Archive of December 1, 2011

Church clears priest accused of assaulting Anglican bishop

Adelaide, Australia, Dec 1, 2011 (CNA) - An Australian Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting Anglican Archbishop John Hepworth several decades ago has been cleared of any wrongdoing by his diocese.

“There is no substance to the allegations made by Archbishop Hepworth,” Archbishop Philip Wilson of the Diocese of Adelaide said on Nov. 28. His remarks follow a two-month investigation into claims made against local priest Monsignor Ian Dempsey.

Archbishop Hepworth, 67, had alleged that he was sexually abused, beginning in 1960, by three Catholic priests including Msgr. Dempsey.

The diocesan investigation, which found Msgr. Dempsey innocent of the charges, was conducted by a leading Adelaide lawyer Michael Abbott.

“I am satisfied that Mr. Abbott examined all of the allegations raised by Archbishop Hepworth,” Archbishop Wilson said.

“He personally interviewed 29 witnesses, including many who were present at the time that the events were alleged to have occurred.”

Abbot “also examined a very large body of relevant documents including those still in existence from the period dating back to the relevant period,” he added.

Archbishop Wilson said he does not intend to release the full report publicly for various reasons “not the least of which is that it contains significant personal and sensitive information which all parties are entitled to have respected.”

The claims of sexual abuse leveled against Msgr. Dempsey emerged in September when a member of the Australian Senate, Nick Xenophon, made the allegations public.

“It’s been a very long few months since those accusations became public in the Senate and it’s been a very trying and difficult time,” said Msgr. Dempsey to Australia’s ABC News Nov. 28.

He added that he was “very much relieved that the truth has finally come out and justice has been served.”

Australia's Herald Sun reported on Nov. 29 that Archbishop Hepworth has since filed a police complaint after the diocesan report exonerated Msgr. Dempsey.

Archbishop Hepworth was ordained a Catholic priest in 1968 but converted to Anglicanism in 1976. He has been married twice and has three children. He is now the leader of the breakaway Traditional Anglican Communion, which claims 400,000 members in 41 countries.

Last year, its Australian members petitioned the Vatican for reconciliation with the Catholic Church under Rome’s 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.

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Catholic University single-sex dorm complaint dismissed

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The D.C. Office of Human Rights has dismissed a complaint that The Catholic University of America’s single-sex dorm policy constitutes unlawful discrimination under the district’s Human Rights Act.

“We were confident from the beginning that our actions were entirely legal,” said John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America, on Nov. 30.

John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University, filed the legal complaint in response to an op-ed that Garvey wrote in the Wall Street Journal in June announcing that the university would be implementing single-sex housing in hopes of fighting binge drinking and hooking up.

On Nov. 29, the D.C. Office of Human Rights issued an order dismissing the complaint, saying that Banzhaf had failed to demonstrate that women under the new policy would lack “equivalent access to educational opportunities” or be subject to “material harm.”

The Office of Human Rights determined that Banzhaf’s arguments were based on “conjecture and speculation” rather than “factual allegations.”

Banzhaf claimed that women are more frightened by walking alone outside of a single-sex residence hall and that women would be disadvantaged in attempts to network in academic disciplines in which they are a minority.

The order of dismissal noted that some of Banzhaf’s examples were ironically based on stereotypes of “women as the weaker sex,” and that there was no indication the university’s new policy was motivated by “a discriminatory animus against women,” as Banzhaf had contended. 

Banzhaf’s reasoning, the order noted, could also be used to prohibit single-sex restrooms, locker rooms and sports teams, “which would lead to absurd results.”

Garvey welcomed the decision, saying that he was “thankful for the outpouring of public support” and that he will continue to implement the “principled decision to transition to single-sex residence halls.”

Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, also applauded the ruling, saying that it “dispels an activist attorney’s ridiculous claims.”

He said that the decision will make it easier for other Catholic colleges to institute similar policies to put the “Church’s teaching into practice in a concrete way.”

In October, Banzhaf filed a second legal complaint against The Catholic University of America.

He charged that the university discriminated against Muslim students by displaying Catholic symbolism and imagery. However, Garvey noted that “no Muslim student at Catholic University has registered a complaint with the University about the exercise of their religion on campus.”

The university has not received any official notification from the Office of Human Rights indicating that it will take action on that complaint.

