September 15, 2018 // World News

News Briefs: September 16, 2018

Prelates in Austria, Germany offer support to Pope Francis

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Prelates in Germany and Austria have united to support Pope Francis in response to a former papal nuncio’s demand for his resignation. In Austria, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna published a column Sept. 7 in the weekly newspaper Heute with a strong message backing the pope, calling the pontiff a “fighter against injustice and exploitation” who “stands against sexual abuse in the church with great determination. This criticism comes from circles in the Church who want to get rid of this pope as soon as possible,” said Cardinal Schonborn, leveling criticism at unnamed Vatican officials. He said the pontiff’s opponents are exploiting the opportunity to criticize him during a time when he is experiencing difficult days. “I thank God for such a compelling shepherd,” the Austrian cardinal concluded. “Thank you, Papa Francesco!” The cardinal’s comments follow a call by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former papal nuncio to the United States, for Pope Francis to resign for allegedly ignoring sanctions Pope Benedict XVI had placed on then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick for sexual misconduct. 

New York latest to launch probe of Church sex abuse records

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The New York State Office of the Attorney General is the latest to announce that it is launching an investigation of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic Church clergy, sending out subpoenas on Sept. 6 seeking documents from the state’s eight dioceses. In a press release, the agency said it was seeking “a civil investigation into how the dioceses and other church entities — which are nonprofit institutions — reviewed and potentially covered up allegations of extensive sexual abuse of minors.” Of New York’s eight dioceses, which include Albany, Buffalo, New York, Brooklyn, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre and Syracuse, four have confirmed to Catholic News Service they received subpoenas. In conjunction, the state’s Attorney General, Barbara D. Underwood, announced a hotline, specifically for those who may have been abused by clergy in New York. Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York, said in a Sept. 6 email to Catholic News Service that “while we have just received a subpoena, it is not a surprise to us that the Attorney General would look to begin a civil investigation, and she will find the Archdiocese of New York, and the other seven dioceses in the state, ready and eager to work together with her in the investigation.” 

Letter confirms Vatican officials knew of McCarrick allegations in 2000

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A top official from the Vatican Secretariat of State acknowledged allegations made by a New York priest in 2000 concerning Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, according to a letter obtained by Catholic News Service. Father Boniface Ramsey, pastor of St. Joseph’s Church Yorkville in New York City, told CNS Sept. 7 that he received the letter dated Oct. 11, 2006, from then-Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the former Vatican substitute for general affairs, asking for information regarding a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark who studied at Immaculate Conception Seminary and was being vetted for a post at a Vatican office. He made the letter available to CNS. Then-Archbishop Sandri wrote to Father Ramsey, “I ask with particular reference to the serious matters involving some of the students of the Immaculate Conception Seminary, which in November 2000 you were good enough to bring confidentially to the attention of the then Apostolic Nuncio in the United States, the late Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo.” Father Ramsey had been on the faculty of the seminary from 1986 to 1996 and had sent a letter in 2000 to Archbishop Montalvo informing him of complaints he heard from seminarians studying at the seminary, located in South Orange, New Jersey. In the letter, Father Ramsey told CNS, “I complained about McCarrick’s relationships with seminarians and the whole business with sleeping with seminarians and all of that; the whole business that everyone knows about,” Father Ramsey said. 

Cardinal Tobin addresses immigration, abuse scandal at Notre Dame lecture

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) — The Catholic Church in the United States is living through two storms, a U.S. cardinal observed. He said there is the policy of “zero tolerance” toward undocumented immigrants, which has plunged communities into fear, and the Holy Spirit working “like a hurricane” to smash structures of clericalism through the current clergy sexual abuse crisis. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, devoted his remarks in the Aug. 30 lecture at the University of Notre Dame to immigration, discussing the impacts of a corrosive political discourse and secularism and drawing on Pope Francis’ teaching on the dangers of societies driven by money and social exclusion. But the question-and-answer period following his remarks focused heavily on the abuse crisis in the Church. On both issues, Cardinal Tobin said Catholics are asking how we got to this point. Anti-immigrant sentiment, he said in his remarks, “is but one highly visible manifestation of the overall harsh, merciless edge we are so quick to apply to our discourse.” He added that this harshness has animated the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies, which he said sadly fit “the current zero-sum nature of our politics.” 

Indian Church displeased with ruling legalizing same-sex relationships

NEW DELHI (CNS) — India’s Supreme Court ruled in a landmark judgment that homosexual acts between consenting adults are no longer a crime, but  Church officials said that legal validity does not make such practices morally acceptable. The court on Sept. 6 struck down a section of the Indian Penal Code that said homosexual acts in public or private were a crime punishable with a jail term of up to 10 years, reported. The colonial-era law criminalizing consensual unnatural sex was irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary, the court said. But sexual activity with animals and non-adults remains a punishable offense under the ruling. In a statement, a Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India representative said that although homosexual acts are now legalized, they are not morally acceptable or justified. “What is legal is not equal to moral acceptability,” said the statement issued by Father Stephen Fernandes, secretary to the bishops’ justice, peace and development office. 

Attorney General asks Nebraska dioceses for sex abuse records

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Archdiocese of Omaha said it intends to cooperate with a request from the Nebraska Attorney General’s office to review its “investigative records” as state officials pursue information concerning sex abuse in the state’s three Catholic dioceses. State officials made similar requests of the Diocese of Lincoln and Grand Island. A Sept. 5 press release from the Diocese of Omaha says the request was made for records going back 40 years, to Jan. 1, 1978. “We welcome accountability in our community,” said Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha. “The truth is good for everyone. I see this as a real moment of grace.” The Omaha World-Herald newspaper reported on Sept. 5 that Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson had asked for documents relating to “diocesan investigations of claims of sexual exploitation, including incidents of child pornography or ‘sexual communication with another person given authority by the diocese to carry out church functions.’” In a Sept. 5 phone interview with Catholic News service, Suzanne Gage, director of communications for the Nebraska Attorney General, said the office doesn’t comment on ongoing investigations but because of the office’s history of investigating and prosecuting child abuse and child sexual assault, “this current matter is consistent with that responsibility.”

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