Tuesday, August 14, 2018

In Pennsylvania Church, "The Weaponization of Faith"

After a two-year process, an 884-page Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing seven decades of sexual abuse and its cover-up in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton was released at 2pm Eastern, the end of a court-imposed deadline.

The most sprawling probe of its kind for the American church – equaled only by similar state inquiries in Ireland and Australia – the grand jury identified some 300 accused clerics across the six dioceses and 1,000 victim-survivors found through testimonies and seven decades' worth of subpoenaed personnel files and other records.

The entire report can be found here. With the impacted dioceses set to react at separate news conferences later today, more to follow; as ever, real-time developments are being posted in these pages' running side-feed.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2018

"Our Church Is Suffering From A Crisis of Sexual Morality" – Amid "A Grievous Moral Failure," The Bench's "Way Forward"

Four days after the watershed resignation of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick as a member of the College of Cardinals following allegations of abuse of minors and several revealed instances of misconduct with and harassment of adults – and with calls for an enforceable, binding accountability being taken up by an ever-growing chorus of US prelates – shortly after 1pm Eastern Wednesday, the following major statement laying out a first course of action was released by the president of the US bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston:
The accusations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick reveal a grievous moral failure within the Church. They cause bishops anger, sadness, and shame; I know they do in me. They compel bishops to ask, as I do, what more could have been done to protect the People of God. Both the abuses themselves, and the fact that they have remained undisclosed for decades, have caused great harm to people's lives and represent grave moral failures of judgement on the part of Church leaders.

These failures raise serious questions. Why weren't these allegations of sins against chastity and human dignity disclosed when they were first brought to Church officials? Why wasn't this egregious situation addressed decades sooner and with justice? What must our seminaries do to protect the freedom to discern a priestly vocation without being subject to misuse of power?

Archbishop McCarrick will rightly face the judgement of a canonical process at the Holy See regarding the allegations against him, but there are also steps we should be taking as the Church here in the United States. Having prayed about this, I have convened the USCCB Executive Committee. This meeting was the first of many among bishops that will extend into our Administrative Committee meeting in September and our General Assembly in November. All of these discussions will be oriented toward discerning the right course of action for the USCCB. This work will take some time but allow me to stress these four points immediately.

First, I encourage my brother bishops as they stand ready in our local dioceses to respond with compassion and justice to anyone who has been sexually abused or harassed by anyone in the Church. We should do whatever we can to accompany them.

Second, I would urge anyone who has experienced sexual assault or harassment by anyone in the Church to come forward. Where the incident may rise to the level of a crime, please also contact local law enforcement.

Third, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick's conduct to the full extent of its authority; and where that authority finds its limits, the Conference will advocate with those who do have the authority. One way or the other, we are determined to find the truth in this matter.

Finally, we bishops recognize that a spiritual conversion is needed as we seek to restore the right relationship among us and with the Lord. Our Church is suffering from a crisis of sexual morality. The way forward must involve learning from past sins.

Let us pray for God's wisdom and strength for renewal as we follow St. Paul's instruction: 'Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect' (Romans 12:2)."
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"Our Time Has Come" – Amid Aussie Crisis, In Melbourne, "A First Step" Forward

Long before the abuse eruptions in Chile – and now, an increasingly destabilizing encore up and down the US' East Coast – came to dominate the scene, the church in Australia has weathered a years-long immersion in the scandals, its tentacles reaching to the very top of the hierarchy Down Under.

While the ongoing fallout of a nationwide civil probe on the church's response to abuse recently saw the country's archbishops in talks with the prime minister – himself a convert – on the way forward, and twin trials for the Vatican's finance chief, Cardinal George Pell, on historic sex crimes are set to get underway over the coming weeks, yet another front made global news over recent months: after widespread calls for his resignation on being found guilty of a 1970s cover-up and sentenced to a year's house arrest, Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide reversed his prior intent to stay in office through an appeal and resigned on Monday.