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Catholic advocates promote tax credits for tuition

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2011 (CNA) - Leaders at a Nov. 30 conference in Washington, D.C. argued that tax credits for education benefit not only the students involved but the entire community.

Catholic schools have a “profound effect” on society as a whole through their “faith perspective,” said Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C.

He underscored that Catholic education serves as “an instrument” that will help students respond to the challenges they will face in life.

The cardinal made his remarks at the event “Tuition Tax Credits: The Catholic Schools’ Perspective,” held at the at the Catholic University of America's Edward J. Pryzbyla center.

He noted his “extraordinarily positive” experience with tax credits in Pennsylvania when he was bishop of Pittsburgh and said that Catholic schools invite students to Christ and the faith in an environment that fosters service, community and worship.

“What they want from us is a level playing field,” he said. “They can do the rest.”

Marie Powell, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education for the U.S. bishops’ conference, explained that the bishops have worked in recent years to support initiatives allowing for greater school choice.

She shared examples states that have been successful in passing school choice legislation and said that supporters of tax credit efforts should work to gain the support of the business community.

Advocates for school choice should try to show that a tax credit system will actually save the state money, Powell said. She noted that supporters must also emphasize that money from a tax credit system would not be limited to private schools but benefit public schools as well.

Powell then advised proponents of tuition tax credits to be prepared for opposition and to be open to compromises that will ultimately promote their long-term goals.

John Carr, executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development for the U.S. bishops, described Catholic education as a “fundamental social justice issue.”

Catholic schools play an important role in transmitting Church teaching and the mission of Catholic education mirrors the overall mission of the Church, he said.

Carr emphasized that the debate on tax credits should not become a competition between public and private schools but instead be focused on finding the best ways to aid the most poor and vulnerable children in society.

The discussion on tax credits is not ultimately one of institutions, but one of students, he said, noting that the young people of today will be the workforce and the leaders of the future.

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Vatican condemns excommunicated bishop's role in Chinese ordination

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi has condemned excommunicated Chinese Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin's role in the Nov. 30 ordination of Vatican-approved Auxiliary Bishop Peter Luo Xuegang.

The head of the Holy See Press Office welcomed Bishop Xuegang's ordination in the Yibin diocese, but said the “participation of the illegitimate bishop, who – as is known – is in the canonical status of an excommunicated person,” causes “disagreement and confusion among the faithful.”

The Vatican spokesman said Dec. 1 that the situations was worsened by the fact that Bishop Shiyin “participated as a consecrating bishop and concelebrated the Eucharist.

“His repeated disobedience to the norms of the Church unfortunately aggravates his canonical position,” he added.

Fr. Lombardi had previously made it clear that “no illegitimate bishop” was to participate in the ordination liturgy, in accordance with Catholic norms. But Bishop Shiyin, who was cut off from the Church after being ordained without papal approval in June 2011, failed to heed the warning.

Ordinarily, he noted, “the presence of the Bishop Lei Shiyin should have been entirely excluded, and would entail canonical consequences for the other bishops attending.”

But Fr. Lombardi indicated that the legitimate bishops in attendance were in an unusual situation that would require further examination.

“In this circumstance it is likely that they were unable to prevent it without great inconvenience,” he said. “In any case, the Holy See will be able to better assess the question when it has received more extensive and in-depth information.”

Tight security arrangements surrounded Bishop Xuegang's Nov. 30 ordination. Local church sources told UCA News that police officers with dogs kept watch at St. Mary's Church, where participants in the ordination had to arrive three hours early to be searched for any phones, cameras, or liquids.

Yibin's 95-year-old Bishop John Chen Shizhong presided over the ceremony in the presence of 800 faithful and around 100 clergy and religious. Bishop Xuegang will assist him in serving around 30,000 Catholics in the city located in China's south-central Sichuan province.

Despite the illicit participation of Bishop Shiyin, Fr. Lombardi said Wednesday's ordination of a bishop in good standing with Rome was a welcome change from the recent past.

“After three recent episcopal ordinations without papal mandate,” Fr. Lombardi said, “the fact of having a new bishop in communion with the Pope and all the Catholic bishops of the world is certainly positive.”

“It will be appreciated not only by the Chinese bishops and faithful, but also by the universal Church.”

