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Update: Abuse allegation against Cardinal McCarrick found credible

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, said June 20 he will no longer exercise any public ministry "in obedience" to the Vatican after an allegation he abused a teenager 47 years ago was found credible.

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey, where Cardinal McCarrick served as its first bishop, said in a statement the same day that he had been advised that "Cardinal McCarrick himself has disputed this allegation and is appealing this matter through the canonical process."

"While shocked by the report, and while maintaining my innocence," Cardinal McCarrick said in his statement, "I considered it essential that the charges be reported to the police, thoroughly investigated by an independent agency and given to the Review Board of the Archdiocese of New York. I fully cooperated in the process."

Cardinal McCarrick said that "some months ago" he was informed of the allegation by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.

"My sadness was deepened when I was informed that the allegations had been determined credible and substantiated," Cardinal McCarrick said.

Cardinal Dolan, in a June 20 statement, said it was "the first such report of a violation" against Cardinal McCarrick "of which the archdiocese was aware."

In separate statements, Bishop Checchio and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey -- where Cardinal McCarrick served in-between his appointments to Metuchen and Washington -- said this was their first notice that Cardinal McCarrick had been accused of sexual abuse of a minor.

"In the past, there have been allegations that he engaged in sexual behavior with adults," Cardinal Tobin said. "This archdiocese and the Diocese of Metuchen received three allegations of sexual misconduct with adults decades ago; two of these allegations resulted in settlements."

Several news accounts quoted the lawyer for the accuser, a New York-area businessman now in his early 60s, who said his client was a 16-year-old altar boy being fitted for a cassock to wear during Mass when then-Msgr. McCarrick fondled him. Patrick Noaker, the lawyer, said a similar incident happened a year later.

Noaker told reporters that his client met in April with the New York Archdiocesan Review Board, which verified his claims. Going to the board was his client's only recourse, Noaker said, because of criminal and civil statutes of limitations on an almost 50-year-old incident.

Cardinal McCarrick, who turns 88 July 7, was ordained a priest of the New York Archdiocese May 31, 1958. He was ordained auxiliary bishop of New York May 24, 1977, six years after the incident of abuse is believed to have occurred.

He was appointed the first bishop of Metuchen in 1981 and was named archbishop of Newark in 1986. He was installed as archbishop of Washington in 2001. He was made a cardinal Feb. 21, 2001, and retired as head of the Washington Archdiocese May 16, 2006.

Cardinal Dolan said the alleged abuse occurred during the time Cardinal McCarrick served as an archdiocesan priest in New York.

He added the allegation was turned over to law enforcement officials, and was then thoroughly investigated by an independent forensic agency, as per the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" first approved by the U.S. bishops in 2002.

"The Holy See was alerted as well, and encouraged us to continue the process," he added. "Again according to our public protocol, the results of the investigation were then given to the Archdiocesan Review Board, a seasoned group of professionals including jurists, law enforcement experts, parents, psychologists, a priest, and a religious sister."

The Archdiocese of New York "renews its apology to all victims abused by priests," Cardinal Dolan said. "We also thank the victim for courage in coming forward and participating in our independent reconciliation and compensation program, as we hope this can bring a sense of resolution and fairness."

The Archdiocese of Washington said in a June 20 statement that "the Holy See ... has exclusive authority in the oversight of a cardinal" and referred the matter to the New York Archdiocese.

It added the instruction for Cardinal McCarrick to refrain from exercising public ministry came "at the direction of our Holy Father, Pope Francis," and was delivered by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

Cardinal Tobin said he recognized the "range of emotions" felt by Newark-area Catholics upon hearing the news. "I am thinking particularly of those who have experienced the trauma of sexual abuse by clergy -- whose lives have been impacted tragically by abuse," he added. "To those survivors, their families and loved ones, I offer my sincere apologies and my commitment of prayer and action to support you in your healing."

At the same time, "no doubt many of you developed strong relationships with him and appreciate the impact of his service," Cardinal Tobin said. "Those feelings are likely hard to reconcile with the news of a credible and substantiated claim of abuse of a minor."

"The abuse of anyone who is vulnerable is both shameful and horrific. The abuse of a minor by a priest -- as is being reported in this case from New York -- is an abomination and sickens and saddens us all," Bishop Checchio said.

"The work of building the kingdom of God in this diocese is much more than its bishops, and I thank you for all of your help here in the Diocese of Metuchen in supporting our common mission," he added.

Cardinals Dolan, Tobin and Wuerl and Bishop Checchio all asked for prayers for those involved, and recommitted themselves to support of clergy sexual abuse victims.

