Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

A delegate from Region 8 – Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota – prays Sept. 20 during the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, in Grapevine, Texas. The Sept. 20-23 event is a gathering of more than 3,200 Hispanic Catholic leaders and about 125 bishops from across the country. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

By Norma Montenegro Flynn 
Catholic News Service

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) — A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions were the highlights during the first day of the National Fifth Encuentro gathering taking place Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine.

With hearts full of excitement and joy, about 3,000 Hispanic ministry leaders cheered as they welcomed representatives for each of the 14 episcopal regions approaching the stage and carrying the same crosses and colorful banners that accompanied their gatherings during the multiyear process of discernment and consultation that began at their parishes. The crosses were placed on the stage by the bishops who served as chairs for each region.

Pope Francis captivated the audience with a video message that was received with a standing ovation.

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Posted in U.S.

In light of faith: Sex abuse and the synod on young people

(A series of columns focused on and written by millennials and young adults)

Elise Italiano

(CNS photo/courtesy Elise Italiano)

By Elise Italiano
Catholic News Service

With less than one month to go before the opening of the synod on “Young people, faith and vocational discernment,” it is now clear that whatever was on the agenda has been rendered null and void in light of the global crisis in which the church is now enmeshed — a crisis that includes new revelations about the cover-up of sexual abuse of minors, the promotion of predatory priests, the abuse of power within seminaries and infidelity to priestly vows that was known but not disciplined.

The salt in this gaping wound is the reaction of many members of the hierarchy, both at home and abroad, who seem more preoccupied with escalating ideological wars than uprooting systemic evil.  Continue reading

Posted in CNS columns, focus on millennials

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

Retired Benedict XVI and Pope Francis talk to each other at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery after a consistory at which Pope Francis created 14 new cardinals at the Vatican June 28. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Updated 11:41 a.m.

By Carol Glatz 
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, and he defended taking the title “pope emeritus.”

In two private letters from the retired pope to German Cardinal Walter Brandmuller, former president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, the pope defended the way he handled his resignation and warned the cardinal of the negative impact his public comments could have.

The German newspaper, Bild, obtained copies of the letters written in November 2017, but blurred Cardinal Brandmuller’s name in photos. The New York Times named the cardinal and also published translated excerpts from the letters Sept. 20.

The first letter from the retired pope was a response to a comment Cardinal Brandmuller made in a lengthy interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published Oct. 28, 2017.

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Posted in Vatican, World

In homily, Calif. priest says he was abused, hears from dozens of victims

Father Brendan McGuire, pastor of Holy Spirit Church in San Jose, Calif., told the story of his abuse in a homily delivered at five weekend Masses Sept. 8-9. Parishioners responded with “thunderous applause” at two Masses and “three standing ovations” at the others, he said. Father McGuire is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Father McGuire)

By Mark Pattison 
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — To be a voice for victims of clerical sexual abuse, Father Brendan McGuire realized he had to come to terms with the abuse he suffered at the hands of a priest when he was 18. It was a secret he had held for 35 years.

He told the story of his abuse in a homily delivered at five weekend Masses Sept. 8-9 at Holy Spirit Church in San Jose, California, where he is pastor.

In a Sept. 18 interview with Catholic News Service, Father McGuire said that although he always writes his homilies for distribution via email and social media, it was the first time he read it word for word from the pulpit so he wouldn’t overlook anything he wanted to say.

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Posted in U.S.

Some cry ‘scandal’ to cover their own failings, pope says at Mass

Pope Francis is pictured at a Mass in Palermo, Sicily, Sept. 15. At his morning Mass at the Vatican Sept. 20, the pope spoke about hypocrisy and sinners. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden 
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While God’s holy church is made up of sinners, it also has its share of hypocrites who love to cry “scandal” to point out the failings of others and make themselves appear pure, Pope Francis said at morning Mass.

“The devil doesn’t have anything to do with repentant sinners because they look to God and say, ‘Lord, I’m a sinner. Help me,’ and the devil is impotent,” the pope said Sept. 20 during Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

“But with the hypocrites he is strong,” Pope Francis said. “He is strong, and he uses them to destroy, to destroy people, destroy society, destroy the church.”

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Posted in Vatican

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, bishops’ code of conduct

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, gives the opening prayer Nov. 13, 2017, at the bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore. Also pictured are Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, USCCB general secretary. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Updated 4:54 p.m.

