‘Outrage, betrayal and shame’

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican issued a statement following Pope Benedict XVI’s 90-minute meeting today with Vatican officials and Irish church leaders, saying the pope shared the “sense of outrage, betrayal and shame” felt by Irish Catholics over decades of priestly sex abuse cases.

 Here is the text of the Vatican statement:

Today the Holy Father held a meeting with senior Irish Bishops and high-ranking members of the Roman Curia. He listened to their concerns and discussed with them the traumatic events that were presented in the Irish Commission of Investigation’s Report into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin.

After careful study of the Report, the Holy Father was deeply disturbed and distressed by its contents. He wishes once more to express his profound regret at the actions of some members of the clergy who have betrayed their solemn promises to God, as well as the trust placed in them by the victims and their families, and by society at large.

The Holy Father shares the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland, and he is united with them in prayer at this difficult time in the life of the Church.

His Holiness asks Catholics in Ireland and throughout the world to join him in praying for the victims, their families and all those affected by these heinous crimes.

He assures all concerned that the Church will continue to follow this grave matter with the closest attention in order to understand better how these shameful events came to pass and how best to develop effective and secure strategies to prevent any recurrence.

The Holy See takes very seriously the central issues raised by the Report, including questions concerning the governance of local Church leaders with ultimate responsibility for the pastoral care of children.

The Holy Father intends to address a Pastoral Letter to the faithful of Ireland in which he will clearly indicate the initiatives that are to be taken in response to the situation.

Finally, His Holiness encourages all those who have dedicated their lives in generous service to children to persevere in their good works in imitation of Christ the Good Shepherd.

Text of Irish bishops’ statement on sex abuse scandal

In the light of a report highly critical of the way Catholic leaders in Dublin handled sex abuse claims, members of the Irish bishops’ conference suspended all regular business at their winter general meeting yesterday in Maynooth to discuss the report.

They issued the following statement last night:

We, as bishops, apologize to all those who were abused by priests as children, their families and to all people who feel rightly outraged and let down by the failure of moral leadership and accountability that emerges from the report.

As an initial response to the report, we agreed today to request the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church to explore with the relevant government departments and statutory authorities, North and South, a mechanism by which to ensure that the church’s current policies and practices in relation to the safeguarding of children represent best practice and that allegations of abuse are properly handled.

We are deeply shocked by the scale and depravity of abuse as described in the report. We are shamed by the extent to which child sexual abuse was covered up in the Archdiocese of Dublin and recognize that this indicates a culture that was widespread in the church. The avoidance of scandal, the preservation of the reputations of individuals and of the church, took precedence over the safety and welfare of children. This should never have happened and must never be allowed to happen again. We humbly ask for forgiveness.

The report raises very important issues for the church in Ireland, including the functioning of the bishops’ conference, and, how the lay faithful can be more effectively involved in the life of the church. We will give further detailed consideration to these issues.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin (CNS/Reuters)

In response to the many concerns raised about the use of “mental reservation,” we wish to categorically state that it has no place in covering up evil. Charity, truthfulness, integrity and transparency must be the hallmark of all our communications.

Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin have been called to the Vatican by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to enable him “to be briefed and evaluate the painful situation of the church in Ireland following the recent publication of the Murphy Commission Report.” They will meet with Pope Benedict on Friday.

We humbly ask that you continue to pray for all those who suffer due to child abuse.

Catholic Charities USA seeks better US disaster response

Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, wants the federal government to do a better job of making sure people displaced by natural disasters get their lives back to normal.

Testifying Dec. 2 to the Senate Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery, Father Snyder said the federal government must be better at providing case management services so that support for displaced individuals and families doesn’t end too soon after a disaster hits.

“We firmly believe that if we are to avoid the travesty of hurricanes Katrina and Rita (in 2005), where we saw thousands of people, especially those living in poverty and already marginalized, left behind, we must invest in a system that responds early with a network that can deliver the diversified services necessary,” he said.

Catholic News Service in August reported on how Catholic Charities USA received a five-year federal contract to provide case management services for people affected by a pair of 2008 hurricanes.

Father Snyder said despite the contract the government has funded the program only through March 31, 2010. He expressed concern that the vital housing, food and other recovery services will end long before people’s needs are met and they can be resettled.

Father Snyder’s urged the subcommittee to pass legislation to fund a single national disaster case management program to respond to natural disasters; establish a lead federal agency to oversee and be accountable for such a program; establish a clear definition of disaster case management and related policies and procedures for government and private organizations; implement one database of information on people receiving and in need of services; and involve key stakeholders in all aspects of case management.

Papal ‘midnight’ Mass to begin at 10 p.m.

Pope Benedict XVI accepts the offertory gifts from children during the 2008 Christmas midnight Mass. (CNS/Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — As we mentioned in a story last week, Pope Benedict XVI’s Christmas midnight Mass will end at midnight rather than begin at that hour.

The Vatican listed the 10 p.m. start time for the Dec. 24 Mass for the “Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord” in October when it published the schedule of papal liturgies for November 2009-January 2010.

