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Convicted Australian archbishop says he’ll step down if appeal fails

July 6, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Adelaide, Australia, Jul 6, 2018 / 10:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the continued fallout of his conviction for failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse, Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has faced calls both inside and outside of the Church to resign.

Wilson, who earlier this month received a 12-month detention sentence, most of which is likely to be spent under house arrest, said he intends to appeal.

In a July 4 statement posted on the Archdiocese of Adelaide’s website, Wilson said he is aware of the calls for his resignation, and has “taken them very seriously.”

“However, at this time, I am entitled to exercise my legal rights and to follow the due process of law. Since that process is not yet complete, I do not intend to resign at this time,” he said, adding that should his appeal prove unsuccessful, “I will immediately offer my resignation to the Holy See.”

Until that time, “the legal process must now be allowed to proceed in the normal way,” he said, adding that he plans to make no further public statements for the time being.

Wilson, 67, stepped aside from his role as Archbishop of Adelaide after being convicted in May of failing to report multiple allegations of child sexual abuse disclosed to him in the 1970s; however, he did not resign.

On June 3, Pope Francis named Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ of Australia’s Diocese of Port Pirie as apostolic administrator of Adelaide, entrusting him with day-to-day leadership responsibilities. At 76, O’Kelly is unlikely to take over for Wilson should the latter tender his resignation.

In a July 5 statement, published the day after Wilson issued his, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian Bishops Conference, noted that “a number of survivors, prominent Australians and other members of the community have publicly called on Archbishop Wilson to resign.”

These include Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten, who have argued that the archbishop is not in a position to lead.

“Although we have no authority to compel him to do so, a number of Australian bishops have also offered their advice privately,” said Archbishop Coleridge, adding, “Only the Pope can compel a bishop to resign.”

Coldridge said the conference has been “closely following” Wilson’s case and they respect his decision to appeal, which is “the right of any citizen,” but said that “we also recognize the ongoing pain this has caused survivors, especially those who were abused by Jim Fletcher.”

Wilson was found guilty of failure to report accusations of crimes carried out by abusive priest Fr. James Fletcher, who was convicted of nine counts of sexual abuse and was jailed in 2006. He died of a stroke within the year.

Two of Fletcher’s victims – Peter Creigh and another altar boy who is unnamed for legal reasons – said they had told Wilson of their abusive experience with Fr. James Fletcher, and that Wilson, who had only been ordained a priest for a year when Creigh came to him in 1976, dismissed their complaints.

Wilson has maintained his innocence throughout the process, saying he had no recollection of the accusations, and insisting that if he had been notified of the scandal, he would have offered pastoral care to the victims and their families, and reported the event to his superiors.

According to CNN, the archbishop’s legal team argued that in the 1970s, child sex abuse was not understood to be a serious crime that should be reported to authorities.

His legal team had attempted four times to have the case thrown out, including after the archbishop was diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease late last year, but it was denied.

 

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Australian archbishop sentenced to year’s detention for not reporting sexual abuse

July 2, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Adelaide, Australia, Jul 2, 2018 / 11:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of Adelaide was sentenced Tuesday to a 12-month sentence after being convicted in May of failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse disclosed to him in the 1970s.

The archbishop is likely to serve his sentence under house arrest, and be fitted with an electronic monitoring bracelet, according to media reports. A judge must confirm that arrangement at an August 14 hearing before it can be finalized.

Wilson, 67, has not resigned from his position as Archbishop of Adelaide.

Pope Francis appointed on June 3 Bishop Greg O’Kelly, SJ, bishop of Australia’s Diocese of Port Pirie, to serve as apostolic administrator of the archdiocese, entrusting him with day-to-day leadership responsibilities. O’Kelly, 76, is not expected to succeed Wilson, especially since he has already surpassed the age at which bishops customarily submit a resignation letter to the pope.

At Wilson’s sentencing hearing July 3, Magistrate Robert Stone said Wilson had shown “no remorse or contrition” before imposing the sentence.

Wilson was convicted of concealing child sexual abuse committed by a fellow parish priest in New South Wales in the 1970s. At the time, Wilson had been ordained a priest for only one year.

The victims of the scandal, Peter Creigh and another altar boy who is unnamed for legal reasons, said they both had told Wilson of their abusive experience with Fr. James Fletcher.

