CNA Daily News

  1. Denver, Colo., Jul 17, 2019 / 05:20 pm (CNA).- Commentators and critics, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, have in recent months called for an end to the discipline of priestly celibacy, especially in the wake of revelations of widespread historical sexual abuse in the United States, and in response to a perceived dearth of priests in some parts of the world. 

    “We cannot bring about real reform of the Roman Catholic priesthood unless we do away with mandatory celibacy for diocesan priests in the Latin rite,” Washington D.C. priest Peter Daly wrote in a July 15 op-ed for the National Catholic Reporter.

    Father Carter Griffin of the Archdiocese of Washington, author of “Why Celibacy? Reclaiming the Fatherhood of the Priest,” told CNA in an interview that celibacy has been intrinsically linked to the Catholic priesthood from the very beginning, when Jesus, who was himself celibate, ordained the apostles as the first priests.

    Christ enjoined celibacy on some of his disciples, Griffin said, and others who were already married practiced marital continence— abstaining within marriage— after becoming priests.

    “Celibacy allows for a certain openness of heart, kind of wideness of heart, which facilitates a man's capacity to live his priesthood, and to give himself to others,’ Griffin said. 

    “[Jesus] really had to be available to everyone...if his heart had a privileged share [of love] going to his wife or children, he simply couldn't do what he intended to do. And I think that sense of being ordered to love as a priest, priestly love, and really spiritual fatherhood...is in my opinion one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, for celibacy.”

    Celibacy also points to the existence of God and supernatural realities, Griffin said, by reminding others that “our highest goods are not earthly pleasures, but in fact even greater and higher.”

    Daly argued in his op-ed that priests who are allowed to marry and have children will better understand their role as spiritual fathers.

    “With real parents in the priesthood, it would make us more aware of the vulnerability of children and more outraged at their abuse,” Daly wrote.

    Griffin admitted there could be some truth to that claim, and said that a seminarian’s natural father has an important and often overlooked factor in the formation of new priests. But the benefits of understanding different forms of fatherhood also could work in the other direction, he said.

    “There are many things I've learned as a spiritual father that have proven to be very helpful to the many natural and biological fathers that I am close to and get to know,” he said.

    “The question comes, at what cost?” he cautioned, however.

    “There is going to be this sort of challenge of living these two vocations [marriage and the priesthood] in the way that they're really both demand to be lived.”

    Daly also argued that celibacy restricts the pool of eligible candidates for priesthood and “diminishes its quality,” while fostering “a culture of mendacity and secrecy, which contributes to sexual cover-ups,” as well as being physically unhealthy for men.

    Responding to the objection that allowing married priests would cause an uptick in vocations, Griffin said this could be true— at first— but presented some major caveats.

    “There are plenty of mainstream denominations which just have not married clergy, but women clergy, and all these other restrictions lowered, and they still can't find enough,” he pointed out.

    “So the idea of this being some kind of magical cure, 'just let them get married and suddenly the seminaries will burgeoning and everyone will be back to 1955,’ is a little bit false.”

    In addition, Griffin said that in his opinion the vocations crisis would not be solved by lowering the requirements of the priesthood, because although the numbers may tick up slightly, the overall quality and holiness of the priests will likely not improve.

    “If the right thing for us is celibate priests, then let's figure out how to build the Catholic culture as it's been done every time that this question has come up from century after century...I think we need to change what is causing the dearth in vocations, rather than simply change the standards for entering seminary,” he said.

    On the question of whether a celibate life leads to dangerous sexual repression, which in turn leads to abuse, Griffin pointed out the many healthy and well-adjusted celibate people— both Catholic and non-Catholic— who throughout the centuries have sacrificed sexual relations for some sort of a higher good.

    “An objection like that could only be made in a culture that is suffering from the aftershock of the ‘Sexual Revolution,’ which has tried to convince us that we really cannot control ourselves sexually, that the sexual urge is something that simply has to be indulged, and any restrictions on it are necessarily unhealthy,” he commented.

    “All of us know people who are not married who are wonderfully balanced and good people. And the vast majority of priests are happy in their vocation and are doing good work and faithful. So to take some examples from the headlines and to draw universal conclusions from them seems to be not the right move.”

    Griffin pointed out that being married does not abolish the possibility of a person abusing children, any more than it abolishes the possibility of a person committing adultery against their spouse.

    “It's precisely not living marriage well that is adultery. It's precisely not living celibacy well that is any kind of infidelity. And yes, there are unfaithful celibate priests, and the problem is that they're unfaithful. The problem is not that they're celibate,” he explained. 

