V Encuentro. Life experience for missionary disciples

JACKSON – The delegation representing the Diocese of Jackson at the V Encuentro’s national culmination returned home from Grapevine, Texas, with a new mission – to take all they learned and experienced and turn it into a plan of action for ministry at home.
Delegates from all over the country, selected after parish, diocesan and regional meetings, participated in the V Encuentro in September. Mississippi Catholic asked each delegate, as well as Father Michael McAndrew, CsSR, who attended with his order, to send us some thoughts on their experience.
Isamar Mazy – Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle:
“My experience was very nice seeing the church, in these difficult times, joining in prayer and the humility of bishops asking us to pray for them. I was impressed by the multitude of people, around 3,200 individuals from all over the United States.
On behalf of the CELAM (Latin American Episcopal Council) Monsignor Constantino Barrera Morales and the Bishop of Sonsonate of El Salvador brought young people from Costa Rica and Brazil to listen our experiences. We had the pleasant presence of the Apostolic Nuncio commissioned by Pope Francis and his encouraging message was of great joy to us when he told we “are a people on march.”
Susana Becerril,
“Everything has helped me to learn urgent things that, maybe, I didn’t think necessary. I liked there was a talk for integration of the American with the Latin / Hispanic community. They pointed out that we are not guests of the church, we are the church, we have a voice, we have a right, but most of all we have the obligation to do something for those who need it most.”
Danna Johnson, Pontotoc St. Christopher Parish:
“Bishop Daniel Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, told us in his presentation that to accompany “there must be a desire to do so.
“Accompanying is presence, time, patience, listening, closed and contemplative gaze, it is our ‘Move and stop before the other person’ in the style of Jesus. This requires us to ‘uninstall our comfortable condition of viewers’ he told us. I return to my ordinary life with those words in my memory and heart.
“The faith of the poor is what saves us” Bishop Flores said.
How do those words speak to me in my life? The V Encuentro was an opening opportunity to see with new eyes the same needs – particularly those of the Hispanic people in the Catholic Church in the United States and here in Mississippi. There was much talk about the lack of spiritual attention (especially among young people), the obstacles to integration and the lack of comprehensive formation at all levels of church leadership.”
Sister María Elena Mendez, coordinator for Hispanic Ministry:
“The V Encuentro was like a new Pentecost for the Catholic Church of the United States. Participating in the process of the V Encuentro was a moment of grace, a caress, an emotional embrace and a light that is lit in the darkness in the middle of this difficult moment for the Church.

Delegates dance on stage Sept. 23 during the Fifth National Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

“In general, the bishops motivated us to be protagonists, to form ourselves, to pass from spectators to take leadership, to go in search of those who have left the Church for any reason and to be missionaries, witnesses of the love of God.
“The one that stood out very strongly was the youth pastoral and the necessity of the roles of leadership of the women saying, ‘listen to us, join us, form us and invest economically in us, we are ready to take positions of responsibility in the parochial and diocesan structure… trust us.’
“At the end of, I felt motivated and confirmed by what Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, said about the Virgin of Guadalupe: ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe is working in the Church of the United States through faith and the actions of numerous followers. She is very relevant now, there is a miracle of Guadalupe today in this country.”
Father Michael McAndrew, Redemptorist serving in the Delta:
“While the liturgies were beautiful, great music and there was much to learn, the most important part was meeting people from all over the nation and listening to them share stories of trial, hope and faith. The young people at the V Encuentro energized the event and challenged church leadership to be creative in reaching out to the next generation of leaders. I wish that more people could experience such energy in the church. Since I have been involved in Hispanic ministry for almost thirty years, it was great to see so many people from the many parts of this country whom I have met over the years. It was good to see those long time friends, but it was also great to see the new generations of leaders with such energy.

