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Priests of Buffalo diocese continue to face sex abuse accusations

St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo, N.Y. / CiEll/Shutterstock

Buffalo, N.Y., Jul 29, 2021 / 14:52 pm (CNA).

Since June more than 90 sex abuse lawsuits involving the Diocese of Buffalo have been filed under New York’s Child Victims Act.

A July 27 statement from Stacey Benson, an attorney at Jeff Anderson & Associates, called on Bishop Michael Fisher “to publicly identify all perpetrators of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Buffalo before the August 13, Child Victims Act deadline because we know there are more names the Diocese has yet to release.” 

The statement includes the names of 24 alleged abusers. It said 13 are believed to be deceased, and that the whereabouts of the remaining 11 are unconfirmed.

The Buffalo diocese declared bankruptcy in February 2020 after more than 250 clergy abuse lawsuits were filed against it under the Child Victims Act. The 2019 law opened a “lookback” window, which closes Aug. 14, allowing child sex abuse victims to file abuse lawsuits long after their statute of limitations had ended.

A federal bankruptcy judge on March 31 ruled that 36 abuse lawsuits against Buffalo Catholic parishes and schools would remain on hold until Oct. 1, 2021, so as not to interfere with settlement payouts that were a part of the bankruptcy process.

The diocese and its former bishops are also facing a lawsuit from the state of New York.

In November 2020, the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, sued the diocese in the state supreme court; Bishop Emeritus Richard Malone, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Edward Grosz, and Buffalo’s then-apostolic administrator, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, were all named in the lawsuit.

The state alleged that the diocese, Bishop Malone, and Bishop Grosz, all failed properly to investigate claims of clergy sex abuse, to monitor priests with credible abuse accusations, and to take action against priests credibly accused.

In addition, the state is seeking restitution from Bishop Malone and Bishop Grosz, and a ban on their serving “a secular fiduciary role in a nonprofit or charitable organization” in the state.


A judge ruled in February that Bishop Malone and Bishop Grosz must pay their own legal fees, but may still have the right to seek reimbursement from the diocese’s insurers for their legal costs, the Buffalo News reported.

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick charged with sexual assault of a minor

Theodore McCarrick before his laicization / Copyright Mazur_catholicchurch.org.uk

Washington D.C., Jul 29, 2021 / 12:11 pm (CNA).

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is facing charges of sexually assaulting a teenage boy in Massachusetts in the 1970s, marking the first time the disgraced ex-prelate has been criminally charged since accusations of longstanding sexual misconduct by him first came to light three years ago.

McCarrick, now 91, is charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14, according to court documents filed July 28 in District Court in Dedham, MA. McCarrick has not been arrested, the court documents show, and is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 26 for his arraignment to formally answer the charges. Each of the three criminal charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The charges were first reported Thursday by the Boston Globe. Neither McCarrick nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Thursday.

Long a powerful and high-profile Catholic leader in the United States with an impressive international resume, McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state by Pope Francis in 2019, after the Vatican conducted an expedited canonical investigation and found McCarrick guilty of “solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession, and sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

You can read the full text of the criminal complaint below. Out of privacy and safety concerns, CNA has redacted McCarrick's Social Security Number and phone number, which were left unredacted in the criminal complaint. Warning: These documents describe incidents of alleged sexual assaults in graphic detail.

The criminal complaint was signed Wednesday by a Wellesley, MA police detective in Massachusetts' Dedham District Court. The criminal investigation appears to have been set in motion by a letter sent to the Middlesex District Attorney by the Boston-based attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, representing McCarrick's alleged victim, who is now in his 60s, court records show.

Documents accompanying the criminal complaint refer to "various incidents of abuse by McCarrick, most of which took place outside of Massachusetts," in New Jersey, New York and California.

The criminal charges stem from a series of sexual assaults alleged to have to have taken place on June 8, 1974 during the wedding reception of the alleged victim's brother. The alleged victim was 16 at the time, court records show.

The wedding and the reception were held at Wellesley College, where the brother’s new wife had attended school, according to court documents.

McCarrick is described in court documents as a close friend of the alleged victim's family at the time who took "trips with his family" and presided over the family's baptisms, weddings and funerals. The alleged victim told authorities that his uncle had attended Fordham Prep with McCarrick and had introduced the gregarious priest to the family.

