Browsing News Entries

Montreal archbishop apologizes after report faults failures to address priest’s misconduct

CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2020 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- The Montreal archdiocese repeatedly failed to act on complaints regarding a former priest’s misbehavior until it was found he had likely engaged in sexual abuse of minors, says a new report. The Archbishop of Montreal has apologized to the victims, and welcomed the report’s more than 30 recommendations “in humility and with a deep sense of regret.”

“In name of the Catholic Church in Montreal and speaking for myself personally, I wish to say to the victims, to your loved ones and your parish communities how sorry we are that you experienced the effects of such terrible criminal acts, which should never occur, never,” Archbishop Christian Lépine said when the 276-page report was released Nov. 25

The report concerns former diocesan priest Brian Boucher, who was ordained a priest in 1996 and worked in 10 Montreal churches as far back as the early 1980s. In January 2019 he was convicted of sexual assault of a minor in one case, and pleaded guilty to sexual assault of another minor. He was later sentenced to eight years in prison.

The Montreal archdiocese commissioned Pepita G. Capriolo, a retired Quebec Superior Court Justice, to investigate its handling of claims about Boucher and to make recommendations on how to improve.

“What struck me most was the passing of the buck,” Capriolo said at a Nov. 25 news conference, CBC News reports. “The need to protect the reputation of Boucher seemed to be paramount.”

The Montreal archdiocese had removed Boucher’s priestly faculties in December 2015 after it learned of “alleged impropriety.” A canonical trial began in October 2016, with Archbishop Lépine appointed as judge. This trial was suspended when criminal charges were filed in March 2017. After Boucher’s conviction, the canonical process resumed. In March 2019, Lepine delivered his judgement: Boucher was removed from the clerical state.

For her investigation, Capriolo had independent access to hundreds of documents and interviewed everyone she deemed relevant, over 60 witnesses. Capriolo made 31 recommendations to help prevent abuse by improving responsibility, transparency, and accountability.

She blamed a “lack of accountability,” saying “complaints were ‘passed on’ and no one took responsibility for acting on them.”

Capriolo said that at times key documents were missing. Under Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, who was Archbishop of Montreal from 1990 to 2012, shredding documents was “a well-known practice.” She also faulted “a culture of secrecy, which reigned in the Church during the period covered by this investigation” for causing “the disappearance of important documents and the general lack of a paper trail.”

Cardinal Marc Ouellet and the late Cardinal Turcotte were among those aware of some of Boucher’s previous misconduct, the report said, according to CBC News.

Ouellet had served as rector of the seminary at the time Boucher was a seminarian.

“Until 2016, no one had come forward and claimed having been Boucher’s victim of sexual abuse while still a minor,” the report said. “No parent had ever brought such a charge against Boucher to the attention of his superiors. But this is no cause for premature exoneration of the Church authorities.”

Capriolo’s report found that he had a history of repeated complaints about his suitability dating back to his time in seminary. His behavior included rudeness, authoritarianism, and verbal and physical aggressiveness. He was observed “having a very close and worrisome relationship with a young boy at the end of the 1990s,” but no investigation resulted from the complaint.

In a different incident, during a major 1998 ice storm, Boucher spent a night smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol with an 18-year-old student from Mexico, who fled from the rectory without his shoes after the priest made a sexual advance.

In 2003, the priest had an abusive relationship with a 19-year-old. The priest was sent to psychological treatment, but no disciplinary action was taken.

In 2011, when Boucher was up for reappointment as a pastor, a senior Church official wrote a detailed summary of his failings, so as to stop the appointment. “The official left on extended sick leave and Boucher was reappointed,” said the report.

Boucher would later claim to be the victim of sexual abuse by a much younger priest, which resulted in a more thorough investigation in 2015 after he was discovered to be the perpetrator, not the victim. Then-Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Dowd conducted the investigation, which concluded there were “at least two child victims.”

Capriolo’s recommendations include the creation of an external ombudsman role to investigate the conduct of priests at each stage of their career. Similarly, all complaints should be filed in one common register for the archdiocese. All clergy personnel files should be kept in one place, with “rigorous and systematic management” of the archdiocese’s secret archives.

The archdiocese should create “a clear and well-defined organizational chart of accountability with delegated authority” that is accompanied by the power to sanction. All problems of abusive behavior, not only sexual abuse of minors, should be immediately referred to an advisory committee, Capriolo advised.

