Pope Reduces Sex Abuse Sanctions

Terrible news about an ongoing horror within the Church, from Catholic Herald.

An excerpt.

Pope Francis has quietly reduced sanctions against a handful of paedophile priests, applying his vision of a merciful Church even to its worst offenders in ways that survivors of abuse and the Pope’s own advisers question.

One case has come back to haunt him: An Italian priest who received the Pope’s clemency was later convicted by an Italian criminal court for his sex crimes against children as young as 12. Fr Mauro Inzoli is now facing a second church trial after new evidence emerged against him, The Associated Press has learned.

The Inzoli case is one of several in which Francis overruled the advice of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and reduced a sentence that called for the priest to be laicised, two canon lawyers and a Church official told AP. Instead, the priests were sentenced to penalties including a lifetime of penance and prayer and removal from public ministry.

In some cases, the priests or their high-ranking friends appealed to Francis for clemency by citing the Pope’s own words about mercy in their petitions, the Church official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the proceedings are confidential.

“With all this emphasis on mercy … he is creating the environment for such initiatives,” the Church official said, adding that clemency petitions were rarely granted by Pope Benedict XVI, who launched a tough crackdown during his 2005-2013 papacy and laicised some 800 priests who raped and molested children.

At the same time, Francis also ordered three longtime staffers at the CDF dismissed, two of whom worked for the discipline section that handles sex abuse cases, the lawyers and Church official said.

One is the head of the section and will be replaced before leaving March 31. Vatican spokesman Greg Burke dispelled rumors that sex-abuse cases would no longer be handled by the congregation, saying the strengthened office would handle all cases submitted.

Burke said Francis’ emphasis on mercy applied to “even those who are guilty of heinous crimes.” He said priests who abuse are permanently removed from ministry, but are not necessarily dismissed from the clerical state, the Church term for laicisation.

“The Holy Father understands that many victims and survivors can find any sign of mercy in this area difficult,” Burke said. “But he knows that the Gospel message of mercy is ultimately a source of powerful healing and of grace.”

Francis has repeatedly proclaimed “zero tolerance” for abusive priests and in December wrote to the world’s bishops committing to take “all necessary measures” to protect them.

But he also recently said he believed sex abusers suffer from a “disease” – a medical term used by defence lawyers to seek mitigating factors in canonical sentences.

Marie Collins, an Irish abuse survivor and founding member of Francis’ sex-abuse advisory commission, expressed dismay that the congregation’s recommended penalties were being weakened and said abusers are never so sick that they don’t know what they’re doing.

“All who abuse have made a conscious decision to do so,” Collins told AP. “Even those who are pedophiles, experts will tell you, are still responsible for their actions. They can resist their inclinations.”

Dust to Dust

A very nice reflection from Father Rutter.

An excerpt.

There is nothing new in being told that we are dust and shall return to dust. We hear it every year. 

Ezekiel pondered that when he saw a valley of dry bones. The answer came when God breathed — and the bones came alive again, “an exceedingly great army” (Ezekiel 37:10).

One of the longest discussed, and often most harshly argued, questions for Christians has been how much divine breath, or saving grace, is needed to give eternal life when physical breathing stops.

The idea that man is “totally depraved” took wide hold in the 16th century, but had already been engaged in the 4th century. Self-styled reformers had lost their grasp on the original form of creation. All heresies are an exaggeration of a truth, to the exclusion of its subtleties.

The Council of Trent affirmed the truth that man cannot be in harmony with God’s plan, or “justified,” by his own good behavior without the breath, or “grace,” of God, which comes through Jesus Christ. This is why Christ said that no one is good except God (Mark 10:18).

But Trent also rejected the lie that “since Adam’s sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished.”

Dry bones and limp lives can come alive by giving God permission (as St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta often said) to make us what He wants us to be. While no one is good except God, each of us can become perfect (Matthew 5:48).

