Monday, November 4

All right. Here we go.

The revised norms have been released. Here's the news story and here's the USCCB's page laying out the June and October proposed norms side by side.

The most significant changes involve the process after a priest is accused. That includes church tribunals to hear the cases of clerics who maintain their innocence and preliminary investigations that bishops will conduct privately.

The rewrite affects only rules that involve church law, leaving intact many aspects of the bishops' policy — or "charter" — approved last June in Dallas.

The new plan won immediate praise from the Rev. Robert J. Silva, president of the Chicago-based National Federation of Priests' Councils, which represents 27,000 of the nation's 46,000 clergy.

"It is a good, strong and, I think, effective policy that protects our children but also is clear about due process and rights for those who are the accused," he said.

But David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the changes "will enable abusive priests to remain in ministry, and unidentified, longer."

The reason David Clohessy says this is because in the old charter, the priest would be removed immediately upon the reception of an allegation. But...

Under the rewrite, an allegation triggers a "preliminary investigation," during which the priest remains in place and his reputation is protected, apparently meaning parishioners are not notified about the accusation. If "sufficient evidence" of abuse is uncovered, the Vatican would immediately be informed and the priest would be placed on administrative leave.

Be advised, though, that as far as established incidents of abuse goes, you can still call this zero-tolerance:

The key section of the policy on removing abusers says: "When even a single act of sexual abuse by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priests or deacon will be removed permanently" from the ministry.

And that's a good thing. I see no reason why a man who commited "even" a single act of sexual abuse should remain in active ministry as a priest, even if that incident was twenty years ago. The victim has been paying the price of that abuse for twenty years. Now it's time for the perp to cash it in.

The only thing that I find confusing about this is the relation of the church process to civil law. I hope that anyone at all who ever experiences this horror will now go straight to the law, and let the DA deliver the news of an investigation to the bishop. I've never quite figured out how all of these investigations - civil and church - can work together in a timely fashion. I also am not sure if it's really advisable for a priest who's being investigated for the crime of abuse by the civil authorities to remain in ministry, from anyone's perspective.

A quick read tells me that this committee did what it had to do in order to bring these norms in line with canon law.

Lesson? Repeat after me. If an employee of the church harms you - file charges, file a lawsuit if you've a mind, and, if you're up to it, make sure the newspapers know all about it. Don't give church bureaucrats any time at all to start shoveling.


On spewage, blogging and other effluence...

You know, when I started this blog, I had a couple of goals in mind.

First, I wanted a spot to work out column ideas, and those of you who read OSV know that I've put it to good use there. I also had a small community of regular visitors to my regular webpage, and I found myself wanting to share thoughts and links with them more frequently, but without the hassle of HTML-ing it every day. Then I discovered Instapundit and Relapsed Catholic, figured out what they were doing, and saw the Blogger software as the perfect way to do accomplish my goals.

Little did I know that it would be become a community of sorts in itself, part of a wider Catholic blogging community. It's mostly the comments system that's made this possible. I installed comments because I was getting about 40 emails a day regarding posts, and it became impossible to keep up with them. Commenting cut my email down by 90%, and became a wonderful way for readers to interact, and to share information that enhanced the original post (which is the kind of comment I like the best.) I'm happy with the whole thing, but I do have a word for voluminous commentors: Blogger. I appreciate your insights, but you really might consider getting your own blog so that your perspective can shine forth free and clear, unimpeded by the rest of us. It's free. It's just about effortless. If you need help with a bit of HTML, just ask any one of us. But really. Consider it.

Over the next week, I'm going to be making some changes. I am going to redo this template - don't worry - nothing radical, but I did find something new that keeps the photos at the top in the way I like them, but fixes up this bottom part to make it cleaner. I'm also going to be redoing my regular webpage, not in terms of design, because I don't have the time to do that, but in terms of content - just slightly. I have a slew of columns I need to add, and I'm going to clean up the links and such.

Over the past three months, I have done far more "linking" than "thinking" kind of posts. That's because I've been finishing up book manuscripts. Those are done, and now I must turn to book proposals, but slowly but surely, I'm feeling the ability to direct some "thinking" to this spot return.

Okay, this is a sketchy story, and I don't understand why South Koreans would be opposed to US policy to pressure N. Korea to drop its nuclear weapons program, but I am fascinated by the photograph of the priest involved in a scuffle during the protest.
Bishop Gregory dedicates statue of first Black priest in US

With a solemn prayer and a few sprinkles of holy water, Belleville Bishop Wilton D. Gregory dedicated a statue of Augustine Tolton, the first black American Catholic priest, outside St. Patrick Catholic Church in East St. Louis on Sunday.

The six-foot concrete likeness was the product of an informal pitch to the Rev. J. Clyde Grogan by the artists, Gene and Patricia Jantzen. Gene Jantzen, 86, a former professional bodybuilder from Bartelso, recalled coming across an article on Tolton in a 1991 issue of the Catholic weekly called Our Sunday Visitor. He found the tale inspiring and thought Grogan's parishioners might, too. With a solemn prayer and a few sprinkles of holy water, Belleville Bishop Wilton D. Gregory dedicated a statue of Augustine Tolton, the first black American Catholic priest, outside St. Patrick Catholic Church in East St. Louis on Sunday.

