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Accountability

George Weigel: Whitewashing history

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Analysis

George Weigel, Pope John Paul II biographer and a leading conservative voice at the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, has recently become a critic of the Legion of Christ, the scandal-racked religious order, after years of supporting it while dismissing complaints and charges against its founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado.

Among high-profile U.S. Catholic conservatives who long defended Maciel while denigrating his accusers, Weigel alone has made a turnabout in urging Legion reforms.

However, he continues to go out of his way, as he has for years, to excuse the late Pope John Paul II from any culpability in the Legion scandal. It was John Paul, more than anyone else, who backed Maciel and the Legion and elevated both in church status.

Gambling with history: Benedict and the Legion of Christ

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Analysis

Pope Benedict XVI's decision last July to take control of the Legionaries of Christ was a calculated risk. Amid a withering clergy abuse crisis, the pope chose an overseer to remake an international religious order built on the "charism" of a founder who sexually abused seminarians and fathered out-of-wedlock children, including two sons who claim they are incest victims.

The late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, lionized for most of his 86 years, is now the scapegoat for nearly everyone drawn into the legal quagmire he left: the Legion and its lay group, Regnum Christi; the pope; Vatican officials; and high-profile Legion supporters who in the past strongly defended Maciel against charges of abuse.

Archbishop: church not obligated to compensate abuse victims

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Brussels, Belgium — Appearing before a special parliamentary commission on sexual abuse of children three days before Christmas, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels told the commission that he saw no reason for the church to compensate victims of sexual abuse.

"The civil court must determine the compensation and the offender must pay," Léonard said. Commission members reacted with surprised amazement.

Just the day before Léonard's appearance, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who retired as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels a year ago, had prepared the commission for a different kind of archiepiscopal response.

Priest calls for truth on abuse

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A senior Milwaukee archdiocesan priest, who earlier this year publicly criticized bishops in Wisconsin for not living up to the mandates of the child-protection charter the bishops passed during their 2002 meeting in Dallas, is calling on U.S. priests to stand “publicly with those who seek the revelation of the complete truth regarding the priest sexual abuse scandal in the church.”

Parishes discover road to operational excellence

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Michael J. Brough is director of planning and programs for the Washington-based National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management. He coordinates the organization’s Standards for Excellence program and successfully completed training as a licensed consultant with the Standards for Excellence Institute. NCR spoke with Brough about the program.

Church must repent, repair damage, pope says

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VATICAN CITY -- In response to the "unimaginable" scandal of clerical sex abuse against minors, the church must reflect, repent, and do everything possible to rectify the injustices suffered by victims as it works to prevent such abuse from ever happening again, said Pope Benedict XVI.

The pope said he and others were "dismayed" when, during a year dedicated to the world's priests, further cases of clerical sex abuse came to light "to a degree we could not have imagined."

We acted swiftly on abuse claim, Knights say

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The Knights of Columbus denied allegations made in two lawsuits filed Dec. 14 that the fraternal organization did not address claims that a former Knight abused two men decades ago when they were young and tried to conceal the allegations.

The lawsuits claim that Juan "Julian" Rivera, a former leader of the Columbian Squires in Brownsville, Texas, abused the men in the 1970s and 1980s when they were boys. The Columbian Squires is a Knights-sponsored leadership group for boys 10-18.

The suits were filed separately by two adults now in their 40s; one lives in Texas, the other in Kansas. Each suit seeks more than $5 million in damages. They were filed by a Florida lawyer in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, where the Knights has its headquarters.

One of the alleged victims claimed he reported the abuse to Knights officials in 1986, who supposedly concealed his claim and intimidated him into not making it public.

The Knights' Dec. 14 statement said the fraternal organization learned of the allegations against Rivera "only one year ago, in December 2009."

Legionaries forbid display of founder's photo

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ROME -- With the authorization of a papal delegate, the Legionaries of Christ have formalized in a new decree a number of reforms regarding the depiction of the order's founder, the late-Father Marcial Maciel Degollado.

"The decree formalizes in broad strokes what has for the most part already been general practice," said a statement posted Dec. 11 on the Legionaries of Christ website.

Catholics fight bid to lift statute of limitations on abuse

TRENTON, N.J. -- New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday (Dec. 9) will consider a bill that would eliminate any statute of limitations on when sex abuse victims can sue—and allow them to take action against clergy, educators and others who knew about abuse and did nothing to stop it.

Under current state law, victims can sue their abuser or a parent or guardian who knew about the abuse and allowed it to occur. The bill also would allow victims to sue those who had “supervisory or disciplinary power” but did nothing about the abuse.

“The current process presents real obstacles for the victim that are unfair,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale, a Democratic sponsor of the bill that will be considered by the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

“For those who discover their abuse later on in life, this will give them a greater opportunity to bring a civil action against an individual and the institutions that harbor the criminals.”

Advocates for abuse victims said they often take years to gather the courage to come forward with their stories, and often suffer posttraumatic stress disorder and depression.

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July 18-31, 2014

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