At Romero Mass: Saints risk all for love of Jesus

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Carrying Pope Paul VI’s pastoral staff and wearing the blood-stained belt of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, Pope Francis formally recognized them, and five others, as saints of the Catholic Church.
Thousands of pilgrims from the new saints’ home countries – Italy, El Salvador, Spain and Germany – were joined by tens of thousands of others Oct. 14 in St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the universal recognition of the holiness of men and women they already knew were saints.
Carolina Escamilla, who traveled from San Salvador for canonization, said she was “super happy” to be in Rome. “I don’t think there are words to describe all that we feel after such a long-awaited and long-desired moment like the ‘official’ canonization, because Archbishop Romero was already a saint when he was alive.”
Each of the new saints lived lives marked by pain and criticism – including from within the church – but all of them dedicated themselves with passionate love to following Jesus and caring for the weak and the poor, Pope Francis said in his homily.
The new saints are: Paul VI, who led the last sessions of the Second Vatican Council and its initial implementation; Romero, who defended the poor, called for justice and was assassinated in 1980; Vincenzo Romano, an Italian priest who died in 1831; Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa, a Spanish nun who ministered in Mexico and Bolivia and died in 1943; Catherine Kasper, the 19th-century German founder of a religious order; Francesco Spinelli, a 19th-century priest and founder of a religious order; and Nunzio Sulprizio, a layman who died in Naples in 1836 at the age of 19.
“All these saints, in different contexts,” put the Gospel “into practice in their lives, without lukewarmness, without calculation, with the passion to risk everything and to leave it all behind,” Pope Francis said in his homily.
The pope, who has spoken often about being personally inspired by both St. Paul VI and St. Oscar Romero, prayed that every Christian would follow the new saints’ examples by shunning an attachment to money, wealth and power, and instead following Jesus and sharing his love with others.
And he prayed the new saints would inspire the whole church to set aside “structures that are no longer adequate for proclaiming the Gospel, those weights that slow down our mission, the strings that tie us to the world.”
Among those in St. Peter’s Square for the Mass was Rossi Bonilla, a Salvadoran now living in Barcelona. “I’m really emotional, also because I did my Communion with Monsignor Romero when I was eight years old,” she told Catholic News Service.
“He was so important for the neediest; he was really with the people and kept strong when the repression started,” Bonilla said. “The struggle continues for the people, and so here we are!”
Claudia Lombardi, 24, came to the canonization from Brescia, Italy – St. Paul VI’s hometown. Her local saint, she said, “brought great fresh air” to the church with the Second Vatican Council and “has something to say to us today,” particularly with his 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae” on human life and married love, especially its teaching about “the conception of life, the protection of life always.”
In his homily, Pope Francis said that “Jesus is radical.”
“He gives all and he asks all; he gives a love that is total and asks for an undivided heart,” the pope said. “Even today he gives himself to us as the living bread; can we give him crumbs in exchange?”
Jesus, he said, “is not content with a ‘percentage of love.’ We cannot love him 20 or 50 or 60 percent. It is either all or nothing” because “our heart is like a magnet – it lets itself be attracted by love, but it can cling to one master only and it must choose: either it will love God or it will love the world’s treasure; either it will live for love or it will live for itself.”
“A leap forward in love,” he said, is what would enable individual Christians and the whole church to escape “complacency and self-indulgence.”
Without passionate love, he said, “we find joy in some fleeting pleasure, we close ourselves off in useless gossip, we settle into the monotony of a Christian life without momentum where a little narcissism covers over the sadness of remaining unfulfilled.”
(Contributing to this story were Carol Glatz, Junno Arocho Esteves and Melissa Vida.)

Next Encuentro phase: action by parishes, dioceses on ideas, priorities

By Norma Montenegro Flynn
WASHINGTON (CNS) – A Nearly 3,000 Hispanic ministry leaders, like Dominican Sister Judith Maldonado, have gone back to their parishes and dioceses to share the ideas and fruits of the conversations that took place at the Fifth National Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas.
And as that phase of the multiyear process reached completion, the next phase is aimed at putting into practice the lessons learned and bear fruits.
“This has been like a retreat, the message that we were given at the end is like you have the Holy Spirit, you have to take it with you and you have to be saints, produce fruits of love,” said Sister Maldonado, a member of the Dominican Sisters of the Lady of the Rosary of Fatima. Her order is involved with family ministry serving parishes in Maryland and Texas.
In the next few months, the leadership team of the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, will distribute a concluding document listing the main priorities and problems identified across 28 ministry areas; the document will assist dioceses, parishes and national structures in drafting their own pastoral plans according to their own realities and priorities.
The Encuentro’s team of accompaniment, or ENAVE, plans to continue providing support and tracking progress.
“We have achieved things that in some ways we never would have imagined would be possible,” Ken Johnson-Mondragon, V Encuentro’s director of research, told Catholic News Service. “Walls have come down, people have experienced really the joy that Pope Francis talks about.”
The V Encuentro process that began about four years ago has helped thousands of Hispanic ministry leaders engage in faith-filled dialogues among themselves and reach out to those on peripheries. Encuentro has also promoted collaborations within and across dioceses, which is known as ‘pastoral en conjunto,’ and has helped remove the “fear to speak up,” bringing the participants closer to their pastors and bishops, added Johnson-Mondragon.
The V Encuentro also identified and prepared at least 25,000 new Hispanic ministry leaders across the country, and about a third of the leaders engaged were youth and young adults. An estimated 100,000 individuals participated in the process and about 150,000 others were reached on the peripheries.
Another important gain is that the V Encuentro has captured the attention and support of the bishops nationwide. At the gathering, about 125 bishops — Hispanic and non-Hispanic — walked side by side with their diocesan delegations, and about 160 out of 178 Roman Catholic dioceses and archdioceses in the country were represented.
“The Hispanic church is asking for formation, they’re asking for support, they’re asking for direction, so it will be on the part of the bishops and pastors to provide that,” Bishop Oscar Cantu told CNS. Formerly head of the Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico, he is now coadjutor bishop of San Jose, California.

