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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.”

World nurses' congress to focus on unity in mission, faith

MonkeyBusinessImages/Shutterstock

Allentown, Pa., Jul 28, 2021 / 19:01 pm (CNA).

Held every four years, the upcoming World Congress of Nurses comes at a providential time for many Catholic nurses around the world whose professional skills, families and faith have been sorely tested by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, taking place Aug. 2-4 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA, is open to “nurses (students included) front-liners, innovators, educators, researchers, and policy makers,” according to its overall sponsor, the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Nurse Practitioners, or CICIAMS (for the Comité International Catholique des Infirmières et Assistantes Médico-Sociales.)

“Our Congress days are filled with spiritual nourishment, inspiring speakers, and highlights of the amazing work that Catholic Nurses are accomplishing from the jungles of Malaysia to the streets of Poland and all points in between,” said registered nurse Janet Munday, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Catholic Nurses, USA, or NACN-USA, a CICIAMS member organization that is hosting this year’s gathering.

Reflecting NACN-USA’s mission to foster a network of nurses who can share their struggles, research, and best practices, the theme of this year’s congress is “United in Mission, United in Faith.”

“Nurses today need to have relationships with other nurses” so they ask each other about “those ethical situations” they commonly face while caring for sick and infirmed, Munday said.

Munday noted that a Catholic nurse’s faith can infuse all aspects of one’s professional life.

“We always like to elevate our nursing to be something related to the corporal works of mercy, the spiritual works of mercy, so it’s an elevation of our nursing practice aligned with our Catholic faith,” she said.

Munday said in the face of “widespread suffering” due to the pandemic “the love of Christ” has given many Catholic nurses the strength to continue under such extraordinary circumstances.

As Dr. Khosi R. Mthethwa, the President of CICIAMS, wrote on May 12, 2021 in a letter on the commemoration of the International Nurses and Midwives Year, “Although, we are different national groups facing different challenges, I have realized that the COVID-19 pandemic has united us in a special way.”  

At the same time, nurses face moral distress in an increasingly secularized culture. “The breakdown of the family is witnessed by school nurses,” Munday said. “The strain and pains of patients living with addiction and substance abuse is a heavy pack for behavioral health and emergency room nurses.  The lack of dignity toward life in all stages, also lays a heavy burden on nurses who answer the call to walk with others in their healthcare struggles and sufferings.” 

Pope Francis acknowledged these challenges in 2018 while speaking in the Vatican to members of the Federation of Professional Nursing Colleges, Health Assistants, and Child Wardens. He described those in the nursing profession as “promoters of the life and dignity of people.”

“The role of nurses in assisting the patient is truly irreplaceable,” the pope observed. “Like no other, the nurse has a direct and continuous relationship with patients, takes care of them every day, listens to their needs and comes into contact with their very body.”

Confession must be part of talks on worthiness to receive Communion, Nuncio says

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, addresses the July 28 online panel hosted by Georgetown University's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life / Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2021 / 17:05 pm (CNA).

The sacrament of confession must be part of the U.S. bishops’ discussions on worthiness to receive Communion, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States said on Wednesday.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, said at an online panel that the conversion of souls should be the bishops’ primary aim when teaching about reception of Holy Communion.

“The starting point cannot be to shame the weak, but to propose the One Who can strengthen us to overcome our weaknesses, especially through the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist,” Archbishop Pierre said at an online panel discussion on Wednesday.

“By the way, there is a link between the two [sacraments],” the nuncio added.

Archbishop Pierre addressed a July 28 online panel discussion of “Communion, Catholics, and Public Life,” which focused largely on a draft Eucharistic document of the U.S. bishops’ conference. The event was hosted by Georgetown University's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life.

At their recent spring meeting, held virtually this year due to the pandemic, the U.S. bishops voted decisively to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist. The meeting featured extensive debate both for and against moving ahead with the document at the time.

A proposed outline of the document covered various teachings on the Eucharist, including a subsection on worthiness to receive Communion – “Eucharistic consistency.”