During the trial, Creigh said that he told Wilson in graphic detail of the abuse in 1976, five years after it had occurred. However, Wilson said the conversation never took place, noting in a court hearing April 11, “I don’t think I would have forgotten that.”

The second victim said he had told Wilson of the abuse in the confessional in 1976, but that Wilson had dismissed the boy with a penance, saying that he was lying. Wilson said he would never tell someone in the confessional that they were untruthful, and that he did not remember having seen the boy at all in 1976.

Fletcher was convicted of nine counts of sexual abuse and was jailed in 2006. He died of a stroke within the year. Wilson said he had no previous suspicions about the integrity of Fletcher’s character.

Wilson also told the court that if he had been notified of the scandal, he would have offered pastoral care to the victims and their families, and reported the event to his superiors.

Wilson’s legal team argued during the trial that child sexual abuse was not understood in the 1970s to be a crime that was required to be reported to authorities. Stone, however, said that protecting the Catholic Church was Wilson’s “primary motive” for failing to report the abuse allegations.

 

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Catholics are called to speak out against injustices, Hong Kong bishop says

July 2, 2018 CNA Daily News 2

Hong Kong, China, Jul 2, 2018 / 05:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church in Hong Kong is called to speak out in case of injustices, but it does not compete with the government, the bishop of the Chinese territory told CNA on the occasion of his ad limina visit to Rome.

Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung was making an ad limina visit along with the Bishop of Macau; the two territories are former British and Portuguese dependencies which are now part of the People’s Republic of China.

As a special administrative region, Hong Kong has a large degree of autonomy from mainland China, with its own political and economic system. The territory was a British colony from 1842 until 1997.

The bishops met with Pope Francis June 23, at the end of a week filled with meetings at Vatican offices, including a two-hour-long meeting with the Secretariat of State.

Bishop Yeung, who succeeded as Bishop of Hong Kong in August 2017, said that Hong Kong can have an influence on the Chinese way of life, as “Hong Kong is called to participate in China’s modernization, and not only from the political-economic point of view. The development of the country is not merely based on the economy.”

He added that the Catholic Church “mustn’t compete with the communist party for power and authority in this world. The Lord Jesus never told the disciples to compete with the Roman empire.”

Bishop Yeung underscored that “the Church has, however, her role to play. She is called to have a good attitude to dialogue, and at the same time she is called to tell the truth, and to speak out against social injustice, when the latter happens.”

The relation with the Church in mainland China is described by Bishop Yeung as “delicate.”

He explained that “the Chinese authorities’ message is that they do not want any interference in mainland China, and the most recent bill on foreign NGOs goes in that direction: everything must be approved by the government, and the government has the right to know whence the money comes.”

According to the law, foreign NGOs must register with the Ministry of Public Security or its provincial-level equivalents before establishing an office within mainland China.

The law paralleled increasing government regulations in many areas of public life.

The law affects aid that Hongkongers might send to mainland China, as “no one has certainty that the money arrives to its destination, and even a mere money transfer is considered a possible interference,” Bishop Yeung said.

Speaking about the long-rumored, potential Holy See – China deal, Bishop Yeung said that “the Church has a very clear role: she does not compete with the government; she is called to speak out when there are injustices.”

He added that “we understand that the Holy See is entertaining a dialogue with the government in Beijing, and it is normal that there are also people against this. We trust in our Lord. Fifty years ago, the door between the Vatican and Beijing was shut, and now we are struggling to find a very narrow opening.”

Bishop Yeung concluded that he does not know “where the agreement will take us,” but he believes that “God will take us on the right way. There have been mistakes, and perhaps there will be others. We are human. But our Lord will guide us.”

Bishop Yeung said that one of the topics of discussion with Vatican officials during the ad limina was the potential registration of a Catholic university of Hong Kong.

At the moment, the Caritas Institute for Higher Education has been established, and counts some 2,000 students. In 2014, it was announced that the school aims to be recognized as a university by education officials within five years.

Once the recognition will be finalized, it will be named “St. Francis University.”

According to Bishop Yeung, the Chinese government has an interest in accrediting a Catholic university in Hong Kong because of the “one country, two systems” principle which articulates the autonomous relationship between the territory and mainland China.

