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Tyler bishop: Our main job is to focus on salvation of souls

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2018 / 10:35 am (CNA).- About three months after calling for an investigation into the claims made by former Apostolic Nuncio Carlo Vigano, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas is not confident that the Vatican will ever properly investigate allegations outlined in the nuncio’s August letter.

In an interview with CNA on Monday at the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly in Baltimore, Md., Strickland also expressed concerns that bishops of late have strayed from their “basic mission” as the shepherd of souls.

Vigano, former nuncio to the U.S., released a testimony in August which claimed that Pope Francis had removed restrictions on Archbishop Theodore McCarrick that had been imposed by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July of this year, following a series of public allegations against him concerning the sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests. The dioceses of Newark and Metuchen subsequently confirmed they had previously reached two out-of-court-settlements with adult accusers.

Regarding the Vatican’s pledge to investigate Vigano’s various claims, Strickland told CNA he is concerned that the investigation is going far too slowly.

“I've worked in the tribunal for years, I've studied canon law,” he said. “We used to always say working in the tribunal, 'justice delayed is justice denied,' so that's my thought. It's just taking too long.”

Strickland told CNA that he is not entirely sure what was causing this delay, but he did acknowledge that Americans are generally accustomed to investigations happening quickly, while Europeans often have a more relaxed mindset.

When asked if he believed anything could be done to get Rome to speed up the investigation, Strickland was skeptical. He told CNA that while he accepts that it is up to Rome to deal with Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, he believes that the Church in the United States should do its own investigation into his alleged crimes and learn from what they uncover.

“There’s got to be files. He’s an American. I mean, his whole priesthood has been in the United States,” said Strickland.

“I would say, let’s help Rome, and have our own investigation, and do what we can. Certainly, we can.”

The delay in the investigation into McCarrick is a sign of deeper issues within the Church, Strickland said. He told CNA that he was “disappointed” thus far with how things have been handled. He described the lack of a proper investigation as an “illustration that the same machinery that caused the whole McCarrick mess, still functions--or doesn't.”

“It's that same kind of machine that allowed him to move through the ranks doing all this stuff and just sort of side-tracking the moral issues,” he said. He blamed this “machine” for slowing down the investigation into uncovering what exactly McCarrick did.

The Vigano letter, he said, has “sort of pulled the curtain back” on deeper issues within the Church--namely, moral decay amongst the clergy and the Church as a whole.

Strickland said he believes the issues regarding McCarrick, Vigano, and the lack of any real investigation into either can be traced to what he describes as a drifting away from the main job of a bishop: a need to promote the salvation of souls.

“We need to worry about the salvation of Theodore McCarrick's soul, as bishops,” he said.

“We need to be focused on the salvation of the victims and the abusers. That, to me, is the core issue.”

Strickland pointed to the events of the past summer, primarily the reaction to what he called the “Vigano question,” as proof that this primary concern has fallen out of focus among some of his brother bishops.

“All of what's happened this summer. It's ‘Oh, well, we've got to worry about global warming.’ That's not our job,” he said, in an apparent reference to comments made by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago. In August, Cupich dismissed the nuncio’s allegations as a “rabbit hole”, saying Pope Francis has a “bigger agenda” to worry about, including defending migrants and protecting the environment.

Strickland said that there is certainly a need for “good people, good laity,” working on various issues such as global warming, immigration, and general injustices in the world, noting that he’s on the board of a Catholic charity.

But he expressed concern that an overemphasis on these kinds of works is serving as a distraction from the ultimate call of a bishop: bringing people to holiness, promoting the sanctity of life, and “living the virtues.”

“I think we’ve got it flipped,” he said. “As bishops, our first job is the holiness of the people of God. The salvation of souls.”

In every situation he encounters as a bishop, Strickland said, he tries to consider how his actions may affect the salvation of souls.

Looking ahead to the future of the Church, Bishop Strickland said he believes there needs to be increased accountability among bishops, improvements in teaching the various facets of the faith - especially in terms of sexuality - continued state investigations into abuse, and reforms to ensure that seminarians will be protected throughout the formation process.

“We need to make sure that seminarians are not victimized,” he said, adding that a man who is called to seminary should not be at risk of “having his life destroyed by the people who are supposed to be forming him for the priesthood.”

One area where Strickland expressed confidence was in regards to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Although he said there are loopholes that need to be tightened, he is “fairly confident” that the appropriate steps to “revamp and strengthen” the charter will be taken.

