Wednesday, October 31, 2018

On Halloween, More Horror – NY Auxiliary "Credibly" Accused of Abuse

For just the second time in this latest cycle of scandal, a "credible, substantiated" allegation of abuse of a minor has been levied against a US bishop...

...yet what's even more striking is that both reports have come from the same place: American Catholicism's marquee diocese.

In a letter made public this Halloween morning, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York informed his priests and people that an abuse claim against Auxiliary Bishop John Jenik, 74 (above), had been deemed founded by the archdiocese's Lay Review Board.

While the Chancery's announcement didn't specify the nature of the allegation, Whispers has learned that Jenik was accused of abusing a 16 year-old boy; a subsequent report in the New York Times said the cited misconduct dates to the 1980s.

Under normal circumstances, Jenik would be permanently removed from ministry upon the lay panel's judgment. However, as the prelate immediately signaled his intent to appeal the finding to the Vatican, Dolan said that the auxiliary has "step[ped] aside" from his diocesan roles and his four-decade post as pastor of Our Lady of Refuge parish in the Bronx pending the outcome of the Roman process.

Having been given permission to send a letter of his own to his parishioners, the bishop said he "steadfastly den[ied] that I have abused anyone at any time."

On a key context note, as has become a prominent critique of the US church's 2002 abuse procedures over recent months, bishops are exempt from the protocols of the Dallas Charter and Norms, so the local investigation – only the second known instance of a diocesan investigation on an allegation against a prelate – would've required the permission of the Holy See before it could proceed. Accordingly, any binding judgment on Jenik's status would've rested with Rome regardless as bishops – even auxiliaries – are canonically answerable to the Pope alone.

In that light, despite today's move, Jenik remains an active auxiliary of New York unless and until Francis accepts his resignation from the post.

Long revered among the Gotham crowd as a heroic pastor amid the drug-and-crime-plagued "war zone" of the Bronx, Jenik was one of the three septuagenarian lifers in the trenches named as deputies to Dolan in mid-2015 by Pope Francis.

With some 2.6 million Catholics, New York is the US' second-largest diocese, but nonetheless its most prominent given the Big Apple's concentration of financial, media and geopolitical heft – a mix which has long seen the Vatican consider the city as the "Capital of the World."

Unlike last summer's watershed allegation against the long-retired Archbishop Theodore McCarrick – which resulted in the New York native's historic July resignation from the College of Cardinals – given Jenik's far more recent elevation, the accusation of an active prelate places the current appointment process for bishops under fresh scrutiny, especially as a more thorough vetting of candidates has long been seen as a concrete outcome of the 2002 tidal wave, which saw a half-dozen US prelates forced from office over decades-old, but freshly-unearthed abuse reports.

In addition, the development further roils an already scorched ecclesial landscape all of ten days out from a USCCB November plenary in Baltimore whose emotional charge is already running high, but whose substantive outcomes remain anyone's guess.

As with the accusation that felled McCarrick, the Jenik claim was brought to the New York church through the archdiocese's Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) – a Dolan-chartered initiative that's seen his First Avenue Chancery leverage at least $100 million of its sizable real-estate holdings in the hope of resolving potential abuse suits through out-of-court mediation.

In its first round last year, IRCP reached $40 million in settlements of some 200 cases; this year's figures on payments and numbers of allegations remain to be released.

Last month, New York was an early entry among what's become more than a dozen US jurisdictions whose top prosecutors have opened statewide investigations of abuse and its cover-up in the church since August's staggering Pennsylvania grand-jury report, the nation's first civil probe that stretched across multiple dioceses. Alongside the state inquest, the cardinal named a retired Federal judge as an internal "special counsel" to review the archdiocese's files and procedures for the handling of cases.


Friday, October 26, 2018

Expanding PA Probe, Feds Warn US Church: "All Your Files Are Belong To Us"

As this scribe's routinely said among friends over these last four months, "Every time you turn around, something else blows up...."

...yet when this readership gets jumpy about the last thing that went off, that only shows an ignorance about the next one.

If you could, folks, please keep that in mind – this is a long ride, with no end in sight.

Along those lines, over the last 48 hours, many of you have had Memphis on your lips given Wednesday's striking removal of Bishop Martin Holley – given his steadfast refusal to resign, the first such Roman ouster of a US prelate in living memory – followed quickly by the deposed prelate's even more breathtaking self-immolation in an interview published late Thursday by Catholic News Agency. 

Well-placed as that focus might've been yesterday, over the hours since, something even bigger's come to pass....


A week since initial word emerged of the US Department of Justice's most sweeping investigation to date into abuse and its cover-up, as an extension into the Feds' nascent grand-jury probe of the dioceses of Pennsylvania, every last Stateside Chancery has now received an effective nationwide order "to not destroy, discard, dispose of, delete, or alter" a host of records pertaining to personnel in general, and abuse – and its related claims – in particular.

Dated October 9th – the same day the FBI swooped in with subpoenas for the clerical files of Pennsylvania's eight Latin-church dioceses and two Eastern archeparchies – the letter was privately circulated to the nation's hierarchy by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday, 23 October, and has duly spread since among internal counsels and personnel-chiefs across the Stateside church's 198 jurisdictions.

Addressed to the bench's president, Houston's Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the "requested" national "hold" of documents was signed by William McSwain, the Trump-appointed US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, whose Philadelphia-based office has launched the historic investigation – believed to be the first such inquest seeking to put the church under the microscope of the Federal "RICO" laws: the racketeering statutes usually reserved for organized crime.

While Whispers has obtained and confirmed the full document – which includes a sprawling, 20-point addendum citing specific instances in Canon Law – to avoid what's become an increasingly casual and common plagiarism of these pages' work by other entities, here's the first page of McSwain's letter:

Originally slated for Wednesday of this week, house ops report that the first appearance of the Pennsylvania bishops before the Federal panel has been slightly delayed. 

Meanwhile, given the lack of civil or canonical jurisdiction the DC Mothership has over the local churches – an issue likewise relevant to the coming debates over prelates' accountability apart from the oversight of the Holy See – it bears noting that legal disputes over the force of any request to the USCCB have already flared up anew in Chanceries and beyond. Nonetheless, as it's the Feds calling, to an unprecedented degree, the warning is served.

Keeping with the Justice Department's usual practice, the US Attorney's Office in Philadelphia routinely refuses to "confirm or deny" the existence of the Pennsylvania investigation, its explicit communication on the case only to occur if and when indictments are produced.