What mostly surprised and pleased Bishop Cantu was the size of the gathering — with over 3,000 participants — and like many others, he was energized by the optimism and drive of the attendees.
The top three recommendations that rose up in the Encuentro process are: the need to develop pastoral plans for Hispanic ministry tailored according to the needs of each parish and diocese; the need of the parish community to help strengthen families; and to hire more Hispanic young adults in paid positions of leadership.
The 28 ministry areas addressed by the V Encuentro include those that reach out to youth, young adult, college campuses, immigrants, families, people with disabilities, and the incarcerated, as well as ministries in vocations, pro-life, faith formation and catechesis, justice and peace, and even care for the environment among others.
As a word of advice from Mercy Sister Ana Maria Pineda, who has witnessed all the Encuentros, it is important to connect the previous Encuentros to the current one, while staying focused on the work at hand amid the challenges it might present. “We’re being called to a very special moment in time and we need to step up to the plate to make sure that we are on the side of the poor, on the side of those who can’t protect themselves.” Sister Pineda said.

‘God has not abandoned us,’ says survivor of clergy sex abuse

By Maria Wiering
ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — At a Holy Hour service Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Cathedral of St. Paul, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse told the congregation that God has not abandoned the church now.
“My fellow Catholics: During this abuse crisis, have any of you wondered where God is, and how he is feeling? I have,” he said. “I came to the conclusion that God has not abandoned us. In fact, I believe he is crying right along beside us.”
The abuse survivor, who wished not to be named publicly, was introduced by Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis only as “a vibrant defender of our church and of the faith.”
He spoke at the beginning of a “Holy Hour of Reparation and Prayers for Healing” held in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church. More than 700 people, including many families with young children and dozens of priests of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, attended the hourlong service. Archbishop Hebda presided over the liturgy along with Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens.
The liturgy included exposition of the Eucharist and the praying of the seven “penitential psalms” for healing for abuse victims and survivors and healing in the church. The service coincided with the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, a feast day that acknowledges Mary’s suffering during her son’s crucifixion and death.
In his homily, the archbishop asked for prayers for abuse survivors, “that through the intercession of Our Lady of Sorrows, they might receive the healing that only Christ can bring, might recognize our sorrow and deep shame as sincere, and might contribute as they are able to the transformative change that we need as a local church.”
When the survivor addressed the congregation, he thanked Archbishop Hebda for leading the church through “very difficult times” and he thanked the archbishop and Bishop Cozzens for “tirelessly navigating the damaging effects” of abuse.
He also told the priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters and seminarians that they are on the front lines daily in helping people heal but he acknowledged they can also be misjudged for the deeds of those who have abused others.
The survivor said those who represent the church should be prepared for negative reactions, but they should also know how important it is to be “open, listening and striving to learn and understand what a victim of abuse feels like and how their lives were affected.”
Be willing to let victims express their anger and fear, he told them, and understand their difficulty in trusting others and sometimes God.
He also encouraged all Catholics to show compassion and patience with clergy abuse victims, and to understand that it may take decades for them – and the church – to heal. And to victims, he said, “words cannot begin to describe the feelings and effects of abuse that we have suffered.” 
While all abuse is evil, he said, “what is distinctive about clergy abuse is that it often affects one’s belief in God and our church.” He said that abuse, however, “does not have to destroy” a person’s life, and that “there is help from a God who loves us and is with us.”
When he finished his remarks, he and Archbishop Hebda embraced.
Claudith Washington, 72, said her belief in the power of prayer compelled her to attend the service.
“When I realized that there was an opportunity for us to gather as a huge community, I just couldn’t miss it,” she told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “It’s like, I’ve got to be there to beg for God’s mercy. I believe it will make a difference, I believe it will strengthen the archbishop, I believe it will clarify where we need to go to fix things. For me, it was a concrete action. We’ve been suffering so much, this is a concrete action. We can do something.”
The survivor’s question – where was God? – stuck with her. “My faith makes me know God is in everything we suffer every day,” said Washington, a parishioner of St. Richard in Richfield.
Hearing from an abuse survivor was “one of the best blessings” of the service for Cathedral parishioner Dorothy Kenney, because it made clergy sex abuse concrete.
Overall, the Holy Hour was “very prayerful, very peaceful and the people there, their hearts were really in it, and really asking Our Lady of Sorrows to heal our Church,” said Kenney, 88. “I could just feel that.”

(Wiering is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.)

Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

By Norma Montenegro Flynn
GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) – A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions were the highlights during the first day of the National Fifth Encuentro gathering taking place Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine.
With hearts full of excitement and joy, about 3,000 Hispanic ministry leaders cheered as they welcomed representatives for each of the 14 episcopal regions approaching the stage and carrying the same crosses and colorful banners that accompanied their gatherings during the multiyear process of discernment and consultation that began at their parishes. The crosses were placed on the stage by the bishops who served as chairs for each region.
The Diocese of Jackson’s delegation, led by Bishop Joseph Kopacz, had four members: Susana Becerril, Maria Isamar Mazy, Danna Johnson and Sister María Elena Méndez, MGSpS, one of the coordinators for Hispanic Ministry for the diocese.
Pope Francis captivated the audience with a video message that was received with a standing ovation.
“I see that the Fifth Encuentro is a concrete way for the church in the U.S. to respond to the challenge of going beyond what is comfortable, business as usual, and to become a leaven of communion for all those who seek a future of hope, especially young people and families that live in the peripheries of society,” the pontiff said.
He also urged them to continue the process of pastoral conversion at all levels through an encounter with one another centered in the adoration of Jesus Christ.
The gathering, also known as V Encuentro, brings under one roof about 2,700 diocesan representatives, 125 bishops from 159 dioceses and archdioceses across the country, and other members of Catholic organizations. During the four-day event, they continued the discernment process to develop a national pastoral plan for Hispanic ministry.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomed the crowd and addressed the need for healing and accountability sparked by the clerical sex abuse scandal.
“As bishops, we have fallen short of what God expects of his shepherds. By this we again ask forgiveness from both the Lord and those who have been harmed, and from you, the people of God.” Cardinal DiNardo said.
He emphasized the efforts being made to support and accompany survivors in their healing and to implement stronger protections against sexual abuse.
“Amidst this darkness the Encuentro is a light that shines and illuminates the way forward. The enthusiasm, compassion, the love and the joy of the Encuentro process is a means of grace. A gift to us as we rebuild the church,” the cardinal told the Encuentro participants.
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio led the evening prayer and asked for prayers for the victims of clerical sexual abuse.
“Let us pray to God for the victims of the crimes that led to this crisis. Do everything you can for the healing of all the victims of these abuses and pray also for the perpetrators and for us, your shepherds,” Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.
Remembering the nearly five decades of encuentros in the United States, Mercy Sister Ana Maria Pineda, a theologian at Santa Clara University in California, called the Texas gathering a historic moment.
“We are the elders and the offspring of the sacred history woven with the many threads of the past and the present and looking toward the future,” she said. “We recall the past and how God has traveled with us throughout these many decades as Catholic Hispanics, Latinos.”
Sister Pineda has participated in all the encuentros since 1972, when the first Encuentro took place in Washington. During that very first gathering, priests, bishops and lay leaders proposed significant ways to attend to the pastoral needs of Hispanic Catholics.
In 1977, the second Encuentro also was held in Washington with the theme of “Pueblo the Dios en Marcha” (“People of God Going Forward”).

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, leads the opening prayer Sept. 20 during the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, in Grapevine, Texas. The Sept. 20-23 event is a gathering of more than 3,200 Hispanic Catholic leaders and about 125 bishops from across the country. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, blesses a cross that all delegates received Sept. 20 during the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, in Grapevine, Texas. The Sept. 20-23 event is a gathering of more than 3,200 Hispanic Catholic leaders and about 125 bishops from across the country. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

A delegate from Region 11 – California, Nevada and Hawaii – carries the Encuentro cross Sept. 20 at the start of the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, in Grapevine, Texas. The Sept. 20-23 event is a gathering of more than 3,200 Hispanic Catholic leaders and about 125 bishops from across the country. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Master of ceremonies Armando Cervantes, director of youth and young adult ministry in the Diocese of Orange, Calif., welcomes delegates Sept. 20 to the Fifth National Encuentro, or V Encuentro, in Grapevine, Texas. The Sept. 20-23 event is a gathering of more than 3,200 Hispanic Catholic leaders and about 125 bishops from across the country. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

“In my memory, it is like a Pentecost moment,” Sister Pineda recalled. That year about 1,200 Hispanic Catholic leaders reflected on issues such as evangelization, ministries, human rights, education and political responsibility.
Sister Pineda described it as a turning point in which they shared stories of joy, sorrow, neglect and hope. They were drawn together as a Hispanic community and became aware of the unique contributions they offered to society and the church. In turn, the church was motivated to respond more authentically to the needs of that growing community.
The third Encuentro, in 1985, focused on youth, the poor and human dignity, and led to the creation of a national pastoral plan for Hispanic ministry.
Encuentro 2000 embraced the many culturally diverse communities in the United States and the cultural and religious contributions that also enrich the church, Sister Pineda said.
Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth welcomed the participants, including international guests such as Archbishop Christophe Pierre; Guzman Carriquiry, secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America; and bishop-representatives from the Latin American bishops’ council, or CELAM, as well as from Canada, El Salvador and Mexico.
Through a process of missionary work, consultation, leadership development and community building, the Encuentro seeks to develop better ways in which the Catholic Church responds to Hispanic Catholics in parishes around the country and to strengthen them as leaders and missionary disciples.
Look for reflections from the local delegation in the next Mississippi Catholic.

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

By Julie Asher
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Pledging to “heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us,” the U.S. bishops’ Administrative Committee Sept. 19 outlined actions to address the abuse crisis, including approving the establishment of a third-party confidential reporting system for claims of any abuse by bishops.
It also instructed the U.S. bishops’ canonical affairs committee to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of abuse of minors or adults.
It initiated the process of developing a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual misconduct with a minor or adult or “negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases.”

