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St John Paul II’s abuse record defended by his long-time secretary

Krakow, Poland, Mar 21, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, a personal friend and close collaborator of St. John Paul II, this week defended the Polish pope’s record on the abuse crisis, which has lately come under criticism from some areas.

“The emerging opinions that John Paul II was sluggish in guiding the Church’s response to the sexual abuse of minors by some clerics are prejudicial and contradict the historical facts,” the archbishop emeritus of Krakow wrote in a statement March 20.

St. John Paul II “was shocked,” Cardinal Dziwisz said. “He had no intention of tolerating the crime of pedophilia in the Church and fought against it.”

Cardinal Dziwisz was ordained a priest in 1963 by St. John Paul II, who was then an auxiliary bishop of Krakow. When Wojtyla was made Archbishop of Krakow the following year, then-Fr. Dziwisz became his secretary – a role he served in until the pope’s death in 2005.

Dziwisz was appointed Archbishop of Krakow shortly after his mentor’s death, remaining in that position until his retirement in 2016.

In his statement on John Paul’s abuse record, Dziwisz gave several examples of the actions the pope took against abuse, beginning with the United States at the start of the crisis in the 1980s.

John Paul, he said, “first observed the activities of the episcopate of the United States, and when he came to the conclusion that new tools were needed to fight against these crimes, he gave the church superiors new powers.”

The pope’s 1994 indult for U.S. bishops and, two years later, for Irish bishops, approved a “zero-tolerance” policy concerning abuse by clergy, Dziwisz stated.

“These were, for the bishops, an unambiguous indication of the direction in which they should fight,” he said.

“When it became clear that the local episcopates and religious superiors were still unable to cope with the problem, and the crisis was spreading to other countries, [Pope John Paul II] recognized that it does not concern only the Anglo-Saxon world but has a global character,” he recalled.

Dziwisz said that the pope was also quick to help the local Churches and bishops both on his own initiative and when asked.

He also pointed to John Paul II’s Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, on protection of the sanctity of the sacraments, which was published in April 2001, nearly a year before the widely-known 2002 Boston Globe “Spotlight” reports. With that document, the pope promulgated norms on “the most serious crimes” for the entire Church.

“We know the groundbreaking importance of this legal act,” Dziwisz added. “John Paul II reserved all sexual crimes committed by clergy against minors under the age of 18 to the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Court of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

“He also obliged each bishop and superior religious to report to this Congregation all such crimes, if their probability was confirmed in the preliminary investigation provided for by the Code of Canon Law. Further proceedings were continued under the control of the Apostolic Court.”

In April 2002, following the Boston Globe report, John Paul II summoned the cardinals of the United States to the Vatican to speak about the abuse crisis.

It is thanks to the clear rules of John Paul II that the degree of abuse in the U.S. has lowered, Dziwisz said.

Dziwisz also spoke about John Paul II’s part in the case of Fr. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ, who was found to have lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians, and fathered children. Initial accusations against Maciel emerged in the late 1990s.

In 2006 the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Benedict XVI, removed Maciel from public ministry and ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. The congregation decided not to subject him to a canonical process because of his advanced age and Maciel died in 2008.

According to Dziwisz, recent claims that John Paul II “was covering up” the criminal activities of Maciel are contradicted by the facts.

He noted that the accusations against Maciel were already being investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in December 2004, under John Paul II’s pontificate, and that at that time, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, who was the Promoter of Justice, was sent to Mexico and the United States, alongside another lawyer, to conduct the investigation.

“The decision to initiate this investigation could only be taken with the knowledge and approval of John Paul II,” the cardinal stated, adding that these processes continued also through the sede vacante and until the conclusion of the process in 2006 with Pope Benedict XVI’s verdict.

To this day, John Paul II’s actions serve “as a reference point for all those committed to fighting against the crime of sexual abuse of minors by clerics, Dziwisz stated.

“This has been confirmed by the summit in the Vatican convened by Pope Francis, who in the fight against this problem is following with determination the path of his predecessors.”