*  *  *
All that said, as ever, this grade of reporting doesn't come out of thin air – and especially as $800 is due today for these pages' base in Baltimore for the coming plenary, the reminder's again in order that these pages can't exactly keep afloat on "Hail Marys"....


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Into the Woods – In Obedience To Pope, US Bench Sets January Retreat

With less than three weeks until a November meeting that's arguably even more consequential than its seismic 2002 predecessor in Dallas – and amid a fraught planning that's come under pointed criticism from no shortage of fronts – this afternoon brought another sudden development in the gradual response of the US bishops: the Mothership's announcement that the bench would convene for a weeklong retreat at Chicago's Mundelein Seminary (above), beginning on January 2nd.

As Whispers first reported last month, the initiative was born from the direct initiative of the Pope, who urged the conference's leadership to cancel next month's traditional plenary in Baltimore in favor of a closed period of spiritual exercises during the US executive's initial crisis talks with Francis on 13 September. As subsequently relayed here, the pontiff's rationale for the push was so the polarized body of bishops could begin "to heal the division" amongst themselves. (In terms of context, meanwhile, it is notable that Francis began last May's Roman summit with the abuse-tarred Chilean bishops by passing out the text of a lengthy Ignatian meditation of his own, leaving the group a day to ponder it before they presented their resignations en bloc.)

Given the lack of feasibility of nixing the Fall Classic due to its years-in-advance hotel bookings – and with it, the untold funds already spent on the arrangements – the move to gather at Chicago's "Enchanted Forest" seminary in quite penitential weather doesn't just represent a lightning-speed response as the bench's usual timing goes, but is essentially a response as close to the spirit of Francis' request as the pinnacle of American Catholicism's institutional behemoth could ever hope to muster.

In today's invitation letter to the prelates – which, without explicitly saying so, repeatedly indicated the "command performance" nature of the event – the conference president, Houston's Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, revealed that the Pope "has kindly offered" the Vatican's lead in-house homilist, Capuchin Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, to lead the retreat.

As if the exercise itself wasn't going to be interesting enough.

No stranger to controversy, over his nearly four decades as preacher of the Papal Household – a post seen by the world only on Good Friday, but likewise tasked with giving the pontiff's private Friday reflections in Lent and Advent – the 84 year-old friar (long a favorite of the church's Charismatic movements and frequent visitor to the States) has compared the world's focus on the abuse scandals to "the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism," equated the 2006 film release of the The DaVinci Code to Judas' betrayal of Jesus, and infuriated traditionalists with an homage to the late Sulpician biblicist Fr Raymond Brown as "the greatest scholar of the Passion."

(For the record, the preceding lines were merely from Cantalamessa's Good Friday turns in St Peter's – in other words, the one annual moment when he should've been expected to "behave." In that light, considering the shape of a body whose red meat specialists tend to attract the bulk of the national hierarchy's news-focus, in this preacher, it'd seem they've met their match.)

At the same time, however, in a late 2005 sermon (read: to Benedict XVI), Cantalamessa lamented over how the church's "immense doctrinal edifice" obscures its Lord, calling attempts to enforce Catholic teaching in an unevangelized world as akin to "putting one of those old heavy brocade capes all of a sudden on the back of a child," while telling Francis' Curia eight years later that humility "is possessed by those who think they do not have it, and it is not possessed by those who think they have it."

To be sure, the Raniero Desk doesn't lack for "greatest hits." Still, regardless of what one makes of the man and the moment, this much is clear: amid January's bitter cold, the preacher comes to Chitown as the Pope's agent, and with him, a heavy focus on both the central role of the Holy Spirit in ecclesial renewal – at least, if He's given space to work – as well as a Franciscan "stripping" of ecclesiastical decadence is to be expected.

After all, as the bench's newfound "guest" put it in another 2013 homily to Pope and Curia:
"One of the factors of the obscuring of the Gospel was the transformation of authority understood as service to authority understood as power, which produced infinite conflicts within and outside the Church...."
*  *  *
On a couple related context fronts, the January retreat will open a calendar year whose end already has another big bang lined up: the previously-broken ad limina visit of the entire US episcopate, which is slated to unfold over a matter of weeks in November and December 2019.

While the last four months have already put the Stateside church under heavy focus in Rome and beyond, only the year-end pilgrimage will mark the national fold's – and its leaders' – first in-depth Vatican "physical" of Francis' pontificate.

And lastly, confirming Whispers' reporting over the weekend, DiNardo told the USCCB-owned Catholic News Service yesterday in Rome that the opening Monday of the 12-15 November meeting in Baltimore will be given to a communal time of "prayer, penance and fasting" for the bishops; again, the form and speakers for the Floor sessions remain in the works.

As ever, more to come.


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Here Come The Feds – In State Probe’s Wake, US Calls Abuse Grand Jury on Pennsylvania Church

BOSTON – As it happens, the scribe’s on the road this week for a mix of talks and taking soundings... all the while, however, the story Whispers has been reporting as time allows has now broke into the open.

Needless to say, the dateline fits:
As ever – but here, even more than usual – stay tuned.

SVILUPPO: In a rare privilege for a non-member of its crew – even more a blessing given the road schedule – this scribe's first full report on the nascent investigation was given live over the airwaves of Philadelphia's venerable KYW NewsRadio.

Their reports normally kept to taped 30-second spots, at least for a church story, 1060 hasn't had a moment of this kind since 20 minutes after the resignation of Benedict XVI.

With that in mind, here's the story of this day – and Lord only knows how long ahead....


Sunday, October 14, 2018

In Seven New Saints, "The Passion to Risk Everything And Leave It All Behind"

14 OCTOBER 2018

The second reading tells us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12). It really is: God’s word is not merely a set of truths or an edifying spiritual account; no – it is a living word that touches our lives, that transforms our lives. There, Jesus in person, the living Word of God, speaks to our hearts.

The Gospel, in particular, invites us to an encounter with the Lord, after the example of the “man” who “ran up to him” (cf. Mk 10:17). We can recognize ourselves in that man, whose name the text does not give, as if to suggest that he could represent each one of us. He asks Jesus how “to inherit eternal life” (v. 17). He is seeking life without end, life in its fullness: who of us would not want this? Yet we notice that he asks for it as an inheritance, as a good to be obtained, to be won by his own efforts. In fact, in order to possess this good, he has observed the commandments from his youth and to achieve this he is prepared to follow others; and so he asks: “What must I do to have eternal life?”

