Cardinal gathers with priests, addresses scandals

Priests fill the parish hall of St. Julia, Weston for a meeting with Cardinal O'Malley on the ongoing crises in the Church. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

WESTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley gathered with over 300 archdiocesan priests at the parish hall of St. Julia Church on Aug. 28 to address recent scandals and give them an opportunity to voice their concerns.

The meeting came in the wake of accusations of sexual abuse of seminarians by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the publication of a letter sent to Cardinal O'Malley reporting Archbishop McCarrick's behavior, the release of a report by a Pennsylvania grand jury detailing 1,000 cases of sexual abuse committed by 300 priests over a period of 70 years and allegations of misconduct at St. John's Seminary.

On the sidewalk in front of St. Julia's, demonstrators held signs demanding accountability from the cardinal and the Church. Adult survivors of clergy sexual abuse gave papers to the priests as they entered through the side doors, asking them to support victims.

After opening with mid-day prayer and singing hymns, Cardinal O'Malley addressed the assembled priests.

He recalled an experience he had in Europe in 1963, less than two decades after World War II. While studying German in Bavaria, he accompanied some seminarians on a trip to Holland. When the people saw the kind of clothing they wore and heard them speaking German, the people shunned them.

Cardinal O'Malley compared this situation of being blamed and suffering for another's sins to the situation many American Catholics and priests are experiencing now.

He mentioned that in his study of Mark's Gospel, looking at the list of the Apostles, "I often would think, 'Why didn't Jesus pick better people?' ... But I think Jesus wanted us to see that leadership in the Church can make mistakes, be corrupted by the world, be overcome by fear, by sin."

He said, "From the beginning of the sex abuse crisis, it has been a crisis of leadership in the Church. Bishops protected the reputation of the Church and their priests more than they protected innocent children."

Discussing the recent controversy about a letter Father Boniface Ramsay sent to him in 2015 about Archbishop McCarrick's misdeeds, Cardinal O'Malley reiterated that he had no knowledge of the letter until he heard about it in the media.

He added that he has changed the protocols for his office and initiated a review of all past correspondence.

"It was not some big cover-up. It was a bureaucratic snafu," he said.

Cardinal O'Malley said the McCarrick case "was brought to light because of an accusation involving child abuse. Cardinal (Timothy) Dolan followed all the protocols and procedures of Dallas. Unfortunately, there were not clear protocols concerning sexual harassment. We need to extend the Dallas Charter to include bishops and to devise a system that will allow people, with impunity, to be able to register a complaint or an accusation against a bishop."

The cardinal recalled his experience of being in St. Croix for six months after Hurricane Hugo in 1989. He said he saw people exhibit very different reactions to that crisis: some acted for their own interest, looting homes and hoarding food and water; but some looked to the interests of others, sharing what little they had with their neighbors.

Drawing a parallel between that experience and the Church's current situation, the cardinal told the priests, "The present crisis can cause us to turn in ourselves, consider only our own needs. We can become paralyzed by self-pity, overwhelmed by fear."

"Our people need us to be there for them. We must be prophets of hope, not prophets of doom. We have to be like a parent who looks in the face of their child and says, 'This is going to be alright,' even if the parent doesn't know how ... but if you don't say that, it won't be alright. We have to be able to say that to our people," he said.

Cardinal O'Malley expressed hope that some good can come out of the current crisis.

"We believe in a God that is so good, so loving, so powerful, that he can bring good out of evil. Out of all this pain, I hope will emerge a better presbyterate, a better hierarchy, holier, more generous, more fraternal, close to our people and to each other. It's a clarion call to overcome any mediocrity that weighs us down."

The cardinal then called on the priests to set aside personal, ideological and theological differences to support one another during this time of crisis.

"We need all hands on deck and everyone rowing in the same direction. We need to support each other, set aside our personal differences," he said.

Following the cardinal's remarks, Bishop Mark O'Connell updated the priests on the inquiry into allegations of misconduct at St. John's Seminary, which was originally announced Aug. 10.

