Wednesday, March 29, 2006

"Mission Chicago seeks to ‘jump-start’ evangelization"

From the Catholic News Agency:
Chicago, Mar. 29, 2006 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Chicago has taken on a mega-evangelization project in an effort to draw back lapsed Catholics and to re-energize practicing Catholics in their faith. It’s called Mission Chicago 2006 and, according to a New York Times report, Chicago is the largest archdiocese to organize such wide-ranging events focused on evangelization. [more]

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Absence of Logic

Chicago freelance columnist, Dennis Byrne, has decided to weigh-in on the recent issues affecting the Chicago Archdiocese. In an op-ed piece he not surprisingly got published in the Chicago Tribune, and which he publishes on his website, he demonstrates able rhetoric devoid of logic or facts. He calls it "Absence of Moral Authority."

Now it is no doubt a fact that what has happened in Chicago recently does reduce the moral authority of the Church in the eyes of not a few. However, Byrne, who seems to think that the perceptions of the masses dictates reality, takes this as an opportunity to call into question the basic structure of the Church and the sacramental priesthood. He must have been uncritically reading SNAP and Voice of the (un)Faithful tracts.

His main point seems to be that based upon the problems found in the recent independent investigation, this proves that the entirety of Catholic Church leadership is incompetent and unworthy of trust. Of course, he tries to make his case in the form of questions. Most of which are inane and point out that either he did no research whatsoever before spawning his blather or he did the research and finding it did not support his argument, he ignored it and hoped none of his readers would either.

Some examples of questions that he says should be posed:

Are clergy more prone to child abuse? Are they more prone to same-sex abuse? Do other denominations have this problem and to what extent? If they don't, is there something specific about the Roman Catholic priesthood that leads to greater incidence of child sexual abuse? Is the something related to the vow of celibacy? Does it have something to do with the priesthood's male-dominated environment? Is it an institutional problem, flowing from the authoritative, hierarchical structure of the church?

His first commenter provides him with a link to an article that answers most of the questions. Essentially, the answer is that the problem of sexual abuse seems to be lowest among Catholic clergy, followed by clergy of other denominations. It is much higher in the general public and if we are really concerned about our children's safety, we will start paying serious attention to the child sexual abuse pandemic in public schools.

At the end Byrne throws in a canard about Church silence during the holocaust (I am surprised he left out many of the others, he must have been in a hurry) as he only datum for trying to extend the problems in Chicago to the entire Church and so suggest that She cannot be trusted. He finally implies that perhaps it is time for the laity to rise up and take over.

Rhetoric is very effective in cases like these because trust is a very fragile commodity and suspicion in our fallen state is so tempting. Byrne may not be very gifted in his theological understanding of the Church or his ability to compose a tight logical argument with compelling facts to support it. However, he is sufficiently clever to realize that in the current context he need not be; he can take advantage of suspicion to make common cause with those who would wish to undermine the ability of the Church established by Christ, to bear witness to the Gospel in an increasingly hostile world.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

"In Chicago, Energizing the Catholics"

"In Chicago, Energizing the Catholics"

By Gretchen Ruethling, The New York Times

Friday, March 24, 2006

"In defense of a cardinal who's trying"

"In defense of a cardinal who's trying"

By Andrew Greeley, Chicago Sun-Times

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Findings and Solutions: The Report

As Thomas posted yesterday, Cardinal George released a statement on the status of the investigation regarding what went wrong in the Fr. MacCormack case. The Cardinal’s letter was accompanied by a letter from his Chancellor, Jimmy Lago, and a public release of the entire report of an independent investigation done by Dallas based investigators, Defenbaugh and Associates. The report appears scathing on the surface but it also makes it clear that it focused only on what went wrong. That is, it identifies solely the problems found and does not try to contextualize these problems in an overall assessment of the program.

In all, the report identifies 33 separate items for which the independent investigators recommended remedial actions to be taken. The most serious were two cases in which Archdiocesan employees violated state reporting statutes. There were three in all but one was past the statute of limitations. These failures to report occurred in the office of the Vicar of Priests and the Office of Catholic Schools.