That subsection received most of the attention at the bishops’ meeting. Some bishops opposed to drafting the document at the time argued that in addressing worthiness to receive Communion, the bishops would be seen as partisan players, rebuking Catholic politicians who oppose the Church’s teachings on abortion laws.

Some bishops critical of the motion also said that to pronounce who should and should not receive Communion would drive Catholics away from the Eucharist at a time when unity in the Church is needed.

Archbishop Pierre was asked about the episcopal deliberations on Wednesday. He admitted the difficulty the bishops faced in “discerning” what to do on the teaching document.

“The discernment is quite difficult, because there is always the danger to be overwhelmed by the tensions. And we know these tensions are quite often ideological tensions which may divide us,” he said.

“This is why we have heard about the risk of instrumentalization of the sacraments, and indeed, of the Eucharist,” he continued, noting “how to remain firm, faithful to the message of the Gospel and avoid any kind of ideological war.”

After the Nuncio spoke on Wednesday, two U.S. bishops participated in the online dialogue on Communion – Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, chair of the doctrine committee at the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB), and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark. Other panel participants included John Carr, co-director of the Initiative, as well as Gretchen Crowe, editorial director for periodicals at Our Sunday Visitor, and Mollie O'Reilly, editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal magazine. 

As current chair of USCCB doctrine committee, Bishop Rhoades is currently in charge of drafting the teaching document on the Eucharist.

The idea for the document surfaced shortly after the election of President Joe Biden. A USCCB working group was established in November 2020 to deal with challenges of a Catholic in the White House – Biden – who contradicted Church teaching on life and marriage issues. Biden supports taxpayer-funded abortion and the redefinition of marriage, among other policies contrary to Church teaching.

The bishops’ working group recommended a teaching document on the Eucharist, to inform Catholics – especially Catholic politicians – of the need to conform their lives to Church teaching in order to receive the Eucharist worthily and avoid giving scandal.

Bishop Rhoades on Wednesday said the Eucharistic document is meant to be “a teaching document,” one “that would focus more broadly on the Eucharist as the source and summit of our identity as Catholics.” It is addressed to all Catholics and is not a political statement, he said.

Regarding worthiness to receive Communion, the Church already has taught that discipline in canons 915 and 916 of the Code of Canon Law, he said on Wednesday. Canon 915 states that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”

The document, Rhoades emphasized, “will not be establishing national norms or a national policy” on admittance to Communion.

Bishop Rhoades added that it is the teaching of the Church that, in order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, a Catholic must “assent to the deposit of faith that’s contained in Scripture and Tradition that the Apostles entrusted to the Church.”

Meanwhile, Cardinal Tobin on Wednesday expressed some criticism about the decision to draft the document at the current moment. “This document was born in some confusion,” he said, warning that it would be received by many Catholics as a partisan gesture.

Cardinal Tobin noted that the USCCB established a working group and drafted a document on worthiness to receive Communion after the election of Joe Biden. They did not do so right after the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016, he said, taking more than a year to set up any such working group during Trump’s presidency.

Part of the USCCB’s reason for setting up the working group in 2020 was Biden’s professed Catholic faith, and the added possibility of scandal with a Catholic in the White House contradicting Church teaching on grave moral issues.

Bishops should be consulting not only among themselves, but with the lay faithful on the Eucharistic document, Tobin said.

“I think what we need is a broader consultation with the American church on the mystery of the Eucharist,” Cardinal Tobin said, “not one that, like it or not, is perceived as a political action.”

Cardinal Tobin was also asked about recent reports on the use of the gay dating and “hookup” app Grindr by clergy and seminarians.

The Catholic news website The Pillar on July 20 published its investigation claiming that, according to records of app signal data, the cell phone of the USCCB’s associate general secretary regularly emitted Grindr data signals during parts of the years 2018-2020. The secretary in question, Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, became USCCB general secretary after the bishops’ November 2020 meeting. He resigned his post shortly before The Pillar published its investigation.

