Archive of February 10, 2009

Pope planning Spring visit to Holy Land

Rome, Italy, Feb 10, 2009 (CNA) - Two months after his trip to Africa, the Holy Father is scheduled to visit the Middle East where he will see the place of Jesus’ baptism, a mosque in Jordan, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, as well as Bethlehem and Nazareth.


Though the trip has not yet officially been announced, an article in the Italian daily, Il Giornale written by Vatican expert Andrea Tornielli reports that Pope Benedict’s May 8-15 travels are scheduled to begin in Amman, Jordan where he visit a mosque as well as Mt. Nebo, a site that John Paul II stopped at in 2000.


The Italian daily also notes that the trip could be postponed due to violence in the region.  However, as of now, the Holy Father is scheduled to celebrate Mass for Catholics in Amman on May 10 before visiting the site of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan.


The following day, the Pope plans to travel to Tel Aviv, Israel to first visit with the Israeli president before going to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.


The visit to the museum will be carefully watched due to the recent debacle surrounding Society of St. Pius X Bishop Richard Williamson and also because of the controversy surrounding a caption of Pope Pius XII at the museum. 


The caption reads: "Even when reports about the murder of Jews reached the Vatican, the pope did not protest, either verbally or in writing. In December 1942, [Pius XII] abstained from signing the Allied declaration condemning the extermination of the Jews. When Jews were deported from Rome to Auschwitz, the pope did not intervene.


"The pope maintained his neutral position throughout the war, with the exception of appeals to the rulers of Hungary and Slovakia toward its end. His silence and the absence of guidelines obliged churchmen throughout Europe to decide on their own how to react."


The caption has been contested by the Vatican, most recently last October when Fr. Federico Lombardi, the spokesman for the Vatican press office said, "As is already known, the Holy See’s representative to Israel has in the past raised objections concerning the caption about Pius XII in the Yad Vashem Museum. It is, therefore, to be hoped that this be the subject of a new, objective and profound examination on the part of the museum management.”


Il Giornale also reports that over the days of May 12 – 15, Pope Benedict will meet with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and later with the two Grand Rabbis of Israel.  He will also visit a Palestinian refugee camp, Nazareth, Bethlehem and the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.


The Pope’s trip is expected to be confirmed by early March.

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Breakaway priest refuses to recant teachings, archbishop intervenes

Brisbane, Australia, Feb 10, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop of Brisbane John A. Bathersby has urged a disobedient priest not to take members of his parish into schism, saying the separation of Christians is “contrary to all that Christ prayed for.”

Father Peter Kennedy, 71, is the administrator of St. Mary’s Church in South Brisbane. He has allegedly rejected the divinity of Jesus and has denied the virginity of Mary.

“Can you possibly think any individual can believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary,” the priest said, according to the Courier Mail. He claimed that the article of faith may have been credible in “the medieval times” but is not believable for modern people.

The priest also argued that Archbishop Bathersby has a “very fundamentalist theology.”

According to the Courier Mail, Father Kennedy said he didn’t have faith in the Pope but wanted to remain an active Catholic priest.

“You've got to be relevant to people's lives - Jesus broke the rules all the time for the sake of the people,” he claimed.

In a Friday letter, Archbishop Bathersby responded to Fr. Kennedy’s Jan. 12 letter asking to meet for further discussion.

“I see no reason to do so. I have repeatedly asked for changes but you and the community have not budged an inch,” the archbishop wrote. “Moreover South Brisbane’s instant disclosure of my letters and comments in the media gives me no reason to enter into discussion.”

The archbishop said there is doubt about the validity of many baptisms performed at the parish and announced that he would name a special day at St. Stephen’s Cathedral to perform and certify baptisms for parents or adult converts who are concerned about the validity of St. Mary’s Church baptisms.

Archbishop Bathersby’s letter notified Fr. Kennedy that he will be removed as parish administrator by Saturday, Feb. 21.

“I would like to add, without trying to exert pressure, that if you wish to retire from active service as a priest, the Archdiocese will assist you as it does with other Archdiocesan priests who retire,” he wrote.