Many of the items were recommendations for correcting or improving administrative processes. However, as one could guess would be the case gleaning details from the fragmentary reporting from the MSM, the report identified a great need for improving training for mandatory reporting positions. The offices which turn up in the report most often as having had information available that could have aided in decision making at some point in time were the offices of the Vicar of Priests and the Office of Catholic Schools. In fact, the primary cause for the late removal of Fr. MacCormack from his parish seems to have been associated with personnel from these two offices.

In general, there was a failure to share information and to document it in such a way that it was retrievable and available for decision making. In line with our previous position, the report seems to substantiate the Cardinal when he declared that he made his decision not to remove Fr. MacCormack based upon the premise that the priest had no adverse background except for the August 2005 arrest that had resulted in no charges being filed and came with no further information about the case.

Another major finding, as we suspected, was that the monitoring system was not adequately implemented. In fact, the Archdiocese had a separate investigation of this process by Community Corrections consultant, Terry B. Childers. He had seven major findings with recommendations. He found that although the Archdiocese made a good faith effort to implement a monitoring policy, because it did not take into account the character of child predators it was insufficient. It relied too much on assuming the priests being monitored could be trusted. In the case of Fr. MacCormack, because the monitoring procedures were not adequately defined, the monitoring priest did not clearly understand his role and the Vicar of Priests did not do a sufficient job of keeping up with the monitor. This led to Fr. MacCormack being able to take three children to Minnesota while his monitor was away for Christmas.

To his credit, the Cardinal takes full responsibility for the failures of his people and promises that the recommendations will be implemented. Throughout this affair the Cardinal has been completely forthright and never made excuses. He immediately began the investigation and has not quibbled with the findings or the recommendations. Gauging from those who have reported on it, he obviously takes this situation very seriously.

He is not infallible, but from all available evidence has done the reasonable thing but when that was not good enough he commits himself to correcting it. Nevertheless for those predisposed to suspicion, for those dissenters who wish to capitalize on this tragedy to push their anti-ecclesial agenda, for those who make their living with rumors and the appearance of intrigue, I am sure that this will not silence them. However, for those who recognize Cardinal George as an honest, conscientious, caring pastor of souls, his apologies will be accepted and trust will be given that these hard lessons have helped to make children in Chicago a bit safer.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Cardinal George releases official statement on Archdiocesan review

We've reprinted the entire statement below (it is available in PDF here).

A variety of additional information is available on the AoC's website.

Report on Clerical Sexual Abuse of Minors, Findings and Solutions, March 20, 2006

Statement of Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. Archbishop of Chicago

Sexual abuse or molestation of a child by any adult is disordered. It is a sin and a crime.

When children or young people are robbed of their innocence and suffer the pain, anguish and anxiety caused by the illegal and immoral actions of a priest, a person of trust, the tragedy of sexual abuse is compounded.

As you know, Father Daniel McCormack has been arrested and charged with sexually abusing three children. There are additional accusations by more families. This is a tragedy for the children, for their families and all who are involved. But it also represents failures within the Archdiocese to react promptly and appropriately to what happened in these cases. It is up to the legal process now to determine innocence or guilt on the part of Father McCormack; but we have tried to examine our own actions and mistakes.

We are here today to report to the people of the community on how we intend to move forward to further strengthen our commitment to the protection and safety of children.

I have asked Chancellor Jimmy Lago, an expert in child welfare, to take a hard look at what went wrong and to implement changes. But first, I wish to express some personal thoughts:

For the many missteps in responding to the accusations of sexual abuse of minors by Father McCormack, I accept responsibility. For the tragedy of allowing children to be in the presence of a priest against whom an accusation of sexual abuse had been made, I am truly sorry. I should have focused more clearly on the actions we needed to take and I should have taken them more quickly.

For not following the advice of our independent Professional Responsibility Review Board to remove Father McCormack temporarily, even without a judgment about his actions, I am deeply sorry.

I am committed to a full disclosure of the facts and to the implementation of deliberate, meaningful changes to do all in our power to ensure that such events never happen again.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Catholic Citizens of Illinois call out double standard

Catholic News Agency has the story:

Chicago, Mar. 16, 2006 (CNA) - The group, Catholic Citizens of Illinois, are calling on Governor Rod Blagojevich to remove homosexual activist Rick Garcia from the Governor’s Commission Against Discrimination and Hate Crimes because of what they see as his own hate-filled agenda.