    “I think here the problem is a lack of priestly zeal, or a lack of justice, or a lack of a sense of the purpose of the priesthood. Because the purpose of the priest is not to garner power for himself, in this kind of clerical mindset, but it's to pour himself out for others. His whole purpose in life is to serve...and so if we're not doing that, if we're not setting an example, or we're not pouring ourselves out in that way, let's focus on that problem, instead of saying 'it's a boy's club' or something like that.”

    Specifically on the “boy’s club” objection, that a married priesthood would foster greater respect for women among a mostly male culture in places like seminaries, Griffin said an attitude of “clerical arrogance” does exist in some places, but not a majority.

    “I think in good formation and good seminary culture, I don't see any of that,” he said. 

    “I see brothers growing together and really thriving and striving for holiness in their Christian lives and encouraging each other, and that kind of building of a fraternal and paternal bond among these men I think will bear tremendous fruit.”

    In terms of helping to build a Catholic culture in which priestly celibacy can truly work, Griffin said it’s important for young men to see celibacy, and chastity in general, modeled for them in a joyful way, whether they plan to enter the priesthood or not. He also mentioned the importance of fostering a family culture where vocational discernment is taught and valued.

    Finally, he said an emphasis on chastity, especially in a hyper-sexualized culture, should help to counterbalance the deadening and dulling effects of such things as internet pornography, which he said make “seeing the beauty of chastity, let alone the beauty if celibacy, more difficult.”

    “I think having parents who really take seriously the healthy and integral formation of their children to really grow up to become holy men and women, really authentically Christian, living chaste, holy, purity...I think the vocations crisis would frankly disappear, if we really could redouble our efforts as Catholic families in those three ways.”

    Griffin concluded by relating his own experience as a celibate priest.

    “My experience has been similar to many other priests, which is that celibacy has in fact been a gift,” he said.

    “I planned to get married, I would have loved to have gotten married and had a family in many respects, but the Lord has used those desires and kind of transformed them, and I'm the happiest guy alive. And I think that a lot of priests would say the same thing. I hope that people are able to, in sorting through all the stuff being thrown at them, are able to still see that— that many priests are joyfully and beautifully living out their vocations.”

     

  2. Pittsburgh, Pa., Jul 17, 2019 / 03:53 pm (CNA).- The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is evaluating options to respond to severe financial strains, exacerbated in the last year by the sex abuse crisis, a diocesan official said Wednesday.

    “The challenges that we’re facing are similar to that of many other churches, I think, throughout the country,” said Msgr. Ronald Lengwin, Vicar for Church Relations for the diocese.

    He told CNA that already-existing financial struggles had been greatly compounded by the sex abuse crisis that broke last summer.

    In August 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury report was released, identifying more than 1,000 allegations of abuse at the hands of some 300 clergy members in six dioceses in the state, including 99 from Pittsburgh. It also found a pattern of efforts by Church authorities to ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations – either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal.

    Since that report was released, Mass attendance has dropped 9% and offertory donations have declined 11%, CBS Pittsburgh reported.

    Lengwin told CNA that the decline in Mass attendance and collection money had been going on before the sex abuse scandal was unveiled. Ten years ago, he said, some 187,000 people attended Mass in the diocese each Sunday. By 2018, that number had dropped to about 120,000 – a decline of more than 30%.

    The abuse scandal has intensified problems that were already present for the local Church, including parishes that had been borrowing from the diocese to pay insurance premiums, creating an unstable financial situation.

    When the diocese set up a survivors’ compensation program to aid the healing of abuse victims, it expected to receive about 250 claims, based on the number of allegations that had already been received, and estimates constructed from talking to other dioceses.

    “But now we’re looking at 350-400 claims,” Lengwin said. “We don’t know what that final number will be, but we have reason to believe it will be significant.”

    The decline in offertory money, combined with the unexpectedly high number of victims’ compensation filings, means that the diocese could be millions of dollars short in addressing survivors’ claims and other diocesan expenses.

    With limited resources, Catholic leaders are looking for solutions. Thirty-two employee positions have been eliminated. Bishop David Zubik has emphasized that responding to abuse victims remains a top priority.

    “We’re trying to identify additional money that exists,” Lengwin said. The diocese has sold most of its parcels of property already, and a small building that previously served as a headquarters for the local Catholic newspaper is expected to be sold soon.

    In addition, a court hearing will be held in coming weeks, as the diocese seeks permission to use money from an already-established foundation to fund payments of abuse claims.

    The Diocese of Pittsburgh is working toward consolidating and merging a number of parishes, a process that was already underway before last summer.

