National Catholic Reporter

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Philadelphia scandal calls into question bishops' reporting system


Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali’s move to place 21 priests on administrative leave from their clerical assignments Monday calls into question whether the system the U.S. bishops set in place in 2002 to look into allegations of clergy sex abuse has protected children, say victims' advocates.

Cardinal places 21 Philadelphia priests on leave


Cardinal Justin Rigali of the Philadelphia Archdiocese placed 21 priests on administrative leave from their clerical assignments yesterday in response to the clergy sexual abuse scandal, Catholic News Service is reporting this morning.

Parishes where the priests had been assigned were to be informed of the action at Masses on Ash Wednesday, and again at Masses the following weekend.

German bishops offer cash to abuse victims

BERLIN -- Germany’s Roman Catholic Church is offering cash payments of up to 5,000 euros ($6,925) to victims of child sexual abuse in a yet unknown number of cases, some dating back decades.

The German Bishops’ Conference made the announcement March 2 as a special commission continues months of work on abuse prevention and reimbursement. Church officials said they could wait no longer.

Noting that the commission’s work had no end in sight, the church “felt itself obligated to immediately offer quick and non-bureaucratic assistance.

“We understand the growing impatience of those affected,” the bishops’ conference said in a statement.

Many victims groups said the offer is insufficient, especially in light of an offer by Germany’s Jesuits last year to give 5,000 euros to each affected person.

“It’s shameful, how the richest church in the world is trying to get out of this affair,” Matthias Katsch, a spokesman for a victims group, told the Frankfurter Rundschau, a German newspaper.

Vatican: 'Life of penitence' for sex abusing Chilean priest


SANTIAGO, Chile -- The Vatican ordered an elderly priest in Chile to "retire to a life of prayer and penitence" for sexually abusing minors.

Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Concepcion announced the decision regarding Fr. Fernando Karadima, 80, Feb. 18 and said the priest would relocate from a Santiago parish to an undisclosed location so that he would have no contact with his former parishioners.

Jesuits sued over sex abuse bankruptcy


PORTLAND, Ore. -- Lawyers representing a group of people who accuse Jesuit priests of sexual abuse filed 37 lawsuits Thursday in bankruptcy court, asking for about $3 million.

The lawsuits claim that the Roman Catholic order paid money to various entities before declaring bankruptcy two years ago, and that that money should actually be part of the order’s assets.

Some of money went towards training priests and other funds were spent on faculty and student tuition at a time when abuse victims were seeking millions in dollars in damages against the order, said James Stang, the attorney for creditor’s committee that brought the lawsuits.

Stang said the suits do not contend that the Jesuits were trying to protect their assets from abuse claims.

The Jesuits’ Northwest Province filed for bankruptcy in 2009 in the face of sex-abuse lawsuits. From 2001-2009, the order settled more than 200 legal claims, paying out $25 million. The Jesuits would not comment on the new lawsuits.

Grand jury indicts five in sex abuse investigation

PHILADELPHIA -- In a reprise of 2005's sensational grand jury report of sexual assaults by clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams released a new report Feb. 10 by a grand jury investigating similar abuse.

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

Charged with rape, assault and other felonies related to minors, as recommended by the grand jury, are former archdiocesan priest Edward V. Avery, 68, of Haverford; Fr. Charles Engelhardt, 64, of Wyndmoor and an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales; an archdiocesan priest, Fr. James J. Brennan, 47, of Linfield; and former lay teacher, Bernard Shero, 48, of Bristol. All four were arrested Feb. 10.

144 theologians confront hierarchy


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.

Update: 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.

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


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.



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