The head of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ National Review Board on sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy said on May 11 that a letter she wrote to the head of the bishops’ conference on March 29 prompted the U.S. bishops to decide they will discuss a second diocesan audit on sexual abuse this June instead of waiting until November. In her sharply worded letter, Justice Anne M. Burke, interim chairwoman of the board, had complained the board was being manipulated when the bishops gave it no notice of their plans to defer until November decisions concerning a second audit of diocesan compliance with the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and a study examining the nature and causes of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. Burke wrote that the board found it more than disingenuous that board members were kept in the dark about the plans for delay when representatives of the board met with the bishops’ Administrative Committee in mid-March, even though the committee voted during that same meeting to defer those questions to the bishops’ general meeting in November.
Burke told Catholic News Service that her letter led to a change in plans and a decision that the bishops would discuss the second audit in June, when they meet in Denver for what was originally scheduled as a retreat-style gathering to be devoted entirely to other matters. She also said Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles wrote a wonderful letter as the issue was emerging this spring, saying he and his auxiliary bishops would not attend the Denver meeting if the audits were not on the agenda.
Burke, an appellate court justice in Illinois, spoke to CNS by telephone late in the day on May 11, after The National Catholic Reporter posted a story and documents that afternoon on its Web site (ncronline.org). The postings detailed criticisms of the National Review Board by some bishops and efforts by other bishops to postpone the planned 2004 audits and to reconsider other aspects of their response to the sexual abuse crisis.
Burke said her letter of March 29, which was one of the documents posted by N.C.R., was written on behalf of the entire board, which reviewed and edited it before it was sent to Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Burke wrote that the decision to defer action on the second audits came against the urging of the bishops’ own Ad Hoc Committee [on Sexual Abuse], the National Advisory Council and the National Review Board and would unduly delay and perhaps stymie the work mandated by the charter. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which the bishops adopted in 2002, required each diocese to develop comprehensive programs for responding to allegations of sexual abuse by clergy, reaching out to victims and creating a safe environment for children and young people in all church institutions, organizations and activities.
Burke’s letter noted that the charter also promised an annual public report of the progress made [by each diocese] in implementing the standards in this charter, to be published following review by the board. How can an annual report be prepared or approved without the information obtained by the audits? she asked.
As a result of that letter, she told CNS, the bishops agreed through a telephone conference call to discuss the audits at the June meeting and to authorize Kathleen McChesney, executive director of the bishops’ Office for Child and Youth Protection, to develop a model instrument for the next audit that they can review and discuss in June.
Documentation posted by N.C.R. included a letter of Feb. 2 from Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York to Bishop Gregory requesting on behalf of the bishops of U.S.C.C.B. Region 2New York Statethat no second audit be conducted until after the matter has been discussed by all of the bishops in November.
Also posted were nearly identical letters, dated Feb. 12, from the bishops of Region 3Pennsylvania and New Jerseyand the bishops of Nebraska, who form the ecclesiastical province of Omaha, opposing any extension of the national audit until after the bishops discuss it next November in executive session. The media, U.S.C.C.B. staff and observers are excluded from executive sessions. U.S.C.C.B. officials have said the entire June assembly will be closed to the media.L.A. Cardinal Says Mass Draft Needs Major Work
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles said he and many other bishops believe the new translation of Mass prayers currently under consideration needs major work. An English draft of the Ordo Missae, or Order of the Mass, was approved by the episcopal board of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy in January, and copies were sent to bishops in the United States and other English-speaking countries. The Order of the Mass includes the prayers that are used at every Mass, such as the Gloria, the Nicene Creed and the eucharistic prayers.
I felt that there are a few improvements that are very helpful, but the effort to translate every Latin word into English has not been successful, the cardinal said in an interview with CNS on May 11. Is the more important value to have a more precise translation of Latin into English, or is it more important to have a translation that helps people’s prayer be nourished and deepened? asked the cardinal.
The Tablet, a London-based Catholic weekly, reported on May 8 that the bishops of England and Wales were critical of the proposed Order of the Mass, particularly because of lengthy sentences, poor syntax and archaic language. In their plenary meeting on May 11, the bishops of Australia voted to return the draft to ICEL for revision for similar reasons.
This is obviously considered by everybody as a first draft, Cardinal Mahony said. We simply cannot have a translation that is labored and is not easily proclaimed or understood.Education More Effective Than Church Sanctions
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles said he believes efforts to educate people about the immorality of abortion are more effective than imposing sanctions on politicians who support legal abortion. The presumption is that if someone presents himself for Communion, they are doing so with the belief that they are in a state of grace and receiving in good faith the Eucharist, he said. That is the decision the communicant makes, not the person giving Communion. Cardinal Mahony said: I’m slightly mystified why this is all coming up now. We’ve had pro-choice Catholic politicians going to Communion since Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
The cardinal said the only way to reduce and eventually eliminate abortion is to convince people that it is wrong. We bishops have to be very careful, he said. We cannot be giving the impression that we are telling people to vote for this candidate or that candidate. That has never been our role, and if we give the impression that that is what we are doing, then we have failed our people.News Briefs
The Catholic Health Association expressed opposition to a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would require hospitals to ask patients about their immigration status, get fingerprints or photos of those who cannot prove their legal residency if asked and send the information on to the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.
Unfortunately, many children in the world are deprived of primary education, and they end up being exploited as laborers, Pope John Paul II said on May 9. According to a 1998 study by the International Labor Organization, some 250 million children worldwide are engaged in economic activity, with nearly half of them working full time. More than 170 million children are caught up in some of the worst forms of exploitation, including slavery, human trafficking, prostitution and military service.
Nearly 11 years after Guadalajara’s Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo died in a hail of gunfire as he sat in his car, a Mexican judge has sentenced eight drug-gang members to 40 years in prison for their roles in the murder. But Judge Felicitas Velázquez Serrano ruled on May 6 that the murder was an accident, citing testimony that the gunmen confused Cardinal Posadas’ luxury car at the Guadalajara international airport for that of a regional drug baron they were sent to kill. Cardinal Juan Sandoval íñiguez of Guadalajara called the ruling a smoke screen to cover up a conspiracy behind his predecessor’s death. Cardinal Sandoval told local media in Guadalajara that he believed the judge was paid to say Ocampo’s death was an accident.
A Pakistani bishops’ commission has taken up the case of a Christian youth allegedly tortured and killed by an Islamic school teacher and students who tried to force the youth to convert to Islam. The National Commission for Justice and Peace said in a statement on May 4 that the incident reflects a worrying trend of forced conversions.
The abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war by U.S. military personnel must be condemned without equivocation, and we must bring to justice those responsible, said Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services.
In a statement on May 5, Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla., the head of the U.S. bishops’ International Policy Committee, called for urgent action in western Sudan before the region becomes yet another human catastrophe.
The voice of reason prevailed in the Food and Drug Administration’s decision of May 6 to withhold permission for over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill marketed as Plan B, according to the U.S. bishops’ chief spokeswoman on pro-life issues.