Browsing News Entries

Report: Hundreds of sex abuse lawsuits filed against New Jersey Catholic priests during 2-year window

Theodore McCarrick arrives at Dedham District Court on Friday morning, Sept. 3 for his 9 a.m. arraignment / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Boston, Mass., Dec 3, 2021 / 21:30 pm (CNA).

At least 820 sex abuse lawsuits have been filed against New Jersey’s Catholic dioceses and religious orders in the past two years — including some 180 in the past month alone, according to an analysis by news outlet NorthJersey.com.

About 250 of the lawsuits, representing 30% of the total, involved priests, with religious sisters and lay church employees also named as abusers, the analysis showed.

The flood of civil complaints came during a two-year period New Jersey provided under the 2019 Child Victims Act to allow victims who otherwise would have been barred by the state’s statute of limitation to file lawsuits. The two-year “lookback” window closed on Nov. 30.

More than 1,200 lawsuits were filed in all. About two-thirds of these were filed against Catholic dioceses and religious orders.

Among the findings by NorthJersey.com:

  • The Archdiocese of Newark, the largest of New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses, accounted for the most abuse lawsuits, with 432.

  • The Diocese of Trenton had the next highest total, with 182 suits, followed by the Diocese of Paterson with 85. The Diocese of Metuchen was named in 70 lawsuits, and the Camden Diocese had 54.

  • The Order or St. Benedict of New Jersey, which runs the local Delbarton school in Morristown, was the most sued among New Jersey’s religious orders, with 36 suits and another case pending.

  • Twenty-three lawsuits were connected to Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, which is run by the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers of North America. That religious order, however, can’t be sued, the website reported, per a nationwide settlement agreement that happened years ago.

  • The Salesians of Don Bosco, which runs Don Bosco Prep High School in Ramsey, have been sued 19 times. Five of those lawsuits were connected to the high school.

  • Disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was named in 10 lawsuits, the most recent of which was filed on Nov. 24.

  • McCarrick’s predecessor as the head of Newark Archdiocese, Peter Gerety, is named in two lawsuits. The most recent suit, filed on Nov. 16, accuses Gerety of abusing a girl from 1984 to 1989. The alleged abuse, starting when she was just 5 years old, allegedly took place at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NorthJersey.com reported.

  • While many of the alleged abusers have died, several are still alive and could be prosecuted. One of these defendants is Father Benoît Guichard, FSSP, who is accused by a woman of sexually assaulting her when she was a child, a claim that Guichard has denied through his attorney. Another is former Ridgefield Park priest Gerald Sudol, who was named in seven lawsuits.

  • Two priests were named in at least 20 lawsuits each: John Capparelli, of the Newark Archdiocese, and Timothy Brennan, a former teacher at the Delbarton school. Both men have died.

Under the Child’s Victim Act, people alleging sexual abuse as children can still file lawsuits up to age 55 or within seven years of when they first realized the abuse caused them harm, according to the Associated Press. Prior to the signing of the law, child victims had to file by age 20 or two years after first realizing the abuse caused harm. 

Pope in Greece: A renewed humanity respects life, shows concern for all

At the start of his Apostolic Journey to Greece, Pope Francis addresses Greek authorities, leaders and diplomatic corps, and urges European leaders to pursue a new humanism which respects life as a right.

Read all

 

Pope Francis has left Cyprus with a 'message of hope for unity'

Pope Francis leaves Cyprus with a message of gratitude for hospitality received and prayers for peace for the nation, as Cypriots express their appreciation for the Pope's message of hope, peace, and unity.

Read all

 

Caritas Hellas' assisting and protecting migrants arriving in Greece

One of the key moments of Pope Francis’ journey will be his visit on Sunday to the refugee camp on the island of Lesbos in Greece where Caritas Hellas runs a humanitarian assistance program. The project director sheds light on the situation and on the work of the Catholic aid agency.

Read all

 

Archbishop Aquila urges Catholics to 're-acquire a biblical worldview' this Advent

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver says a Mass of diaconal ordination in 2020. / Archdiocese of Denver, photography: A&D Creative LLC

Denver, Colo., Dec 3, 2021 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

In a pastoral note for Advent, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver urged Catholics to seek a way of seeing the world informed by the Bible and the story of salvation brought about by Christ’ death and resurrection. 