Announcing that Dean Ken Howell of St. Stephen’s Cathedral will be replacing Fr. Kennedy, the archbishop said regular Masses will be celebrated at the parish and the sacraments will be available.

“Church goers attached to St Mary’s are most welcome to continue, as well as those who wish to return to the parish or those who wish to become new parishioners,” the bishop added.

Expressing hope that St. Mary’s emphasis on social justice will continue, he also said he hoped “sound Marian devotion” will be promoted at the parish “as was normal in the past.”

“I will do whatever I can to facilitate and encourage this devotion,” the archbishop continued.

Noting that Father Kennedy has claimed he may lead others into a breakaway sect, Archbishop Bathersby said he cannot stop the move.

“However those who follow you should realize that they will not be in communion with the Roman Catholic Church or the Archdiocese of Brisbane,” he advised.

Archbishop Bathersby said the decisions gave him no satisfaction whatsoever.

“The separation of Christians is contrary to all that Christ prayed for. Nor does such division promote the Kingdom of God. You have had ample time to make a considered decision. Please God the division that exists at the present time will be healed in the future, probably not in my time.

“I ask the priests, deacons, religious and people of the Archdiocese of Brisbane to pray for me and for all who belong to the Archdiocese, especially the community of St Mary’s in its present situation.

“In this matter I pray also that Mary the mother of Jesus will be our inspiration and guide as we seek her prayerful support for the healing of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, and St Mary’s Parish,” Archbishop Bathersby’s letter closed.

Father Kennedy said he is prepared to be arrested at the church and claimed a few dozen parishioners may try to be arrested as well.

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Abuse lawsuit ruling endangers Church’s equality under law, bishop says

Peoria, Ill., Feb 10, 2009 (CNA) - Following a ruling in Illinois’ Third District Appellate Court that could reinstate dismissed sexual abuse cases, Bishop of Peoria Daniel R. Jenky warned that the decision makes the diocese’s legal position even more difficult and voiced his concern that the Catholic Church “in effect, no longer enjoys equal justice under the law.”

The district court in January reversed a Peoria County court’s ruling that alleged victims of clerical sexual abuse had filed lawsuits against the diocese after each of them was older than thirty years of age.

Lawyers for the diocese and the accused priests argued that the deadline for filing the lawsuits had expired according to state law, reports.

In a weekend message to priests, deacons, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Peoria, Bishop Jenky discussed the legal cases.

He began by saying the saddest part of his ministry has been dealing with “our part of the immense societal issue of sexual misconduct with minors.”

In cases of “credible accusations” against individuals, the bishop said, he has not hesitated to remove them from ministry while trying “attentively” to follow the anti-sexual abuse charter set by the U.S. bishops.

 “I have not discovered any evidence in this Diocese that priests guilty of misconduct were ever moved from assignment to assignment,” Bishop Jenky wrote.

Saying that his diocese normally offers counseling to victims instead of large cash settlements, he added “our Diocese resists supporting those claims that simply cannot be sustained by the facts.”

“I take very seriously my responsibility to protect all the children entrusted to our care, and I am absolutely convinced that today the programs of our Church now provide the safest possible environment in America for your children,” the bishop continued.

Noting his duty to work as a “prudent steward” of diocesan finances, Bishop Jenky charged that attorneys representing some clients and some “victims groups” obviously have “a significant financial stake in trying to overturn our Diocesan policies.”

The recent Illinois court decisions “may make our legal situation even more difficult in the future.”

He also charged the State with exempting its own institutions from civil litigation, claiming that the Catholic Church is being unfairly treated.

“Amid all the tensions of our nation's culture wars and in the face of the media's intense hatred for our Catholic Faith, I am increasingly concerned that our Church in effect no longer enjoys equal justice under the law.”

Turning to his critics, the bishop insisted “I will not be intimidated by choreographed demonstrations or the abuse that is sometimes personally directed against me.”

“I remain immensely proud of the zealous and holy priesthood of our Diocese,” his statement concluded. “May God guide and protect his Holy Church and bless us all in his service.”