Legal and psychological support should be provided to victims, and there should be an annual external audit of how the report’s recommendations are implemented.

Capriolo has agreed to co-chair an implementation committee with Archbishop Lepine, with other members to be announced. Implementation could finish by fall 2021.

“You have accomplished a difficult task, under difficult circumstances about a very difficult subject. We are indebted to you,” Lepine told Capriolo. “We welcome the conclusions of your report in humility and with a deep sense of regret, and we commit ourselves to act decisively to deter such situations from occurring again.”

Lepine said changes had already begun with the archdiocese’s Responsible Pastoral Ministry Policy. He said people need to approach the Catholic Church with confidence and safety.

“The goal is not to point fingers but to uncover the gaps and deficiencies in our structures and policies, so that we can make the necessary changes,” he said.

The Montreal archdiocese released the Capriolo report on its website. In early 2021, a statistical audit of diocesan files dating back to 1940 will begin. It aims to compile allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.

Diocese of Pittsburgh announces its third round of parish mergers

CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2020 / 06:08 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Pittsburgh has announced that it will initiate its third round of parish mergers early next year, reducing its current 107 parishes to 81.

The mergers will take effect January 4, creating 14 groupings of parishes from 40 current parishes. The merger is the most recent step in the diocese’s “On Mission for The Church Alive” initiative.

“This is a pivotal time for our diocese as we plan for the future of the Church of Pittsburgh,” Bishop David Zubik said in a Nov. 28 statement.

“Southwestern Pennsylvania is radically different than it was 100, 50, 20, even 10 years ago, yet the work of the Church and our call from God to bring His love to everyone continues as strong as ever,” the bishop said.

“As we address the challenges we face in the Church today, the witness of working and growing together reflects the unity of the Body of Christ that is essential to our mission.”

Among others, the new parishes will include Mary, Queen of Peace, which brings together the parishes of Saint Mary of the Mount and Prince of Peace; and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, which brings together the parishes of Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Joseph, and Saint Margaret Mary.

Each merger is taking place following consultation with parishioners, and a request by the priest-administrator of each grouping, which was approved by the diocesan Priest Council and Vicars General.

The merger is the latest step in the “On Mission for The Church Alive” initiative, which is reorganizing what began as 188 parishes into what ultimately will be fewer than 60 parish groupings.

The diocese's strategic planning initiative began in 2015 in part as a response to declining Mass attendance, the financial struggles of some parishes, and fewer priests.

The situation was exacerbated by the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report, which detailed sexual abuse allegations in six of Pennsylvania's eight Latin-rite dioceses, including Pittsburgh. CBS Pittsburgh reported earlier this year that since the report's release, Mass attendance had dropped 9% and offertory donations declined 11%.

In a letter to parishioners, Zubik stressed that the mergers, while difficult, are necessary to strengthen the local Church’s ministries and make them more effective for the future.

“This has not been a simple task. Jesus never promised that it would be easy to carry his message of love and mercy to others. He was clear that sacrifice would be necessary,” the bishop said.

“However, you are positioning your new parish for more effective ministry by addressing financial needs, sharing resources and allowing your clergy to focus on the spiritual work for which they were ordained,” he continued. “With your faith in Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, I invite you to warmly welcome and serve each other as you become one parish family.”

Demonstrations against abortion bill held in Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 30, 2020 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- Demonstrations were held Saturday throughout Argentina in opposition to a bill that would legalize elective abortion, introduced by President Alberto Fernández earlier this month.

According to organizers, the demonstrations against the bill took place in more than 500 cities Nov. 28.

With messages such as “Legal or illegal abortion kills the just same,” “We are not afraid to defend the truth,” and “There are more of us who defend life, we are the blue majority,” Argentines demonstrated for the protection of the unborn. Blue refers to the light blue neckerchiefs adopted by the prolife movement as the symbol of their cause; abortion advocates have chosen green as their color.

A vote on the bill could be taken as soon as Dec. 10 in the Chamber of Deputies, where it is being fast tracked.

Existing Argentine law allows abortion in cases when the mother's life or health is in danger, or in cases of rape.

One of the participants of the Buenos Aires march was lawmaker Victoria Morales Gorleri. A few days ago, she received a letter from Pope Francis responding to a letter sent by two women from one of the poor neighborhoods in the capital, Villa 31, who were concerned about the abortion bill pushed by Fernández.

