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Analysis: After McCarrick sex abuse verdict, money and power questions remain

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2019 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The Holy See announced Saturday the conviction of Theodore McCarrick on charges of the sexual abuse of minors and adults - aggravated by the abuse of power - and solicitation in the confessional. The administrative penal process imposed a penalty of laicization.

 

A special congresso of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith imposed the Jan. 11 decision. It was appealed to the Feria IV, the regular meeting of the CDF’s full episcopal membership, who rejected the appeal on Feb. 13. No further appeal is possible.

 

The final disposition of McCarrick’s case marks the end of a luciferian fall from grace by a man once seen as the leader of the Catholic Church in the United States, and one of the most influential cardinals world-wide.

 

To go from membership in the college of cardinals in June to being expelled from the clergy altogether in February is unprecedented.

 

While the intervening months have seemed interminable for many Catholics in the pews, as accusations mounted and details of abuse emerged, the canonical process which declared McCarrick guilty proceeded at lightning speed by Vatican standards.

 

Now that the McCarrick verdict is announced, just in time for the pope’s looming summit on sexual abuse, many of the former archbishop’s former colleagues are hoping he will exit the news along with the clerical state.

 

But McCarrick’s laicization answers few of the questions raised by his case, the most pressing of which is how a man with an obviously scandalous track record was able to rise so high in ecclesiastical responsibility.

 

Since the first allegation against McCarrick was made public in June, a number of accounts have emerged apparently showing that Rome was aware of McCarrick’s behavior, or at least his proclivities, for years.

 

Former apostolic nuncio to Washington, Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, has said that he first heard accounts of McCarrick’s misbehavior in 1994.

 

Fr. Boniface Ramsey raised the issue of McCarrick’s misconduct with seminarians at the now infamous beach house to Cacciavillan’s successor in 2001, receiving a tacit receipt of the allegations – together with a request for any related information about a Newark priest – from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State in 2006.

 

In January, CNA broke the news that McCarrick’s eventual successor in Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, had delivered a similar accusation about McCarrick, seminarians, and the New Jersey beach house, to the nuncio in 2004.

 

During this decade, McCarrick rose seemingly unchecked to become archbishop of the American capital see, a cardinal, and a wielder of enormous diplomatic influence, both within the Church and in the wider world.

 

Despite repeated calls from across the Church in the United States, and a rather qualified response from Rome, any serious account of how and by whom McCarrick was shielded for so long seems unlikely – at best.

 

Lurking behind the headlines of sex abuse remains the perennial question concerning murky Vatican affairs: what about the money?

 

McCarrick’s reputation as a cardinal with ready access to money was undisputed during his time in office, and is believed by many to have tipped the balance in favor of his laicization instead of a life of prayer and penance.

 

Ordinarily concerns about laicizing a cleric often center on their ability to provide for themselves if they are either infirm or of advanced age - McCarrick is 88.  

 

Sources close to the former cardinal have previously told CNA that while McCarrick declined to draw a salary or a pension from any of the three dioceses he led, he does have access to a private income, unconnected to the Church.

 

One source close to McCarrick described him as “not without resources,” and that McCarrick received an income from annuities purchased over several years.

 

The size and sources of McCarrick’s private means remain unclear, especially if, as those close to him claim, he previously declined a salary or pension as a bishop.

 

Other unanswered questions about McCarrick’s finances concern the Archbishop’s Fund, a charitable fund under his personal control from 2001 until June of last year. CNA has confirmed that McCarrick was able to arrange for other institutions with which he was affiliated to give hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for his “works of charity and other miscellaneous expenses.”

 

McCarrick gave over control of the fund to the Archdiocese of Washington during June 2018.

 

While the archdiocese told CNA in August last year that the fund was audited annually and that “no irregularities were ever noticed,” it would not confirm the balance of the fund at the time McCarrick turned over control, how much money had passed through the fund over the years, or where it had gone.

 

McCarrick was known for both his institutional charitable support and also for more personal acts of generosity.

 

In September 2018, a former curial official, a cardinal, recalled McCarrick’s habit of doling out large sums, in cash, to senior officials in Rome.

 

“When he would visit Rome, Cardinal McCarrick was well-known for handing out envelopes of money to different bishops and cardinals around the curia to thank them for their work,” the cardinal told CNA.

 

“Where these ‘honoraria’ came from or what they were for, exactly, was never clear – but many accepted them anyway.”

