No Picture
News Briefs

Priest condemns latest attack on Jesuit university in Nicaragua as ‘cowardly’

May 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Managua, Nicaragua, May 31, 2018 / 05:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A mortar attack on a Jesuit university in Nicaragua last weekend resulted in no deaths or injuries, and has been condemned by the school’s rector as “cowardly.”

On May 27, three masked people fired mortar at two guards standing at the main gate of the University of Central America, located in the country’s capital of Managua.

Fr. José Alberto Idiáquez, the rector of the university, denounced “…this cowardly night attack by para-police forces that, protected by the impunity guaranteed by the current (government), have been using the hours of the night to intimidate and kill innocent citizens in the neighborhoods of the capital and other cities.”

“Although they did not succeed in wounding or killing any of our guards, that was the intent, because of the charge of gunpowder used and because of the closeness of the shot,” he added.

The attack is the latest in a spate of violence and civil unrest in the country, which began April 18 after President Daniel Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests have only intensified after more than 40 protesters were killed by security forces.

In his statement, Idiaquez said that this is the second time the university has been under attack, noting the destruction of the school’s entrance during the April 18 protests.

The university, which has become a center of student-led anti-government activism, suspended all academic and administrative activities in the days following the latest attack.

Protesters have called for freedom of expression, an end to violent repression, and for Ortega to step down from office.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has also expressed human rights concerns regarding the violence and visited Nicaragua May 17-21 to document human rights violations in four cities and to issue recommendations.

The commission found that since protests began, at least 76 have died and 868 have been injured, including a priest of the Diocese of Matagalpa who was wounded by shrapnel May 15 while trying to separate protesters and security forces, according to the AP.

The Church in the country has been quick to acknowledge the protestors’ complaints and to attempt to mediate peace with the government.

On May 22, the Catholic bishops of the country encouraged Ortega to create “a mechanism of international investigation of the acts of violence which occurred, with guarantees of autonomy and independence to ensure the right to the truth and duly identify those responsible.”

In their letter to Ortega, the bishops stressed the importance of continued dialogues to work towards peace.

On the same day that the letter was issued, the bishop’s conference also announced that bishops and priests are being discredited by attacks orchestrated by the government and that they have been receiving death threats through “anonymous social media” posts.

On May 23, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes of Managua announced that peace talks had been suspended indefinitely after reaching an impasse with the government, which refused to discuss an agenda presented by the bishops that included suggested reforms to presidential elections, according to ABC News. However, Brenes said he is hopeful the talks can eventually continue.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

He was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.


No Picture
News Briefs

Maine bishop had ‘no alternative’ but to leave state ecumenical group

May 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Portland, Maine, May 31, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After the Maine Council of Churches changed its decision-making process earlier this year, the Bishop of Portland was forced to withdraw from the group, the Portland Press-Herald reported Tuesday.

The council had previously required unanimous agreement before advocating on a public policy issue, but in February adopted a simple majority vote. This meant that continued membership in the group could have forced the Diocese of Portland to be represented by views at odds with Catholic teaching.

Bishop Robert Deeley wrote to Bonny Rodden, president of the Maine Council of Churches, to announce the withdrawal of the Portland diocese, Gillian Graham wrote in the Portland Press-Herald May 29.

“As the Bishop of the Diocese I find this unfortunate, but I see no alternative. Our continuing participation could result in me advocating for two different, and even contradictory, positions,” Bishop Deeley wrote, according to the Press-Herald.

“What I advocate for cannot be simply determined by a majority vote. It is expected that my advocacy is grounded in the teachings of the Church. Any other position would be contrary to my responsibility as the bishop of Portland.”

The bishop added that “As we do with the many activities of our parish communities and, of course, the tremendous good done by Catholic Charities, we will be working to serve the needs of the poor, the disadvantaged and the migrants among us, and keep before the people of our state the need to serve the common good through our care for one another.”

The members of the Maine Council of Churches, found in 1938, “act as one voice to advocate for the disenfranchised, the downtrodden and the protection of God’s creation,” according to the organization’s website.

The Maine Council of Churches currently says it has seven member denominations: Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Quakers.

The Diocese of Portland had joined the council in 1982. The Press-Herald reported that its membership will officially end June 30.