While Wilson cited the "pain and distress" of the community in yielding to the outcry, the move only came in the wake of a strikingly public push from his own confreres, led by the Pope's fresh pick to helm the country's largest fold, Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne.

The first outsider to the cultural heart of Oz Catholicism to take its reins in a half-century, Francis' June choice of the New South Wales native completed a generational shift for the top rank of the Aussie church – at 54, Comensoli could lead the wildly diverse, 1.1 million-member outpost into 2040, while Archbishop Antony Fisher OP of Sydney and Bishop Vincent Long OFM of Parramatta (the third-largest diocese) likewise remain shy of their 60th birthdays. And with the Australian church embarking on a two-year process of broad consultation toward a rare Plenary Council (effectively a national synod) in 2020, the sense of drastic cultural change is only set to accelerate.

Having already met with victims since arriving on Sunday, then embarking on a media spree that's seen him talk the scandals' toll on his own family, Comensoli's formal launch came at an evening liturgy tonight marked by the cultural melting pot within its pews... and the "newbie's" call for "a first step" toward a more missionary church.

Here, the fullvideo:


...and the archbishop's inaugural homily:
We can be reasonably confident that the Apostle Paul’s determination to get to Rome was not for the spaghetti and coffee. St Paul’s extraordinary missionary journey of faith took him from Jerusalem, and the Semitic world of the one true God, through Athens and the Greek world of the intellectual gods, to Rome and the cultural world of the political gods.

Paul always saw it as God’s intention to get him to Rome. For it would be from Rome that he could bring the name of Jesus Christ from the peripheries into the centre of the world. He was certainly determined, even driven, to proclaiming Christ with gospel boldness; there was a deep intentionality about all he did.

Paul was unfailingly open and accountable for what he had been given in Christ. He was a man who boldly carried the yoke of the crucified Christ, both as a burden and a joy, but was also a man of deep sensitivity, being gratefully encouraged, as we heard, from the Christian community he was soon to live and die among.

For its part, the Church in Rome had known of Paul for some time and were eager for his coming. They were a community of many languages and faces: Jews, Gentiles, Asiatic, Middle Eastern, African, European – citizens and immigrants from all over the empire. The Church in Rome was young and vibrant, though somewhat messy and not without its struggles. They had found in Christ a way of living a common life in friendship, amid the disorienting and fragmenting commotion of a world – and worldly – city. Here were a people who had been found by God, and worthy to be considered a pearl of great price.

These were the faithful to whom Paul had been anointed and sent by God. His final missionary journey to them, made as a ‘prisoner in the Lord,’ passed from Israel, through the Mediterranean, and on to Italy. He survived starvation, shipwreck and a deadly snake bite (on Malta, of all places!), until, around the year 60AD, as St Luke rather casually observed: And so we came to Rome.

In our own way, and in this time and place, we are at a Pauline/ Roman moment, you and me. This particular successor of the Apostles, who began his missionary journey in Wollongong, having travelled via Broken Bay, has come to Melbourne. I am a sinner, who has been found by God, and now sent to you.

And you? You are God’s own people, living in this metropolis of the south. You carry the wounds and grief of a shameful past, yet you have stood up tonight to be counted as friends of God. As the Romans gathered from the far reaches of that great city, so you have gathered from up north beyond Mount Macedon, over into the east past the Dandenong Ranges, out west from Geelong and Port Philip Bay, down south along the Mornington Peninsula, and everywhere in between.

You are the living Church in Melbourne, who have also been found by God, and are now welcoming me.

Like Luke before us, now we might say: And so we come to Melbourne. But how do we proclaim a Gospel from the peripheries into the centre? How do we speak of grace and mercy in a diverse society? How do we become signs of hope and joy in a culture of rival visions? Though we need accountable structures to do this, the Church is not an institution; though we strive to do good works, we are not an NGO; though we have things of beauty to show, we are not a museum.