    CBS Pittsburgh reported that Bishop Zubik has also warned that “more than a few” diocesan schools could close, saying that each school must prove its financial stability in order to stay open.

    “Even before abuse crisis last summer, we had engaged in a program to consolidate our schools,” Lengwin said. “Now it’s clear that won’t be enough.”

  3. Crookston, Minn., Jul 17, 2019 / 02:55 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota announced Wednesday that a $5 million settlement has been reached in 15 sexual abuse lawsuits filed against it, bringing to conclusion all open sexual abuse litigation against the diocese. The diocese says it will be the only one in Minnesota to avoid filing for bankruptcy protection. Crookston's bishop, however, is still accused personally of covering-up abuse.

    “To all victims and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, as the Bishop of Crookston I apologize for the harm done to you by those entrusted with your spiritual care. Although you can never be fully compensated for your suffering, we are thankful this litigation has now come to a good end and are hopeful this settlement offers you justice and will be helpful for healing,” Crookston’s Bishop Michael Hoeppner said in a July 17 statement.

    “To you, the faithful of this local Church, I say thank you for your continued prayer: for victims of sexual abuse; for a fair resolve to these cases. Let us all now, humbly, offer prayers of thanksgiving.”

    The statement said that insurance carriers will cover most of the settlement amount, while the diocese will be responsible for $1,550,000 in payments. The diocese said that money would come from the sale of a camp and a Newman Center, and from estate gifts. Hoeppner said that some funds would also come from diocesan cash reserves. He emphasized that no funds from the annual diocesan appeal would be used.

    The settled lawsuits were filed in 2016 and 2017, during a three-year “window” which allowed alleged victims of clerical sexual abuse to file civil suits even after the state’s statute of limitations for abuse litigation had expired. The diocese said that its settlement agreement had been reached “after years of negotiation and mediation."

    “Because of this settlement, the Diocese of Crookston can avoid filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection,” Hoeppner said.

    “All other dioceses in Minnesota have filed or announced their intent to file for financial reorganization. We will not have to lay off staff. We can joyfully and steadfastly continue our mission of bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to this time and place. We pledge our continued efforts to rid the Church and world of sexual abuse and provide a safe environment for all.”

    In addition to funds, the settlement will require the diocese to make public the names and files of priests accused of sexually abusing children, and depositions from clergy sex abuse lawsuits in the diocese will also be made public.

    While the settlement resolves abuse litigation against the diocese, it is likely not the end of difficulties for Hoeppner. The bishop has been accused of pressuring a diaconal candidate in the diocese, the father of a diocesan priest, into recanting his own allegation of abuse against a Crookston priest.

    Several sources have told CNA that Hoeppner is likely to face a canonical investigation of those charges by Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis, through a process devised by Pope Francis in May, which came into effect June 1.

    It is expected that the soon-to-be released depositions could factor heavily into any investigation into the allegations against Hoeppner. If the bishop is found to have interfered with a legal or canonical investigation into a claim of sexual abuse, he could be removed from his office in the diocese.

     

  4. London, England, Jul 17, 2019 / 12:52 pm (CNA).- Parents of a comatose five-year-old are attempting to move their child to Italy from a London hospital after doctors in the United Kingdom declared any further medical treatment to be futile and ordered the removal of “life-sustaining treatment.” 

    Tafida Raqeeb has been in a coma since February 9, after she suffered from a brain arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which resulted in a burst blood vessel in her brain. Her parents said she was “completely healthy” prior to the injury.

    On July 16, her parents asked the High Court in London to allow her to leave the country. 

    AVM is a rare condition that can occur anywhere in the body, and consists of tangled blood vessels and arteries. Its cause is unknown, and the malformed blood vessels are thought to have been present since birth. 

    The AVM triggered cardiac and respiratory arrest, as well as a traumatic brain injury. Doctors at the Royal London Hospital say there is no chance she will recover from her coma. 

    According to the Barts Health NHS Trust, which administers the Royal London Hospital, doctors have determined that “further invasive medical treatment is futile.” Two doctors from the Gaslini Children’s Hospital in Genoa, Italy, however, disagree. They were able to examine Tafida via a video link on Friday, and they agreed to care for her in Italy. They said they did not believe her to be brain dead.

    “Brain death” is usually defined as the irreversible loss of all functions of the brain, including the brainstem, and is marked by a coma, lack of reflexes, and the inability to breathe without mechanical assistance. Once a person has been declared brain dead, they have no chance of recovery and are clinically considered deceased. 

    An online petition supported by the family requesting that Royal London Hospital allow Tafida to be transferred to Gaslini Children’s Hospital, insists that the child does not meet the clinical conditions of brain death and should remain on life support. 

