Sunday, September 24, 2023

‘He was my rock’: Brother who detailed child abuse in Blackrock Boys documentary dies

He was my rock': Brother who detailed child abuse in Blackrock Boys  documentary dies – The Irish Times

Mark Ryan, one of two brothers who came forward about being sexually abused in Blackrock College and sparked a reckoning over historic child abuse in fee-paying schools, has died aged 62.

Mark and his younger brother David Ryan spoke about being sexually abused as boys in the South Dublin secondary school in an RTÉ Radio documentary, Blackrock Boys, last November.

The documentary led to a wave of revelations and hundreds of survivors reporting they were also abused as boys in schools run by the Spiritan congregation, such as Blackrock College and its feeder school Willow Park.

The scandal marked a surge in disclosures of historic abuse from former pupils of fee-paying schools run by other religious congregations as well.

Mark Ryan died in London, where he had lived, on Thursday evening after suffering a suspected heart attack, his brother said.

David Ryan said his older brother had been his “rock” since the RTÉ documentary aired late last year.

“Mark was very straightforward, he didn’t hold back, he spoke his mind ... He was my rock, he supported me the whole way through, he knew how hard it was,” he said.

The siblings had “never expected” their stories would lead to such a public reckoning over past sexual abuse in fee-paying schools, he said. “It has opened up for so many people to come forward.”

The Government set up a scoping inquiry to issue recommendations by November about what form of inquiry should be established to investigate historic abuse in schools.

It was more important than ever that the Government followed through after its initial scoping inquiry, which is interviewing survivors, David said.

“I want it much more now for Mark, he was the one who pushed everything ... He was so articulate,” he told The Irish Times.

It was tragic that his brother would not be alive to see the outcome of the process, David said.

‘Immensely proud’

In the RTÉ documentary both brothers spoke about how they were sexually abused by priests at Blackrock College in the 1970s, only discovering each other’s abuse years later in 2002.

Liam O’Brien, producer of the documentary, said Mark had been “immensely proud” of his and David’s decision to speak publicly and the impact the programme had.

He had been hugely encouraged that coming forward had led to so many other survivors finding “their voice”, he said.

Late last month Mark was interviewed by the scoping inquiry for his views on how the State should examine historical abuse in schools.

In comments to The Irish Times afterwards, he wrote: “One of the things I’d like is some type of study into why this happened, why did the Irish people turn a blind eye to this atrocity and the other atrocities which have happened since the creation of the State? The study has to understand and link these atrocities and make sense of what happened so we understand and learn so this never ever happens again.”

Maeve Lewis, chief executive of One in Four, said the survivor support charity was “deeply saddened” at news of Mark’s death.

The brothers’ courage had “encouraged huge numbers of other men who had been abused in religious run schools to come forward, leading to a tsunami of allegations,” she said.

Ms Lewis said Mark had been a “powerful advocate” and support to other survivors. “His dignity, courage and articulate voice will be sadly missed,” she said.

Minister for Education Norma Foley said in a statement on Friday afternoon: “I am saddened beyond measure to learn of the passing of Mark Ryan. Mark and his brother David showed immense courage in speaking out about the abuse that they suffered.

“Their bravery shone a light into a dark corner, and helped to forge a path for many others to come forward.

“In my meetings and conversations with Mark, I was always struck by his genuine warmth, kind heartedness and enormous sense of compassion. Both Mark and David’s determination and bravery led to the establishment of the scoping inquiry into historical sexual abuse in day and boarding schools run by religious orders.

“I am especially conscious today that Mark was a strong support and advocate for many other survivors, and I truly appreciate the profound sense of loss that so many will be feeling at this time. I will remember Mark with enormous fondness and deep gratitude for his graciousness, leadership and selflessness. We are all the lesser for Mark’s passing, but greater for having had the privilege of knowing him.

“Rest in peace, Mark. Thank you for everything.”

The team conducting the Government scoping inquiry commended the “extraordinary bravery” of Mark and his brother David, in coming forward.

The brothers were “pivotal” in the establishment of the process and their courage influenced “so many survivors’ decisions to come forward and tell their stories,” their statement said.

“Our thoughts are with David and all of Mark’s family today and with his many friends. May he rest in peace,” it said.