This is not a contradiction. Goodness is a quality of being; perfection is the result of contact with that goodness. Perfectionism is a neurosis based on the confusion of goodness and perfection. The secular progressivist dreams of building an ideal society on earth through human effort, and learns the hard way that utopias end up being hells.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry said perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away. Perfectionism tries to add, as though goodness were a sum — while perfection subtracts that which obscures goodness.

Michelangelo said he sculpted Moses simply by chipping away from the marble all that was not Moses, as Moses had been there all along.


Police Officer Killing in California

The recent tragic killing of a police officer appears to have a clearly defined cause, as shown in this Press Release from the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

Release Date:  February 22, 2017 Contact:  Michael Rushford (916) 446-0345


Michael Mejia, a gang member released from jail ten days earlier, has been identified as the suspect in the killing of a Whittier police officer and the injuring of another in a shootout. Authorities attributed his being on the streets to AB109, a 2011 law signed by the Governor that reduced sentences for habitual felons, and Proposition 47, a 2014 ballot measure that converted drug and theft felonies into misdemeanors. “We need to wake up. Enough is enough,” said Police Chief Jeff Piper.

It wasn’t the first time this happened, according to the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. Habitual felons Trenton Trevon Lovell, who murdered Los Angeles police officer Steve Owen on October 6, 2016, and John Felix, who murdered two Palm Springs police officers on October 8, 2016, were most likely loose on the streets because of AB109 and Proposition 47. Lovell was on parole for a 2009 armed robbery and attending a rehabilitation program for a 2015 drunk driving with injuries conviction when he shot officer Owen five times. Felix had served time in prison for a 2009 attempted murder and was on parole in 2013 when he was convicted for fighting with officers who were looking for his brother. He was convicted of drunk driving the next year.

Prior to the adoption of AB109 and Proposition 47, all three of these criminals could have been sent back to prison for violating parole and for the commission of new crimes. The Foundation has warned that the reduced consequences imposed by these laws is resulting in increased crime.

Data from the FBI Preliminary Crime Report for 2016 indicates that last year violent crime increased in two-thirds of California’s largest cities. The report tracks crimes committed during the first six months of the previous year in U. S. Cities with populations over 100,000. Of the state’s 69 largest cities, 46 had increased violent crime last year. Some cities saw increases of more than 50% in crimes, including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. In Los Angeles, violent crime rose 16.8% compared to 2015. In 2015, the U. S. Department of Justice reported that violent crime in California increased by 7.6%, two and one-half times the increase nationally.

“Families are losing loved ones and innocent people are being robbed, raped, assaulted, and burglarized by criminals left on the streets under these laws. How many victims will it take before the Legislature and the Governor stop telling us that everything is fine and take real action to restore public safety?” asked Foundation President Michael Rushford.

The FBI Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, January-June 2016 is available at: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/preliminary-semiannual-uniform-crime-report-januaryjune-2016

The FBI report Crime in the United States 2015 is available at: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-2015

CJLF President Michael Rushford is available for comment at (916) 446-0345.

Monastic Life

A great look at one of the greatest Catholic contributions to the world, from Catholic World Report.

An excerpt.

The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles (www.benedictinesofmary.org) of the Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus were established under the auspices of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1995.  They later became independent of the Fraternity and re-located to Gower, Missouri—near St. Joseph, in northwestern Missouri and Kansas City—at the invitation of the then-bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Robert Finn.

The sisters, who wear the full habit and live the monastic life, spend their day in prayer and work on their small farm and in other enterprises to fund their community.  They chant many of their prayers and celebrate Mass according to the Extraordinary Form.  Silence is important to their spiritual development so they speak only when necessary outside of their afternoon social hour, and they live a life of penance fasting much of the day.

Catholic World Report recently spoke with Sister Scholastica Radel, one of the first sisters to join the community 16 years ago.

CWR: Who first had the idea to found your community?