 

Tracking the flow and effects of money in Rome has eluded generations of reforming efforts. Pope Francis began his reign by showing serious signs of reforming intent, setting up the Council for the Economy and the Prefecture for the Economy. But despite early efforts, attempts at financial transparency have met with numerous setbacks, and significant internal resistance.

 

Meanwhile, in his seismic “testimony” released in August last year, former papal nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano said that McCarrick’s rise was opposed by at least some senior curial figures, including Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re as head of the Congregation for Bishops. But no clear account has emerged of who championed McCarrick’s cause, or if they may have benefited from his largesse.

 

Beyond the Vatican, questions remain unanswered in Washington, DC, where the State Department has declined to answer questions about the nature and scope of work undertaken by McCarrick on behalf of the United States.

 

In addition to serving as a flying Vatican envoy to China, McCarrick was invited to serve on the U.S. Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad in 1996. From 1999 to 2001 he was also a member of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom.

 

Former President Bill Clinton once opined that the “litany of countries” visited by McCarrick “sounds more suited to a diplomat than an archbishop,” while praising the former cardinal’s work.

 

Although McCarrick made several overseas trips on U.S. business, in September 2018 the State Department avoided direct comment on whether his denunciation for sexual abuse had prompted a review of his work.

 

McCarrick’s own former auxiliaries in Newark and Washington, many of them now far advanced in their own careers, have also remained largely silent. Almost nothing is known, for example, about circumstances around settlements made by several of McCarrick’s former dioceses in New Jersey.

 

While the Diocese of Metuchen has said that the matter was forwarded at the time to the nuncio in Washington, only a cover letter has been released thus far, and it is not known exactly what level of detail made its way to Rome – or what if any action was taken there and by whom.

 

Meanwhile, McCarrick’s former auxiliary bishop in Washington, newly-minted camerlengo Cardinal Kevin Farrell, has insisted he never had any suspicion about the man with whom he shared an apartment and described as his mentor.

 

Whatever friends McCarrick may have acquired to help him along his rise seem to have deserted him as fast as he fell. Those same people, in Rome and the United States, now have a vested interest in seeing McCarrick banished from conversation, just as he is banished from the clerical state.

 

Some media outlets have tried to construct a narrative focused on “conservative” and “liberal” bishops and argued over which pope or popes could be held most responsible for McCarrick’s rise and fall.

 

But others have observed what appears to be a significant generational divide. Older bishops seem to experience this crisis through the lens of 2002 and its aftermath, and are therefore concerned about protecting the image and resources of the Church, while many younger prelates seem focused on revealing the full truth about sexual misconduct in the Church, regardless of the consequences, as the only sure remedy to a generational scandal.

 

The willingness of American bishops to insist on a full reckoning for McCarrick’s rise, as well as fall, could prove a strong indication of the extent to which there has been a change of attitude among the hierarchy about episcopal transparency.

 

Many are arguing that, with the maximum penalty already imposed on McCarrick, the only people who can now be harmed by further disclosures about his career are those who most want his name, and their links to it, forgotten.

 

Without answers about how he was able to rise so high and go unchecked for so long, his punishment by Rome appears, to many, to be a sentence without conviction, and McCarrick may be gone, but not forgotten.

U.S. bishops react to McCarrick laicization

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2019 / 09:32 am (CNA).- Bishops from across the United States have reacted to the news that Theodore McCarrick has been found guilty of sexual abuse and expelled from the clerical state.

 

The disgraced former cardinal and archbishop of Washington and Newark was found guilty in a Vatican decision announced Saturday.

 

A Vatican administrative penal process concluded that McCarrick had solicited sex in the confessional and molested minors and adults, crimes aggravated by his abuse of authority. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handled the canonical process, imposed a penalty of laicization.

 

“The imposition on former Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of the penalty of his dismissal from the clerical state, thus prohibiting him any type of priestly ministry, underscores the gravity of his actions,” a Saturday statement from the Archdiocese of Washington reads.

 

McCarrick was Archbishop of Washington from 2001 until his retirement in 2006.

 

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the Vatican’s penalty is “a clear signal that abuse will not be tolerated.”

 

“No bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the Church. For all those McCarrick abused, I pray this judgement will be one small step, among many, toward healing,” Dinardo said.

 

DiNardo said that his fellow bishops were strengthened in their resolve to be accountable to the Gospel, and that he is grateful for the way Pope Francis has responded to claims of abuse.