Heads of Germany’s synodal way seek papal talks on resolutions

The leaders of Germany’s “synodal way” asked in June for face-to-face talks with Pope Francis, in a letter setting out the initiative’s demands for sweeping changes to Church teaching and practice.

The letter to the pope was made public Sept. 22 when the German bishops’ conference (DBK) and the lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) — the synodal way’s co-sponsors — released the six-page text.

The letter, dated June 22, presented the results of the three-year initiative, which brought together Germany’s bishops and select lay people to discuss four main topics: power, the priesthood, women in the Church, and sexuality.

The synodal way formally ended in March with resolutions backing women deacons, a re-examination of priestly celibacy, lay preaching at Masses, same-sex blessings, and “gender diversity.”

Is it unclear whether the pope has responded to the June letter and there is no public record of an audience between Francis and the letter’s signatories, the synodal way’s co-presidents Bishop Georg Bätzing and Irme Stetter-Karp, respectively the chairman of the DBK and president of the ZdK.

Pope Francis has repeatedly criticized the German project, suggesting that it failed to take into account the criteria for authentic reform set out in his 2019 letter to German Catholics. The pope has also described the initiative as “elitist,” and joked that it is seeking to replicate the Evangelical Church in Germany. He also authorized a series of Vatican interventions in the project, but did not prevent it from taking place.

Bätzing and Stetter-Karp sought to assuage the pope’s concerns, stressing in the letter’s opening lines that synodal way participants were grateful for his 2019 message and had reflected on its admonitions “again and again in the course of the process.”

They also suggested that the synodal way was based on broad consultations, “in the dioceses, the parishes, the associations, in the assemblies of the Central Committee of German Catholics, in the synodal forums, in the bishops’ conference and, last but not least, in the synodal assemblies.”

They said that the initiative’s resolutions had been “recognized by a vast majority of the assembled bishops, priests, religious, and laity as significant perspectives for the future.”

The letter noted that according to the synodal way’s statutes, resolutions that could not be enacted at a local level should be presented to the pope. Bätzing and Stetter-Karp said they hoped that Francis would give the resolutions his “favorable consideration and review.” 

They emphasized that they were available for further discussions with Vatican dicasteries and noted that the synodal way’s conclusions would be raised at the synod on synodality in Rome.

“We have noticed with great interest that many of these concerns are also mentioned in the Instrumentum Laboris [working document] for the world synod in October,” they wrote.

They added: “We are aware that the concerns presented here, as far-reaching as they may be in detail, can nevertheless all only be helpful if they are seen quite explicitly in the service of a Church that takes the Gospel to heart again and again and remembers its mission to proclaim this Gospel to the people.” 

The letter concluded with a three-page summary of the synodal way’s resolutions. It covered nine points:

1) Referring to a resolution calling for the creation of a permanent synodal council of bishops and lay people to oversee the Church in Germany, it said that “a strengthening of synodal structures will also be a great support for bishops and priests in the exercise of their ministry.” 

The Vatican has objected to the synodal council’s creation, but synodal way organizers are pressing ahead with plans to establish it by 2026, although German bishops were unable to reach a consensus on funding.

2) The letter cited a resolution calling for the laity’s role in the selection of diocesan bishops to be strengthened and formalized. “The goal is to better hear the voices from the people of God,” it said.

3) It also asked for permission for “appropriately trained lay people” to preach homilies at Masses, “given the steadily increasing shortage of priests in Germany and in view of the competences and charisms of many baptized and confirmed Catholics in our country.” 

The Vatican has underlined its opposition to a synodal way resolution appealing for lay homilies “on Sundays and feast days by theologically and spiritually qualified faithful commissioned by the bishop.”  

4) The letter also cited a resolution calling for the synodal way to “re-examine the link between the conferral of ordination and the commitment to celibacy.” It said: “Pending a possible implementation of this request, we ask that married men (viri probati) who have the personal abilities and sound theological training also be admitted to priestly ordination.”

5) The letter welcomed the pope’s decision to establish a second commission to study the possibility of women deacons in 2020, asking “that all possibilities be exhausted to make the diaconate accessible to women.”

6) Citing another resolution, the letter asked for a review of whether the statements in Ordinatio sacerdotalis — Pope John Paul II’s 1994 apostolic letter reaffirming that priestly ordination is to be reserved to men alone — “are not open to further theological discussion.” 

