Kansas City, Mo., Nov 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - A county prosecutor’s agreement with Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph is a sign of the weakness of the charge that the bishop illegally failed to report suspected child sex abuse, a Missouri lawyer says.
The prosecutor of Clay County, Missouri is “reluctant” to follow the lead of the prosecutor in Jackson County because “he wasn’t going to have a successful prosecution,” St. Louis attorney Michael Quinlan suggested.
“The prosecution is avoiding a risky trial, and the bishop is avoiding what would be a less risky trial, but certainly a tremendous expense and bad publicity and all the terrible things that go along with that,” said Quinlan, who is not involved in the case.
“I would have thought that this would suggest to the prosecuting authorities in Jackson County that they might step back from the brink, but I don’t know whether it will have that effect or not.”
In Quinlan’s view, the possibility of a conviction is “slim” and the relevant statute “simply does not apply to the circumstance.”
“I think a fair minded jury should and would conclude that, there being no abuse victim, there could be no requirement to report,” he told CNA on Nov. 16.
Jackson County prosecutors have indicted Bishop Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph on one misdemeanor count of failure to report suspected abuse of minors by a priest who faces child pornography charges.
Prosecutors in neighboring Clay County, however, have reached a five-year agreement with the bishop.
Under the agreement’s terms, the bishop must meet face-to-face with the Clay County prosecutor Daniel L. White each month for the next five years to discuss any allegations of child sex abuse against clergy or diocesan staff within the diocese’s facilities in the county. Bishop Finn must also describe what steps the diocese has taken to address any allegations.
White would then decide whether to encourage police to investigate any allegations.
The bishop also agreed to visit all nine parishes in Clay County to outline new programs that the diocese is implementing to protect children. The diocesan ombudsman and a new director of child and youth protection will accompany the bishop at the meetings.
“I am grateful for this opportunity to resolve this matter and to further strengthen our diocesan commitment to the protection of children,” Bishop Finn said Nov. 15. “The children of our community must be our first priority. Each deserves no more and no less. I stand ready to do all within my power not only to satisfy this agreement but also to ensure the welfare and safety of all children under our care.”
The legal case concerns the diocese’s response to Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a pastor who attempted suicide in December after a computer technician informed diocesan officials of suspicious images of children, mostly prepubescent girls, on the priest’s laptop. The officials consulted legal experts and informed Bishop Finn, but did not contact law enforcement about the priest until May 11, 2011.
Law enforcement investigations resulted in the May 19 arrest of the priest. He now faces multiple local and federal charges of possessing, producing and attempting to produce child pornography.
The agreement between Bishop Finn and county prosecutors prompted criticism from Peter Isely, a national board member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
“Finn has now done here what bishops have almost always done — make any promises, payment or plea deal to avoid having to face tough questions in open court about their disgraceful and irresponsible deception,” Isely told the Kansas City Star.
However, Quinlan thought such a response was overstated.
“Basically there was a delay of what, a few months? For people like SNAP and some of these people to run around saying that this is a cover-up akin to what went on in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, it’s just not at all fair.
“The diocese is the one who turned the guy in in the end. It’s not like they got caught hiding something, they turned him in. That doesn’t seem to ever get mentioned.”
Quinlan said he is a Catholic who has practiced law for over 25 years. He knows Bishop Finn “only by reputation” as “a holy priest and a good bishop, a conscientious bishop.”
He felt some of the media reports on the case were a “hatchet-job.”
The Kansas City Star’s latest reporting, he contended, wrongly made it appear “less like the prosecutor is trying to avoid litigation, and more like the bishop is. They both are.”
Quinlan said he is convinced that the Jackson County case against the bishop is a misuse of the statute.
“Catholics need to stand up and push back on some of this. I am one of the first Catholics to fault the bishops in the past for what they did, so this is not just a matter of defending a bishop no matter what. This is just not a comparable situation, and I think that there are political forces here.”
