Accused archbishop’s fellow prelates weigh in on abuse scandal’s impact

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – With retired Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick’s resignation July 28 from the College of Cardinals, more of his fellow bishops are commenting on the scandal that has enveloped the former archbishop of Washington and its impact on the larger church.
The allegations are “a further painful blow for all of God’s people,” said a July 30 letter by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City to Catholics in his archdiocese. “It is even more egregious when these crimes are perpetrated by members of the clergy and those in positions of trust. Those are among the most bitter fruits of sin.”
Archbishop Coakley asked, “How could these allegations have remained under the radar for so long? It seems that many heard rumors of his alleged criminal and sinful behavior.”
While the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” adopted by the bishops in 2002 when the clergy sex abuse crisis roared into public consciousness, is “a step in the right direction,” Archbishop Coakley said, “part of the problem is a gap in the charter itself.”
He added, “This gap has contributed to the erosion of trust and confidence in episcopal leadership among priests, deacons and the lay faithful. Repairing this gap by creating consistent standards and procedures for all, including bishops, will go a long way toward restoring that trust,” although he acknowledged “they will not be enough,” stressing “humble repentance and continuing conversation for all of us who are in positions of leadership in God’s church.”
The archbishop also said the “scourge” of sexual abuse is one of the “bitter fruits” of the sexual revolution that “continue to wreak havoc on human society, the family and the church.” Blessed Paul VI in “Humanae Vitae” 50 years ago, he noted, warned of a “general lowering of morality in society.”
In an Aug. 1 message on his blog, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, said: “Many people – priests, laity and hierarchy – are wondering how this or any bishop might rise to the rank of the episcopacy let alone to become a cardinal in the church.”
“Most regular, church-attending Catholics still trust their priests, who minister and serve the people of God faithfully,” he added. “The same can no longer be said of bishops. We have lost the trust of many of our priests and people.”
Archbishop Etienne offered a seven-point plan to restore trust, including having an ad hoc committee of the U.S. bishops to write a protocol to have the charter apply to bishops and appointing a separate review board to field abuse accusations against bishops and make recommendations to the Vatican – and with the authority to make its recommendations public if no action has been taken after 60 days
“At its core, we are facing a spiritual crisis, and these times call us to renew our life in and our witness to Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Etienne said.
“We must remember that when it seems like the church has failed us, it is the fallible human beings within the church, and even some leading the church, who have failed; not the church itself,” said an Aug. 1 statement by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, which adjoins the Archdiocese of Washington.
“It is the Lord who leads, guides and protects his people and church,” Bishop Burbidge added. “It is only when we lose sight of him that we stumble.”
Bishop Burbidge said, “For 16 years, dioceses around the country have implemented unprecedented protocols to encourage reporting of allegations and suspicions of sexual abuse by priests and deacons, as well as to investigate such accusations thoroughly, independently and transparently. Clearly, these procedures and policies need to be reflected in the conduct of bishops as well and how we relate to one another. We all must be held accountable for our actions – bishops are no exception.”
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, in an Aug. 1 posting on his Facebook page, noted how Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops, had issued a statement that day outlining the steps the bishops would take “in order to address the failures of the church in protecting God’s sons and daughters” from abuse.
“I join Cardinal DiNardo in expressing my deep regret and sorrow for the pain and harm caused by any failures to protect God’s children,” Archbishop Chaput said.
“In light of this national church news, I want to reassure you today, as forcefully as I can, that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has a zero-tolerance policy for clergy, lay employees, and volunteers who engage in the abuse of children,” he said. “We take immediate action when an allegation is made and we cooperate promptly and fully with law enforcement. Research and experience have shown that sexual abuse plagues every corner of society from sports and public institutions, to the entertainment industry, and the political arena.
“Prevention of abuse comes from training and constant vigilance, and the prevention of abuse – along with support for survivors – is and will remain a constant priority for our church and archdiocese,” Archbishop Chaput said.
(Contributing to this story was Steve Larkin.)

Pope Francis advances sainthood causes of young teens

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis issued decrees advancing the sainthood causes of four candidates, including two young teenagers who heroically lived the Christian virtues.