Irish bishops speak out against abortion requirement for medical jobs

Dublin, Ireland, Mar 21, 2019 / 01:22 pm (CNA).- The Irish Bishops’ Conference has objected to job requirements mandating that certain consultant doctors be willing to participate in abortions, saying that the country’s new abortion law had promised to safeguard conscience rights for medical professionals.

“This precondition runs totally counter to a doctor’s constitutional and human right to freedom of conscience,” said the bishops, according to Irish Catholic.

“This totally undermines the whole concept of freedom of conscience which was guaranteed in the recent legislation,” they added.

In a statement following their Spring 2019 General Meeting in Maynooth, the bishops of Ireland addressed an advertisement for two consultants at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin. As a job requirement, the candidates for the Obstetrics/Gynecology and Anesthesia positions must be willing to take part in abortions.

The bishops’ conference said these preconditions may rule out the best possible person for the job by eliminating candidates solely because they are unwilling to perform abortions.

“A doctor who is eminently qualified to work as a consultant in these fields is denied employment in these roles because of his/her conscience,” said the bishops, according to RTE.

“Doctors who are pro-life and who may have spent over a decade training in these areas and who may otherwise be the best candidate for these positions are now advised that, should they apply, they would not be eligible for consideration," they said.

A spokesman for the National Maternity Hospital argued that the specific posts were funded by the Health Service Executive, a government agency, for the purpose of abortions.

“They are therefore for individuals willing to contribute to the provision of these services. Other past and future posts are not affected. The conscientious objection guidelines for staff in both hospitals remain unchanged,” the spokesman said, according to RTE.

Once a majority-Catholic and pro-life contingent, voters in Ireland last May voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment to their constitution, which had banned abortion. General practitioners are now allowed to perform abortions up to nine weeks and hospitals are allowed to perform the procedure up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The repeal has already led to concerns about freedom of conscience for medical professionals. At least 640 general practitioners in Ireland signed a petition in November objecting to the new obligation of referring patients to other doctors for abortions.

The majority of the country's 2,500 general practitioners (GP) are unwilling to perform abortions. Only between 4 and 6 percent of GPs have said they would participate in the procedure.

The nation’s bishops recommitted themselves to helping pregnant women find the resources they need and educating those interested in apologetics defending life. To further these goals, the bishops have created a new Council for Life, led by Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin.

“The council will give priority to exploring how best, in the current socio-cultural context, the Catholic community can offer practical support to women in crisis pregnancy, giving their unborn babies the best chance at life,” Bishop Doran said, according to Irish Catholic.

“It will also give priority to promoting an understanding of life questions among young people and to engaging them in the challenge of defending life.”


Polish bishops release ‘tragic’ report on sexual abuse

Krakow, Poland, Mar 15, 2019 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- Nearly 400 Polish priests were accused of sexual abuse of minors from 1990 until 2018, a study commissioned by the Episcopal Conference of Poland revealed on Thursday.


The study covered data collected from the more than 10,000 parishes in Poland, and included religious orders.


According to the report, 382 priests were accused of abuse during the time covered, and the allegations concern 625 potential victims. Of the clerics accused, 284 were diocesan priests, and 98 belonged to a religious order.


Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, who leads the Episcopal Conference of Poland, called the report’s findings “tragic,” and said every instance of sexual abuse is a “particularly painful” betrayal of public trust.


The archbishop also noted that while the Church must deal with the problem of clerical sexual abuse, it was important that the same kinds of abuse not be permitted to continue in other institutions.


Among allegations concerning diocesan priests, 54.2 percent concerned victims under the age of 15, and 45.8 percent victims over the age 15.


Allegations involving religious orders showed that a total of 44 priests--44.9 percent--were accused of sexually abusing someone under the age of 15. Fifty four priests, or 55.1 percent, were accused of abusing someone over the age of 15.


In total, 198 priests were accused of abusing those under 15, compared to 184 who were accused of abusing older teens.


In 58.4 percent of allegations of clerical abuse in Poland, males were reportedly the victims. Females were the reported victims in 41.6 percent of allegations.


Since 2002, when revelations of abuse by American clergy became worldwide news, the number of cases reported to Polish authorities has seen a gradual increase. In 2017, there were 36 allegations made against diocesan priests.


