Browsing News Entries
Posted on 08/11/2020 18:47 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
Denver Newsroom, Aug 11, 2020 / 01:47 pm (CNA).-
A Sacramento priest excommunicated last week says he stands by his claim that Pope emeritus Benedict XVI is the true pope. In addition to charges of schism, the priest is suspected of misconduct and improper relationships with at least two adult women; he confessed his love to one of them in a video message circulating online.
“I continue to regard Benedict as retaining the Office of Peter, as mysterious as that might be. Therefore, I do not regard Bergoglio as the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church,” Fr. Jeremy Leatherby wrote this week in an open letter to the Sacramento diocese.
Leatherby added that although he was already prohibited from public ministry, he had been celebrating Masses in recent months in private homes, offered “in union with Pope Benedict, not with Pope Francis. Many who have joined me hold, like I do, that Benedict remains the one true Pope.”
On Aug. 7, Sacramento’s Bishop Jaime Soto announced that “by his words and actions” Leatherby was “in a state of schism with the Roman Catholic Church.”
Soto declared that the priest had incurred a latae sententiae excommunication. “This means that by his own volition he has separated himself from communion with the Roman Pontiff, Pope Francis, and other members of the Catholic Church,” the bishop said. He called on Leatherby to “repent of the harm he has inflicted on the Church.”
A formal declaration of a priest's excommunication is a rare phenomenon.
In a private Aug. 3 letter to Leatherby obtained by CNA, Soto urged the priest to change his ways before the excommunication was announced.
“I have received a number of testimonies reporting that you have offered Mass publicly in violation of my withdrawal of your faculties…In the exercise of these illicit rites…you have preached against the Holy Father and omitted the inclusion of his name and mine from the Eucharistic prayer.”
Soto added that he had heard recordings of the priest’s sermons, and both spoken telephonically and corresponded with the priest about those matters.
“Do not heed the voices or sentiments that have driven you to do this. These are not the fruit of the Holy Spirit. You are wounding the Church you have previously promised to serve. Your actions have placed you and others in grave moral danger. Listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, in whose name I speak with fraternal solicitude.”
After the excommunication was announced, Leatherby, 41, said that he accepts the bishop’s judgment.
“Bishop Soto’s sentence of excommunication against me is consistent with my relationship with Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis), with whom I cannot morally, spiritually or intellectually, in good conscience, align myself,” he wrote.
“I deservedly incur excommunication if Bergoglio is indeed the valid Successor of Peter, and I am guilty of causing great division within the Mystical Body of Christ. However, I could not in good conscience do otherwise….When all is revealed, if I am mistaken, I will humbly repent of my sin and error, for I love the Holy Roman Catholic Church.”
Leatherby has been without an assignment in the diocese since March 2016. At that time, he was removed from ministry at a Sacramento parish, amid allegations that he had engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a woman at the parish. He was prohibited from public ministry and his sacramental faculties were withdrawn.
The priest this week said that “I violated boundaries in ways with that woman.”
But Leatherby’s supporters claim the allegations were trumped up, as retaliation against his family, because the priest’s father, a deacon in the diocese, reported to Church authorities that some priests in the diocese were involved in a homosexual affair.
The Diocese of Sacramento told CNA that claim is “not true.”
“The original matter regarding Fr. Leatherby was triggered by an allegation of a ministerial boundary violation with an adult woman. We have no comment on rumors, theories, or complex, alternate explanations of this matter,” a diocesan spokesman told CNA Aug. 11.
The diocese has declined requests from CNA to explain why the canonical case against Leatherby has taken years to adjudicate, or to specify the canonical crimes of which the priest is accused.
In August 2018, Sacramento’s vicar general sent a memo to diocesan priests, to address ”speculation” and “the length of time it has taken to resolve this case.”
According to the memo, Bishop Soto formally initiated a formal canonical process — presumably a canonical trial or an administrative penal process — against Leatherby, shortly after he was removed from parish ministry.
That canonical process stalled, the memo said, because “it took longer than we would have liked to assemble a panel of canonical experts independent of the diocese to address this case.”
But the process began moving forward in January 2018, according to the memo. The case “is still continuing, and is in the hands of other ecclesiastical authorities,” Soto said this week.
While the diocese has not commented in detail on the allegations against Leatherby, parishioners say the charges have divided the Sacramento parish community, Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that Leatherby led as pastor until he was removed in 2016.
Leatherby had garnered a large following at the parish, especially attracting devoutly Catholic families as he worked to renew the parish school. But some parishioners say the priest’s leadership was marked with problems from the beginning.
Becky Jennings was a volunteer and parent at Presentation’s school during Leatherby’s tenure there. She said her family, like a lot of families, was attracted to the school because of the priest’s orthodoxy, dynamism, and pastoral attention to parish and school.