"Francis wrote me a letter, addressed to women, where he says that it’s not right to hire a hit man to solve a problem," Morales said in a video posted by march organizers.

“We have to solve the problem by fighting poverty and creating jobs. There are other ways to go about this, not the elimination of a life … It’s a failure for a nation to legalize the death of a human being.”

“If we legalize deciding on human life to solve a problem, then we will have a very sad end of the year because we’re becoming a people that is moving more and more away from the ethics linked to the human being,” Morales said.

Agustín Laje said in a video posted by march organizers that "life is not only a right but a fundamental right, without which no other right makes sense."

What every person “needs, first of all, is the right to life in order to exercise any other right. It’s even a question of logic,” he stressed. Laje also warned that "dismissing human rights begins by dismissing the right to life.”

Camila Duro of the Argentine Pro-Life Unity organization explained to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, that the demonstrations took place because the Fernández administration “wants to fast track the legalization of  abortion, turning its back on the majority of the Argentine people, and so we want to express our disgust with that move.”

Dr. María José Mancino, president of Doctors for Life Argentina, told ACI Prensa that contrary to what those who support the government's anti-life law say, “abortion is not a health problem or a priority problem in Argentina. There are many other problems that are not being considered.”

“The Senate already defeated an abortion bill in 2018 in Argentina and the people have taken to the streets now to say that we don’t want abortion. The country does not need to be divided in such a fraught political and economic climate. "

A bill to legalize abortion through the first 14 weeks of gestation narrowly passed the Chamber of Deputies in 2018, but was rejected by the Senate.

Mancino stressed the need to “defend the values, tradition and the family in the country.
Abortion is an issue that divides us all. Those whom they want to kill with this law are future Argentines, compatriots, citizens of our country.”

Raúl Magnasco from Más Vida Argentina told ACI Prensa that "we are going through very difficult times in our country and it’s important that we commit ourselves to the defense of life."

Magnasco noted that "what citizens are calling for is to respect the will of the people in face of a government that promotes the abortion agenda according to the interests or requirements of the International Monetary Fund, calling them rights or sexual and reproductive health."

In an email to ACI Prensa, former congresswoman Cynthia Hotton said that by this abortion bill “the national government intends to put [the issue] on the agenda to divide society and distract. The president is hiding the failure of the public health system, poverty and the economy behind this initiative.”

“People are fed up with the lies and the political manipulation of everything: from the pandemic and the land seizures, to the farewell given to Diego Maradona. The outcome is always the same: following the incompetency, the people are the ones who suffer the most. With abortion, the same thing happens. People are tired of the green neckerchief as the panacea to all the problems of women and of society.”

“While the budget is wasted on radical feminists and abortion supporters in all ministries, poverty, insecurity and violence continue to grow; the healthcare system continues to collapse; underpaid doctors are still overwhelmed; pregnant women and unborn babies continue to die in the poorest provinces but also in the city of Buenos Aires,” Hotton lamented.

"The green neckerchief seems to be for Alberto Fernández the only flag left standing," she stressed.

The abortion bill, entitled "Regulation of access to voluntary interruption of pregnancy and post-abortion care," was drawn up by the ministries of Health and Women, Gender and Diversity in coordination with the Legal and Technical Secretariat of the Presidency.

Along with that bill, Fernández also introduced the "Comprehensive health and care during pregnancy and early childhood,” which was drafted by the Social Development department.

Discussion of both bills will begin in parallel in online sessions starting next week.

So far, two days have been allocated for between 30 and 60 presenters from the scientific, health, ethical-religious and judicial areas, each having seven minutes.

The apparent goal is to discuss the bills in December so that once voted on in the full session of the Chamber of Deputies, and if passed, they would be sent to the Senate for debate.

What the childlike know

Pencil Preaching for Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Pell surprised by ‘Technicolor criminality’ of Vatican financial scandals

CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2020 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal George Pell has spoken of his surprise at the apparent extent of “criminality” involved in recent Vatican financial scandals.

Speaking in an interview with Associated Press Monday, the cardinal, who led the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy from 2014-2017, said that he regretted that his efforts to bring tough mechanisms for financial transparency and accountability had been vindicated by the details of recent scandals.

Pell told AP that he knew, from the time Pope Francis put him in charge of a key part of his curial reform agenda, that the Vatican finances were “a bit of a mess.”

But, the cardinal said, he “never, never thought it would be as Technicolor as it proved.”