Jesus’s answer catches him off guard. The Lord looks upon him and loves him (cf. v. 21). Jesus changes the perspective: from commandments observed in order to obtain a reward, to a free and total love. That man was speaking in terms of supply and demand, Jesus proposes to him a story of love. He asks him to pass from the observance of laws to the gift of self, from doing for oneself to being with God. And the Lord suggests to the man a life that cuts to the quick: “Sell what you have and give to the poor…and come, follow me” (v. 21). To you, too, Jesus says: “Come, follow me!” Come: do not stand still, because it is not enough not to do evil in order to be with Jesus. Follow me: do not walk behind Jesus only when you want to, but seek him out every day; do not be content to keep the commandments, to give a little alms and say a few prayers: find in Him the God who always loves you; seek in Jesus the God who is the meaning of your life, the God who gives you the strength to give of yourself.

Again Jesus says: “Sell what you have and give to the poor.” The Lord does not discuss theories of poverty and wealth, but goes directly to life. He asks you to leave behind what weighs down your heart, to empty yourself of goods in order to make room for him, the only good. We cannot truly follow Jesus when we are laden down with things. Because if our hearts are crowded with goods, there will not be room for the Lord, who will become just one thing among the others. For this reason, wealth is dangerous and – says Jesus – even makes one’s salvation difficult. Not because God is stern, no! The problem is on our part: our having too much, our wanting too much suffocates us, suffocates our hearts and makes us incapable of loving. Therefore, Saint Paul writes that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). We see this where money is at the centre, there is no room for God nor for man.

Jesus is radical. He gives all and he asks all: he gives a love that is total and asks for an undivided heart. Even today he gives himself to us as the living bread; can we give him crumbs in exchange? We cannot respond to him, who made himself our servant even going to the cross for us, only by observing some of the commandments. We cannot give him, who offers us eternal life, some odd moment of time. Jesus is not content with a “percentage of love”: we cannot love him twenty or fifty or sixty percent. It is either all or nothing.

Dear brothers and sisters, our heart is like a magnet: it lets itself be attracted by love, but it can cling to one master only and it must choose: either it will love God or it will love the world’s treasure (cf. Mt 6:24); either it will live for love or it will live for itself (cf. Mk 8:35). Let us ask ourselves where we are in our story of love with God. Do we content ourselves with a few commandments or do we follow Jesus as lovers, really prepared to leave behind something for him? Jesus asks each of us and all of us as the Church journeying forward: are we a Church that only preaches good commandments or a Church that is a spouse, that launches herself forward in love for her Lord? Do we truly follow him or do we revert to the ways of the world, like that man in the Gospel? In a word, is Jesus enough for us or do we look for many worldly securities? Let us ask for the grace always to leave things behind for love of the Lord: to leave behind wealth, leave behind the yearning for status and power, leave behind structures that are no longer adequate for proclaiming the Gospel, those weights that slow down our mission, the strings that tie us to the world. Without a leap forward in love, our life and our Church become sick from “complacency and self-indulgence” (Evangelii Gaudium, 95): we find joy in some fleeting pleasure, we close ourselves off in useless gossip, we settle into the monotony of a Christian life without momentum, where a little narcissism covers over the sadness of remaining unfulfilled.

This is how it was for the man, who – the Gospel tells us – “went away sorrowful” (v. 22). He was tied down to regulations of the law and to his many possessions; he had not given over his heart. Even though he had encountered Jesus and received his loving gaze, the man went away sad. Sadness is the proof of unfulfilled love, the sign of a lukewarm heart. On the other hand, a heart unburdened by possessions, that freely loves the Lord, always spreads joy, that joy for which there is so much need today. Pope Saint Paul VI wrote: “It is indeed in the midst of their distress that our fellow men need to know joy, to hear its song” (Gaudete in Domino, I). Today Jesus invites us to return to the source of joy, which is the encounter with him, the courageous choice to risk everything to follow him, the satisfaction of leaving something behind in order to embrace his way. The saints have travelled this path.

Paul VI did too, after the example of the Apostle whose name he took. Like him, Paul VI spent his life for Christ’s Gospel, crossing new boundaries and becoming its witness in proclamation and in dialogue, a prophet of a Church turned outwards, looking to those far away and taking care of the poor. Even in the midst of tiredness and misunderstanding, Paul VI bore witness in a passionate way to the beauty and the joy of following Christ totally. Today he still urges us, together with the Council whose wise helmsman he was, to live our common vocation: the universal call to holiness. Not to half measures, but to holiness. It is wonderful that together with him and the other new saints today, there is Archbishop Romero, who left the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to give his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters. We can say the same about Francesco Spinelli, Vincenzo Romano, Maria Caterina Kasper, Nazaria Ignazia of Saint Teresa of Jesus, and also our Abruzzese-Neapolitan young man, Nunzio Sulprizio: the saintly, courageous, humble young man who encountered Jesus in his suffering, in silence and in the offering of himself. All these saints, in different contexts, put today’s word into practice in their lives, without lukewarmness, without calculation, with the passion to risk everything and to leave it all behind. Brothers and sisters, may the Lord help us to imitate their example.

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Meanwhile, lest anyone missed the most anticipated saint-making in quite some time as it unfolded, here's the on-demand video:


Friday, October 12, 2018

In the Capital, The Cardinal Resigns... Yet For Now, The Cardinal Remains

Six days since the Holy See began tackling Crisis 2.0 in earnest – and amid an epic, months-long storm for the US' longest-serving diocesan bishop – at Roman Noon this Friday the Pope granted the retirement of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as archbishop of Washington, nearly three years after the capital prelate reached the canonical age of 75, and after weeks of public candor on his wish to be released from the role.

At the same time, in a uniquely personal way, Francis has designated Wuerl – who'll turn 78 next month – as apostolic administrator of the 750,000-member fold spanning the District and its Maryland suburbs pending the Pope's choice of his successor, which isn't expected to come for at least several months, most likely in the New Year.

While prior speculation saw the cardinal's resignation coming in tandem with the appointment of another prelate as the DC church's interim head to allow some "breathing space" from the roiled scene in the wake of twin controversies over abuse and the handling of cases, as Rome's chosen caretaker, Wuerl will unusually retain the full powers of the archbishop during an open-ended vacancy; under normal circumstances, a departing bishop is only named administrator once his successor has been chosen, in which case the transition only lasts two months.