According to the court documents, the alleged victim was approached by McCarrick while the wedding reception was going on, ostensibly at the boy's father’s request, because he was skipping Mass and being “mischievous.”

“We need to go outside and have a conversation,” McCarrick said, according to court documents.

During a walk around the campus, the alleged victim stopped to urinate in the bushes, and while he was doing so McCarrick allegedly came over to the boy, stating, "Here, let me help you with that," and then placing his hand on the boy's genitals, according to court documents.

When McCarrick and the boy returned to the reception, McCarrick allegedly took him into a small coat room and told the boy that he needed to go to confession, court documents state. McCarrick allegedly instructed the boy to pull down his pants and allegedly sexually assaulted him again, telling the boy afterward to "say three our fathers and a hail Mary or it was one our father and three hail Mary's, so god can redeem you of your sins," according to notes of the alleged victim's interview with authorities included in the court documents.

The alleged victim told authorities that at the time of that assault he “knew what was going to happen” next but “didn’t want to make a scene at his brother’s wedding and disturb everything because he had more respect for his mother, father and brother than himself at the time," according to court documents.

McCarrick was ordained a priest in 1958 and became auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York in 1977. He became in 1981 Bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, then Archbishop of Newark in 1986, and then in 2001 Archbishop of Washington, DC, where he retired in 2006.

He became a cardinal in 2001, but resigned from the College of Cardinals after it emerged in June 2018 that he had been credibly accused of sexually assaulting a minor. Allegations of serial sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests soon followed, and McCarrick was dismissed from the clerical state in February 2019.

The criminal complaint lists McCarrick's address as a location in Dittmer, MO, which is the site of the Vianney Renewal Center. The center is a treatment facility run by the Servants of the Paraclete, which, according to its website, provides "a safe and supportive environment for the rehabilitation and reconciliation of priests and religious brothers." The Servants of the Paraclete have long operated centers for the treatment of priests and religious with problems of sexual or substance abuse.

McCarrick lived in the St. Fidelis Friary of the Capuchin Franciscans in Victoria, Kan., from shortly after he was publicly accused of abuse in 2018, until the opening days of 2020. At that time, senior Church officials told CNA he had moved to a residential community of priests who have been removed from ministry.

The former cardinal himself made the decision to leave the Kansas friary over the Christmas 2019 period, sources said, adding that his continued presence in the friary had become a strain on the Capuchin community that was hosting him.

According to Jeffrey Anderson, a prominent attorney for sex abuse victims, McCarrick resided in the rectory of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York at the time of the alleged abuse in 1974.

As CNA previously reported, in 1971 McCarrick became secretary to New York’s Cardinal Terence Cooke and lived in the rectory attached to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He also grew close with several large Catholic families in the area in the years that followed. He called teenage children in these families “nieces” and “nephews” while accepting the nickname “Uncle Ted,” and traveled regularly with teenagers he befriended, including on overnight trips.

"Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's history of prolific sex crimes has been ignored by the highest-ranking Catholic officials for decades," Anderson said Thursday. "For too long Catholic institutions have been self-policing while making pledges and promises without action. McCarrick should be behind bars for his crimes."

McCarrick’s public disgrace in 2018 and dismissal from the clerical state a year later shocked Catholics in the United States and around the world, and triggered an international crisis of credibility for the Church’s hierarchy, leading to Pope Francis calling an unprecedented meeting of the world’s bishops in 2019 to address issues of sexual abuse and accountability in the Church.

The fallout of the 2018 allegations against McCarrick, and reports that Church leaders knew for years about possible instances of misconduct but failed to act, also contributed to Pope Francis’ promulgation of Vos estis lux mundi, a new provision in canon law allowing for the investigation and trial of bishops for the failure to act on allegations.

Made in His Image founder writes book on trauma, forgiveness, and healing

Maura Preszler, author of 'Choosing to See Beauty'. Credit: Hannah Quintana Photography.

Denver Newsroom, Jul 29, 2021 / 10:54 am (CNA).

Maura Preszler grew up in an abusive household, despite the family’s outward Catholic appearance. They went to Mass on Sundays, prayed the rosary together and celebrated the saints’ feast days, but her home was filled with domestic violence behind closed doors. She learned how to keep secrets, she said, and to internalize her feelings, which resulted in a debilitating eating disorder and depression in early adolescence.