“I didn’t know that there was so much criminality involved,” Pell said.

Until 2017, Pell led an effort called for by Pope Francis to bring order and accountability to the Vatican’s finances, which have long lacked centralized procedures, controls, or oversight, claiming at one point to have discovered hundreds of millions of euros being kept “off books” from the ordinary Vatican accounts.

Pell’s reforming efforts met with institutional resistance from some curial officials and departments, most notably Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who at the time of Pell’s tenure at the Secretariat for the Economy, was sostituto of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. Becciu at one point acted to cancel a contract Pell had made for an external audit of Vatican finances.

CNA has also reported that Pell and Becciu clashed repeatedly over financial affairs, including the use of Swiss banks to provide financing for different investments allegedly obscured from Vatican balance sheets, including the controversial purchase of a London building.

Since at least 2018, Vatican criminal investigators have been reviewing a web of investments and transactions at the Secretariat of State involving a network of businessmen and curial officials linked to investments related to the London property deal.

So far, one of brokers of the deal has been arrested, and several Vatican officials have had their offices and homes raided.

On Sept. 24, Becciu was asked by Pope Francis to resign from his Vatican job and from the rights of cardinals, and has denied subsequent media reports that he used Church funds to benefit family members, or that he had attempted to influence the outcome of a sex abuse trial against Cardinal Pell in Australia, which resulted in Pell taking a leave of absence from his curial post in 2017.

Speaking to AP on Monday, Pell said of the allegations against Becciu that “I hope for the sake of the Church, there’s nothing in it.”

“In fact — I say that quite sincerely — because some Australian people, my own family, said to me: ’Well, if the Mafia is going after you or somebody else is going after you, that’s one thing. It’s a little bit worse if it comes from within the Church.”

“But I think we will find out, whether there is or there isn’t,” said Pell. “Certainly, the party’s not over.”

An October AP report said the allegations against Becciu “appeared more an effort to discredit Becciu and distract attention from the shortcomings of the Vatican prosecutors' primary investigation into a London real estate venture.”

Last week, police found hundreds of thousands of euros in cash hidden in two homes of Fabrizio Tirabassi, a lay official at the Secretariat of State until his suspension, together with four other employees, last year. CNA has previously reported his links to the London deal, including to the broker arrested for allegedly extorting the Vatican.

On Monday, Pell told AP that the rolling series of financial scandals appeared to show criminal behavior, but that a full Vatican trial could eventually establish the whole truth. “It just might be staggering incompetence,” he said.

“It would be better for the church if these things hadn’t happened, if I wasn’t vindicated in this way,” said Pell. “But given that they have happened, it’s quite clear” that his original reforming agenda was necessary.

Pell said his efforts had been “sadly vindicated by revelations and developments.”

Court unsure of Trump's plan to exclude unauthorized immigrants in census

In oral arguments Nov. 30, the Supreme Court weighed in on President Donald Trump's order to exclude immigrants living in the country illegally from the 2020 census for purposes of redrawing congressional districts.

Cardinal Pell on the Vatican and vindication

The pope’s former treasurer Cardinal George Pell said Monday he feels a dismayed sense of vindication as the financial mismanagement he tried to uncover in the Holy See is now being exposed in a spiraling Vatican corruption investigation.

March for Life gears up for pandemic conditions

CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2020 / 03:05 pm (CNA).- With the annual March for Life scheduled to occur in January, how different might it look from previous years due to the ongoing pandemic?

The 48th annual March for Life is scheduled to take place on Jan. 29, 2021, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Normally attended by tens of thousands of pro-life demonstrators from all over the country, the 2021 March will be significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

CNA learned that the March for Life is working with the National Park Service and local officials to ensure a safe protest that will conform with “necessary guidelines.”

While the D.C. government does not have a special set of restrictions for protests, it has barred outdoor gatherings larger than 25 people, as of Nov. 25.

The city has also restricted travel from states where the current virus rate is more than 10 cases per 100,000 people. For travelers from these jurisdictions, they must get a negative test within 72 hours of traveling, and adhere to a mandatory mask policy, among other requirements. Travelers from Maryland and Virginia, and those visiting the city for less than 24 hours, are exempt.

Large protests have occurred in the city throughout the summer, most notably the Aug. 28 “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” march attended by an estimated tens of thousands. That, too, was affected by the pandemic, as march organizers had to lower their in-person attendance estimate following the issuance of a permit by the National Park Service.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also had travel restrictions in place around the time of the march, altering travel plans of attendees. March for Life participants normally attend from all over the U.S., and may be traveling on busses and airplanes during the height of flu season.