“God is inviting us...to move beyond ideologies in order to ‘put on the mind of Christ and re-acquire a biblical worldview,” Aquila wrote in the letter

“This proclamation of what God has done in Christ, known in theological circles as the kerygma, is meant to do more than be an interesting re-telling of events that happened in the distant past...the first element needed for the renewal of the Church is not strategic planning, changes to structure or doctrine. The initial battle is for our minds and hearts; it is a question of worldview, a question of how we see,” Aquila continued.

From the feast of Christ the King through Christmas, the entire Archdiocese of Denver is “going on retreat together,” Aquila said, with the goal of  “systematically unpacking the story of salvation” through the homilies Catholics will hear each Sunday. 

“Even lifelong Catholics receive Communion, baptize children, get married, and go to Mass every Sunday without ever really coming to a deep awareness of the point of it all,” Aquila said, explaining why he chose to focus on the topic of salvation in particular. 

Aquila noted that “our Church no longer benefits from carrying out its life and mission in a Christendom culture...One which, while imperfect in its own ways, had an imaginative vision for reality that arose from and largely aligned with Christian beliefs.”

Instead, Christians today find themselves in a missionary context, “increasingly at odds with the broader society.”

Aquila noted that while all human beings will inevitably ask and attempt to answer life’s biggest questions, the Gospel message— the answer to all of life’s biggest questions— is not merely a result of human thinking, but rather comes from God. 

“Our earth-shattering profession is that God himself has provided answers to these questions that are rooted in our being. Revelation, found in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, gives us the answer. These present not disconnected individual lives, but a story of salvation – the Father’s love for humanity,” Aquila wrote. 

“More than a confusing collection of disparate books, if you have eyes to see, you discover in the pages of the Bible a narrative, told by God to humanity, of why he made us, what happened to interrupt his plan and how he came to win his world back.”

The story of salvation, Aquila wrote, is about how God created the universe out of love, how humanity was captured by sin, how Christ came to rescue humanity, and how each and every person has been given a chance to offer their own response to Christ’s love. 

When Catholics see the world from a biblical perspective, “we come to consider the span of our lives as a brief but essential moment in a grand epic narrative, unfolding from long before we were born and continuing long after we go into eternity. We accept that no life is an accident; you and I have been chosen, intentionally, to play a definite part in this epic adventure.”

“We see clearly who God is: that he is Lord, and he is for us, so we can trust him. We recognize that everything he has done to rescue us means that we matter, he loves us more than we could have ever imagined. We understand that the mission and identity of the Church, in all she teaches and celebrates, are oriented to help God get his world back by rescuing his children from sin and death…to bring us home.

“We begin to see on both sides of the veil, to have an eye and a heart on eternity and to see our daily lives in light of the supernatural mysteries of our faith. Whatever difficulties life presents, we have the courage to hold fast to the truth that God is always on the move, he is not worried about the state of things, and he wins in the end.”

A temptation among many people today is to let a secular or ideological worldview inform one’s perspective of the Gospel or “what the Church should do,” adapting and changing the difficult teachings of Christ. 

“Jesus does not gain a single disciple by his followers watering down or adapting his Gospel on his behalf, in order to make it, and therefore him, seemingly more palatable,” Aquila said. 

“We have only to look at his teaching on the Bread of Life in John 6 as confirmation. Jesus told his followers the Eucharist was his body and blood and he let them walk away when it wasn’t something they could accept.”

Aquila concluded by quoting Pope Francis’ exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism… is the fruit of an anxious…lack of trust,” (Evangelii Gaudium 85).

Pope in Greece for second leg of Apostolic Journey

Pope Francis begins the third day of his 5-day Apostolic Journey, departing Cyprus for Greece on Saturday morning.

Read all

 

Catholic doctors thank Portugal's president for vetoing euthanasia bill

Credit: sfam_photo/Shutterstock. / null

Lisbon, Portugal, Dec 3, 2021 / 16:21 pm (CNA).