While Bishop Finn has taken responsibility for the actions of the diocese, prosecuting him on a charge that could result in a year in prison is “just going too far.”
“It’s not supported by the facts,” Quinlan said.
Atlanta, Ga., Nov 17, 2011 (CNA) - Sophia Institute Press has announced its acquisition of the Catholic Exchange web portal, a move intended to create a multi-platform media company dedicated to the “new evangelization.”
“I am tremendously grateful to Sophia Institute Press for providing a stable platform from which Catholic Exchange can grow,” said Catholic Exchange president Harold Fickett, who will continue as Catholic Exchange’s editor-in-chief. “Those who have supported us can now look forward to their efforts bearing fruit for Christ and his Kingdom in the years to come.”
The New Hampshire-based publisher of Catholic classics and contemporary fiction is the publishing arm of Thomas More College in Merrimack, New Hampshire and of Holy Spirit College in Atlanta, Georgia.
Catholic Exchange, based in Atlanta, launched in 2001. Every weekday it features news stories, opinion columns, blog posts and podcasts about the relevance of Jesus Christ to the problems of everyday life. Its website reports thousands of daily visitors.
The web portal announced the acquisition in a Nov. 16 message to supporters.
Thomas More College president William Fahey, who oversees Sophia Institute Press’ day-to-day operations, said the publisher and Catholic Exchange complement each other.
“We look forward, for example, to the use of Sophia’s books as the basis of certificate programs in biblical studies, theology, spiritual formation, canon law and other subjects that will be offered through Catholic Exchange,” Fahey explained.
Gareth Genner, president of Holy Spirit College and chairman of the board of Sophia Institute Press, also praised the move.
“We expect great things from the synergy of the Press and Catholic Exchange,” he said.
Vatican City, Nov 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI will have an impromptu meeting on Nov. 17 with Akram Masih Gill, Pakistan’s new Minister for Interfaith Harmony and Minorities Affairs.
“I appreciate His Holiness, he always makes remarks when the minority communities in Pakistan have problems and the minority communities there appreciate his views,” Gill told CNA in Rome on Nov 16.
“I also, on behalf of the government,” he added, “will convey my message to him to do something for Pakistan regarding inter-religious dialogue in Pakistan.”
Gill, a 41 year-old practicing Catholic, has been at his post since August. His appointment followed the assassination of his predecessor, Shahbaz Bhatti, in March. Despite that, Gill said he is not fearful for his life.
“I think that being a Pakistani it is my duty and I have to serve, if there are problems or not,” he said. “I think that if I didn't take this office, who would have done so? I think that the Christian communities need me and the religious minorities need me, therefore I will take this job.”
Bhatti was killed by Muslim extremists earlier this year after he criticized Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws. The laws prohibit disrespectful acts against the Prophet Mohammed and the Quran although human rights campaigners claim they are often abused to generate mob violence against Christians.
“It is our duty to protect minority communities in Pakistan and the constitution of Pakistan provides equal rights to all of the citizens of Pakistan,” Gill said.
To accomplish this, Gill explained how he has been involved in creating a network of “district interfaith harmony committees” across Pakistan consisting of religious leaders and civil authorities. Their aim is to settle any inter-religious disputes before they escalate.
The country’s electoral law was also amended in August to set aside four seats in the 100-seat upper chamber of the Pakistani parliament—the Senate—for non-Muslims.
Over the past few days, Gill has been in Rome meeting with who he called “notable persons” in the Vatican to discuss religious freedom in Pakistan. On short notice, he was told that he will meet personally with Pope Benedict later today to discuss the issue.
Earlier this year, the Pope called for Pakistan’s blasphemy laws to be repealed. The country is 95 percent Muslim with Catholics comprising only 1 percent of the population.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Fort Worth will serve as the new delegate for the pastoral provision, a process that allows former Anglican priests, including those who are married, to become diocesan priests in the U.S. Catholic Church.
