The Archdiocese of Milwaukee Jan. 4 became the eighth U.S. diocese to file for bankruptcy, claiming financial hardship because of payouts to people claiming to have been sexually abused by priests as children.
Panelists at a recent Woodstock forum in Philadelphia urged lay Catholics to grab the reins and set the course for the church’s future.
“We are becoming a do-it-yourself church” for the laity, said Jesuit Fr. Thomas J. Reese, one of three senior fellows of the Woodstock Theological Center in Washington who spoke at “The Future of the Church: A Woodstock Forum on Sources of Hope,” held at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia Dec. 5.
OXFORD, England -- A Belgian journalist who serves as spokesman for the nation's cardinal said Catholics in his country were "scandalized" by an archbishop's testimony to a parliamentary commission on sexual abuse by priests. See NCR's earlier story: Archbishop: church not obligated to compensate abuse victims.
In response to questions by commission members, Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels, president of the Belgian bishops' conference, said he feared the consequences of compensating victims, because payments could also be demanded for "unhappy children born via artificial insemination" or facing the "psychological impact" of being raised by same-sex couples.
He also said he favored a "solidarity fund" for abuse victims when courts were unable to establish "direct responsibility" by institutions and said the church would contribute to the fund "in the same way that it already intervenes for victims of natural catastrophes or for the poor."
An NCR Editorial
It is fitting that the final years of Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the disgraced founder of the Legionaries of Christ, straddled the two papacies that have been deeply scarred by the ever expanding priest sex abuse crisis: that of John Paul II, the figure who did the most to promote Maciel and his order, and Benedict XVI, the highest-level curial figure to understand the dimensions of the crisis and who, as pope, is left to deal with its consequences.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Douglas Perlitz, the Jesuit school alumnus who pleaded guilty Aug. 18 to sexually abusing boys at the home for street children he founded in Haiti, was himself the victim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest, Perlitz’s defense team says in a sentencing memorandum filed with the U.S. District Court in New Haven, Conn., Dec. 10.