“We can have our way of doing things,” the bishop explained. “I think Hong Kong can be very important for China, as it is its open window to the world. If the central government were to shut down everything in Hong Kong, it would prove that the principle ‘one country, two systems’ cannot work.”

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Australia’s national compensation plan for child sex abuse victims begins

July 2, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Canberra, Australia, Jul 2, 2018 / 11:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Australia launched a program to compensate the victims of institutional child sex abuse.

“The development of the National Redress Scheme was one of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse and was supported by the Catholic Church in Australia (which was the first non-government entity to join the scheme) and many survivor groups,” read a statement from the Archdiocese of Sydney.

The scheme runs ten years, from July 1, 2018 until June 30, 2027.

The Australian bishops announced May 30 they would be joining the plan.

“Survivors deserve justice and healing and many have bravely come forward to tell their stories,” said Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane.

Sister Ruth Durick, OSU, president of Catholic Religious Australia, said that while monetary restitution is not enough to take away survivors’ pain, but they hope it will provide “practical assistance on the journey towards recovery from abuse.”

She also stressed a commitment “to providing redress to survivors who were abused within the Catholic Church.”

The National Redress Scheme will provide an estimated AUD 4 billion ($2.9 billion) to approximately 60,000 Australians. Compensation per victim has been capped at AUD 150,000 ($110,000), and average payments are expected to be about AUD 67,000 ($49,000).

Victims who apply for compensation under the plan waive their right to sue.

Australian Social Services Minister Dan Tehan said the Catholic Church’s participation in the plan is “incredibly significant” and demonstrates it is “prepared to take responsibility and it shows they want to offer redress to those survivors.”

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said that in joining the redress scheme, the Church expects “to be paying out for survivors for many years to come” and the bishops “stand ready to do that. We are going to back that [with] our insurance and our assets,” reports ABC News.

“We are determined to bring justice and full redress, healing if we can, to the victims of this terrible crime.”

A report from the Australian Royal Commission released Dec. 15, 2017, found serious failings in the protection of children from abuse in the Catholic Church and other major secular and religious institutions.

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St. Mary Mackillop and the miraculous bookstore rescue

June 27, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Auckland, New Zealand, Jun 27, 2018 / 05:45 am (CNA).- When your business runs out of money and you need a miracle, whom do you call? The Catholic Church, apparently.

Warwick Jordan is a New Zealander, the owner of the second-hand bookstore “Hard to Find Bookshop” – and not Catholic.  

Several weeks ago, Jordan found himself strapped for cash. The building in which he kept his bookshop had been sold and bought by new owners, who were now asking for commercial rent, which was out of his budget.

He tried everything to raise the funds, including an online crowdsourcing page on Give a Little. Even though he was able to raise $27,000, that still wasn’t enough.

That’s when he decided to ask for a miracle.

“We’d bought books off Catholic priests and had bought a massive stash from St. Benedict’s at one stage. I wrote to the Bishop and said ‘I need a miracle. I understand the Catholic Church specializes in miracles – can you pull one out of the bag for me?’” Jordan told New Zealand news site Newsroom.

“Bishop Pat (Dunn (of Auckland)) wrote back and said he’d put it before the property board, but a couple of weeks went by without hearing and I thought we were screwed. We were looking at how we would wind up,” he added.

But his plea hadn’t fallen on deaf ears.

Bishop Dunn called him back and offered him a former home of Australia’s only saint, St. Mary Mackillop, who was a teacher dedicated to education.

Also known as St. Mary of the Cross, MacKillop founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart. She focused particularly on the education of poor children and established some of the first Catholic schools in Australia.

She began the order’s work with a school in a stable the small town of Penola, Australia in 1866. Before her death many more educational institutions were established in isolated “bush” areas where hardship was common.

Today, the “Josephite” sisters are present across Australia and New Zealand, and have extended their ministry to Ireland, Peru, East Timor, Scotland and Brazil.

“With its high ceilings, plaster domes, huge windows allowing light to flood in, and polished floor boards, it had all the character he was looking for. It was in poor condition but had the rent to match,” Alexia Russell said of the home in her article for Newsroom.

After getting a loan to cover the rest of the costs, Jordan re-opened his shop June 15. He makes appropriate use of the space, too. The theology section is housed in what once was the chapel, along with extra information about St. Mary Mackillop.