The Jennings trusted Fr. Leatherby, at first. They thought he was a faithful priest, and they were impressed by his courage and his kindness.
“In retrospect, there were a lot of things that should have been red flags. There were cult-like elements with Fr. Leatherby and his family,” Jennings told CNA.
She said that because Leatherby was pastorally available and engaged in parish and family lives, a “huge cult of personality formed around him.”
“We would have followed him off the end of the earth and trusted him.”
The priest “used to promote himself as an expert in women’s spirituality and women’s spiritual direction,” Jennings said, and the women he directed were fiercely loyal to him.
In her judgment, Leatherby “formed a ‘harem’ of spiritual directees around him, and used the idea that someone has to be loyal to their spiritual director to abuse and manipulate them,” Jennings said.
The diocese has not identified the woman who alleged misconduct in 2016. But parishioners, talking to one another on social media, have said she was a part of the parish community, a daily communicant, and a former employee of the parish.
When allegations regarding Leatherby emerged in 2016, Jennings said, many people had a hard time believing them, including her family.
It was “devastating,” she said. “We felt like he was the heart and soul of the community.”
But eventually Jennings started hearing stories from parishioners about inappropriate behavior from Leatherby, and those gave her pause. She said she began to believe that “Fr. Leatherby had us all taken in.”
Jennings added that even in his parish leadership, the priest had tried to sow suspicion of outsiders. In early 2016, she said, “there seemed to be growing paranoia that the diocese was out to get our school.” Leatherby, she said, was especially paranoid about losing control of decisions at the school.
Division in the parish is now stark, Jennings said, with some describing Leatherby as “narcissistic” and controlling, while others maintain the priest was persecuted by the Sacramento diocese.
She said she doesn’t believe that Leatherby was removed as an act of retribution. “I think that was invented out of whole cloth,” Jennings told CNA, “or exaggerated.”
She emphasized that in her view, Leatherby’s family members, many of whom have been connected to the parish, are a “pr machine,” trying to promote the idea that the priest is the victim of persecution, “like a mafia,” Jennings added. Leatherby's defenders, Jennings said, have smeared the reputation of the priest's alleged victim within the parish community.
Jennings and her family eventually moved away from the parish, she told CNA.
Soto’s letter this week said the excommunication of Leatherby was not related to the 2016 canonical case. That case is not the only instance of suspected misconduct.
Earlier this year, a video circulated online in which Leatherby, who appeared to be driving a car at night, recorded a video message for an unidentified woman, who, according to Leatherby, is not the subject of the 2016 allegation.
“Hey, Baby Doll,” Leatherby says, as he begins the video.
“I love that without mascara that you are still strikingly beautiful. I love that. I love it, like, a lot. A lot a lot. I loved it earlier when I saw you, and you didn’t have it on, and I loved it all night long. ‘Til the present time, and you still don’t have it on, and you’re still gorgeous.”
After discussing an event he had attended that evening, Leatherby says in the video, “I love you, I love you, I love you, you’re my girl. I imagine I’ll still say a ‘good night’ before I really, really, really go to bed, but I love you, even now, before then. Ok, goodnight, I love you.”
Leatherby said this week that he accidentally sent that message to an unintended recipient, and acknowledged the video “appears to some as a confirmation that I must be guilty of every sensational detail that has been alleged about me,” the priest said.
The priest said his behavior in the video was inappropriate, but denied it is evidence of a sexual relationship with the woman.
According to Leatherby’s open letter, the video was intended for “a woman who is a friend and who has assisted me significantly to, literally, survive and persevere these last few years and to fight for my priesthood,” and was recorded “after too much to drink.”
“I spoke in inappropriate ways, unbecoming of my priestly state, even if on leave. Thus, it can be taken totally out of context. I do not have a sexual relationship with that woman,” he said, claiming that those circulating the video “are spreading one side of a story that you don’t know the truth about.”
His letter said that a “handful of detractors who are out to destroy me,” and are using the video irresponsibly. He also claimed that if he were inclined towards sexual immorality, “those pathologies would have been detected at the Saint John Vianney Treatment Center in Downingtown, PA, which I was required to attend for five months after being placed on leave. They dissected every aspect of my life and person.”
In 2018, Leatherby wrote to his former parishioners, whom he reportedly had been instructed by the diocese not to contact.
“At this time I feel called to exercise my spiritual fatherhood to a number of individuals like yourselves, for whom I have been a Pastor, spiritual father, or priest friend/acquaintance at one time or another. I believe that the times that our Lord, through our Blessed Mother, has been preparing the Church and the world for over the course of many years are hastening upon us. She has said that it would be a time of great confusion and darkness, which we have all experienced in ways,” the priest wrote.