Sr. Scholastica Radel: Our founding sister, Sr. Wilhelmina, was an Oblate Sister of Providence in Baltimore.  She’s African American, and is today 92 years old and living as part of our community.  She petitioned to form a more traditional branch of her community, but permission was not granted.  The superior of the Fraternity of St. Peter contacted her and invited her to begin a new community in conjunction with the Fraternity.

CWR: Like the Fraternity, you celebrate the Mass in Latin? 

Sr. Scholastica Radel: Yes.  The Fraternity gave us our start, but we became a monastic group.  It was determined early on that we should be a community independent of the Fraternity.  However, we remain close friends.

CWR: Who is part of the Benedictines of Mary today?

Sr. Scholastica Radel: We have 32 members.  Seven are postulants, four novices, three first professed and the remainder solemnly professed.  Up until last year we were all Americans.  But, in this last group of seven postulants, we have one who was born in Kenya, another Germany, another Netherlands and another a Canadian born in Algeria.  We joke that we’ve become an IHOP, an International House of Postulants.  

The other three came from Wisconsin, Texas and South Dakota. 

CWR: What is some of the work of your community?

Sr. Scholastica Radel: We are monastic, so much of our work is internal.  However, we keep a small farm with five cows, and we have a sewing department that makes vestments for priests throughout the world.  But our primary work is prayer.

CWR: And where is your monastery is located?

Sr. Scholastica Radel: We’re in a remote, rural setting.  It is important for us to be somewhat removed from the busy city life.  We have a large priory, which was built in 2010.

We’ve put on additions to host guests and provide additional space for our community.  We’re also ready to start on building our church.  Our superior, Mother Cecilia, has been involved in meetings for construction.  The planning stage is finished, and we’re ready to start construction.

Those living around us are mostly farmers, the majority of whom are not Catholic.  They’ve been very supportive of our presence, constantly looking to lend us a hand.  They might drop off a gift of a truckload of watermelons or hay.  They appreciate that we are working just like they are.  We stay close to them and the community, which is typical for Benedictines.


Michael Novak, R.I.P.

A great Catholic thinker, whose work plays a great role in my thinking; here is his obituary from the City Journal.

An excerpt.

Michael Novak died February 17, at the age of 83, after a battle with cancer. It’s hard to imagine the Catholic Church—or the world—without him.

Novak is perhaps best known for his comprehensive examinations of the practical realities and ideals of “democratic capitalism,” first advanced in his 1982 masterpiece The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism and developed in a series of subsequent books, including The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1993), Business as a Calling (1996), and, most recently, Social Justice Isn’t What You Think It Is (2015), co-authored with Paul Adams.

Novak’s writings on democratic capitalism fought socialism not just on the level of economic efficiency, but on moral terrain, too. Socialists have long attacked market-based economies for their inequalities and consumerist frenzies, but, as Novak argued, their arguments invariably compared luminous socialist ideals with the often prosaic realities of capitalist societies. Had socialists looked instead at the socialist world as it actually existed, they would have found truncheon-enforced political conformity, economic ruin, and spiritual decay.

Novak showed that democratic-capitalist societies did promise—and often instantiate—moral goods. Respect for the individual conscience, the rule of law, the ignition of creativity and entrepreneurialism, general prosperity—these were remarkable achievements by any historical standards. Novak’s social thought proved hugely influential, cited by Margaret Thatcher and Poland’s Solidarity activists, who read it in Samizdat editions. Many believe that Novak even helped Pope John Paul II change his mind about free markets.

As Novak acknowledged in his thoughtful 2013 political autobiography, Writing From Left to Right, it took him a while to see all this. He spent the 1960s and some of the 1970s as a radical leftist, opposed to the Vietnam War and sharply critical of mainstream American life. His move to the right was gradual, not a sudden conversion, based partly on his research in political economy and partly on his work on Democratic political campaigns, which brought him into contact with America in all its untamable variety. Left-wing opinions about the country began to seem abstract, far removed from the concerns of real citizens—especially the kind of hardscrabble folks he grew up around in Johnstown, Pennsylvania (today, they’d be called “deplorables”). By the late seventies, his political evolution was basically complete—indeed, leaving academia (he had taught at Harvard, Stanford, and the State University of New York), he moved to the American Enterprise Institute, helping over the course of three decades to make that conservative think tank a standard-bearer for right-of-center thought.

