WASHINGTON -- The Diocese of Wilmington, Del., plans to appeal a federal bankruptcy judge's ruling that the funds deposited by parishes, schools and other Catholic entities into its investment fund are property of the diocese and subject to distribution to victims of clergy sexual abuse.
The police raid last week on Catholic offices in Belgium wasn't exactly received with open arms by church officials. All nine of the nation's bishops were detained for nine hours. Their cell phones and the phones of other diocesan personnel were held.
It was "not pleasant," one church staffer said. Another called it "not very agreeable." A third accused law enforcement of "paranoia" and a fourth claimed police showed "excessive zeal."
I was not sympathetic to their plight. Six years ago, I watched closely as another law enforcement raid of a diocesan headquarters took place in my home town of Toledo. The deception it uncovered was stunning. And the evidence it obtained was later used in a trial to convict a murderer.
As a remarkable war of words between the Vatican and Belgium heated up over the weekend, one thing has become crystal clear: While there’s no good place for the Catholic church to experience a sexual abuse crisis, few places on earth are quite as combustible as Belgium.
The June 3 raid, which reportedly included drilling holes into the tombs of two deceased archbishops of Brussels to see if any documents lurked inside, illustrates that when it comes to the sexual abuse crisis, Belgium represents a “perfect storm.”
BERLIN -- In the months since news of child sexual abuse scandals roiled German society, barely a week goes by without news of yet another Catholic parish reporting declining membership.
While it may be premature to estimate the long-term impact of the scandal -- especially since many of the cases were decades old -- the latest figures were startling enough to raise concern in the German Conference of Bishops.
What accounts for the fact that bishops and other members of the Catholic church hierarchy responded to cases of sexual abuse by predator priests with nearly the same response, in country after country for decade after decade? As we now know, those priests were most often reassigned to yet another parish where they commonly abused still more children.
Like all Catholics, I gratefully depend on the faithful ministry of the many good priests who serve the church. Yet I offer a broad critique of something central to their lives and identities -- the rule of celibacy. Many priests will recognize the truth of what I describe. I write from inside the question, having lived as a celibate seminarian and priest for more than a decade when I was young. In the Bing Crosby glory days, celibacy was essential to the mystique that set priests apart from other clergy, the Roman collar an “Open sesame!” to respect and status. From a secular perspective, the celibate man or, in the case of nuns, woman made an impression simply by sexual unavailability. But from a religious perspective, the impact came from celibacy’s character as an all-or-nothing bet on the existence of God. The Catholic clergy lived in absolutism, which carried a magnetic pull.
VATICAN CITY -- The scandal of clerical abuse of minors must inspire bishops and priests to rediscover the need for penitence, purification, forgiveness and justice, Pope Benedict XVI told Italian bishops.
The church's desire to engage in a new evangelization of the world "does not hide the wounds scarring the church community, (wounds) caused by the weakness and sin of some of its members," he said in an audience with members of the Italian bishops' conference May 27.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- With Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell's approval, a reconfiguration plan for the Diocese of Springfield will take effect July 1.
Under the outline of the plan, 36 percent of the current workforce, or 49 positions, will be eliminated. A number of employees who will remain in their jobs will take on greater duties and still others will have their hours reduced. Some current departments and agencies will be eliminated entirely with any critical duties to be reassigned.
In total, the diocese is seeking to close a $5 million projected deficit for the upcoming 2010-11 fiscal year. Diocesan officials have stated the changes will narrow that gap considerably but not entirely.
In a statement issued May 20, Bishop McDonnell said he and other diocesan officials and staff members were engaged in "some very difficult, very painful conversations" to reach a decision on the changes.
VATICAN CITY -- As bishops' conferences across Europe are coming to grips with the clerical sex abuse crisis, the Italian bishops' conference revealed for the first time that about 100 cases of alleged abuse had been handled by Italian church courts in the past decade.
"In general and factual terms, there are about 100 cases relative to canonical procedures carried out during the last 10 years," said Bishop Mariano Crociata, general secretary of the Italian bishops.
DUBLIN -- The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland has asked Pope Benedict XVI to appoint a bishop to assist him in dealing with the fallout of clerical sexual abuse allegations.
Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, said in a statement May 17 that he had asked the pope "for additional support for my work at (the) episcopal level."