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Archbishop Viganò urges US bishops to be ‘courageous shepherds’

November 13, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2018 / 10:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò sent Tuesday a message to the bishops of the United States, who are holding a plenary assembly, encouraging them to act as courageous shepherds in the face of the sex abuse crisis.

“I am writing to remind you of the sacred mandate you were given on the day of your episcopal ordination: to lead the flock to Christ,” the emeritus Apostolic Nuncio to the US said Nov. 13.

“Meditate on Proverbs 9:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom! Do not behave like frightened sheep, but as courageous shepherds. Do not be afraid of standing up and doing the right thing for the victims, for the faithful and for your own salvation. The Lord will render to every one of us according to our actions and omissions.”

“I am fasting and praying for you,” Archbishop Viganò concluded.

The former nuncio’s message came on the second day of the USCCB’s autumn general assembly, being held in Baltimore Nov. 12-14.

It was intended that the assembly would vote on proposals meant to form the basis for a response to the sexual abuse crisis facing the Church in the US.

But Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the conference, announced Monday morning that the Congregation for Bishops had directed that the vote not be held.

DiNardo said that the Holy See insisted that consideration of a code of conduct for bishops and a lay-led body to investigate bishops accused of misconduct be delayed until the conclusion of a special meeting called by Pope Francis for February.

Archbishop Viganò, who was nuncio to the US from 2011 to 2016, has issued a series of testimonies and letters in recent months.

In August, he wrote that Benedict XVI had “imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis” and that Viganò personally told Pope Francis about those sanctions in 2013.

Viganò claimed that this was ignored by Francis, who pulled McCarrick back into public ministry and allowed him to become a “kingmaker for appointments in the Curia and the United States.”

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News Briefs

Pray that bishops, priests will manifest Christ’s love, Pope Francis urges

December 4, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Dec 4, 2019 / 06:17 am (CNA).- Bishops and priests have a duty to guard and protect the Catholics entrusted to their care; and they need the faithful’s prayers for this task, Pope Francis said at the general audience Wednesday.

“Let us ask the Lord to renew in us love for the Church and for the deposit of the faith that it preserves, and to make us all co-responsible in the custody of the flock, supporting the pastors in prayer so that they manifest the firmness and tenderness of the Divine Shepherd,” he said Dec. 4.

He emphasized that “bishops must be very close to their people to guard them, to defend them; not detached from the people.”

Reflecting on the Acts of the Apostles, he explained that in chapter 20 Paul is saying farewell at the end of his apostolic ministry in Ephesus, giving a sort of “spiritual testament” to those who will lead the community after his departure and who will probably never see him again.

Pope Francis recommended everyone read chapter 20 of the Acts of the Apostles to learn how to say goodbye, calling it one of the “most beautiful” passages in Acts.

In this passage, Paul also exhorts the leaders of the community. “And what does he say to them?” the pope said. “‘Watch over yourself and the whole flock.’ This is the work of the shepherd: waking, watching over himself and the flock.”

“The priests must watch, the bishops, the pope must watch,” he continued. “Keep vigil to guard the flock, and also to watch over oneself, examine one’s conscience and see how this duty to watch is carried out.”

He quoted Acts 20:28, which says, “Watch over yourselves and over the whole flock, in the midst of which the Holy Spirit has constituted you as guardians to be shepherds of the Church of God, which was acquired with the blood of his own Son.”

The pope again recommended that people “not forget today to take a Bible and read the 20th chapter, verses 17 onward, of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. It is a jewel and good for everyone.”

Pope Francis also spoke against belief in magic, fortune telling, or tarot cards.

“Even today in the big cities, practicing Christians do these things,” he said. “Please: magic is not Christian!”

“These things that are done to guess the future or guess many things or change life situations are not Christian. The grace of Christ brings you everything: pray and entrust yourself to the Lord,” he urged.

 

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Lead by example, not documents, Vatican abuse expert tells Polish bishops

June 14, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Warsaw, Poland, Jun 14, 2019 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- As the Catholic Church in Poland continues to respond to sex abuse by clergy, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, a leading Vatican expert on prosecuting sex crimes under church law, attended the bishops’ plenary assembly to discuss child and youth protection.
 
Scicluna told the Catholic news source KAI that he wanted to encourage the bishops “to implement the very good guidance points that they themselves adopted” in 2013, Reuters reported.
 
“I have a great hope that Polish bishops will do what is needed…I hope this situation can be repaired,” said Scicluna, who took part in a June 14 session of the 383rd Plenary Assembly of the Polish Bishops’ Conference in Walbrzych.
 
“My very strong message to the bishops of Poland this morning was – we need to pass from very good documents to an example of best practice,” the archbishop said.
 
He said rules alone are not enough unless they are implemented. Parishioners need to know to whom they can report suspected abuse.
 
Scicluna urged anyone aware of a coverup to report it to Church authorities. In cases where high-ranking bishops are involved, they should report the coverup to Poland’s papal nuncio, the Associated Press reported.
 
In a May 22 letter, the Polish bishop’s conference spoke out against clergy sexual abuse and pledged both to continue to “eliminate factors conducive to crime” and to adopt a more sensitive attitude toward victims.
 
“We admit that as shepherds of the Church we have not done everything to prevent these harms,” they said, thanking the victims who have come forward and urging those who have not to report their abuse to both Church and state authorities.
 
A documentary about clerical sex abuse in Poland, titled “Tell No One,” was produced and recently released by filmmaker brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski. Millions of viewers have watched it on YouTube.
 
Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, President of the Polish bishops’ conference, thanked the filmmakers on May 13. He said he was “deeply moved and saddened” by the film.
 