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Irish Church’s abuse review stresses accountability

Dublin, Ireland, Dec 1, 2011 (CNA) - New reviews of six Irish dioceses show that the Catholic Church in Ireland is dedicated to “complete transparency and accountability” about allegations of clerical sex abuse and that its child protection systems are improving, an official with the independent review board says.

“(W)e have seen a huge leap forward in this and full credit goes to the bishops and their diocesan teams who are implementing the standards for safeguarding children in the Church,” Ian Elliot, chief executive of Ireland’s National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, told Vatican Radio.

On Nov. 30 the board published its reviews of six Irish dioceses and how they handled allegations. The reviews focused on the current safeguarding framework in each diocese and did not set out to analyze past practice.

The summary report of the reviews declared a “marked improvement” in the reporting of allegations to civil authorities “promptly and comprehensively.” There is also comprehensive acceptance of the need to create and maintain a safe environment for children, the report’s executive summary said.

“There is greater awareness and much greater commitment to safeguarding children than was once the case. Individuals that are seen as being a risk to children are reported quickly to the authorities and steps are taken to eliminate their access to children,” it continued.

The report said that increased transparency and accountability must be seen as “the two essential elements of the Church’s approach to safeguarding children.”

Eliot told Vatican Radio that the reviews conclude that “lessons have been learned.”

The review of the Archdiocese of Tuam praises Archbishop Michael Neary’s “steady serious approach” to abuse allegations. The reviews of the Diocese of Kilmore and the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois were also positive.

Archbishop Neary said he welcomed the report and was “very happy” that the judgment of his archdiocese was positive.

“As archbishop I have had to address these sad situations. I was convinced that it would be impossible to do so without involving lay people, particularly parents and especially mothers who have been nurturing, cherishing and protecting children day in day out,” he said, explaining his appointment of an advisory panel.

“This is not something, however, about which we can become complacent. The safeguarding and cherishing of children in the Catholic Church must continue to remain a challenge for all of us.” 

The audit of the Diocese of Dromore found that although all accusations were reported to authorities, in some cases this “should have been done more promptly.”

Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore said the report helped the diocese recognize its strengths and weaknesses. He said he accepted the report’s recommendations, adding that many have already been implemented. The diocese plans to implement the other recommendations “as a matter of urgency.”

He said the diocese initially depended too much on legal advice and has gradually learned how to manage complaints better.

The review of the Diocese of Raphoe found “significant errors of judgment” among previous bishops.

The current Bishop of Raphoe, Phillip Boyce, said in a statement that in past decades “insufficient emphasis was placed on the need of victims, often in the misguided attempt to protect the reputation of the Church.”

“We are truly sorry for the terrible deeds that have been inflicted on so many by a small minority of priests. We offer our humble apologies once more and seek their forgiveness for the dreadful harm that has been done to them, their families and friends.”

The detective who investigated the diocese’s largest sex abuse case has accused the diocese of hiding or destroying its most incriminating documents, though the bishop has rejected accusations that he or his predecessors destroyed them, the Associated Press reports.

In the six dioceses under review, 85 parish priests have been accused of sexually abusing children since 1975, though only eight have been convicted. Those convicted include Eugene Greene, a priest who in 2000 was convicted of raping 26 boys and served eight years in prison.

John Morgan, chairman of the review board, said that the board’s goal is to assure lay faithful, clergy, and particularly parents and young people that the safeguarding guidelines are effectively implemented.

The attitude of the dioceses and their bishops in implementing the guidelines has been “good,” Eliot said in a Nov. 30 statement. He said it was important to note that much of the work is being done by volunteers, which he said indicated “an even wider commitment.”

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Mexican artists craft figures for Vatican Nativity scene

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 1, 2011 (CNA) - Mexican artisans from the state of Puebla will provide the figures for the Vatican’s Nativity scene which will decorate St. Peter’s Square this Advent season.

The Nativity scene—one of the largest in the world—will be unveiled in a special ceremony at the Vatican on Dec. 13 and will be attended by Puebla's auxiliary Bishop Eugenio Lira Rugarcia.

Bishop Lira told the Mexican daily Desde la Fe on Nov. 28 that the ceremony will include a photo exhibit at the Paul VI Hall on the treasures of the Mexican state of Puebla.

