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Vatican abuse summit: Prosecutor decries ëdeadly culture of silence'

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ROME -- The Vatican’s top prosecutor on sex abuse cases today bluntly decried “a deadly culture of silence” on clerical abuse, calling such denial “in itself wrong and unjust.”

tMaltese Monsignor Charles Scicluna told participants in a Vatican summit on sex abuse that while the church now has clear laws to punish abusers, just having such laws on the books isn’t enough.

t“Our people need to know that the law is being applied,” he said. “No strategy for the prevention of child abuse will ever work without commitment and accountability.”

tScicluna likewise reaffirmed the obligation of church leaders to cooperate with civil authorities, including reporting abuse allegations to police and prosecutors.

“Sexual abuse of minors is not just a canonical [violation] or a breach of a code of conduct internal to an institution, whether it be religious or other,” he said. “It is also a crime prosecuted by civil law.”

As a result, Scicluna said, Catholic officials have “the duty to cooperate with state authorities in our response to child abuse.”

Vatican abuse summit: Reassessing the media's role

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ROME -- Throughout the arc of the sexual abuse crisis, Vatican officials have often complained about media sensationalism and bias. In 2002, Colombian Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos famously took a series of questions in English during a press conference, and then snarled that fact alone “already says something about the problem and gives it an outline.” As recently as 2010, Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the former Secretary of State, appeared to compare media criticism to “petty gossip.”

tThe tone out of this week’s abuse summit has been strikingly different. If not quite fulsome gratitude, speakers have at least offered an acknowledgment that whatever progress the church has made, has often come as a result of media pressure.

tTo be sure, those concessions have usually been coupled with insistence that church leaders should now get ahead of the curve, rather than waiting for yet another media firestorm. Moreover, trace elements of resentment over perceived media hostility haven’t been entirely absent.

Catholics and contraception coverage

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I must say I am a little surprised at some of the more moderate/progressive Catholics in the media (Mark Shields, Cokie Roberts, E.J. Dionne) who have questioned the Obama administration's ruling that some Catholic employers must provide coverage for contraception for their employees.

I also note that none of them of works for a Catholic organization.

Of course, even if they did, the $50 a month for birth control probably wouldn't be a financial hardship for them. But for the Catholic schoolteacher or Catholic Charities social worker, it might be.

Those schoolteachers and social workers probably are among the majority of Catholics who said they believe employers--including religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals--should be required to provide health care plans that cover birth control at no cost, according to a new survey released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute.

Vatican abuse summit: Penance and a spirit of 'Never Again!'

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ROME -- In a first of its kind for Rome, the Vatican’s top official for bishops tonight led a liturgy of penance to ask forgiveness for the sexual abuse of children by priests, and for church leaders who covered up that abuse.

The service included an Irish victim of clerical abuse, who, in an apparent reference both to abusers and their protectors, asked God to “forgive them.”

tHeld tonight at Rome’s Church of St. Igantius, the liturgy was presided over by Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who serves as Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. His participation was seen as significant, because it implicitly acknowledged that the church’s shortcomings are not limited to priests who committed abuse, but also include bishops who failed to act.

tThe service was part of a four-day Vatican summit on the sexual abuse crisis titled “Towards Healing and Renewal.” The event brings together roughly 100 bishops and religious superiors from around the world, ahead of a May deadline for bishops’ conferences to submit their policies on fighting abuse for Vatican review.

Cardinal George leaves Pfleger at St. Sabina

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Fr. Michael Pfleger told his parishioners at Mass on Sunday that he will remain as pastor of Chicago's St. Sabina Church, apparently indefinitely. As of July 1, he said he will become co-pastor, along with Fr. Tulani Magwaza, who has been an associate at St. Sabina for more than two years.

Details of the arrangement were reportedly worked out during a meeting between Pfleger and Cardinal Francis George at the cardinal's residence Jan. 23. In addition, Pfleger announced he will become, at George's request, the official diocesan spokesperson on gun violence, and has agreed to serve as administrator at another South Side parish, St. Margaret of Scotland, whose pastor, Fr. Daniel Mallette, was severely beaten during a break-in at the rectory in December.

At Whom Are The Bishops Angry?

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The flurry of response to the Obama Administration's ruling that Catholic institutions must cover the cost of contraceptives has emphasized the political tensions underlying the conflict but neglects the strains created within the church itself.

Two consequences especially seem evident, if not immediately then in the months and years come.

They both stem from the failure of the birth control encyclical to persuade American Catholics that the prohibition made sense, in part because it left them, the ones most involved with the issue, out of the decision.

Has the Vatican been nursing a resentment against American Catholics ever since? I think much evidence suggests this is so. But under the prevailing customs of creeping infallibilism, the encyclical cannot be declared flawed or in need of reconsideration.

Vatican abuse summit: Expert blasts denial on global dimension of crisis

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ROME -- One of America’s leading experts on the Catholic abuse crisis effectively told church leaders from different parts of the world today that if they think sexual abuse is not a problem in their neighborhood, they’re kidding themselves.

“Church leaders around the world began by saying, ‘This is only an American problem’,” Monsignor Stephen Rossetti told a Vatican symposium this morning. “Then, as more cases surfaced in other countries, they said, ‘This is an English speaking problem.’ Then, as the circle of abuse cases widened, they expanded it to: ‘This is a Western problem.’ The boundaries were pushed back farther and farther.”

“Each time, church leaders said, in effect, ‘It doesn’t happen here’,” Rossetti said.

Rossetti, former director of the St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland, which treats abuser priests, has written widely on the crisis. He said that in reality, all the available data, based on studies by secular experts, concur that child abuse occurs at the same high rates across the various continents.

Vatican abuse summit: Demand for accountability 'legitimate'

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New controls on bishops ‘a step that may have to be taken’

ROME -- Bishop Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, is the chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People. He’s attending the four-day “Towards Healing and Renewal” symposium as the official delegate of the U.S. bishops, and this morning he sat down with an exclusive interview with NCR.

The following is a transcript of the interview.

* * *
This morning you heard an Irish victim, Marie Collins, describe how her experiences of not being taken seriously led to what she called a “final death of respect” for church authorities. Can you understand that reaction?

tOh, I can certainly understand that reaction. I’ve not been a victim, so I can’t place myself in her position, but anybody who has been hurt and then not listened to is going to experience further hurt.

Are you confident that someone who comes forward today will be received differently?

Morning Briefing

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April 21-May 4, 2017

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