7) It also noted the synodal way’s appeal to “revise the statements of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on sexuality and especially on people with a non-heterosexual orientation, since they repeatedly give rise to misunderstandings and also to injuries and rejections.”

“At the same time, this is connected with the request to further promote the differentiation of Church teaching with regard to the bipolarity of human sexuality, especially with an appreciative view of those persons who do not correspond to the assignment to one of the two sexes,” the letter said.

8) The letter noted that “for some time now, the German bishops’ conference has been discussing and negotiating with the competent dicasteries of the Holy See about the establishment of an ecclesiastical administrative jurisdiction in the German dioceses.” It said that the synodal way expressed the hope that the discussions would have a positive conclusion.

9) Finally, the letter said that “a clear and comprehensible canon law at the level of a contemporary understanding of the law could make a very significant contribution to the further development of the Church and its governance structures.”

“We have become aware of the fact that a careless handling of ecclesiastical legal provisions harbors the great danger of paving the way for cover-ups and injustice. For this reason, we believe that a reform of ecclesiastical law and the administration of ecclesiastical justice is also an important project for the future of the Church,” it said, citing a synodal way resolution

“In particular, we would like to reintroduce the idea of a ‘Lex ecclesiae fundamentalis’ into the discussion. We are convinced that here lies a great opportunity for canon law, which in this way could make its contribution to a credible Church as a proclaimer of the Gospel.”

Following Vatican II, scholars created several drafts of a Lex ecclesiae fundamentalis, or “Fundamental Law of the Church,” that would be applied across the world. Some provisions were ultimately  included in the 1983 and 1990 Codes of Canon Law.

Bp. Perry retirement raises questions for USCCB racism committee

Heart Talk : Bishop Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Chicago  - YouTube

After Bishop Joseph Perry retired Tuesday as auxiliary bishop of Chicago, it remains unclear whether the bishop will remain chair of the U.S. bishops’ conference ad hoc committee on racism.

The bishop told The Pillar Thursday that he has requested clarity from USCCB president Archbishop Timothy Broglio on whether he will retain his post, in light of his retirement from ministry as an auxiliary bishop.

Bishop Perry told The Pillar that he himself had sent “a query out to the president on this,” and that Archbishop Broglio “is researching” the implications of his retirement from diocesan ministry for his committee position.

While USCCB statutes and bylaws prohibit an officer of the conference from serving beyond his 75th birthday, they do not explicitly state the requirements for continuing in office for the chairman of an ad hoc committee, who is appointed by the conference president, rather than elected by the conference membership.

Still, neither the bishop nor the USCCB have confirmed that Perry will remain chairman of the committee after his retirement, with the USCCB declining to respond to questions on the subject from The Pillar.

Perry was appointed to lead the ad hoc racisim committee in April. In the same month, the bishop turned 75, the age at which bishops customarily submit letters of resignation to Pope Francis.

The ad hoc committee on racism was created by the USCCB in 2017, amid rising white nationalist activity, including a rally in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly in August 2017. 

Since its creation six years ago, the committee has had three bishops at the helm. Bishop George Murry of Youngstown was initially appointed to chair the committee, but stepped down in 2018 while he battled leukemia.

Then-Bishop Shelton Fabre was next appointed to take over the committee, but, after four years, resigned in 2022, when he was appointed Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky. 

The question of Perry’s continued service as ad hoc committee chair has reportedly become a subject of discussion among some bishops. Perry told The Pillar that “several other bishops” have raised questions about whether he is able to stay in post, in light of his retirement. 

If the bishop does step down, it would fall to Archbishop Broglio to appoint another bishop to assume a role for which there is no certain front-runner. 

While the committee has been customarily chaired by a Black bishop, with Perry’s retirement there are now only four active Black bishops in the U.S., according to journalist Nate Tinner-Williams.  

One of those bishops, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, DC, is already over the age of 75.

The committee itself might soon be in a period of transition — a subject bishops are likely to discuss at their November meeting. 

USCCB policy allows for ad hoc committees to be created for a duration of three years, and renewed for additional three-year terms.

The ad hoc committee on racism was created in 2017, and renewed for an additional three-year period in 2020, making another renewal likely to come up on the ballot in November 2023.