In the temporary role, the cardinal – who hasn't made public appearances over the last month – is likely to carry out some degree of deck-clearing in terms of difficult calls, so that the next archbishop won't be saddled with making tough or unpopular decisions at the outset of his tenure.

As for the process itself, here it bears recalling how it wasn't until the final weeks of then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's succession in early 2006 that Wuerl – then nearly two decades in as bishop of his native Pittsburgh – surfaced as a contender for the capital seat. Along the same lines, as the state of the DC archdiocese has been upended by McCarrick's historic June downfall amid allegations of sexual abuse of minors, alongside revelations of a history of harassment of seminarians and young priests – then compounded by the bruising fallout of Wuerl's presence in August's Pennsylvania grand-jury report on abuse in the state's six dioceses, led by Pittsburgh – the standard consultation is expected to run deeper than usual, with a priority for a healer added in to the already formidable need both for a pastor who can unite a bitterly polarized fold, and a sound administrator able to plan for the ongoing, almost staggering growth of what's rapidly become one of US Catholicism's most energetic and diverse outposts, which'll soon be twice the size of the church Wuerl himself inherited a dozen years ago.

While all bets are off on the outcome – at least, for now – given its unique mix of circumstances and demands, what'll unfold is virtually certain to be Francis' most high-stakes American appointment of his entire pontificate. Accordingly, as early indications go, the talent scouts are prepared to dig deep into the Stateside bench to find the optimal choice – and in one form or another, we could well end up with a surprise. (At the same time, it bears recalling that Wuerl would have a doubly impactful voice on Francis' pick, both in his preparation of the report on the state of the archdiocese, then at the process' close as the senior US member of the Congregation for Bishops. Then again, in both his earlier major Stateside picks – Chicago in 2014 and Newark in 2016 – Papa Bergoglio circumvented the global body of cardinals normally tasked with making a recommendation, choosing instead to take his own soundings and make the selections by himself.)

Having released his own letter to the faithful repeatedly begging forgiveness for his own lapses and those of church leadership, the day's even more notable missive was the one Wuerl received: an extraordinary personal word from Francis – a practically unheard of gesture by a pontiff on the resignation of a prelate, let alone one under the shadow of a crisis, but nonetheless a striking sign of the Pope's enduring regard for his close confidant.

Released by the Washington Chancery with this morning's announcement, below is the English translation of the Pope's text:
To our Venerable Brother
Archbishop of Washington

On September 21st I received your request that I accept your resignation from the pastoral governance of the Archdiocese of Washington.

I am aware that this request rests on two pillars that have marked and continue to mark your ministry: to seek in all things the greater glory of God and to procure the good of the people entrusted to your care. The shepherd knows that the wellbeing and the unity of the People of God are precious gifts that the Lord has implored and for which he gave his life. He paid a very high price for this unity and our mission is to take care that the people not only remain united, but become witnesses of the Gospel “That they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (Jn 17.21). This is the horizon from which we are continually invited to discern all our actions.

I recognize in your request the heart of the shepherd who, by widening his vision to recognize a greater good that can benefit the whole body (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 235), prioritizes actions that support, stimulate and make the unity and mission of the Church grow above every kind of sterile division sown by the father of lies who, trying to hurt the shepherd, wants nothing more than that the sheep be dispersed (cf. Mt 26.31).

You have sufficient elements to “justify” your actions and distinguish between what it means to cover up crimes or not to deal with problems, and to commit some mistakes. However, your nobility has led you not to choose this way of defense. Of this, I am proud and thank you.

In this way, you make clear the intent to put God’s Project first, before any kind of personal project, including what could be considered as good for the Church. Your renunciation is a sign of your availability and docility to the Spirit who continues to act in his Church.

In accepting your resignation, I ask you to remain as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese until the appointment of your successor.

Dear brother, I make my own the words of Sirach: “You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not be lost” (2.8). May the Virgin Mary protect you with her mantle and may the strength of the Holy Spirit give you the grace to know how to continue to serve him in this new time that the Lord gives you.

Vatican City, October 12, 2018


Sunday, October 07, 2018

"Hatman" Strikes Back – In Open Letter to Viganò, Ouellet Rips Ex-Nuncio's Claims... and Motive

Six weeks after Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò unleashed his "nuclear" accusations that Pope Francis and a host of other key Vatican and US figures had abetted the public profile of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick amid claims of adult misconduct by the now ex-cardinal, the Vatican's key response to date has emerged – and in equally spectacular, blistering form.

A day after the Holy See announced an internal investigation of its archives on the factors that enabled McCarrick's rise through the hierarchy, this Sunday morning brought the release of a stunning open letter to the retired Nuncio in which the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, accused Viganò of – among other things – "calumny and defamation," "bitterness and delusions," and an "open and scandalous rebellion" which, he wrote, "cannot come from God’s Spirit": in other words, implying a demonic motive to the diplomat's assault on Francis. (Above, Ouellet is seen attempting a stroll with the now-Pope in the days leading up to the 2013 Conclave.)

A favorite of Benedict XVI – who tapped him in 2010 to run the Vatican's "Hat Shop," which recommends candidates for appointment to the Pope across the developed world (and, in general, oversees all aspects of the life and ministry of bishops) – Ouellet had been accused of "surrender" by Viganò in a late September addendum to his initial August "testimony," with the latter citing the cardinal's embrace of an opening to the possible reception of the Eucharist by civilly remarried couples in the wake of Amoris Laetitia.

While that particular charge gave Ouellet ample grist to work with in today's reply, the Quebecois prelate nonetheless confirmed – albeit to a degree – a central claim of Viganò's first "j'accuse," writing that, in years past, McCarrick "had been strongly advised not to travel and not to appear in public, so as not to provoke additional rumors in his regard," but that the warning did not rise to the level of "sanctions" as "at that time, unlike today, there was not sufficient proof of his alleged guilt" of misconduct and harassment toward seminarians and young priests. (As a fact-check, the Holy See had been contemporaneously informed of the confidential 2005 and 2007 settlements with current and former clerics on these allegations. While both were only publicly revealed upon McCarrick's removal from ministry in June, the first suit can now be seen as the rationale behind why the disgraced prelate's 2006 retirement as archbishop of Washington was quietly fast-tracked, having been completed within a year of his 75th birthday.)