He added that auxiliary Bishop Dagoberto Sosa, Archbishop Victor Sanchez Espinosa of Puebla and Bishop Rodrigo Aguilar of Tehuacan will attend the event as well.

Within the last several years, artisans from the Mexican states of Jalisco, Mexico City, and Guanajuato have also provided the figures for the nativity scene.

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Pope gives new bishop to Catholics in Fresno diocese

Fresno, Calif., Dec 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - Bishop Armando X. Ochoa of El Paso, Texas was named today as the new bishop of Fresno, Calif. by Pope Benedict XVI.

“I am humbled and deeply honored that the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, would offer me this new challenge at my age,” said Bishop Ochoa, who will fill a position left vacant by the death of Bishop John Steinbock in December 2010.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican's recently appointed representative to the U.S., made the announcement in Washington D.C. on Dec. 1.

Bishop Ochoa said he was told of his appointment at the U.S. bishops' recent November assembly in Baltimore, Md.

Archbishop Viganò “pulled me aside and broke the news to me,” he said. “I am still in a state of shock!”

A native of California, Bishop Ochoa was born in 1943 in Oxnard and studied at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1970.

Bishop Ochoa served in numerous Los Angeles parishes and was associate director of the Spanish-speaking permanent diaconate for the archdiocese.

He was named an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles in 1986, and bishop of El Paso in 1996. Nationally, he has served on the U.S. bishops’ conference committees for vocations, the laity, the permanent diaconate, Hispanic affairs and migration.

Bishop Ochoa will lead a population of over 2 million—around half of which are Catholic—including 166 priests and over 150 religious.

He noted that his new diocese is under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, former archbishop of San Antonio.

“As is turns out, my former Metropolitan Archbishop,” he said, “becomes my new Metropolitan Archbishop.”

Bishop Ochoa told the El Paso community that he has been “privileged” to know them and assured them of his prayers as he moves forward to Fresno.

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Vatican officials to pick logo for World Youth Day in Rio

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Dec 1, 2011 (CNA) - After sifting through almost 200 proposals for World Youth Day Rio 2013's official logo, Church officials in Brazil sent the best submissions to the Vatican where the final selection will be made.

The proposals were sent to Rome on Nov. 28 and presented to the Pontifical Council for the Laity by auxiliary Bishop Paulo Cezar Costa of Rio de Janeiro.

Bishop Cezar serves as a member of the organizing committee for the global youth event, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, Pope Benedict announced to those gathered in Madrid during World Youth Day this past August.

 A group of graphic designers in Brazil evaluated the logo submissions together with youth ministry representatives and other World Youth Day organizers.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity will announce a date to unveil the winning logo after it has made its selection.

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Pennsylvania and New Jersey bishops ask St. Peter for courage

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey are praying to St. Peter as they begin their “ad limina” visit in Rome, asking for fidelity and courage.

The group began the first full day of their trip with early morning Mass at the tomb of St. Peter.

“The Lord has given us these 10 days here in Rome in the season of Advent, to be reflective, to raise in our hearts the spirit of Advent with is embodied in Mary who pondered the things of the Lord in her heart,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia in his homily.

As well as the usual round of meetings with Vatican officials, Archbishop Chaput said that he and his fellow bishops are looking at their time in Rome as “an Advent retreat.”

In total, 29 bishops gathered in crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, next to the apostle’s mortal remains to celebrate Mass on the morning on Dec. 1. Wearing red vestments to denote the martyrdom suffered by Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome, they listened as Archbishop Chaput drew parallels between the life of the first Bishop of Rome and the life of a bishop today.

“Peter embodies the mistakes of bishops, for he was a foolish man in so many ways, but he was also a man who chose to be faithful and was courageous,” he said.

And because of St. Peter’s well-known story, Archbishop Chaput urged his fellow bishops to pray to St. Peter, asking him to help them“embody his virtue, especially his courage and his faith when he proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah.”

The bishops will be in Rome until Dec. 10. In that time they will meet in three separate groupings with Pope Benedict XVI. This morning a delegation of Pennsylvanian bishops had their audience with the Pope.

Meanwhile, the remaining bishops had meetings with officials from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and then the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

The dioceses represented in this ad limina group are: Newark, Philadelphia, Allentown, Altoona-Johnstown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Metuchen, Paterson, Pittsburgh, Scranton and Trenton. This group of bishops is the third of 15 groups from the U.S. that will make their way to Rome in the coming months for ad limina meetings.

