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The facts about sexual abuse, the Pope and the Catholic Church

Posted on 28 April 2010 by Joanna Parkes

There’s no doubt many people living in the United States, much less Milwaukee, haven’t heard, read or seen the treatment that the media has recently given to the sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church. By no means were either of the two major cases recent, but the press jumped on fresh circulation of information about the issue, and took advantage to exploit the issue to sensationalist levels. Proof of this is quite evident in the widely-read article by the New York Times published March 24th by Laurie Goodstein, in which then-Cardinal Ratzinger is bashed for “covering-up” the scandal of Father Lawrence Murphy. Goodstein bases her strongly anti-Catholic article on two sources, both having a conflict of interest in the circumstances of the article. Her primary source was lawyers, including Jeffrey Anderson, who have cases against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee as well as the Holy See, and have financial agendas in the matter. Archbishop Rembert Weakland, retired archbishop of Milwaukee, was the second source. Weakland is quite discredited, as he is publicly known for using large funds (approximately $450,000) from the archdiocese to pay hush money to a former homosexual partner, as well as poor handling (or lack thereof) of other sexual abuse occurring in schools. The above mentioned were certainly not unbiased sources, and which can only result in biased reporting.

The sexual abuse that Murphy was responsible for occurred from July 1, 1963 to May 18, 1974 at St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wisconsin. In the 1970s, a few victims came forward to report the abuse to civil authorities. The matter was investigated by Milwaukee police, then St. Francis local authorities, and no resulting charges were filed. Around the same time, the abuse was reported to Archbishop of Milwaukee William Cousins, Murphy was removed from St. John’s School in May, and by September had moved to the Diocese of Superior. It wasn’t until 1995 that successor Archbishop Weakland received letters of accusation, and brought the case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which Ratzinger headed. The CDF was informed since the accusations involved a breach of trust in the confessional, as soliciting in the confessional is against canon law, and spoken about in the Vatican document Crimen Sollicitationis (1962).The document never prohibited reporting abuse crimes.

In the Murphy case, it is important to note that the canonical trial was not begun due to circumstances. The case was reported nearly two decades after the abuse had occurred, and at the time Weakland contacted the CDF regarding the matter, Murphy was in poor health and died. In the time before his death, Murphy asked for exemption from the case being heard, and was denied. This evidence in no way suggests that Cardinal Ratzinger was “trying to hide” the abuse.

Although the goal is to minimize the possibility of future sexual abuse, the risk can never be totally eliminated. The Church, like many other organizations, is made of human members. Pope Benedict, Archbishop Listecki, Archbishop Dolan, and many, many other priests and bishops have expressed their heartfelt condolences and support to the victims of this grave crime of sexual abuse. It is no surprise that the infidelity of other priests embarrasses and scandalizes those priests who are faithful to their vocation, as well as lay Catholics. These events are by no means taken lightly by the clergy of the Catholic Church. Just the other day, Pope Benedict met with victims of abuse in Malta. One of the survivors remarked that he “admired the pope for his courage in meeting us. He was embarrassed by the failings of others.” As a result, many precautions have been taken and preventative measures put in place for those who work with the youth in conjunction with the Catholic Church.

As our own Archbishop Listecki said during the Chrism Mass, “The Holy Father does not need me to defend him or his decisions. I believe, and history will confirm, that his actions in responding to this crisiscame swiftly and decisively and his compassionate response to victims/survivors, speak for themselves.” Instead of being a supposed ‘enabler’ and turning a blind eye to abuse within the Church, our Holy Father has been an instrument leading the Church out of crisis. And regardless of the media, he will continue to do so.

by Joanna Parkes
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To give, to pray, to fast and not to yield

Posted on 10 March 2010 by Adam Ryback

We are just about at the half-way point of Lent. Some of us are dismayed and wondering how we could only be at the half-way point. Others are kind of surprised they already broke their Lenten promises. And there are plenty of us who observe lent and just do not understand what it is.

Fasting is commonly understood to simply mean giving up something. In the strict sense of the term in Catholic theology and discipline, fasting is eating one regular meal and two smaller meals which combined do not equal a regular one. And abstaining, which is often considered the same as fasting, is not eating meat.