The Association of Portuguese Catholic Doctors on Tuesday thanked President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa for vetoing the euthanasia bill passed by the Portuguese parliament in November, and reaffirmed that as healthcare providers "they cannot be agents of death."

The Portuguese parliament approved a first version of the euthanasia bill in early 2021. But in March Rebelo de Sousa vetoed the text as unconstitutional. The parliament approved a second version Nov. 5, which was then vetoed by the president Nov. 29.

The Catholic doctors thanked the president in a Nov. 30 statement, reaffirming that human life must be defended "in all circumstances" and stressed that "doctors cannot be agents of death."

“As Catholic doctors, we want to continue caring for all the sick, including those at the end of life, who are more fragile. We will continue to fight for them, to treat them and give meaning to every moment of their life, also giving meaning to the oath that we took as professionals and making visible the Christian faith that we share,” they said.

In vetoing the bill for the second time, Rebelo de Sousa asked the parliament to clarify "what appear to be contradictions in the law on one of the grounds for resorting to assisted death."

The new version of the bill “maintains in a regulation the requirement of a 'fatal disease'” to request euthanasia, but “extends it, in another regulation, to an  'incurable disease,' even if it’s not fatal, and in a 'serious illness.’"

The AMCP stated that the reasons indicated by the president, "namely, the lack of clarification of some expressions used," show "the inconsistency of a hastily reformulated text with the intention of getting it passed during a time when the government is very fragile."

The law was "reworked in 25 hours, to take advantage of a favorable makeup of the parliament which is coming to an end,” the doctors charged.

The Portuguese parliament passed the euthanasia law in its last session before being dissolved for failing to approve the 2022 state budget.

According to the association, since 2015, lawmakers “have deliberately not listened to the protests of civil society, the National Council on Ethics for the Life Sciences and other bioethics associations, joint statements of religious conferences and unanimous condemnations of the Physicians of the Order and other associations of healthcare professionals.” 

“Euthanasia has already been rejected by the Assembly of the Republic, vetoed by the Constitutional Court and now returned without being enacted by the President of the Republic. The facts speak for themselves: despite the insistence of its advocates, there is no good law on euthanasia. This veto marks the end of a legislative process, leaving a bad memory,” the federation said.

The civic movement Stop Euthanasia stated in a communiqué that the time has come for the political parties to make their legislative agenda for the parliamentary elections known to the Portuguese, especially in relation to the problem of euthanasia.

According to Stop Euthanasia, this makes it "very important for the Portuguese to vote."

In addition, the organization stated that it is “extremely urgent to coordinate with the NHS [National Health Service], invest in palliative care and promote better medical care that allows a truly dignified death for all the most fragile and vulnerable in Portuguese society."

"We are waiting for more humanizing policies that put the person at the center of decisions and the life of society," they concluded.

Benedictine nuns in Missouri honor Christ the King with new album

null / Courtesy of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.

Kansas City, Mo., Dec 3, 2021 / 15:06 pm (CNA).

After the harrowing experience of shootings at their abbey in rural Missouri, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles resolved to record an album for Christ the King in thanksgiving for His protection and governance.

“We were talking about a CD dedicated to Christ the King last year, realizing it was a feast we had not yet covered in our recording history. It seems a tumultuous time on so many levels, we thought that focus on Christ as our true leader and Prince of Peace was apt for these days. This was drilled home especially after some unfortunate incidents at the Abbey,” Mother Cecilia, abbess of the community, told CNA.

“In March, we had a series of three shootings at the Abbey, and one of the bullets entered my room, five feet from my bed. The incidents really lit a fire under us to get going on the CD we had discussed, since we realized the power of the protection of Christ and His angels over our Abbey. So the CD is also an act of gratitude to Christ our King and to all the many people who have shown their love and concern for us.”

The generosity of the abbey's benefactors has allowed the closing of the road alongside the property, “and a wall in front of our property was installed for our protection,” Mother Cecilia explained.

“We see in it a symbol of the spiritual protection Christ our King is always giving us, and it was appropriate to hail Him as the 'inexpugnable wall' in the ancient chant of Christ the King, the Laudes Regiae, sung at Charlemagne’s coronation over 1220 years ago.”