Alexia Gonzalez Barros, a teen who offered her sufferings from a malignant tumor for the church, has been declared venerable. The Vatican issued the decree advancing her sainthood cause July 5. Gonzalez is pictured with Paddy on Dec. 24, 1984. (CNS photo/courtesy Sainthood Cause of Alexia Gonzalez Barros)

At a meeting July 5 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the pope signed a decree recognizing the heroic virtues of Alexia Gonzalez Barros, who offered her sufferings from a malignant tumor for the church.
Gonzalez was born in Madrid in 1971. Her parents were members of Opus Dei and passed on their faith to their five children. She made her first Communion in Rome and the following day attended the weekly general audience May 9, 1979.
She ran up to St. John Paul II as he greeted pilgrims and received a blessing and a kiss from the pope.
Several years later, her life dramatically changed when doctors discovered a tumor that gradually paralyzed her. Throughout her illness, she offered her sufferings for the church and the pope and would often pray, “Jesus, I want to feel better, I want to be healed; but if you do not want that, I want what you want.”
She died Dec. 5, 1985, at the age of 14.

Carlo Acutis, who was born in 1991 in London and died in 2006 in Monza, Italy, has been declared venerable. The Vatican issued the decree advancing his sainthood cause July 5. (CNS photo/courtesy Sainthood Cause of Carlo Acutis)

Pope Francis also recognized the heroic virtues of Carlo Acutis, a young teen who used his computer skills to catalogue eucharistic miracles around the world before his death at the age of 15 due to leukemia.
According to the website of his canonization process, Acutis placed the Eucharist “at the center of his life and called it ‘my highway to heaven.’”
Before his death in 2006, Acutis offered his sufferings for Pope Benedict XVI and for the church.
The other decrees signed by the pope recognized the heroic virtues of:
– Pietro Di Vitale, an Italian layman and a member of the Third Order of St. Francis. He was born in Sicily in 1916 and died in 1940.
– Giorgio La Pira, the former mayor of Florence and a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic. He was an advocate for peace during the Cold War and despite his stature in the international community, he lived in a small cell in the Basilica of St. Mark in Florence. He died in 1977.
Recognizing the heroic virtues of a person is one of the first formal steps toward canonization, or sainthood. In most cases, a miracle attributed to that person’s intercession is needed for beatification, the next step toward sainthood.

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)

Synod working document: Young Catholics need church that listens to them

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Young Catholics are looking for a church that listens to their concerns, accompanies them in discerning their vocations and helps them confront the challenges they face, said a working document for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on young people.
The synod’s “instrumentum laboris” (working document), published by the Vatican June 19, stated that young people “want to see a church that shares their situations of life in the light of Gospel rather than by preaching.”
Quoting a presynod gathering of young people who met at the Vatican March 19-25, the working document said young Catholics “want an authentic church. With this, we would like to express, particularly to the church hierarchy, our request for a transparent, welcoming, honest, attractive, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive community.”
The working document is based mainly on comments solicited in a questionnaire last June from national bishops’ conferences around the world as well as the final document of the presynod gathering.
An estimated 305 young adults participated in the weeklong presynod meeting, which allowed practicing Catholics and others to provide input for Pope Francis and the world’s bishops, who will meet at the synod in October to discuss “young people, faith and vocational discernment.” Some 15,000 young people also participated in the presynod process through Facebook groups online.
The meeting, the working document said, “highlighted the potential that younger generations represent” as well as their “hopes and desires.”
“Young people are great seekers of meaning, and everything that is in harmony with their search to give value to their lives arouses their attention and motivates their commitment,” it said.
Presenting the “instrumentum laboris” to journalists at a press briefing June 19, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary-general of the synod, said the synod’s goal is that young Catholics may find “the beauty of life, beginning from the happy relationship with the God of the covenant and of love” in a world that often robs them of their “affections, bonds and prospective of life.”
“The synod dedicated to young people gives us the opportunity to rediscover the hope of a good life, the dream of a pastoral renewal, the desire for community and passion for education,” he said.
Divided into three parts, the working document outlines the church’s need to listen to young people, to help guide them in the faith and in discerning their vocational calling, and to identify pastoral and missionary paths to be able to accompany them.
The responses collected by bishops’ conferences around the world cited a need for ways to help young men and women confront the challenges of cultural changes that sometimes disregard traditions and spirituality.