After the 10:30 am Mass at Peoria’s St. Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday, supporters of the group Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) handed out fliers to people leaving Mass encouraging them ask the Bishop to tone down his criticisms.

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Pro-abortion 'rights' Catholic governor possible pick for HHS secretary

Washington D.C., Feb 10, 2009 (CNA) - Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a Catholic Democrat in favor of legalized abortion, is considered to be a possible nominee to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Sebelius has faced significant criticism for her promotion of abortion, including her connections to notorious Kansas late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller.

The 60-year-old governor had backed President Barack Obama in his primary race against former New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The Associated Press reports that a Kansas Democrat close to the governor, speaking under condition of anonymity, said Sebelius had not spoken about the position in recent days but appeared to be a strong contender.

Former Sen. Tom Daschle had been nominated to become HHS secretary but withdrew his name after admitting he had not paid all his taxes since leaving Congress.

Gov. Sebelius was considered a possible candidate for several Cabinet posts after President Obama’s election in November. However, in early December she removed her name from consideration saying Kansas budget problems required her attention.

In May 2008, Archbishop of Kansas City Joseph F. Naumann publicly admonished Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius for her support for legal abortion.

As Archbishop Naumann explained to CNA, he requested that Gov. Sebelius stop receiving Communion because of her “30-year history of advocating and acting in support of legalized abortion.”

Writing in the Archdiocesan paper The Leaven, the archbishop also pointed out that Governor Sebelius’ support for abortion leads others to question the “moral gravity” of abortion. The governor’s continued reception of Holy Communion, coupled with her support for legalized abortion, convey the erroneous message that, “You can be a good Catholic and support legalized abortion,” he wrote.

In April 2007 Gov. Sebelius hosted a reception at the governor’s residence for the late term abortionist Dr. George Tiller and his clinic’s staffers.

Photos of the event, published by Operation Rescue showed the governor greeting Tiller. Operation Rescue reported that the event was a party held in Tiller’s “exclusive honor,” though the governor’s spokeswoman denied that characterization.

The pro-life group also alleges that Tiller has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to pro-abortion Democrats, including Sebelius, through a “complicated series of political action committees and non-profit organizations.”

In one of the last acts of the Bush administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instated conscience protection regulations making explicit the right of pro-life medical professionals and workers to decline to cooperate in an abortion. Pro-abortion rights groups opposed the measures and have said they plan to repeal them through HHS channels.

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Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos: The goal was to heal a schism, not to support anti-Semitism

Vatican City, Feb 10, 2009 (CNA) - Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, President of the pontifical commission charged with reconciling the St. Pius X Society, said on Monday that the lifting of the excommunications from the four Lefebvrist bishops was aimed at healing a schism in the Catholic Church, and was in no way meant to provide any support for the controversial remarks of Bishop Richard Williamson.


Speaking to the Colombian network "Radio Cadena Nacional" (RCN), Cardinal Castrillon, who has been blamed by several Italian media for precipitating the storm that followed the lifting of the excommunication to Bishop Williamson, said that "the Holy Father completely rejects what was done in Germany to the Jewish people. He does not accept any offense aimed at the Jewish people. All we have for them is love. We never forget that Jesus was a Jew, Mary was a Jew and the Apostles were Jews."

Asked if he took into consideration bishop Williamson's theories about the Holocaust into account before bringing the decree to the attention of the Holy Father, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos responded:

"I have always had truth as a norm. The Holy Father knows this. We are moving forward, trying to rebuild the unity of the Church, and put an end completely to this schism."

The Cardinal said that "as a Christian, I completely reject the atrocities of the Holocaust," and said the true Catholic position on the issue of the Shoah is "to always remember, to make sure that humanity never repeats a similar atrocity again."

Nevertheless, he stressed the need to regain focus on what the lifting of the excommunications really means: "the important thing at this time is the fact that the Pope has stopped a schism. The charity that Christ wanted in the Church has been notably re-established and ways of hope have been opened," he said.


It is worth noting that this is the first time Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos has publicly described the Lefebvrist movement as a "schism."

