Wichita, Kan., Feb 1, 2013 (CNA) -
The stewardship model which funds Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wichita has blessed the local Church with numerous priestly and religious vocations, the diocesan superintendent of schools said.
“Combined with the intensive daily formation in faith that our students receive in our Catholic schools, the spirituality of stewardship and the constant interplay between family and parish motivates young people to see their choice of vocation to be an act of stewardship in responding to God’s call,” Bob Voboril told CNA Jan. 30.
“Because the stewardship way of life has been instilled so strongly into our families and students, our families are active members and leaders in their parishes.”
The largely rural diocese with a mere 114,000 Catholics currently boasts 46 seminarians. Voboril noted that the openness to God's will in Wichita's young people can be seen as a natural effect of their parents' generosity in supporting His Church.
The Wichita diocese provides tuition-free enrollment in its schools to the children of active parishioners, through its vigorous model of stewardship.
Under Bishop Eugene Gerber, the diocese adopted its stewardship model in 1985. By giving generously to the diocese, families were able to send their children to the diocese's elementary schools for free.
The model started at St. Francis of Assisi parish under Monsignor Thomas McGread in 1968. He challenged his parishioners to each give at least 5 percent of their income to the parish so that all its obligations would be met.
He later pushed for 8 percent donations to the parish, saying he could then pay for all the students to attend Catholic high school.
After the model was adopted throughout the diocese, schools continued to expand and to be financially stable, and since 2002 every Catholic school in the Diocese of Wichita has been tuition-free for active parishioners. Wichita's 38 schools educate nearly 11,000 students, forming them to be disciples of Christ.
The vision of Catholic education at the diocese is meant to form the whole person, and aims “to help the student respond to God’s unique plan for them so that they can live their vocation for the glory of God.”
Voboril said that Wichita Catholic schools often have at least ten seniors “choosing to continue their discernment of a religious vocation.”
“Our schools are blessed to have outstanding priests assigned as directors of pastoral care/religion teachers. We also have the daily witness of our women religious in the high schools,” he noted.
The presence of priest and religious in their schools helps the students to see that life as a way to thrive and flourish. Voboril reported that 70 percent of the diocese' seminarians are graduates of Catholic schools.
Parishioners in the diocese are asked to make a financial commitment each year, as well as volunteer at apostolates, help with religious education, and of course attend Mass each Sunday. This stewardship spirituality is the generosity that makes tuition-free Catholic education possible in southeastern Kansas.
The stewardship spirituality of the diocese is a strong example of the attitude of solidarity which was so important in the teaching of John Paul II. The Catholic Schools Office explains that “the ministries of the parish, including Catholic schools, are the responsibility of the entire parish, not just those who use them.”
Thus even parishioners who don't have school-aged children support their parochial schools, and the wealthier parishes help support the poorer ones, through the St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School Fund. This sense of solidarity builds up Catholic identity and faith throughout the Wichita diocese.
“One high school currently has at least 25 alumni in seminaries or discerning religious life. Our diocesan order of women religious continues to grow. We are blessed,” Voboril reflected.
As the national Catholic Schools Week from Jan. 28 through Feb. 1 continues, Bishop Joseph P. McFadden of Harrisburg, Pa., lauded Catholic schools for helping evangelize the nation.
In a Jan. 29 statement, the head of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Catholic Education noted that Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity to “recognize and support parents” as they exercise the right to choose Catholic schools “to support the faith formation and excellent education for their children.”
“This important week reminds all of us that Catholic education is needed now more than ever to be that place 'which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction,'” he added.
Washington D.C., Feb 1, 2013 (CNA) - News that the Boy Scouts of America may soon approve of openly gay members and leaders has sparked a wave of concern and criticism throughout the country.
Eagle Scout Andrew Hill, who lives in Philadelphia, said that he is “disappointed” that the organization’s leadership appears to have “caved to external demands.”
“The Boy Scouts are now just another organization or public figure that has given in to societal pressure,” Hill told CNA on Jan. 31. “These are the times we live in, and as Catholics, we need to go forward aware of this reality.”