Cardinal McCarrick is not the first cardinal to have had his ministry restricted after allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, who died in 2003, was asked by St. John Paul II in 1998 to give up his public duties amid allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

The most senior church official to face criminal charges in connection with child sexual abuse is Australian Cardinal George Pell, head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy. He took a leave of absence from his position in the summer of 2017 to face charges of sexual abuse of minors from the 1970s, when he was a priest, and the 1990s, when he was archbishop of Melbourne. 

Although Cardinal Pell has consistently denied the charges, in early May an Australian magistrate ordered him to stand trial, saying she believed there was enough evidence presented in connection with about half the original charges to warrant a full trial.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Forgiveness turns evil into good, pope tells Catholics in Geneva

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

GENEVA (CNS) -- At the end of a day dedicated to celebrating 70 years of an ecumenical fellowship forged by the World Council of Churches, Pope Francis turned to the region's Catholics, reminding them of what lies at the heart of the faith.

The Lord's Prayer "offers us a road map for the spiritual life" by reminding people they are part of one human family, that they should live a simpler, more caring life and that forgiveness works miracles in history, he said.

"There is no greater novelty than forgiveness, which turns evil into good," he told 40,000 Catholics from Switzerland, France and other nations not far from this landlocked country, whose history was built on the values of peace and neutrality.

The pope was in Geneva June 21 "as a pilgrim in quest of unity and peace," for a one-day journey celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the World Council of Churches -- a fellowship of 350 ecclesial communities, including many Orthodox churches, who represent some 500 million Christians worldwide. The Catholic Church, which cooperates extensively with the council, is not a full member.

Celebrating Mass at the city's enormous indoor expo center, the pope pointed to the essential lessons contained in the Lord's Prayer, which Jesus teaches his disciples in the day's Gospel reading.

The pope first circled the vast indoor center in a small white electric cart, greeting the faithful and blessing babies. Former pontifical Swiss guards in traditional uniform were present, standing at attention, representing their service rendered for more than 500 years in Rome.

"Father, bread, forgiveness," Pope Francis said in his homily. These are the three words in the Lord's Prayer "that take us to the very heart of our faith."

When praying "Our Father, who art in heaven," people are reminded that God "does not group us together in little clubs, but gives us new life and makes us one large family."

This prayer says that "every human being is part of us," he said, and that "we are called to be good guardians of our family, to overcome all indifference toward" everyone. "This includes the unborn, the older person who can no longer speak, the person we find hard to forgive, the poor and the outcast."

God commands his children to love each other from the heart, he said.

When praying, "Give us this day, our daily bread," it is asking God to "help me lead a simpler life."

"Life has become so complicated," he said, with everyone acting "pumped up, rushing from dawn to dusk, between countless phone calls and texts with no time to see other people's faces, full of stress from complicated and constantly changing problems."

"We need to choose a sober lifestyle, free of unnecessary hassles," the pope said, pointing to the example of a fellow Jesuit, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whose feast day is June 21. The 16th-century Italian saint renounced his family's wealth and desired an austere religious life to better serve others.

With so much abundance in the world, the pope said, it fills up people's lives and empties their hearts.

May people rediscover "the courage of silence and of prayer" and "let us choose people over things so that personal, not virtual relationships may flourish."

"Daily bread" also means to never forget the life-giving power of Jesus; "he is our regular diet for healthy living. Sometimes however, we treat Jesus as a side dish."

Without him every day, life is meaningless, the pope said.

Finally, the prayer calls for forgiveness, which is not easy, but it is a gift.

God forgives everything and yet, "he asks only one thing of us: that we in turn never tire of forgiving. He wants to issue a general amnesty for the sins of others."

Offer up to God those lingering dregs of resentment and bitterness that prevent complete forgiveness, the pope said.

Imagine taking an X-ray of the heart, and point to the "stones needing to be removed," the pope said. Pray to God, "You see this stone? I hand it over to you and I pray for this person, for that situation; even if I struggle to forgive, I ask you for the strength to do it."

Forgiveness renews and works miracles, he said. After receiving God's forgiveness, "each of us is born again as a new creation when we love our brothers and sisters. Only then do we bring true newness to the world."

The pope said God is pleased "when we love one another and we forgive each other from the heart."

"Let us take the first step, in prayer, in fraternal encounter, in concrete charity" and, like God, love without ever counting the cost.

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Forgiveness turns evil into good, pope tells Catholics in Geneva

At the end of a day dedicated to celebrating 70 years of an ecumenical fellowship forged by the World Council of Churches, Pope Francis turned to the region's Catholics, reminding them of what lies at the heart of the faith.