The Pillar has since published stories saying it reviewed data of Grindr app usage at rectories in the Newark archdiocese, and at the Vatican. The Archdiocese of Newark responded last week that it would investigate the allegations.

Cardinal Tobin on Wednesday said that priests could not be using the apps after having taken vows of celibacy, but also noted the “ethics” surrounding the gathering of the phone app data.

“All of us as Catholics take promises,” he said, noting vows made related to the sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony, and Holy Orders. “We should keep our promises, and we should repent when we don’t keep our promises,” he said.

For priests who have taken vows of celibacy, having a dating app on their phone “is asking for trouble,” Tobin said.

He also noted the “very questionable ethics around the” gathering of phone app data, and added that the information The Pillar shared with the Newark archdiocese “is very general.” Tobin would not comment further on the story.

This article was updated on August 3 with information about the event.

A ‘true living medieval experience’: Catholic University students replicate Notre Dame cathedral architecture

Professors and students stand in front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at The Catholic University of America's campus, to begin building truss number six of Notre Dame Cathedral in France. / Patrick G. Ryan, university photographer

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2021 / 15:03 pm (CNA).

Students and professors at the Catholic University of America (CUA) are building a full-scale truss replicating that which was destroyed in a 2019 fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. 

On the lawn in front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., students and professors at the university are working with the architecture non-profit Handhouse Studio to create a wooden truss, a roofing framework. The truss has the same specifications as one of the hundreds of trusses destroyed in the devastating April 2019 fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

“The making of this in front of the Basilica is magic.” said Tonya Ohnstad, visiting professor at the university’s school of architecture and a leader in construction effort, to CNA in a July 27 phone interview. 

The truss, which will be approximately 45 feet wide and 35 feet tall when finished, is being constructed in partnership with Handhouse Studio during a 10-day workshop. Ohnstad compared the rebuilding of the truss to a “true living medieval experience.” 

The workshop began on Monday morning when 30 White Oak trees donated from neighboring Virginia forests arrived at the university campus, along with a crane. Traditional timber framers, carpenters, faculty, students, and alumni have been participating in the project, using the methods and materials of the original medieval builders of Notre Dame.

“It's so incredible,” Ohnstad said, “I wish everyone could come and see the way they would have seen the construction of these important buildings with people working, all of the embodied energy of the humans, and everything people are pouring into these logs that would then be part of the church.”

An architecture graduate student involved in the effort, Sam Merklein, told CNA that his class contributed research into different joints, sketches, and dimensions of the truss; the students worked in collaboration with the Notre Dame architects in France.

“It's amazing to see all the drawings that detail all the different components of the building,” Merklein said, “but then also just to be able to say that we're helping to reconstruct a cathedral that is hundreds of years old and has had so much work put into it throughout the century is amazing.”

The university’s architecture department is teaching a related course on the history and reconstruction of the cathedral, which includes a public lecture series featuring experts from many fields.

Ohnstad’s architecture class on the cathedral, which began at the end of June, prepared for four weeks before the timber arrived on campus. She told CNA her team is rebuilding the sixth truss out of the hundreds of trusses that held up the cathedral. 

When asked if the truss will be used in the actual rebuilding of the cathedral, Ohnstad told CNA it has not been decided yet. She called the truss building a “gesture of global solidarity” to show the French that “we're in this with them, we want to help them reconstruct it, and that we hope that they will take a truss from us and put it in Notre Dame.” 

Ohnstad told CNA that she is collaborating with the group Charpentiers sans Frontières (“Carpenters Without Border”). As the team at CUA could have slightly different measurements and estimates than the team in France, the truss could be ruled out from being used in the Cathedral for that reason. 

However, when finished, the truss will be raised in front of the basilica for display on August 3 at 5:30 p.m. At the event, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington will come to bless the structure. 

The truss will then be raised for display on the National Mall on August 5, in partnership with the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Training Center and with the support of Preservation Maryland. 