The Church we belong to is a ‘she’, not an ‘it’; a living person, not a lifeless thing. We are a pilgrim People of God, called to be missionary disciples. We are the Body of Christ, where the weakest and most vulnerable have the places of honour. We are the Temple of the Holy Spirit and stewards of God’s grace.

Our common task, then, is a missionary one. Having been anointed and sent, our task is to go with the gospel of Jesus Christ into our families, our local neighbourhoods, and the wider society. How do we do this? Well, a good start might be to get the soil of our culture under our fingernails as we plant seeds of grace and peace. Pray for one another; befriend each other. Forgive, and seek forgiveness. Barrack for Gospel Joy, not just your footy team. Make mercy our calling card and healing our gift. Be open, warm and honest in the way we attend to others.

Nurture a faith that trusts, foster a hope that encourages, and offer a love that is tender. This is what it means to proclaim Jesus Christ, because it is what Jesus Christ proclaimed. We need only to take a first step.

Here, in Melbourne, we have a home-grown example of one such first-stepper, Mary of the Cross MacKillop. Just up on Brunswick St, in the ACU quadrangle you will pass on the way to this evening’s reception, there is a statue of a young Mary on the threshold of her missionary journey. She is sitting on a bench looking out, poised for her future, about to get on the move.

I’ve come from the city where Mary completed her missionary journey, to the city where she began it. You are the Church that produced Australia’s first saint. And as Mary sits eager and expectant to what lies before her, I now join you on this threshold, poised in anticipation of what we are to do in Christ Jesus.

So, Church of Melbourne, may I claim a newbie’s boldness and remind you of what I already know about you? You are a Church that can produce great fruits. You have it in you already to do this, for you – we – are saint whisperers here! As you pass Mary’s statue tonight, or on some other occasion, go and sit with her. Look out with her. Get up with her. Our time has come to see the gospel- need, and to do something about it.

Yes, we carry great wounds and griefs, and faith can be such a struggle, but we – the Church in Melbourne – can be young again, by being young in Jesus Christ. May we prefer nothing to Him, for He prefers nothing to us.
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Sunday, July 29, 2018


Suffice it to say, folks, the last few days haven't made for the easy family downtime this scribe was hoping to have... but such is this work in what's become a defining moment.

Wrenching as it is on some levels, what's unfolding over these days is no less necessary – still, it's worth recalling that the resolution won't come thanks to any social-media truculence, but as the outcome of ecclesial discernment and process.

Far from the ongoing ideological warfare in the open, that movement is already – quietly – underway... and as the scene happens to be these pages' wheelhouse, it'd be a grace to report this moment as it deserves.

Sure, that's a nightmare of a job description for an Italian going into August. If it's going to be done, though, much as the prayers and kind words from many have been a priceless reassurance, before anything else, this shop has its bills to pay – as ever, these pages only keep coming your way by means of your support.


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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Archbishop McCarrick, Ex-Cardinal

Shortly after noon in Rome, the Holy See released the following statement:
Yesterday evening the Holy Father received the letter in which Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington (U.S.A.), presented his resignation as a member of the College of Cardinals.

Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the cardinalate and has ordered his suspension from the exercise of any public ministry, together with the obligation to remain in a house yet to be indicated to him, for a life of prayer and penance until the accusations made against him are examined in a regular canonical trial.
* * *
Until now the first member of the College to face substantiated reports of child sex-abuse in nearly a quarter-century, with the 88 year-old prelate's renunciation of the red hat amid two known allegations of abuse of minors and several claims of misconduct with and harassment of adults – two of them the focus of freshly revealed legal settlements in the mid-2000s – the move marks the first full-on flight of a cardinal since 1927, when the Frenchman Louis Billot, a Jesuit theologian, left the papal Senate over his membership of the Action Française, a reactionary movement condemned by the Holy Office (the now-CDF).