Having removed symbols of his office, his ring, miter, crosier and zucchetto, Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond, Va., lies prostrate during the Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14., at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond. (CNS photo/Michael Mickle, The Catholic Virginian)

The committee also said it supported “a full investigation into the situation” surrounding Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, former cardinal-archbishop of Washington, “including his alleged assaults on minors, priests and seminarians, as well as “any responses made to those allegations.”
The statement, released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, came out of the committee’s semiannual meeting held Sept. 11-12 at USCCB headquarters in Washington.
The Administrative Committee consists of the officers, chairmen and regional representatives of the USCCB. The committee, which meets in March and September, is the highest authority of the USCCB outside of the full body of bishops when they meet for their fall and spring general assemblies.
“This is only a beginning,” the committee said in its Sept. 19 statement. “Consultation with a broad range of concerned parents, experts and other laity along with clergy and religious will yield additional, specific measures to be taken to repair the scandal and restore justice.
“We humbly welcome and are grateful for the assistance of the whole people of God in holding us accountable,” the committee said.
The committee acknowledged its members had assembled for their meeting in Washington at a “time of shame and sorrow.”
“Some bishops, by their actions or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the church as a whole,” the committee said. “They have used their authority and power to manipulate and sexually abuse others.
“They have allowed the fear of scandal to replace genuine concern and care for those who have been victimized by abusers,” it continued. “For this, we again ask forgiveness from both the Lord and those who have been harmed. Turning to the Lord for strength, we must and will do better.”
Full descriptions of the actions the committee took are as follows:
– Approved the establishment of a third-party reporting system that will receive confidentially, by phone and online, complaints of sexual abuse of minors by a bishop and sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with adults by a bishop. It will direct those complaints to the appropriate ecclesiastical authority and, as required by applicable law, to civil authorities.
– Instructed the USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of sexual abuse of minors or sexual harassment of or misconduct with adults, including seminarians and priests.
– Initiated the process of developing a code of conduct for bishops regarding the sexual abuse of a minor; sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with an adult; or negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases.
– Supported a full investigation into the situation surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, including his alleged assaults on minors, priests, and seminarians, as well any responses made to those allegations. “Such an investigation should rely upon lay experts in relevant fields, such as law enforcement and social services.”
As the initiatives get underway, the Administrative Committee asked all U.S. bishops “to join us in acts of prayer and penance.”
“This is a time of deep examination of conscience for each bishop. We cannot content ourselves that our response to sexual assault within the church has been sufficient. Scripture must be our guide forward. ‘Be doers of the word and not hearers only,’” it said, quoting the Letter of James.
“In all of this,” no one – including the bishops – can “lose sight of those who have suffered from those who have acted or failed to act as the Gospel demanded,” it said.
“For survivors of sexual abuse, these days may reopen deep wounds. Support is available from the church and within the community,” it emphasized.
The committee reminded all in the church that victims assistance coordinators are available in every diocese to help victim-survivors and their families find resources.
Since the bishops first adopted “the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” in 2002, the committee said, “hundreds of dedicated people … have been working with the church to support survivors and prevent future abuse.”
It said anyone who has been abused must “never hesitate to also contact local law enforcement.”
“If you don’t feel comfortable for any reason with the church providing help, your diocese can connect you with appropriate community services,” the committee said. “With compassion and without judgment, the bishops of the United States pledge to heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us.”
The committee concluded: “Acting in communion with the Holy Father, with whom we once again renew our love, obedience and loyalty, we make our own the prayer of Pope Francis in his Aug. 20 letter to the people of God, ‘May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.’”

(Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher)

Clergy sex abuse not about gay priests, top psychologist says

(Editor’s note: Bishop Kopacz and the Diocese of Jackson continue to acknowledge the suffering that victims of abuse and their communities continue to experience. We continue to try an better understand this terrible reality in hopes of never repeating this history and of bringing healing to our communities. Research such as this article are an effort to move this reform forward.)