 

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, archbishop of McCarrick’s former diocese of Newark, said in a statement that McCarrick and other clerical abusers had “violated a sacred trust” and “caused incalculable harm” to the lives of victims - young and old.

 

“To all those abused by clergy, especially the victims of Theodore McCarrick, I continue to express my profound sadness and renew my heartfelt apologies for the life-long suffering you have endured,” Tobin said.

 

“Despite the reprehensible misconduct and crimes of all who have abused minors, we must challenge ourselves to continue to follow Christ our Redeemer in our Church, where the healing power of God’s love is manifest each day.”

 

The Archdiocese of Washington expressed hope the Vatican decision will assist survivors with the healing process, and reassure those who have “experienced disappointment or disillusionment because of what former Archbishop McCarrick has done.”

 

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey, another of McCarrick’s former diocese, released a statement Saturday in which he reflected on the “range of emotions” those in his diocese were feeling as the news of McCarrick’s laicization continues to sink in. 

"Today I am praying particularly for those lay people and priests who are survivors of Theodore McCarrick,” Checchio wrote.

"While the news does not take away the pain these survivors have experienced, it is hopefully a further step in their healing and a statement by the Church that these crimes and sins are certainly not to be tolerated, in any way."

Checchio noted that McCarrick was in fact the founding bishop of the Metuchen diocese after its creation in 1981. 

"Theodore McCarrick will always be associated with the history of our diocese and his legacy has become one of scandal and betrayal,” he wrote.

"However, I was reminded in prayer that our diocese is not founded on Theodore McCarrick, but Christ the Lord, who renews His Church in every age...I am grateful for the leadership of Pope Francis in acting decisively, in expediting this process and coming to this appropriate conclusion.”

Checchio reiterated his support for "all those who have been abused and victimized by members of the clergy” and encouraged victims to come forward. 

"Since the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first believers, up and down the ages, the Church has been beset by scandals and divisive betrayals,” he reflected. 

"However, those failings do not define our Church, but rather testify to the truth that Christ continues to work through the failures by calling us all to a life of repentance and holiness."

Since last summer, McCarrick has been in residence at a Kansas friary, living a life of “prayer and penance” at the orders of Pope Francis, pending the outcome of his canonical process.

Now that McCarrick has been laicized, it is unclear if and for how long he will remain at the friary, or where he will go from there. McCarrick is 88 years old.

What does it mean to be laicized, defrocked, or dismissed from the clerical state?

Denver, Colo., Feb 16, 2019 / 06:43 am (CNA).- Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was laicized this week, after he was found guilty of sexual abuse and other canonical crimes. But what does it mean to be “laicized,” “defrocked,” or “dismissed from the clerical state?”

Ordination, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a ‘sacred power’ which can come only from Christ himself through his Church.”

The Church says ordination marks a person with an irremovable imprint, a character, which “configures them to Christ.” Ordination, in Catholic theology, makes a permanent change that the Church has no power to reverse.

“You are a priest forever,” the Letter to the Hebrews says.

This change is referred to as an ontological change, or a change in being itself.

In addition to making an ontological change, ordination also makes a legal change in a person’s status in the Church. By ordination, a person becomes in canon law a “cleric.” The word “cleric” is derived from the Greek word for “casting lots,” a process of selection similar to drawing straws or rolling dice, because in Acts 1:26, Matthias is added to the 11 remaining apostles after lots are drawn to select the right person.

A cleric, or a sacred minister in the Church, is an ordained man who is permitted by the Church to exercise sacred ministry. A cleric is bound to certain obligations, among them is usually celibacy in the Latin Catholic Church, and he possesses certain rights, among them is the right to be appointed to pastoral leadership positions in the Church. Clerics have the right to be financially supported by the Church, and are bound by obedience to the pope and to local Church authorities.

While ordination can never be lost - no power on earth can erase the sacramental imprint of ordination - a person can lose the legal status of being a cleric- this is what is referred to as “laicization.”

When a person loses the clerical state, he no longer has the right to exercise sacred ministry in the Church, except the extreme situation of encountering someone who is in immediate danger of death.

Someone who has lost the clerical state also no longer has the canonical right to be financially supported by the Church.

Often, a man who is laicized is also dispensed from the obligation of celibacy, and permitted to marry - but this is not always the case, especially when someone has been involuntarily removed from the clerical state.