The appointment, which was made by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was announced on Nov. 15 by Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington at the U.S. bishops’ fall general assembly in Baltimore.
Cardinal Wuerl also announced that an Anglican ordinariate will be established in the U.S. on Jan. 1, 2012.
The ordinariate will allow entire Anglican communities in the U.S. to enter the Catholic Church while keeping certain elements of their heritage and liturgical practices.
Anglican priests who enter the Catholic Church as part of a community under the ordinariate can go through a newly-developed priestly formation program based out of St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston.
However, individual Anglican clergy who choose to enter the Catholic Church can become priests in existing Catholic dioceses through the pastoral provision.
The Holy See established the pastoral provision in 1980. Approximately 100 men have been ordained since the provision was implemented.
In taking on the new role, Bishop Vann succeeds Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, who has served in the position since 2003.
As pastoral provision delegate for the U.S., Bishop Vann will work with former Anglican clergy who have entered the Catholic Church and wish to pursue a call to the priesthood.
He will administer efforts to gather and submit information about each candidate for priesthood to the Holy See.
He will also ensure that the candidates receive adequate theological, spiritual and pastoral formation as they prepare for ordination. Those efforts will be overseen by a panel of theologians that Bishop Vann will create to provide academic assessment and certification of the candidates.
Bishop Vann has several years of experience working with the pastoral provision.
Not long after his appointment to Fort Worth in 2005, he was appointed as vice delegate for the pastoral provision with special responsibility for Texas.
In that role, he saw how the pastoral provision helped foster a strong fraternal relationship between the Catholic and Episcopal Churches.
“I can personally testify to the blessings that the pastoral provision has brought to the Diocese of Fort Worth,” he said.
In September, 24 Episcopalians from four parishes in the greater Fort Worth area entered the Catholic Church at a Mass that Bishop Vann presided over.
The bishop said that he is grateful to serve the Church in his new role.
He explained that although the ordinariate and the pastoral provision function separately and do distinct work, they will complement each other and cooperate to assist Anglicans in entering the Church.
Working together, he said, they will strive to achieve Christ’s desire that “all may be one.”
Corrected Nov. 22, 2011 at 11:33 MDT. Broadens term "Episcopalian" in paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 to "Anglican" and clarifies that the pastoral provision is separate from the ordinariate.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, head of the U.S. bishop's committee on divine worship, clarified how the new translation of the Roman Missal should be used in services and rites outside of the Mass.
Archbishop Aymond answered questions about the new missal at the U.S. bishops' conference's fall general assembly, held in Baltimore Nov. 14-16.
The new English translation of the Third Edition of Roman Missal will be used in the U.S. beginning on Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent.
Archbishop Aymond explained to fellow bishops that his committee worked with the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship to determine certain instances where the material from the new Roman Missal should be adapted to other rites.
In all Church rites, sacraments and praise services, the response to the greeting “The Lord be with you” will consistently be “And with your spirit,” he said.
He also explained that the penitential prayer—known in Latin as the Confiteor—which begins “I confess to Almighty God,” should follow the new translation whether it is prayed in the Mass or anywhere else.
In addition, a deacon’s request for a blessing from a priest before proclaiming the Gospel should use the new translation, even if done outside of Mass, he said.
As for the blessing of the water in the baptismal rite, the archbishop noted that there are three options—two abbreviated forms of the rite and one longer one. The long form matches the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and when that form is chosen, it should use the new translation.
Archbishop Aymond also said that the new translation should be used for the Ecce Agnus Dei, which begins “Behold the Lamb of God”—whether it is done at Mass or as part of a communion service—as well as the dismissal at the end of praise services, blessings for nuptial ceremonies outside of Mass and funeral ceremonies.
For the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayers before the epistle can still be used, although the new one found in the Roman Missal will also be acceptable, he added.
The archbishop explained that while the old translation should no longer be used, pastoral practice will allow for flexibility in extraordinary circumstances, such as when Communion is brought to an elderly person who may not be aware of the changes.
