Sacramento diocese ranks high in online financial transparency

The Diocese of Sacramento ranks highest in online financial transparency, according to a survey conducted over the summer by Voice of the Faithful, an organization of Catholic lay people formed in 2002 in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. It works to support survivors of sexual abuse, support priests of integrity, and shape structural change within the Catholic Church.

Peter Feuerherd, a correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and writes an ongoing series on parish life points out that Sacramento scored the highest, 59 on a 60-point scale. Following Sacramento were Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio; the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa; the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland, and the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas.

At the opposite end of the scale are Camden, joined by the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama; and the Dioceses of Brownsville, Texas, and Biloxi, Mississippi.

According to Feuerherd, the study surveyed dioceses and archdioceses across the country, rating them from most transparent to most opaque. The study was based on how much financial information is accessible on diocesan websites.

For the entire NCR report, which included a link to the VOF survey results, click here.

Irish priests’ group tackles false allegation treatment

Two hundred priests who gathered for the annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland discussed the inconsistency in the way priests are treated by their bishops or major superiors when accused of sexual abuse.

According to a summary of the meeting posted in the National Catholic Reporter (Dec. 4, 2017), Fr. Tim Hazelwood of Cork, a member of the leadership team, was falsely accused of sexual abuse by an anonymous complaint in 2009. He was vindicated by Ireland’s High Court in 2016 and his accuser was ordered to pay compensation to a charity for his false allegation. According to Hazelwood, there is no consistency across dioceses and religious orders in the way accused priests are treated.

At the meeting a wallet-sized information card was unveiled by the association’s leadership that is primarily aimed at priests who find themselves the subject of an abuse allegation. The card reminds priests of their basic rights.

The issue stems from the fact that a a43-page guidance on the Care and Management of Respondents, which was drawn up as one of the seven safeguarding standards produced by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, hasn’t been ratified by the Irish bishops and religious orders, and therefore remains only a guidance which can be ignored.

For the entire NCR Summary, click here.

Pope’s letter to Argentine bishops on Amoris Laetitia to become part of official record

The letter Pope Francis wrote to the Argentine bishops’ conference referring to guidelines they published in response to Chapter VIII of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia will be part of the official of Vatican texts.

In the papal letter, dated Sept. 5, 2016, the pope said the bishops’ document “explains precisely the precisely the meaning of Chapter VIII of ‘Amoris Laetitia.’ There are no other interpretations.”

The letter is found on the Vatican website under letters written by the pope in 2016, and was published in the October 2016 edition of the “Acta Apostolicae Sedis,” which also is available online:

For the National Catholic Reporter (Dec. 5, 2017) summary, click here.

For the Catholic News Agency (Dec. 5, 2017) summary, click here.

Pope says bishops have sole judicial authority in shorter annulment process

In an address on Nov. 25 to canon lawyers, priests, and pastoral works attending a course at the Roman Rota, the Vatican tribunal that deals with marriage annulment cases, Pope Francis said the diocesan bishop is the sole judge in the streamlined process for handling marriage annulments.

According to the Catholic News Service (Nov. 27, 2017), Pope Francis used the occasion to clarify and strongly emphasize how a bishop should not delegate completely the duty of deciding marriage cases to the offices of his curia, especially in the streamlined process for handling cases of clear nullity that were established with new norms that took effect at the end of 2015. The norms were outlined in two papal documents, “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus” (“The Lord Jesus, the Gentle Judge”) for the Latin-rite church and “Mitis et misericors Iesus,” (“The Meek and Merciful Jesus”) for the Eastern Catholic churches.

The pope went on to say that bishops should be close to those suffering and who expect help “to restore peace to their consciences and God’s will on the readmission to the Eucharist.”

For the CNS report provided by the National Catholic Reporter, click here.

For the full text of the pope’s remarks, courtesy of Zenit News Agency, click here.

Cardinal Blase Cupich to go to Puerto Rico as Pope Francis’ emissary

Pope Francis asked Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich to make a pastoral visit to Puerto Rico as his personal emissary. The cardinal is also chancellor of the Chicago-based Catholic Extension Society.

A Nov. 27 announcement from the Archdiocese of Chicago said Cupich will “make a fraternal visit to Puerto Rico in the days before Christmas, as a means of drawing close to the people and their pastors as they undergo the crushing trials following the recent devastating hurricanes, Irma and Maria.

“Pope Francis has asked Cardinal Cupich to express his deep concern, as a father would have for his sons and daughters suffering in his family, and to let the people and pastors know that their situation weighs heavily on him,” it said.

Hurricane Irma hit the island 10 weeks ago and did unprecedented damage. To give some sense of where recovery stands, PBS did the following assessment as of Nov. 30:

  • 66 percent of power on the island has been restored
  • 93 percent of the island has access to water, but it remains on a boil advisory.
  • 73 of all cell sites are up and running.
  • 982 survivors remain in 41 shelters across the island.

The PBS report notes that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has received more than one million applications for assistance and approved about 251,000 as of Nov. 28. The deadline for application has been extended from Nov. 30 to March 18.

For the Crux (Nov. 30, 2017) report, click here.