The short version of that story goes like this: Tolton, who was born near Hannibal, Mo., in 1854 to slave parents, escaped with his mother to free territory in Illinois in 1861. He threw himself into religious studies and, when no seminary in the United States would take him, made his way to Rome, where he was ordained a priest in 1886. He said his first Mass at St. Peter's Basilica before returning home to lead black parishes in Quincy, Ill., and in Chicago, where he died in 1897.

"When I saw this article," Jantzen said, "I got real interested in it because, first of all, I'm very hipped on doing everything I can to cut out bigotry of any kind. Father Grogan, the pastor of St. Patrick, was a friend of mine. I said, 'Wouldn't it be great to have a statue of the first black priest to ever serve in this country?'"

Grogan said it would, and the Jantzens got to work. The statue took them about two years to complete. A fire last year wiped out both the Jantzens' art studio and a partially completed statue, forcing them to start over from scratch. The work was painstakingly slow, Jantzen said, because he could find just three faded photographs of Tolton to work from.

Accused abortionist-killer James Kopp has a new defense attorney and he's not hesitating to bring the issue of abortion into the trial.

Defense lawyer Bruce A. Barket makes no secret of his admiration for his new client, James C. Kopp.

"People like Jim should be exalted in this country," Barket said of Kopp, the accused sniper killer of Dr. Barnett A. Slepian. "Jim is a devout Christian, a kind, gentle man who only acts after thinking and praying on things. He backs up his beliefs by putting his own life on the line."

.....Barket, a devout Catholic of Lebanese and Italian heritage, worked from 1986 to 1991 as a prosecutor for the Nassau County district attorney's office. Then he quit the legal profession to study for the priesthood. He said he returned to legal work less than a year later, after realizing he could best help others as a defense lawyer. Barket, a devout Catholic of Lebanese and Italian heritage, worked from 1986 to 1991 as a prosecutor for the Nassau County district attorney's office. Then he quit the legal profession to study for the priesthood. He said he returned to legal work less than a year later, after realizing he could best help others as a defense lawyer.

"As a Jesuit seminarian, I was doing some volunteer work in the jails, and a middle-aged black guy in work clothes came to me and said, "My son is in trouble. He's charged in a drug case. Can you help me?' " recalled Barket, 43. "I started looking into the case, and I found that this kid was being mistreated. I found myself working as a lawyer again."

Barket said he is somewhat embarrassed that he ever worked as a prosecutor, putting people in jail. Since becoming a defense lawyer, he said, he has handled many cases where he has caught police officers or government lawyers lying in efforts to put innocent people in jail.

"If Jesus Christ ever came back to life on earth, I don't think he would be a prosecutor. He'd be more likely to be a defense lawyer, helping people who are begging for forgiveness," Barket said.

This is absolutely fascinating. But...I thought I'd heard that there were credible, serious doubts as to Kopp's guilt. Did I imagine that? Someone enlighten me.

Hong Kong bishop offers to step down

Hong Kong's outspoken Roman Catholic leader said Monday that he was prepared to step down if it helps achieve religious freedom in China, or better relations between the Vatican and Beijing. "Sacrificing me is really nothing if the mainland has real religious freedom," Bishop Joseph Zen told The Associated Press. He said he was ready to be transferred elsewhere if his absence could improve relations between the two sides. Zen has long been a critic of Beijing's policies, and has recently slammed the Hong Kong government's planned anti-subversion law.

In California, Diocese of Orange is deep in the red, blaming the stock market, once again which is probably true - I worry about church finances being so dependent on the vagaries of the market. It seems to be a way of asking for trouble.

Anyway, the bishop has been apparently open about the financial problems, in contrast to the situation Somewhere Else:

In Los Angeles, officials have declined to publicly release their 2000-01 report — scheduled for publication last March in the Tidings, the archdiocesan newspaper — or answer basic questions about church finances.
"Rapidly changing financial conditions and subsequent events related to the sexual-abuse crisis in the spring of 2002 made the publication of financial results from June 30, 2001, not relevant to current conditions," church officials said in a prepared statement released to The Times on Sunday.Church officials did say that the report for the fiscal year ending in June of this year will be published in the Tidings early next year, ahead of the usual March or April deadline, and will contain information from the unreleased 2000-01 report.

(LA Times LRR)

Yesterday, Cardinal Law apologized for re-assigning priests guilty of sexual abuse.

Here's the Boston Herald describing the liturgy and homily.

I still am missing something, though. What I don't hear - either because it's not being said or not reported or I'm dense - is the answer to the question "why?" The pieces of this puzzle still aren't publicly connected. You knew what sexual abuse was, yet you reassigned priests guilty of it, and you and your subordinate bishops treated claims of abuse with either hostility or silence, for the most part. Why?

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