“My sense is that the times are going to get progressively darker. There will be a cacophany (sic) of voices pulling us in one way or another. We will be seeking to hear the voice of Christ in the midst of the clamor. Stay close to sources that will offer authentic Catholic teaching,” he added.
This week, Leatherby said he plans to petition for laicization, because he is no longer “in union with the church over which Bergoglio reigns.” The priest said that he will “live out my priestly promises independently.”
If the priest is laicized, the canonical cases against him would likely conclude without formal resolution. The Sacramento diocese told CNA it will support Leatherby’s petition for laicization.
Through his canon lawyer, Leatherby declined CNA’s interview requests.
Posted on 08/11/2020 17:00 PM (CNA Daily News - US)
CNA Staff, Aug 11, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Some Catholics in South Dakota will once again be obligated to go to Sunday Mass, after the Diocese of Sioux Falls it will lift the dispensation on Sunday Mass attendance this week.
From this weekend, Catholics in the diocese who are not in high-risk categories for contracting coronavirus will once more be bound by the Sunday obligation, making Sioux Falls the first diocese to lift the general dispensation brought in across U.S. dioceses in the wake of the pandemic.
“After receiving clarity through prayer, consultation with clergy and others, and in light of this data, effective on August 17, 2020, I am changing the dispensation to apply only to those at increased risk for severe illness and those responsible for their care,” said a statement from Bishop Donald DeGrood of Sioux Falls published on August 10.
“It is important for all in the diocese to know that this modification is made out of pastoral concern for the souls entrusted to my spiritual care,” he added.
DeGrood defined “those at increased risk for severe illness” as people who are over the age of 65, or anyone with cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a compromised immune system due to an organ transplant, obesity, “serious heart conditions,” sickle cell disease, or type two diabetes mellitus.
The decision by the Sioux Falls bishop, whose territory includes the the eastern half of the state, is believed to be the first of its kind. Even in dioceses where public Masses have resumed, there is still no obligation in place for everyone to attend Mass if they do not think it is safe to do so.
DeGrood said in the statement that he made the decision to reinstate the obligation in light of the relatively low impact the novel coronavirus has had on the state of South Dakota, especially as the predictions of overrun hospitals and deaths in the thousands failed to materialize.
“As I have been praying these last months, I have been monitoring COVID-19 infection rates and am grateful the projected severe harm to a large number of people in East River South Dakota has not occurred,” said DeGrood.
“The local data presently available is helpful. For example, as of August 10, of the 44 counties in our diocese, seven have no active cases, 22 have one to 10 active cases, and 15 have 11 or more active cases. Thanks be to God, the hospitals within our state have not suffered an overwhelming surge as was initially feared,” he added.
As of August 10, there were 63 people hospitalized statewide with COVID-19, a number that DeGrood said represented “3% of the total hospital bed capacity, 3% of intensive care unit bed capacity, and 5% of ventilator capacity for the state.”
In the statement, DeGrood said that a Catholic who is hesitant to return to Mass, despite not being at an increased risk of COVID-19 or caring for someone who is severely ill--must discern whether or not their fear is “morally justifiable” or “inordinate.”
“It is essential that these serious questions are discerned in prayer and that the decisions are made in good faith, based upon objective data,” said DeGrood. He listed the examples of “morally justified” fear that would merit skipping Mass to be “regular contact with a person with increased risk,” “recent, prolonged contact with a symptomatic person,” or someone who has “a significant emotional response from fear of contracting COVID-19.”
DeGrood also reminded his flock in the statement about the importance of social distancing and “good hygienic practices” to further stop the spread of COVID-19.
Public Masses resumed in the Diocese of Sioux Falls on May 15, approximately two months after they were suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 146 South Dakotans have died from COVID-19. There are approximately 1,100 active cases of coronavirus statewide.
Posted on 08/11/2020 09:00 AM (CNA Daily News - US)
CNA Staff, Aug 11, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Archbishop-designate Mitchell Rozanski, who will take over the Archdiocese of St. Louis this month, oversaw an investigation into the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon of Springfield, Mass, a bishop credibly accused of sexually abusing an altar boy in the 1960s. Rozanski has faced criticism for some aspects of his handling of the case, which the bishop said had been mishandled for years.
In 2018 an alleged victim, known under the pseudonym John Doe, told the Springfield diocesan review board that Bishop Christopher J. Weldon, who retired in 1977 and died in 1982, had abused him when he was an altar boy in the 1960s. Two priests also abused him, he said.
However, Bishop Weldon was not listed on the Springfield diocese’s list of clergy credibly accused of abuse. Although at least three witnesses and a letter to Doe from the review board supported Doe’s claim that he told the review board about Weldon, the review board only acknowledged Doe’s claim that the two priests had abused him. When the matter became controversial in 2019, then-Bishop Mitchell Rozanski commissioned an independent investigation.