The National Building Museum also found interest in the truss, and will be exhibiting the structure within its “Great Hall” for sight seeing from August 6 to September 16.

“I think it's really amazing that across the Atlantic we're able to help out with the cathedral,” Merklein said, “and whether or not the timber framers here are going to send over a truss into the cathedral, or if it's just going to be a symbolic effort and gesture, I think it’s a really great experience and something I'm proud to work on.”

Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela calls Holy Year ‘a time of grace and encounter’

Santiago de Compostela cathedral / artem evdokimov/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Jul 28, 2021 / 09:05 am (CNA).

The Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela emphasized the graces of the current Jubilee Year at the shrine of St. James the Apostle, in a homily on Sunday, the saint’s feast day.

In his July 25 homily, Archbishop Julián Barrio Barrio of Santiago de Compostela called the Holy Year "a time of grace, healing and encounter," according to Vatican News.

In Barrio’s homily, he highlighted the unifying benefits to praying to St. James.  He said that the saint could help the people of Spain maintain a “fraternal coexistence.” 

The feast of Saint James the Apostle fell on a Sunday this year, which means that pilgrims may gain an indulgence by visiting through the cathedral’s Holy Door. The beginning of the Jubilee Year of Compostela in Spain launched on December 31, 2020, and was set to continue for a year. However, because of the pandemic, Pope Francis decided it would continue through 2022.

This theme of this year’s jubilee is “Come out of your land! The Apostle is waiting for you!” 

The name comes from Pope Francis’s letter to Archbishop Barrio last year in which he wrote: "Following in the footsteps of the Apostle, we leave our self, those certainties to which we cling, but with a clear objective in mind, we are not wandering beings, always revolving around ourselves without getting anywhere.” 

“It is the voice of the Lord that calls us and, as pilgrims, we welcome it in an attitude of listening and seeking, undertaking this journey to meet God, others and ourselves,” the pope wrote.

Barrio made references to the coronavirus pandemic by praying for all victims, frontline workers and the deceased. “The mission of the Church,” he said, “is to lead people to God, but also to urge all people of goodwill to become aware of the root from which evils come, so that they may remedy the injustices and deplorable conditions in which many people live.”

The archbishop prayed that through the intercession of St. James, people would find hope and embrace “the liberating novelty of Christianity to give credible answers” to existential questions. 

Barrio said that Western civilization is in need of Christ because it has an “impoverished soul” which sees life as meaningless. Christianity gives all hope, he said, because it offers “love and solidarity” through the charity of God, “who abandons no one.”

During a Holy Year, when the feast of Saint James falls on a Sunday, the Holy Door in the cathedral remains open for the whole year, and pilgrims can gain a plenary indulgence for themselves, for someone who is ill or for a deceased person. 

To do so, pilgrims must visit the cathedral and fulfill the general conditions for receiving an indulgence: going to confession, receiving Communion, praying for the pope’s intentions, and possessing an interior detachment from sin.

Pilgrims have been making the journey to Santiago de Compostela for more than a thousand years to commemorate the life and sacrifice of James the apostle. The tradition of the Holy Year in Santiago de Compostela dates back to 1122, when Pope Callixtus II first allowed for a plenary indulgence for pilgrims to the shrine. 

The cathedral was completed in 1211 and houses the relics of St. James in its crypt. It is the destination of the “Camino de Santiago” pilgrimage route.

5 things you need to know about Blessed Stanley Rother

Blessed Stanley Rother during a carnival. Courtesy of Archdiocese of Oklahoma City Archives.

Denver Newsroom, Jul 28, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Not much is popularly known about Blessed Stanley Rother, the small town Oklahoma native who was declared blessed in September 2017 by the Catholic Church.

One of the newest blesseds, he became a priest and missionary at a parish in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala. He served the local Tz’utujil people at the time of the Guatemalan civil war, where he was on a hit list and eventually assassinated on July 28, 1981.

These are five things you need to know about this American on the path to sainthood who died 40 years ago today.