Vatican City, Nov 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The Vatican will take legal action against Italian clothing company Benetton to prevent the circulation of an ad featuring Pope Benedict XVI kissing a Muslim imam.
The move on Nov. 17 comes a day after Benetton hastily withdrew the image from a new advertising campaign following protests from both religions.
“The Secretariat of State has authorized its lawyers to initiate actions, in Italy and elsewhere, to prevent the circulation, via the mass media and in other ways, of a photomontage used in a Benetton advertising campaign in which the Holy Father appears in a way considered to be harmful, not only to the dignity of the Pope and the Catholic Church, but also to the sensibility of believers,” read the Vatican's Nov. 17 statement.
The image was used as part of a new advertising campaign by Benetton titled “UNHATE” which was launched yesterday at a press conference in Paris. It was immediately followed by the unveiling of a new poster campaign at various locations around the globe.
The posters feature various religious and political leaders kissing each other on the mouth including a mock-up of Pope Benedict XVI kissing Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, the Imam of the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo.
A large banner bearing the image was unfurled from a bridge over the River Tiber in Rome. Within a few hours, however, the image had been withdrawn.
“We are so sorry that the use of the image of the Pope and the Imam has so offended the sensibilities of the faithful in this way,” said a spokesman for Benetton Nov. 16. “In confirmation of our feelings we have decided, with immediate effect, to withdraw this image from every publication.”
The Islamic religious authorities in Rome are also threatening to take legal action against Benetton for defamation.
“It is a serious lack of respect for the Pope, an affront to the feelings of the faithful and an evident demonstration of how, in the field of advertising, the most elemental rules of respect for others can be broken in order to attract attention by provocation,” said Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. Nov. 16.
Other posters include U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Hu Jintao and the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Benetton is an Italian based fashion company with around 6000 stores in 120 countries. Their main clothing brand, the United Colors of Benetton, has become known in recent decades for the shock value of their publicity stunts.
In 1991, the company ran a poster campaign featuring a young priest in black cassock about to kiss a nun. Catholic groups subsequently failed in legal attempts to have the image removed from over 1300 billboard sites across the United States.
Other images used in recent years by Benetton have included a young man dying from AIDS, a bloodied newborn baby with uncut umbilical cord, a colorful mix of condoms, the blood stained uniform of a dead Bosnian soldier and pictures of inmates on death row.
Vatican City, Nov 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - After praying the Sunday Angelus, Pope Benedict praised the example of Father Carl Lampert, an Austrian priest who was killed by the Nazis in 1944 and beatified in his native country Nov. 13.
“In the dark time of National Socialism,” the Pope said, Fr. Lampert “clearly understood the meaning of the words of St. Paul: 'We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.'”
“During one interrogation which could have led to his release, he testified with conviction: 'I love my Church. I remain faithful to my Church and to the priesthood. I am on Christ’s side and I love His Church,'” the Pope recalled.
Pope Benedict entrusted those gathered with him in St. Peter's Square on Nov. 13 to the intercession “of the new Blessed that we may participate with him in the joy of the Lord.”
Fr. Lampert was a diocesan priest who worked as the vicar general of the Diocese of Innsbruck Feldkirch in Austria.
After the Nazi persecution began in full force in 1939, he was arrested three times for “alleged activity against the State” and was sent to the Dachau concentration camp. He was watched by the Gestapo, and his phone calls and correspondence were under continual surveillance.
On Feb. 4, 1943, he was arrested along with 40 others and accused of high treason, espionage, undermining army morale and aiding the enemy.
Together with two other priests, Father Herbert Simoleit and Father Friedrich Lorenz, he was beheaded on Nov. 13, 1944. He died speaking the names of Jesus and Mary.
Birmingham, Ala., Nov 17, 2011 (CNA) - Six unaired episodes of Father Robert Barron’s television series “Catholicism” will air on the EWTN Global Catholic Network during the months of November and December.
