National Catholic Reporter

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Accountability

144 theologians confront hierarchy

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BERLIN -- “In our roles as theology professors we can no longer remain silent,” began 144 leading Catholic theologians from Germany, Switzerland and Austria in a bluntly frank open letter to the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

The letter was made public Feb. 3 and has since been published on the internet and quoted in major media.

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Update: PrayTellBlog.com is reporting Feb. 15 that more theologians have signed the letter. The total now is 227 theologians from the three German speaking countries, and 249 including theologians from other countries. This link also has an English translation of the letter.
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Following grand jury, Rigali issues 'new actions'

PHILADELPHIA -- A new grand jury report has reopened for Catholics the raw wound of sexual abuse of children by clergy and personnel in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

While a similar 2005 report detailed hundreds of cases of sexual abuse of children by dozens of clergy over many decades, the new report brings criminal indictments for the first time.

In a statement Feb. 16, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia addressed the issue of sexual abuse of children squarely, calling it a crime and "always wrong and always evil."

"Many people of faith and in the community at large think that the archdiocese does not understand the gravity of child sexual abuse," he said. "We do. The task before us now is to recognize where we have fallen short and to let our actions speak to our resolve."

His statement, outlining new actions the archdiocese is taking in response to the report, follows three initiatives he announced Feb. 11, a day after Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams held a news conference to release the report by a grand jury investigating alleged abuse.

Editorial: Competing claims on a bishop's energies

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Bishop Robert F. Vasa is heading to Santa Rosa, Calif., leaving the Catholics of Baker, Ore., after 11 years as bishop there. Last month he wrote a parting letter to the members of his diocese, a kind of plaintive lament. Filled with self-pardoning sentiment, it is a valuable document as it comes from a church leader known for his rigid interpretations of Catholic belief and practice and a quick-to-punish approach.

Campaign builds for rethinking zero tolerance on sex abuse

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To judge exclusively by media coverage and lawsuits, one might think the only choice facing the Catholic hierarchy vis-à-vis the sexual abuse crisis is to stand pat or to go further toward greater disclosure, a more aggressive crackdown on priests who abuse, perhaps even more resignations by bishops. Debate is typically framed in terms of just one question: Has the church done enough?

Quietly but insistently, however, some important voices in Catholicism are arguing that the church has already done too much.

Backlash against the get-tough approach has long circulated among some priests who say they’ve been thrown under the bus and some clinical experts who worry that cutting predators loose puts the community at risk. Increasingly, it’s also finding traction among Catholics who believe that the church’s doctrine, especially its theology of the priesthood, and its moral standing are being sacrificed upon the altar of short-term PR and legal relief.

A disparate range of voices is arguing for reconsideration of the three pillars of Catholic officialdom’s sex abuse strategy:

    Avoiding the blame game on abuse

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    ANALYSIS

    On the heels of a cause célèbre in Ireland over a 1997 Vatican letter expressing doubts about “mandatory reporter” policies on sex abuse, another piece of Vatican correspondence has come to light, this one from 1984 and addressed to the then-bishop of Tucson, Ariz. It insists that “under no conditions” are the personnel files of a priest accused of misconduct (in this instance, not sexual abuse) to be turned over to civil lawyers.

    The 1984 missive from the Congregation for the Clergy, then headed by Cardinal Silvio Oddi, to Tucson Bishop Manuel Moreno was released by BishopAccountability.org, and is being cited as another example of a Vatican policy against cooperation with police and prosecutors.

    Anyone who thinks these two letters are the end of the line is in denial. Diocesan archives all over the world are undoubtedly stuffed with letters from Vatican officials advising bishops to protect the confidentiality of church records, and as lawyers, reporters and activists continue to dig, more will come to light.

    Victims of Legionaries founder to get hearings

    VATICAN CITY -- The cardinal serving as papal delegate for the Legionaries of Christ has set up a five-man commission to listen to victims of the Legionaries' founder and present their claims to the order.

    Members of the "Outreach Commission" will "listen to the people who are requesting a response from the Legionaries of Christ because of Father Marcial Maciel (Degollado) or in relation to him," said a notice published Feb. 1 on the Legionaries' website.

    A related story by NCR senior correspondent John L. Allen Jr.: 'True believers' on Maciel still kicking.

    Va. may extend statute of limitations for abuse

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    Updated 2/3/11 -- The Virginia Senate passed a bill today that would extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse civil lawsuits from two years to 20. Victims groups and the Virginia Catholic bishops find themselves on different sides of the bill.

    Currently in Virginia, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse is two years from when the person is 18 years old or from the time of discovery. The legislature is deciding whether to raise it to eight years or to 20 years.

    Commission to listen to victims of Maciel

    VATICAN CITY -- The cardinal serving as papal delegate for the Legionaries of Christ has set up a five-man commission to listen to victims of the Legionaries' founder and present their claims to the order.

    Members of the "Outreach Commission" will "listen to the people who are requesting a response from the Legionaries of Christ because of Father Marcial Maciel (Degollado) or in relation to him," said a notice published Feb. 1 on the Legionaries' website.

    The commission will "deal only with cases having a direct relation to the person of Father Maciel. It will not intervene in cases awaiting decisions from civil or ecclesiastical courts," the notice said.

    Pope Benedict XVI named Cardinal Velasio De Paolis papal delegate of the Legionaries after it became clear that Father Maciel, who died in 2008, had fathered children and sexually abused seminarians.

    Under Pope Benedict's orders and Cardinal De Paolis' guidance, the Legionaries of Christ have begun a process of reform and the rewriting of their constitutions.

    Text of Bishop Gerald Kicanas address to ACCU

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    The following address was delivered by Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas at the annual gathering of the Association for Catholic Colleges and Universities Jan. 30.

    INTRODUCTION

    Catholic colleges and universities matter much. Your work makes Christ's mission come alive and flourish. Through you the faith is handed on to others. My respect for you and what you do every day could not be greater.

    I esteem the challenge you give your students to live not for themselves but for others, preparing them to contribute selflessly to their community. One of the core characteristics of a Catholic college or university identified by Pope John Paul II in Ex Corde Ecclesiae is "an instituional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family" (Ex Corde, 13,3) You live out this commitment in exceptional ways.

    I value the scholarship of your faculties, women and men for whom being Catholic means a grand curiosity about life and a willingness to question and explore, always with the blessed assurance of revelation and Church teaching as guide.

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