Wheeling, W.V., Jul 25, 2012 (CNA) - Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston says accusations of abuse against him have been disproved, with the alleged victim and another witness coming forward to attest to his innocence.
“I am pleased to be able to say that this allegation has been put to rest,” Bishop Bransfield wrote in a July 23 letter, addressing the “false hearsay statements” made against him during the recent trial of Monsignor William Lynn and Father James Brennan.
“Ron Rock, the high school student whom I had allegedly victimized – now a prominent Philadelphia businessman – has now publicly confirmed that this allegation is completely false,” Bishop Bransfield wrote.
“Timothy Love was also with us on that occasion, and he has also confirmed the completely innocent and proper nature of my friendship with them.”
The West Virginia bishop said he was “very grateful to these two Catholic men” for coming forward to defend him against allegations raised during the Philadelphia trial. Their statements, he said, “provide tangible proof that the hearsay allegation made at the trial is false.”
“I am very fortunate that they have come forward 35 years later to defend me,” Bishop Bransfield wrote, noting the harm the accusations had inflicted on his family members and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
During the recently-concluded trial in Philadelphia, it was claimed that Bishop Bransfield engaged in improper conduct with a student at a farm outside Philadelphia in the 1970s, during his years as a priest.
The charge was made by a prosecution witness who did not claim to have direct knowledge of the alleged abuse by the future bishop. Rather, the witness said the information was told to him by another priest, Father Stanley Gana, whom he said was sexually abusing him at the time.
But Ron Rock, the man Bishop Bransfield was said to have abused, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that nothing inappropriate took place between himself and the future bishop.
“I've talked to my buddies who were with me that weekend,” Rock told the paper, in comments published July 23. The future Bishop Bransfield, he said, “was a guy's guy. We would joke about girls. There was no inappropriate anything.”
Rock told the Inquirer that Bishop Bransfield, who presided at his marriage and the baptism of his children, was “a great family friend.”
Timothy Love, who was said to have been present during the time of the alleged abuse, confirmed to the paper that the priest had done nothing inappropriate.
During the recent court testimony in Philadelphia, a different accusation surfaced against Bishop Bransfield, which he also maintains is false. That allegation of improper conduct, made by a former Lansdale Catholic High School student, was already investigated and dismissed after surfacing in 2007.
The suspicion involving the student was reported to the Distinct Attorney, who brought no charges against Bishop Bransfield. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia also conducted a full investigation, including interviews of the bishop, the accuser, and students who attended the school at the time.
“At the conclusion of the investigation, I was formally notified that the allegation had not been substantiated and that steps were to be taken to restore my good reputation. I was very thankful to have this matter resolved – or so I thought – in 2008.”
With this previously-dismissed accusation drawing new attention, the Wheeling-Charleston bishop said he could “only repeat what I have stated before publicly: I have never abused anyone.”
In an earlier statement about the allegations raised in the Philadelphia trial, Bishop Bransfield said he has “openly been an advocate for the eradication of the abusive behavior of priests in every diocese,” and had “demonstrated this in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, where I now live and serve.”
Rome, Italy, Jul 25, 2012 (CNA) - “I never thought I’d end up doing this, no,” admits the middle-aged priest whose unexpected path to becoming an exorcist began while saying one of his first Masses after he was ordained 15 years ago.
“At the moment of consecration of the precious blood I asked the Lord to shower his blood upon the youth and to help any young men who may have a vocation to the priesthood.”
The instant reaction of one 13-year old boy shocked the young priest, “he fell backwards and started growling. And I thought, ‘I wasn’t expecting this!’”
Several years later, and he is one of a new generation of exorcists-in-training following a decision by the U.S. bishops in November 2010 to vastly increase the number of exorcists, which might number as low as 50 in America.
The priest, who is from the U.S. Midwest, spoke to CNA on the basis of anonymity so that he will not be deluged with inquiries. As he explained, “we have set structures to make sure those who most need help get it.”
He now finds himself in Rome, sent by his bishop to shadow the work of the six official exorcists of the Rome diocese. In practical terms that means he is “involved in about three exorcisms a day.”
And the learning curve has been steep. “No two cases are alike. That’s been a real education for me. The rite of exorcism is not a magic formula,” he said.
“It is not the devil or the exorcist who is at the center of this but a person is suffering a lot and who is in need of certain liberation through Christ.”
As for correct terminology, is it a demon or a devil? “Demon comes from Greek, devil comes from Latin, either is okay,” he explained. What you are dealing with “are fallen angels who were created good.”