But sources close to the USCCB have told The Pillar that ad hoc committees are customarily renewed only twice, meaning that bishops will eventually need to discuss the making the ad hoc group a permanent, standing committee, or some other possibility — including establishing it as a subcommittee, under the aegis of the USCCB committee on cultural diversity in the Church.

The work of the committee includes statements on current events and the creation of educational resources. In 2022, the committee published a guide for conducting a Holy Hour Against Racism.

The USCCB’s 2018 pastoral letter on racism is not attributed to the ad hoc committee, but the committee on cultural diversity in the Church.

Bishop Schneider Supports Bishop Strickland

In a letter addressed to the Joseph Strickland, Bishop of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Astana, Kazakhstan, encourages the courageous American bishop in his confession of the Catholic faith and in the preservation of the flock entrusted to him.

In this letter, dated August 2, 2023, the auxiliary bishop expresses his gratitude to the Bishop of Tyler for his “intrepid dedication to uncompromisingly keep, transmit, and defend the Catholic faith.” 

He applies to him the words of St. Basil: “The one charge which is now sure to secure severe punishment is the careful keeping of the traditions of the Fathers” (Epistle 243).

Quoting the same saint again, he applies his words to the current situation: “The doctrines of true religion are overthrown. The laws of the Church are in confusion. The ambition of men, who have no fear of God, rushes into high posts in the Church, and the exalted office is now publicly known as the prize of impiety.”

“The result is that the worse a man blasphemes, the fitter people think him to be a bishop. Clerical dignity is a thing of the past. There is a complete lack of men shepherding the Lord's flock with knowledge.… Faith is uncertain. . . .  The mouths of true believers are dumb, while every blasphemous tongue wags free; holy things are trodden under foot” (Epistle 92).

He adds that the words of St. Basil in his letter to Pope Damasus, in which he asks for the help and effective intervention of the Pope, are entirely applicable to our current situation: “The wisdom of this world wins the highest prizes in the Church and has rejected the glory of the cross. Shepherds are banished, and in their places are introduced grievous wolves hurrying the flock of Christ” (Epistle 90).

But, continues Bishop Schneider, “unlike St. Basil, who addressed Pope Damasus, you don’t have, unfortunately, the real chance to address Pope Francis in order that he may help you to keep zealously the holy traditions of the past. On the contrary, the Holy See put you now under scrutiny and threatens you with intimidations and deprivation of the episcopal care of your flock in Tyler.”

And this, for one reason only: “Like St. Basil, St. Athanasius, and many other confessor-bishops in history, are keeping the traditions of the Fathers; only because you are not silencing the truth, only because you are not behaving like now a few bishops of our day, who—using the words of St. Gregory Nazianzus—'are serving the times and the demands of the masses, leaving their boat to the wind which happens to blow at the moment . . ..”

And to encourage his correspondent, the bishop continues: “However, dear Bishop Strickland, you have the happiness, that all the popes of the past, all the courageous confessor-bishops of the past, all the Catholic martyrs, who, in the words of St. Teresa of Avila, were ‘resolved to undergo a thousand deaths for any one article of the creed,’ to support and encourage you.”

“Furthermore, the little ones in the Church pray for you and support you; they are an ever growing, yet small, army of lay faithful—in the United States as well as all over the world—who were put on the periphery by high ranking churchmen, even in the Vatican, whose main concerns seems to be pleasing the world and promoting their naturalistic agenda and the approval of the sin of homosexual activity under the guise of welcoming and inclusion.”

Bishop Schneider finally states, “I pray that more bishops in our day may, like you, raise their voice in defense of  the Catholic Faith, providing thereby the spiritual nourishment and consolation for many Catholics, who feel themselves abandoned like orphans. For sure, future popes will thank you for your intrepid fidelity to the Catholic Faith and to its holy traditions, by which you have contributed to the honor of the Apostolic See, which was partly darkened and stained by our unfavorable time.”

It is interesting to note that, as the crisis continues to grow, those who keep the Faith, even if they have yet to perceive the depth of the crisis and its origins in the Second Vatican Council, are finding the paths traced by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre over 50 years ago.