Of the 382 accused priests, a canonical penal process was pursued in 362 of these cases. There is no data available for the other 20 cases, nor is it explained in the report why this is the case. In 270 cases, the process was completed at the time of the study’s commision, and the process was ongoing in 92 cases.


A total of 68 priests--almost exactly one quarter--were removed from the priesthood as a result of the canonical process. 109 were punished with a limitation of ministry or other sanctions, and 31 were transferred to either a different parish or in a location away from children. In 34 cases, the process was ended after the death of the accused, and in 28 cases, the priest was acquitted.


Only 168 priests were charged with a crime by civil authorities. At the time the report was published, the trial had concluded in 135 of those cases. Eighty-five priests were convicted of sexual abuse. In 36 cases, the charges did not move forward, and in 12 cases, the accuser did not want to cooperate and pursue charges. Two priests were aquitted.


There are 33 priests whose trials are ongoing.


Poland’s statistics on clerical abuse tell a different than data concerning the United States. According to the “John Jay study,” a report into allegations of abuse by American priests commissioned in 2002, only 27.3 percent of those abused by priests were over the age of 15. In the U.S., males accounted for nearly 80 percent of survivors of clerical abuse.

On Lenten retreat, Pope Francis reflected on 'Gaudium et spes'

Rome, Italy, Mar 15, 2019 / 11:15 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Friday that he senses resistance to Gaudium et spes, a document the pope said he reflected much upon during his Lenten retreat this week.

In his concluding remarks at the Roman curia’s spiritual exercises March 15, Pope Francis said that he was struck by the retreat master’s theme of God’s presence in humanity.

“I thought a lot about a conciliar document - Gaudium et spes - perhaps it is the document that has found more resistance, even today,” Pope Francis said.

Gaudium et spes is the Second Vatican Council's 1965 pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world.

Francis told the retreat master, Benedictine abbot Bernardo Gianni, that he saw the monk possessed “the courage of the Council Fathers when they signed that document.”

The document's introduction states that “the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.”

Gaudium et spes touches on the Church’s role in economic and social life, matters of the family, political affairs, the development of culture, and the promotion of peace in the world through the international community.

“Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come,” Gaudium et spes states.

It continues, “When we have spread on earth the fruits of our nature and our enterprise—human dignity, brotherly communion, and freedom—according to the command of the Lord and in his Spirit, we will find them once again, cleansed this time from the stain of sin, illuminated and transfigured, when Christ presents to his Father an eternal and universal kingdom … Here on earth the kingdom is mysteriously present.”

Reflecting on the incarnate Word, the pastoral constitution says: “Christ … fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.”

Pope Francis returned to Rome after his Lenten retreat at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia March 15. It is the sixth consecutive year the pope and members of the Curia have held their spiritual exercises at the house in Ariccia.

Scientists call for global moratorium on genetically modified babies

London, England, Mar 15, 2019 / 10:03 am (CNA).- A group of 18 scientists and bioethicists from seven countries has called for a global moratorium on the practice of editing human DNA to create genetically modified babies until the international community can develop a “framework” for how to proceed in an ethical manner.

The group of scientists, in a March 13 editorial in the journal Nature, acknowledged that many people of religious belief find “the idea of redesigning the fundamental biology of humans morally troubling,” and that the practice could have serious societal consequences.

This practice of changing “heritable DNA” – found in human sperm, eggs, or embryos – is known as “germline editing.”

“By ‘global moratorium’, we do not mean a permanent ban,” the group of scientists wrote.

“Rather, we call for the establishment of an international framework in which nations, while retaining the right to make their own decisions, voluntarily commit to not approve any use of clinical germline editing unless certain conditions are met.”

The conditions for a nation to meet, the scientists say, should include giving public notice of its intention to engage in germline editing and consulting with other nations about “the wisdom of doing so,” as well as taking a suggested two years to ascertain whether there is “broad societal consensus” about whether germline editing is appropriate.

In addition, a coordinating body to provide information and reports about germline editing should be established, they say, possibly under the purview of the World Health Organization.

The call for a moratorium comes amid ethical questions surrounding a Chinese biophysicist who claims he created the first genetically modified babies late last year.