He added, however, that even if the policy change is made, he does not “expect this to have a significant effect on the majority of current and future scouts.”
“With so many troops being organized by and supported by churches, these troops will continue on as they were,” he explained.
Hill’s comments came in response to an announcement by the Boy Scouts of America that a ban on openly homosexual leaders and members is being reconsidered.
Deron Smith, director of public relations for the organization, announced on Jan. 28 that the group “is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation.”
He explained that the removal of a national policy would allow each local unit to set its own guidelines, permitting “the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue.”
The announcement drew criticism from both religious and secular sources concerned about the well-being of future scouts.
“Boy Scouts leaders are exactly that – leaders,” said Greg Quinlan, president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays. “Boys watch them very closely. Boys also look up to older Boy Scout members and want to imitate them and follow their examples.”
Quinlan, who identifies himself as a “former homosexual,” said that a gay man “who gently eases boys and young men into exposure of homosexuality by his own personal example promotes homosexual behavior as normal, natural and healthy.”
“This paves the way for youth to question their own sexuality and be affirmed into homosexuality,” he explained.
Quinlan – who attributes his past homosexual behavior in part to the experience of being sexually molested when he was young – also raised concerns of increased sexual abuse with a change to allow openly gay scout leaders.
He speculated that the Boy Scouts’ decision to reconsider its policy is due to financial and political pressure.
“It seems that one or more of your major corporate donors is pressuring you, and others are bullying you, to change the Boy Scout policy to admit homosexuals,” he said, adding that “(m)oney with dangerous conditions attached is not a donation - it's a bribe.”
In recent months, several significant donors – including Intel, UPS and Merck - have stopped giving funds to the Boy Scouts of America due to the ban on homosexual members. The organization had previously defended its policy, explaining that it aligns with the group’s values, respects parental rights and avoids distractions.
The Diocese of Arlington, Va., which has 68 parishes and sponsors about 50 Boy Scout troops, will be watching the situation closely, alongside other parishes and dioceses around the nation.
“The clarity and courage of the Boy Scouts of America over the years in the face of considerable cultural, political and legal pressure has been a blessing,” said Michael Donohue, director of communications for the Diocese of Arlington.
Donohue told CNA that the diocese “is pleased to sponsor Boy Scout troops in its parishes, as are many Catholic dioceses across the nation.”
He explained that diocesan officials are awaiting the final results of the upcoming Boy Scouts meeting.
“Obviously, any substantive changes in the mission or policies of the Boy Scouts of America would require the diocese’s careful consideration,” he said.
Washington D.C., Feb 1, 2013 (CNA) - The U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development has joined with more than 100 other organizations to call for more fair prison sentencing for minors.
“Life sentences without parole eliminate the opportunity for rehabilitation or second chances,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., who chairs the committee.
“While there is no question that violent and dangerous youth need to be confined for their safety and that of society,” he said in a Jan. 30 statement, the bishops’ conference “does not support provisions that treat children as though they are equal to adults in their moral and cognitive development.”
The bishops’ committee is one of scores of groups that have endorsed the Statement of Principles of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. These principles urge an end to sentencing minors to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Other supporters include the United Methodist Church, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, as well as groups of parents, mental health experts and child welfare proponents.
The bishops’ committee agreed to endorse the statement during their December 2012 meeting.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 38 states and the federal government allow convicted minors to be sentenced to life without parole, and there are currently more than 2,500 young people serving such a sentence.
The bishops also reference a 2008 report by Human Rights Watch, stating that African American minors are sentenced to life without parole as children “at a per capita rate that is 10 times that of white youth convicted of the same crimes.”
“The United States is the only country that imposes this sentence upon children,” the conference noted.
The bishops had previously spoken about the incarceration of minors in their 2000 document, “Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice.”
“Placing children in adult jails is a sign of failure, not a solution,” they said.
Jody Kent Lavy, director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, voiced gratitude for the endorsement, saying that the organization welcomes the chance to work with the bishops, who are leading defenders of “the rights of our most vulnerable.”
