Archive for category Priests

The sex abuse scandal is not over. The hierarchical culture still needs transformation. / National Catholic Reporter

What cannot be overstated at this point in the nearly 40-year public history of the scandal is the force that the hierarchical culture — that privileged, secretive, unaccountable, male-only construct — can apply against any movement toward radical truth-telling.

Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter

“A 2004 story in The New York Times bore the headline, all in caps: ABUSE SCANDAL HAS BEEN ENDED, TOP BISHOP SAYS.

“That top bishop was a young Wilton Gregory who, two years earlier and as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, had herded the rest of the U.S. hierarchy through the first phase of accountability for the scandal.

“The headline was based on a Gregory declaration, made following the release of two studies of the scandal. “The terrible history recorded here today is history,” he said.

“That, of course, turned out to be more wish than reality. The finality implied in the statement has yet eluded the bishops, a point made clear by the recent searing assessment by Barbara Thorp, who took on the job of directing the Boston Archdiocese’s response to victims back in 2002, when the ecclesial world there was exploding. She claims that despite the decades of rolling disclosures and revelations that emerged from investigative reporting, grand jury reports, civil cases, the courage of countless victims and grudging reforms resulting in greater transparency, there is still much we don’t know.”

By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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20 years after Spotlight investigation of Catholic sex abuse crisis, is the church a safer place? / America: The Jesuit Review

On Jan. 6, 2002, on the Feast of the Epiphany, The Boston Globe published the first in a series of reports from its Spotlight investigative team, headlined “Church allowed abuse by priest for years.” (By Kathleen McChesney, former F.B.I. executive and first executive director of the Office of Child Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)

Visit votf.org to read about the multitude of programs and initiatives undertaken by Voice of the Faithful in the 20 years since The Boston Globe Spotlight articles prompted the organization’s founding.

“The events of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol caused shock and dismay for most Americans, many of whom feared that our political system was much weaker than we had thought. On the same date nearly two decades earlier, we witnessed a similar crisis of confidence in the Catholic Church as a protector of all children.

“On Jan. 6, 2002, on the Feast of the Epiphany, The Boston Globe published the first in a series of reports from its Spotlight investigative team, headlined “Church allowed abuse by priest for years.” While the findings were not a surprise to abuse survivors, the revelations that a previously unknown number of priests in the Boston area had sexually abused minors for decades devastated Catholics in Boston and, ultimately, the faithful around the world. The Globe had learned that instead of removing many of these offenders from the priesthood, church leaders had transferred some of the men to new assignments—where the priests continued to have unsupervised access to boys and girls and had not been provided with psychological evaluation or treatment.”

By Kathleen McChesney, former F.B.I. executive and first executive director of the Office of Child Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Read more …

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U.S. Catholic clergy shortage eased by recruits from Africa / National Catholic Reporter

During his 18 years in the U.S., Abanulo has filled various chaplain and pastor roles across the country, epitomizing an ongoing trend in the American Catholic Church. As fewer American-born men and women enter seminaries and convents, U.S. dioceses and Catholic institutions have turned to international recruitment to fill their vacancies.

Kwasi Gyamfi, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter

Fr. Athanasius Chidi Abanulo — using skills honed in his African homeland to minister effectively in rural Alabama — determines just how long he can stretch out his Sunday homilies based on who is sitting in the pews.

Seven minutes is the sweet spot for the mostly white and retired parishioners who attend the English-language Mass at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in the small town of Wedowee. ‘If you go beyond that, you lose the attention of the people,’ he said.

For the Spanish-language Mass an hour later, the Nigerian-born priest — one of numerous African clergy serving in the U.S. — knows he can quadruple his teaching time. ‘The more you preach, the better for them,’ he said.

As he moves from one American post to the next, Abanulo has learned how to tailor his ministry to the culture of the communities he is serving while infusing some of the spirit of his homeland into the universal rhythms of the Mass.

“‘Nigerian people are relaxed when they come to church,’ Abanulo said. ‘They love to sing, they love to dance. The liturgy can last for two hours. They don’t worry about that.'”

By Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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A priest ordained in 2017 is now serving a life sentence for sex abuse. How did he slip through the cracks? / America: The Jesuit Review

“Despite it all, Father McWilliams, who has not yet been laicized, made it through to ordination and placement in a parish where he soon began a process of internet ‘catfishing’ and sexual extortion involving three teenage boys.”