By Gina Christian
PHILADELPHIA (CNS) – Misconceptions people may have about sexual abuse, sexual harassment and homosexuality as elements of the ongoing crisis in the church can hinder efforts to address it, according to a leading psychologist and expert on the crisis.
The complex nature of each of the elements can make it “hard for the average Catholic in the pew” to grasp key differences among them, delaying the formulation of “good, smart solutions,” Santa Clara University psychologist Dr. Thomas Plante told CatholicPhilly.com, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
A prolific author who also serves on Stanford University’s faculty, Plante has spent more than 30 years researching and treating psychological issues among Catholic clergy and laypersons.
Although many blame the abuse scandals on homosexuality among the clergy, same-sex attraction does not make priests more likely to sexually abuse children, Plante said.
“It’s perfectly understandable that people could be confused by this, because we know that 80 percent or more of the clerical sexual abuse victims are boys,” Plante said. “So people conclude that if you get rid of homosexuals in the clergy, then you’ve got the problem solved. And it doesn’t work that way.”
Most of the clerical sexual abuse perpetrators have been “situational generalists,” a term used throughout extensive John Jay College of Criminal Justice summary reports, the most recent in 2011, to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Generalists do not have a specific sexual preference for youth, but instead “turn to children as a sort of substitute” due to psychological and emotional difficulties in bonding with peers, Plante observed.
Such individuals – who often exhibit issues with substance abuse and impulse control – “can’t develop successful, negotiated, intimate relationships with adults,” said Plante, who recently served as vice chair of the USCCB’s National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth.
Since generalist offenders seek readily available victims, boys have historically – though by no means exclusively – been a target for many clerical abusers.
“Priests for the most part had access to boys, and trust with boys, much more so than girls,” said Plante, noting that this proximity has led to the erroneous correlation between homosexuality and clerical abuse.
Only a small number of abusive priests – and of sexual abusers in the general population – can be formally classified as pedophiles, according to the clinical definition used by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in its “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM),” the authoritative guide used by mental health professionals worldwide.
“The classic pedophile is attracted to young, prepubescent children,” said Plante. Prepubescence is typically defined as less than age 11.
Priestly celibacy can also be discounted as an underlying cause of the clerical scandals. In an article Plante wrote Aug. 23 for “Psychology Today,” he pointed out that “the vast majority of sex offenders are regular men, often married or partnered, with 80 percent or more victimizing their own family members.”
Overall, men are far more likely than women to become abusers, which helps to explain the comparatively lower rates of abuse perpetrated by female religious.
This striking gap between the genders – with “90 to 95 percent” of perpetrators being male – is generally due to basic differences in the psychological makeup of the sexes.
“Men tend to have what we call more ‘externalizing’ problems when it comes to psychiatric issues, while and women tend to have more ‘internalizing’ problems,” Plante said. “Women are more likely to exhibit depression and anxiety, whereas men tend to act out. They’re more prone to commit violence and sexual exploitation.”
Plante also stressed that sexual harassment, perpetrated by a number of clerical superiors against seminarians, should be distinguished from child sexual abuse.
“Both involve power and sexual violation, but they are different,” he said. “Sexually harassing people at the workplace is not a sexual psychiatric disorder. It could be a personality disorder; it could be a variety of things, but it’s not a sexual disorder. Every industry, every organization has a problem with this issue, where people abuse power and sexually harass their subordinates.”
Historically, child sexual abuse has occurred in the church and in human society “since the dawn of time,” said Plante, noting that St. Basil decried the problem in the fourth century.
In the United States, incidents of clerical sexual abuse rose during the 1960s and 1970s, paralleling a society-wide increase in other problematic behaviors such as substance abuse and sexual experimentation. By the early 1980s, the number of cases began to level off, due in part to increased research, mandated reporting, awareness and intervention strategies.
Because the traumatic nature of child sexual abuse tends to hinder victims from disclosing their attacks until years later, recent legal investigations do not always reflect current levels of clerical abuse, which have declined significantly, Plante observed.
“I think the average person on the street thinks this is rampant today in 2018, when it’s not,” he said, adding that annual data collections, independent audits, safe environment training and zero-tolerance policies have proven effective.
Although ongoing vigilance is required, Plante is hopeful about the Catholic Church’s ongoing prospects for protecting youth from clerical sexual abuse.
“I think we are using best practices now,” he said. “Sadly, we can’t change what happened 30, 40, 50 years ago, and we treat those victims with great compassion and respect. But thankfully for everybody, today’s church is very different from yesterday’s church.”

(Christian is senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. For more perspective on this research, read Plante’s article from Psycohology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/do-the-right-thing/201808/separating-facts-about-clergy-abuse-fiction)

Cardinal: clear response to abuse crisis urgently needed

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Responding quickly and appropriately to the problem of abuse must be a priority for the Catholic Church, said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
“Recent events in the church have us all focused on the urgent need for a clear response on the part of the church for the sexual abuse of minors” and vulnerable adults, he told Vatican News Sept. 9.
“Bringing the voice of survivors to leadership of the church is crucial if people are going to have an understanding of how important it is for the church to respond quickly and correctly anytime a situation of abuse may arise,” he said.
The cardinal, who is the archbishop of Boston, spoke at the end of the papal commission’s plenary assembly in Rome Sept. 7-9. Afterward, Cardinal O’Malley remained in Rome for the meeting Sept. 10-12 of Pope Francis’ international Council of Cardinals.
Cardinal O’Malley told Vatican News that in cases of abuse “if the church is unable to respond wholeheartedly and make this a priority, all of our other activities of evangelization, works of mercy, education are all going to suffer. This must be the priority that we concentrate on right now.”
The pontifical commission, he explained, is an advisory body set up to make recommendations to the pope and to develop and offer guidelines, best practices and formation to church leaders throughout the world, including bishops’ conferences, religious orders and offices in the Roman Curia.
The commission is not an investigative body and does not deal with past abuses or current allegations, but its expert-members try, through education, leadership training and advocacy, to “change the future so that it will not be a repeat of the sad history” the church has experienced, he said.
“There are other dicasteries of the Holy See that have the responsibility for dealing with the cases and dealing with individual circumstances of abuse or negligence on the part of authority, and our commission cannot be held accountable for their activities,” he said.
Most allegations of clerical sexual abuse are handled through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Commission members, however, have spoken with officials at various Vatican offices, including the doctrinal congregation. For those meetings, Cardinal O’Malley said he always brings a survivor with him “to talk to them about the church’s mission of safeguarding, and I think those (moments) have been very successful.”
Safeguarding training for bishops, priests and religious around the world is meant to help them become “aware of the seriousness” of abuse and negligence, “to be equipped to be able to respond” and to be able “to put the safeguarding of children and the pastoral care of victims as their priority,” said the cardinal.
A critical part of building awareness, he said, has been making the voice of survivors be heard directly by leadership. Every year when new bishops attend a course in Rome, the commission also addresses the group.