“We wanted to honour her – we’re her guests, I think it’s appropriate. Her thing was about education and supporting knowledge to all people. She was a strong person who sorted people out … I love people with strong characters. Up to a point,” Jordan told Newsroom.

In the age of Amazon and charity bookshops, Jordan realizes that even the miraculous relocation isn’t enough to guarantee he won’t have financial troubles in the future.

“I’m the captain of the Titanic,” he said. “But I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

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Filipino bishops hesitant about priests seeking gun permits

June 23, 2018 CNA Daily News 2

Manila, Philippines, Jun 23, 2018 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After three priests were murdered during the last six months, Philippine officials say they have received gun carry permit applications from nearly 250 religious workers, including 188 Catholic priests – but some of the country’s bishops have raised concerns about a priest carrying a weapon.

In the Philippines, a person is only permitted to carry a firearm outside of their residence if they are under threat or if their life is in “imminent danger.” Normally, this would require a “threat assessment certificate” from the Philippine National Police (PNP), but certain professions – including priests, rabbis, journalists, and doctors – are exempt from this requirement as their jobs are considered to be inherently dangerous.

PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde said it was uncertain if the permit applications had increased as a reaction to the recent string of murders.

All legal gun owners in the Philippines are licensed, and a license to own a firearm is separate from a license to actually carry the weapon outside of the home.

Despite the obvious threat to the clergy in the Philippines, many Filipino bishops, including the head of the country’s bishops’ conference, are not on board with the idea their priests carrying firearms.

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao said in an interview that being a priest in the country means being comfortable with the possibility of being murdered on the job.

“We are men of God, men of the Church, and it is part of our ministry to face dangers, to face deaths if one may say that way,” said Valles.

Bishop Pablo David of Kalookan said it was immoral and “unpriestly” for a priest to carry a weapon for self defense. He also said that a priest who wanted to carry a firearm should leave the priesthood and enter the military, as well as receive “serious counseling.” Priests in the Philippines will not be permitted to carry a firearm without the express permission of their bishops.

Archbishop Rolando Tirona of Caceres suggested that worried priests learn some form of martial arts in lieu of carrying a firearm. Even still, Tirona said that these skills should only be learned as a preventative measure.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga will not allow the priests of his diocese to carry arms, saying, “Sacrifices and sufferings are part and parcel of being priests. It is our calling, that is, to carry the cross and even to be crucified on the cross.”

Although concerned priests may not have their bishops’ support when it comes to self-defense, they do have the full backing of the country’s police director general.

Albayalde said that all Filipinos, including the clergy, have the right to own and carry a firearm provided they meet the legal requirements to do so. The PNP is willing to offer training for any priest seeking to carry, Albayalde said, and will offer help with the licensing process.

Nothing in the Catechism of the Catholic Church prohibits protecting one’s life, even if that results in the death of the aggressor.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa Theologiae that it is lawful for a person to kill another in an act of self defense. The doctrine of double-effect would permit this as a person was seeking to preserve their own life first and foremost, not kill another. However, in a reply to an objection in the same article, he notes that while a cleric who kills a man in self-defense committed a sinless act, he is nevertheless irregular.

And elsewhere in the Summa Theologiae, while discussing war, St. Thomas argues that clerics should not take up arms even in self defense, because by nature of their vocation it would be unfitting for them to shed blood, “and it is more fitting that they should be ready to shed their own blood for Christ, so as to imitate in deed what they portray in their ministry.”

Speaking of the carrying out of capital punishment, St. Thomas wrote that “It is unlawful for clerics to kill, for two reasons. First, because they are chosen for the ministry of the altar, whereon is represented the Passion of Christ slain ‘Who, when He was struck did not strike’. Therefore it becomes not clerics to strike or kill: for ministers should imitate their master … The other reason is because clerics are entrusted with the ministry of the New Law, wherein no punishment of death or of bodily maiming is appointed: wherefore they should abstain from such things in order that they may be fitting ministers of the New Testament.”

The 1917 Code of Canon Law (which has been superseded) barred clerics from carrying arms, except in case of just fear (canon 138). The 1983 Code of Canon Law, which is now in force, does not include any such prohibition.

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