As Christmas approached and people started checking their calendars, the Mass time started attracting attention and even a bit of concern. The Christmas Mass at the Vatican always began at midnight, even in 2004 — Pope John Paul II’s last Christmas.

But Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, assured the Italian newspaper Il Giornale that there was nothing to worry about.

“There is no alarm of any kind regarding the health of the pontiff,” he said. “It was a decision made almost two months ago. The choice of beginning at 10 p.m. was made to allow Benedict XVI to tire himself less and so that he could retire earlier given that he reads his (Christmas) message the next day.”

“Instead of beginning at midnight, the Mass will end at that hour,” Father Lombardi said.

At noon on Christmas Day, the pope will read his message and give his blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world).

The secret lives of Westminster religious

By Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service

LONDON — To mark the Year for Priests, the Archdiocese of Westminster, which covers most of London north of the River Thames, is selling a 2010 calendar featuring photos of an archbishop, a sister and 10 diocesan priests relaxing “off-duty” — one for each of the 12 months.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster

The picture of Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster sees him behind his desk — perhaps he never relaxes — but the other shots show priests sitting in the theater or at a movie or playing a guitar.

Father Michael Hayes, the private secretary to the archbishop, is shown clenching a pint of beer at the bar of  The Cardinal pub, a popular clerical drinking hole behind Westminster Cathedral. Ironically, the sign hanging outside bears the portrait of Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, the doughty 19th-century campaigner for social justice who, incidentally, never touched a drop of alcohol.

The archdiocese said the calendar aims to show clerics “involved in projects or pastimes outside their day-to-day life in the cathedral.” It also includes a few words explaining why they decided to enter religious life, what they might be doing if they had not, and a quote or scriptural passage that inspires them.

Father Michael Dunne in the Royal Albert Hall

Archbishop Nichols, for example, reveals if he had not become a priest he would either be a truck driver or a French horn player.

The calendar, priced at 5 pounds, is also designed to remind people to keep their priests in their prayers during the Year for Priests. Proceeds from the sales will be used to help maintain the Byzantine-style cathedral.

The calendar can be purchased from Westminster Cathedral Gift Shop or online.

Catholic poet has first book published at age 93

For more than a decade, Dorothy M. Colgan has written poetic reflections featured in a column titled “My Journey to God” in The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese. At age 93, she has had her first  book of poetry published.

“Now a wider audience will have the opportunity to benefit from Colgan’s faith-based wisdom preserved in her catechetical book of poems that reveal God’s presence in the present moment,” writes reporter Mary Ann Wyand of  The Criterion. Read more of Wyand’s story on Colgan here.

Year for Priests: Investing in ourselves with purpose

By Basilian Father Chris Valka
One in a series

Every year Advent seems to catch us off guard.  As the weeks pass from one to four, we come out of the darkness into the marvelous light of awareness, so appropriately symbolized by the four candles of the season.  The often sloppy habits with which we are far too comfortable begin to call out like John in the desert:  “Repent, Repent, you can do better than this!  Wake up, Wake up!”

Advent is a time of reconciliation, which means I am a little more busy than usual.  After teaching classes the long Monday after Thanksgiving break, I went directly from school to a neighboring parish to hear confessions for a little over two hours.  When I finally got home late that evening, I just flopped in a chair and turned on the Saints and Patriots Monday Night Football game.  While I intended for my mind to relax, I soon found myself thinking about the contrast between all that I saw on the television and all that I just heard during the confessions.

As I watched the fans, listened to the commentators and thought about the Fantasy Football implications, it occurred to me how much energy so many people devote to a game that is so temporary and of which they have no control!  I could not help but wonder: What would the world be like if even a fraction of our time and emotions were put into prayer and the relationships with those near to us?

Of course, this is not to say there is no value in leisure, sporting events and the like, but I could not help but question their purpose and priority.  As I began my classes the following day, I wondered about the balance of other things, so I decided to give my students an assignment to determine their daily time/activity allocation.  Personally, I was curious — just how many hours in a day are devoted to Facebook, video games, texting and sports?

Upon completion of the assignment, my students were also amazed at how much time they spend procrastinating and daydreaming; nor did they realize how much time they spend texting (some over five hours a day).  Most of them spend far more time playing video games than doing homework, and if video games, Facebook, and TV are combined, they occupy more hours of the day than sleeping.  In the end, many of them are quite unhappy about the way they spend their day, especially when I asked them if I could show this list to their parents, teachers or future employers!

Many of us associate Advent with confession and repentance; thus, it is fitting to spend some quality time examining our conscience.  However, this is also the beginning of a new year (liturgically speaking) and so it seems also appropriate to make a new resolution.  Perhaps a good start is to do your own evaluation of your daily activities.  What takes up your time?  Does this usage represent the relationship you want with God?

In the end, everything comes down to our purpose.  Just as no one activity is bad, nor is any one activity good outside of our purpose.  Thus, it seems our goal is to be more purposeful with our time, our energy, and our emotions.  If we are, I am betting we will all have far less to confess when Christmas comes alive.

Father Chris Valka, CSB, was ordained a priest for the Congregation of St. Basil in May and is teaching at Detroit Catholic Central High School in Michigan.

Click here for more in this series.

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