Their visit will coincide with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the United States, on Dec. 8. They will also offer Mass together at the tomb of St. Paul at the basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls.

The term “ad limina” derives from the Latin phrase “ad limina apostolorum,” which is translated as “to the threshold of the apostle.” This phrase reflects the fact that one of the main purposes for the visits is to pray at the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul.

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US House questions decision to cut bishops' human trafficking funds

Washington D.C., Dec 1, 2011 (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. House of Representatives opened an investigative hearing on Dec. 1 into whether or not the Department of Health and Human Services was justified in denying grants to the U.S. bishop's human trafficking fund.

George Sheldon, acting assistant secretary for the department’s Administration for Children and Families, testified today that the department funded groups who “could best meet the needs of human trafficking victims” which did not include the U.S. bishops.

Sheldon said that the administration found all the organizations “equally” qualified and decided that the awards would go to the groups that would offer referrals for “family planning services” and “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care.”

But Steve Wagner, former director of the HHS department that administered funds for human trafficking programs, argued in a Dec. 1 interview with CNA that the bishops' beliefs in this area should have never been a part of the department's decision.

He said that the funding intiative was created with an understanding that abortion and contraception were “totally inappropriate” to provide for those seeking aid.

Wagner, who helped from 2003 to 2006 design the program which gives assistance to trafficking victims throughout the U.S., said that none of the original applicants for grant money ever sought to provide referrals for contraception or abortion.

On Thursday, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing which sought to determine whether the Department of Health and Human Services had made an unfair and politicized decision in awarding recent trafficking grants.

The U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services held a federal contract from 2006 to 2011 to provide food, clothing, shelter and medical aid to trafficking victims across the country.

Despite consistently receiving excellent ratings, however, the bishops’ group was recently denied their bid for a new contract.

The decision was made after new instructions were added to the grant application, indicating that “strong preference” would be given to applicants that would offer referrals for “the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care,” which includes abortion, contraception and sterilization.

A Nov. 1 Washington Post article raised questions of manipulation, reporting that some staff members in the Health and Human Service Department had protested that senior political appointees had interfered to change the outcome of the grant award process.

Congressmen at the hearing noted that a review board had ranked the top four grant applicants, giving Heartland Human Care Services, Inc. a score of 90, while the bishops’ group came in at a close second with a score of 89. Tapestri, Inc. received a score of 74 and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Inc. was given a score of 69.

The reviewers recommended full funding of the bishops’ group and Heartland Human Care Services and recommended denying all funding to Tapestri and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

However, the department decided the latter two groups should receive funding and that the bishops’ group should be denied.

According to Sheldon, the scores were merely advisory, and additional information was considered as well. 

However, several congressmen questioned this judgment and referenced the review abstracts evaluating each of the applicants.

Reviewers noted that the bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services provided “a comprehensive plan” that addressed all of the program’s objectives. The review also said that the group was among the “most experienced national experts on human trafficking” and possessed a “wealth of knowledge” and a “broad reach across the country.”

Although Tapestri had multiple strengths, reviewers gave the organization a lower score, observing that most program staff members “have limited or unrelated education” for managing the grant and “lack the training and experience” to perform the tasks laid out by the grant.

In comments to CNA, Wagner said that department leadership is putting trafficking victims at “tremendous risk” by placing them in the hands of less-qualified organizations.

He argued that abortion and contraception are not among the “needs” of trafficking victims that the federal program should seek to address.

Wagner explained that trafficking victims are often very young and under the complete control of a trafficker, so they cannot give their informed consent for procedures such as abortion and sterilization.

Furthermore, he said, pregnancy sometimes leads women to escape from their captors, while it is the trafficker who benefits most from an abortion, because it allows the victim to be “back on the market” again sooner.

Wagner also noted problems reported with abortion clinics facilitating trafficking by providing abortions but failing to report suspicions of sex trafficking to the authorities.

There is nothing to prevent individuals from obtaining contraception after they are freed, he said, but such a decision should not fall within the realm of a federal trafficking program.

Wagner said that it was “sad” to see the Department of Health and Human Services making an “entirely political” decision and sacrificing the “best interest of the victims” in order to do so.

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