Garcia recently called Chicago’s Francis Cardinal George a “bigot” for his, and the Catholic Church’s stance against homosexual marriage and the practice of homosexuality.

Mary Anne Hacket, president of Catholic Citizens of Illinois, said that “We are offended by Garcia’s frequent attacks on the Catholic Church and all Christians for their belief in biblical values.”

She added the group’s disdain for “his attacks on the Illinois Family Institute which has been effective in the defense of marriage and efforts to place a referendum on the ballot to define marriage in Illinois as a union between one man and one woman.”

“The type of hatred Rich Garcia spouts on a regular basis”, Hacket charged, “has no place on a commission financed by the taxpayers and he must be removed from the Commission at once.”

Watch Cardinal George on TV

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Cardinal George gives St. Patrick's Day dispensation

A decent article from the Chicago Tribue focusing on the Irish-American members of the Archdiocese of Chicago:

CHICAGO - Tipping his red hat to Chicago's Irish Catholic heritage, Cardinal Francis George has again taken action to resolve a St. Patrick's Day dilemma:

Every few years, the holiday falls on a Friday during Lent, when consuming meat is traditionally forbidden. But what would St. Patrick's Day be without corned beef and cabbage?

So George has declared an exception that permits his flock to eat meat on Friday. At least 76 other U.S. bishops reportedly have granted similar dispensations, including Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch.

Archdiocese complies with request for documents in abuse case

Associated Press has the story:

CHICAGO - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has turned over documents requested by prosecutors in the case of a priest accused of sexually abusing three boys, a lawyer for the archdiocese said.

The items include personnel records, incident reports and documents "dating back to (Rev. Daniel) McCormack's seminary days," Church attorney James Geoly told the Chicago Tribune for a story posted on its Web site Wednesday night.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Another Group Attempting Re-invent the Faith by Changing the Church.

On Friday, national leaders for "Voice of the Faithful", said Bishop William Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Francis George, vice president had failed to comply with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Adults, and should temporarily step down during an independent investigation. "This situation requires immediate action by the [conference] to name an interim leader of unquestioned integrity and commitment to the charter," the statement said.
Voice of the "Faithful" asks - Join our campaigns to ensure financial accountability in our church and to reform sexual abuse laws for the protection of children. Why financially? Why is money so important in accountability in their own Church? Specifically because so many want to Keep their own rendition of faith, they want to dismantle the authority of the Church. Another example of a group who have assumed leadership positions as a result of the priest sex scandal.

Source Article
Voice of the "faithful" Website

Friday, March 10, 2006

"Why SNAP has ZERO credibility."

Fr. Martin Fox has a short posting today on SNAP's credibility:

Yesterday, the Archdiocese [of Cinccinnati] announced that a priest, accused of many acts of abuse of young men, had been laicized by the pope.

Here's what appeared in the Dayton Daily News today:

"Strittmatter still poses a threat to children," SNAP said. "His defrocking does not mean that he has been 'fixed.'"

It simply means that Archbishop Pilarczyk can now officially 'wash his hands' of him from now on."

Now[,] use your imagination to see what SNAP would have said had the Archbishop not sought the man's laicization. In fact, try to imagine all the various permutations, and then guess what SNAP would have said.

See how they work? No matter what you do, they're gonna bash you.

(Now let's see how they try to hit me because I dare to criticize their behavior.)

Domenico Bettinelli has added his own comments as well.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Cardinal George's message for Lent 2006

The merciful gaze of Jesus: Lent, 2006
by Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

Lent has begun. Last Wednesday we took the blessed ashes upon our foreheads and accepted the invitation of the Church to go into the desert with the Lord.

The desert is the place where Jesus prays and fasts to prepare for his public ministry. It was not the fasting sometimes fashionable today—dieting to have better health or a more attractive figure or to train for a sporting event.