Preszler shares the challenges she faced, as well as her journey to recovery in her forthcoming book Choosing to See Beauty, available for pre-order from CatholicPsych Press. The book is scheduled to ship by Aug. 15. 

In 8th grade, Preszler overheard a couple high school girls when they were gossiping about the weight of one of her field hockey teammates. This was the moment she began to associate beauty with a certain weight, she said. Preszler stopped eating and started running more, fueled by the attention she received for losing weight on her already small figure. 

Her eating disorder required medical intervention after her body weight dropped to a dangerously low number. With her pulse severely impacted, she was not able to do the activities she enjoyed, like dancing or running, until she put the weight back on.

“Even after I returned to my normal weight, I had these burning questions like ‘Who am I?’ ‘What am I made for?’ ‘Does God love me?’ ‘Why is this happening to me?’” Preszler said. “I had this yearning to be known and seen.”

After finishing high school, she attended Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, where she was a Division I runner. Preszler began dating a man who later revealed that he had a sexual addiction and ended their relationship. She found herself starting to spiral again, with many of the same questions unanswered.

“It was devastating for me and I felt so rejected,” she said. “But it was what I needed to be cracked open.”

Pursued by a determined FOCUS missionary, Preszler joined a Varsity Catholic Bible study, and, later, learned about FOCUS’ mission trips. She applied to go to Kolkata for six weeks between her junior and senior year. 

“It was the most life-changing experience,” said Preszler, who worked at Mother Teresa’s Kalighat Home for the Dying. “It was our mission to show them God’s love.” 

While in India, Preszler prayed a Holy Hour before the Eucharist every day. Each night, the FOCUS missionaries led a prayer or reflection, one of which on God’s love was especially meaningful for Preszler. 

“God showed up in such a radical way,” said Preszler. “It all came to a head, all these walls I had built up fell down, and I thought, ‘This is what I’m actually searching for.’ I felt at home and at peace.”

The trip launched an intense journey of recovery for Preszler, who committed to a daily Holy Hour upon returning to the U.S. She also went through a full psychological evaluation and was diagnosed with chronic depression, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, and a borderline personality disorder. 

“On one hand, I was so frustrated that I had these labels on me, but on the other hand, it was so freeing to know that this is why I can’t concentrate, this is why I have horrible nightmares,” she said. “Part of me was really reluctant to get help, but the other part of me was determined to not turn out like my parents.”

Preszler sought out a Catholic psychologist and moved to Nashville to begin two years of intense therapy, including medication and frequent counseling sessions. 

“It was the hardest, but most beautiful thing,” she said. “It dug up so much from the past, but he [the psychologist] was just the person I needed. The therapy was so healing, so hard, so good.”

The therapist suggested Preszler channel her suffering into something to help other people. She started a blog, Made in His Image, which became a nonprofit organization to help women overcome trauma, abuse, eating disorders, and violence. 

Choosing to See Beauty is the next step in her journey, Preszler said. 

“This has helped me live in gratitude for what I’ve been given,” she said. “If I hadn’t had the experience with counseling and therapy, I don’t think I would be married. I wouldn’t be able to be in a stable relationship. I wouldn’t be able to be a mom.”

One of Preszler’s goals, she said, is to break the stigma and shame of therapy and mental health.

“A lot of people think you have to pray more or you have to do more,” Preszler said. “No, you don’t have to ‘do more.’ You have to let yourself be healed. A result of the way I grew up was that my brain wasn’t functioning normally and I needed help to fix that.”

The only way to heal, Preszler said, was to work through the difficulties and acquire the tools to break the cycle of abuse, noting that abuse repeats generation after generation without intervention. 

“We have to step towards the pain,” she said. “The only way is through. If we look at the Cross, if we look at Jesus, the only way to Easter is to die on the Cross. The only way to the Resurrection is Good Friday, and we need to find that Good Friday in our life. Jesus is going to bring so much beauty out of it.”

U.S. Bishops’ Chairmen Respond to House Vote to Force Taxpayers to Fund Elective Abortions

WASHINGTON - Today, the House voted 219 to 208 in favor of H.R. 4502, a package of appropriations bills that currently excludes the 46-year-old Hyde Amendment and other longstanding, bipartisan provisions like the Weldon Amendment. Eliminating these provisions would force taxpayers to pay for elective abortions and would have the effect of forcing health care providers and professionals to perform and refer for abortion against their deeply-held beliefs, as well as forcing employers and insurers to cover and pay for abortion. 