As previously reported, following his 2013 admission of serial harassment and misconduct with seminarians and priests, the late Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien was made to resign "the rights and privileges" of the cardinalate, but not the title itself. Likewise, after multiple allegations of abusing minors were aired in the 1990s against the Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Gröer, the Benedictine monk quickly retired as archbishop of Vienna and died in seclusion a decade later with the scarlet intact.

With the loss of the title he's held since 2001 – when he was created a cardinal alongside the now-Pope and 42 others – as McCarrick remains archbishop-emeritus of Washington, all references to him going forward now revert to "Archbishop McCarrick." At the same time, deprivation of the dignity of archbishop remains a potential penalty should he be found guilty at the coming tribunal – the first process of its kind to be held for a onetime "prince of the church."

The highest-ranking US prelate by far ever to be removed over abuse claims, while McCarrick's de facto suspension from ministry already took place on Francis' orders upon the archdiocese of New York's June judgment that his abuse of a 16 year-old boy on two occasions in the early 1970s was "credible and substantiated," today's statement notably refers to "accusations" in plural.

Beyond the finding which spurred the archbishop's initial removal, the specifics of any further canonical charges are unknown.

Archbishop McCarrick's precise whereabouts have remained tightly held since the June allegation was made public, when he was moved out of the Washington nursing home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Weeks before the New York report was revealed – knowing that it was to come, and already under pressure to keep a low profile at home – the fallen cleric chose to make one final trip in active ministry: an early June pilgrimage to the shrine of Poland's Black Madonna at Czestochowa, where he marked the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

SVILUPPO (9am ET): In a rare Saturday release, a significant yet terse statement on McCarrick's resignation from the College was issued by the president of the US bishops, Houston's Cardinal Daniel DiNardo:
"I thank the Holy Father for his leadership in taking this important step. It reflects the priority the Holy Father places on the need for protection and care for all our people and the way failures in this area affect the life of the Church in the United States."
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Friday, July 27, 2018

Gentlemen, Start Your... Reports – US Church's First "Exam" By Francis, Bench's Ad Limina On Tap

Amid the specter of a fresh round of sex-abuse crises and a roiled summer for the American Catholic leadership, the US church is indeed set to come under the Vatican's microscope – but not due to the recent scandals.

One of the last major benches to make its ad limina visit to Benedict XVI, the USCCB will have its first Roman "checkup" under Francis beginning in November 2019 – eight years to the month since the last "quinquennial" got underway.

The summons was delivered in a late June letter from the Nuncio to Washington, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, which was circulated to the bench in mid-July.

Whispers has obtained the documents, which included a schedule that sees the bishops of Region I (New England) being received by the Pope on 7 November 2019. As has become standard, the conference's 15 regions – 14 geographic clusters of neighboring states, and one comprising the nation's Eastern-church hierarchs, spanning 197 (arch)dioceses and eparchies in all – will be making their visits in numerical order, essentially running up and down the country from the Northeast to the Northwest and Alaska, before ending with the Southeast and the eparchs.

While the pilgrimages of all the world's bishops are supposed to take place on a five-year schedule, the sheer logistics of what's now a global episcopate in excess of 5,000 members has seen the gap considerably lengthened over the last decade and a half; before the late 2011-early 2012 visit – which took six months – the 250-man US bench's prior trek "to the threshold of the apostles" had stretched over eight months of 2004. (In a notable coincidence, both visits came at the tail-end of the respective pontificates of St John Paul II and B16.)

A duty required of every bishop, the ad limina has three major facets: the prelates' prayer at the tombs of Peter and Paul (usually in the form of a Mass at each), a meeting with the pontiff, and morning or afternoon-long sessions with all of the congregations, tribunals and councils of the Roman Curia, one by one.

Over recent cycles, the latter two elements have changed considerably – where John Paul would meet individually for 15 minutes with each diocesan bishop (together with his auxiliaries) and give a speech to every group, toward the end of Benedict's reign, Papa Ratzinger began receiving the prelates in groups for an extended dialogue, and on the last US visit, the number of addresses was cut back to five: respectively, the speeches covered the topics of the new evangelization, religious freedom, sexuality and family life, education, and immigration and the unity of the church – all of them addressed to the entire conference and the nation's church at large.