Pope Francis prepares to take a photo with young people at a presynod gathering of youth delegates in Rome March 19. The Vatican has released the working document for the October Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The working document also states that while the church highlights the importance of the body, affection and sexuality, many young Catholic men and women “do not follow the directions of the sexual morality of the church.”
“Although no bishops’ conferences offer solutions or indications, many (conferences) believe the issue of sexuality should be discussed more openly and without judgment,” it said.
Young people attending the presynod meeting said issues such as contraception, abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation and marriage are often debated both by young Catholics and non-Catholics.
The working document also highlighted the need to reaffirm church teaching on the body and sexuality at a time when biomedical advancements have pushed a more “technocratic approach to the body,” citing examples such as egg donation and surrogacy.
“Moreover, precocious sexuality, sexual promiscuity, digital pornography, the exhibition of one’s own body online and sexual tourism risk disfiguring the beauty and depth of emotional and sexual life,” the “instrumentum laboris” said.
Church leaders, it said, must “speak in practical terms about controversial subjects such as homosexuality and gender issues, which young people are already freely discussing without taboo.”
Also, “LGBT youths, through various contributions received by the secretariat of the synod, want to benefit from a greater closeness and experience greater care from the church,” while some bishops’ conferences are asking what they can recommend to young people who enter into a homosexual relationship, but want to be closer to the church, the document said.
Regarding the use of the initials “LGBT” in a major church document, Cardinal Baldisseri told journalists that it was a term used in one of the documents given by the bishops’ conferences “and we quoted them.”
“We are open. We don’t want the synod to be closed in itself,” Cardinal Baldisseri said. “And in the church, there are many areas, there is freedom for people to express themselves – on the right, left, center, north and south – this is all possible. That is why we are willing to listen to people with different opinions.”
The working document also said young Catholics would like more initiatives that allow further dialogue with nonbelievers and the secular world to help them integrate their faith in their dealings with others.
Young men and women from primarily secularized areas “ask nothing from the church” and “expressly asked to be left in peace, because they feel its presence as annoying and even irritating.” These feelings, the document stated, do not come from contempt but rather due to “serious and respectable reasons.”
Among the reasons are the church’s sexual and economic scandals, priests who do not know how to engage with young people, and the way the church justifies its doctrinal and ethical positions to modern society.
Young men and women are also hoping the church can help them “find a simple and clear understanding of the meaning of vocation,” which is often misinterpreted as referring only to priesthood and consecrated life.
While the church has confirmed that marriage is also a vocation, the document confirms the need for “a youth vocational ministry capable of being meaningful for all young people.”
“Called to holiness and anointed by the spirit, the Christian learns to grasp all the choices in existence in a vocational perspective, especially the central one of the state of life as well as those of a professional nature,” it said.
“For this reason, some bishops’ conferences hope that the synod will find ways to help all Christians rediscover the link between profession and vocation in all its fruitfulness … and in view of the professional orientation of young people with a vocational perspective,” the document said.