  1. Blessed Stanley Rother is the first American-born martyr. 

Aside from the North American Martyrs, such as Isaac Jogues, Blessed Stanley Rother is the only martyr associated with the United States. And he is the only martyr born in the United States. 

  1. He translated the New Testament into the Tz'utujil language. 

Stanley struggled academically in the seminary, especially with Latin, and eventually switched seminaries. Despite his seminary struggles, He learned both Spanish and Tz’utujil while in Guatemala where his desire to serve led him to learn the languages to connect with the people he was serving. 

  1. He was a jack of all trades.

Though not academically gifted, Blessed Stanley Rother possessed skills as an electrician, plumber, and farmer, which he used to aid his people by repairing machinery and helping them implement new techniques to better their farming. He also built many buildings for the community, such as a school, hospital, and a Catholic radio station. 

  1. Blessed Stanley Rother came back to his Guatemalan parish, saying “A shepherd cannot run from his flock.”

Blessed Stanley Rother faced danger to his own life in Guatemala, since his name was on a hit list. For safety, he returned to Oklahoma, where he said these words.  He went back to Guatemala for Holy Week to serve his parishioners despite the danger. Less than four months later, he was killed.

  1. Blessed Stanley Rother’s Tz’utujil parishioners have his heart. 

“At the parish, his presence is everywhere — his heart and his blood are in the church, the room that he was killed in has been converted into a chapel in his honor, the parochial school has been named after him. Blessed Rother is well-known all over town,” said Fr. Josh Mayer, a priest of the diocese of Gallup, following a visit to Guatemala in 2019 on Rother's feast day.

After Blessed Stanley Rother’s martyrdom his body was returned to Oklahoma for burial. His Guatemalan parishioners enshrined his heart, however, since they wished to keep a part of their beloved priest.

Boston auxiliary bishop reveals why he voted against Eucharistic document

Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Denver Newsroom, Jul 27, 2021 / 16:30 pm (CNA).

An auxiliary bishop of the Boston archdiocese on Sunday revealed why he voted against a motion of the U.S. bishops’ conference to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist.

Bishop Mark O’Connell, an auxiliary bishop of Boston, said in a July 25 statement that he believed the Eucharistic document would lead to greater polarization. Bishop O’Connell published his statement in the bulletin of St. Theresa parish in North Reading, Massachusetts, as a response to a parishioner’s question about denying Communion to pro-abortion politicians. 

During the U.S. bishops’ virtual spring meeting in June, they debated a proposal to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist. The proposed document outline covered the Church’s Eucharistic teaching on a number of points, including the need for Catholics to live out the Church’s teaching in public before and after receiving Communion. 

Some bishops critical of the proposal said it would be interpreted as a call to deny Communion to specific pro-abortion politicians, and would thus result in greater political polarization.

“I fear the whole process of writing the document will lead to more and more opportunity for some bishops and writers to further polarize our people,” Bishop O’Connell wrote. He said “it is not up to me (or you)” to deny anyone Holy Communion, adding that the decision rests with each individual bishop. 

In written responses to CNA’s questions after the publication of his letter, O’Connell said he sees the discussion of denial of Holy Communion to certain public figures as focusing too heavily on abortion, to the detriment of other issues.

The topic has been hotly debated in some quarters with the election of Joe Biden, a Catholic who supports abortion and attends Mass regularly, to the presidency. 

The June vote among the bishops on the Eucharistic document was conducted by secret ballot. The final results of the vote on whether to begin drafting the document - a motion which required only a simple majority to pass - was 168 bishops in favor, 55 opposed, and 6 abstentions. 

During the virtual meeting, several dozen bishops spoke explicitly for or against the proposal, but O’Connell is one of the few bishops to publicly reveal and explain his vote following the results. 

O’Connell acknowledged that although President Biden attends Mass regularly, some of his policy positions are at odds with Church teaching - most notably his support for taxpayer-funded abortion. 

However, he said, “I do not think a letter about the Eucharist is the correct place to address this issue.”