Questioning a Catholic Sex Abuse Group

An organization I have praised in the past is now under fire, as this story from Catholic World Report indicates; and the resignation of the two top executives does not indicate confidence in the organization’s defense.

An excerpt.

Years ago, a number of Catholic World Report articles argued the case that the group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) – whom the media has called upon repeatedly over the years as a reliable voice to bash the Catholic Church over its handling of the sex abuse crisis – was actually nothing more than a front group for contingency lawyers and was driven by a deep ideological animus against the Church.

Now, recent lawsuits against the organization, including one by SNAP’s own former director of development, have, if anything, revealed that those arguments were too modest in their estimation of SNAP’s inner workings.

And in the wake of these lawsuits, SNAP’s most high-profile leaders—its founder and president, Barbara Blaine, and the group’s national director, David Clohessy—have suddenly announced their resignations.

SNAP has now quickly dissolved from a group awash in money and international media admiration into an organization that is near-broke, mired in costly litigation, and on the brink of extinction. What happened?

Enter Gretchen Hammond

In the summer of 2011, SNAP hired Gretchen Hammond as its director of development. By the end of 2011, Hammond, who had a background in the nonprofit world, had already helped to increase contributions to SNAP by more than double.

However, as Hammond became more familiar with the inner workings of SNAP, the more she became concerned that SNAP was not simply an innocent “victim advocacy group.” She was especially troubled by the group’s cozy relationships with Church-suing lawyers and the “donations” that poured in from them.

But most notably, Hammond – an abuse victim herself – also noticed that SNAP was not only not serving the needs of victims, but actually ignoring them. Abuse victims were simply being used as props and tools to get funds from lawyers.

When Hammond finally took her concerns to SNAP leadership, that is when her relationship with the group soon deteriorated. SNAP fired Hammond in 2013, but before she left she gathered extensive internal documents from the group, which expose SNAP’s shifty relationships with lawyers and the group’s brazen disregard for actual victims.

In February of this year, Hammond filed her lawsuit against SNAP for “retaliatory discharge,” meaning the group had fired her for reporting to leadership the acceptance of kickbacks from attorneys….

Leaders at SNAP were surely hoping that news of Hammond’s lawsuit would not spread very far. But soon, a number of major news outlets, including the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, took notice. Yet Clohessy insisted to various media outlets that Hammond’s lawsuit and the revelations that accompanied it somehow had nothing to do with his resignation. And some of Clohessy’s explanations for his departure bordered on the comical. In an interview with the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Clohessy actually cited “high cholesterol” as a contributing factor for his decision to resign.

Then, less than two weeks after Clohessy’s resignation, Barbara Blaine, SNAP’s founder, announced her own resignation. And just like Clohessy, Blaine claimed her resignation “had absolutely no bearing on my leaving” and that “the discussions and process of my departure has been ongoing.”

Catholic Women Priests

I wrote a book supporting women priests, so this is a very interesting article from Magister that might be a foretelling; if so very good.

An excerpt.

On August 2, 2016, Pope Francis instituted a commission to study the history of the female diaconate, for the purpose of its possible restoration. And some have seen this as a first step toward priesthood for women, in spite of the fact that Francis himself seems to have ruled it out absolutely, responding as follows to a question on the return flight from his journey to Sweden last November 1 (in the photo, his embrace with Swedish Lutheran archbishop Antje Jackelen):

“For the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, the last clear word was given by Saint John Paul II, and this holds.”

But to read the latest issue of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” the question of women priests appears to be anything but closed. On the contrary, wide open.

“La Civiltà Cattolica” is not just any magazine. By statute, every line of it is printed after inspection by the Holy See. But in addition there is the very close confidential relationship between Jorge Mario Bergoglio and the magazine’s editor, the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro.