The early Church Fathers, including St. Jerome and St. Augustine, speculated that these angels rebelled “because of the revelation to them of God’s plan of incarnation” and their “repulsion at the notion that God, who is pure spirit and infinite, should become a man.”
For this reason, the priest observed, they have a “fascination with physicality” and “making people suffer.”
“So once the rite begins, normally he starts to manifest himself in the suffering person different ways - violence, changing of the face, changing of the voice is different,” he said, recalling recent exorcisms.
“He just wants to intimidate, but you basically have to ignore him and say ‘Hey, I am the one giving orders around here, buddy,’” he laughed.
The demon’s angelic knowledge, he said, also means they are aware that God only permits their diabolical activities to bring about the salvation of people through “expiating suffering.”
“These suffering people are becoming saints (by) the offering of their sacrifices” which God then receives and “blesses large parts of the Church around the world.”
“When you remind the Devil of that it makes him furious,” because he knows he is losing and hence “he wants to get what he can, while he can. If he can’t win these peoples’ souls, he wants to at least make their lives miserable.”
So an exorcist dialogues with the devil?
“Yes, I ask them a series of questions: ‘What’s your name?’ since when you use his name in a command it weakens him.” Once a demon gives his name, the exorcist then tells him to “get out” and also might ask “how he got in and when he’s going to leave.”
“The last one, it’s like they’ve all been coached with the same line, ‘I’m never leaving,’ but they will someday!”
The key is to limit dialogue, said the trainee exorcist. “You don’t want to ask them questions just out of curiosity, that’s not healthy.”
It is also possible to “throw in things just to humiliate the demon,” such as invoking the presence of saints, guardian angels and – most feared of all – Our Lady. It is then that “you can really see that there is a change in the behavior of the demon.”
The end-game often comes when the devil start revealing himself in angry and violent outbursts, when “it is common that there is foaming at the mouth.”
In the case of a curse being broken, the person will “start vomiting objects that were used in the curse or, you know, the vomit or saliva changes from clear to colored.”
It is then the exorcist knows “I’m hitting home, that this is really being effective and so those are good signs. It’s not pleasant to see, but you know that ‘I’m being effective here.’”
The American exorcist-in-training explained that the causes of demonic influence vary from case to case and the impact of participating in evil practices also changes with each case.
But one factor that seems to be a common foundation for people coming under the sway of the Devil is “deep wounds in their lives and, above all, in their family,” particularly where “parents have made really bad choices” and in doing so “have invited evil influence into their home.”
He lists such things as “marital infidelity, abortion, doing things that break the family apart.”
“What is the family?” he asked rhetorically, “A family is an icon; it’s an image of the blessed Trinity, and so the devil hates the family.”
Glasgow, Scotland, Jul 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop-designate Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow could see himself being imprisoned for speaking out in support of the traditional married family.
“I could see myself going to jail possibly at some point over the next 15 years, if God spares me, if I speak out,” Archbishop Tartaglia said in an interview with STV News July 24.
His comments came just a day before the Scottish government announced it would legislate in favor of same-sex “marriage.” Archbishop Tartaglia warned that the redefinition of marriage will have “enormous implications for religious liberty.”
“I am deeply concerned that today, defending the traditional meaning of marriage is almost considered ‘hate speech’ and branded intolerant. Such a response is undemocratic, closes debate and is highly manipulative,” he told CNA on July 24.
Last month the leading Scottish lawyer Aidan O’Neill warned that same-sex “marriage” legislation will radically undermine religious liberty in Scotland.
He predicted that a change in the law could result in employees being fired for opposing same-sex “marriage,” ministers and priests being sued for refusing to allow “wedding” ceremonies to take place in their churches, school children being forced to attend homosexual history lessons, and couples being rejected as foster parents if they oppose the new legislation.
Archbishop Tartaglia, 61, has been the Bishop of Paisley since 2005. Before that he served as rector of the Scots College in Rome. A native of Glasgow, he will now be the 41st successor of the city’s 7th- century founder, St. Mungo.
“I am conscious of the historic place of the Archdiocese of Glasgow in the history of Christianity in Scotland and of its importance for the Catholic community in particular,” he told the media at his opening press conference.
He was appointed as the new Archbishop of Glasgow on July 24 by Pope Benedict XVI. Archbishop Tartaglia succeeds 78-year-old Archbishop Mario Conti who has been at the helm in Glasgow since 2002. He said he was “delighted” with Pope Benedict’s choice of successor.
The Glasgow archdiocese is the largest of Scotland’s eight dioceses, with an estimated Catholic population of over 200,000.