He noted that “there are more appropriate ways, and they are delineated in Canon Law.” He did not, in his letter, elaborate on what those more “appropriate ways” are. 

O’Connell told CNA he had in mind a bishop’s canonical authority to determine the pastoral response in his particular diocese. 

In his letter, Bishop O’Connell laid out several reasons why he voted against drafting the document in June. He said he believed the discussion ought to have taken place in person rather than during a virtual meeting. 

O’Connell elaborated to CNA that he did not feel comfortable expressing his concerns during the virtual meeting, and that he felt the discussion that took place was not adequate. 

While some bishops had moved to change the parliamentary rules of the meeting to allow for unlimited debate time on the motion of the Eucharistic document, that effort failed in a vote on Wednesday. Nevertheless, while debating the motion to draft the Eucharistic document, bishops were allowed to speak in their normal five-minute time slots long after the conference meeting was scheduled to wrap up on July 17.

“If we need to speak with each other about how individual bishops should approach public figures in their dioceses we should do that directly and in person and over time - not just make some vague reference to it in a document on the Eucharist,” Bishop O’Connell told CNA. 

“To me, putting this into the document distracts from anything else in the document and is a roundabout way of not having a serious discussion on this critical issue,” he said. 

A proposed outline of the Eucharistic document, made available to bishops in advance of the spring meeting, made no mention of public figures and Communion. However, the conference’s doctrine committee - charged with drafting the document - included a letter with the proposed outline, saying the document would include a “special call for those Catholics who are cultural, parochial, or political leaders to witness to the faith.”

O’Connell wrote in his letter that he has “no faith that the document finally produced would be read except for the section on Eucharistic Consistency and then, as with most things, through the lens of the politics of the media on either side of the question.”

The bishop did not lay out his own opinion of whether or not Biden should be admitted to Holy Communion, instead noting that “Canon Law leaves it to his individual bishop and pastor to speak with him and that is a private conversation.” 

Bishop O’Connell said he wished to refocus the conversation away from “who should be denied” the Eucharist, and toward “who should receive” the Eucharist. 

“As a priest and a bishop giving Holy Communion, I accept the humble ‘Amen’ of our Catholics as they approach the Altar and I leave judgement on specific individuals to the private conversations with their pastors,” he concluded. 

The Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ, and as such must be received worthily. 

Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law states that those “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

The Catholic Church has always taught that abortion is a grave sin. In a 2004 memo to then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that a politician consistently campaigning for and voting for permissive abortion laws constitutes formal cooperation with evil. Biden has publicly advocated for protection of abortion in law, including the codification of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision which mandated permissive abortion laws nationwide. 

The next canon, 916, exhorts the individual receiving Communion to be aware of his own worthiness, and to go to confession if conscious of grave sin.  

“I think we should further explore that Canon which applies to everyone including the President and take it out of politics,” Bishop O’Connell told CNA. 

“We are all unworthy to receive, let that unworthiness be the source of our unity,” he said. 

Other bishops, such as canon lawyer Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, have also emphasized the importance of personal discernment and examination of conscience on the part of all Catholics before they approach Holy Communion. 

“If they are conscious of grave sin, they shouldn't go to communion,” Paprocki told CNA in March. 

He noted that this is true not only for politicians, but for all Catholics. However, he added, a failure to consistently apply Canon 915 - that those persisting in “manifest grave sin” ought not be allowed Communion - causes confusion. It “gives rise to scandal, in that it leads to the impression that grave sins may not be so grave after all if there are no consequences for committing them,” he said. 

CNA asked O’Connell about the possibility of scandal in cases where a pro-abortion Catholic politician continually presents himself for Holy Communion, despite having been admonished by his bishop or pastor not to do so without first recanting his support for abortion. 

“Calling abortion ‘the’ preeminent issue instead of ‘a’ preeminent issue, allows other issues to go too far down the ladder - such as immigration, euthanasia, the rights of workers, priority for the poor, racism, torture,” O’Connell responded to CNA. The U.S. bishops’ conference has referred to abortion as a “preeminent priority,” due to the scale of abortions per year, the gravity of the evil and the effect of abortion on women and families.