Cardinal explains plan to address ‘moral catastrophe’ of abuse

By Julie Asher
WASHINGTON(CNS) – The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Aug. 16 announced three key goals and a comprehensive plan to address the “moral catastrophe” of the new abuse scandal hitting the U.S. church.
The plan “will involve the laity, lay experts, the clergy and the Vatican,” Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said. This plan will be presented to the full body of bishops at their general assembly meeting in Baltimore in November.
He said the “substantial involvement of the laity” from law enforcement, psychology and other disciplines will be essential to this process.
He also said that right now, it is clear that “one root cause” of this catastrophe “is the failure of episcopal leadership.”
In a lengthy letter addressed to all Catholics, Cardinal DiNardo laid out three goals just established by the bishops’ Executive Committee in a series of meetings held early the week of Aug. 13.
The first is a “full investigation” into “the questions surrounding” Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, a former cardinal and retired archbishop of Washington. He said the Executive Committee will ask the Vatican to conduct an apostolic visitation into these questions “in concert with” a group of laypeople identified for their expertise by the USCCB’s lay-run National Review Board who will be “empowered to act.”
With a credible allegation that Archbishop McCarrick abused a minor nearly 47 years ago and accusations of his sexual misconduct with seminarians, many have been asking how the prelate could have risen up the ranks of the church as an auxiliary bishop, bishop, archbishop and finally cardinal.
Cardinal DiNardo described the second and third goals, respectively, as an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops, and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints.
The three goals “will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority and substantial leadership by laity,” he said.
“Two weeks ago, I shared with you my sadness, anger and shame over the recent revelations concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick,” the cardinal said. “Those sentiments continue and are deepened in view of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report.
We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report,” he added.
Cardinal DiNardo said the members of the Executive Committee “have already begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity and clergy, as well as the Vatican.”
In addition to this being presented to the full body of bishops at their Baltimore assembly, the cardinal said he will go to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge further concrete steps based on them.”
“The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability,” Cardinal DiNardo explained.
He elaborated on each of the goals he described, starting with the “full investigation” of the Archbishop McCarrick case and questions surrounding it.
“These answers are necessary to prevent a recurrence,” he said, and “so help to protect minors, seminarians and others who are vulnerable in the future.”
He said the second goal “is to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier.”
“Our 2002 ‘Statement of Episcopal Commitment’ does not make clear what avenue victims themselves should follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops,” he explained. The statement is in the bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” approved in Dallas in 2002, and revised in 2005, 2011 and 2018.
“We need to update this (commitment) document,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “We also need to develop and widely promote reliable third-party reporting mechanisms. Such tools already exist in many dioceses and in the public sector and we are already examining specific options.”
The third goal has to do with advocating for “better procedures to resolve complaints against bishops,” he said.
“For example, the canonical procedures that follow a complaint will be studied with an eye toward concrete proposals to make them more prompt, fair, and transparent, and to specify what constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process,” he said.
He also laid out the three criteria for pursing these goals: “genuine independence,” authority and “substantial involvement by the laity.”
“Any mechanism for addressing any complaint against a bishop must be free from bias or undue influence by a bishop,” he said. “Our structures must preclude bishops from deterring complaints against them, from hampering their investigation or from skewing their resolution.”