Who in turn has his most trusted colleague in deputy editor Giancarlo Pani, he too a Jesuit like all the writers of the magazine.

So then, in the article with his byline that appears in the latest issue of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” Fr. Pani calmly rips to shreds the “last clear word” – meaning the flat no – that John Paul II spoke against women’s priesthood.

To see how, all it takes is to reread this passage of the article, properly speaking dedicated to the question of women deacons, but taking the cue from there to express hopes for women priests as well.



by Giancarlo Pani, S.J.

[…] On Pentecost of 1994, Pope John Paul II summarized, in the apostolic letter “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,” the outcome of a series of previous magisterial statements (including “Inter Insigniores”), concluding that Jesus has chosen only men for the priestly ministry. Therefore “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women. This judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

The statement was a clear word for those who maintained that the refusal of priestly ordination for women could be discussed. Nonetheless, […] some time later, following the problems raised not so much by the doctrine as by the force with which it was presented, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was presented with a question: can “ordinatio sacerdotalis” be “considered as belonging to the deposit of the faith?” The answer was “affirmative,” and the doctrine was described as “infallibiliter proposita,” meaning that “it must be held always, everywhere, and by all the faithful.”

Difficulties with the answer’s reception have created “tensions” in relations between magisterium and theology over the connected problems. These are pertinent to the fundamental theology on infallibility. It is the first time in history that the congregation explicitly appealed to the constitution “Lumen Gentium” no. 25, which proclaims the infallibility of a doctrine that is taught as definitively binding by the bishops dispersed throughout the world but in communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter.

For All Us Cat Lovers

A great article in the New Statesman.

An excerpt.

A philosopher once assured me, many years ago, that he had converted his cat to veganism. Believing he was joking, I asked how he had achieved this feat. Had he supplied the cat with mouse-flavoured vegan food? Had he presented his cat with other cats, already practising veganism, as feline role models? Or had he argued with the cat and convinced it that eating meat is wrong? My interlocutor wasn’t amused, and I realised that he really believed the cat had opted for a meat-free diet. So I ended our exchange with a simple question: did the cat go out? It did, he told me. That solved the mystery. Plainly, the cat was supplementing its diet by covert hunting. If it ever brought home any of the carcasses – a practice to which ethically undeveloped cats are sadly prone – the virtuous philosopher had managed not to notice them.

It is not hard to imagine how the cat on the receiving end of this experiment in moral education must have viewed its human teacher. Perplexity at the absurdity of his behaviour would soon have been followed by contemptuous indifference. Seldom doing anything unless it serves a definite purpose or gives immediate satisfaction, cats are arch-realists. Faced with human folly, they simply go their own way.

The independence of cats is one of the features most admired by those of us who love them. Given their evolutionary history as solitary hunters, it is easily explained. Seeking their prey alone, cats – with the exception of lions and sometimes cheetahs – have not developed patterns of collective action and hierarchy of the kind found in dogs and other pack animals. “Herding cats” is a metaphor based on fact: cats don’t live in herds. As they are highly territorial and notoriously picky in their eating habits, they make an unlikely candidate for domestication. And yet, more than almost any other species, cats have learned to live on intimate terms with human beings. How has this come about?

As Abigail Tucker explains in her immensely informative and enjoyable book, wild cats need space: large tracts of land that can sustain the sources of meat that are their sole food supply. Human settlements posed a big challenge to these “hyper-carnivores”.

When forests are cleared for farming, native prey species disappear, or shrink in numbers. Lacking the prey they relied on in the past, wild cats can only turn to animals that human beings have domesticated – cattle, sheep and the like. Inevitably, this makes cats enemies of human beings. It is not recreational hunting or the use of body parts as aphrodisiacs that is condemning so many wild cats to extinction, though these disgusting practices are hastening the end of wild tigers. It is habitat destruction, an inevitable concomitant of human expansion.