Like Moses in the desert, the pious Jew of Jesus’ day would fast from earthly nourishment in order to become hungry for divine food, to become hungry for God. In the desert for 40 days, Jesus fasted to become empty in order to receive and carry out the will of his Father.

We, the followers of Jesus, need to fast to become free for God. The Church no longer has precise rules for substantial Lenten fasting, except for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and the result might be that we too easily drift through Lent and find at Easter that we have not made any serious effort. This is greatly to our spiritual loss and that of the Church.

Read the rest.

Two new articles at Catholic New World

Catholic New World, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago, has two new articles today:

Festival of Faith demonstrates unity

Sex-abuse policies toughened: Archdiocese, DCFS agree to new rules

Perspective piece on clergy sex-abuse scandal by John Maher

John Maher tries to put the clergy sex-abuse scandal in some perspective:

(begining midway through the article...)

Cases of sexual abuse of children are not rare. Roughly 1.15 million cases were reported between 1990 and 2002. In 1990, there were 119,000; the number was down to 88,000 in 1999 and remained at about that number up to 2002, the latest year of publication of government statistics for such offenses.

In April 2002, Time magazine cited studies indicating that half of child sexual abusers are the parents of the victims, and 18 percent are other relatives of the victims. Pedophiles also include teachers, coaches, Scout masters and others who work with youngsters.

Priests accused of sexual abuse of children are a fraction of 1 percent of all such abusers. Ideally, there should be no priest who sexually abuses a child, but, ideally, no parent should sexually abuse a child.

To turn from the ideal to financial reality, while most sexual abusers of children are not sued for damages, Catholic dioceses have been sued for negligence for not removing accused priests from ministry.

Since the 1950s, the Catholic Church in the United States has spent about $1 billion in costs related to child sex abuse cases.


A report published by the Chicago Archdiocese in January 2003 said that, in the past 40 years, 55 allegations of sexual abuse of children by 36 archdiocesan priests were determined to be founded. Other allegations had been found to be foundless accusations of innocent priests. At the time the report was published, there had been no allegations of sexual misconduct in the previous 12 years.

The archdiocese had spent $7.9 million on counseling, settlements, and other forms of assistance to victims. It had spent $4.3 million on legal fees, including $1.3 million to defend a priest and school principal found not guilty by a jury.

The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was accused of sexual abuse by a former seminarian who later recanted.

Contrary to the traditional legal principle, priests accused of sexual abuse of children are apparently deemed guilty until proved innocent. Moreover, while conviction in a criminal trial requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for finding liability in a civil suit for damages is less rigorous, and settlements are sometimes made both to avoid the cost of the trial and the possibility of a jury finding that is more costly than a settlement.

The pain experienced by sexual abuse victims is real and deserves compensation, but, as the latest episode in the scandal unfolds, it should be remembered that false accusations have been made and that very few priests have been found, in fact, to have sexually abused children.

John Maher is a free-lance writer from Jefferson Park.

Sex-abuse policies toughened -- Archdiocese, DCFS agree to new rules

As should be the case, Cardinal George did not respond to SNAP's delusional call for his resignation. Several new protocols to strengthen the already revamped policies were agreed to following a series of meetings with the state Department of Children and Family Services.

“I believe the cardinal has acted very responsibly,” said archdiocesan Chancellor Jimmy Lago. “We’ve got a whole approach to make sure that what happened with the McCormack case does not happen again. I think calls for his resignation are irresponsible. We’ve had good policies and practices going back 15 years.”

The cardinal has publicly apologized several times for his handling of McCormack’s case, and instituted a series of changes in procedures aimed at preventing a similar situation from happening again.

Story in the Catholic New World

Cardinal George speaks on Pro-Choice politicians and Conscience

A quotation from the National Review Online:

Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago, [states], bluntly, "Do all Catholic politicians understand their obligations in conscience? Apparently not, which means that their pastors have to take the time to speak with them personally." Moreover, "the objective 'disconnect' between professing the faith and voting 'pro-choice' creates tension in the community of faith, even at the altar." According to Cardinal George, objectively, no "pro-choice" politician should receive Holy Communion. But "subjectively a politician may have convinced himself he is in good conscience."