As a bishop, however, there are responsibilities that go along with his roles as a spiritual father and shepherd to a diocese, he told CNA. He cannot “just sit in a corner and go and pray” - during times of controversy and upheaval, he has to prioritize what he does first.

“I'm a shepherd. I've got sheep,” he said.

“And sheep are bleeding, and getting slaughtered, and wolves are attacking. We can't be worried about what color we're going to paint the barn...Deal with the most important (things) first, then get others to figure out the barn.”

 

 

Archbishop Scicluna named adjunct secretary of CDF

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2018 / 09:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Tuesday appointed Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta as adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

According to a Nov. 13 announcement, Scicluna, 59, will take up the Vatican position while remaining head of the Archdiocese of Malta, which he has led since February 2015.

The archbishop’s appointment as adjunct secretary makes him joint second in command of the CDF with secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi under prefect Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer. Among the congregation’s leaders is also under-secretary Fr. Matteo Visioli.

Scicluna, who served as the Vatican’s sexual abuse prosecutor before becoming a bishop in 2012, has continued to have a high-profile role in addressing clerical sexual abuse. He was appointed by Pope Francis to conduct an an apostolic visitation of the Chilean abuse crisis earlier this year.

He also helped establish the Church’s first response to the 2002 sexual abuse crisis, and his work in the field is considered landmark.

Scicluna’s nomination to a high position within the CDF takes place in advance of a Vatican meeting on child protection, which will bring together bishops from all over the world.

According to comments from Scicluna in October, the February meeting on abuse is the time to address “not just the issue of prevention but also of accountability” and the meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss how to tackle issues “on the ground.”

He told CNA in September that the CDF asked bishops’ conferences to prepare guidelines countering abuse in 2001, and most have complied. He added that all existing guidelines have been now screened by the Vatican.

The February 2019 meeting of bishops is “a response to people’s expectation that we move from documents to actions,” he said.

It is not certain which Vatican department will be responsible for the organization of the meeting on abuse prevention, though it will likely fall to the CDF.

In January 2015, Scicluna was made a member of a special doctrinal board established within the CDF in 2014 to handle appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse.

Scicluna also served for 10 years, until 2012, as the promoter of justice of the CDF under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. From 1995-2002 he was deputy promoter of justice in the Apostolic Signatura.

The archbishop was born in Toronto to Maltese parents in 1959, though his family returned to Malta before his first birthday.

Before the start of his Vatican career, Scicluna was defender of the bond and promoter of justice at the Metropolitan Court of Malta, and a professor of pastoral theology and canon law at Malta’s archdiocesan seminary.

Pope Francis to visit Morocco in 2019

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2018 / 04:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will head to two cities in Morocco March 30-31, 2019, the Vatican announced Tuesday.

Pope Francis will visit the cities of Rabat and Casablanca, a Nov. 13 message stated. The schedule of the trip is not yet published.

According to papal spokesman Greg Burke, the visit takes place at the invitation of King Mohammed VI of Morocco and the Catholic bishops.

Francis will be the second pope to visit the country, after St. Pope John Paul II went in 1985 as the first pope to visit a Muslim country at the invitation of the state.

Morocco, which is located on the north-west side of Africa, is a majority Muslim country. The total population, as of 2014, was around 29 million. There were an estimated 21,000 Catholics in the country in that year; just .1 percent of the population. 

The country has two archdioceses; one in Ribat, the country’s capital city, and one based in Tanger.

After Pope Francis received an invitation to visit the country from King Mohammed earlier this year, there had been rumors about whether he would attend a United Nations gathering in December for the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration.

Now that the trip has been announced for March, what the pope’s agenda in Morocco will be has not yet been revealed, though it will likely focus on Christian-Muslim relations and migration.

The visit to Morocco falls just two months after the pope will travel to Panama Jan. 23-27, 2019, the only other Vatican confirmed apostolic visit in the upcoming year, though there have been comments from heads of state and bishops that say Francis may also be traveling to Romania and to Mozambique.

He has also expressed the desire to visit Japan. Cardinal Désiré Tsarahazana said at a Vatican press briefing Oct. 9 that the pope will visit Madagascar in 2019. Holy See spokesperson Greg Burke said at the time he could not confirm the trip, but that the possibility was “well under study.”

As California fires continue to burn, Catholic Charities aids victims

Sacramento, Calif., Nov 13, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As wildfires continue to burn throughout the state of California, local Catholic Charities agencies are working with agencies in neighboring states to coordinate relief.

The so-called Camp Fire in Northern California has claimed 42 lives in the town of Paradise, and has destroyed nearly 6,500 homes, making it the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history. The fire is only a quarter contained, according to the New York Times, and the local sheriff announced Sunday that nearly 230 people were still missing.