Reporting of the Horror Continues

As this story from the BBC about sexual abuse by Catholic clerics in Australia makes horribly clear.

An excerpt.

An inquiry examining institutional sex abuse in Australia has heard 7% of the nation’s Catholic priests allegedly abused children between 1950 and 2010.

In one religious order, over 40% of church figures were accused of abuse.

Over 4,440 people claim to have been victims between 1980 and 2015, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse was told.

The commission, Australia’s highest form of inquiry, is also investigating abuse at non-religious organisations.

It has previously heard harrowing testimony from scores of people who suffered abuse at the hands of clergy.

One victim said he was sexually abused by his Catholic Christian Brother teacher in his classroom, with other students ordered to look away.

In another case, the inquiry heard allegations that a priest threatened a girl with a knife and made children kneel between his legs.

‘Children punished’

The full scale of the problem emerged on Monday, when the commission released the statistics it has gathered.

Gail Furness, the lead lawyer assisting the commission in Sydney, said more than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia were identified in claims of sexual abuse, with a total of 1,880 alleged perpetrators between 1980 and 2015.

The average age of the victims was 10.5 for girls and 11.5 for boys. On average, it took 33 years for each instance of abuse to be reported.

The victims’ stories were “depressingly similar”, Ms Furness said. 

“Children were ignored or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious [figures] were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past.”

Anthony and Chrissie Foster, the parents of two girls who were abused by their parish priest, said the Catholic Church had shown “no mercy, no remorse. Nothing.”

“For so long this has been the way they acted to hide perpetrators, to move them on, with no regard for children whatsoever, that other children have become victims, and suffered this terrible fate,” they told ABC news.

‘Shocking, tragic, indefensible’

The royal commission also detailed the number of abuse claims against 10 religious orders, with data showing that four orders had allegations of abuse against more than 20% of their members.

Misguided Early Release Policies Increase Crime

A fact few with knowledge of the situation would dispute, and the statistics from the state with the most early releases, California, reported by the Criminal Justice legal Foundation, now add further fuel to the fire of increased crime.

Press Release.

Release Date:  February 2, 2017 Contact:  Michael Rushford (916) 446-0345


The FBI Preliminary Crime Report for 2016 indicates that violent crime increased in two-thirds of California’s largest cities. The report tracks crimes committed during the first six months of the previous year in U. S. Cities with populations over 100,000.

Data analysis by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation found that of the 69 California cities listed in the report, 46 had increased in violent crime last year. Some cities saw increases of more than 50% in crime, including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. In Los Angeles, violent crime rose 16.8% compared to 2015.

Cities with the largest violent crime increases included Moreno Valley (+66.3%), Burbank (+50.7%), Fremont (+41.6%), El Cajon (+27.8%), Santa Maria (+26.1%), Rialto (+22.7%), Riverside (+22.5%), and Pasadena (+18.1%).

The largest increases in murder were reported in San Jose (+127%), Santa Ana (+116.6%), San Bernardino (+100%), San Diego (+41.1%), and Berkeley (+35%). Rapes increased in many cities, including in Corona (+166%), Fremont (+73.6%), Fairfield (+70.5%), and Elk Grove (+68.4%).

“This data indicates that, in many parts of California, 2016 was another year with major increases in violent crime,” said CJLF President Michael Rushford. “While some academics and politicians will be unable to identify the cause, working and middle class Californians who live in communities where thousands of habitual criminals have been released by the Governor’s Realignment law or left on the streets by Proposition 47 are beginning to understand that they are paying a high price for these misguided laws,” he added.

In 2015, the U. S. Department of Justice reported that violent crime in California increased by 7.6% two and one-half times the national increase. The FBI Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, January-June, 2016 is available at: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/preliminary-semiannual-uniform-crime-report-januaryjune-2016 The FBI report Crime in the United States 2015 is available at: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-2015

CJLF President Michael Rushford can be reached for comment at (916) 446-0345.