At pallium Mass: Jesus wants disciples unafraid to aid others

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – God wants his disciples to bring his mercy and love to everyone, everywhere on earth, which means it may cost them their “good name,” comfort and their life, Pope Francis said on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Following Christ requires “that we open our hearts to the Father and to all those with whom he has wished to identify,” particularly the downtrodden, the lost and the wounded, “in the sure knowledge that he will never abandon his people,” he said during a Mass in St. Peter’s Square June 29.
“Jesus wants to liberate his disciples, his church, from empty forms of triumphalism: forms empty of love, empty of service, empty of compassion, empty of people,” he said. The Mass was celebrated the day after Pope Francis created 14 new cardinals from 11 different nations.
Both new and old cardinals as well as 30 archbishops appointed over the course of the past year were invited to be in Rome to concelebrate the feast day Mass with Pope Francis. The archbishops came from 18 countries, the majority coming from Latin America and others from Africa, Asia and Europe.
As has become standard practice, Pope Francis did not confer the pallium on new archbishops during the liturgy, but rather, blessed the palliums after they had been brought up from the crypt above the tomb of St. Peter. As each archbishop approached him by the altar, the pope handed each one a small wooden box tied with a thin gold ribbon. The actual imposition of the woolen band was to take place in the archbishop’s archdiocese in the presence of his faithful and bishops from neighboring dioceses.
The pallium is a woolen band that symbolizes an archbishop’s unity with the pope and his authority and responsibility to care for the flock the pope entrusted to him.
Addressing the cardinals and archbishops during his homily, the pope spoke about what Peter teaches them about the life and risks of being Christ’s disciple.
It was Peter who recognized Jesus as “the Christ, the son of the living God,” and it was Peter whom Jesus turned to, saying “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.”
But, when Jesus showed his disciples he must go to Jerusalem, be killed and be risen, it was Peter who protested.
Jesus “kept bringing the father’s love and mercy to the very end. This merciful love demands that we, too, go forth to every corner of life, to reach out to everyone, even though this may cost us our ‘good name,’ our comforts, our status … even martyrdom.”
Peter reacts to this mandate of martyrdom by saying, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you,” which makes him become “a stumbling stone in the Messiah’s path,” the pope said.
“Thinking that he is defending God’s rights, Peter, without realizing it, becomes the Lord’s enemy; Jesus calls him ‘Satan.’” he said.
“Like Peter, we as a church will always be tempted to hear those ‘whisperings’ of the evil one, which will become a stumbling stone for the mission,” the pope said.
Sharing in Christ’s mission, which is to anoint the people, the sick, the wounded, the lost and the repentant sinner, so that they may feel “a beloved part of God’s family,” means sharing Christ’s cross, which is his glory.
“When we turn our back on the cross, even though we may attain the heights of glory, we will be fooling ourselves, since it will not be God’s glory, but the snare of the enemy,” he said.
Do not be Christians who keep “a prudent distance from the Lord’s wounds,” because Jesus touches human misery and “he asks us to join him in touching the suffering flesh of others,” the pope told those assembled.

Bishops end border visit, call reunification of children urgent

By Rhina Guidos
SAN JUAN, Texas (CNS) – In less than 48 hours, a group of Catholic bishops saw the faces of triumph and relief from migrants who had been recently released by immigration authorities, but ended their two-day journey to the border with a more “somber” experience, visiting detained migrant children living temporarily within the walls of a converted Walmart.
During a news conference after the second and last day of their visit July 2, they stressed the “urgent” need to do something to help the children.
The separation for some of the children began shortly after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in early May that if migrants wanted to take their chances crossing the border illegally with their children, they faced the consequence of having them taken away – and he implemented a policy doing so.
Widespread outrage in the weeks following led to President Donald Trump essentially rescinding the policy in mid-June. But the stroke of the pen could not automatically reunite the children and parents who had been and remain apart.
“The children who are separated from their parents need to be reunited. That’s already begun and it’s certainly not finished and there may be complications, but it must be done and it’s urgent,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The visit to the facility known as Casa Padre capped the bishops’ brief journey to the border communities of McAllen-Brownsville near the southern border.

Vatican issues new document on vocation of consecrated virgins

By Juno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican has released a document that establishes norms and principles for women who dedicate their lives as consecrated virgins and their place in the life of the church.
Presenting the new document at the Vatican press office July 4, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said it is the “first document of the Holy See that delves into the character and discipline of this way of life.”
“The instruction on the ‘Ordo virginum’ (‘Order of Virgins’) intends to respond to the requests that numerous bishops and consecrated virgins in these years have presented to the congregation for consecrated life regarding the vocation and witness of the order of virgins, its presence in the universal church and, particularly, its formation and vocational discernment,” Cardinal Braz de Aviz said.
Consecrated by her local bishop, a member of the order of virgins makes a promise of perpetual virginity, prayer and service to the church while living independently in society.

Laurie Malashanko, consecrated to the Catholic Church's order of virgins, receives a wedding veil from Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron in Detroit's Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament June 24. (CNS photo/Joel Breidenbach) See CONSECRATED-VIRGINS June 27, 2017.