He Jiankui says his goal was to edit embryos to give them the ability to resist HIV infection by disabling the CCR5 gene, which allows HIV to enter a cell.

He says he used a technology known as CRISPR to edit sections of the human genome, performing the procedure on embryonic humans. The technology, which selectively “snips” and trims areas of the genome and replaces it with strands of desired DNA, has previously been used on adult humans and other species. CRISPR technology has only recently been used to treat deadly diseases in adults, and limited experiments have been performed on animals.

In a letter signed by 120 Chinese scientists, He was condemned for ignoring ethical guidelines. The letter called the gene manipulation a “Pandora’s box,” and said, “The biomedical ethics review for this so-called research exists in name only. Conducting direct human experiments can only be described as crazy.”

At least three of the authors of the Nature article have connections to CRISPR-based gene-editing technologies.

The Nature scientists did not rule out germline editing for research purposes, as long as the study did not involve the transfer of an embryo to woman’s uterus; nor did their call for a ban apply to gene editing in non-reproductive cells in order to treat diseases, because modifications done on those cells can be done with the informed consent of adults providing the cells, and the modifications are not heritable, i.e. they cannot be passed on to offspring.

Around 30 nations worldwide, including the United States, already have laws to directly or indirectly ban the clinical use of germline editing. CRISPR research on embryos is currently banned from receiving federal funding, but can be conducted using private funding. The Food and Drug Administration prohibits gene modification on viable human embryos, which means any genetically modified human embryos must be destroyed, rather than brought to term.

The scientists called for a fixed period – perhaps five years – when no clinical uses of germline editing are allowed worldwide.

“As well as allowing for discussions about the technical, scientific, medical, societal, ethical and moral issues that must be considered before germline editing is permitted, this period would provide time to establish an international framework,” they wrote.

The scientists noted that here is broad scientific consensus that germline editing is not yet safe or effective enough to be considered for clinical use. They also highlighted the distinction between “genetic correction,” which involves working to edit out rare mutations, and “genetic enhancement,” or the attempt to improve human individuals and the species.

The Nature scientists noted that even efforts at genetic correction, when undertaken in order to cure a disease, can have unintended consequences. For example, a common variant of the gene SLC39A8 decreases a person’s risk of developing hypertension and Parkinson’s disease, but increases their risk of developing schizophrenia, Crohn’s disease, and obesity.

This is also true for the genes that He worked with in his research, as altering those genes could make the genetically modified babies more susceptible to certain viral infections.

“Its influence on many other diseases – and its interactions with other genes and with the environment – remains unknown,” the scientists wrote.

“It will be much harder to predict the effects of completely new genetic instructions – let alone how multiple modifications will interact when they co-occur in future generations. Attempting to reshape the species on the basis of our current state of knowledge would be hubris.”

In Dignitas personae, its 2008 instruction on certain bioethical questions, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that while somatic cell gene therapy is in principle morally licit, “because the risks connected to [germ line cell therapy] are considerable and as yet not fully controllable, in the present state of research, it is not morally permissible to act in a way that may cause possible harm to the resulting progeny.”

The instruction also warned against a “eugenic mentality” that aims to improve the gene pool, adding that there could be social stigmas and privileges applied to people with certain genetic qualities, when “such qualities do not constitute what is specifically human.”

CNA spoke to John DiCamillo, an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, in early 2017. He explained that somatic cell gene editing may be morally legitimate when used for “a directly therapeutic purpose for a particular patient in question, and if we’re sure we’re going to limit whatever changes to this person.” He pointed to gene therapy trials for disorders such as sickle cell disease and cancer that show promise for treating difficult disorders.

Editing sperm, eggs, or early embryos, however, presents serious concerns, he said. Manipulating sperm and ova requires removing them from a person’s body; if conception is achieved with these cells, it is nearly always through in vitro methods. This practice of in vitro fertilization is held by the Church to be ethically unacceptable because it dissociates procreation from the integrally personal context of the conjugal act.

Scientists at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research and education arm of Susan B. Anthony List, reacted to the Nature scientists' proposal by saying their suggested moratorium does not go far enough.