For his part, Francis has almost entirely ditched the formal addresses – unless, that is, there's a critical message he'd like to make public – and his group sessions, which begin with each bishop speaking briefly about his diocese before heading into a free-form conversation, usually reach or exceed the two-hour mark. On the Curia front, meanwhile, where prelates of the past can easily recall being read the riot act by dicastery chiefs – or, alternatively, a prefect or two who dozed through the sessions – continuing a shift started under Benedict, the rounds at the offices are notably more collegial, interactive and service-oriented, with the staffs eager to offer their assistance on the visitors' concerns and advice on the relevant challenges they face at home. Of course, in light of Francis' consolidation of several pontifical councils into two super-dicasteries (Laity, Family and Life; and Human Development), the number of stops are considerably less numerous than they've been on prior visits. Still in all, the entire process normally takes a week to ten days.

*  *  *
As for the schedule, while the US' previous ad liminae would, as noted above, extend for the better part of a year, the 2019 edition is occurring on something of a lightning-round timeframe – by November's end, no less than the first seven regions are slated to be blown through, with Francis receiving the different groups every three or four days. As the Vatican doesn't accommodate national holidays outside Italy, the visits will not be suspended over Thanksgiving – on Turkey Day itself, the Pope is slated to meet with the bishops of Region VII (Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin), while others will likewise be in Rome continuing their dicastery rounds.

However, an even bigger scheduling hitch comes earlier – as the November plans conflict with the USCCB Fall Meeting in Baltimore, the timeline as given would put three East Coast regions (five provinces in all, stretching from New York to the Carolinas) in a particular bind: while a conference plenary can normally go missed by prelates without much impact, with the 2019 Fall Classic headlined by the election of the bench's next president and vice-president, it would be exceedingly difficult to hold the vote with a sizable chunk of the electorate missing. (In addition, the meeting would normally bring the bishops' final sign-off for the updated Faithful Citizenship materials on Catholics' political responsibilities with an eye to the next year's Federal elections.)

While the plenary can't be moved due to hotel contracts set years in advance, according to an op apprised of the situation, other potential remedies are already under consideration, including the possibility of swapping ad limina dates with another country's bishops – almost certainly bringing an earlier start for the impacted US groups – or an arrangement that would see the overseas USCCB members cast their votes by electronic ballot (presumably at the traveling prelates' base at the North American College) at the same time as the election takes place in the Premier See. That said, as the weekend-long private conversations around the Marriott leading up to the vote are always a decisive factor behind the making of the vice-president – the incumbent #2 traditionally being elevated to the top post – the absence of a significant number of prelates from the Harborfront would inevitably alter the dynamic ahead of the ballot, and accordingly its result.

For Francis, meanwhile, the visit will provide his most significant immersion experience to date in a national church that he arguably knows less about than any of his predecessors over the last half-century or more. Having only visited the States for the first time on his September 2015 trek to Washington, New York and Philadelphia, though Papa Bergoglio is surrounded by a formidable cadre of US advisers and confidants, Popes ranging from Pius XII and Paul VI to John Paul and Benedict had extensive firsthand experience of the country and its ecclesial profile before coming to Peter's chair, whether as diplomats, from extensive US travel – or, in Benedict's case, that and 25 years of dealing with no shortage of American figures and issues at the helm of the CDF.

As with the last few visits, however, the church Francis will hear of in depth is really a tale of two Stateside Catholicisms – a reality of constricting structures and declining, aging populations in most of the Northeast and upper Midwest, countered by the extraordinary growth and vitality of the Catholic outposts of the South and West, which now claim the bulk of the nation's 75 million faithful. Yet what's more, given the pontiff's lack of facility in English, it wouldn't be surprising if at least some of the meetings with the later regions are conducted entirely in Spanish, in which the overwhelming majority of "Sun Belt" prelates are fluent or at least conversant. Should it happen, that in itself would be a first.