“We support the Church's efforts to promote the greater good by ensuring that children are held accountable for the harm that they have caused in age-appropriate ways that uphold their human dignity and focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into society,” Lavy said.
Vatican City, Feb 1, 2013 (CNA) - The latest edition of a Vatican magazine aimed at increasing priestly vocations and encouraging the spiritual adoption of priests has been released in English.
"We need to pray hard for vocations and to support priests around the world," said Monsignor Richard R. Soseman from the Congregation for the Clergy.
"That's why we pushed so hard to have this book published, and we're so pleased that it finally has been," he told CNA Feb. 1.
"Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Maternity," was published in Spanish and Italian in 2008, and finally in English in 2011.
And with the new edition released in January, the Congregation for the Clergy hopes it will sell over 1 million copies.
"The first edition in 2008 was put together to help remind people to pray for vocations and for priests," said Msgr. Soseman, who worked with the publisher.
The booklet, written by the congregation's head, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, includes the stories of people who offered their lives for priests or prayed for them.
It also tells the story of a miraculous abundance of vocations in the small Italian village of Lu, where in less than a century over one-third of its population became priests or nuns. There were 323 religious who came from its less than 1,000 inhabitants between 1881 and the 1940s.
"The magazine also encourages spiritual maternity, which means a person 'adopts' a specific priest that they will pray for," Msgr. Soseman explained.
Another section of the 52-page booklet offers reflections on how to pray better and some recommended prayers, such as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or an hour of Eucharistic adoration.
"The Pope has recently given the Congregation for the Clergy oversight over seminaries and vocations to the priesthood,” he noted, adding that the “booklet fits in very nicely with that since it encourages priestly vocations.”
The Congregation for Catholic Education was first charged with overseeing seminarians in 1914 because they were responsible for the institutions where seminarians were taught.
According to the Cardinal Piacenza, the previous edition of the booklet was popular during the Year for Priests, when he received letters from India, Malayzia, Australia, France and the U.K, saying it had encouraged and moved them.
He noted that "a priest can do great work, but if he has a religious forum the Holy Spirit can help him to inspire more people."
"That is our foundation for this booklet, to inspire more people to pray for priests because the history of the Church shows us how challenging the life of a priest can be," Msgr. Soseman said.
Other recent publications released by the Congregation for Clergy include a guide for confessions in several languages from 2012, as well as a pocket guide for priests to prepare for confessions.
The congregation will soon publish a new edition of "The Directory for the Life and Ministry of Priests," along with new editions of previously published booklets.
Denver, Colo., Feb 1, 2013 (CNA) -
In a column for CNA, Deal Hudson defends Brooklyn bishop Nicholas DiMarzio's view of Margaret Sanger as an advocate of racially-based “reproductive health.”
Hudson's column responds to the attack on Bishop DiMarzio by Commonweal magazine's Paul Moses.
Bishop DiMarzio's Jan. 23 comments marked the 40th anniversary of “our national shame,” the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion throughout the United States. He drew attention to the pro-choice movement's roots with Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.
It is commonly charged that Sanger's birth control and eugenicist policies were aimed at reducing the African American population in the U.S.
“Of course, a young Barack Obama was precisely the sort of unfit child that Sanger and her allies would want to eliminate,” Bishop DiMarzio wrote in his column.
In his response, Hudson noted that the bishop “is not the first pro-life leader who has underscored the tragic irony of an African-American president advocating abortion when abortion has been responsible for a drastic reduction of live births in his own ethnic community.”
Moses' Jan. 25 blog post took issue with Bishop DiMarzio's writing, saying he was misrepresenting Sanger.
However, Hudson observed that “Regarding his defense of Margaret Sanger, Paul Moses is clearly wrong.”
“Sanger viewed birth control as a way of 'eliminating the unfit' and specifically targeted African-Americans in her crusade for racial cleansing,” he underscored.
Hudson examines several extensive quotations from Sanger, demonstrating that she indeed wanted to reduce the black population. He also refers to comments of the Princeton professor of law Robert George to back up his position.