But after restraining ourselves for a few days during Lent, many Catholics do not understand why they bothered giving up candy, facebook, soda, or whatever they chose. And then many Catholics say, “Why don’t we just promise to be nice for Lent, instead of some aimless fasting?” Or some will say, “Why bother fasting for forty days if you’re to gorge yourself on Easter morning?” And still others will say, “Why not skip fasting and do something meaningful, like helping out at a homeless shelter?”

Well, for Catholics you’re supposed to be nice 365, and occasionally 366, days out of the year, not 40. So if anything being nice should be a New Years’ resolution, not a Lenten one. And “gorging yourself” is a sin according to Catholic teaching. In fact, the sin, which is called gluttony, is considered one of the seven capital sins. And there is still room in Lent for helping out those in need.

But skeptics of fasting are on the right track. If there is no purpose, why bother? St. Thomas Aquinas himself might have said the same thing, unless of course there is a purpose.

The purpose of Lent is to conquer our temptations to sin, drawing ourselves away from the world to grow closer to God. Although we are in the world, we are meant to be dead to it. That is why Lent opens up with Ash Wednesday, when we wear black ashes on our forehead reminding us of our own mortality. As for temptation, traditionally, the first Sunday in Lent would always feature the gospel story of Jesus fasting for 40 days and then proceeding to be tempted by Satan. The forty-day long fast was meant to prepare our Lord for temptation. We were meant to follow this example so we could also conquer temptation.

Those skeptics should then be happy and energized for Lent. The whole purpose is to conquer our flesh and raise ourselves closer to God, helping us to do things like avoid gluttony and become kind. Miraculous transformations do not occur over night. We have to allow our hearts to be malleable to God’s Will in order that we might do what He wants us to do.

But once our hearts are softened ready to do the will of God, we still have a couple more things to do in which we actually do the will of God. In Lent we are told to work on our prayer lives. Aside from the beautiful Masses during Holy Week and the Good Friday Services, we still have other ways of making Lent holier for us. Among them are the Stations of the Cross in which we follow our Lord as he ascends Mt. Calvary to die. We should also try and go to Confession during Lent. These help us to love God all the more.

And once we truly love God we are able to love our neighbor. Our love for neighbor is supposed to stem from a love for God. When Mother Teresa was asked why she went out to help so many poor, unfortunate people, she said it was because she saw Jesus in everyone. This is the kind of love we are supposed to develop during Lent and the manner in which we are meant to give alms.

For those practical people out there, still unsatisfied with these intangible goals, fasting still holds great importance for you. If everyone were to follow the strict, canonical rules of fasting and abstaining mentioned earlier for the whole forty days out of Lent with at least partial abstinence on all days save Friday, you could drive down the price of food thereby making it more affordable for those in need. This is not completely implausible considering this was standard practice for years in the Catholic Church. And if you’re still not satisfied, just save the money you were going to spend on food and give it to some charity or some person who needs it more than you do. Don’t worry, they’re out there

More importantly, remember to fast vigorously, pray hard, and give alms generously for the rest of this Lent. And if we do these things well, we will grow closer to God. And maybe, at the end of this life, Our Lord can say to us as He said to the Good Thief, “This day, thou shalt be with Me in paradise.”

by Adam Ryback
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Overstepping? I say not.

Posted on 09 December 2009 by Joanna Parkes

Separation of Church and State. We all learned about it in a history or government class. Though taken from the thoughts of John Locke, the phrase was coined by Thomas Jefferson, and referred to the First Amendment of the US Constitution. By this principle, church affairs and governmental affairs could remain independent of one another. As the founding fathers intended, our country has maintained freedom of religion, allowing the separation of church and state to function.

A few hundred years later, one might beg the question: Why are bishops meddling in the governmental affairs, telling politicians the do’s and don’ts of their profession? Another look tells us why.

In certain situations, the roles of the church leaders and governmental officials overlap. Such an example is the recent controversy of Bishop Thomas Tobin, of the diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, who made a public statement maintaining that Senator Patrick Kennedy, D-RI, cannot receive communion because of his open support of pro-abortion policies. While most Catholics will acknowledge the truth of the statement, they still wonder why such a public statement is necessary. Statements like this are necessary because Patrick Kennedy is a public representative who is leading others away from following a moral right, and that is gravely wrong. That abortion is wrong has been stated numerous times in Catholic doctrine. Just last February, Pope Benedict XVI privately met with Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, during which he stated the need for Catholics, and more importantly, politicians, to uphold the dignity of the human person.