Christ the King at Ephesus is the latest offering from the chart-topping community of nuns, who have also released seasonal albums for Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter; and in honor of saints and the Eucharist.

The album includes 20 songs, from well-known works such as “the traditional and melodic Christus Vincit, as well as To Jesus Christ our Sovereign King,” to pieces which have significance to the abbey, such as Catherine Maguire’s King of Kings, which Mother Cecilia noted “was sung at the high school graduation of a priest friend of the community.”

“We could not leave off The King of Love My Shepherd Is, nor Palestrina's Jesu Rex Admirabilis, familiar to many through its inclusion in The Sound of Music,” the abbess said.

“Byrd’s Non Nobis was always the starting piece for the Burke family singers. It was the father’s idea, in order to keep the kids humble! Vexilla Christus Inclyta was written for the Office of Christ the King by Fr. Vittorio Genovesi, and it was released by Pius XI the day after his publication of Quas Primas, extending the feast of Christ the King as a universal feast.”

Also included is St. Robert Southwell's The Bonnie Prince. The Jesuit priest and poet's work is set to the music of Auld Lang Syne.

Christ the King at Ephesus is the first album that the nuns have recorded in their new abbey church, which they have now been using for three years.

“We finally got to [record] in this edifice that is not only beautiful, but offers amazing acoustics, which was a real boon for the process - which has been a whirlwind!” Mother Cecilia related.

The album was recorded over two days in September, and was released the following month.

The recording and sound engineering was done by William Crain of BRC Audio in Kansas City, the abbess said. “We did the editing and production, and Will brought it all together along with the mastering.”

Life in the community is marked by obedience, stability, and "continually turning" towards God. They have Mass daily according to the ancient use of the Roman rite, and chant the psalms eight times a day from the 1962 Monastic Office.

The nuns also support themselves by producing made-to-order vestments, as well as greeting cards.

Since the abbey's last album release, its church has been built, as has a guest house for families and those wishing to make a silent retreat. The community's foundress, Sr. Mary Wilhelmina, “went to her heavenly reward at 95 years old,” Mother Cecilia added. The abbess said Sr. Wilhelmina's “life and the amazing circumstances of her death” were both “a grace beyond our imaginings.”

The community has been blessed with abundant vocations in recent years, Mother Cecilia said.

A group of eight sisters was sent to found a daughter house in southern Missouri, and “We now number 55 Sisters between the two houses, and young women continue to knock on our door,” she related.

The sisters at the daughter house “are living in a temporary residence, and one which does not lend itself to growth. So the construction of this monastery is imperative, as we have no more room here at the abbey either. We certainly do not want to turn away young women who are called to this life on account of no space!”

These Christian migrants prayed for a better future. Now Pope Francis is making it possible

Grace and Daniel have been stuck in Cyprus' buffer zone for more than six months after they fled Cameroon. / Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN

Rome Newsroom, Dec 3, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

As a sign of Pope Francis’ concern for migrants, the Vatican announced Friday that it is helping to arrange the transfer of about 12 refugees from Cyprus to Italy.

Among the migrants that Pope Francis is helping to bring to Italy are Grace, 24, and Daniel, 20, Christians who fled Cameroon after schools were shut down due to the Anglophone Crisis, provoked by tensions between the English-speaking minority and French-speaking majority.

The two migrants met after paying the same smuggler to help them cross from Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus to the Greek-speaking south, where they hoped to find asylum in the European Union.

“We were misled,” Grace said. The smuggler told them where to cross over the 16-foot-high wall that divides the Cypriot capital of Nicosia, but they were promptly taken into custody by the United Nations forces stationed in the demilitarized buffer zone.

“The most scary moment in my life so far,” said Grace, who injured her leg after jumping from the wall.

Since crossing over the wall last May, Grace and Daniel have been stuck in the buffer zone that divides Cyprus, which is also called “no man’s land,” living in a tent for more than six months.

Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN
Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN

In an interview with EWTN News ahead of Pope Francis’ arrival in Cyprus, Grace said that faith in God helped to give her strength in the difficult times in Cyprus. She hopes for a better future in which she can find work.

Daniel, a Catholic, said that he would like to be able to continue his studies once he receives asylum in Europe.