“In a media environment where any slander about Mother Teresa is tolerated, but journalists run to the defense of Margaret Sanger’s racism, the bishop is right to call for 'more direct conversation,'” Hudson concluded.
Vatican City, Feb 1, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Benedict XVI's message for Lent is that when people are open to God’s love, then they can “love with him, in him and like him.”
"When we make room for the love of God, then we become like him, sharing in his own charity," said the Pope in his annual message for Lent.
"If we open ourselves to his love, we allow him to live in us and to bring us to love with him, in him and like him," said the pontiff.
Pope Benedict's message is titled, "Believing in charity calls forth charity." It was released Feb. 1 with a media event at the Holy See’s press office.
The panel presenting it included members of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum – which is dedicated to carrying out charitable work – and the president for the Society of St. Vincent of Paul, Michael Thio.
The president of Cor Unum, Cardinal Robert Sarah, said that the essence of the Pope's message is focused on illuminating the relationship between faith and love.
The Pope noted in his Lenten message that "faith, as gift and response, causes us to know the truth of Christ as love incarnate and crucified, as full and perfect obedience to the Father's will and infinite divine mercy towards neighbor."
"Faith implants in hearts and minds the firm conviction that only this love is able to conquer evil and death," said the pontiff.
"Faith invites us to look towards the future with the virtue of hope, in the confident expectation that the victory of Christ's love will come to its fullness," he added.
Pope Benedict highlighted that "charity ushers us into the love of God manifested in Christ and joins us in a personal and existential way to the total and unconditional self-giving of Jesus to the Father and to his brothers and sisters."
"Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love," he said.
"Faith precedes charity, but faith is genuine only if crowned by charity," he stated.
"Love is the light (and in the end, the only light) that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working," said the pontiff.
The Holy Father noted that "all this helps us to understand that the principal distinguishing mark of Christians is precisely love grounded in and shaped by faith."
Monsignor Segundo Tejado Muñoz, the undersecretary of Cor Unum, added that "the great strength of the Church is that most times charity is done anonymously and is often volunteer work."
The Pope's message also states that Lent, "in the context of the Year of Faith," offers us a valuable opportunity to meditate on the relationship between faith and charity and between believing in God and love."
To read Pope Benedict’s full message for Lent 2013, please visit: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=1067
Washington D.C., Feb 1, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Proposed changes to the federal contraception mandate would slightly expand an existing exemption, while defining the terms of an “accommodation” for many non-profit religious groups.
Employees of objecting non-profit religious organizations will receive “no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies” issued through insurance companies or a third party administrator, said the Obama administration.
Insurance issuers will generally be able to offer this coverage free of cost, it asserted, because “they would be insuring the same set of individuals under both policies and would experience lower costs from improvements in women’s health and fewer childbirths.”
On Feb. 1, the Department of Health and Human Services, announced that it was taking the next step in updating its controversial contraception mandate. It unveiled a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking explaining its intent to propose a new rule amending the religious freedom exemption and establishing the details of a religious freedom “accommodation” for the mandate.
Issued under the Affordable Care Act, the mandate requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, including some drugs that can cause early abortion, as well as sterilizations.
Faced with a wave of protest from objecting religious organizations, the Obama administration announced in early 2012 that it intended to modify the mandate. It issued a one-year “safe harbor” delaying the implementation of the mandate for these organizations while it considered various proposals for an “accommodation” for religious liberty.
In recent months, more than 40 lawsuits have been filed challenging the mandate, while religious leaders have spoken out against the narrow definition of religion adopted by its provisions.
The newly-issued notice suggests simplifying the definition of “religious employer” used for an exemption. The original mandate included an exemption that was widely criticized for its narrow scope, requiring entities to pass a four-prong test to qualify.
Three of these prongs may now be eliminated, the administration said, explaining that it intends to drop the provisions requiring an exempt entity to exist for the purpose of inculcating religious values and to serve and employee primarily members of its own faith.