Although the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts clearly confirmed on August 24, 1996, that Archbishop Lefebvre's ordination of four bishops constituted a schism, followers of Lefebvre have insisted that Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos’ opinion about them not being in schism, which he gave in an interview with the Italian Catholic monthly "30 Giorni," was the "valid" interpretation.


Meanwhile, Bishop Williamson is experiencing the repercussions of his comments denying the extent of the Holocaust. This past Sunday, he was dismissed as director of the SSPX seminary La Reja in Argentina. Bishop Williamson has reportedly said that he will re-examine the evidence surrounding the Holocaust, but that he will need time to do so.

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Details of Vatican evolution conference announced

Vatican City, Feb 10, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican officially announced today that a conference on evolution will take place in Rome this coming March. The goal of the conference is to re-establish a dialogue between faith and science about evolution.

As CNA reported last week, the conference will be held under the theme, "Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories. A critical appraisal 150 years after ‘The Origin of Species’," March 3-7. The summit is part of the Vatican co-sponsored STOQ Project (Science, Theology and the Ontological Quest).

At a press conference this morning, Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said that the purpose of the conference is to "re-establish dialogue between science and faith, because neither of them can fully resolve the mystery of human beings and the universe."

The conference will be divided into nine sessions Fr. Marc Leclerc S.J., the director of the congress, explained. The sessions will address a myriad of issues, such as: "the essential facts upon which the theory of evolution rests, facts associated with palaeontology and molecular biology; ... the scientific study of the mechanisms of evolution, ... and what science has to say about the origin of human beings."

Fr. Leclerc added that attention will also be given to "the great anthropological questions concerning evolution ... and the rational implications of the theory for the epistemological and metaphysical fields and for the philosophy of nature."

Two of the sessions will also be devoted to studying evolution "from the point of view of Christian faith, on the basis of a correct exegesis of the biblical texts that mention the creation, and of the reception of the theory of evolution by the Church," Fr. Leclerc said.

Professor Saverio Forestiero, who teaches zoology at Torvergata University in Rome, proposed an interesting hypothesis about the fruits of the upcoming conference. He observed that "the relative fluidity of contemporary evolutionary theory is largely due to a series of discoveries made in the last quarter of a century, discoveries which require the synthetic theory to be reconfigured and could lead to a theory of evolution of the third generation."

"It is my view," he continued, "that this congress represents an opportunity, neither propagandistic nor apologetic, for scientists, philosophers and theologians to meet and discuss the fundamental questions raised by biological evolution - which is assumed and discussed as a fact beyond all reasonable doubt - in order to examine its manifestations and causal mechanisms, and to analyze the impact and quality of the explanatory theories thus far proposed."

Theology professor Fr. Tanzella-Nitti also offered his opinion on the contributions that theology can make to the conversation about evolution.

Fr. Tanzella-Nitti stated, "from the perspective of Christian theology, biological evolution and creation are by no means mutually exclusive. ... None of the evolutionary mechanisms opposes the affirmation that God wanted - in other words, created - man. Neither is this opposed by the casual nature of the many events that happened during the slow development of life, as long as the recourse to chance remains a simple scientific reading of phenomena."

The professor of Fundamental Theology said that he hopes "that the natural sciences may be used by theology as a positive informational resource, and not just seen as a source of problems. ... I do not believe biological evolution is possible in a materialist world, without information, without direction, without a plan. In a created world, the role of theology is precisely that of talking to us about nature and the meaning it has, of the Logos which, as Benedict XVI likes to say, is the uncreated foundation of all things and of history."

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Venezuelan laity reject anti-religious violence and call for day of prayer

Caracas, Venezuela, Feb 10, 2009 (CNA) - The National Council of the Laity in Venezuela issued a press release this week rejecting anti-religious violence in the country, especially the attacks on the Apostolic Nunciature and the main synagogue in Caracas, and calling for a day of prayer this Wednesday, February 11.

“As Venezuelan Catholics, we reject the scorn for human life,” the statement said.  “We reject the violent rhetoric, whatever its origins, and words filled with hatred which lead to division among Venezuelans.”