Karen Ervin, Theresa Jordan and Laurie Malashanko pause in prayer before the altar at Detroit's Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in 2017. They were consecrated into the Catholic Church's order of virgins. (CNS photo/Joel Breidenbach) See VATICAN-CONSECRATED-VIRGINS July 5, 2018.

The publishing of the document, “Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago” (“The Image of the Church as Bride”) comes two years ahead of the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the renewed “Ritual for the Consecration of Virgins,” an ancient rite in the church that fell into disuse in the years before the Second Vatican Council.
Divided into three parts, the document’s first section highlights the biblical origins and characteristics of the order of virgins, in which women “with spousal love are dedicated to the Lord Jesus in virginity.”
“Since this form of consecrated life was reintroduced in the church, there has been a real revival of the ‘Ordo virginum,’ whose vitality is evident in the rich variety of personal charisms placed at the service of the church’s development and of the renewal of society in the spirit of the Gospel,” the document stated.
Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary of the congregation, told journalists that through prayer penance and works of mercy, women in the order of virgins “take the Gospel as the fundamental rule of life.”
“The unique element of the ‘Ordo virginum,’ which distinguishes itself from the Institutes of Consecrated Life, is that the charism of virginity is harmonized with the charism of each consecrated woman, making room for a great variety of responses to vocations, in a creative freedom that demands a sense of responsibility and the exercise of a serious spiritual discernment,” Archbishop Rodriguez said.
The document’s second section, he added, deals with the pastoral duties of bishops in fostering and nurturing the vocation of consecrated virgins as well as their role within the diocese.
While rooted in their diocese, consecrated virgins are not confined to it and instead “are opened to the horizons of the universal mission of the church” in other dioceses, bishops’ conferences and the universal church,” Archbishop Carballo said.
Finally, the third section of “Ecclesia Sponsae Imago” details the discernment and formation of women who choose the life of consecrated virgins.
Bishops, the archbishop said, must ensure that their dioceses have the available resources to help women discern their calling that “deepens the understanding of the ecclesial value of this consecration.”
“Reproposing this way of life in the church may seem as an anachronism, but it is an act of trust in the action of the spirit, who is leading many women to accept and interpret this vocation in the light of the path fulfilled by the church over the centuries and according to the needs of the current historical context. It is a true path of sanctification that is fascinating and demanding,” Archbishop Carballo said.

Bishops approve changes to protection charter

By Dennis Sadowsk
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) – Changes in language to clarify several sections of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” were approved during the spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The changes are the first since 2011 as the work to update the document took several years to wind through the review process established by the bishops. Bishop Joseph Kopacz serves on this committee.
Among the changes approved is a provision that the review will occur every seven years instead of every two years.
Deacon Bernard Nojadera, executive director of the bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, told Catholic News Service that the change was made to reflect more accurately how long it takes for legal and canonical review of language to be completed.
While the review that led to the changes adopted by the bishops began in 2013, it took five years to complete because of questions that kept arising as the process continued, he said.
“The motivation behind all this is we want to make sure children are safe, period,” Deacon Nojadera said. “The bishops are making a statement that our churches, our parishes, are safe environments. Well, we need to back that up.”
The changes generally tighten requirements for all individuals working with children and add wording to individual articles of the charter or clarify terms used in the document.
Recognizing the explosive growth in digital platform use since the charter was adopted, a change in Article 2 adds a provision that dioceses will establish ways that digital media can be used to accept abuse allegations.
Article 4 inserts the clause “with due regard for the seal of the sacrament of penance” in describing the requirement to report an abuse allegation to civil authorities. Bishop Doherty told the general assembly that the clause was added because of recent challenges to the inviolability of the seal of confession.
Wording in Articles 6 and 12 was changed to clarify that all people who have contact with minors will abide by standards of behavior and appropriate boundaries. The previous language listed clergy, paid personnel and volunteers as those who must abide by such standards and boundaries.
A change in Article 9 adds wording that defines the method and the scope of the annual audit each diocese undergoes to determine compliance with the charter. The new language defines the audit method as the process and techniques used and the audit scope describes the “focus, parameters and time period” covered during an individual audit.
A sentence is being added to Article 10 at the suggestion of the National Review Board to emphasize that board members continue to monitor the recommendations of the “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010.”
The study, undertaken by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, examined the reasons for clergy sexual abuse. It was commissioned by the lay-led National Review Board and not by the bishops.
New language in Article 13 clarifies the process for obtaining letters of suitability for ministry for a priest or deacon not incardinated in a diocese who is ministering in the diocese It states that such a letter can be supplied by an appropriate ordinary bishop or religious superior.
Finally, Article 17 adds deacons to the commitment of diocese to strengthen formation program.