The simplified definition of a non-profit religious employer would follow Internal Revenue Code, Section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii), which “refers to churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, as well as to the exclusively religious activities of any religious order.”
This “would primarily include churches, other houses of worship, and their affiliated organizations,” the administration said.
Therefore, if a church, mosque or religious order runs a soup kitchen or a parochial school, it could qualify for the exemption, even if it serves members of other faiths. However, a religious organization that does not fall within these definitions – including many religious charities, schools and hospitals – would not be exempt.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking offered suggestions on an “accommodation” for these religious groups that object to the mandate but do not qualify for the exemption.
Non-profit religious organizations would qualify for the accommodation if they oppose providing some or all of the coverage for religious reasons. According to the administration, “eligible organizations would not have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds.”
Under the suggested plan, employees of objecting religious employers would receive free contraceptive coverage “through separate individual health insurance policies.”
The organization’s health insurance issuer “would automatically provide separate, individual market contraceptive coverage at no cost for plan participants.”
In the case of self-insured organizations, a third-party administrator would work with a health insurance issuer to provide this coverage.
Such coverage would be “cost neutral,” the administration argued, because, as the Institute of Medicine has claimed, “there are tremendous health benefits for women that come from using contraception,” and these health benefits will lower the overall cost of their health care.
“The costs of both the health insurance issuer and third party administrator would be offset by adjustments in Federally-facilitated Exchange user fees that insurers pay,” it added.
The proposal would also allow for a comparable arrangement for colleges that offer student health insurance plans.
The accommodation would not apply to for-profit businesses run by religious individuals who object to providing the coverage. More than a dozen for-profit companies have filed lawsuits over the mandate, including arts and crafts giant Hobby Lobby and several other manufacturers, publishers, medical groups and other employers.
The Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged that it had received about 200,000 comments from the public since it first announced its intent to issue an accommodation.
Some of those commenters had voiced concern over religious freedom issues, it said, and some had “disputed the claim that contraceptive coverage is at least cost neutral and argued that plan sponsors would end up funding the coverage in the form of higher premiums or fees.”
The public can now comment on the department’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking until early April, after which the administration will take further steps in proposing and finalizing the new rule before the mandate goes into effect for non-profit religious employers in August.
Washington D.C., Feb 1, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Eternal Word Television Network said today that the new suggested rule on the federal contraception mandate is likely inadequate to protect its religious liberty.
“We will continue to study this notice with our attorneys, but are highly doubtful it will provide EWTN with any relief from this immoral mandate,” said Michael P. Warsaw, president and CEO of EWTN Global Catholic Network.
Last February, EWTN became the first Catholic organization to file a lawsuit challenging the federal contraception mandate on the grounds of religious freedom. That lawsuit is still pending in the U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Ala., and dozens of other Catholic organizations have also filed lawsuits.
On Feb. 1, the federal government issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking indicating its intent to revise the mandate in order to respect the religious freedom of groups that object to it. The mandate requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.
“We have analyzed today’s notice with our legal team from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the initial conclusions are not promising,” Warsaw said.
“First, this is simply a notice of a proposed rule; it is not an actual rule that changes anything,” he explained.
“Today’s notice from the government simply kicks this can further down the road.”
Warsaw also observed that “throughout this proposed rule, the government continues to make the erroneous assertion that contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs are health care. They are not.”
The Obama administration said in its announcement that it would expand its “religious employer” exemption to include organizations that align with Internal Revenue Code, Section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii), which “refers to churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, as well as to the exclusively religious activities of any religious order.”
This “would primarily include churches, other houses of worship, and their affiliated organizations,” the administration said.
Because EWTN is not affiliated or integrated with a specific house of worship, Warsaw said that “it does not appear that EWTN will qualify for this exemption.”
He also lamented that the announcement has not adequately “dealt with the concerns of self-insured health plans like EWTN’s.”
Under the administration’s new plan, employees of objecting religious employers that do not qualify for the exemption would receive free contraceptive coverage “through separate individual health insurance policies” provided by the health insurance issuers.
For self-insured groups like EWTN, a third-party administrator would work with a health insurance issuer to provide this coverage.
