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‘A moral catastrophe’

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement after a series of meetings with members of the USCCB’s Executive Committee and other bishops. The following statement includes three goals and three principles, along with initial steps of a plan that will involve laity, experts and the Vatican. A more developed plan will be presented to the full body of bishops at their general assembly meeting in Baltimore in November.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Two weeks ago, I shared with you my sadness, anger, and shame over the recent revelations concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Those sentiments continue and are deepened in light of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report. Earlier this week, the USCCB Executive Committee met again and established an outline of these necessary changes.

The Executive Committee has established three goals: (1) an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; (2) an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and (3) advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. These goals will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.

We have already begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity, and clergy, as well as the Vatican. We will present this plan to the full body of bishops in our November meeting. In addition, I will travel to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge further concrete steps based on them.

The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.

Allow me to briefly elaborate on the goals and criteria that we have identified.

The first goal is a full investigation of questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. These answers are necessary to prevent a recurrence, and so help to protect minors, seminarians, and others who are vulnerable in the future. We will therefore invite the Vatican to conduct an Apostolic Visitation to address these questions, in concert with a group of predominantly lay people identified for their expertise by members of the National Review Board and empowered to act.

The second goal is to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier. Our 2002 “Statement of Episcopal Commitment” does not make clear what avenue victims themselves should follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops. We need to update this document. We also need to develop and widely promote reliable third-party reporting mechanisms. Such tools already exist in many dioceses and in the public sector and we are already examining specific options.

The third goal is to advocate for better procedures to resolve complaints against bishops. For example, the canonical procedures that follow a complaint will be studied with an eye toward concrete proposals to make them more prompt, fair, and transparent and to specify what constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process.

We will pursue these goals according to three criteria.

The first criterion is genuine independence. Any mechanism for addressing any complaint against a bishop must be free from bias or undue influence by a bishop. Our structures must preclude bishops from deterring complaints against them, from hampering their investigation, or from skewing their resolution.

The second criterion relates to authority in the Church. Because only the Pope has authority to discipline or remove bishops, we will assure that our measures will both respect that authority and protect the vulnerable from the abuse of ecclesial power.

Our third criterion is substantial involvement of the laity. Lay people bring expertise in areas of investigation, law enforcement, psychology, and other relevant disciplines, and their presence reinforces our commitment to the first criterion of independence.

Finally, I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to do. Whatever the details may turn out to be regarding Archbishop McCarrick or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else), we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal leadership. The result was that scores of beloved children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone. This is a moral catastrophe. It is also part of this catastrophe that so many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are tainted by this failure.

We firmly resolve, with the help of God’s grace, never to repeat it. I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures. It will take work to rebuild that trust. What I have outlined here is only the beginning; other steps will follow. I will keep you informed of our progress toward these goals.

Let me ask you to hold us to all of these resolutions. Let me also ask you to pray for us, that we will take this time to reflect, repent, and recommit ourselves to holiness of life and to conform our lives even more to Christ, the Good Shepherd.”

 

 

Sexual abuse is always intolerable, regardless of the circumstances

Responding to editors’ requests for a regular sampling of current commentary from around the Catholic press, here is an editorial called “Sexual abuse is always intolerable, regardless of the circumstances” from the Aug. 10 issue of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. It was written by Daniel Conway, a member of the paper’s editorial board.

Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do. Hollywood moguls, prominent politicians and revered religious leaders have recently been exposed as sexual predators who abused their authority and, in the process, seriously undermined the dignity of countless women, men and children who were unfortunate enough to come under their evil influence.

The case of Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, until very recently a member of the College of Cardinals, is particularly heinous. If the allegations against him are true, as a priest, bishop and cardinal, he took something sacred — the trust of children and youth, young adults, priests, bishops and the entire people of God — and trashed it in pursuit of his own gratification.

How could anyone do this? How could anyone who takes seriously the promises made at his ordination or during his installation as a bishop and, later his elevation as a cardinal, look himself in the mirror each morning?

Regardless of the circumstances, sexual abuse is always intolerable. Of course, the more vulnerable the abused person is — children especially — the more serious and damaging the offense. Sexual predators are frequently intelligent, charming and skilled at gaining the trust of unsuspecting victims. Often, these abusers were themselves the victims of sexual, physical or emotional abuse who merely perpetuate the vicious cycle of cruel indignities that are afflicted on others.

The church’s leaders are human and, therefore, subject to the same influences as everyone else. They are sinners called to holiness with the same opportunities and obstacles faced by all the faithful. But as the late Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein frequently reminded us, deacons, priests and bishops are held to “a higher standard.” They are expected to be virtuous, chaste and unselfish in their daily lives and in their ministry to others — especially those who are most vulnerable.