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued the following statement:  

“The House has voted in a way that is completely out of step with the will of the American people who overwhelmingly oppose taxpayer-funded abortion. The Hyde Amendment has saved at least 2.4 million lives since its enactment. Without it, millions of poor women in desperate circumstances will make the irrevocable decision to take the government up on its offer to end the life of their child. 

“To be certain, this bill includes provisions that help vulnerable people, including pregnant moms. As we have said before, ‘being “right” in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life.’ In truth, ‘the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the “rightness” of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community.’[i]

“The injustice in HR 4502 extends to removing conscience protections and exemptions for healthcare providers who believe abortion is wrong, or whose faith drives them to serve and heal lives, instead of taking them.  

“Funding the destruction of innocent unborn human lives, and forcing people to kill in violation of their consciences, are grave abuses of human rights. We call on the Senate to redress this evil in H.R. 4502, and for Congress to ultimately pass appropriations bills that fully support and protect human dignity, and the most vulnerable among us.”


###
Media Contacts:

Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200


[i] United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life, #22 (1998)

Memorial of Saints Martha, Mary, and Lazarus

Reading I Ex 40:16-21, 34-38

Moses did exactly as the LORD had commanded him.
On the first day of the first month of the second year
the Dwelling was erected.
It was Moses who erected the Dwelling.
He placed its pedestals, set up its boards, put in its bars,
and set up its columns.
He spread the tent over the Dwelling
and put the covering on top of the tent,
as the LORD had commanded him.
He took the commandments and put them in the ark;
he placed poles alongside the ark and set the propitiatory upon it.
He brought the ark into the Dwelling and hung the curtain veil,
thus screening off the ark of the commandments,
as the LORD had commanded him.

Then the cloud covered the meeting tent,
and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.
Moses could not enter the meeting tent,
because the cloud settled down upon it
and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.
Whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling,
the children of Israel would set out on their journey.
But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward;
only when it lifted did they go forward.
In the daytime the cloud of the LORD was seen over the Dwelling;
whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud
by the whole house of Israel
in all the stages of their journey.

Responsorial Psalm 84:3, 4, 5-6a and 8a, 11

R.    (2)    How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!
My soul yearns and pines 
    for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
    cry out for the living God.
R.     How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!
Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest
    in which she puts her young–
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
    my king and my God!
R.     How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!
Blessed they who dwell in your house!
    continually they praise you.
Blessed the men whose strength you are!
They go from strength to strength.
R.    How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!
I had rather one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
R.    How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!

Alleluia Jn 8:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 11:19-27

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

OR:

Lk 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village 
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. 
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? 
Tell her to help me.” 
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. 
There is need of only one thing. 
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

- - -

Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Angola: Listening to and participating in the enthusiasm of communities

In the diocese of Viana, Angola, meetings have been underway for almost a month in parishes, groups, movements and Christian communities to provide everyone with training and information on the diocesan synodal assembly that will be held in mid-October, a step towards the Synod of Bishops in 2023. Fr. Domingo Pestana, the coordinator of the commission and of the secretariat created with the aim of listening to and gathering the contributions of each person, reflects on the initiatives.

Vatican unveils official image for X World Meeting of Families

The official image for the upcoming World Meeting of Families has been released. Produced by Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, the image is dedicated to the Wedding at Cana. The eagerly awaited 10th World Meeting of Families will take place in Rome from June 22 to 26 June 2022, after the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Amoris laetitia: Marriage as an icon of the love of God

In 10 episodes, one each month, we bring you a video with the Pope's reflections and first-hand testimonies of families from across the world on the theme of the family. The initiative, a joint collaboration between the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, and Vatican News, and aims to 're-read' Amoris laetitia, with the aid of downloadable material prepared for personal and community reflection. Because, as Pope Francis reminds us: being a family is always "primarily an opportunity."

India National Justice Day celebrates Father Stan Swamy

Indian citizens, concerned about values enshrined in the country’s Constitution, observed July 28 as National Justice Day in honour of late the Jesuit rights activist.

REPAM reports more than 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 in Amazonia

The Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM) publishes its weekly map of pandemic incidence rates in Pan-Amazonia as the death toll reaches 100,000 people. The report stresses that more vaccines and more immunisation is needed to fight the virus.