With the tenor of the Vatican response turned on a dime over this weekend, as an added critical piece to the fresh dynamic, Cindy Wooden – the Rome bureau-chief of the USCCB-owned Catholic News Servicereported yesterday that the lead officers of the US bench, Houston's Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and LA's Archbishop José Gomez, are to be received by Francis tomorrow (Monday, 8 October) for their second audience within a month, the first of which stoked no shortage of frustration on the US side.

The conference president and vice-president are already in Rome as elected members of this month's Synod on Young People.

All that said, here below is a working translation of Ouellet's missive as released earlier today by the in-house Vatican News:
Dear fellow brother, Carlo Maria Viganò,

In your last message to the media in which you denounce Pope Francis and the Roman Curia, you urged me to tell the truth about the facts which you interpret as endemic corruption that has invaded the Church’s hierarchy even up to the highest levels. With due pontifical permission, I offer here my personal testimony, as the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, regarding the events concerning the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, DC, Theodore McCarrick, and his presumed links with Pope Francis, which constitute the subject of your sensational public denunciation, as well as your demand that the Holy Father resign. I write this testimony based on my personal contacts and on archival documents of the aforementioned Congregation, which are currently the subject of a study in order to shed light on this sad case.

First of all, allow me to say to you with complete sincerity, by virtue of the good collaborative relationship that existed between us when you were the Nuncio in Washington, that your current position appears incomprehensible and extremely deplorable to me, not only because of the confusion that it sows in the People of God, but also because your public accusations seriously damage the reputation of the Successors of the Apostles. I remember the time in which I once enjoyed your esteem and confidence, but I realize that I stand to lose the dignity you recognized in me for the sole fact of having remained faithful to the guidelines of the Holy Father in the service that he entrusted to me in the Church. 
Is not communion with the Successor of Peter the expression of our obedience to Christ who chose him and who supports him by His grace? My interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, which you criticize, is written out of this fidelity to the living tradition, of which Francis has given us an example through the recent modification of the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding the question of the death penalty.

Let us get down to the facts. You say that you informed Pope Francis on 23 June 2013 on the McCarrick case during the audience he granted to you, along with the many other pontifical representatives whom he then met for the first time on that day. I imagine the enormous quantity of verbal and written information that he would have gathered on that occasion about many persons and situations. I strongly doubt that McCarrick was of interest to him to the point that you believed him to be, since at the moment he was an 82-year-old Archbishop Emeritus who had been without an appointment for seven years. In addition, the written brief prepared for you by the Congregation for Bishops at the beginning of your service in 2011, said nothing about McCarrick other than what I told you in person about his situation as an emeritus Bishop who was supposed to obey certain conditions and restrictions due to the rumors surrounding his past behavior.

Since I became Prefect of this Congregation on 30 June 2010, I never brought up the McCarrick case in an audience with Pope Benedict XVI or Pope Francis until these last days, after his removal from the College of Cardinals. The former Cardinal, who had retired in May 2006, had been strongly advised not to travel and not to appear in public, so as not to provoke additional rumors in his regard. It is false to present the measures taken in his regard as “sanctions” decreed by Pope Benedict XVI and revoked by Pope Francis. After re-examining the archives, I can ascertain that there are no corresponding documents signed by either Pope, neither is there a note of an audience with my predecessor, Cardinal Giovanni-Battista Re, giving Archbishop Emeritus McCarrick an obligatory mandate of silence and to retire to a private life, carrying canonical penalties. The reason being that at that time, unlike today, there was not sufficient proof of his alleged guilt. Hence, the position of the Congregation was inspired by prudence, and my predecessor’s letters, as well as mine, reiterated through the Apostolic Nuncio Pietro Sambi, and then also through you, urging a discreet style of life, of prayer and penance for his own good and that of the Church. His case would have been the object of new disciplinary measures had the Nunciature in Washington, or whatever other source, provided us with recent and decisive information regarding his behavior. I hope like many others, out of respect for the victims and the need for justice, that the investigation underway in the United States and in the Roman Curia will finally offer us a critical, comprehensive view on the procedures and the circumstances of this painful case, so that such events are not repeated in the future.

How is it that this man of the Church, whose inconsistency is recognized today, was promoted on several occasions, even to the point of being invested with the highest function of Archbishop of Washington and Cardinal? I myself am extremely surprised by this and recognize the defects in the selection process undertaken in his case. Without entering here into the details, it needs to be understood that the decisions taken by the Supreme Pontiff are based on information available at a precise moment, which constitute the object of a careful judgement which is not infallible. It seems unjust to me to conclude that the persons in charge of the prior discernment are corrupt even though, in this concrete case, some suspicions provided by witnesses should have been further examined. The prelate in question knew how to defend himself very skillfully regarding the doubts that were raised about him. On the other hand, the fact that there may be persons in the Vatican who practice and support behavior contrary to Gospel values regarding sexuality, does not authorize us to generalize and declare this or that person as unworthy and as accomplices, even including the Holy Father himself. Should not the ministers of truth be the first to avoid calumny and defamation themselves?

Dear Pontifical Representative Emeritus, I tell you frankly that I believe it is incredible and unlikely from many points of view to accuse Pope Francis of having covered up after having full knowledge of the facts of this presumed sexual predator, and therefore of being an accomplice in the corruption rampant in the Church, to the point of considering him unfit to continue his reforms as the first Shepherd of the Church. I cannot understand how you could have allowed yourself to be convinced of this monstrous accusation which has no standing. Francis had nothing to do with the promotion of McCarrick to New York, Metuchen, Newark or Washington. He divested him from the dignity of Cardinal when a credible accusation of the abuse of a minor became evident. I have never heard Pope Francis allude to this self-styled advisor during his pontificate regarding nominations in America, though he does not hide the trust that he has in some of the Bishops. I presume that they are not preferred by you or by those friends who support your interpretation of the facts. I therefore consider it to be aberrant that you should profit by the horrible scandal of the sexual abuse of minors in the United States to inflict such an unprecedented and unmerited blow on the moral authority of your Superior, the Supreme Pontiff.

I have the privilege of meeting at length each week with Pope Francis, in order to deal with the nominations of Bishops and the problems that affect their office. I know very well how he handles persons and problems: very charitably, mercifully, attentively and seriously, as you yourself have experienced. Reading how you concluded your last message, apparently very spiritual, mocking and casting doubt on his faith, seemed to me to be really too sarcastic, even blasphemous! Such a thing cannot come from God’s Spirit.