Northern Ireland: Tensions Rise Between Catholics and Protestants

PSNI rolls out branding change a year after previous proposals ditched due  to backlash - Belfast Live

After the difficulties caused by Brexit, the strong tensions currently shaking the Northern Irish police are exacerbating the divisions between Catholics and Protestants, filling the future of Northern Ireland with uncertainty.

Clouds gather above Belfast, carried by the winds of discord. 

The Northern Irish police – Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) – have been in crisis for several weeks. 

An essential cog in the peace process launched in 1998 by the Good Friday Accords, its leader was forced to resign on September 4, 2023.

Simon Byrne's position was no longer tenable. 

On August 8, there was a series of data breaches, in which the personal and employment data of every police officer and civilian member of staff was published online, endangering their security in a context where police officers are regularly the target of attacks attributed to dissident republicans.

A leak which weakens the PSNI which in 2001 took the place of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, mainly Protestant, to fight against the discrimination against Catholics. 

It is a force which has failed to reflect the image of Northern Irish society: the proportion of Catholic agents continues to decline (30%) while there are fewer and fewer Protestants in the province.

However, “Catholic police officers – around 2,000 – joined (the PSNI) in full knowledge of the risks this posed to their personal safety. They demonstrate commitment and dedication to protecting their communities, which I believe is not fully understood or recognized elsewhere in Ireland and the United Kingdom,” laments Gerry Murray, head of the Catholic police union of Northern Ireland.

A failure in recruitment which can also be explained by the fact that Catholic police officers are often in the crosshairs of radical republicans who see their co-religionists as traitors to the cause of the independence of Northern Ireland. 

One thing is certain, last August’s data breach is not likely to improve the attractiveness of the profession.

But that's not all: in 2021, two PSNI police officers were disciplined by their chief for detaining an attendee at a republican commemoration in honor of the five Catholic victims of a shooting in south Belfast attributed to the Protestant loyalists in 1992.

A sanction that Simon Byrne saw fit to make in order to placate Sinn Fein – former armed wing of the IRA, now the main republican political party supporting the reunification of Ireland and a stakeholder in the peace process, – several elected officials of which are members of the PSNI board.

A dramatic turn of events at the end of last August, when the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland delivered its verdict: the police chief had unfairly sanctioned his civil servants for political reasons and must reinstate them. 

The cup is full for Simon Byrne who was quick to tender his resignation earlier this month.

Gerry Murray sees in this crisis offered “an opportunity to forge a path of real change.” 

Faced with the seriousness of the situation, Eamon Martin, the Archbishop of Armagh, met Simon Byrne to assure him of his “unequivocal support for those who serve as police members of civilian support workers for the PSNI,” calling on Catholics to “reject entirely those who would intimidate or threaten the courageous women and men.”

What is certain is that the turmoil in the Northern Irish police will not contribute to strengthening relations between Catholics and Protestants already damaged by the consequences of Brexit and the introduction of a customs border between the Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

On recent abuse scandals, Vatican talk is both too much and too little (Opinion)

“This business will get out of control,” intoned the inimitable Fred Thompson as Rear Admiral Joshua Painter in the film adaptation of Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October, after an F-14 had crashed on the deck of his aircraft carrier that was also carrying CIA analyst Jack Ryan, hero of that story and several others.

“This business will get out of control,” Thompson’s Painter repeats, “and we’ll be lucky to live through it.”

I thought of that scene this week, after the largely self-inflicted double whammy that hit Pope Francis and the Vatican in the form of developments in two gruesome abuse and cover-up stories. 

Both set in relief the ironic reality of the Vatican’s addiction to talk, which is at once too much and too little to control the spiraling narrative of disastrous failure to deal effectively with entrenched problems.

The first was the frankly bizarre statement that came on Monday from the Diocese of Rome regarding its “investigation” into Rome’s Centro Aletti – better known as the base of operations for the disgraced former celebrity Jesuit, Marko Rupnik, credibly accused of serial sexual, psychological, and spiritual abuse perpetrated against nearly twenty women over three decades – which drew a clean bill of health from the probe.

The Centro Aletti has been a “public association of the faithful” under the aegis of the Rome vicariate since 2019. Cardinal Angelo De Donatis – the Cardinal Vicar of Rome – has gone out of his way to make it clear that neither he nor the pope’s diocesan governing apparatus had knowledge until “very recent times” of the allegations against Rupnik, and never had any authority to do anything about Rupnik or the allegations against him.