It is a horrible truth that one out of every five female children and one out of every six male children will be sexually abused — usually by someone they trust — before they reach 18 years of age. Nearly 18 percent of children and youths in the United States experience the tragic reality of sexual abuse. Until the past few decades, most sexual abuse was unreported and most abusers were not held accountable for their crimes.

Since 2002, most Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have worked hard to ensure the protection of children and youths. “Zero tolerance” has been applied to most cases of abuse, and the abusers. Whether priests or lay employees (teachers, coaches, youth ministers, etc.), they have been swiftly removed from their positions of responsibility and reported to civil authorities. This is as it should be, but it doesn’t go far enough.

The Dallas “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” was accepted by the American bishops in 2002 in response to the explosion of allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy. Since that time, much work has been done in the education and prevention of sexual abuse against minors. What was once taken for granted — the personal dignity and profound respect due to every child, but especially those who are sick, suffering or handicapped — is now solemnly proclaimed and vigilantly safeguarded by the bishops, priests, deacons, religious women and men and lay leaders who carry out the church’s work in our parishes, schools and other ministries. This is as it should be, but it doesn’t go far enough.

The horrific scandal that began decades ago with one revelation after another of prominent Catholic clergy who either sexually abused minors, or engaged in abusive sexual misconduct of young adults, or adults who were somehow vulnerable to their advances continues. Bishops who covered up the sexual abuse of minors engaged in by their priests, or who were themselves guilty of such misconduct, have been called out and punished. And even members of the College of Cardinals from diverse regions of the world have now been held accountable.

When will it end?

This crisis cannot end until every child, youth, young adult and adult is treated with acceptance, love, esteem and emotional and spiritual respect by church leaders at every level and by faithful Catholics. The crisis cannot end until all of us commit to respecting the rights and dignity of all others, and until safe environments are established and safeguarded for all who are in any way vulnerable.

And the crisis can only end when all who occupy positions of trust — in the family, in society and in the church — are held strictly accountable for their treatment of the children, youths and adults entrusted to their care.

 

Steubenville East Conference

Last month more than 100 teens and adults attended the Steubenville East Conference in Lowell, Massachusetts. This was the third year the Diocese of Burlington sponsored a trip there.

Steubenville East is one of a series of youth conferences sponsored by Franciscan University and Life Teen Inc. Some 40,000 teens participated in conferences throughout the United States this summer in such places as Atlanta, Denver, San Diego and Seattle.

“Steubenville is so exciting and such a great way to come closer to God,” said Chasca King of Swanton.

Ali Redding of Fairfax said, “The Saturday night procession and adoration is always a highlight for participants. Most talk about very personal encounters that occur during this time.”

Her sister Sophie did not initially want to attend. “Being a naturally introverted and shy person, I didn’t think I’d be comfortable surrounded by thousands of people in a place I didn’t know. But after some thought, I decided to take a step out of my comfort zone and do it, and I’m glad I did!” she said.

The date for the next Steubenville East Youth Conference is set for July 12-14, 2019.

 

Rutland students lead way for bike, pedestrian improvements

Spearheaded by Christ the King School students, on Aug. 28, the administration will launch a series of new initiatives with local and statewide partners to improve safety at the school’s drop-off area and encourage more families to walk and bike to school.

During the past school year, sixth-grade students were invited to design solutions around the morning drop-off procedures on Killington Avenue. With support from the assistant principal and their Vermont Energy Education Program educator, students observed and documented the challenges with the current drop-off location. In the spring, a smaller group of students reviewed the evidence collected and engineered a solution for morning drop-off procedures including infrastructure changes.

The school and VEEP then reached out to statewide bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization, Local Motion, for assistance redesigning the intersection in front of the school to better serve those walking, biking and driving. Students presented the proposed plan to the town’s Traffic Safety Committee and were granted approval and support from the Department of Public Works.

Between Aug. 28 and Sept 7, the school and Local Motion will co-lead a pop-up demonstration project to temporarily test the new street changes using low-cost materials and to collect feedback that can help inform permanent improvements. Curb extensions will be installed to help slow traffic and improve pedestrian safety along Killington Avenue, and way-finding signage will help direct the flow of traffic through the parking area. The Town of Rutland and the Rutland Regional Planning Commission will support the project by restriping crosswalks, installing new signage and assisting with data collection. School families will be invited to help install the temporary improvements as part of a “community build” event on Aug. 28.

Students will present the plans for the re-configured street and drop-off area at the school’s parent information event and will help assist with directing traffic along the drop-off route during the first week of school.