America: The Jesuit Review

“Just two years after his ordination in 2017, the Rev. Robert McWilliams was charged with a cascade of sexual assault and child pornography charges. He was sentenced to life imprisonment a few weeks ago, on Nov. 9, in a federal criminal court in Cleveland.

“The McWilliams case came as an unhappy shock to Catholics in the Diocese of Cleveland and all over the United States who might have hoped that years of procedural changes and an enhanced screening process for seminarians would have put an end to the ordination of priests like Father McWilliams. The most recent report card from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, released the same day as Father McWilliams’s sentencing, offered some reason for optimism. Although 4,228 allegations of sexual abuse by clergy surfaced between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, only 22 came from individuals who are now minors; the rest reflected historical cases, most of them from decades ago.

“Father McWilliams entered the seminary system in Cleveland in 2008, six years after the abuse crisis detonated on the front pages of The Boston Globe. He could not have been unaware of the fall-out from that crisis and the greater scrutiny that candidates for the priesthood would draw because of it. Despite it all, Father McWilliams, who has not yet been laicized, made it through to ordination and placement in a parish where he soon began a process of internet ‘catfishing’ and sexual extortion involving three teenage boys.

“At the Nov. 9 sentencing, defense attorney Robert Dixon pleaded for leniency to allow Father McWilliams to ‘secure the therapy necessary to confront demons from his childhood and the addictions and heinous behavior of his adulthood.'”

By Kevin Clarke, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Seminarian immersion program yields a harvest of pastoral experience / National Catholic Reporter

“When his alarm buzzes at 3 a.m., Daniel Sanchez prepares for a day in the fields alongside migrants who pick cherries and apples in Yakima, Washington, a central valley community known as the nation’s fruit basket. The 25-year-old isn’t one of the thousands of mostly Mexican workers who labor under an unforgiving sun that earlier this summer scorched this region with temperatures rising above 100 degrees.

“Sanchez is a seminarian in the Yakima Diocese, where all men studying to be priests are not only expected to study theology, philosophy and biblical exegesis, but also spend part of their summer learning from and ministering to migrants. Sanchez has done work as varied as pruning grape vines, sorting cherries and helping the migrants’ children learn to read English.

“‘It has been a humbling experience that helps me realize my vocation isn’t about me, but the people I’m ministering to,’ said Sanchez, who was born in Washington state after his parents immigrated from Oaxaca, Mexico. ‘The beauty of this ministry is it helps the migrant workers see that the church has not abandoned them. The church is there when they are lonely or tired, and goes out to meet them where they are.'”

By John Gehring, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Vatican event on priesthood to explore topic of celibacy / Cruxnow.com

“The event will focus primarily on the common priesthood shared by all the baptized and the roles of individual ministries within that, such as the ordained priesthood, consecrated religious life, and the laity.”

Cruxnow.com

“A top Vatican official in charge of organizing a major symposium on the priesthood next year has said the discussion will touch on several controversial hot-button issues such as priestly celibacy, the women’s diaconate, clericalism, and the clerical sexual abuse crisis.

“Speaking to journalists during the April 12 presentation of the event, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet said, ‘the question of celibacy is important.’

“‘We have all spoken about it, and it will be discussed, but it will not be the central theme of the symposium,’ he said. ‘It is not a symposium on celibacy, like it needs to be taken up deeply. It’s a broader perspective.’

“Head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, which is helping to organize the symposium, Ouellet when asked whether other hot-button issues such as the priestly ordination of viri probati, or “tested” married men, and the women’s diaconate would be addressed, said yes.”

By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com — Read more …

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Clergy shortage grows to more than 14k Catholics for every priest, Vatican data shows / Religion News Service

The reasons for the steady hemorrhage of Catholic clergy worldwide are varied, from secularization to the church’s ongoing sexual and financial scandals. And the COVID-19 pandemic has brought its own challenges. (Religion News Service)

“Catholic missions are struggling amid dwindling vocations and the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data released by the Vatican ahead of the World Mission Day this Sunday (Oct. 18).

“The number of priests and ordained leaders has dropped significantly, especially in Europe and America, according to the report issued on Friday (Oct. 16) by the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, charged with distributing clergy and coordinating missions around the world.

“The total number of priests in the world decreased to 414,065 in 2018, with Europe registering a drop of 2,675 priests compared to 2017. The report also reveals a slight decrease in the number of Catholic faithful in America, Europe and Oceania. Meanwhile, Africa and Asia continue to show signs of growth, according to the data.