That’s tough to credit, quite frankly, not least since the churchman who first brought victims’ testimony to Rome was none other than Bishop Daniele Libanori, an auxiliary of the Rome diocese under De Donatis and a Jesuit, who conducted a fact-finding mission to the Loyola Community of women religious that Rupnik had helped to start in his native Slovenia several decades ago.

De Donatis’s own investigator, Monsignor Giacomo Incitti of the Pontifical Urban University, found that “within the Centro Aletti, a healthy community life free of any particular critical issues is present.” 

He also found that Rupnik – who has never faced trial for his alleged abuse – was nevertheless subjected to “gravely anomalous procedures” in connection with an excommunication he incurred for giving sacramental absolution to an illicit sex partner, a serious crime in Church law.

Incitti apparently had some sort of access to secret documents no one at the Rome diocese was supposed to be able to see, which allowed him to reach his conclusion and also raise “well-founded doubts about the request for excommunication itself.”

Predictably, alleged victims were incensed.

No fewer than five of Rupnik’s accusers published an open letter saying the vicariate’s statement “ridicules not only the pain of the victims, but also that of the entire Church, which is mortally wounded by such obstinate arrogance.”

The second story involves an Australian prelate, Christopher Saunders, the former bishop of Broome – a sprawling diocese in the Australian outback that covers an area roughly the size of France and is home to only 50,000 people – who led the diocese from 1996 until 2020, and who resigned in 2021 after police investigations into alleged sex crimes and intense media scrutiny.

Prosecutors declined to bring charges against Saunders then, but police in Western Australia have reportedly asked to see a new dossier detailing the findings of an independent probe conducted at the behest of the Church in Australia after Pope Francis ordered an investigation under Vos estis lux mundi, his 2019 apostolic letter outlining an accountability mechanism for prelates accused of abuse or cover-up.

Mandated by Pope Francis a year ago this month, and directed by Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, the Church-ordered probe reportedly found that Saunders likely abused at least four boys from Aboriginal communities. 

The investigation concluded that Saunders likely groomed nearly seventy other Aboriginal boys and men, and may have abused at least some of them.

News reports quote from a 200-page dossier that has apparently been with Pope Francis and the Vatican for some six months, which describes Saunders as “a sexual predator that seeks to prey upon vulnerable Aboriginal men and boys,” plying them with alcohol he sometimes allegedly smuggled into dry Aboriginal districts.

Saunders is alleged to have used Church funds to support his activities.

In a statement issued after Australia’s 7News broadcast a report of the story, the president of the Australian bishops’ conference, Timothy Costelloe, said that a church process against Saunders had to wait until the police investigation was concluded, but expressed hope something will happen soon.

“In due time, the Holy See will make its determinations,” Costelloe said. “It is hoped,” he added, “that this will not be unduly delayed.”

“It is important that a just and authoritative finding be made,” Costelloe also said. “Only then,” he said, “can the process of rebuilding the Church community in Broome … continue to make progress and bring healing.”

Costelloe isn’t wrong, but there’s a strong case for the idea that “due time” has long since passed. 

Also, it appears that Australian Church leaders were not going to say anything until the story broke in the press. 

Vatican News had a small item two days after the story broke, but it was buried on the English-language page, contained scant detail, and quoted very sparingly from Costelloe’s statement.

In the Rupnik case, the vicar protests too much. In the Saunders case, Church leaders are saying far too little. In both cases, observers may be readily forgiven the impression that interests other than justice are being served.

“Justice,” the saying goes, “must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.”

The bitter irony is that the complete transparency for which Pope Francis has repeatedly called, if not always practiced, would be the best way – indeed, the only way – to regain control of the narrative.

Come clean about the Rupnik business. 

Give Saunders a meaningful public trial. 

Let people see justice being done. 

Let them – let us – at least see you trying.

Stop talking about it, and just do it.

Vatican calls claims that cardinal withdrew from synod over abuse case ‘pure fantasy’

 ADOM :: Vatican issues manual for handling sex abuse reports

After media reports suggesting that Spanish Cardinal Luis Ladaria’s withdrawal from the upcoming Synod of Bishops on Synodality was tied to his handling of the case of a prominent Jesuit artist accused of abuse, the Vatican called those claims “pure fantasy.”