Dear fellow brother, I truly want to help you retrieve communion with him who is the visible guarantor of the Catholic Church’s communion. I understand that bitterness and delusions have been a part of your journey in service to the Holy See, but you cannot conclude your priestly life in this way, in open and scandalous rebellion, which is inflicting a very painful wound on the Bride of Christ, whom you claim to serve better, thus aggravating the division and confusion in the People of God! In what other way can I respond to your request other than to say: come out of hiding, repent from this revolt and retrieve better feelings toward the Holy Father, instead of exacerbating hostility against him. How can you celebrate the Holy Eucharist and pronounce his name in the Canon of the Mass? How can you pray the Holy Rosary, the Prayer to St Michael the Archangel, and to the Mother of God, condemning him whom She protects and accompanies every single day in his heavy and courageous ministry?

If the Pope were not a man of prayer, if he were attached to money, if he were one who favors the rich to the detriment of the poor, if he did not demonstrate an untiring energy in welcoming all who are poor, giving them the generous comfort of his word and his actions, were he not multiplying all the means possible to proclaim and communicate the joy of the Gospel to everyone in the Church and even beyond its visible frontiers, if he were not extending a hand to families, to the elderly who are abandoned, to the sick in spirit and in body and above all to the young in search of happiness, then someone else could perhaps be preferable, according to you, with different diplomatic and political attitudes, but I, who have been able to know him well, cannot put into question his personal integrity, his consecration to mission, and above all the charisma and peace that dwell in him by God’s grace and the power of the Risen One.

Responding to your unjust and unjustified attack, dear Viganò, I therefore conclude that the accusation is a political maneuver without any real foundation to be able to incriminate the Pope, and I repeat that it is deeply wounding the Church’s communion. It would please God that this injustice be quickly repaired and that Pope Francis might continue to be recognized for who he is: an eminent pastor, a compassionate and firm father, a prophetic charism for the Church and for the world. May he continue his missionary reform joyfully and in full confidence, comforted by the prayer of the People of God and by the renewed solidarity of the entire Church together with Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

In Charting New McCarrick Probe, Vatican Concedes Likely Cover-Up

Amid a formidable, ongoing tide of anger and questions in the wake of the first catalyst of the resurgence of abuse scandals in the US – the allegations against now-Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, which saw his historic departure from the College of Cardinals in late July – the Holy See released the following statement at mid-afternoon this Saturday:
After the publication of the accusations regarding the conduct of Archbishop Theodore Edgar McCarrick, the Holy Father Pope Francis, aware of and concerned by the confusion that these accusations are causing in the conscience of the faithful, has established that the following be communicated:

In September 2017, the Archdiocese of New York notified the Holy See that a man had accused former Cardinal McCarrick of having abused him in the 1970s. The Holy Father ordered a thorough preliminary investigation into this, which was carried out by the Archdiocese of New York, at the conclusion of which the relative documentation was forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the meantime, because grave indications emerged during the course of the investigation, the Holy Father accepted the resignation of Archbishop McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, prohibiting him by order from exercising public ministry, and obliging him to lead a life of prayer and penance.

The Holy See will, in due course, make known the conclusions of the matter regarding Archbishop McCarrick. Moreover, with reference to other accusations brought against Archbishop McCarrick, the Holy Father has decided that information gathered during the preliminary investigation be combined with a further thorough study of the entire documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick, in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively.

The Holy See is conscious that, from the examination of the facts and of the circumstances, it may emerge that choices were taken that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues. However, as Pope Francis has said: “We will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead” (Philadelphia, 27 September 2015). Both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated and a different treatment for Bishops who have committed or covered up abuse, in fact represents a form of clericalism that is no longer acceptable.

The Holy Father Pope Francis renews his pressing invitation to unite forces to fight against the grave scourge of abuse within and beyond the Church, and to prevent such crimes from being committed in the future to the harm of the most innocent and most vulnerable in society. As previously made known, the Holy Father has convened a meeting of the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences from around the world for next February, while the words of his recent Letter to the People of God still resonate: “The only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within” (20 August 2018).
With the announcement – the Vatican's first formal comment on the McCarrick case since the 88 year-old's resignation from the College – the coming probe will be the second broad internal investigation born from the current storm. Notably, given the prior sense among no shortage of Americans that Rome was reluctant to engage a review of its archives in light of the possibility that successive Popes would be implicated in enabling McCarrick's rise, today's move represents a head-on tackling of that criticism.

Elsewhere, meanwhile, with Thursday's announcement of a statewide inquest into past abuse by the Florida Attorney General, nearly a dozen such civil investigations are now underway across the US, involving nearly 30 percent of the nation's Latin-church dioceses.

The processes opened by lead prosecutors spanning the political spectrum, even more statewide examinations are expected to be revealed over the coming weeks.


Thursday, October 04, 2018

"Why Are We Still Talking About This?" – 16 Years Later, The Lay Board's "Progress Report"

For the record, for all the talk you've heard of major in-house investigations over the scandals unearthed through recent months, only one is actually happening – the Rome-chartered probe of adult misconduct by Bishop Michael Bransfield, the initial reports of which proved enough to force the West Virginia prelate's quick removal last month (and which, according to the inquest's overseer, had netted some 40 additional calls as of last week).

As for the rest, as first reported in these pages' side-feed some weeks back, two major planks of the US bishops' intended response to the fresh crisis – an apostolic visitation, and a lay commission which would report on allegations against bishops to the Nuncio to Washington – were both vetoed by the Holy See as the USCCB Executive met with the Pope in mid-September. (In addition, given the separate scoop that Francis urged the bench to take a week-long group retreat in lieu of their usual November meeting, a previously-unrelayed piece on that front bears noting: the pontiff's rationale for the suggestion was that the exercise was necessary for the conference to begin to heal the division within its own ranks.)

In the assessment of one ranking op, the fallout of the audience seemed to indicate that Francis "has had it with us." And these days, more than a little says the Man in White is far from alone in that.

Of course, a quick search will yield ample evidence... per usual, though, how much of it is actually in the ecclesial interest is an open question. Nonetheless, even as a thousand forums and town-halls boom all over the place, one in particular stands out.

