Signs of the Times

Chicago Reports Criticize Handling of Abuse

The Archdiocese of Chicago released on March 20 two reports highly critical of its handling of sexual abuse by clerics. One report focuses on the handling of the cases of priests who were monitored but not immediately removed from ministry after abuse allegations arose against them. The second one examines the system for monitoring priests who have substantiated allegations of sexual abuse against them. The reports were released an hour before Chicago’s Cardinal Francis E. George and his chancellor, Jimmy Lago, met with reporters. Lago, the point person overseeing all abuse allegations, reaffirmed the commitment of the cardinal, himself and the church of Chicago to protect children, but acknowledged that many have questioned that commitment in recent months. You are going to have to judge us by our actions, Lago said, noting that the archdiocese intends to ask the auditors retained by the U.S. bishops’ National Review Board to focus on the reports’ recommendations.

Changes Coming in Papal Liturgies

Liturgies celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI are undergoing changes, said the papal master of liturgical ceremonies. Archbishop Piero Marini, who also served as master of ceremonies for Pope John Paul II, said that with Pope Benedict, I have to be a little more attentive because he is an expert in liturgy. But it gives me satisfaction, because he always recognizes the work that has been done, and we talk about it together, said the 64-year-old Italian, who has worked at the Vatican since 1965. The archbishop said he and Pope Benedict are re-elaborating the papal ceremonies. He said, I send him my notes and he returns them with his signature as a sign of approval, or else he suggests, completes or corrects. The archbishop did not provide details about what changes people may see in the papal liturgies or when they would be unveiled.


Quebec Bishops Dialogue on Homosexuality

Quebec’s bishops said they want to maintain a spirit of unity as they enter into dialogue with 19 Quebec priests who published a letter of dissent on homosexuality. The priests’ letter puts its finger on a wound in our society, a complex problem, to which we must give attention. "There is a larger call for a dialogue about this phenomenon of homosexuality and, on this point, we welcome this invitation to reflection and to dialogue," said Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec City. Cardinal Ouellet, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal and Bishop Gilles Cazabon of Saint-Jerome, president of the Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops, spoke at a press conference in Trois-Rivieres on March 9, during the Quebec bishops’ four-day semiannual meeting in neighboring Cap-de-la-Madeleine. The priests’ letter, which has drawn international attention, appeared in the Feb. 26 issue of Montreal’s largest newspaper, La Presse. It sharply criticized the Catholic Church for its teaching on homosexuality. In particular, the letter criticized the Canadian bishops’ statement on same-sex marriage and the recent Vatican document that deals with the admission of homosexual candidates to the seminary. It also questioned the church teaching that homosexual acts are immoral and said the church must evolve in its position on these issues.

Pope Commemorates Ukrainian Catholic Church

Pope Benedict XVI prayed that Mary and the Communist-era martyrs of the Ukrainian Catholic Church would strengthen Ukrainians in their faith and their commitment to Christian unity. The pope sent a letter to Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, who was leading commemorations of the 1946 pseudo-synod manipulated by the Soviet authorities to unite the Eastern-rite Catholic Church with the Russian Orthodox Church. Cardinal Husar read the pope’s letter on March 8 during a celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv, Ukraine, the site of the meeting on March 8-10, 1946.

The text of the pope’s letter was released on March 16 at the Vatican. Soviet authorities had arrested all the Ukrainian Catholic bishops before the synod began; after the vote to unite with the Orthodox, violence against those who remained faithful to unity with the bishop of Rome intensified, Pope Benedict said. But despite unspeakable trials and suffering, divine providence did not permit the disappearance of a community that for centuries was considered a legitimate and living part of the identity of the Ukrainian people.

Papal Preacher Interviews Katrina Victims

Raniero Cantalamessa, a Capuchin Franciscan who is preacher of the papal household, visited New Orleans in mid-March to view firsthand the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina and to interview survivors for a television program that airs each Saturday night on Italian state television. The programs we are recording here will be seen by millions of people, Father Cantalamessa told The Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina had a tremendous impact everywhere, but I can say in Italy people were very, very impressed, and they understand the suffering of the city. The priest, who leads meditations for the pope and his closest advisers on Fridays in Advent and Lent, planned to weave his experiences into his Lenten talks and into two upcoming 11-minute television programs. I wanted to relate the Gospel of the passion and the resurrection to the passion and resurrection here in New Orleans, he said. We wanted to see how much suffering the hurricane provoked but also the signs of resurrection, the hope for restoring life.

Cause for American Jesuit Missionary Progresses

More than 20 years after the death of Walter J. Ciszek, a Pennsylvania-born Jesuit priest who was a missionary in the Soviet Union, officials in the Diocese of Allentown have completed the preliminary phase of their quest to see him declared a saint. Materials and documentation supporting the cause for canonization of Father Ciszek were sent to Paolo Molinari, S.J., postulator general for the Society of Jesus, in Rome on Feb. 27. This officially closes the first phase of the process of canonization, the diocesan inquiry into the priest’s reputation for sanctity. Allentown’s Bishop Edward P. Cullen and Msgr. Anthony D. Muntone, a co-postulator of the canonization cause, sealed the files at the diocesan chancery office before they were sent. The diocesan phase included a series of investigations that began in 1990 under the direction of now-retired Bishop Michael J. Dudick of the Byzantine Diocese of Passaic, N.J. After his release from prison and return to the United States, Father Ciszek wrote two books. With God in Russia is the story of his missionary activity and captivity; He Leadeth Me is a spiritual reflection on his experiences.

Foreign Policy and Religious Freedom

Because religious freedom lies at the heart of human rights, the U.S. government must give it greater support and higher visibility in its foreign policy decisions, a Catholic bishop told a congressional subcommittee on March 16. Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy, was addressing the House International Relations Committee’s subcommittee on Africa, global human rights and international operations. Given the enormous potential of religion to contribute to a more humane world, as well as the troubling ways religion can be manipulated, especially in coercive or repressive environments, religious freedom needs to be at the center of the work on human rights in U.S. foreign policy, he said. The hearing on March 16 was convened to review the U.S. State Department’s 2005 country reports on human rights practices.

Vatican Laicizes Eight Boston Clerics

Seven priests and one deacon of the Archdiocese of Boston accused of sexually abusing minors have been laicized by the Vatican, the archdiocese announced. Among the priests removed from the clerical state was a former archdiocesan vice chancellor and regional vicar. Because of the Vatican decision, all eight men will no longer receive financial support from the archdiocese and may no longer perform public ministry, with the exception that those who are priests may offer absolution to the dying. All eight men had been removed from active ministry prior to the Vatican decision.

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