“This proposal for a temporary moratorium on implanting and gestating gene-edited embryos is disappointingly short-sighted,” said Dr. David Prentice, CLI’s vice president and research director.

“Scientifically unsound and ethically problematic experiments on human embryos, including creating gene-edited embryos in the lab and then destroying them, would still be allowed and even encouraged. We call instead for the full prohibition of gene-editing experiments on embryos or germ cells – not just a speed bump.”

Northern Ireland anti-abortion law has saved 100,000 lives, pro-lifers say

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Mar 13, 2019 / 05:02 pm (CNA).- Efforts to protect the unborn from legal abortion in Northern Ireland continue despite efforts to bypass self-governance and go directly through the U.K. Parliament—efforts backed by a U.N. committee and pro-abortion rights politicians and groups.

Last month pro-life advocates marched on the U.K. Parliament in Westminster opposing any imposition of legal abortion on Northern Ireland. Ten women marchers each held a box symbolizing 10,000 people they say have been born because of laws that protect the unborn from abortion.

“100,000 people in Northern Ireland are alive today because Northern Ireland did not accept the same abortion law that was introduced into Britain in 1967,” Dawn McEvoy, co-founder of the Belfast-based group Both Lives Matter, said Feb. 26. “These people are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons. Abortion pressure groups have no mandate from us the people of Northern Ireland to impose abortion on Northern Ireland from Westminster. We urge the British Government to respect the people of Northern Ireland and our elected representatives.”

On March 9, several hundred pro-abortion rights protesters paraded to Belfast’s City Hall, calling for legal abortion in Northern Ireland. Some marchers accused British Prime Minister Theresa May of violating women’s rights. The demonstration aimed to mark International Women’s Day observed the previous day, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

Abortion is legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother's life is at risk or if there is risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health. Bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

Elective abortion is legal in the rest of the U.K. up to 24 weeks.

May has said abortion should remain a devolved issue for Northern Ireland, which has self-governing powers.

However, the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont is currently suspended due to disagreements between the two major governing parties: the anti-abortion Democratic Unionist Party, which has traditionally drawn support from Protestants, and Sinn Fein, which has traditionally drawn support from Catholics but has taken a strong turn towards permissive abortion laws in recent years.

The DUP is a member of May’s coalition government in Westminster at a critical time in British politics, amid much controversy over the U.K.’s exit from the European Union.

Amnesty International is backing changes to Northern Ireland abortion law.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty’s campaigns manager in Northern Ireland, called on the U.K. government to introduce “abortion reform” legislation in Westminster without delay. In a March 11 statement, she said devolution “does not relieve the U.K. government of their responsibility to uphold human rights in Northern Ireland.”

The group welcomed the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women report published March 11.

The U.N. committee charged there were “grave and systematic violations of women’s rights” in the region and criticized the failure of the U.K. to “ensure women’s access to abortion services,” including decriminalization of abortion, on the grounds that it is a matter for Northern Ireland authorities. The committee cited the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which requires the Westminster Parliament to legislate as necessary to ensure that the U.K.’s international obligations are met with respect to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s abortion law has been under increased pressure in recent years. Since abortion became legal after strong voter support in the Republic, abortion advocates have said “the North is next,” while pro-life advocates have said “The North Protects.”

Labour Party MP Stella Creasy had intended to propose an amendment to a draft domestic abuse bill to change abortion laws in Ireland, but the ruling Conservative government restricted the bill to England and Wales.

Creasy has joined MPs from multiple parties and more than 70 groups calling on the government to remove the restriction, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

“The Government has restricted the extent of this bill to try and avoid upsetting the DUP,” she said.

A DUP spokesperson said any attempt to change the law without approval of the Assembly would breach the devolution settlement allowing self-government in Northern Ireland.

“The government should respect the right of the Assembly to legislate on abortion,” said the spokesperson.

Fiona Bruce, a Conservative MP representing Congleton in Cheshire, England, joined Both Lives Matter in urging the government to reject any effort to expand legal abortion.

“Abortion pressure groups are trying to undermine devolution and impose change to abortion law for Northern Ireland,” she said Feb. 26. “This is bad for devolution everywhere and contrary to Government policy.”