Archbishop Tartaglia will be installed in St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow on Saturday, Sept. 8, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Jul 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Castel Gandolfo, Italy said that with the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI for his summer vacation, the happiest time of the year begins for the diocese.
In a July 15 interview with CNA, Bishop Semeraro reflected that having the Pope so close during the summer months “is a great joy.”
“The people of Castel Gandolfo feel it is like having someone from the family visit who fills us with affection,” he said. “Obviously for us, this time when he is physically present makes our prayers that much more intense.”
Bishop Semeraro said that this summer, the Pope will devote the month of July to working on the third volume of his discourse on the life of Jesus, and that in August he will be visited by his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger. In September, “he will devote some of his time to holding public audiences again.”
The bishop said that to be able to pray the Angelus together with the Pope each Sunday before hundreds of local faithful is chance to draw closer to the universal Church and to the Lord.
“The Angelus prayer is the mystery of the incarnation, and ultimately it reminds us of what is unique about the Christian religion, that there is no people that has a God as close as our God,” he said.
“Therefore, in this prayer, like Mary, we renew our adherence to the faith and our amen in faith to God.”
Bishop Semeraro observed that “during those Sundays the Pope puts an emphasis on the value of rest and how to spend our vacation days, which should a time for recreation for the heart, the spirit and the mind.”
Vacation should be a time to strengthen the relationships in our family and between friends that perhaps have been neglected throughout the year, as well as an opportunity to spend time outdoors, the bishop added.
“Above all, we should set aside time for a deeper encounter with God in prayer and meditation.”
Denver, Colo., Jul 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) - Those who offered their lives to save their loved ones in the recent Colorado theater shooting exemplified the Christian virtues of courageous sacrifice and selfless love, said Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver.
Such acts of courage testify to “the natural goodness that is present within the human person,” he told CNA on the evening of July 24.
Stories of heroism are beginning to emerge from the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colo. where one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history took place early on July 20.
Twelve people were killed and 58 more injured when a gunman entered the theater during the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” and opened fire on the crowd.
Reports have emerged that four of the victims were young men who died while shielding their girlfriends from bullets.
Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, Alex Teves and John Larimer all gave their lives to protect their girlfriends – Jansen Young, Samantha Yowler, Amanda Lindgren and Julia Vojtsek, respectively – from the gunfire in the theater.
Several of these women spoke to the media after the shooting, crying as they told how their boyfriends – who were all in their 20s – used their bodies to block them from harm, knowing that they were risking their lives.
In another story of heroism, 21-year-old Stephanie Davies reportedly rescued her friend Allie Young by pulling her into an aisle and applying pressure to the bullet wound on her neck, refusing to run or hide despite her friend’s urging.
Archbishop Aquila said that these accounts remind him of the Gospel passage from John that says, “No greater love has one than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
He explained that for people of faith, those who truly seek the common good and those of great character, the response in a crisis situation is “to always protect the other.”
“We see within that a living out of the Gospel values, and also the dignity of the human person,” he said. “There’s a natural instinct to protect life.”
Archbishop Aquila also commented on the spiritual courage displayed by victim Pierce O’Farrill, who survived after being shot three times in the theater.
Shortly after emerging from surgery, O’Farrill was interviewed by radio host Todd Schnitt. Asked what he would say to James Holmes, the alleged shooter, he responded, “I’m truly blessed to have forgiveness in my heart, and I do forgive him completely for what he’s done.”
“I honestly would like to see him. I would like to talk to him. I’m a man of deeply devoted faith,” O’Farrill explained. “Jesus is my world, and Jesus is how I get through every single day, and that’s how I got through this ordeal.”
O’Farrill said that he has been praying for Holmes, and if he had the chance to speak with him, “the first words that I would say are, ‘I forgive you, James.’”
The 28-year-old, who works as the vehicle donation coordinator for the Denver Rescue Mission, said that he “was blessed” to survive the shooting and emphasized that what happened was “not God’s fault.”
He also said that he believes Holmes should receive life in prison rather than the death penalty.
Archbishop Aquila said that O’Farrill’s willingness to forgive such a “heinous evil” shows “the depth of his faith.”
“Christ himself is the one who has conquered sin. He has conquered death,” the archbishop said. “By recognizing that, one’s heart can be moved to forgive the perpetrator of this kind of violence.”
He stressed that while it might take time, forgiveness is important in ultimately healing the wounds left by sin and avoiding continued resentment and bitterness.