The statement went on to reject “the repeated attacks on the Apostolic Nunciature, which are not only an attack against an Embassy, but above all, a direct attack on the Holy Father and all Catholics. Likewise, we reject the constant offenses and attacks against the Bishops’ Conference and other representatives of the Catholic Church.”

The Council also expressed its rejection of the “profanation of the Tiferet Synagogue of Caracas and all the recent attacks against the Jewish community that reflect anti-Semitic attitudes unheard of until now in Venezuela.”

“Religion is an essential part of the culture of all peoples,” the statement noted.  “The State has the duty to respect religious freedom, which is a fundamental right recognized not only in our Constitution but in all international statements on human rights.  Our liberator was an example of this respect for the religious conviction and traditions of our people. Violent acts do not reflect the feelings of Venezuelans, who are by nature peaceful, tolerant and welcoming.”

Therefore, the Council invites “all Catholics, all of our Christian brothers and sisters and the members of other religious confessions and all people of good will, to join us in a national day of prayer for peace in Venezuela next Wednesday, February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.”

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Operation Rice Bowl helps Catholics reflect on global hunger during Lent

Baltimore, Md., Feb 10, 2009 (CNA) - Catholic Relief Services is gearing up for its annual Lenten program, Operation Rice Bowl, which will begin on Ash Wednesday.  Each year, Catholic parishes and schools from over 13,000 communities participate in the program to assist those in poverty around the world.


Catholic Relief Services (CRS) explains that each week during Lent those participating in the program make the small sacrifice of preparing simple, meatless recipes and putting the money they would have spent on a big meal into symbolic rice bowls. 


Last year, Catholics raised more than $7 million through Operation Rice Bowl, 75 percent of which was used to fund hunger and poverty projects in 40 countries. The remaining 25 percent stays in U.S. dioceses to support food pantries and soup kitchens. 


Additionally, participants receive a calendar which provides prayers, daily reflections, stories and learning opportunities to reinforce the program’s mission to fight global hunger and poverty.


“Having the Rice Bowl as the focal point for their Lenten observance helps families to think beyond their daily realities and to focus on making a difference in the lives of others,” says Beth Martin, program manager for Operation Rice Bowl. “The program also includes an educational component, sharing stories of people from developing countries that benefit from ORB.”

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Holy See calls for investigation into death of Eluana Englaro

Rome, Italy, Feb 10, 2009 (CNA) - In statements to ANSA news agency on Monday, the President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, prayed for the soul of Eluana Englaro and said that  if her death was caused by human intervention, “it should be considered a crime.” He also called for those responsible for her death to be held accountable.

In brief statements after learning of Eluana Englaro’s death, Cardinal Lozano Barragan also prayed for those who subjected her to euthanasia by withdrawing her food and water last Friday. “May the Lord embrace and forgive those who brought her to this point,” he said.

“Above all we commend (Eluana) to the Lord, we pray for her and we ask forgiveness for everything thing that has been done to her,’ the cardinal added.

 Cardinal Lozano also stressed, “The circumstances of this death should be looked into, if it was due to the suspension of food and water or other causes.”

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Vice President of Peruvian Congress says abortion solves nothing

Lima, Peru, Feb 10, 2009 (CNA) - The Vice President of the Peruvian Congress, Fabiola Morales Castillo, said this week, “We cannot allow children to be killed in the wombs of their mothers under any circumstances in order to solve the problem” of rape, because those babies “are not guilty and have no way to defend themselves.”

Morales Castillo's comments were made in response to the Minister for Women’s Affairs, Carmen Vildoso, who said the idea of giving a child up for adoption who was conceived through rape was “traumatic.”

During a recent radio interview Vildoso said the idea that an underage girl who has become pregnant through rape could give her child up for adoption “is another trauma.  The first trauma is the rape and the second is giving the child up in adoption.”

In response to this pro-abortion position, Morales Castillo said the alternative of adoption is valid, “as the baby is given the chance to be welcomed in a home and receive the care of generous persons who will give him love and help him grow.  The minister should concern herself with finding creative solutions to these problems, such as improving the administrative procedures for adoption, for example, which take too long.”