“That’s what is keeping us strong because, like our faith, we believe that in any circumstances that you find yourself, never give up in life, so that saying has been keeping us strong and I believe God can do something,” Grace said.

Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN
Alexey Gotovskiy/EWTN

Elizabeth Kassinis, the executive manager of Caritas Cyprus, told EWTN that the numbers of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers arriving in Cyprus “have been really dramatic.”

“Cyprus right now receives more asylum seekers per capita than anywhere in Europe,” Kassinis said.

“It is a frontline state … all of the local systems are overwhelmed,” she added.

Recently, Kassinis has noted the arrival of people from Lebanon, which is in the midst of an economic crisis, in addition to the flow of migrants from Syria and African countries.

The Caritas Cyprus migrant services center in Nicosia receives about 300 people requesting assistance each day.

“Most of the numbers that we're getting now are people who've just arrived,” she said.

Pope Francis is currently in Cyprus, where he met on Dec. 3 with a group of migrants, who shared their stories with the pope in an ecumenical prayer service in Nicosia.

“It is he, the Lord Jesus, whom we encounter in the faces of our marginalized and discarded brothers and sisters. In the face of the migrant who is despised, rejected, put in a cage … but at the same time … in the face of the migrant journeying to a goal, to hope, to greater human companionship,” Pope Francis said.

Archbishop Gänswein: Benedict XVI had three COVID-19 vaccine doses ‘out of conviction’

Archbishop Georg Gänswein in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 25, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Dec 3, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Georg Gänswein has said that both he and Benedict XVI have received three COVID-19 vaccine doses “out of conviction.”

The pope emeritus’ private secretary made the remark in a nine-page interview in the December edition of the German publication Vatican-magazin.

The Vatican began administering doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine in January and confirmed in February that the pope emeritus had received the second dose of the vaccine. It began to administer the third dose in October.

Gänswein was asked about Catholic opposition to coronavirus vaccines, some of which were produced using cell lines from aborted fetuses.

His interviewer said that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the controversial former apostolic nuncio to the United States, had criticized the Vatican for promoting a vaccination campaign.

Gänswein said that he could not understand the criticisms.

“One cannot raise the question of vaccination to the level of faith. Nor can one speak of Pope Francis having launched a media campaign for vaccination. But he did call for it and also had himself vaccinated at an early stage. That is correct,” the 65-year-old archbishop said.

“By the way, Pope Benedict and I have already been vaccinated for the third time. And we did so out of conviction.”

Pope Francis recorded a public service announcement supporting vaccination that was released in August in collaboration with the Ad Council.

Gänswein acknowledged that “every vaccination has advantages and disadvantages.” But he recalled that Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, became seriously ill after contracting COVID-19 and afterward cautioned “against any form of ideological crusade against vaccination.”

“One must not force anyone to vaccinate, that is quite clear. But one should appeal to the conscience,” Gänswein commented.

Asked if Benedict XVI saw the issue the same way, he answered in the affirmative, saying: “Otherwise he would not have had himself vaccinated three times.”

But Gänswein, who is from the Black Forest region of Germany, also criticized the Church’s response to the virus in his homeland.

“As far as Germany is concerned, I have never understood why Church authorities have sometimes even exceeded state guidelines and have been so excessively loyal to the state during the crisis,” he said.

“I understand the concern for safety and security. But when the welfare of the body is placed above the salvation of the soul, and that was not just my impression, then something is awry.”

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the archbishop described Benedict XVI as “stable in his physical frailty and, thank God, crystal clear in his head.”

“But it is also understandable that at 94 and after the death of his brother, which took its toll on him, his physical strength continued to decline. It is similar with his voice. The best medicine for him is humor and a steady daily rhythm,” the archbishop said.

Gänswein became personal secretary to the future Pope Benedict XVI in 2003.

He was appointed prefect of the Papal Household in 2012, continuing in the role after the resignation of Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis a year later.

But he was placed on leave from his duties as prefect in 2020 to be able to dedicate his time exclusively to the former pope.

He said that the decision had troubled him, but he had been able to discuss it with Pope Francis.

“The good thing is that you can talk to him openly and directly,” he said.