On Monday, the daily lunch crowd at the City Club of Chicago was treated to a top-shelf panel on Crisis 2.0, led by three of the major players tasked with handling the USCCB's response in 2002 – Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke and veteran Washington power-lawyer Bob Bennett, who respectively served on the inaugural National Lay Review Board, and Kathleen McChesney, the top FBI official recruited to be the bench's founding quarterback on combatting the storm as director of the conference's newly-founded Office of Child and Youth Protection.

All of five weeks out from a Baltimore plenary whose agenda and hoped-for outcomes remain fully up in the air, while the trio's hourlong discussion is worth watching for anyone with an interest in these days, for the policymakers among us, it's nothing short of necessary:

As ever, more to come.


Wednesday, October 03, 2018

"A Church That Doesn't Listen Can't Be Credible" – Opening Synod on the Young, Pope Seeks "The Prophecy of Our Time"

Once upon a time – not all that long ago – the Synod of Bishops was more a monthlong junket than a deliberative flashpoint: for the most part, participants glazed through weeks of speeches and wrapped each day's business in time for ample dinners before rubber-stamping the Curia's proposals at the gathering's close.

Put simply, that's not the case anymore. An amplified role for the Roman Synod – and synodality in general – having been a cornerstone project of Francis' from the very inception of his pontificate, the process now consumes the global representatives at the three-week assemblies, which have increasingly been geared toward substantive shifts in the church's engagement and pastoral practice at ground level.

And now, over two years in the making, after a prelude that's featured even more heated controversy than before – not to mention the ever-looming backdrop of a fresh season of scandals – this Wednesday saw the opening of Papa Bergoglio's third Synod, this time dedicated to "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment."

This edition's planning begun in early 2017 with the now-standard consultation of the whole church, then fleshed out further by an unprecedented Pre-Synod last March attended by 300 young adults from across the globe, Francis' gradual, seemingly irrevocable overhaul of the process took another leap forward over recent weeks with his issuance of two new governing documents for the Synod (which have yet to be translated fully into English).

While a pontiff has always been free to do whatever he wishes with the event's outcomes, the most consequential piece of the reforms explicitly codified the possibility that, should he so choose, the Pope could promulgate a Synod's final document – its 100 or so paragraphs each voted upon by the 260-odd members – as a magisterial text in its own right.

As the new norms took immediate effect, and given the fights at Francis' prior assemblies over non-binding language in the final texts – specifically those pertaining to the reception of the Eucharist by civilly remarried couples – the notion of this gathering's last word being integrated into church teaching on the spot has exponentially increased the stakes in the home stretch.

Since the whole concept of an amplified Synod is geared toward letting the process play out, lest anyone forgot, a lot can happen over the three and a half weeks ahead. Along those lines, only following the first week of brief remarks by each participant before the full assembly does the brunt of the discussions kick in with the move to the circuli minores ("small groups") of roughly 20 members each, their makeup determined by language.

With Francis having tapped 34 young people (aged 18-29) to join this Synod as non-voting auditors, despite their lack of a ballot on the final text, they nonetheless have full voice both in the Aula sessions and the breakout groups.

In the meantime, as the Pope's opening talks inevitably set the goalposts for what ensues, today's rare midweek start unusually brought both of the standard first words in rapid order – all of six hours after an inaugural homily that saw Francis implicitly look back to his own formation in the faith by his immigrant grandmother, the gathering's business began in the late afternoon with Papa Bergoglio's programmatic address.

An employment of acrostic footnotes conspicuous by its absence this time, here in full is Francis' opening text (emphases original).

*  *  *
Dear Beatitudes, Eminences, Excellencies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters, and beloved Young People!

Entering this hall to talk about young people, we already feel the strength of their presence that emanates a positivity and enthusiasm capable of filling and gladdening not only this hall, but the whole Church and the whole world.

That is why I cannot begin without saying thank you! I thank you who are present, I thank the many people, who throughout this two-year period of preparation have worked with dedication and passion – here in the Church of Rome and in all the Churches of the world – to enable us to reach this moment. I warmly thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Synod, the Presidents Delegate, Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha, the General Relator, Monsignor Fabio Fabene, the Undersecretary, the Officials of the General Secretariat and Assistants; I thank all of you Synod Fathers, Auditors, experts and consultors; I thank the fraternal Delegates, translators, singers and journalists. I thank you wholeheartedly for your active and fruitful participation.

A profound thank you is due to the two Special Secretaries, the Jesuit Father Giacomo Costa, and the Salesian Father Rossano Sala, who have worked generously with dedication and selflessness. They have worked themselves to the bone in preparation!

I would also like to sincerely thank the young people connected to us now, and all the youth who in so many ways have made their voices heard. I thank them for having wagered that it is worth the effort to feel part of the Church or to enter into dialogue with her; worth the effort to have the Church as a mother, as a teacher, as a home, as a family, and, despite human weaknesses and difficulties, capable of radiating and conveying Christ’s timeless message; worth the effort to hold onto the boat of the Church which, despite the world’s cruel storms, continues to offer shelter and hospitality to everyone; worth the effort to listen to one another; worth the effort to swim against the tide and be bound by lofty values: family, fidelity, love, faith, sacrifice, service, eternal life. Our responsibility here at the Synod is not to undermine them; but rather to show that they are right to wager: it truly is worth the effort, it is not a waste of time!

And I thank you in particular, dear young people present! The path of preparation for the Synod has taught us that the universe of the young is so varied that it cannot be fully represented, but you are certainly an important sign of it. Your participation fills us with joy and hope.

The Synod we are living is a moment of sharing. I wish, therefore, at the beginning of the Synod Assembly, to invite everyone to speak with courage and frankness (parrhesia), namely to integrate freedom, truth and charity. Only dialogue can help us grow. An honest, transparent critique is constructive and helpful, and does not engage in useless chatter, rumours, conjectures or prejudices.

And humility in listening must correspond to courage in speaking. I told the young people in the pre-Synod Meeting: “If you say something I do not like, I have to listen even more, because everyone has the right to be heard, just as everyone has the right to speak”. This open listening requires courage in speaking and in becoming the voice of many young people in the world who are not present. It is this listening that creates space for dialogue. The Synod must be an exercise in dialogue, above all among those of you participating. The first fruit of this dialogue is that everyone is open to newness, to change their opinions thanks to what they have heard from others. This is important for the Synod. Many of you have already prepared your intervention beforehand – and I thank you for this work – but I invite you to feel free to consider what you have prepared as a provisional draft open to any additions and changes that the Synod journey may suggest to each of you. Let us feel free to welcome and understand others and therefore to change our convictions and positions: this is a sign of great human and spiritual maturity.