“‘We mustn’t be afraid! Mission goes on thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit,’ said Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, the secretary of the evangelizing congregation, during a press conference at the Vatican on Friday.

“However, the diminishing number of clergy coincides with an increase in the global population, putting pressure on priests who must minister to larger numbers of people. As of December 2018, the report shows, there are 1,328,993,000 Catholics in the world.”

By Claire Giangrave, Religion News Service — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful endorses U.S. priests’ statement on priestly formation

BOSTON, Mass., Apr. 11, 2018 – Voice of the Faithful, a movement of Roman Catholics whose major goals include supporting priests, endorses the recent statement made by the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests that calls for revisions in the training of men for ordination to the priesthood to ensure greater adherence to the tenets of the Second Vatican Council and teachings of Pope Francis.

The impetus for AUSCP’s statement stems from the 2016 mandate of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy that each bishop’s conference update its Program for Priestly Formation.

“Our study and reflection persuade us that a new Program of Priestly Formation needs more than minimal editing … It needs in-depth revisions,” the priests said in a letter to Cardinal Joseph Tobin, who leads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on the Consecrated Life and Vocations. “Our comments are made in response to the significant challenges facing the Church in the United States.”

The priests include among these challenges fewer Catholics actively participating in the Church, fewer priests and candidates for the priesthood, fewer converts, fewer Church weddings, fewer baptisms, fewer parishes, and more people identifying themselves as “spiritual” rather than “religious.”

The AUSCP statement, “Preparing the Sixth Edition of the Program of Priestly Formation,” points to six overriding concerns: faithfulness to Vatican II, call to service, pastoral model of priestly formation, psychosexual development and celibacy, discernment processes, and faculty formation. As stated in their letter, these thoughts are “grounded” in Vatican II, in the writings, statements, and actions of Pope Francis, and in their own experiences. In their statement, the priests make recommendations to help address each of these concerns. Use this link to read the AUSCP’s entire letter and statement.

In endorsing this statement, VOTF points out it has long sought greater emphasis on Vatican II values, including less “clerical,” more pastoral priests, who place service as their highest calling. VOTF also sees as immensely valuable a greater emphasis on psychosexual training for the priesthood, which may have helped avert or at least ameliorate the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

The priests conclude their statement by pointing out that the “current seminary model was established nearly 500 years ago.” As its motto, “Keep the faith, change the Church,” suggests, VOTF would agree that time for change is here.


Voice of the Faithful Statement, Apr. 11, 2018

Contact: Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, 781-559-3360

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity, and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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Now is the time for married priests / National Catholic Reporter

“At the Last Supper, Jesus said, ‘Do this in memory of me,’ not ‘have a celibate priesthood.’ The need for the Eucharist trumps having a celibate priesthood.”

It is time for the Catholic bishops to stop hoping for an increase in vocations to the celibate priesthood and to acknowledge that the church needs married priests to serve the people of God. We cannot have a Catholic Church without sacraments, and a priest is needed for the Eucharist, confession, and anointing.

“At the Last Supper, Jesus said, ‘Do this in memory of me,’ not ‘have a celibate priesthood.’ The need for the Eucharist trumps having a celibate priesthood.

“For at least 50 years, the Catholic Church in the United States has seen a drop in the number of priests. According to CARA reports, in 1970, there were 59,192 priests in the U.S.; by 2016, there were only 37,192. Meanwhile, the number of Catholics increased to 74.2 million from 51 million. That means the people/priest ratio grew from 861 Catholics per priest in 1970 to 1,995 per priest in 2016. These numbers include all priests both religious and diocesan, as well as retired priests. When the priests currently over 65 years of age die, these numbers will be even worse.”

By Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Stem parish closures and mergers pleads U.S. priests group / National Catholic Reporter

An association of nearly 1,200 U.S. priests is in the final development stages of issuing an urgent ‘plea’ to the U.S. bishops to ‘formulate a plan now to meet this emerging crisis’ of parish closings and consolidations.

“In a working draft it calls a ‘Proposal for Pastoral Care In & Thru Priestless Parishes,’ the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests exhorts the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and ‘dioceses nationwide’ to quickly address the issue.

“Core to the plan is ‘new and more specific exploration’ of lay ecclesial ministers to oversee non-sacramental aspects of parish life and administration, according to a proposed plan cover letter contained in an email to NCR.”

By Dan Morris-Young, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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