In any case, while Francis has met a sizable chunk of the US episcopate either in the reception lines at his Wednesday audiences or the annual crop of rookies (his own new appointees) attending each September's "Baby Bishop School," aside from a moment of brief pleasantries with each, for all but a few prelates, the visit will make for their most extensive personal time by far with the Pope – and with the bench's constant cycle of vacancies and appointments, there's inevitably a degree of "auditioning" prospects for higher office on the pontiff's part. (On this front, by November 2019 it especially bears noting that two key Eastern archdioceses will be freshly pending new leaders, as both Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia will have reached the retirement age of 75 over the preceding months.)

While the ad limina's theological import is as a moment of communion with the Roman Pontiff and for the bishops to recall their own role as successors of the apostles whose tombs give the moment its name, in practical terms the visit is the Vatican's preeminent exercise of accountability – a topic given fresh prominence in the wake of the now-multiple abuse and misconduct allegations raised against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Along those lines, the centerpiece of the process' managerial aspect is the preparation of the Quinquennial Report – an extensive, heavily detailed snapshot of the life of every diocese, which easily extends past 100 pages for most.

Split into 22 general sections, the Quinquennial's areas of focus roughly overlap with the topic-areas of the Curial offices – aspects like worship, ecumenism, Catholic education, the life of the clergy, religious and laity, and the care of migrants, capped by the bishop's assessment of his own ministry and the context in which he works. (Notably, among special appendices required of the US is a section on the diocese's response to abuse and its safe environment procedures.) Along these lines, as the reports generally need to be submitted to the Vatican six months ahead of the visit – and its parts are divided up among the relevant dicasteries upon receipt – it isn't unheard-of for concerns expressed to the offices by letter-writers at home to be raised during the meetings, or even, in especially grave situations, by the Pope himself.

With Francis' baseline for the bench already articulated in full detail in his 2015 address to the bishops in Washington's St Matthew's Cathedral (above), the following is a general list of major issues – among no shortage of others – likely to come up during the visit (in no particular order):
  • immigration in general, and specifically the local churches' efforts on behalf of migrants and refugees;
  • the worsening polarization of American Catholic life and the broader state and quality of the church's witness in the wider culture and the public square;
  • marriage and family life, especially their evolution in light of Amoris Laetitia and Francis' 2015 annulment reboot – on a related front, the coming visit will be the US bench's first since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide in the Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell ruling;
  • youth ministry and outreach to the “nones,” following on the heels of this October's Synod on young people (and the Pope's major closing text for the gathering, likely to be released by the time of the visit);
  • the integration of Stateside Catholicism's rising Hispanic majority into the mainstream and leadership of the national church, and the way forward from this September's 5th Encuentro in Texas – a keen focus for Francis himself, the US fold's most significant event of 2018;
  • the US church's environmental efforts and integration of Francis' concept of "human ecology" in Laudato Si';
  • changing structures – whether consolidations of parishes and schools and how the institutional void is filled, or the church's effectiveness at engagement in a context of burgeoning "mega-parishes";
  • the core concepts of Francis' papacy – missionary discipleship, the “field hospital,” a Synodal church, "a poor church for the poor," "pastoral conversion," etc. – and how they're being applied at the local level;
  • the state of priestly vocations and formation, especially given the new Ratio Fundamentalis governing seminaries (its US adaptation still being worked out);
  • sex abuse and misconduct, as well as broader questions of accountability and transparency – including on finances;
  • clericalism and the development of lay leadership/co-responsibility at every possible level of ecclesial life;
  • priestly morale and the relationship between bishops and their priests – an especially fraught issue in some places in the post-Dallas Charter age;
  • the ongoing reception of the new Roman Missal, as well as the enhanced oversight of episcopal conferences on liturgical translations as granted by Francis in Magnum principium.
On one final note, while an op familiar with the process relays that there are no major changes to the format of the Quinquennial Report from Benedict to Francis, contrary to the headline above, the preparation of the sprawling text will need to wait a little while longer – according to the usual protocols, the data period for the figures and impressions conveyed to the Holy See normally ends on December 31st of the year prior to the visit.