A great many people were surprised by the seemingly outspoken statement of Bishop Thomas Tobin- Catholics and non-Catholics, pro-life and pro-abortion advocates alike. However, this should come as no surprise; since the Second Vatican council, and through earlier church teachings, support of abortion, like that of Kennedy, is a grave matter. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it states the following: “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life” (CCC, 2272). It seems reasonable that most people would agree that actively promoting pro-choice/abortion policies is cooperation in the act of abortion. This form of indirect ‘cooperation’ is more grave then direct cooperation. Think of it as legalizing theft without stealing anything. The act of helping others to steal is a graver act still.

You can’t have your pie and eat it too. Faith influences every aspect of life: work, school, social. While in governmental policies there may be a separation between church and state, there should be no such thing in any Catholic, or Catholic politician. If Catholic by name, Catholic in the game. It’s time to step up to the plate and play with authenticity. Just look to Bishop Tobin.

by Joanna Parkes
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ArchBishop Listecki speaks out on sex ed, abortion and Marquette’s Catholic identity

Posted on 24 February 2009 by Adam Ryback

The Warrior staff sat down with Milwaukee’s new Archbishop, Jerome Listecki. Listecki is replacing the ever-popular Archbishop Dolan, who was appointed Archbishop of New York. Listecki, a Chicago native, was an auxiliary bishop there until he was appointed to the Diocese of La Crosse. The new Archbishop appears to be a very kind and amicable man but at the same time an ardent defender of the Faith Given it is not the place of the laity to judge him, the Archbishop was quick and ready to respond to all of the questions we gave him.

Q: Could you give us a list of your top five priorities in Milwaukee?
A. Top five priorities in Milwaukee… I don’t have a top five, but I have a top priority. My priority, and I think I share this with every bishop who occupies the position, [is] that literally I would consider myself successful as an archbishop in terms of my leadership if I help people to grow in holiness. Because everything we do is rooted in that, holiness. That is the vocation that all of us are called to, whether you’re priests or religious or lay or married or whatever, you’re called to a vocation of holiness. And if I don’t understand that as my single priority, then I really shouldn’t be occupying the position. So basically it’s a call to holiness. Now within that context of course I have certain obligations to do: I want to grow vocations to the priesthood and religious life, I want to make our schools strong, I want to help our social issues, you know I know that within the urban area you’re talking about 26.6 [percent] unemployment. All those things I want to address, I want to do in the context of religious leadership. But everything has to be seen as helping us build to that aspect of holiness. You know, I don’t know what your ultimate goals are in life, but your ultimate, ultimate goal should be to be with our Lord in Heaven. That’s what it is. And that’s the ultimate, ultimate goal for all of us here.

Q: What are your thoughts on Wisconsin’s new bill, which mandates that schools which teach sex education must teach students to use contraceptives?
A: Well I think the bill from my perspective is missing something, it’s missing that the primary educator of children are basically their parents and sometimes when there is a usurpation on the part [of parents] the government says, “Well, we know best.” Without the consultation of the local communities, without the consultation of parents, you know then suddenly you’ve taken away something which is basically a natural right that parents have. The second thing is as a religious leader, especially as a Catholic leader, I’m disturbed by the fact that educators would say this is the only way to be able to teach sex education, and sex education without values is just [license?]. It doesn’t have the respect [of] the dignity of the person, it doesn’t necessarily have those things. There’s kind of an inherent aspect well, kids are going to do this so therefore we should just make sure… I have a little more respect for our kids than that. So I would hope that educators would come to understand it could be approached in different ways, supported by the community in different manners, and pull in the parents who are primary educators to understand that.