Jane Field, executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, told the Portland Press-Herald that the decision to change the council’s decision-making process came amid disagreements over LBGTQ issues. Field is a minister at a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

During debates over same-sex marriage, the council would not take a stand, “in order to keep everyone at the table,” she said. “When it came to certain areas, in particular issues affecting the LGBTQ community, they would invoke this practice (of staying silent)”.

In a March 14 letter to the editor in the Portland Press-Herald, Field wrote, in her capacity as executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, that “Sexual orientation and gender identity are a gift from God – not a condition that needs treatment, not a choice that needs conversion, not something broken that needs repair.”

Field said there is a “deep sadness” over the Portland diocese’s decision to leave the council, “but at the same time, I feel the council still has a vital role to play in the state. I believe we will find ourselves side by side with the diocese on certain issues like hunger and human trafficking.”

The Catholic Church is the largest religious institution in the state. In 2010, the Diocese of Portland included 203,000 persons, while there were nearly 94,000 mainline Protestants in Maine.


No Picture
News Briefs

Minn. archbishop hopeful that abuse settlement will help bring healing

May 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

St. Paul, Minn., May 31, 2018 / 02:35 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Announcing a $210 million agreement with sexual abuse victims, Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis said he hopes the settlement will mark a new beginning for abuse survivors and the local Church.

“With the settlement today, we reaffirm our efforts to protect children and vulnerable adults,” Archbishop Hebda said at a May 31 press conference.

“Even in this moment of taking another step toward providing justice to survivors of abuse, we know our work in this regard is not complete,” he said. “Our Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment team will continue its work on demonstrable actions to ensure that our churches, schools and communities are safe places for all.”

He noted that the December 2015 child safety policies established by the archdiocese – which include training every volunteer and employee who works with children about how to recognize and prevent abuse – continue to be the national standard for maintaining safe environments.

Thanking the victims who have come forward to share their stories, he offered an apology on behalf of the Church.

“I recognize that the abuse stole so much from you – your childhood, your innocence, your safety, your ability to trust, and in many cases, your faith,” he said, voicing hope that the settlement, which comes after more than two years of deliberation, will bring closure for victims and allow them to take the next step in the healing process.

The agreement announced by the archdiocese Thursday includes a plan for abuse compensation as well as for bringing the archdiocese out of bankruptcy.

The amount of the settlement is $210 million, said Tom Abood, chair of the Archdiocesan Finance Council, who negotiated the agreement. This is an increase of more than $50 million from the proposal that the archdiocese had originally submitted.

In January 2015, the archdiocese had filed for bankruptcy, saying many abuse claims had been made possible under Minnesota legislation that opened a temporary window for older claims to be heard in civil court.

The initial plan proposed by the archdiocese included $156 million for survivors who filed claims. That plan would have drawn about $120 million in insurance settlements and $30 million from the archdiocese and some of its parishes. Victims’ attorneys said it was inadequate and did not include insurers and parishes sufficiently.

In January 2018, a federal bankruptcy judge ordered a return to mediation for all the parties involved.

Under the final plan, the majority of the money – about $170 million – comes from insurance carriers for the archdiocese and individual parishes. The other $40 million is from diocesan and parish sources, such as cash-on-hand and the sale of interests in land.

Details of the final plan will be released in the coming days, Abood said.

Sources close to the archdiocese told CNA that between 33 and 40 percent of the settlement amount is likely to be consumed by plaintiffs’ attorney fees.

According to attorney Jeff Anderson, whose firm represents the abuse survivors, this is the largest settlement ever reached in a Catholic abuse case.

Anderson said that 450 survivors were included in the bankruptcy reorganization case, and 91 offenders were exposed and listed as credibly accused offenders who had never before been listed and exposed.

Jim Keenan, who was sexually abused by a priest at age 13, called the settlement “an absolute triumph” for victims.

He emphasized the need for continued vigilance in preventing abuse, but added, “I do believe we have made the world safer in terms of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis.”

Marie Milke, another victim, spoke about the power of healing that renewed her desire to be alive.

“We’re all aware of bad priests, but I have to acknowledge a few good priests,” she added, pointing to her uncle, who is a priest, and two other priests who fight for victims. “I think it’s important to know that there are still good priests, I want to thank you for not being afraid and to keep fighting for us.”