Pope Francis’ visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh

This week Pope Francis visited two countries with few Catholics – Myanmar and Bangladesh.

In Myanmar especially, ethnic and religious identity can be an explosive issue. Myanmar houses a group called Rohingya Muslims, who are persecuted by government and others.

According to Holy Cross Father Daniel Groody, an associate professor of theology and global affairs at the University of Notre Dame, who had been in Myanmar a year and a half ago studying the situation of the Rohingya, “They are the most stateless people I have ever encountered, They are not only undocumented, they are so totally defined as ‘other’ that they are considered nonpersons.”

The Myanmar government refers to them as undocumented Muslims from Rakhine state, according to Fr. Groody.

Fr. Groody, who received NFPC’s Touchstone award in 2012, spoke to Catholic News Service (Dec. 1, 2017) about the situation.

During his visit to Bangladesh, Pope Francis ordained 16 priests. At the ordination Mass which took place in Suhrawardy Udyan, a park and national memorial in Dhaka, the pope said to he newly ordained, “Keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and who came to seek out and save what was lost.”

For the CNS report, click here.

For a Crux (Dec. 1, 2017) summary of articles on the papal visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh, click here.

For the National Catholic Register (Dec. 1, 2017) report, click here.

Summary of US bishops’ 2017 fall assembly

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops met in Baltimore Nov. 13-14 for their annual fall assembly. The Conference website has links to News Releases covering all activities at the meeting including reports on the chairmen-elect of following committees:

Communications – Bishop Michael Burbidge (Arlington)
Cultural Diversity in the Church – Bishop Nelson Perez (Cleveland)
Doctrine – Bishop Kevin Rhoades (Fort Wayne-South Bend)
National Colections – Bishop Joseph Cistone (Saginaw)
Pro-Life Activities- Archbishop Joseph Naumann (Kansas City, KS)
Religious Liberty – Archbishop Joseph Kurtz (Louisville)

Secretary – Archbishop Allen Vigneron (Detroit)

For a summary of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State’s address to the US bishops (America magazine, Nov. 13, 2017), click here.

For a summary of USCCB president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo’s first address to the US bishops (America magazine, Nov. 13, 2017), click here.

For a complete list of USCCB and Catholic News Service releases, click here.

For a list of the USCCB Fall Assembly video’s on-demand, click here.

Spiritualizing psychological problems

Catholic News Agency (Oct. 10, 2017) contributor, Mary Rezac writes on “The dangers of spiritualizing your psychological problems.”

The article quotes Dr. Gregory Botarro, a Catholic clinical psychologist at CatholicPsych Institute –, who said he has “found the over-spiritualization of psychological issues to be a persistent problem, particularly among devout Catholics.”

He goes on to say that this over-spiritualization is “usually the direct consequence of  Cartesian Dualism.” It is Decartes, the philosopher, who said, “I think therefore I am,” thus separating the thinking self from the bodily self … Acting as if the body doesn’t matter when considering our human experience is just as distorted as acting like the spirit doesn’t matter,” he said.

Bottaro goes on to note, “We shouldn’t think any less of getting help for mental health than we do for physical health. There are fields of expertise for a reason, and just as we can’t fix every one of our own physical wounds, we can’t always fix every one of our own mental wounds. It is virtuous to recognize our need for help” … And “praying away” problems more than likely won’t work.

For the entire CNA article, click here.

Fitness an important part of seminary life at NAC

Serving God’s people takes a lot of energy, so “we need to have bodies that are prepared for it,” said Andrew Auer, a seminarian from the Archdiocese of St. Louis in his third year at North American College in Rome.

Another seminarian, Joseph Caraway from the Diocese of Lake Charles, agrees. “The Catholic Church is a real supporter of both body and soul … Sometimes we can get so caught up in focusing on the soul and our prayer, which is incredibly important, but we also need to take care of our physical bodies,” he went on to say.

Caraway knows of what he speaks. He did graduate studies in physiology before entering the seminary.

With his experience and background in graduate school, Caraway has found some very concrete ways to help his brother seminarians, developing “diet programs and exercise programs to help them become more physically fit and just learn how to exercise correctly.”

Fitness and sports is a good way to build camaraderie among the seminarians. In fact the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend will feature the Spaghetti Bowl, a long–standing tradition involving a flag football game between first–year students and the and the rest of the college, and serves to help integrate students into the daily life of the seminary.

For the entire Catholic News Service (Nov. 16, 2017) posting, click here.

Faith leaders navigate church security

In light of the killing of 26 worshippers in a Baptist church in South Texas on Nov. 5, some faith leaders in the Chicago area are sizing up their security measures, if, in fact they have any.

A front-page report in Chicago Tribune (Nov. 7, 2017) notes that St. Peter’s Church in the Loop already has a security desk. According to Franciscan Father Kurt Hartrich, pastor, parishioners must cross two thresholds and pass muster with security guards before they can enter the worship space at the church.

In the past year, the report notes, hundreds of congregations have joined a coalition called Secure Church Chicago, a regional working group of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish clergy volunteers who want to take a proactive, professional, and pastoral approach to church safety.

For the entire report, click here.