“These extreme proposals are out of touch with the will of the Northern Irish people, and in particular women,” she said. “It is clear that a strong majority of Northern Irish women reject interference from Westminster and believe that this is a decision for Northern Ireland.”

Both Lives Matter cited the polling group ComRes’ online poll in October 2018 of 1,013 Northern Ireland adults. It found 64 percent said abortion law should be decided by the people of Northern Ireland and their representatives, not MPs from other parts of the U.K.

A Belfast woman plans to bring forward a personal challenge to Northern Ireland's abortion law to court this week.

In June 2018 the U.K. Supreme Court threw out a previous challenge to Northern Ireland’s abortion law, saying the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which brought the case, did not have standing to do so. However, a majority of the judges said that the Northern Ireland abortion law framework is incompatible with human rights laws insofar as it bars abortion in cases of pregnancy by rape or incest or in cases of fetal abnormality. The U.K. government has so far not legislated any change.

Northern Irish women have been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.

Some members of the House of Lords are attempting to require that same-sex marriage be legally recognized in Northern Ireland, the Belfast Telegraph reported March 1.

“In the absence of devolved government in Northern Ireland, there are members on all sides and in both Houses of Parliament who want to get this matter resolved,” said Conservative peer Lord Hayward, who with Labour peer Lord Collins of Highbury is backing such an amendment to the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths Bill.

“Westminster has already passed Northern Ireland legislation in the absence of Stormont, so we know that we can and should address the issue of marriage equality," Lord Hayward said.

The amendment would allow the Assembly six months to overturn the provision after the bill becomes law.

Pope begins Lenten spiritual exercises reflecting on Christ's gaze

Rome, Italy, Mar 11, 2019 / 10:24 am (CNA).- A Benedictine abbot is leading Pope Francis and the Roman curia in Lenten spiritual exercises this week, with the theme of Christ’s gaze and gestures in the life of the world.

“Let us allow ourselves to be looked at by Him. Jesus is our humanism,” the Italian monk Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni said in the first of his spiritual reflections March 10.

Gianni, the abbot of San Miniato al Monte Abbey in Florence, will provide two meditations each day of this week’s papal retreat, which also includes daily Eucharistic adoration and Mass.

“Look at how He looked. Looking at the rich young man, He loved him; the meeting of eyes with Zacchaeus, who climbs up a tree to see the Lord Jesus, who looks up to meet him,” the Gianni said.

The monk told the Roman curia, “Our pastoral action, our taking care of the people entrusted to us … of the humanity that is entrusted to us by the Lord, can really be a new flame of ardent desire, and a return to being a garden of beauty, peace, justice, measure, harmony.”

Citing the Italian poet Mario Luzi and Venerable Giorgio La Pira, a mayor of Florence in the 1950s and '60s, the abbot said that the Benedictine tradition “prolongs the gaze of the monk from the cloister to the city in front of the monastery.”

“The perspective of the monastery is not an alternative to the city, but an exemplary, paradigmatic, authentic testimony, in which the city could rediscover the reasons for its vocation, its mystery, present and future,” he continued.

The pope’s spiritual exercises are taking place at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a town just 16 miles outside of Rome. Located on Lake Albano, the retreat house is just a short way from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. It will be the sixth consecutive year the pope and members of the Curia have held their Lenten retreat at the house in Ariccia.

While the practice of the Bishop of Rome going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries each Lent began some 80 years ago, it had been customary for them to follow the spiritual exercises on Vatican ground. Beginning in Lent 2014, Francis chose to hold the retreat outside Rome.

All of the pope’s activities are suspended this week until he returns from his Lenten retreat March 15.

Pope Francis: Abuse revelations are purifying the Church

Rome, Italy, Mar 7, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- God is purifying his Church through the painful revelations of the abuse scandals, so do not be discouraged, Pope Francis said Thursday in a meeting with the priests of the Diocese of Rome.

“Sin disfigures us, and we experience with pain the humiliating experience of when we ourselves or one of our brother priests or bishops falls into the bottomless pits of vice, corruption or, worse still, of the crime that destroys the lives of others,” he said March 7.