“Regarding some media articles relating to the reasons for why Cardinal Ladaria Ferrer will not participate in the coming synodal assembly, in agreement with His Eminence, it is specified that these reconstructions have no foundation and are the fruit of pure fantasy,” a Sept. 23 Vatican statement said.

“The truth of the facts is that having completed his mandate as prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ladaria, close to 80 years of age, asked not to participate in the synod exclusively due to accumulated tiredness and his desire for a bit of rest,” the statement said.

Ladaria, who was recently replaced as prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) by close papal friend and confidant Argentinian Cardinal-designate Víctor Manuel Fernández, was on the original list of papally-nominated participants in the synod published earlier this summer.

However, a newer version of the list released Thursday included two bishops from mainland China, but Ladaria’s name was absent, with synod organizers saying he had personally requested to withdraw.

Shortly after the new list was published, some Italian media outlets speculated that Ladaria’s decision to opt out of the synod was related to the case of Slovene Jesuit Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, one of the Church’s most prominent muralists, and who was expelled from the Society of Jesus in July, having been accused of sexually manipulating at least 20 adult women.

On Sept. 18, despite the Jesuits’ expulsion of Rupnik on grounds of disobedience, as he refused an order from superiors to transfer community houses and did not cooperate with an internal investigation, the Vicariate of Rome gave him and the Centro Aletti he founded a clean bill of health.

Calling the Centro Aletti, where Rupnik for years has lived, offered spiritual retreats, and conducted various art projects, “a healthy community life free of particular critical issues,” the vicariate said its review of the center, conducted after allegations against Rupnik went public, had identified “gravely anomalous procedures” behind a May 2020 decree of excommunication against Rupnik from the Vatican’s doctrinal office.

In the statement, the vicariate raised what it said were “well-founded doubts” about the decision.

The 2020 excommunication, lifted after 15 days under what are still murky circumstances, was incurred by using the confessional to absolve a woman with whom he had engaged in sexual activity, considered a serious crime under Church law.

After the Vicariate of Rome issued its statement, Rupnik’s alleged victims published an open letter saying the statement was proof that pledges of “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse by Church officials are merely a “PR campaign…followed only by frequently covert actions, which support and cover up for the authors of abuse.”

Italian media reports on Ladaria’s exit from the synod stated that he had decided to step back just hours after the vicariate’s statement was published.

However, Crux has learned that Ladaria had already withdrawn from the synod at least several days prior the release of the vicariate’s statement.

Both Fernández and Ladaria’s immediate predecessor at the DDF, German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, remain participants in the upcoming synod gathering, set to take place from Oct. 4-29 as the first of a two-part discussion that will close next year, in October 2024.

Pope closes brief Marseille visit with defense of the unborn, elderly

Pope Francis: Migrant Crisis Requires Wisdom, Not 'Alarmist Propaganda'|  National Catholic Register

Pope Francis closed his brief overnight visit to Marseille urging local Catholics not to be discouraged amid a growth in secularism and an increased indifference to religion, saying they must seek to maintain the joy of following Christ.

In addition to reiterating his support for migrant rights, the pontiff also challenged widespread acceptance of abortion and euthanasia in many European societies.

Human life is discarded not only in the “rejection of many immigrants,” but also in “countless unborn children and abandoned elderly people,” he said.

Speaking during his Sept. 23 Mass at Marseille’s Vélodrome Stadium, the pope focused on the scene of the Visitation in scripture, in which Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, both of whom are pregnant in miraculous ways, as Mary was a virgin and Elizabeth had been barren.

The episode shows that God “makes possible even what seems impossible, he generates life even amidst sterility,” Francis said, and challenged local Catholics on whether they truly believe God is working in their lives.

“Do we believe that the Lord, in hidden and often unpredictable ways, acts in history, performs wonders, and is working even in our societies that are marked by worldly secularism and a certain religious indifference?” he asked.

Pope Francis traveled to Marseille from Sept. 22-23 to attend the closing session of the third edition of the Rencontres Méditerranéennes, or Mediterranean Meetings, which drew together some 60 religious leaders and 60 young people from throughout the region to discuss current regional challenges related to the environment, migration, and violent conflict.