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Monday, July 23, 2018

"A Reluctant Prophet" – Three Decades After Seattle "Wars," "Dutch" Hunthausen Dies at 96

Yet again, it is the end of an era in the Stateside Church: on Sunday afternoon, Raymond Gerhardt Hunthausen – the US' last living Father of Vatican II, whose controversial tenure as archbishop of Seattle prefigured the hope and the strains of Francis-era Catholicism – died surrounded by his large, tight-knit family in his native Helena, a month short of his 97th birthday.

Named bishop of the Montana church at 41 on the eve of the Council, by all accounts its four sessions saw Hunthausen undergo a "conversion experience." By the time he was sent to the Northwest's top post as Seattle began its own transformation into a cultural and tech hub, through the 1980s the Emerald City's second archbishop would come under the scrutiny of Rome and Washington alike, his respective advocacies for the church's marginalized and against the scourge of nuclear arms both running afoul of the prevailing winds of church and state.

A first, searing glimpse of the polarization which would warp American Catholic life at large over the age to come, what became known as the "Hunthausen Wars" – two high-level Vatican inquests into the archbishop's ministry, capped by St John Paul II's 1986 imposition of an auxiliary bishop with special powers (whose own ferocious reception by the locals would see him relieved within a year) – remains an instructive moment in many ways. Yet even as the clamor took decades to fully subside – going well beyond the archbishop's early retirement at 70 in 1991 – it's long been said that for all the heat that ill-fated, 45 year-old assistant endured, the now-Cardinal Donald Wuerl left Seattle with Hunthausen as his one firm friend, a bond that continued into the present.

A full obituary posted within minutes by the National Catholic Reporter, the piece contains a surprise – word of the coming release of a biography Hunthausen asked to be published only upon his death.

Meantime, though the prelate known universally as "Dutch" has long been off the wider scene (choosing instead to immerse himself in hearing confessions), the sense of fresh life for his example was underscored earlier this year by the Pope's choice of Hunthausen's last vicar-general, George Thomas, as bishop of Las Vegas – itself a freshly booming outpost, now the West's largest diocese outside California.

Having delivered a potent homily outlining Francis' vision of the church at his May installation – a text that was said to be a joy for his onetime boss over the archbishop's final weeks – Thomas (himself a Montana native, who ended up as his mentor's own bishop in Helena) issued the following statement on tonight's news:
"Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen will be remembered in the public eye as a vocal pacifist, a compassionate pastor, and a reluctant prophet of peace.

In the 1980s, his strident criticism of the nuclear arms build up and his controversial decision to withhold half of his federal taxes catapulted him into the limelight in the highly militarized Pacific Northwest.

In that same era, the Vatican initiated an investigation into the archbishop’s administration for what was characterized as his “weak doctrinal leadership.”

Ever uncomfortable on the world stage, Archbishop Hunthausen was personally pained by the controversies and criticisms that swirled around his vision and leadership. He took solace in his highly supportive family and found peace through an active and profound life of prayer.

The “Dutch” I knew had a steel backbone, an implacable conscience, uncompromising tenacity, and a willingness to pay any price to follow the dictates of his conscience.

In recent years, he spoke frequently of his desire to go home with the Lord. Each day he would say, “I am one day closer to Paradise.”

Today his dream came true."
According to Whispers ops, Hunthausen's funeral will begin with a farewell in Helena – to which he returned upon his retirement – before a final return to Seattle, climaxing with his burial alongside his coadjutor and successor, Archbishop Thomas Murphy, beneath the sanctuary of St James Cathedral: one of the nation's most active diocesan hubs, itself a living legacy of a tenure whose impact has long, quietly endured, yet only now exists in its fullest light.