Speaking later about underage girls who are raped and left pregnant, Morales underscored that this situation “is a problem that merits all of our attention, but it will not be solved by promoting and condemning defenseless children to death [by abortion].”

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Terri Schiavo’s family expresses sadness over death of Eluana Englaro

St. Petersburg, Feb 10, 2009 (CNA) - Upon hearing of the death of Eluana Englaro, the family of Terri Schiavo released a statement expressing “their grief for Eluana, her family, and all of Italy on this very sad day.”

The message recalled the words of the late Pope John Paul II who cautioned, “we must save ourselves from sinking into a 'culture of death."

“Sadly,” Terri’s brother Bobby Schindler remarked, “Eluana's death again reminds us of the pope's words. Withholding her food and water - her most basic care - so that she would die, is really about us and how we are going to care for those who need our love and compassion to live.”

Englaro, a 38 year-old Italian woman in a vegetative state, died on Monday, four days after her food and water were withdrawn.

Ending their statement, the Schindlers urged everyone to keep Eluana's family in their prayers in the wake of this tragedy.

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St. Thomas More College announces 'Faith & Reason' scholarship contest

Merrimack, N.H., Feb 10, 2009 (CNA) - The Merrimack, New Hampshire-based St. Thomas More College of Liberal Arts has opened its 2009 “Faith & Reason Scholarship Essay Contest” for applicants to the school. Seven prizes will be awarded, with the top place earning a $30,000 scholarship to be distributed over four years.

Two second place awards will each receive a $20,000 prize, while five winners will each receive $10,000 in scholarship money distributed over four years of education.

The contest theme is based on a passage from Pope Benedict XVI’s 2006 Regensburg Address, in which he said:

“The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason… this is the program with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time.”

Jessica Rock, Director of Admissions at the school, explained the motives for the scholarship:

“Our patron, St. Thomas More, renowned for his courage, bravely prepared to die in the Tower of London by reflecting upon the life and death of the Savior. His preparation for the solemn act of dying for the Faith can serve for us as an image of the Christian intellectual life more generally. We, too, are called to be the salt of the earth, and must work so as to not lose our savor, but must deepen it through patient, arduous, and disciplined study.”

She referred to Pope John Paul II’s exhortation in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae to foster in ourselves and others a “contemplative outlook” in efforts to advance the culture of life.

“Both Benedict XVI and his great predecessor have challenged us to rededicate our hearts to the great labor that is the pursuit of Christian wisdom,” Rock said in her announcement of the scholarship.

Contest entrants, who must have a complete application on file at the college, are to answer the question: “How should the student display courage and engage the whole breadth of reason?”

Essays are to be two to three pages typed and double-spaced. They should be submitted to Jessica Rock, Director of Admissions at Thomas More College, by March 14 if postmarked or before midnight on March 15 if e-mailed.

The scholarship winners will be announced on April 2.

Further details on the scholarship are available at

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Legionary priest makes apology to Maciel victims, calls for reform

, Feb 10, 2009 (CNA) - Following the recognition of the misdeeds of Legionaries of Christ Founder Fr. Marcial Maciel, Fr. Thomas Berg, LC, has written a letter to Regnum Christi members acknowledging their the feelings of confusion and betrayal and lamenting the “disastrous response” to the crisis provided by the Legionaries’ leadership.

He also apologized directly to Maciel’s victims, appealed for help in reforming the Legion and demanded an independent third party investigation to discover any Legionaries who may have been “accomplices” to Fr. Maciel’s misconduct.

In 2006, following allegations that Fr. Maciel had sexually abused around 20 different teenage recruits to the Legion of Christ, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had invited the priest “to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry.”

The Congregation had decided to forgo a hearing to the allegations on the grounds that Fr. Maciel was in advanced age and declining health. He died on January 30, 2008 at the age of 87.

Recently, reports surfaced that Fr. Maciel had kept a mistress, fathered a child, and lived a double life.

On Feb. 3, Legionaries spokesman Jim Fair confirmed to CNA that there were aspects of his life that “weren’t appropriate for a Catholic priest.” He did not verify any specific allegations of misconduct.