During the March itself, attendees may have to comply with federal guidelines as closely as possible. According to the Washington Post, the August march reportedly required attendees to wear masks and undergo a temperature check before they entered the Mall. It is unclear if the same requirements will be made and enforced by the March for Life.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has also listed recommendations for events and gatherings, including that all attendees wear masks, wash hands, cover their coughs and sneezes, and try to maintain a six-foot distance from other attendees.

The website of the March for Life says that the group will announce safety measures “closer to the March,” and will be promoting virtual participation for those who cannot attend in-person.

At a press conference in September, announcing the theme of the March, Jeanne Mancini—president of the March for Life—said that it was still on, despite the ongoing pandemic.

“Listen, we marched during the blizzard of 2016, we’ve marched during government shutdowns, we marched after 9/11, we will march again this year,” Mancini said.

“We’ve marched for 47 years, and no sacrifice is too great to fight this human rights abuse of abortion.”

Other events traditionally surround the March, such as the annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life held downtown on the morning of the March. In 2021, the rally will be held virtually and Mass will be live-streamed. The March for Life Expo has been canceled, and the annual Rose Dinner will be held virtually.

The theme of the 2020 March will be “Together Strong: Life Unites.”

Jeanne Mancini explained that “[t]his year, with a 2020 that’s been so unusual in many different ways, the idea of uniting together, and how each of us brings something different to the table, how the variety is beautiful and how together we’re stronger - it just seems like the right theme.”

Europe's Christmas dilemma: risk empty chairs next year?

That's the stark dilemma Belgium's prime minister has set to urge smaller festive family gatherings, as Europeans battle with containing the surging COVID-19 pandemic over the holiday season.

Statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal begins pilgrimage around Italy

Vatican City, Nov 30, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A statue of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal began Friday a pilgrimage to parishes throughout Italy, marking the 190th anniversary of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s appearance to St. Catherine Labouré in France.

After Mass at the regional seminary Collegio Leoniano in Rome, the statue was carried in procession to the nearby Church of San Gioacchino in Prati on the evening of Nov. 27.

Throughout December, the statue will go from parish to parish in Rome, stopping at 15 different churches.

Afterward, if coronavirus restrictions permit, it will be brought to parishes throughout Italy, ending on Nov. 22, 2021, on the island of Sardinia.

One of the stops on the route will be the Church of St. Anne, which sits just inside the Vatican walls.

The traveling statue is an evangelization initiative by the Vincentian Congregation of the Mission. It said in a statement that the year-long Marian pilgrimage would help to proclaim the merciful love of God at a time “marked by strong tensions on every continent.” 

Pope Francis blessed the statue of the Immaculate Virgin Mary of the Miraculous Medal in a meeting with a delegation of Vincentians Nov. 11.

“The members of the worldwide Vincentian Family, faithful to the Word of God, inspired by the charism which calls them to serve God in the person of the poor and encouraged by this initiative of the Blessed Mother to go on pilgrimage, want to remind us that the Blessed Mother continues to invite men and women to approach the foot of the altar,” the Vincentians’ statement said.

The Vincentians were originally founded by St. Vincent de Paul in 1625 to preach missions to the poor. Today Vincentians regularly say Mass and hear confessions at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal at 140 Rue du Bac, in the heart of Paris.

St. Catherine Labouré was a novice with the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul when she received three apparitions from the Blessed Virgin Mary, a vision of Christ present in the Eucharist, and a mystical encounter in which St. Vincent de Paul showed her his heart.

This year marks the 190th anniversary of Mary’s appearance to St. Catherine. 

The Miraculous Medal is a sacramental inspired by the Marian apparition to St. Catherine in 1830. The Virgin Mary appeared to her as the Immaculate Conception, standing on a globe with light streaming from her hands and crushing a serpent underfoot.

“A voice said to me, ‘Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck,’” the saint recalled.

In their statement, the Vincentians noted that the world is “deeply troubled” and poverty is spreading due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“After 190 years, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal continues to watch over humankind and comes, as a pilgrim, to visit and meet with the members of the Christian communities spread throughout Italy. Thus, Mary fulfills the promise of love that is contained in her message: I will remain with you, trust and do not be discouraged,” they said.