University, institute to be hub for causes of African-American Catholics

By Christine Bordelon
NEW ORLEANS – Reynold Verret, president of Xavier University of Louisiana, announced July 31 that the university and its Institute for Black Catholic Studies will become the new hub for the advancement of sainthood causes of African-American Catholics.
Verret made the announcement in the university’s St. Katharine Drexel chapel.
Privy to this historic announcement were attendees of the Joint Conference 2018 of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, the National Black Sisters Conference, the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association and the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons held in New Orleans July 28 – Aug. 2.
Verret said Xavier and its Institute for Black Catholic Studies will serve as hosts and administrators, and Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry will be moderator and chair of the center, whose goal is to unite all guilds advancing the causes of black sainthood.
Bishop Perry is postulator of the cause of Father Augustus Tolton, the first recognized African-American priest. Father Tolton has the title “servant of God” at this stage in his cause.
The center’s initial focus will be on the canonization of Father Tolton and Pierre Toussaint, Mother Henriette Delille, Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange and Julia Greeley, Verret said, with the hopes, this fall, of adding another ground-breaking black Catholic, Sister Thea Bowman, who taught at Xavier’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies.
The eventual goal, Verret said, is to establish “a resource center at Xavier with scholarly work on the lives and work of the … soon-to-be six candidates for sainthood and St. Katharine Drexel and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.”
A brief update was given during the announcement by promoters of the causes of each of the five sainthood candidates:
– Father A. Gerard Jordan, representing Bishop Perry, described Pierre Toussaint as a former slave and hairdresser who purchased freedom for his family. Toussaint has been declared “venerable.”
– Father Jordan also talked about Father Tolton, a former slave from Missouri whose family used the Underground Railroad to find freedom in Illinois. He trained for the priesthood in Rome because he was refused entrance into American seminaries and was ordained in 1886. He suffered threats while pastoring in his Illinois hometown and moved to Chicago to found St. Monica’s, the city’s first black parish.
“His life was a life of courage,” Father Jordan said. The cause for his canonization was proclaimed in 2011. He was named a “servant of God” in 2012. The Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes declared affirmatively to the validity of the inquiry into his life in 2015. His remains were exhumed in 2016, and his “positio” was approved so his cause can move forward to the pope.
Father Jordan also said the five candidates were universal saints for everybody, and their causes are “not in competition but in communion” to recognize black Americans who are people of virtue.
– Sister Magdala Gilbert, an Oblate Sister of Providence, discussed Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, her order’s founder and a “servant of God.” Sister Gilbert described her “as a no-nonsense woman who did what she had to do.” She worked to educate African-American children when it wasn’t popular: “When you have God at your side, you fear nothing.” Mother Lange’s cause began in 1991 but was recently assigned a new postulator in hopes that the “positio,” or position paper, on her life will be completed this October.
– Sister Greta Jupiter, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Family, talked about the cause of Mother Henriette Delille, who founded the order in 1842. She was declared “venerable” in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI. Two miracles attributed to her intercession are being examined. In general, one authenticated miracle is required for beatification and a second such miracle for canonization.
– Mary Leising described the Denver Archdiocese’s progress made on the cause of “Angel of Charity” Julia Greeley of Colorado. Born in Hannibal, Missouri, she worked and walked the streets of Denver collecting food, coal, clothing in a little red wagon and delivered the goods at night to the needy. She joined the Secular Franciscan Order in 1901. A guild to research her sainthood was established in 2011. Her cause was opened by Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquilla in 2016. On Aug. 10, the archdiocese will close its investigative phase and send its findings to Rome.
Xavier University was the last stop on the conference’s Black Catholic Enrichment Tour that treated attendees to significant sites in the life of African-Americans in New Orleans. The conference celebrated the 50th anniversary of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus and the National Black Sisters Conference and their formation of strong black Catholic men and women of service.
The enrichment tour illustrated the joint conference theme of “We’ve Come a Mighty Long Way!”
“Welcome. You are standing on holy ground” were the first words tour participants heard when entering St. Augustine Church, founded in 1841, in New Orleans’ historic Treme’ neighborhood.
Local conference committee member Jari Honora and New Orleans Auxiliary Bishop Fernand J. Cheri explained that St. Augustine Church saw whites, free people of color and slaves worshipping together.

Pictures of five candidates for sainthood are featured on the altar at St. Katharine Drexel Chapel of Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans July 31. An announcement was made that day that Xavier would be the center for coordinating the advancement of all African-American sainthood causes. (CNS photo/Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald)

It also was where Mother Henriette Delille began her ministry to the poor and elderly; and where civil rights activists Homer Plessy, attorney A.P. Tureaud and many musicians prayed. It also is home to the “Tomb of the Unknown Slave.”
Along the route, Bishop Cheri referenced Congo Square as a place where free people of color congregated, the Mahalia Jackson Performing Arts Center (named after the New Orleans-born gospel singer) and how native Louis Armstrong was baptized Catholic at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church on Canal Street.
When passing Corpus Christi-Epiphany Church, which merged after Hurricane Katrina, Corpus Christi Parish, founded in 1916, was noted as once being the largest African-American parish in the world and was considered “Queen of the Josephite missions.” Bishop Cheri recalled there being about 53 majority-black parishes in New Orleans; now, the number is close to 24 parishes and three predominantly black schools.
At the Sisters of the Holy Family Motherhouse in Gentilly, Sister Laura Mercier said when her order’s founder is canonized, she would be the first native-born African-American saint. “Her life will be a reminder that everyone can be a saint, no matter what color they are,” Sister Laura said.
Blessed Sacrament Sister Eva Marie Lumas, interim director of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies, said Xavier University is a special place that understands the woes and giftedness of the African American community and a perfect place to honor black Catholic ancestors who walked before and contributed much to society and the church.
She said elevating these African-Americans to sainthood is “a witness to advancing some who are ordinary people who did extraordinary things, and extraordinary people that understood the frame of reference of ordinary things …” While they might not have seen the fruits of their labors in their lifetime, these candidates for sainthood did what was right anyway by standing tall, walking, talking and showing how to do it right.
“It is both appropriate and significant that this joint effort to promote the cause for sainthood for these six extraordinary individuals should originate at Xavier,” Verret said.
The center will add Sister Thea Bowman once her cause is officially opened by the Diocese of Jackson, hopefully later this year.

(Bordelon is associate editor of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.)