Speaking in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, Francis told the priests of the Rome diocese that he feels with them “the unbearable pain and suffering that the wave of scandals – which the whole world’s newspapers are now full of – causes in us and in the whole ecclesial body.”

“Still, do not be discouraged! The Lord is purifying his Bride and is converting us all to himself,” he continued, stating that this “test” is to help them understand that without God “we are dust.”

“It is saving us from hypocrisy, from the spirituality of appearances. He is blowing his Spirit to restore beauty to his Bride, surprised in flagrant adultery,” he added.

Referencing a part of his homily for the closing Mass of the Feb. 21-24 Vatican summit on the protection of minors in the Church, he said the “true meaning of what is happening is to be found in the spirit of evil, in the Enemy.”

The pope’s remarks were made the same day Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon was convicted of failing to report allegations abuse by a priest of his archdiocese, and days before Cardinal George Pell will be sentenced in Australia for an abuse conviction handed down in December.

The convictions are the latest developments as revelations of clerical sex abuse and cover up continue to send shock waves through the Catholic Church. The United States, Ireland, Australia, Chile, Argentina and Germany are among the countries that have seen recent abuse scandals uncovered.

Pope Francis meets with the priests of the Diocese of Rome every year at the start of Lent. In a change from past meetings, he forwent responding to questions from the priests, opting instead to give both prepared and un-prepared remarks. He also heard the confessions of several priests.

Reflecting on Confession and the sinfulness of priests, the pope said God “never tires of using us to offer reconciliation to people.”

“We are the poorest sinners, yet God takes us to intercede for our brothers and to distribute to human beings, through our hands, not at all innocent, the salvation that renews,” he said.

He also reflected on the temptation to self-sufficiency, calling it a “holy mirror.”

“We must never cease to warn each other of the temptation of self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction, as if we were People of God for our own initiative or our own merit,” he said, adding that “we are and always will be the fruit of the Lord’s merciful action.”

“The Master told us: ‘without me you cannot do anything!’ … I am not the center of activities, even the center of prayer, so many times ... No, no, He is the center,” he reminded.

“This is why this time of Lent is truly a grace: it allows us to relocate before God, letting him be everything.”

Bishop Barron: Proclaim the Gospel more boldly in times of crisis

Rome, Italy, Mar 7, 2019 / 01:41 pm (CNA).- Bishop Robert Barron said Thursday that rather than becoming hesitant in sharing the Gospel, the Catholic Church should proclaim the truth even more boldly “during these times of crisis.”

“Wounds have got to be addressed and healed. If we just turn the other way or cover that up, that is not going to help the project,” Barron told CNA March 7.

“It is a precarious time. It is a time when a lot of us feel threatened in a way. It has affected me … but my sense has always been during these times of crisis, we bring the Gospel forward more boldly,” he said.

Barron, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, is known for his Catholicism video series and online YouTube video apostolate, which he said began at a time when the American Church was beginning to grapple with clerical sex abuse. In response, his ministry, Word on Fire, leads with the beauty and the intellectual depth of the Catholic faith.

“This is the moment for novelty and creativity and simplicity in the best sense, the return to the Gospel basics,” Barron said.

The American bishop was in Rome to receive an honorary doctorate from the Angelicum, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, on the 745th anniversary of Aquinas’ death.

“Among the saints, [Aquinas] is the greatest and the most intimate of my spiritual friends, and he has followed me all of my life long,” Barron said in his homily at the Angelicum’s Church of St. Dominic and Sixtus.

The bishop reflected that St. Thomas Aquinas taught him that “the person of wisdom is one who sees the world from the standpoint of the highest cause.”

“What happens to all of us sinners is that we see the world from the standpoint of all kinds of proximate causes,” he explained.

“We start seeing our life in terms of power and honor and wealth, privilege and worldly success, and then we fret and we worry and we spend hours and hours of our lives preoccupied with secondary and relatively unimportant things.”

“But when we see our lives and our world from the standpoint of the highest cause, from God's point of view, that same kind of peace and serenity ... invades our souls,” he said.

This high viewpoint, he added, is ultimately “the hilltop of Calvary” from which we “see the whole world from the standpoint of self-emptying love.”