Cardinal George concedes that a conversation between pastor and politician about personal conversion "is hard to have in the midst of the pressures of electioneering." Nevertheless, as the conversations continue, pro-choice politicians will "inevitably find themselves ever more estranged from their own community of faith. This is tragic, not only for politicians, most of whom went into public service for generous motives, but for the faith community itself," maintains the Cardinal.

Read the rest of the article.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Models of the Church

In the early 1970's, long before he was made Cardinal, Avery Dulles first published his well known book, Models of the Church. It has been updated and republished several times since its first publication. One of the criticisms of the book was that of a somewhat fragmented view of the Church. In other words, at least his earlier presentation suggested the models as "either/or" propositions rather then as manifold aspects of the One True Church.

The lack of appreciation that the Church is many things at once, seems to be a perennial problem for those raised in Western society where analytical thinking led to fragmentation of knowledge and a fragmented view of reality. Thus, it is common to take our favorite or most familiar secular institution that seems to correspond to the Church and impress this as a model for understanding, and more importantly, criticizing Her.

Thus, if our model is the military, and the bishop does not lead like General Patton he is criticized. If our model is a corporate structure, and he does not manage it like a CEO, the bishop is likewise, open to criticism. But the many models of the Church can best be encompassed in the idea of a family and the bishop a father. He is the father over all of his flock including his priests and he must have a fatherly solicitude for everyone.

Can fathers err. Of course they can. Sometimes they can let their love for their children allow them to misjudge situations. This does not mean that one fires him. In the case of Cardinal George and Fr. MacCormack, I do not suggest that he erred in his decision. Certainly, he is not infallible and could have made an error in judgment. However, I believe that at this point only a predisposition to mistrust could lead someone to conclude he had erred, or even worse lied, based upon the available information. Nevertheless, each new piece of data prompts certain groups to jump again to unfounded claims.

Within Chicago, there are many who are becoming more vocal in their support for the Cardinal but that does not seem to be the case yet in the blog-o-sphere. Considering only those Catholics who do not have a "Voice of the (un)Faithful" type agenda, there seems to be two types of response. The first, seems to be those who have adopted a faulty model of the Church and so a worldly view of how the bishop should lead his flock. They agree with the SNAP crowd, at least to the point that they think good bishops should have been "kicking butt and taking names" from their first day in office (military jargon for cleaning house in a very aggressive manner). Generally they will be unwilling to support a bishop unless his patron saint is General Patton.

There is another group that is sitting quietly on the sidelines, thinking maybe it is true that Cardinal George did make a mistake. To these I would say, maybe he did. However, supporting Cardinal George is more support for the Church's hierarchical structure. The issue at hand here is that this Saul Alinsky, type of aggressive activism that is now being used as a method for influencing change in the Church against him is not Catholic.

Whether he erred or not, Cardinal George is faithful Shepherd and deserves support. But this is also a defense of the Church against those who would redefine Her structure through their aggressive, activist type tactics. As long as they think that they can influence public opinion and thereby get the Church to change they will continue. The added effect will be to confuse the average Catholic and damage the Church's mission. They will not go away, but I believe that popular support for the Cardinal will attenuate this as a story of interest for the MSM and blunt the affect these activists can have.

Vile Accusations Aimed At Cardinal George

A psychologist chosen by America's Roman Catholic bishops to address them about the clergy sex-abuse crisis when it erupted four years ago sent a scathing letter to Cardinal Francis George this week, suggesting he might be considered "an accessory to soul murder" for letting Rev. Daniel McCormack remain in ministry after being accused of abuse. "Jesus was so clear - anyone who harmed a child should tie a millstone around his neck and drown himself in the sea," she wrote. "Lake Michigan is rather chilly at this time of year. Surely, however, you could choose symbolically to embrace the Gospel instructions."

Vile, venomous tone, bad theology, and an ax to grind. Here is her comment she made in September, on the same-sex abuse scandal, "Vatican officials, in their search to blame the sexual abuse scandal on someone or something external to institutional and doctrinal failings of the church itself, conflated sexual orientation with psychosexual maturation and with criminal behavior". Enough said!

Sources: Chicago Tribune & Find