“We need to preach the Magisterium to our people in its fullness and not be confined to one issue while acknowledging that abortion is indeed a key issue and a grave evil. There are politicians in both parties acting scandalously on many issues, but some look the other way because of their political alignment,” Bishop O’Connell said. 

The U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee will now lead the process of drafting the document, with input from other conference committees. A draft of the document could be ready to be debated, amended, and voted on by the bishops at their November meeting - which is currently planned to be held in-person in Baltimore, Maryland.

In November 2020, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. told a reporter that he would not deny pro-abortion politicians Holy Communion if they were to present themselves for the sacrament at Mass. The new bishop of Biden’s home diocese of Wilmington has not yet publicly spoken on this issue. 

Cardinal Gregory reportedly withdraws permission for Tridentine Mass at National Shrine

Cardinal Raymond Burke gives the final blessing during the Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage Mass in Rome on Oct. 25, 2014. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Washington D.C., Jul 27, 2021 / 16:10 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington has reportedly withdrawn permission for a solemn pontifical Mass that was to be offered August 14 in D.C.

A pontifical Mass is celebrated by a bishop in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The Mass, scheduled for the vigil of the Solemnity of the Assumption, was to take place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The Paulus Institute, a group dedicated to promoting the sacred liturgy, organized the event, which was to be broadcast by EWTN. On its Facebook page on July 27, the institute announced that permission for the Mass was rescinded by the Archbishop of Washington.

"Cardinal Wilton Gregory has withdrawn the permission he had given to Archbishop Thomas Gullickson to celebrate a Pontifical Solemn Mass on August 14," Donna Bethell of the Paulus Institute said in a statement to CNA on Tuesday. Cardinal Gregory, she said, "cited Traditionis custodes as the reason, without further specificity."

The Archdiocese of Washington did not immediately respond to a confirmation request by CNA on Tuesday afternoon.

According to Pope Francis’ July 16 apostolic letter Traditionis custodes (“Guardians of the liturgy”), it is a bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in his own diocese.

The Aug. 14 Mass at the shrine was to be celebrated by Archbishop Gullickson, titular archbishop of Bomarzo and retired papal nuncio to Switzerland.

In a July 16 letter to priests, Cardinal Gregory said he would “prayerfully reflect” on the pope’s letter “in the coming weeks,” in order “to ensure we understand fully the Holy Father's intentions and consider carefully how they are realized in the Archdiocese of Washington.”

"In the interim, I hereby grant the faculty to those who celebrate the Mass using the liturgical books issued before 1970 to continue to do so this weekend and in the days to come, until further guidance is forthcoming,” he stated.

The pope’s letter further stated that if groups wish to gather for the Traditional Latin Mass in a bishop’s diocese, he is to determine that they believe in the validity of the liturgical reform of Vatican II and the Church’s Magisterium. He is further “to designate one or more locations” where attendees of the Traditional Latin Mass may gather, but that the locations must not include “parochial churches.”

Although the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is located within the territorial bounds of the Archdiocese of Washington, it is not a diocesan church. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, as Washington archbishop, is ex officio chairman of the shrine’s board of directors.

This article was updated on July 27 with a statement from the Paulus Institute.

Catholic sisters dedicate lives to telling the elderly ‘You’ll never be alone’

Sr. Constance Veit, LSP / EWTN News In Depth

Washington D.C., Jul 27, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Ahead of the inaugural World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly this past Sunday, the communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor described how the order cares for the elderly as people of inherent dignity and worth.

Sister Constance Veit, the communications director for the Little Sisters of the Poor, told EWTN News In Depth on July 23 how she and her sisters live “to assure the elderly that they'll never be alone, they'll never be abandoned.”