The federal government argued that this coverage could be provided for free because the cost of the contraceptives would be offset by the “tremendous health benefits” that women enjoy from using contraception, along with the fewer childbirths that will result.
“EWTN remains firmly committed to pressing forward with our case in the Federal Courts and will take all steps necessary to challenge this unjust mandate,” Warsaw stressed.
New York City, N.Y., Feb 1, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Cardinal Edward Egan responded to the death of New York City Mayor Ed Koch with praise for the Jewish official's collaboration and friendship with Catholics.
“He will have special place in my prayers, and in those of the Catholic community he loved and worked closely with, this weekend,” said Cardinal Dolan, who has been Archbishop of New York since 2009.
Cardinal Dolan said that as a young priest in the 1980s, both Koch and Cardinal John O’Connor symbolized New York to him.
“These two men showed how, despite some deep philosophical disagreements, they could not only work together for the good of the City of New York, but could become close personal friends,” he said in a Feb. 1 statement.
Cardinal Egan, the Archbishop of New York from 2000 to 2009 and an auxiliary bishop of New York City from 1985-1988, said Koch was “a good friend and a wise counselor.”
“Mayor Koch was clearly one of New York's greatest,” he said.
Koch died Friday morning at the age of 88 of congestive heart failure at a New York City hospital. He served three consecutive terms as New York City mayor from 1978 to 1989 and was a U.S. Congressman from 1969 to 1977.
Cardinal Dolan said the mayor had been “a good friend” to him and his predecessors Cardinal Egan, Cardinal O’Connor and Cardinal Terence Cooke.
Koch accompanied Cardinal O'Connor to Rome when the archbishop was made a cardinal and he accompanied the cardinal to Ireland on a pilgrimage for peace to Our Lady of Knock Cathedral.
The mayor told a May 2012 award dinner for the Manhattan Institute that he believed holding a picture of Cardinal O’Connor cured him of spinal stenosis. The mayor said he has given testimony for a Vatican inquiry into the sainthood of Cardinal Cooke.
Cardinal Dolan said Feb. 1 that Catholics similarly appreciated the mayor.
“It is, perhaps, some measure of the respect that Ed Koch – a proud, Jewish man, as he described himself to me – continued to hold among Catholics that a seat was always held for him at Midnight Mass in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.”
The cardinal said that at New York’s annual Alfred E. Smith Dinner held to benefit Catholic hospitals, the mayor received “the largest ovation” and had a more enthusiastic reception than the archbishop and the guest speakers.
Koch won praise from Bill Donohue, the president of the New York City-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.
“Ed was not only a man of conviction, he was the number-one person in the Jewish community that Catholics could count on to speak out against anti-Catholicism,” Donohue said Feb. 1. “Indeed, he hated anti-Catholicism as much as he did anti-Semitism, or any other kind of bigotry.”
In an April 6, 2010 column in the Jerusalem Post, Koch criticized some reporting on Catholic sex abuse scandals, saying many in the media are “pounding on the Church and the Pope” with “delight” and “malice.” He said this is due in part to their objections to Catholic teaching on sexual morality, marriage, abortion, celibacy, and the male-only priesthood.
Although Koch said he did not believe Catholic teaching on these issues, he said Catholics have a right to their beliefs. “I believe the Roman Catholic Church is a force for good in the world, not evil,” Koch noted.
Donohue reflected that the mayor was “always cordial courageous and totally honest.”
“There was no one like him,” he added.
Los Angeles, Calif., Feb 1, 2013 (CNA) -
Archbishop José Gomez's decision to relieve Cardinal Roger Mahony and Bishop Thomas Curry of their duties in the L.A. archdiocese is being welcomed as “the best possible thing he could have done.”
“The archbishop has in one stroke, opened up the doors and let in the sunlight,” historian and author Charles Coulombe told CNA Feb. 1. “It is an enormously difficult task he has taken on...it would have been the case no matter what he did.”