Value contributions refugees can make

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis called on nations working to develop a global compact on refugees to make sure they help ensure migration is safe, legal and humane.
While nations work to forge proper policies, every individual, “each of us, is called to draw near to refugees and find with them moments of encounter, to value their contribution so that they, too, can be better included in the communities that receive them,” the pope said June 17.
“It is by these encounters and with this mutual respect and support that there is an answer many problems,” he said.
The pope’s remarks came at the end of his Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square.
He reminded people of World Refugee Day June 20, which the United Nations promotes, he said, as a way to “call attention to the experience – often lived with great anxiety and suffering – of our brothers and sisters who are forced to flee their homeland because of conflict and persecution.”
The pope noted the ongoing effort by many nations in creating and adopting a global compact on refugees, which would promote “a migration that is safe, orderly and legal.”
“I hope that the states involved in this process may reach an understanding to assure, with responsibility and humanity, assistance to and the protection of those who are forced to flee their own country,” he said.
Pope Francis also led people in a Hail Mary for the people of Yemen and prayed that international leaders would ensure “the already tragic humanitarian situation does not get worse.” CAFOD, the overseas aid agency of the bishops of England and Wales, has warned that a Saudi-led coalition’s assault on Hodeida, Yemen’s main port city, will have a “catastrophic impact” on the ability of relief groups to get food, medicine and other aid to vulnerable Yemeni families in urgent need of assistance.

Hundreds of calls come in at USCCB HQ seeking to foster detained kids

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Maybe it was the request by the Pentagon for 20,000 mattresses as military bases become, at least partly, shelters for detained border crossers.
Maybe it was the federal government report that 2,342 children had been separated from 2,206 parents at the U.S.-Mexico border between May 5 and June 9.
Maybe it was the now-famous audio recording of children crying after being separated from their parents.

An immigrant entering the U.S. illegally is seen arriving in shackles for a court hearing in McAllen, Texas, June 22. (CNS photo/Loren Elliott, Reuters) See IMMIGRATION-BORDERS June 22, 2018.

Or maybe it was the pictures of kids in cages.
Whatever the reason, hundreds of American adults have called the Washington headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops seeking to provide foster care for the separated children.
At first report June 20, 300 calls had come in. And the calls keep coming. “We’re triaging the calls,” said Katie Kuennen, associate director for children’s services for the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services office.
“We’re getting flooded,” Kuennen added. “It’s not just Catholic Charities, but MRS-wide.”
The one hitch: Most of those who have called are not licensed or certified to be foster parents. That’s a process that varies from state to state, according to Kuennen. While most states can train and certify parents for foster care in two or three months, some states can take a lot longer.
Further, while many Catholic Charities USA affiliate agencies are set up to match foster families with children, not all are. MRS, Kuennen said, also partners with Bethany Christian Services in some areas of the country. Agencies wishing to add foster care to their portfolio of services can typically gain state licensing in a month or two, she added.
So what happens when the calls come in? “We’re able to direct them to the nearest ORR foster care program that we have available,” Kuennen told Catholic News Service June 22. ORR is the acronym for the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.
“The programs aren’t new, the process of bringing foster families on board isn’t new,” she said. “What’s new is the public awareness of the program and the seeing of these images on television to get engaged and to open their homes to these families.”
Even though President Donald Trump signed an executive order June 20 that essentially reversed that part of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that separated kids from their parents, it was silent on the fate of those 2,352 kids already torn from their folks, plus whatever additional children were separated from their parents after June 9.
Moreover, a policy enacted in 1997 sets a 20-day limit for detained children to be detained alongside their parents. A Trump administration request to exceed that limit is before a federal judge in California.
“For years there has not been sufficient capacity in the ORR residential network for foster care placement,” Kuennen told CNS. “Historically they (children) have been going into shelter settings.”
However, “our department is currently responding to a funding opportunity announcement from ORR. I’m sure others (agencies) are as well. We are actively seeking to increase our transitional foster care and our long-term foster care,” she added.
It could be coincidence that the ORR money is being freed up at this time, or it could be consequence.
“My sense is that it was initiated in May, released in May, so the timing does match up,” Kuennen said, “before the family separation issue got a lot of attention after the zero tolerance (policy) was put into effect.”
Although the money won’t be officially freed up until the start of the new federal fiscal year Oct. 1, Kuennen said there is precedent for ORR to retroactively reimburse groups it has funded for expenses incurred if the group can show the money was spent on the specific grant plan.

