September 30, 2018 // World News

News Briefs: September 30, 2018

Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) — Michigan’s attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan’s seven Catholic dioceses, as well as any attempts to cover up those claims dating back to the 1950s. Attorney General Bill Schuette confirmed the investigation began in August, in response to an inquiry by Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV8 Sept. 21. He said in a statement that his office has determined that a “full and complete investigation of what happened within the Catholic Church is required. This investigation is and will continue to be independent, thorough, transparent, and prompt. My department and this investigation will find out who knew what and when.” Michigan’s seven dioceses are Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, Gaylord and Marquette. In addition to diocesan clergy, Schuette’s office said it will investigate claims of abuse by religious order priests who have served in Michigan. The attorney general’s office also established a telephone and email hotline for reporting abuse by clergy in Michigan. The Archdiocese of Detroit responded by saying it welcomed news of the investigation, pledging to cooperate fully in bringing to light all claims and helping victims of abuse receive justice and healing. 

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone’s parents, Pope Francis said. “Among us there is also the habit of saying awful things, even profanity. Please, never, never, never insult other people’s parents. Never! Never insult a mother, never insult a father,” the pope said Sept. 19 during his weekly general audience. “Make this decision: from today forward, ‘I will never insult someone’s mom or dad.’ They gave life! They should not be insulted,” he told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Gray clouds forming above the square did little to dampen the spirits of thousands of pilgrims who cheered as they waited for the pope to pass by in his popemobile. As customary, the pope greeted them, blessed religious articles and kissed children who were brought up to him. During the general audience, the pope continued his series of talks on the Ten Commandments and reflected on the obligation to “honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” 

Young Catholics discuss way forward for Church in light of abuse crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis’ pontificate has been one of reform, but his response to the current abuse crisis is “a moment of make or break” for him, a speaker said Sept. 17 at a “Salt and Light Gathering” at Georgetown University in Washington. Joshua McElwee, a Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and co-editor of “A Pope Francis Lexicon,” said he believes the biggest issue at stake is the lack of transparency surrounding what happens to bishops, superiors or other people of power when they do not report people who are abusing others. “It is weird to me that the people of God would not be informed about issues like that,” he said. “The pope has the opportunity to address this crisis, to do something new, take action, or leave many of us wondering, ‘What has happened and why did we not address this head-on?’” McElwee was one of four young Catholic professionals who discussed the Church’s abuse crisis and the way forward at the gathering hosted by the university’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life. The other panelists were Elizabeth Bruenig, a Washington Post opinion columnist and editor; Jonathan Lewis, assistant secretary for pastoral ministry for the Archdiocese of Washington and an auditor at the upcoming Vatican Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment; and Eve Tushnet, editor of “Christ’s Body, Christ’s Wounds: Staying Catholic When You’ve Been Hurt in the Church.” 

Catholics gather in Philadelphia and Indianapolis to pray for healing

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — Several hundred participants gathered at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul Sept. 14 for a prayer vigil organized by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in response to the ongoing clerical sexual abuse crisis. The seven-hour event, titled “Have Mercy on Us, O Lord,” centered on both communal and private prayer during an evening of eucharistic adoration. Father Dennis Gill, director of the archdiocesan Office for Divine Worship, presided over the vigil, which began at 5 p.m. and ended with benediction at midnight. Attendance averaged between 100 and 125 at the beginning and end of the vigil and up to 400 from 7-9 p.m. The sacrament of reconciliation was available throughout the service, which was designed as “a prayer vigil of reparation and petition,” according to Father Gill. “The members of the Church, the body of Christ, are in real pain from sexual abuse, the failure of leadership and the sense of betrayal,” he said. “We need healing.” A similar service was held Sept. 15 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis, called a “Holy Hour for Prayer, Penance and Healing.” Archbishop Charles C. Thompson laid prostrate in prayer on the floor for several minutes on at the start of the service. During his homily, he said this was “an act of penance and a pledge of doing everything in my power to do what is right” in eradicating “great scourge of sexual abuse.”

Irish singer Bono calls pope ‘extraordinary man for extraordinary times’

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland “it looks as though the abusers are being more protected than the victims. And you could see the pain in his face.” Bono met the pope Sept. 19 to sign an agreement between his charity, ONE, and the Scholas Occurentes educational charity supported by Pope Francis. During the half-hour meeting, Bono said, he brought up Pope Francis’ recent trip to Ireland and the concerns there about the sexual abuse crisis. The pope was “aghast,” Bono said. “I thought he was sincere.” “I think he is an extraordinary man for extraordinary times,” the singer added. ONE is a campaign and advocacy effort working to end extreme poverty, especially in Africa. One of its current focuses, Bono told reporters Sept. 19, is education for girls and young women. Some “130 million girls around the world do not go to school, because they are girls,” he said. “Poverty is sexist” is the campaign slogan, he said. 