“First of all, we say to them, each of us says to them, ‘I will always be with you,’” she explained. “But then, we hope that our presence will be a reminder to them that God is always with them. It doesn't stop with us, but our whole hope and our whole effort is to bring the presence of Christ to them.”

Sister Constance said she rejoiced over the first annual World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, instituted by Pope Francis on Sunday, the feast day of Jesus’ grandparents, Saints Joachim and Anne. She explained what the day meant for the elderly and for the Little Sisters, an order that runs homes worldwide for the elderly in need. 

She defined the Little Sisters as an “international congregation” with homes for the elderly worldwide “where we welcome them into our home and they become family to us.”

“To see the elderly being honored and recognized in this way is a very deep joy for me,” Sr. Constance said during an interview with EWTN News In Depth on July 23. “It’s something I've noticed about Pope Francis's pontificate from the beginning, how often he speaks about the elderly and how often he encourages young people to connect with their elders.”

She had the opportunity to thank the pope personally in 2015, when he visited the United States.

“I rehearsed all day what I was going to say to him, and what I said to him was to thank him for the attention that he’s bringing to the elderly,” she recalled.

She said that Pope Francis’ focus on the elderly touched her in a personal way.

“By my vocation, as the Little Sister of the Poor, I've given my life to the Church and to the elderly – specifically to the elderly – because that's our sole apostolate.” 

The Little Sisters of the Poor began in France in 1839, when the order’s founder, Saint Jeanne Jugan, offered her bed to an elderly woman who was blind and lying paralyzed in the cold. Today, the order serves in 30 countries, with 27 homes in the United States.

Because the sisters care for the low-income elderly, they trust in God for financial support. While many homes in the U.S. are eligible for Medicaid and might draw from other forms of income -  such as pensions from the residents - that still “usually only covers about half of our expenses,” Sr. Constance said.

“For the rest, we have a tradition since the beginning of the congregation of going out into the community and begging for alms,” she said. Today, this is mostly accomplished through the mail or online, she said, but there are still sisters “who go out on a regular basis out into the community to markets, to businesses to ask for gifts in kind.”

These donations, she said, are “really what sustains us.”  

According to Sr. Constance, God “always seems to come through” financially. But now, the sisters are facing a new challenge: the challenge “in the area of caregivers.”

“The ongoing challenge just, I would say pre-pandemic and let's hope post-pandemic that it comes to an end, there is a certain amount of ageism in society,” Sr. Constance cautioned. 

She noticed a shortage in healthcare workers and caregivers for the elderly.

“There are real shortages in the workforce, with geriatric-trained physicians, social workers, psychologists, nurses, all the way down to the level of nursing assistants, who are the real ones who do the bulk of the hands-on care in our homes,” she said.

While it’s a complex issue, she said that caregivers are “not recompensed enough” and “there aren't incentives to go into geriatrics.”

“It's not encouraged enough for people to choose eldercare as a profession, and so, increasingly, as the elderly population is growing and growing by leaps and bounds, it's going to become more of a crisis, the lack of care of trained caregivers,” she said.

But the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly gave her hope.

“For me, I'm using it as an opportunity to raise people's awareness of the gifts that the elderly can offer,” she said. 

Pope Francis “has three key words with the elderly: dream, memory, and prayer,” Sr. Constance said, as she summarized the gifts that the elderly can contribute. 

With “dream,” she said, “I think what he means by that is that the elderly still have a vision or a dream about what they wish for life, for society, for the world” and that they should “share that with young people, to inspire young people.”

And with memory, Sr. Constance stressed that the elderly can help young people “have a sense of history and memory” or “a memory to help them appreciate where we come from, how we got to where we are, the impact of events.”

The elderly can also change the world through prayer, she said.

“That is really beautiful because even an elderly person who's living alone, who might be housebound, who might be isolated, they might not have direct contact with younger people, but they can always offer their prayers for the needs of the world,” Sr. Constance said. 

“That's what we tell our residents, particularly those who are very infirm,” she said: “they still have the opportunity to offer their sufferings and their sacrifices for the needs of the world.”