Abood noted that this settlement will bring a resolution to all pending abuse litigation against the archdiocese, parishes, and other Church entities.

Archbishop Hebda said he hopes that the settlement, which will also complete the archdiocese’s bankruptcy process, can mark a new beginning and allow for atonement, healing and restoration of trust.

“I sure hope, for those who have been harmed in the past, that this brings closure for them,” he said, stressing that the Church wants to be partners in healing, and not adversaries.

“I ask that we enter this new day together, in hope and in love,” he said.



No Picture
News Briefs

Abuse survivors, Twin Cities archdiocese reach settlement in bankruptcy case

May 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

St. Paul, Minn., May 31, 2018 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After more than two years’ deliberation, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and abuse survivors have agreed to a plan for abuse compensation as well as for bringing the archdiocese out of bankruptcy.

A statement released on Thursday by Jeff Anderson & Associates law firm, which represents the abuse survivors, called the settlement the “largest settlement ever reached in a Catholic bankruptcy case”, though they did not at the time disclose a dollar amount.

A source close to the archdiocese told CNA May 31 that the settlement amount reached was $210 million.

In the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the U.S. Bishop’s Conference in 2002, the bishops committed to full transparency on abuse settlement amounts. The charter notes that dioceses “are not to enter into settlements which bind the parties to confidentiality unless the victim/survivor requests confidentiality and this request is noted in the text of the agreement.”

Sources close to the archdiocese told CNA that between 33 and 40 percent of the settlement amount is likely to be consumed by plaintiffs’ attorney fees.

Anderson and abuse victims are holding a press conference, and the archdiocese is expected to do so shortly.

In January 2015 the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy, saying many abuse claims had been made possible under Minnesota legislation that opened a temporary window for older claims to be heard in civil court.

The committee representing abuse survivors composed a plan at the time calling for tougher settlements with insurance companies and much larger contributions from the archdiocese. The archdiocese, parishes and insurance companies objected to the plan, saying its effect would be “liquidating” the archdiocese.

From the archdiocese came a proposed plan that included $156 million for survivors who filed claims. The plan would draw about $120 million in insurance settlements and $30 million from the archdiocese and some of its parishes. Victims’ attorneys said it was inadequate and did not include insurers and parishes adequately.

In January 2018, a federal bankruptcy judge ordered a return to mediation for all the parties involved.


No Picture
News Briefs

Pope Francis ‘ashamed’ the Church didn’t listen to Chilean abuse victims

May 31, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, May 31, 2018 / 12:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a letter to Catholics in Chile on Thursday, Pope Francis said he is ashamed of the Church’s failure to listen to victims, and urged all the baptized to make a commitment to ending the culture of abuse and cover-up.

“Here resides one of our main faults and omissions: not knowing how to listen to victims,” the pope said in his May 31 letter.

Because of this inability to listen, “partial conclusions were drawn, which lacked crucial elements for a healthy and clear discernment,” he said, adding that “with shame I must say that we did not know how to listen and react in time.”

The need to investigate the Chilean abuse crisis, he said, “was born when we saw that there were situations that we did not know how to see and hear. As a Church we could not continue to walk ignoring the pain of our brothers.”

Francis stressed the importance of prayer and the role that the People of God have in the Church, saying that to distance oneself from the People of God “hastens us to the desolation and perversion of ecclesial nature.”

“The fight against a culture of abuse requires renewing this certainty,” he said, and urged all Christians not to be afraid of being protagonists of change in the Church.

Francis then thanked the organizations and media outlets which he said took on the issue, “always seeking the truth and not making this painful reality a meditative source for increasing the rating of their programming.”

He also said the process of purification the Church is currently living is due not just to recent events, but the whole process is possible thanks to the effort and perseverance of those who, “against all hope and stains of discredit,” did not tire of seeking the truth.

“I am referring to the victims of abuses of sexuality, power and authority and to those who in this moment believe and accompany them. Victims whose cry rose to heaven,” he said, voicing gratitude for the “courage and perseverance” they have shown.

