in the hearts of all those who trust in her the Love of God burning in her own heart. At that time it was only to three children, yet the example of their lives spread and multiplied, especially as a result of the travels of the Pilgrim Virgin, in countless groups throughout the world dedicated to the cause of fraternal solidarity. May the seven years which separate us from the centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfilment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.


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Blessing of the Sick

Dear brothers and sisters who are sick,

Before I walk among you carrying the monstrance containing Jesus present in the Eucharist, I would like to offer you a word of encouragement and hope, a word which I extend to all those following us on television and radio, and to those without even such means, but who are united to us by the deeper bonds of the Spirit, that is, in faith and prayer.

My dear brother and sister, in the eyes of God you are “worth so much to God that he himself became man in order tosuffer withman in an utterly real way — in flesh and blood — as is revealed to us in the account of Jesus's Passion. Hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that sufferingwithus; hencecon-solatiois present in all suffering, the consolation of God's compassionate love — and so the star of hope rises” (Spe Salvi, 39). With such hope in your heart, you can leave behind the quicksand of illness and death and stand on the firm rock of divine love. In other words, you can overcome the feeling of the uselessness of suffering which consumes a person from within and makes him feel a burden to those around him when, in reality, suffering which is lived with Jesus assists in the salvation of your brethren.

How is this possible? Because the spring of divine power rises in the midst of human weakness. This is the paradox of the Gospel. Therefore, the divine Master, instead of explaining the reasons for suffering, preferred to call everyone to follow him, saying: Take up your cross and follow me (cf. Mk 8:34). Come with me. With your suffering, take part in the work of salvation which is realized through my suffering, by means of my cross. As you gradually embrace your own cross, uniting yourself spiritually to my cross, the salvific meaning of suffering will be revealed to you. In suffering, you will discover an interior peace and even spiritual joy.

Dear friends who are sick, welcome the call of Jesus who will shortly pass among you in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and entrust to him every setback and pain that you face, so that they become - according to his design – a means of redemption for the whole world. You will be redeemers with the Redeemer, just as you are sons in the Son. At the cross… stands the mother of Jesus, our mother.