Bishop O'Connell was part of the original group appointed to conduct the inquiry along with Francesco Cesareo, president of Assumption College and chair of the National Review Board; and Kimberly Jones, CEO of Athena Legal Strategies Group.

Now, according to Bishop O'Connell, Emmanuel College president Sister Janet Eisner has been named head of the investigative committee.

Bishop O'Connell said the scope of the inquiry will be the past five to six years, and its priority will be to ensure protocols are being properly implemented. He invited anyone who knows of any new information to come forward and be interviewed by the committee.

Father Thomas Nestor, pastor of the Collaborative Parishes of Resurrection and St. Paul in Hingham, was also invited to offer the perspective of a parish priest on the current crisis.

He spoke about the emotional impact the events of recent weeks have had on priests, and particularly the difficulty in experiencing a period marked by scandal for the second time in their ministries.

He shared his own anxiety regarding phone calls and news reports, and said current events can trigger emotions they last felt in 2002.

"We're all aware it opens up old wounds, rips them open," Father Nestor said.

Father Nestor spoke of the "slow, sensitive process" of helping people return to the Church after they or a loved one experiences the trauma of abuse. He suggested that the Church should "practice a preferential option for those who were abused, the survivors, those who are hurting the most. ... I hold that up as a principle."

He also spoke about the feeling of being powerless, but said that can help the priests draw closer to the Lord.

"We have no illusions about ourselves or our effectiveness. Instead, completely convinced of our weaknesses, we're completely convinced that the Lord is working through us. It's always happening, but sometimes we think it's ourselves," he said.

And, as Cardinal O'Malley had done earlier, he encouraged unity among the presbyterate.

"It's prime time for supporting one another. One of the outcomes of 2002 is that priests are much more inclined to support one another, to help one another, care for one another," he said.

He also said older priests can share the lessons learned from the crisis of 2002 with those more recently ordained. At the same time, he said, younger priests can help encourage older priests with their "wonderful, clear, understanding vision, reminding us of who we are and what we have for this moment."

The meeting concluded with an opportunity for the priests to address questions or comments to the cardinal directly.

In a listening session format, several priests described their anxieties and dismay at the ongoing revelations, shared their grave concern for their parishioners who are expressing their outrage at the news of failures by the Church's episcopal leadership.

Nation
CRS sells fair trade coffee, supporting Mexican farmers and land

Baltimore, Md., Sep 24, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Catholic Relief Services is now offering fair trade coffee beans that will benefit local farming communities ...

World
The Jesuit who survived the KGB

Vilnius, Lithuania, Sep 24, 2018 CNA.- When Pope Francis visited a former KGB building in Vilnius, Lithuania Sept. 23, Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius ...

World
Next step toward artificial reproduction violates human fundamentals, ethicist warns

Washington D.C., Sep 25, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Artificial human reproduction appears to be on the horizon with Japanese scientists’ claim to ...

World
Scandals create outrage, but there is time for conversion, pope says

TALLINN, Estonia (CNS) -- In what is probably the least religious country in Europe, Pope Francis said he is surprised by how many people hold firm to ...

Nation
Catholic leaders oppose administration's plan to limit green cards

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic leaders are speaking out against a Trump administration proposed rule announced Sept. 22 that would deny green cards to legal ...

Nation
Head of Georgetown Prep urges renewed commitment to being 'men for others'

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a letter to the school community, the president of an all-boys Jesuit high school in suburban Washington emphasized the schools' ...

Nation
Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

World
Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Nation
Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

World
Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

World
God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

World
Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

World
Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Nation
Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

Nation
N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Nation
Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Nation
Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Nation
Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

Nation
#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Nation
Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Nation
Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

Nation
Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Nation
Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

World
Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Local
Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Local
Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Local
Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Local
Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Local
Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

Nation
N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

Nation
U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Nation
Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

World
Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

World
Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

World
In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Nation
Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Nation
Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

World
Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...