“However, he handled it brilliantly, wisely, pastorally, truthfully, honestly, openly,” he reflected. “Very, very different than what we're used to here in Los Angeles.”
“I can't overemphasize how grateful I am that the Holy Father gave us this man.”
On Jan. 31, Archbishop Gomez announced that with the release of personnel files of priests accused decades ago of sexual abuse, his predecessor, the retired Cardinal Mahony, and his one-time vicar for clergy, Bishop Curry, would no longer have official duties in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
The files showed that in the late 1980s, Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Curry, who was then vicar of clergy, corresponded often about dealing with priests who had sexually abused minors. The Los Angeles Times said the memos show a campaign to hide sex abuse cases from police.
“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading...We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today. We need to pray for everyone who has ever been hurt by members of the Church,” Archbishop Gomez announced.
“Effective immediately, I have informed Cardinal Mahony that he will no longer have any administrative or public duties. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry has also publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy. I have accepted his request to be relieved of his responsibility as the Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara.”
The decision has been roundly welcomed throughout the Church in America. On the archbishop's Facebook page, 278 have liked the statement, and virtually all of the comments have been supportive of Archbishop Gomez.
“I applaud Archbp. Gomez. and plan to have Masses said for him for his courage,” one online commenter wrote. “Living in Santa Barbara for the past decade, I have seen what a barren land for solid Catholicism the LA archdiocese has been for decades.”
Coulombe continued saying, “it signals above everything else that the church in Los Angeles has entered a new, and if I may so, a much better age.”
Cardinal Mahony served as the head of the Los Angeles archdiocese for 26 years, and as such has had a profound effect on the local Church.
“Suffice it to say, it's been a very long, difficult time here. What the archbishop has done, I think, is draw that period to its end.”
Coulombe went on to compare Archbishop Gomez' task to that of the character John O'Hanlon in the 1970 film “The Cheyenne Social Club,” who “inherited a house of ill repute.”
“It's not that far-fetched of an analogy, unfortunately, because he inherited a huge risk.”
Archbishop Gomez has both brought in “very fine people” from out of state to help in the archdiocese, Coulombe said, and retained some of the “best of the people who were here before.”
“For his Grace to succeed, on the one hand at re-Catholicizing the archdiocese, and on the other, of pursuing the archdiocese's rightful work – evangelization in this part of the world – he's going to need the help of everyone. And fortunately, he really seems to know that.”
Coulombe praised the archbishop's pastoral letter “Witness to the New World of Faith,” in which he gave a mission for the diocese focused on evangelization and the salvation of souls.
“In every way seemingly, he's the opposite of his predecessor, and that's what we need,” Coulombe said.
Cardinal Mahony's removal will be largely unchanged, the archdiocese's media relations director said, according to the Los Angeles Times. The biggest effect for Cardinal Mahony is that he will no longer administer confirmation in the archdiocese.
He remains in good standing and a cardinal, Tamberg said. No cardinal has resigned from the College since Father Louis Billot in 1927.
The larger change in the day to day functioning of the diocese comes with Bishop Curry's removal. He has been an auxiliary bishop of the diocese since 1994, and was responsible for Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. As Bishop Curry is now 70, he is stepping down five years before bishops' mandatory retirement age.
Last week, both Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Curry offered apologies for their failures in adequately protecting youth.
On Feb. 1, Cardinal Mahony released a letter he wrote to Archbishop Gomez explaining his history of dealing with clergy sexual abuse.
“Nothing in my own background or education equipped me to deal with this grave problem,” he wrote.
He reproached his archbishop for not expressing displeasure with his policies before now.
“Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors.”
The Los Angeles archdiocese has been found in compliance with every audit of child protection measures, which have been conducted since 2004.
Coulombe said Archbishop Gomez' removal of the two prelates may “free him up in making appointments.”
“I don't know who Curry's replacement will be, but I'm very confident it will be someone...much better for the job.”
Coulombe concluded his reflections on Archbishop Gomez' statement by quoting Gerald Ford at his presidential inauguration, following Richard Nixon's resignation following Watergate.
“Our long national nightmare is over.”