Fr. Barron, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, visited more than 50 locations in 16 different countries over two years to produce the 10-part documentary about Catholic faith and history.
He tells the story of Catholicism around the world using art, architecture, literature, music and all the riches of Catholic tradition.
"The filming of the ‘Catholicism’ series was one of the most exciting and rewarding periods of my Life,” Fr. Barron said in September. “Our team traveled the globe to capture some of the beauty, truth, and texture of Catholicism.”
Catholic commentator George Weigel has called the series “the most important media project in the history of the Catholic Church in America.”
Episode six, “The Fire of His Love -- Prayer and the Life of the Spirit” was broadcast at 9 p.m. Eastern Time Nov. 16 and will air again at 4 p.m. Dec. 3.
Episode seven, “Happy are We – The Teachings of Jesus” aired at 10 p.m. Nov. 16 and will run again at 1 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Nov. 19.
Episode eight, “Word Made Flesh, True Bread of Heaven – The Mystery of the Liturgy and the Eucharist,” airs at 11 p.m. Nov. 17, 4 p.m. Nov. 19 and 6 p.m. Dec. 10.
Episode nine, “A Vast Company of Witnesses – The Communion of the Saints” airs at 10 p.m. Nov. 18, 5 p.m. Nov. 19 and 11 p.m. Dec. 11.
The final episode, “World Without End – The Last Things” airs at 11 p.m. Nov. 18, 6 p.m. Nov. 19 and 10 p.m. Dec. 17.
Other episodes aired in over 80 public television markets across the U.S. in Fall 2011.
The website for the series is http://www.catholicismseries.com.
Caracas, Venezuela, Nov 17, 2011 (CNA) - The Venezuelan bishops expressed concern for the health of reporter Leocenis Garcia, who has been on a hunger strike for more than week in protest of his imprisonment.
“We pray that this situation be resolved without injury that good sense would prevail among all those involved in this case,” the bishops' committee on justice and peace said Nov. 16.
Garcia, editor and journalist for the newspaper 6to Poder, began a hunger strike on Nov. 9 to protest what he says is political persecution for criticizing President Hugo Chavez.
In a statement signed by Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro, the committee encouraged Venezuelan officials to “thoughtfully consider the reasons for the hunger strike.”
“The loss of a human life would be a very serious matter,” the committee said, adding that there is no such thing as “crimes of opinion” under Venezuelan law.
“We join our voices to those of the defenders of the editor of the newspaper 6to Poder, who have denounced the violation of his human rights during the hunger strike in this situation which Catholic Social teaching would consider to be very grave.”
In its statement, the committee said it was moved to speak out for the sake of “reconciliation, peace and justice” and to “safeguard the personal and family integrity of this citizen, so that, taking into account the procedures contemplated in our Constitution, he be granted due process.”
Allenspark, Colo., Nov 17, 2011 (CNA) -
The Camp St. Malo Retreat Center severely damaged in a Nov. 14 fire has had a “huge” place in the life of the Catholic Church in Colorado, its director says.
“It’s a wonderful place with a wonderful history,” center director José Ambrozic told CNA on Nov. 15.
“Many priests can trace their vocations to their experience as campers at St. Malo, or as seminarians who during the summers helped as camp counselors.”
A fire destroyed much of the center's three-story, 49-room lodge and conference center on Monday. Firefighters initially believed flammable gases built up in a chimney and ignited, causing an explosion.
The retreat center had sent home its guests on Sunday because of a power outage caused by high winds.
“I’m sad because of everything St. Malo represents. It will be a challenge to rebuild,” Ambrozic said. “On the other hand, I’m very glad that there are no personal casualties.”
“All in all, I think we were spared from something much worse.”
The camp was built for young people during the 1930s and renovated into a conference center during the 1980s.