In addition to the street improvements, Christ the King will install new bike racks and will have a free community workshop on Safe Family Bicycling on Aug. 28 in partnership with Local Motion to encourage more families to ride to school.

All activities mark the beginning of the school’s participation in the Way To Go (waytogovt.org) statewide school challenge program over the coming year, which incentivizes teachers, families and administrators to identify and promote safer routes to school.

For more information, contact Lila Millard at [email protected].

Make a day of it: Montpelier

Vermont’s capital city, Montpelier, is rich in history, government and faith as evidenced by three prominent downtown buildings: the State House, The Pavilion Building in which the Vermont History Museum is located and St. Augustine Church. Each is an important stop on a Make a Day of It visit to Montpelier.

State House

The Vermont State House is one of the oldest and best-preserved state capitols. Its House and Senate chambers are the oldest active legislative halls in the United States that have preserved their original interiors.

The State House contains some of the state’s most important art.

Here visitors will find the governor’s office, the Cedar Creek Reception Room, the Hall of Inscriptions and the legislative chambers.

115 State Street

Montpelier

802-828-2228

statehouse.vermont.gov

Hubbard Park is located up the hill behind the State House, and a walking trail through the park begins just behind the State House. It’s about a 15-minute walk up the hill to an old stone tower that offers a view of the surrounding mountains. North Branch River Park stretches for nearly a mile along the North Branch River, providing access to canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

Vermont History Museum

The award-winning, multi-media exhibit, “Freedom and Unity: One Ideal, Many Stories,” is a permanent exhibition that focuses on Vermont history. It begins with Paul Sample’s Salute to Vermont, a 1961 mural that sets the visitor up for a walk through time, experiencing a full-sized Abenaki wigwam, a re-creation of the Catamount Tavern where Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys gathered, a railroad station complete with a working telegraph and a World War II living room furnished with period music and magazines. The museum also showcases local history collections.

“This is a great place for families to learn about the history of the state and explore the past together,” said Victoria Hughes, museum and education manager.

The museum has various interactive items geared for children “and adults like them too,” she said.

109 State Street

Pavilion Building, Montpelier

802-828-2291

vermonthistory.org/visit/vermont-history-museum

Sculpture Garden

The Arts Council and the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services maintain an exhibit at the council offices at 136 State St., next to the Capital Region Visitors Center. The garden is a public/private collaboration featuring rotating two-year showings of contemporary work created by Vermont artists. It offers a place to picnic or engage in quiet reflection in Montpelier’s downtown.

St. Augustine Church

16 Barre St.

Telephone: 802-223-5285

Online: saintaugustinechurch.com

Weekend Masses: Saturdays at 4 p.m., Sundays at 7:45 and 10 a.m.

The first Mass in the current St. Augustine Church, constructed of Vermont granite, was celebrated in 1903 on Easter Sunday. The Montpelier Daily Journal reported: “They have built a sanctuary that will be a joy and an inspiration not only to them, but to their children and their children’s children for generations to come.”

The windows, a defining feature of the church, were made by the Wilbur Burnham Company of Boston and were installed over a year-long period that began in the fall of 1937 and continued almost until the end of 1938. They cost $25,000, and were added to the church during the pastorate of Monsignor W.P. Crosby.

Each window tells a story, and together they are a colorful celebration of the Catholic faith and reflect the 2,000 years of Catholic tradition that have shaped the religious beliefs of the parish family.

Father Julian Asucan, pastor, said the windows are one of the most beautiful features of the church. He invites people to visit the church to see them and to take time for private prayer in the chapel.

And after a visit to the church, get a creemee, something he likes to do in the capital city.

Story originally published in the Summer 2018 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

 

Obituary: Sister of St. Joseph Margaret Henry Blicharz

Sister Margaret Henry Blicharz (Veronica Rose), 91, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, of Springfield, Massachusetts, died Aug. 2 at Mont Marie Health Care Center in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
Born in West Rutland, she was the daughter of Henry and Margaret (Czachor) Blicharz.
She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rutland in 1951 from St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in West Rutland. She became a Sister of St. Joseph of Springfield when the congregations merged in 2001.
Sister Blicharz graduated from Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland and earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of St. Joseph the Provider in Rutland.
Among her teaching assignments in Vermont were Christ the King School in Rutland, St. Michael School in Brattleboro, St. Mary School in Fair Haven, St. Anthony School in White River Junction and St. Stanislaus School in West Rutland.
In addition to her sisters in community, she is survived by her brother, Henry Blicharz; her sister, Dorothy Blicharz; and several generations of nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, seven brothers and four sisters.
A Mass of Christian Burial took place at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church Aug. 4 with burial in Calvary Cemetery in Rutland.