Former Archbishop Weakland has been a lightning rod on many issues in this archdiocese for years, ranging from his payment of hush money to a former lover, to his responses to child sexual assault by priests, to his writing of a book that celebrates his homosexuality. Many Catholics believe he has brought scandal to the faithful, and are confused as to why he was permitted to be a concelebrant at your installation Mass. By allowing Weakland to be so publicly on display in this archdiocese, are you not advancing his agenda and continuing to confuse Catholics in this archdiocese?
A: No, I hope not. My predecessor was not Archbishop Weakland, my predecessor was Archbishop Dolan. People who want to [jump over, leapfrog,] and go back because of some hurtful issues they’ve experienced, as far as being, you say, allowed. He is the former, if you want to say for better or for worse, he is the former Archbishop of Milwaukee, so his presence there would have been conspicuous whether he was there or he wasn’t there. So basically he was there. But hopefully people are concentrating on this being a new moment in relationship to Archbishop Dolan, and those who want to pull it back I think they do a disservice to Archbishop Dolan, they’re kind of saying like he wasn’t here for 6 years. Well, I’ve been to about 7 communities right now, and I can tell you archbishop Dolan has been here, and his relationship to the community and to the people is such where they have a great sense of…they loved him, they loved his persona. And that’s basically what I’m following, that’s what I’m building. And there is, as far as the agenda, I have one agenda and that agenda is to follow the church and be faithful to the church. And that’s in all of the teachings of the church, every aspect of it.

Q: What would your response be if Marquette University followed the example of Notre Dame and awarded Obama, who is publicly pro-abortion, an honorary degree at the commencement ceremonies in May?
A: Well first of all, I hope and I’ve said this already on the Charlie Sykes show, I think Father Wild would be too smart. I want to hear back from both of you to tell me that this Jesuit priest would not be smart enough to understand he should consult with the local ordinary before inviting and giving a platform to somebody. Now you tell me, do you think that Father Wild would be that ignorant of that fact that he would do that?

“I am not sure.”

-You’re not sure, how about you?

“Not sure.”

You’re not sure? Well I have a little more confidence in him than that. I would think he would consult. And that issue was… that’s exactly what happened. That Notre Dame decided as if they were an independent entity, you know that didn’t have any responsibility to anyone. This is church and you’re in communion when you’re in church, it means you’re in a relationship and the position of the bishop if you study your theology and study your ecclesiology that the position of the bishop is like literally representing one of the 12 apostles, the call of the apostolic succession is found there. So you know it’s very hard when an institution is so large like Notre Dame, obviously Marquette shares in that situation, where it sees itself apart from the relationship of its own identity, where it belongs, that there’s a problem and in the Notre Dame situation there was that problem, they did not consult with basically the local ordinary, the common courtesy to talk to them about what would that do to the community, what would that represent? It flew in the face of the USCCB (US Conference of Catholic Bishops), who said you don’t give platforms to individuals who have contrary positions or honors to contrary positions. So both Cardinal George as well as Bishop D’Arcy spoke against that. My letter was in support of that because very basically it was[in] support of that communion that should exist and that has to exist if we’re going to represent ourselves as the Church. I would want to believe having met Father Wild that he seems like a fine man, that he would do that, that he would call me up and say this is what’s going to happen. “Listen, Archbishop, what do you think?” Sit down and we’d talk.

Q: How would you rate Marquette University as a Catholic institution of higher learning on a scale of 1-10 and why?
A: As an institution of higher learning, it’s one of the most noted universities. As far as Catholicity, that aspect has to be dealt with in terms of both an internal perspective as well as an external perspective. I can tell you that having come from the communities in Chicago, Marquette is sought after as a place to go. Obviously Chicago has a number of Jesuit institutions, St. Ignatius, Loyola Academy, that literally draw a number of students. Now I bet even some of your classmates are Chicagoans or from the Chicago archdiocese. The Jesuits are noted for their commitment to academic excellence. Marquette shares in that tradition as a Jesuit institution. But when I said, you have to take a look at externally and internally at the Catholicity that means that, I don’t know Marquette well enough to see internally how it adheres to Catholic identity, and how they make that Catholic identity known, but that’s why I hesitate to give you an answer on a 1-10, because it would be an ignorant answer. I could tell you externally it’s obviously looked upon as a Catholic institution, and I know there have been difficulties in the past with some faculty members who’ve maintained positions that challenged that. It’s an external and an internal question that basically has to be answered. And I probably could answer that better for you in 3 years than I can today, because I’m basically coming here just giving you my sense of Marquette

The Archbishop provided complete answers to each question we threw at him. He seems to be up front and honest with all his answers, merely hoping to impart the truth to his flock. Milwaukee could not have asked for a better Archbishop. Listecki seems poised to do great things for Milwaukee. His concern lies not with the passing things of this world but with the enduring things of the next, making his priority the faithful’s growth in holiness. We ask a lot from a new archbishop but trust that we’ll receive a great deal more than we expected. May God bless him in all his work.

by Adam Ryback
[email protected]

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