On June 24, the diocese released a 373-page report finding that Doe’s claim he was molested by Bishop Weldon was “unequivocally credible.” It found an investigator employed by the diocese had produced two reports on Doe’s accusations, only one of which was clear in naming Weldon. The investigator is no longer employed by the diocese.
Rozanski apologized for the “chronic mishandling of the case, time and time again, since 2014.”
The Springfield diocese now lists Weldon on its list of credibly accused diocesan priests and deacons. While the list says the clergy “had one or more credible allegations of sexual abuse of a child made against them while they were living,” Weldon was not accused while he was alive.
The New York archdiocese does not include Weldon on its list of credibly accused priests, though he left the archdiocese in 1950. CNA has been unable to confirm whether the Archdiocese of New York or St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where he previously served as a priest, have been formally notified about the case.
CNA sought comment from the Diocese of Springfield, the Archdiocese of New York, and New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but did not receive a response by deadline.
There are no consistent church norms regarding notification of a credible allegation of abuse when a priest or bishop is from another diocese.
Article 7 of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People says that dioceses are to be “open and transparent in communicating with the public about sexual abuse of minors by clergy within the confines of respect for the privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved.”
“This is especially so with regard to informing parish and other church communities directly affected by sexual abuse of a minor,” said the charter.
Weldon was ordained Bishop of Springfield in 1950, after coming to prominence in the Archdiocese of New York. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1929 and was a U.S. Navy chaplain during World War II. He then served as master of ceremonies under the deeply influential Cardinal Francis Spellman, who appointed him executive director of Catholic Charities of New York in 1947, his New York Times obituary reports.
He served as a trustee of the University of Massachusetts and was president of Elms College, a Catholic women’s liberal arts college in Chicopee, from 1958 to 1977.
Weldon’s alleged collaborators in abusing Doe were the priests Edward Authier, who died in 1970, and Clarence Forand, who died in May 2005 at the age of 87. Both served at St. Anne’s Parish in Chicopee.
In 1993 a diocesan review board ruled credible a 1992 allegation that Forand sexually abused a minor for nearly 10 years. Forand denied the accusation, which did not become public until 2004.
Authier’s name was not made public until the controversy over Doe’s accusation. The Springfield diocese’s website of priests credibly accused of abuse now lists the names of Weldon and Forand, but not Authier.
Weldon is not the first Springfield bishop to be accused of sexually abusing a minor.
In February 2004, Bishop Thomas Dupre resigned and left the state to check into a medical facility soon after being confronted by allegations he had sexually abused two teen boys in the 1970s.
In September 2004, he became the first Catholic bishop in the U.S. to be indicted on criminal charges for sexual abuse. While prosecutors argued the then-statutes of limitations did not apply to the case because Dupre allegedly took steps to conceal the abuse as recently as 2003, then-District Attorney William Bennett said the case would not go to trial due to the statute of limitations on some charges and because the grand jury decided not to indict on other charges, The Republican newspaper reported.
Dupre also came under criticism for his response to convicted sex abuser and laicized priest Richard L. Lavigne, a suspect in the unsolved 1972 murder of a Springfield altar boy named Daniel Croteau. The Vatican laicized the priest in 2004.
Dupre served the Springfield diocese as vicar general, chancellor and auxiliary bishop. When he was named an auxiliary bishop in 1990 and when he was named Bishop of Springfield in 1995, he allegedly called his victims to ensure they would not report abuse.
Some commentators believe both Weldon and Dupre controlled what information was kept in the diocesan archives, the Springfield newspaper The Republican reports.
Sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church peaked in the period from 1970 to 1974, according to the U.S. bishops’ reports on child protection. Thousands of victims have come forward and Catholic dioceses and religious orders have paid billions of dollars in lawsuits and other settlements.
Doe claimed that Weldon abused boys in collaboration with priests. A similar allegation has arisen in a recent lawsuit against ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, which characterized him as a leader of a “sex ring” with abusive priests while he was Bishop of Metuchen, N.J.
While McCarrick was removed from the College of Cardinals and laicized after a credible allegation against him was made public in 2018, the allegation concerning a “sex ring” has not yet been substantiated. It comes from controversial lawyer Jeff Anderson, whom critics consider to be a self-promoter who has sensationalized and embellished claims in order to attract media attention to litigation.
Like Weldon, McCarrick was among the hundreds of priests serving in the Archdiocese of New York. McCarrick was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese in 1977.
Posted on 08/11/2020 06:31 AM ()
Posted on 08/11/2020 06:02 AM ()
Posted on 08/11/2020 05:03 AM ()
Posted on 08/11/2020 04:59 AM ()
Posted on 08/11/2020 03:39 AM ()
Posted on 08/11/2020 03:07 AM ()
Posted on 08/11/2020 03:00 AM (CNA - Saint of the Day)