The Synod is an ecclesial exercise in discernment. To speak frankly and listen openly are fundamental if the Synod is to be a process of discernment. Discernment is not an advertising slogan, it is not an organizational technique, or a fad of this pontificate, but an interior attitude rooted in an act of faith. Discernment is the method and at the same time the goal we set ourselves: it is based on the conviction that God is at work in world history, in life’s events, in the people I meet and who speak to me. For this reason, we are called to listen to what the Spirit suggests to us, with methods and in paths that are often unpredictable. Discernment needs space and time. And so, during the work done in plenary assembly and in groups, after five interventions are made, a moment of silence of approximately three minutes will be observed. This is to allow everyone to recognize within their hearts the nuances of what they have heard, and to allow everyone to reflect deeply and seize upon what is most striking. This attention to interiority is the key to accomplishing the work of recognizing, interpreting and choosing.

We are a sign of a Church that listens and journeys. The attitude of listening cannot be limited to the words we will exchange during the work of the Synod. The path of preparation for this moment has highlighted a Church that needs to listen, including those young people who often do not feel understood by the Church in their originality and therefore not accepted for who they really are, and sometimes even rejected. This Synod has the opportunity, the task and the duty to be a sign of a Church that really listens, that allows herself to be questioned by the experiences of those she meets, and who does not always have a ready-made answer. A Church that does not listen shows herself closed to newness, closed to God’s surprises, and cannot be credible, especially for the young who will inevitably turn away rather than approach.

Let us leave behind prejudice and stereotypes. A first step towards listening is to free our minds and our hearts from prejudice and stereotypes. When we think we already know who others are and what they want, we really struggle to listen to them seriously. Relations across generations are a terrain in which prejudice and stereotypes take root with proverbial ease, so much so that we are often oblivious to it. Young people are tempted to consider adults outdated; adults are tempted to regard young people as inexperienced, to know how they are and especially how they should be and behave. All of this can be an overwhelming obstacle to dialogue and to the encounter between generations. Most of those present do not belong to a younger generation, so it is clear that we must pay attention, above all, to the risk of talking about young people in categories and ways of thinking that are already outmoded. If we can avoid this risk, then we will help to bridge generations. Adults should overcome the temptation to underestimate the abilities of young people and not judge them negatively. I once read that the first mention of this fact dates back to 3000 BC and was discovered on a clay pot in ancient Babylon, where it is written that young people are immoral and incapable of saving their people’s culture. This is an old tradition of us old ones! Young people, on the other hand, should overcome the temptation to ignore adults and to consider the elderly “archaic, outdated and boring”, forgetting that it is foolish always to start from scratch as if life began only with each of them. Despite their physical frailty, the elderly are always the memory of mankind, the roots of our society, the “pulse” of our civilization. To spurn them, reject them, isolate or snub them is to yield to a worldly mentality that is devouring our homes from within. To neglect the rich experiences that each generation inherits and transmits to the next is an act of self-destruction.

It is therefore necessary, on the one hand, to decisively overcome the scourge of clericalism. Listening and leaving aside stereotypes are powerful antidotes to the risk of clericalism, to which an assembly such as this is inevitably exposed, despite our intentions. Clericalism arises from an elitist and exclusivist vision of vocation, that interprets the ministry received as a power to be exercised rather than as a free and generous service to be given. This leads us to believe that we belong to a group that has all the answers and no longer needs to listen or learn anything, or that pretends to listen. Clericalism is a perversion and is the root of many evils in the Church: we must humbly ask forgiveness for this and above all create the conditions so that it is not repeated.

We must, on the other hand, cure the virus of self-sufficiency and of hasty conclusions reached by many young people. An Egyptian proverb goes: “If there is no elderly person in your home, buy one, because you will need him”. To shun and reject everything handed down across the ages brings only a dangerous disorientation that sadly threatens our humanity, it brings a disillusionment which has invaded the hearts of whole generations. The accumulation of human experiences throughout history is the most precious and trustworthy treasure that one generation inherits from another. Without ever forgetting divine revelation, that enlightens and gives meaning to history and to our existence.

Brothers and sisters, may the Synod awaken our hearts! The present moment, and this applies also to the Church, appears to be laden with struggles, problems, burdens. But our faith tells us that it is also the kairos in which the Lord comes to meet us in order to love us and call us to the fullness of life. The future is not a threat to be feared, but is the time the Lord promises us when we will be able to experience communion with him, with our brothers and sisters, and with the whole of creation. We need to rediscover the reasons for our hope and, above all, to pass them on to young people who are thirsting for hope. As the Second Vatican Council affirmed: “We can justly consider that the future of humanity lies in the hands of those who are strong enough to provide coming generations with reasons for living and hoping” (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 31).

The meeting between generations can be extremely fruitful for giving rise to hope. The prophet Joel teaches us this – I reminded young people at the pre-Synod meeting – and I consider it the prophecy of our time: “Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (2:28) and they will prophesy.

There is no need for sophisticated theological arguments to prove our duty to help the contemporary world to walk towards God’s kingdom, free of false hope and without seeing only ruin and woe. Indeed, when speaking about those who consider reality without sufficient objectivity or prudent judgment, Saint John XXIII said: “In the current conditions of human society they are not capable of seeing anything except ruin and woe; they go around saying that in our times, compared to the past, everything is worse; and they even go as far as to behave as if they had nothing to learn from history, which is our teacher” (Address on the solemn opening of the Second Vatican Council, 11 October 1962).

Do not let yourselves be tempted, therefore, by the “prophets of doom”, do not spend your energy on “keeping score of failures and holding on to reproaches”, keep your gaze fixed on the good that “often makes no sound; it is neither a topic for blogs, nor front page news”, and do not be afraid “before the wounds of Christ’s flesh, always inflicted by sin and often by the children of the Church” (cf. Address to Bishops participating in the course promoted by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Oriental Churches, 13 September 2018).

Let us therefore work to “spend time with the future”, to take from this Synod not merely a document – that generally is only read by a few and criticized by many – but above all concrete pastoral proposals capable of fulfilling the Synod’s purpose. In other words, to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another, and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands, and inspire in young people – all young people, with no one excluded – a vision of the future filled with the joy of the Gospel. Thank you.