“I am convinced that this film, too, will result in an even more stringent compliance with the guidelines for the protection of children and young people in the Church,” he said, noting Pope Francis’ recent instructions in the document “Vos estis,” which includes rules on the prevention of and response to sexual abuse by clergy.
 
Close to 400 Polish priests were accused of sexual abuse of minors, with alleged incidents dating as far back as 1950 with as many as 625 potential victims, according to a study commissioned by the Episcopal Conference of Poland and released in March 2019. These accusations were submitted to Poland’s bishops starting in the year 1990 until 2018.  
 
The study covered data collected from the more than 10,000 parishes in Poland, and included religious orders.
 
According to the report, 382 priests were accused of abuse during the time covered. Of the clerics accused, 284 were diocesan priests, and 98 belonged to a religious order. Figures provided by the Holy See Press Office in 2016 reported there are 156 bishops and some 30,661 priests in Poland.
 
At the time of the report’s release, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, head of the Episcopal Conference of Poland, called the report’s findings “tragic,” and said every instance of sexual abuse is a “particularly painful” betrayal of public trust.
 
About 58 percent of allegations of abuse involved male victims, while 42 percent of victims were female. About 45 percent involved sexual abuse of a victim under age 15.
 
Only 168 priests were charged with a crime by civil authorities, with 85 being convicted. Two of these priests were acquitted outright, while other accused priests’ cases did not move forward. As of March 2019, 33 priests’ trials were ongoing.
 
Polish law currently provides for a 12-year prison sentence for abuse of a child under 15. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland, has discussed extending this to 30 years.
 
A canonical process under the Catholic Church’s internal laws was sought against at least 362 of the 382 accused priests.
 
A total of 68 priests were canonically removed from the priesthood, and another 109 punished by limits on ministry or other sanctions. Another 31 were transferred either to a different parish or to a location away from children. Of the accused priests, 34 passed away before the process could finish. Only 28 priests were acquitted. There was no data or explanation for the canonical response to 20 of the accused priests.
 
A separate report was produced by the sex abuse victims support group Have No Fear. The group presented a Spanish-language edition to Pope Francis after his general audience Feb. 20.
 
Their report aims to document “violations of civil and canon law by Polish bishops in the context of priests who engaged in sexual abuse of minors.” It examines more than 20 cases of clergy sexual abuse reported to the relevant Polish bishops in the last three decades, some cases reported as recently as 2012. It also examines these bishops’ responses.
 
The report accuses 24 former and current Polish bishops of having protected or transferred priests who abused children and adolescents.
 
According to the New York Times, about 87% of the Poland’s 38 million people self-identify as Catholic.

 

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News Briefs

Polish bishops pledge greater sensitivity for abuse victims

May 24, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Warsaw, Poland, May 24, 2019 / 11:34 am (CNA).- The bishops of Poland are speaking out against sexual abuse, pledging to continue to “eliminate factors conducive to crime” as well as to adopt a more sensitive attitude toward victims than in the past.

“We admit that as shepherds of the Church we have not done everything to prevent these harms,” the bishop’s conference of Poland wrote in a May 22 letter to be read at Masses May 26.

“For many believers, especially for young people sincerely seeking God, sexual scandals involving clergy become a hard test of faith and a reason for great scandal. Disappointment and indignation is all the bigger and more painful that children, instead of caring love and accompaniment in seeking the nearness of Jesus, experienced violence and brutal depravation [sic] of the dignity of the child.”

The bishops’ May 22 letter was prompted, in part, by a documentary released on YouTube earlier this month which presents allegations that abusive priests were shifted between parishes, and shows people confronting elderly priests alleged to have abused them as children. The film has nearly 21 million views.

The motion picture has prompted a nationak conversation in Poland, with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the ruling Law and Justice party, promising harsher punishment for child abusers in reaction to the film, floating the idea of 30-year prison sentences.

“The film, taking into account the perspective of the victims, made us all aware of the magnitude of their suffering,” the bishops wrote.

“Anyone who is sensitive, learning the fate of the victims, experiences pain, emotion and sadness for their suffering. We thank to everyone who had the courage to tell about their suffering. We are aware of the fact that no word is able to reward them for the harms they have suffered.”

A study commissioned by the Polish bishops’ conference and released this March revealed nearly 400 Polish priests were accused of sexual abuse of more than 600 people from 1990 until 2018. Just over half of reported victims were under the age of 15. Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, called the report’s findings “tragic.”

The bishops urged victims of abuse by clergy to report their experience to both Church and state authorities, and a delegate has been appointed for each Polish diocese and most religious provinces to receive reports of abuse and “to help in obtaining psychological, legal and pastoral support.”

The bishops also stressed a need for greater sensitivity for victims and their suffering, citing lessons they learned from hearing the confessions of victims, whom they said need “great sensitivity and support to find the balance of life.”

They expressed support for Pope Francis’ May 7 motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi, which mandates the reporting of sexual abuse and provides for punishment for Church authories who fail to do so. The motu proprio also puts the metropolitan archbishop in charge of investigations of accusations against suffragan bishops.

The bishops also laid out some of the measures they are taking in Poland to address the problem of abuse, including abuse prevention training programs for dioceses and religious congregations.

“Let us not let the good, that is done in the Church through their ministry, be obscured by the sins of particular persons,” the bishops urged.

“On the principle of collective responsibility, let us not also convey the guilt of particular people in cassocks to all priests. These people committed these acts and they should be punished for their actions. Let us support in these difficult times the priests who work with sacrifice so that they don’t lose their enthusiasm and receive encouragement from the lay faithful.”

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