After his arrival Friday, he prayed together with diocesan clergy and religious and presided over an interfaith memorial for sailors and migrants who have died at sea.

Prior to Saturday’s Mass, he gave a lengthy speech at the closing session of the Rencontres Méditerranéennes, which was attended by Church leaders from France as well as several government leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron; Vice President of the European Commission Margarítis Schinás; Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank; and Renaud Muselier, president of the local region.

Pope Francis and Macron had a private audience following Saturday’s closing session.

In a subtle jab at the concept of laïcité, meaning strict Church/state separation in most western states, Bishop Arjan Dodaj of Tiranë-Durrës in Albania at the closing session of the Mediterranean Meetings earlier Saturday morning spoke of his experience growing up in an atheistic country under communist rule.

“Churches were destroyed, yes, God was cancelled in all of his visible signs,” Dodaj said, saying he grew up without any religious references, apart from seeing his grandparents praying in secret. He said his uncle was arrested for expressing his faith and there was constant fear, but he finally discovered faith, as well as his priestly vocation, after immigrating to Italy after the fall of communism.

In his homily, the pope focused on how John the Baptist, the infant Elizabeth was carrying, “leapt for joy” after hearing Mary’s voice, saying that to leap out of joy means one’s heart is moved.

“This is the opposite of a flat, cold heart, accustomed to the quiet life, which is encased in indifference and becomes impermeable,” he said, saying a heart such as this “becomes hardened and insensitive to everything and everyone, even to the tragic discarding of human life.”

“A cold, flat heart drags life along mechanically, without passion, without impetus, without desire. In our European society, a person can become ill from all this and suffer cynicism, disenchantment, resignation, uncertainty, and an overall sadness,” Francis said.

Those with faith, he said, are instead capable of recognizing God’s presence and are able, even in the midst of trials and suffering, to feel God’s presence and maintain a “spring in their step,” as well as a desire to make a positive contribution to the world around them.

“Besides enabling us to leap in the face of life, the experience of faith also compels us to leap toward our neighbor,” he said, saying the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth illustrates that God’s presence is not felt in extraordinary events, but “in the simplicity of an encounter.”

He urged the Church to remember that God is above all relational and often makes himself known through human encounter.

“When we know how to be open to others, when there is a ‘stirring’ within us in favor of those who pass us every day, and when our hearts do not remain impassive and insensitive before the wounds of the fragile,” this is where God is present, he said.

Pope Francis said that major European cities and countries such as France, characterized by a diversity of cultures and religions, “are a strong force against the excesses of individualism, selfishness and rejection that generate loneliness and suffering.”

“Let us learn from Jesus how to stir ourselves to help those who live nearby,” he said, stressing the need to be compassionate toward those who are weary and exhausted, leaping with mercy “before the wounded flesh” of others.

He pointed to France’s history of art, culture and thought, saying, “Today, too, our life and the life of the Church, France and Europe need this: the grace of a leap forward, a new leap in faith, charity and hope.”

“We need to rekindle our passion and enthusiasm, to reawaken our desire to commit ourselves to fraternity. We need to once again risk loving our families and dare to love the weakest, and to rediscover in the Gospel the transforming grace that makes life beautiful,” he said.

Francis urged Christians to spend time in prayer and to care for others with love, always seeking to receive “the fire of the Holy Spirit and then allow ourselves to be set afire by the questions of our day, by the challenges of the Mediterranean, by the cry of the poor – and by the ‘holy utopias’ of fraternity and peace that wait to be realized.”

He closed his homily praying that the local Marian devotion, Notre Dame de la Garde, would watch over the local church and “guard France and all of Europe.”

In a final greeting after Mass, the pope thanked all those who worked to organize the visit and noted that the Archdiocese of Marseille was the first in the world to be consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, during an outbreak of the plague in 1720.

“It is therefore in your hearts to be signs of God’s tender love, also in the midst of today’s epidemic of indifference,” he said, and greeted a group of survivors of the 2016 terrorist attack in Nice, offering a prayer for those who died in acts of terrorism in France and throughout the world.

He also repeated his appeal for an end to the Russia-Ukraine war, saying, “Let us not tire of praying for peace in war-torn regions, and especially for the war-torn people of Ukraine.”