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

Pope ‘ashamed’ by church’s failure to listen to abuse survivors

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In a letter to Catholics in Chile, Pope Francis expressed shame for the church’s failure to listen and defend survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy.
Released by the Chilean bishops’ conference May 31, the letter from the pope said that the time of “revision and purification” in the church was possible through the efforts of abuse survivors “who, against all hope or painted as discredited, did not tire of looking for the truth.”
They are “victims whose cries reached to heaven. I would like to once again publicly thank all of them for the courage and perseverance,” the pope wrote.
The Vatican announced earlier in the day that “the pope will send the president of the Chilean bishops’ conference a letter written personally by him and addressed to all the people of God, as he had promised the bishops.”
The Vatican also announced that Pope Francis will send Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos back to Chile and visit the Diocese of Osorno “with the aim of advancing the process of reparation and healing of abuse victims.”
Shortly after, Bishop Juan Ignacio Gonzalez Errazuriz of San Bernardo, president of the Chilean bishops’ commission for abuse prevention, and Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, secretary-general of the Chilean bishops’ conference, held a news conference in Santiago to release the eight-page letter.
In his message, the pope said it has been a “time of listening and discernment” for the church to get to the root of the sexual abuse crisis in the Chilean church and to find concrete solutions and not “mere strategies of containment.”
He also acknowledged the church’s shortcomings in not listening to survivors of abuse.
“Here, I believe, lies one our principal faults and omissions: to not know how to listen to victims. Thus, partial conclusions were built that lacked crucial elements for a healthy and clear discernment. I must say with shame that we did not know how to listen and react in time,” the pope wrote.
In January, the pope sent Archbishop Scicluna and Father Bertomeu to Chile to listen to people with information about Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, who, according to survivors, had allegedly witnessed their abuse by his mentor, Father Fernando Karadima.
Pope Francis said their visit was made after “verifying the existence of situations that we did not know how to see and listen.”
“As a church, we cannot continue walking while ignoring the pain of our brothers and sisters,” he said.
The church, he continued, must say “never again” to a culture that not only allowed sexual abuses to occur but also “considered a critical and questioning attitude as betrayal.”
“The culture of abuse and cover up is incompatible with the logic of the Gospel given that the salvation offered by Christ is always an offering, a gift that demands and requires freedom,” the pope said.
The pope also encouraged Chilean Catholics to continue their devotion to popular piety which is “one of the few areas where the people of God is above the influence of that clericalism that seeks to control and restrain the anointment of God upon the people.”
Like Christ, who did not hide his wounds after his resurrection but rather showed them to his disciples, the church must also be willing to show its own wounds to “be able to understand and be moved by the wounds of the world today.”
“A church with wounds doesn’t place itself at the center, it doesn’t think itself perfect, it doesn’t look to cover up and conceal its evil, but instead places them before the only one who can heal wounds and he has a name: Jesus Christ.
After the letter’s release, Juan Carlos Cruz, one of three survivors who met with Pope Francis April 27-29, said he was moved by the pope’s letter.
“There are phrases in the letter that are things that we spoke about with the pope, such as the culture of cover-ups. It is an emotional feeling to know that he was listening to us and it wasn’t just a salute,” Cruz said May 31 in an interview with Chilean radio station Tele 13.

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.)