At the same time, the Woolsey Fire west of Los Angeles has destroyed an estimated 370 structures and claimed two lives so far.

Matt Vaughan, director of communications for Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada (CCNN), told CNA that the agency is working to gather supplies for survivors of the fires. CCNN is headquartered in Reno, Nevada, which is approximately 160 miles east of Chico, California, one of the largest cities affected by the Camp Fire.

“We're trying to collect donations, which we will then send over, most likely to Chico,” Vaughan said.

“It sounds like they're asking for a lot of the donations to be sent there right now, just because some of the other areas are affected [by the fire]...We have been in contact with Catholic Charities in Sacramento,” he said.

“We're just really focusing on getting the really crucial, needed items over to the affected victims over there at this point...warm clothes, shoes, paper products, blankets and coats are among the most needed items right now. And that's really what we're asking the community to provide.”

Yvette Myers, Chief Program Officer for CCNN, said she hopes to hear from the agency in Sacramento soon, as well as from the national branch of Catholic Charities, about the best way to deliver supplies.

She said they are working jointly with a local organization to send trucks full of supplies to California, starting Nov. 16, and that they won’t know how big the truck will need to be until they begin receiving donations.

“We're waiting to hear back from Sacramento...about if it's a possibility that we bring trucks to them, where they're going to go. So it's kind of a waiting game right at the moment,” Myers said.

Catholic Charities USA is currently displaying a banner on their website encouraging donations for victims of the fires.

“We're actually waiting to hear back from [Catholic Charities USA]...about what the plan is,” Myers said.

“Their greatest needs are clothing, hygiene, blankets, coats; they can use anything, but that's what they're really asking for right now.”

According to the Diocese of Reno, items that are donated that are not accepted by the donation centers in California will go to local St. Vincent’s Thrift Stores in Nevada.

The Hill Fire, burning in Ventura County west of LA, is currently 90 percent contained.

Daniel Grimm, Catholic Charities Regional Director for the Santa Barbara/Ventura region, told CNA that although his agency is not heavily involved with first-response relief, their assistance will be greatly needed later on, especially for the poor who are affected by the fires.

“We tend to help the low-income end of the spectrum, and in a way there’s sort of a hidden impact of the disaster, but it usually takes a little longer for it to hit,” he said.

“We are more handling the secondary things needed: rental assistance, help getting a new place, clothing and food...we don’t have a big ministry in emergency housing,” Grimm said.

He said they have thrift stores in Ventura that provide household items for free to those who lost their homes, but he said they don’t get very many requests.

“The interesting thing about this fire— and this was actually the case with the fire we had last December— almost everybody who is immediately impacted is insured and has means. So they tend not to flock to shelters,” Grimm explained.

“[But] later on, we deal with low-income people who have lost their jobs from not being able to go into work because of road closures, and also tenants who have lost their rental property and need to find a new place. Often they’re not in a position to come up with a new deposit, new first month’s rent.”

Updated Nov. 13, 6:00 pm ET with additional comment.

Lamenting clergy sex abuse, Pa. bishops announce victim compensation funds

Harrisburg, Pa., Nov 12, 2018 / 05:17 pm (CNA).- Seven of the eight Roman Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania will create compensation funds for victims of clergy sex abuse, following a grand jury inquiry into abuse of minors by Catholic priests in the state.

“The damage done to innocent young people and their families by sexual abuse in the past is profound. It can’t be erased by apologies, no matter how sincere. And money can’t buy back a wounded person’s wholeness,” Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said in a Nov. 8 column for CatholicPhilly.com.

“But what compensation can do is acknowledge the evil done and meaningfully assist survivors as they work to find greater peace in their lives,” he said.

The archdiocese-funded reparations effort will pay “the amounts that independent claims administrators deem appropriate,” he said.

According to Chaput, the program is about more than compensation of victims.

“It’s also about apologizing to victims, recognizing the harm the Church has done, and continuing the critical work to ensure abuse is prevented,” he said. “I deeply regret the pain that so many victims carry from the experience of sex abuse. I hope this program will bring them a measure of peace.”

In August a Pennsylvania grand jury report claimed to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests. It presented a devastating portrait of efforts by Church authorities to ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations – either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal.

The accusations concerned incidents that are often decades old. Most of the priests accused of abuse have died.

Some bishops named in the report for alleged cover-up of abuse have had their names scrubbed from facilities that were named for them.