The “never more” attitude in front of a culture of abuse and the system of cover-up, he said, “demands working among everyone in order to generate a culture of care which permeates our ways of relating, praying, thinking, of living authority; our customs and languages and our relationship with power and money.”

Pope Francis then stressed the urgency of generating spaces where a culture of abuse and concealment is not the “dominant scheme,” and in which a critical and questioning attitude is not confused with “betrayal.”

He then urged all Christians, especially those who work in educational and formational entities and institutions, to pool their resources with civil society in order to find strategic ways of promoting a culture of care and protection.

Abuse and cover-up, he said, are “incompatible with the logic of the Gospel since the salvation offered by Christ is always an offer, a gift which demands and requires freedom,” adding that all attempts against freedom and the integrity of the person “are anti-evangelical.”

The pope then invited centers of religious formation, faculties of theology, and seminaries to launch a theological reflection capable of rising above the present time and promoting a “mature, adult” faith in the Church.

Communities that are able to fight against abuse and which are internally capable of discussion and even confrontation on the issue are welcome, he said, adding that “we will be fruitful in the measure that we empower and open communities from within and thus free ourselves from closed and self-referential thoughts full of promises and mirages which promise life but which ultimately favor the culture of abuse.”

Referring the popular piety practiced in many communities in Chile, which he called an “invaluable treasure and authentic school of the heart for the people of God,” Francis said that in his experience, expressions of popular devotion are “one of the few places where the People of God are sovereign” from the influence of a clericalism which tries to control and limit the laity.

Francis then pointed to all the laity, priests, bishops, and consecrated persons in Chile who have faithfully lived their vocations in love, saying they are Christians who know how to cry with others, to seek justice, and to look with mercy on those who are suffering.

Pope Francis closed his letter saying a Church that is wounded is capable of understanding and being moved by the wounds of today’s world and of both making these wounds their own and accompanying and healing those who bear them.

“A Church with sores does not put itself at the center, it does not believe itself to be perfect, it does not try to conceal and disguise its evil, but puts it before the only one who can heal wounds and who has a name: Jesus Christ.”

This certainty is what will prompt people to look for the commitment to ultimately and in time generate a culture where every person “has the right to breathe an air free of every kind of abuse.”

He urged the entire People of God not to be afraid to get involved and walk, driven by the Holy Spirit in search of a Church “which is increasingly more synodal, prophetic and hopeful,” and which is ultimately “less abusive because it knows to put Jesus at the center in the hungry, in the prisoner, in the migrant, in the abused.”

Francis’ letter coincided with the start of the pope’s second round of meetings with Chilean abuse survivors.

The group, consisting of five priests and two laypersons who suffered either sexual abuse or abuse of power or conscience by Karadima, and two priests who have accompanied the victims, will be in Rome over the weekend to discuss the country’s abuse crisis with the pope.

Francis’ letter comes after a months-long process of addressing the Chilean abuse crisis following an in-depth investigation carried out by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu, from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

The investigation was initially centered around Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, appointed to the diocese in 2015 and accused by at least one victim of covering up abuses of Fr. Fernando Karadima.

In 2011, Karadima was convicted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of abusing minors and sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude. Allegations of cover-up were also made against three other bishops – Andrés Arteaga, Tomislav Koljatic and Horacio Valenzuela – whom Karadima’s victims accuse of knowing about Karadima’s crimes and failing to act.

Pope Francis initially defended Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop’s guilt, and called accusations against him “calumny” during a trip to Chile in January. However, after receiving Scicluna’s report, Francis apologized in an April 8 letter to the Chilean bishops, and asked to meet the prelates and more outspoken survivors in person.

A few weeks, later, Francis held both private and group meetings with three of Karadima’s most outspoken victims – Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Andres Murillo – at the Vatican April 27-29.

Two weeks later, the pope met with all of Chile’s active bishops in Rome, some of whom have also been accused of cover-up, to discuss the conclusions of Scicluna’s report and to share his own reflections on the crisis.

During the May 15-17 meeting, Francis criticized the 34 bishops present for systematic cover-up of clerical abuse in Chile, and urged them to refocus, putting Christ at the center of their mission.

The gathering concluded with all of Chile’s active bishops offering a written resignation to Francis, which he will either accept or deny. So far, there has been no news of the pope’s decision.