    “Following extensive brain surgery at King’s College hospital, doctors informed her parents that she was brain dead and to consider making preparations for her funeral,” reads the petition.

    “A brain stem test indicated that Tafida did not meet the qualification of ‘brain death’ as she made gasping movements and therefore could not be removed from the ventilator.” 

    Since then, Tafida has remained on a ventilator at Royal London Hospital. According to the family, a neurologist has declared her to be in a “deep coma,” from which she is beginning to emerge. Her parents say she is able to open her eyes and move her limbs, as well as being able to swallow and react to pain. 

    Tafida’s mother, Shelina Bergum, has said that doctors initially proposed giving Tafida a tracheostomy and allowing her to return home, to continue recovery. 

    “The medical team have now changed their mind and want to withdraw ventilation to end her life,” Bergum wrote as part of a separate online petition organized by the family. 

    Tafida's case follows similar campaigns by parents in the cases of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans, who were both terminally ill children in NHS care. In 2017, doctors sought to remove Charlie Gard from his ventilator, despite his parents’ wishes to transfer him to a hospital in New York City. He ultimately passed away in hospice at the age of 11 months, after life support was removed. 

    Less than a year later, the parents of Alfie Evans also objected to NHS attempts to remove his ventilator, saying they wished to move him to a hospital in Italy. Alfie’s life support was eventually removed, and he survived for five days breathing on his own before passing away shortly before his second birthday.

  5. Paris, France, Jul 17, 2019 / 12:45 pm (CNA).- France’s Parliament on Tuesday passed a bill on the rebuilding of Notre-Dame Cathedral— three months after a fire destroyed the church’s roof— even amid disagreement on the best way to proceed with the restoration.

    The April 15 fire destroyed the wooden roof of the cathedral as well as a spire that was added to the 800-year-old church during a 19th century renovation.

    The bill establishes a legal framework for the distribution of funds donated for the cathedral's renovation.

    The French Senate first approved the bill May 27, which at the time mandated that the rebuilding be faithful to Notre-Dame's “last known visual state.”

    Yesterday’s bill passed the National Assembly by a 99-8-33 vote. The architectural form of the reconstruction is not directly addressed in the text of the new law, AFP reports.

    The government of President Emmanuel Macron had previously initiated an architectural competition to submit a variety of suggestions for the restoration; Macron has also called for “an inventive reconstruction” of the cathedral with a more contemporary design. 

    Macron has said that he intends the restoration to take five years. Critics in parliament reportedly complained that the project was being rushed in order to have the construction finished in time for Paris’ 2024 hosting of the Olympic Games.

    "The hardest thing is now ahead of us. We need to strengthen the cathedral for ever and then restore it," Culture Minister Franck Riester said as the bill was passed, as reported by AFP.

    The bill also aims to organize the nearly $1 billion in donations that poured in from throughout the world to rebuild the cathedral. French luxury goods rivals, the billionaires Bernard Arnault and Francois-Henri Pinault, pledged 200 and 100 million euros apiece, AFP says.

    Officials had been in the process of a massive fundraising effort to renovate the cathedral against centuries of decay, pollution, and an inundation of visitors. French conservationists and the archdiocese announced in 2017 that the renovations needed for the building’s structural integrity could cost as much as $112 million to complete.

    A recent New York Times analysishas also suggested that the cathedral came very close to completely collapsing, and that the brave actions of Paris’ fire department likely saved the building from further damage. The arched stone vault is still at particular risk of collapse, and tourists are not yet allowed inside.

    The Times report also detailed a miscommunication between a security guard and an employee monitoring the building’s fire alarm, which meant the fire was not discovered until it had already been burning for 30 minutes.

    The area around Notre-Dame still contains higher than normal amounts of lead, due to the collapse of the lead and oak spire, a source of concern for Paris authorities. Workers are currently working to clear debris from the site and have not started renovations.

    Due to France’s laws regarding secularization, the French government owns all churches built before 1905, including Notre-Dame. The government lets the Archdiocese of Paris use the building for free, and will continue to do so in perpetuity. The Archdiocese of Paris is responsible for the upkeep of the church, as well as for paying employees.

    During Mass on June 15 in a side chapel, the cathedral's first since the fire, Archbishop Michel Aupetit emphasized that the church is no mere cultural heritage of France, but is meant for the worship of God.

    About 30 people assisted in the Mass, including canons of the cathedral and other priests, wearing hard hats for safety. The Mass was said in Notre-Dame des Sept Douleurs, a side chapel that housed the crown of thorns, a relic which a fireman rescued from the blaze along with the Blessed Sacrament.