“Forgiveness for the Christian is absolutely essential,” he said. “We have to remember that Jesus Christ himself died a violent death and that he forgave from the cross.”
Archbishop Aquila recently visited the parents of one of the victims from the July 20 shooting. He told them to think of themselves as standing under the foot of the Cross with Mary and John, and he encouraged them to go to Mary, a finite human being like themselves who “watched her son die a violent death.”
“She knows the suffering that is present in the hearts of these parents who have lost their child in the shooting,” he said.
The archbishop encouraged continued prayer during the coming weeks and months that God may bring comfort and peace to the victims of the shooting and their families.
“The Holy Spirit is present,” he said.
Havana, Cuba, Jul 25, 2012 (CNA) -
Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana recalled his friendship with the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, saying the late dissident's activism found inspiration in the Catholic faith.
During the funeral Mass on Tuesday for Paya, who died in a car accident on July 22, Cardinal Rivara said, “Oswaldo clearly had a vocation to politics, and as a good Christian, this did not take him away from his faith or his religious practice.
On the contrary, he always sought inspiration in his Christian faith for his political activities,” the cardinal said.
“Oswaldo lived the piercing role of being a lay Christian with a political philosophy in complete fidelity to his ideas, without as a consequence ceasing to be faithful to the Church until the end of his days.”
The cardinal also recalled the words Pope Benedict XVI spoke during his departure address in Havana, in which he said that in Cuba, “Nobody should be kept from joining in this passionate task through the restricting of their fundamental rights and from obtaining the necessary strength to build a society in solidarity in which nobody feels excluded.”
Participation in the public life of the country is a duty of the laity and not the Church hierarchy, he stressed.
During the Mass attended by hundreds of Cubans, Cardinal Rivera also read a message of condolence from Pope Benedict XVI, who expressed his “spiritual closeness” to Paya’s family and his desire for the “full recovery” of those wounded in the accident, which also took the life of dissident Harold Cepero.
“Benedict XVI asks that his deepest condolences and spiritual closeness by expressed to the families of the deceased, and he implores the Almighty for the complete recovery of those who were injured,” the message said.
After the Mass, family members and friends attended the burial at the Colon Cemetery in Havana.
Dissidents and members of the opposition in Cuba posted messages on Twitter denouncing the government for dispatching agents around the church during the funeral Mass. Local officials have also come under fire over suspicions that Paya's death was carried out by the government.
Rome, Italy, Jul 25, 2012 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Society of St. Pius X's three conditions for re-uniting with Rome have been revealed in a letter sent by their General Secretary to the society’s superiors across the world.
“The freedom to accuse and even to correct the promoters of the errors or the innovations of modernism, liberalism, and Vatican II and its aftermath,” is listed as part of the first condition in the July 17 letter from Fr. Christian Thouvenot.
The interpretation and legacy of the Second Vatican Council, which took place from 1962-1965, now seems to be the major stumbling block for the society in their ongoing negotiations with the Vatican aimed at healing their 24-year rift.
The new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Muller, told CNA July 20 that “the assertion that the authentic teachings of Vatican II formally contradict the tradition of the Church is false,” although he added that there are “gradations” in the authority of different council documents.
The breakaway traditionalist group also listed “the exclusive use of the Liturgy of 1962” and a “commitment of at least one bishop” as their second and third conditions for reconciliation with Rome.
The former would seem to be guaranteed by Pope Benedict’s 2007 motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” while the latter would also seem to be covered by the Vatican’s present offer of personal prelature status for the society. A personal prelature is a Church jurisdiction without geographical boundaries. The only personal prelature at present is Opus Dei whose prelate is also ordained a bishop.
Fr. Thouvenot also listed three other “desirable conditions” for re-unification. These are “a separate ecclesiastical court” within the Church’s wider judicial system, the “exemption of the houses of the SSPX from the diocesan bishops” and the creation of a pontifical commission in Rome “for the tradition” that would be directly under the direction of the Pope with “the majority of the members and the president in favor of tradition.”
The Vatican is currently awaiting an official reply from the society which would involve them accepting a “Doctrinal Preamble” which includes a full adherence to the dogmatic content of the Second Vatican Council. Even if they refused to sign the document at the present moment, the Vatican has suggested that further dialogue will be possible.
“The purpose of dialogue is to overcome difficulties in the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council,” said Archbishop Muller told CNA.
The Society of St. Pius X was founded in 1970 by the Frenchman Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in response to errors he believed had crept into the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council.
The society has had a strained relationship with the Church since its founder ordained four bishops against the will of Pope John Paul II in 1988.