By Julie Asher 
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pledging to “heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us,” the U.S. bishops’ Administrative Committee Sept. 19 outlined actions to address the abuse crisis, including approving the establishment of a third-party confidential reporting system for claims of any abuse by bishops.

It also instructed the U.S. bishops’ canonical affairs committee to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of abuse of minors or adults.

It initiated the process of developing a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual misconduct with a minor or adult or “negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases.”

The committee also said it supported “a full investigation into the situation” surrounding Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, former cardinal-archbishop of Washington, “including his alleged assaults on minors, priests and seminarians, as well as “any responses made to those allegations.”

The statement, released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, came out of the committee’s semiannual meeting Sept. 11-12 at USCCB headquarters in Washington.

The Administrative Committee consists of the officers, chairmen and regional representatives of the USCCB. The committee, which meets in March and September, is the highest authority of the USCCB outside of the full body of bishops when they meet for their fall and spring general assemblies.

“This is only a beginning,” the committee said in its Sept. 19 statement, noting that the actions it outlined can be taken “within its authority.”

“Consultation with a broad range of concerned parents, experts and other laity along with clergy and religious will yield additional, specific measures to be taken to repair the scandal and restore justice,” it said. “We humbly welcome and are grateful for the assistance of the whole people of God in holding us accountable.”

The committee acknowledged its members had assembled for their meeting in Washington at a “time of shame and sorrow.”

“Some bishops, by their actions or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the church as a whole,” the committee said. “They have used their authority and power to manipulate and sexually abuse others.

“They have allowed the fear of scandal to replace genuine concern and care for those who have been victimized by abusers,” it continued. “For this, we again ask forgiveness from both the Lord and those who have been harmed. Turning to the Lord for strength, we must and will do better.”

Full descriptions of the actions the committee took are as follows:

— Approved the establishment of a third-party reporting system that will receive confidentially, by phone and online, complaints of sexual abuse of minors by a bishop and sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with adults by a bishop. It will direct those complaints to the appropriate ecclesiastical authority and, as required by applicable law, to civil authorities.

— Instructed the USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of sexual abuse of minors or sexual harassment of or misconduct with adults, including seminarians and priests.

— Initiated the process of developing a code of conduct for bishops regarding the sexual abuse of a minor; sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with an adult; or negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases.

— Supported a full investigation into the situation surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, including his alleged assaults on minors, priests, and seminarians, as well any responses made to those allegations. “Such an investigation should rely upon lay experts in relevant fields, such as law enforcement and social services.”

As the initiatives get underway, the Administrative Committee asked all U.S. bishops “to join us in acts of prayer and penance.”

“This is a time of deep examination of conscience for each bishop. We cannot content ourselves that our response to sexual assault within the church has been sufficient. Scripture must be our guide forward. ‘Be doers of the word and not hearers only,'” it said, quoting the Letter of James.

“In all of this,” no one — including the bishops — can “lose sight of those who have suffered from those who have acted or failed to act as the Gospel demanded,” it said.

“For survivors of sexual abuse, these days may reopen deep wounds. Support is available from the church and within the community,” it emphasized.

The committee reminded all in the church that victims assistance coordinators are available in every diocese to help victim-survivors and their families find resources.

Since the bishops first adopted “the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” in 2002, the committee said, “hundreds of dedicated people … have been working with the church to support survivors and prevent future abuse.”

It said anyone who has been abused must “never hesitate to also contact local law enforcement.”

“If you don’t feel comfortable for any reason with the church providing help, your diocese can connect you with appropriate community services,” the committee said. “With compassion and without judgment, the bishops of the United States pledge to heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us.”

The committee concluded: “Acting in communion with the Holy Father, with whom we once again renew our love, obedience and loyalty, we make our own the prayer of Pope Francis in his Aug. 20 letter to the people of God, ‘May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.'”

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Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher

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Posted in U.S.

Irish singer Bono calls pope ‘extraordinary man for extraordinary times’

Bono, the lead singer of U2, speaks during a news conference in the Vatican press hall after meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican Sept. 19. Also pictured is Jose Maria del Corral, president of Scholas Occurentes. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Updated 2:34 p.m.

By Cindy Wooden 
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland “it looks as though the abusers are being more protected than the victims. And you could see the pain in his face.”

Bono met the pope Sept. 19 to sign an agreement between his charity, ONE, and the Scholas Occurentes educational charity supported by Pope Francis.

During the half-hour meeting, Bono said, he brought up Pope Francis’ recent trip to Ireland and the concerns there about the sexual abuse crisis.

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Posted in Vatican, World