Minnesota school’s welcome of Karen children answers parents’ prayers

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. (CNS) — It seems like a typical morning school scene: dozens of students pouring out of a bus, backpacks over shoulders, chatting with friends before the 9:30 a.m. bell. But at St. Jerome School in Maplewood, outside of St. Paul, the sight is nothing short of a miracle, Principal Anne Gattman told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It also is the answer to the fervent prayers of the students’ parents. Most of the students are Karen, members of an ethnic community in Myanmar in southeast Asia. The families were displaced by civil unrest and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Thailand. Forty-six Karen children in kindergarten through eighth grade are enrolled at St. Jerome this year. In the last decade, Karen families — some of them Catholic — have immigrated to the United States. In 2011, Karen Catholics began arriving in St. Paul, where they started looking for a Catholic parish and school for their children. Enter Deacon Seraphim Wirth, then a brother with the Franciscan Brothers of Peace. His involvement began with a phone call in 2011 at the community’s St. Paul friary. He answered the phone one late afternoon and tried to understand the caller’s words. All he could decipher was “want to go to Catholic.” He suggested that the caller come to the friary the next day. After hanging up the phone, Deacon Seraphim started thinking that “there was something” to the encounter. “I thought, if they come in tomorrow, well then, maybe it’s something I’m supposed to do,” he said. 

New partnership to help families reunite using donated airline miles

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CNS) — Catholic Charities USA and Miles4Migrants have formed a new partnership to help members of immigrant and refugee families who have been separated be able to reunite. Through donated airline miles, the two organizations will work with local Catholic Charities agencies to identify those who need assistance with purchasing airfare to reunite with their families, said a Sept. 20 announcement on the partnership. “At the heart of the work of Catholic Charities is caring for the most vulnerable among us,” said Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. Based in Alexandria, the national office represents 166 diocesan Catholic Charities agencies. “It is in that spirit that we support our agencies’ efforts to assist immigrants and refugees who arrive in this country,” she said in a statement. “We are excited for the increased opportunity this partnership provides to reunite families separated at our borders.” Miles4Migrants is a volunteer-driven, nonprofit charity that uses donated frequent flyer miles and money for the relocation of refugees and those seeking asylum “to start a new beginning in a new home,” said the announcement.

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

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, and he defended taking the title “pope emeritus.” In two private letters from the retired pope to German Cardinal Walter Brandmuller, former president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, the pope defended the way he handled his resignation and warned the cardinal of the negative impact his public comments could have. The German newspaper Bild obtained copies of the letters, written in November 2017, but blurred Cardinal Brandmuller’s name in photos. The New York Times named the cardinal and also published translated excerpts from the letters Sept. 20. The first letter from the retired pope was a response to a comment Cardinal Brandmuller, made in a lengthy interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, published Oct. 28, 2017. The interviewer had asked what the cardinal thought about the “construction” of “pope emeritus” — the title the retired pope has taken on. The cardinal responded that the figure of a “pope emeritus” had never existed in the Church’s history and having a pope “withdrawing now and overturning a 2,000-year tradition totally astounded not only us cardinals.” 

Disney animator credits Catholic schools with foundation for success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) — Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the 2017 blockbuster “Moana.” But at heart, he will always be a Midwesterner and grateful for his Catholic education, he told students at his alma mater. Clements, a 1971 alum of the Bishop Heelan High School in Sioux City, visited with students Sept. 13. He was in Sioux City as a major presenter at the Sioux City International Film Festival, held Sept. 12-16. As a Crusader, the school’s mascot, Clements was recognized for his artistic talent as the staff cartoonist at the Heelan student newspaper, Heelan Highline. Journalism teacher Mary Castle, who attended Clements’ video presentation, insisted she knew her student would flourish in his life’s work. “He was quiet, but clearly had tremendous gifts,” the former instructor, now 91, told The Catholic Globe, Sioux City’s diocesan newspaper.

Catholic Extension launched #WhyImCatholic campaign that invites Catholics to share stories of hope as a way to support one another and walk together in faith through the challenging times facing the Catholic Church. (CNS photo/courtesy Catholic Extension)

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