“Camp St. Malo has a huge history not only with Catholics in Colorado. There are many families from all over the country that send their kids to camp. Some of the alumni are still very engaged with the future of St. Malo from Illinois, Kansas, and Nebraska, just to name a few places.”
“It’s a strong reference point for many people.”
The retreat center also played a role in the life of Bl. John Paul II, who visited the camp for World Youth Day in August 1993.
“The room where the Pope stayed has been saved. That wasn’t damaged,” Ambrozic said.
The contents of a closet containing memorabilia from his visit appear to have mostly survived. However, the losses included a storage room containing the bedspread and blankets John Paul II used during his visit.
Earlier reports of total loss were “speculations” according to Ambrozic. A firewall and fire doors helped contain the blaze.
However, the fire did cause “significant” destruction.
Ambrozic emphasized that the retreat center still awaits a professional assessment, but he estimated that about 40 percent of the building was damaged.
Before the fire, he lived at the center with four of his fellow consecrated members in the Christian Life Movement and one aspirant to the community.
They are presently staying elsewhere and are in “pretty high spirits.”
“We’re happy to know that there are a lot of expressions of solidarity and people offering sacrifices and prayers for us, for the retreat center,” Ambrozic told CNA.
“We thank everybody for their prayers, and I ask everyone to pray for us so we can get this camp back in service for Catholics in Colorado.”
The future of St. Malo, he said, is something for the Archdiocese of Denver to decide.
“In terms of our community, we’re very much committed to helping in any way we can to rebuild the center and get it back into operating shape as soon as possible,” Ambrozic continued.
“I think it’s worth every effort to get it back running. For Catholics in Colorado, it’s an important resource.”
Rome, Italy, Nov 17, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The French charismatic movement, the Community of the Beatitudes, has admitted that its founder Gerard Croissant – also known by his religious name, Brother Ephraim - was a sexual abuser.
“The Community is deeply ashamed of Ephraim’s behavior and expresses its sympathy with all the people who have been abused by him,” read a statement on the movement’s website Nov. 16.
It explained how Croissant had committed “crimes against the morality of the Church” involving a number of “sisters” that lived in the community. The statement added that “his prestige as a charismatic founder, combined with the seduction of his words, led most of his victims to let themselves be abused.”
The document is signed by the man sent in by the Vatican in 2010 to head up the reform of the community, Father Henry Donneaud O.P., as well as by the community’s board.
It explains that the community “has been committed for years, and at the request of the Catholic authorities, in a process that is not just a process of explanation and purification but also a process of deep restructuring and rebirth.”
The Community of the Beatitudes was founded in France in 1973 by Croissant and his wife Jo along with another couple. At the time Croissant was not Catholic but converted in 1975 and was ordained a deacon in 1978. In 2008 he was expelled from the community and ordered to live a life of silence and penance by the Church.
The movement gathers together priests, nuns, married couples and single people – some consecrated and others not – into local groups who then share a common prayer and community life. It has a presence in 60 dioceses across the globe.
The statement comes just ahead of the trial of one of its senior members – Pierre-Etienne Albert – who stands accused of sexually abusing more than 50 children, aged between 5 and 13 years old, from 1985 to 2000. His trial begins in the French town of Rodez on Nov. 30.
It also claims that abuse was committed by Philippe Madre, Croissant’s brother-in-law, who was also expelled from the community in May 2010.
“The Community intends to acknowledge, with humbleness, lucidity and repentance, these serious crimes committed within it by a narrow circle of people,” it says.
“However, they should not result in the disavowal of the value of its identity, as recognized by the Church, nor of the quality of its spiritual, apostolic and humanitarian work, appreciated by all the bishops who host it in their dioceses.”
The community was officially recognized by the Vatican in 2002 but following its internal problems, Rome began to intervene in 2007. A pontifical commissioner, Fr. Donneaud, was appointed last year to head up the order and oversee the reform of its statutes.
The statement said the community still “confidently submits to the hands of the Catholic Church.”