Fr. Berg, Executive Director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person and author of the CNA column “With Good Reason,” on Sunday addressed a letter to members of the Legion of Christ’s lay order Regnum Christi (RC).

He said that so many priests and section directors have met with RC groups to break the “horrible news.”

“Believe me, we have all been trying to do everything possible to reach out to all of you personally,” Fr. Berg wrote. “But my heart aches because our best efforts have not been enough.”

“I beg you, in the midst of such pain and hurt, please bear with your directors,” he continued.

Fr. Berg also begged forgiveness for “the disastrous response which this crisis has received from our upper LC leadership.”

“There is no other way to say it: in so many respects, Legionary superiors have failed, and failed miserably to respond adequately to this crisis, and not surprisingly, have engendered in many of you and understandable lack of confidence. Those are the facts and your reaction is natural and reasonable. With all my heart, on their behalf, I apologize. Our superiors are human instruments; I know in their hearts they have trying to do the right thing, under inhuman pressure. Please understand that.”

Though defending Legion spokesman Jim Fair, he said he would not make excuses for the “fumbled media responses,” the appearances of being “less than forthcoming”, the lack of information and the confusion of messaging.

Insisting that the situation is about more than “crisis management,” he added:

“The thing I am most pained about—I share this as a brother—is the near absence of but fleeting suggestions of sorrow, and of apologizing for the harm done, both to alleged victims of Maciel, and, frankly, to all of you. I am deeply, deeply sorry, and I personally apologize with my heart in my hand to each and every one of you.”

“I understand your feelings of betrayal,” he continued, noting his 23 years of service to the Legionaries and his own past attempts to defend Fr. Maciel.

“I have lived my priesthood always with that cloud hanging over me, always having to essentially apologize for being a Legionary.”

“You feel betrayed? You feel rage?” he asked his readers. “I can only say that the rage, and raw emotions that I have felt these past days… are only a glimpse of the unspeakable hell that victims of priest sexual abuse must go through. My thoughts and my heart have been so often with them these days…”

He advised Regnum Christi members to understand they are going through mourning.

“Keep talking to your section directors,” he counseled. “Let them know how you feel. Let them know if you are satisfied with their response to you.”

Fr. Berg suggested they offer acts of reparation for those suffering the effects of clerical sexual abuse and asked they consider reaching out to those who have been hurt by their experiences with the Legion or RC.

To help their own spiritual needs, Fr. Berg advised Regnum Christi members to speak with anyone inside or outside the movement about their pain and their reactions to “this tragic news.”

He said their “spiritual experiences,” even when they came through the letters of Fr. Maciel, are “valid, and real.”

“God was working through those instruments. The sad revelations about Maciel do not change that.”

He noted that the charism of the Legionaries of Christ is “Pauline,” and told those who can no longer find Fr. Maciel’s letters helpful to put them aside and “nourish” their spirit on the letters of St. Paul.

“Try to thank God for the past, and sing his praises for the way [sic] he has done in your lives through RC,” Fr. Berg suggested. “Prayer of thankfulness will help you. Prayer of thanksgiving for this deliverance he has given us now, and for the purification which we are undergoing will also be very helpful.”

Regnum Christi members’ meditation should return to “the bedrock truths of your life” such as the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Redemption, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, their Baptism, and their call to “a more deeply committed Christian life.”

“Finally, I encourage you to speak to Legionary leadership, and even in the form of petition letters, demand nothing less than full transparency regarding the case of Fr. Maciel,” Fr. Berg stated.

“Demand that [Legionaries General Director] Fr. Alvaro seek an independent third party investigation (perhaps in the form of a temporary review board or Visitation team from the Holy See) into uncovering any Legionaries who may have been accomplices to Maciel.

“Demand that a similar body guide Legionary leadership in introducing any needed reforms into the internal culture, methods and religious discipline of the Legion,” he urged.

Fr. Berg’s letter closed with an exhortation to prayer, quoting Psalm 36 (37): “Entrust your life to the Lord, and He will act.”

Fr. Berg's full letter can be read at

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