Parishioners in Kenya disappointed after priest suspended for rapping

Many parishioners at St. Monica Church in western Kenya are unhappy after their favorite priest was suspended for misconduct by the Diocese of Homa Bay.

Update: Broken world needs Christian unity, pope tells Christian leaders at WCC

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

GENEVA (CNS) -- Not only God, but today's broken, divided world is begging for unity among Christians, Pope Francis said on an ecumenical pilgrimage to Geneva.

"Our differences must not be excuses," he said, because as Christ's disciples, Christians can still pray together, evangelize and serve others.

On his 23rd apostolic journey abroad June 21, the pope spent several hours with Christian leaders at the headquarters of the World Council of Churches, a fellowship of 350 ecclesial communities, including many Orthodox churches. The pope came to help celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of what is the largest and broadest ecumenical fellowship in the world.

Speaking to reporters aboard the papal plane from Rome, the pope said, "This is a trip toward unity," representing the "desire for unity."

He was greeted on the tarmac by dignitaries and two children in traditional dress; two former members of the Swiss Guard stood by the red carpet in the corps' full colorful uniform, which only happens on papal trips to Switzerland. Active guard members traveling with the pope are always in plainclothes.

Accompanied by the leadership of the WCC, the pope attended an ecumenical prayer service, marked by songs from the Protestant traditions and the Catholic Church's theme song for the Jubilee of Mercy. There was a common witness of faith in reciting the Nicene Creed and representatives from the Catholic Church and other Christian communities alternated readings, including a prayer of repentance, which asked God's forgiveness for their disunity and failure to serve God and all his children.

In his speech, the pope said, "Our lack of unity" is not only contrary to God's will, it is "also a scandal to the world."

"The Lord asks us for unity; our world, torn by all-too-many divisions that affect the most vulnerable, begs for unity."

Pope Francis, the third pope to visit the WCC, said he wanted to come as "a pilgrim in quest of unity and peace." He thanked God for having found "brothers and sisters already making this same journey."

The journey requires constant conversion, he said, and a renewed way of thinking that rejects worldliness and seeks to live "in the Spirit, with one's mind bent on serving others and a heart growing in forgiveness."

"Divisions between Christians have often arisen because at their root," he said, "a worldly mindset has seeped in."

"First self-concern took priority over concern for Christ," he said, and from there, it was easy for the devil to move in, "separating us."

Following Christ entails loss, he warned, because "it does not adequately protect the interests of individual communities, often closely linked to ethnic identity or split along party lines, whether 'conservative' or 'progressive.'"

Christians must belong to the Lord above and before they identify with anything else, "right or left; to choose in the name of the Gospel, our brother and sister over ourselves," he said.

After lunch at the WCC ecumenical academic institute at Bossey, outside of Geneva, the pope paid homage to the courageous men and women before them who "changed the course of history" with a love for Christ that overcame the mutual mistrust and suspicion, which all "contributed to the infernal spiral of continued fragmentation."

Speaking at an ecumenical encounter with the central leadership committee of the WCC, the pope praised their work and commitment to unity; however, he expressed his concern that the Christian sense of mission was no longer "as closely intertwined" with their ecumenical pursuits.

The missionary mandate is more than just service and promoting human development, he said; it includes "the preaching of the Gospel to the ends of the earth" and recognizing that the church grows "by attraction" to Christ himself, not human ideas, strategies and programs.

"Faith in Jesus Christ is not the fruit of consensus, nor can the people of God be reduced to a nongovernmental organization," he said.

Christians must never "debase this treasure" of knowing and praising God and his glory, by turning it into "a purely immanent humanism."

Also "troubling," he said, "is the conviction on the part of some, who consider their own blessings clear signs of God's predilection rather than a summons to responsible service" to the whole human family and the environment.

The pope said he wanted to "take part personally in the celebrations marking the anniversary of the World Council" of Churches as well as reaffirm the commitment of the Catholic Church to the cause of ecumenism and encourage cooperation.

He said it was critical that Christians come together for "the credibility of the Gospel," which is "put to the test by the way Christians respond" to those suffering in the world today.

"It is problematic when Christians appear indifferent toward those in need," he said, urging everyone to avoid partisan interests or overemphasizing "certain cultural paradigms." Instead, he urged them to help people become aware of events and situations that affect a large number of people, "but seldom make it to the front page."

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Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Francis calls World Council of Churches to be more missionary

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Former parishioners of Our Lady of the Rosary in Detroit miss how it used to be

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