The Pittsburgh diocese, headed by Bishop David Zubik, also announced a new fund.

“It is my hope that a program to compensate survivors of abuse by clergy will continue to aid in their healing and the healing of the Church, the Body of Christ,” Zubik said Nov. 8

“The survivors’ compensation program we are working to establish will be designed to create the best opportunity for recovery and healing to survivors,” he added. “They continue to suffer as a result of their abuse and this program will help to provide for their ongoing needs.”

The fund aims to compensate survivors who would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations from seeking a civil settlement. The Pittsburgh diocese compared it to its previous program launched in 2007. It said no funds will come from Catholic Charities, parishes, schools, donor-designated contributions or the campaign “Our Campaign for The Church Alive!” that is intended for specific capital and endowment needs.

“While sources for funding needed to establish the program are still being settled upon, the program will ensure transparency and the disclosure of all allegations to law enforcement,” the Pittsburgh diocese said.

Zubik will hold listening sessions around the diocese to share details of the program and details about “other actions that will support the healing of survivors and the protection of children in the Church.”

The Pittsburgh diocese is undergoing a “comprehensive review” of practices related to children and young people by Shay Bilchik, an expert on child sex abuse prevention and prosecution.

Bilchik is a former Florida state prosecutor, and administered the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The Survivors Compensation Fund will address the needs of victims regardless of the time frames currently in place for the statute of limitations for civil law suits. This expedited process will enable eligible victims of minor sexual abuse to be heard and compensated,” the Greensburg diocese said in its Nov. 8 announcement.

Diocesan, not parish assets, will finance the fund. Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros of the Law Offices of Kenneth R. Feinberg, PC, will be the independent fund administrators.

Feinberg and Camille Biros will administer the Philadelphia archdiocese’s compensation fund as well.

Chaput said that the total number of claims and funding required cannot yet be known, but he said the financial commitment will be “significant.” Existing archdiocesan assets will provide initial funding, but additional funding will need to come from borrowing and the sale of archdiocesan properties. It is not yet determined which properties will be sold.

In the last three years, Philadelphia archdiocese finances have returned to the break-even point, after a period of severe deficit spending and underfunding financial obligations.

Archbishop Chaput emphasized that the fund is “entirely independent of the archdiocese” and “confidential.”

“The program is designed to help survivors come forward in an atmosphere where they are secure and respected, without the uncertainty, conflict, and stress of litigation,” Chaput said.

The independent oversight committee for the Philadelphia archdiocese’s reparations fund includes former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who will chair the committee. He will be joined by Kelley Hodge, former interim District Attorney for the City and County of Philadelphia, and Lawrence F. Stengel, a retired federal district court judge.

While Catholic leaders stressed the independence of how the reparations would be determined, it still drew criticism from abuse victims and their advocates.

“If I do something wrong, I don’t make my own punishment up,” Martha McHale, a clergy sex-abuse victim from Reading, Pa. told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Neither should they.”

Victims who accept payments from the funds must give up their right to sue if the state legislature temporarily lifts the statute of limitations on sex abuse lawsuits. In the last legislative session, a bill that would open a two-year window allowing abuse victims to file lawsuits concerning decades-old claims passed the House of Representatives but the Senate did not hold a final vote.

“It’s a brilliant political move by the bishops,” said Benjamin Andreozzi, a lawyer for several clergy sex abuse victims in Pennsylvania.

“This is exactly what happened in New York. The dioceses there probably resolved 90 percent of their outstanding civil claims for pennies on the dollar,” Andreozzi told the Inquirer, comparing the fund to those established in the New York archdiocese.

Feinberg told the Inquirer that victim compensation funds are more cost-effective and result in quicker compensation for victims, compared to lengthy litigation. He cited the three years to reach a settlement following the 2015 bankruptcy of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, who was abused by a priest as a teen, is the chief backer of the Pennsylvania legislation and plans to bring it up for consideration when the next legislative session begins in January.

While he said compensation, funds are a positive step, he said retroactive lawsuits should be an option for sex abuse victims, the public radio station WITF reports.

The only Roman Catholic diocese in the state not to announce a new fund, Altoona-Johnstown, cited its victim assistance program started in 1999. That fund has provided compensation and counseling to nearly 300 individuals, including $2.8 million for counseling. It said a newly created youth protection office will aid in recognizing, responding to, and reporting suspected sex abuse of minors.

The sex abuse of young men aged 18 and older has also become a focus in 2018. The allegation of credible sex abuse of a minor against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick prompted former seminarians to come forward saying he had sexually abused them as adults.