To merge or not to merge


On one level, the story of the changing Catholic church in the United States is contained in the numbers: decreasing numbers of priests, nuns, parishes and even religious congregations. That cold reality began to dawn on the church as early as the 1970s, and it eventually surfaced a new word for the Catholic vocabulary: merger. Parishes merged; so did Catholic hospitals, elementary schools, high schools and religious orders.

Calls made for release of L.A. abuse papers


COSTA MESA, Calif. -- William Lobdell sat in an outdoor café in Costa Mesa just days after it was revealed that a federal prosecutor was now taking his turn at investigating the sex-abuse scandal in the Los Angeles archdiocese.

Lobdell, a lean man in his late 40s with a shaved head, smiled an I-understand-this grin. He had covered the scandal for the Los Angeles Times and paid a price for it. His tale is told in his newly released Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America -- and Found Unexpected Peace (Collins, 2009).

L. A. sex-abuse investigation a federal case


LOS ANGELES -- A recently impaneled federal grand jury is investigating how the Los Angeles archdiocese managed accusations that dozens of priests molested hundreds of teenagers and younger children over many years. The federal investigation, first reported by The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times Jan. 29, threatens to ignite a new phase in the clergy sex-abuse scandal less than two years after the archdiocese agreed to pay $660 million to more than 500 victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Maciel admission raises questions for a hurting order


As the last tattered shreds of public resistance inside the Legion of Christ gave way to overwhelming evidence that the order’s founder had led a deceptive, double life, questions regarding its future have taken a foothold.

Shocked members, supporters and church observers began asking questions. Some called for investigations to learn who in the order might have enabled Fr. Marcial Maciel to cover a part of his life, making indelibly making a story of deception central to the Legionaires history.
Other said that it would be wise to dissolve the Legion of Christ and start a new order from scratch.

At the center of the turmoil is the deceased Maciel, long accused of numerous acts of sex abuse but having gained focused scrutiny with the admissions Feb. 4 by Legion officials that he had had a mistress and fathered a daughter.

Maciel, viewed by some as a saint, by others as a cult figure, died last year at the age of 87. The Legion claims over 800 priests and 2,500 seminarians worldwide.

Legionaries of Christ founder said to father child


A spokesperson for the Legionaries of Christ said Feb. 3 the order has recently reached the conclusion that its founder, a Mexican priest named Marcial Maciel Degollado who was close to the late Pope John Paul II, was guilty of conduct that is "surprising, difficult to understand, and inappropriate for a Catholic priest."

The spokesperson, Jim Fair, who works out of the Legionaries' U.S. headquarters in Connecticut, declined to offer any specifics in response to an NCR inquiry.

Speaking on background, however, a Legionary priest in Rome confirmed the order has learned that Maciel, who died in January 2008, apparently fathered a child out of wedlock.

NCR stories about Fr. Marcial Maciel


The National Catholic Reporter printed its first story about Fr. Marcial Maciel in 1997, Legionaries founder accused of sex abuse, and followed the story for 11 years. Here is a list of the most recent stories. The last link in in this list takes you to an even more extensive list of NCR coverage, more than three dozen stories dated 1997-2006.

Fr. Marcial Maciel leaves behind a flawed legacy
February 22, 2008
Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the once powerful founder of the Legionaries of Christ and favorite of the late Pope John Paul II, was buried in Mexico recently in what was described as an “understated and solemn” ceremony, a disgraced figure who was plagued in his latter years by persistent charges that he had abused young seminarians in his earlier years.
Maciel died in Houston Jan. 30, several weeks after suffering a stroke.

A proposal: Look to Civil law to reform parishes


The parish is the primary institution where the church lives out its life. “The parish is a beacon that radiates the light of faith,” Pope Benedict XVI said in December. “Thus it meets the most profound and authentic desires of the human heart, giving meaning and hope to the lives of individuals and families.”

The pope speaks of an ideal. The reality in the United States’ 19,000 parishes is, unfortunately, quite different. Far too often, the local institution designed to radiate the light of faith is dulled by structures that impede the church’s mission.

The evidence is abundant: In the past 50 years weekly Mass attendance has plummeted to the low 30 percent range, vocations to the priesthood and religious life have been decimated, a priest culture has emerged that has enabled illicit and criminal behavior to exist, and the moral authority of bishops is near record lows. The sexual abuse scandal alone has cost the church over $1 billion. Four dioceses have raced to civil courts seeking bankruptcy protection. The actual opportunity costs -- the money that could have, should have, been spent to further the mission of the church -- are beyond calculation.



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In This Issue

June 16-29, 2017