SVILUPPO: The funeral slated to culminate on Wednesday, 1 August, in Seattle, here's a brief on the sendoff's first stage in Helena...


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Thursday, July 19, 2018

For "Uncle Ted," The Final Cut

Put simply, the report is a nuclear bomb.

Even as last month's credible, substantiated allegation that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick abused a minor in the early 1970s resulted in the Pope's direct suspension of the 88 year-old prelate, and with it emerged two decade-old settlements by the dioceses he led over his misconduct with adults, late Thursday afternoon The New York Times published the apparent epitaph of one of American Catholicism's towering figures of the late 20th and early 21st centuries: the testimony of some 20 years of abuse of one man by the retired Washington prelate, beginning when the victim – the son of a close friend of the future cardinal – was 11 years old.

Not merely for the Stateside church, but Catholicism beyond, the fresh charge – which the now 60 year-old survivor, identified only as James, said he revealed to his family in the wake of McCarrick's removal – represents a seismic moment. Even for the torrent of 2002, it's a confluence that would've been unthinkable: a graphic return to the crisis’ major eruption at an unprecedented level of the US hierarchy... yet now beyond, a practically uncharted frontier of new processes and potential penalties for clerics of all stripes over claims of sexual harassment or exploitation of those under their authority: as Francis himself has re-framed the issue over recent weeks in personally aiming to repair the roiled church in Chile, "the abuse of sex, the abuse of power, the abuse of conscience."

As previously reported, the first allegation against McCarrick – levied last January, the 1971 abuse of a 16 year-old boy which, in a historic step, was found credible through the standard Dallas Charter process – itself represented the first time in a quarter-century that a cardinal's assault of a minor was openly aired and acted upon by Rome.

While the removed prelate was said to have been planning an appeal of that judgment – and the final determination of McCarrick's penalty remains pending before the Pope – a second accusation of child abuse effectively short-circuits an attempt at recourse. What's more, however, given last month's simultaneous disclosure of the twin settlements over the then-bishop's misconduct toward two priests – the first of them reached in 2005 – it bears repeating that "among the College of Cardinals, never before have both degrees of scandal converged at once – that is, until now."

In today's piece, James and his attorney told the Times that a police report on the allegations was filed earlier this week, but a civil suit over the abuse has yet to be broached.

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Significant as Monday's front-page Times piece was in that it marked the public emergence of one of McCarrick's adult targets – Robert Ciolek, a now-married former priest who filed the first misconduct suit – in terms of policy, a buried comment from Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark delivered the biggest impact.

A Francis confidant and favorite of McCarrick's who was sent to New Jersey's top post at the latter's behest, Tobin said in a statement that he would "discuss this tragedy with the leadership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in order to articulate standards that will assure high standards of respect by bishops, priests and deacons for all adults."

In as many words, that means another "Charter," at least to some extent – and as both a cardinal and chair of a major USCCB committee, just as Tobin got his declared wish for a top-shelf conference delegation to visit and minister to families separated at the Mexican border earlier this month, he will have this as well.

In the wake of the comment, what's become a fairly rote November agenda in Baltimore just got a lot more interesting – if anything, the Stateside bench's most consequential plenary on the scandals since the famous June 2002 summit in Dallas is now teed up.

Given the circumstances, though – above all, a marked lack of consensus among the body on how to address the thicket at hand – odds are a new conference entity devoted to the issue will need to be created. Accordingly, as the relevant concerns span the respective purviews of the bench's arms for Clergy/Consecrated Life (which Tobin oversees) and Canonical Affairs, not to mention the safe-environment work of the Committee for Child and Youth Protection, the announcement of a task-force or ad hoc committee on harassment and adult abuse can likely be expected over the coming weeks – at the latest by mid-September's closed-door meeting of the conference's all-important Administrative Committee, which sets the agenda for the November sessions.

Developing – more to come.

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