Bishop Barron’s lecture at the Angelicum University offered a Thomistic response to a postmodern critique that a person’s gift-giving can never be completely altruistic.

“What makes all the difference in the particular Christian claim … is that divine manner can through grace become our being and action,” he explained. This occurs through the divine “indwelling of the one whose proper name is donum, gift,” he said, referring to the Holy Spirit.

Barron told CNA that this is just one of the ways Aquinas can help to bring truth and clarity to our culture permeated by postmodern ideas, like today’s “culture of self-invention.”

“Most young people in America would believe that that there's your truth, my truth, but there is no real objective truth, and so I make it up. I think that is the form of postmodernism that is really dangerous,” he said.

“If there is no real truth, there is no real goodness, there is no objective value … Aquinas would stand with the great classical tradition, the Biblical tradition in affirming the objectivity of truth and value, and the idea is not to make it up on my own, but to learn to love it,” he continued.

“When you fall in love with objective value, that is when life gets very wonderful. You get outside of the narrow range of your own preoccupations and you fall in love with something that calls to you from beyond your ego,” Barron said.

French cardinal to resign after conviction for failing to report abuse

Lyon, France, Mar 7, 2019 / 03:50 am (CNA).- French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, was found guilty Thursday of failing to report to authorities the alleged sexual abuse of a priest in his diocese. He was given a six-month suspended prison sentence. The cardinal has announced that he will resign his diocesan position.

French tribunal president Brigitte Vernay declared Barbarin guilty March 7 “of non-denunciation of ill-treatment” of a minor, according to AFP. Barbarin was not present in court for the verdict.

Five other archdiocesan officials on trial with Barbarin were acquitted March 7. Barbarin was also expected to be acquitted after even the prosecutor of the case argued there was no proof of the cardinal’s legal wrongdoing and therefore no grounds for conviction, the Associated Press reports.

The cardinal will appeal the verdict, according to AP. Barbarin’s lawyer, Jean-Felix Luciani, said Thursday about the conviction that "this is a decision that is not fair at the juridical level." Implying hope in the success of an appeal, he stated: "We hope that at the next step, justice will be done."

In a press conference after the verdict March 7, Barbarin told journalists that he will soon meet with Pope Francis and intends to submit to him his resignation as Archbishop of Lyon.

Barbarin also said that "after the decision of the court, regardless of my personal fate, I want to reiterate first of all compassion for the victims and the whole place that they and their families have in my prayers."

The trial against Barbarin began in January on charges he did not report facts of abuse to judicial authorities between July 2014 and June 2015, in a case involving Fr. Bernard Preynat, who has been accused of abusing dozens of minors in the 1980s and early '90s.

In 2017, the cardinal told Le Monde that he did not conceal allegations against Preynat, but said that his response to the allegations had been “inadequate.” He said he opened an investigation against Preynat after becoming aware of the allegations against him.

Allegations against Preynat became public in 2015. Prosecutors dropped the case the following year after an initial investigation, but a victims’ group with more than 80 members who say they were abused by Preynat led to a reopening of the case, the Guardian reports.

Preynat was banned from leading boy scout groups in the early 1990s, but remained in ministry until being removed by Cardinal Barbarin in 2015.

The priest has acknowledged abusing minors, according to the Guardian, and will face trial later this year.

Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was also ordered to testify in the case. In October, the Vatican invoked diplomatic immunity in refusing to deliver a French court summons to Ladaria, saying that as a minister of Vatican City State, he is protected under international law.

The court summons had involved a letter Ladaria sent to Barbarin, advising him to take disciplinary action against Preynat, “while avoiding public scandal.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyers wanted Ladaria to testify as to whether the direction to prevent scandal was intended as an injunction to avoid going to court, in which case they accuse the CDF prefect of being complicit in failing to report the allegedly abusive priest to authorities.

Barbarin’s trial comes as revelations of clerical sex abuse and cover up continue to send shock waves through the Catholic Church. The United States, Ireland, Australia, Chile, Argentina and Germany are among the countries that have seen recent abuse scandals uncovered.


This story was updated with the statement of Barbarin at 6:32 AM MST.