Ordinarily, the Church does not permit a person who has been dismissed from the clerical state to teach, as a layman, in a Catholic college or school, to be a lector or extraordinary ministry of Holy Communion, or to exercise other functions in the name of the Church. This is determined on an individual basis, and exceptions and dispensations can be made.

A person can lose the clerical state because he has requested it through a special petition to the pope personally, or he can lose it as a penalty for committing an ecclesiastical crime. There are even provisions which allow for a priest or deacon who has abandoned his ministry to be removed from the clerical state after a protracted period of time, and through a specified canonical process.

Losing the clerical state as a penalty comes after a person has committed some crime. But it is not the case that everyone who has been laicized has done something wrong- the Church does not suggest that it is immoral for a priest or deacon to request laicization, and there are many legitimate reasons a priest might do so, though these are often deeply personal.

A laicized priest is no longer referred to as “Father,” or by any other honorary title given to clerics.

After McCarrick was laicized, the Church will no longer have responsibility to provide him with housing, medical care, or any other financial benefits. He will not be permitted to celebrate Mass or any other sacraments, except in situations he is unlikely to encounter, such as being with a person in danger of death.

It is not yet known whether McCarrick will leave the Kansas friary where has been living a life of prayer and penance. Though he is reported to have some financial means at his disposal, and is likely entitled civilly to a Church pension, it is not yet known what options are available to him.

Ed. note: This story was updated Feb. 16, after McCarrick was laicized.

Australian bishop urges faithful to fight ‘radical’ abortion bill

Adelaide, Australia, Feb 16, 2019 / 05:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A local bishop is speaking out against a bill to remove regulations on abortion in Adelaide, Australia, saying it would be the nation’s most radical abortion law.

“The unborn deserve love and protection, not destruction,” said Bishop Gregory O’Kelly SJ, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Port Pirie.

He warned that the legislation being considered “drastically reduces safeguards for the unborn” and would allow abortions “even well into the ninth month of pregnancy.”

In a Feb. 14 letter to the people of his diocese, O’Kelly said the faithful “should all be extremely concerned about the proposed Abortion Law Reform Bill.”

The Adelaide proposal would place abortion under the regulations of the state’s health laws, rather than the state’s criminal code. This would remove current rules such a requirement that a woman be a resident in South Australia for at least two months before procuring an abortion.

The legislation would also ban protestors from entering within 150 meters of an abortion clinic.

Greens MP Tammy Franks introduced the bill to Parliament and it will be debated in the comings weeks, with a vote later this year.

Similar legislation was recently passed in Queensland.

“This bill treats abortion simply as a medical procedure without moral significance,” O’Kelly said in his letter. “There is no need for a medical opinion or a doctor’s involvement and no reason need be given for an abortion. It will be the most radical abortion law in the country.”

“We believe life to be a gift of God, to be cherished and revered,” the bishop continued. “Christ said that he came that we might have life and have it to the full. Abortion is the destruction of the human life, an act that defies the sacred.”

He urged people to contact their local Member of Parliament and ask them to vote against the bill.

Bishop O’Kelly also published a letter from Dr. Elvis Šeman, a gynecologist and member of the Guild of St Luke.

The doctor stressed the adverse effects that abortion can have on a woman’s physical, psychological and emotional health.

He warned that the proposed legislation “aims to radically deregulate abortion and outlaw two important things - conscientious objection to abortion and the freedom to pray and offer pregnancy support near abortion clinics.”

Under the bill, he said, abortion could “be performed by a non-medical provider, using any method and for any reason (including sex-selection for social reasons), at any gestation (up to term), leaving babies born alive to die, and using SA Health funding without the accountability of reporting.”

Furthermore, Šeman warned, “Imposing a 'health access' zone makes pregnancy support services unlawful within 150m, restricts freedom of speech, denies potential support to vulnerable women who are ambivalent or may have been coerced, and provides excessive powers to police.”

The doctor also emphasized the need to do more for women facing difficult pregnancies.  

“As a Church community, I believe that, with few notable exceptions, we have done poorly in supporting those women and their families facing an unplanned pregnancy. They are left at the mercy of a health system which fast-tracks women to abortion and offers no alternatives.”

Bishop O’Kelly agreed that the Church must reach out to women in need.

“We believe our main focus should be on supporting women who find themselves faced with an unplanned pregnancy and are grappling with this terrible choice,” he said, “while also offering our unequivocal support and prayers to those women who are experiencing grief and loss.”

 

McCarrick abuse trial: A CNA timeline

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2019 / 02:14 am (CNA).- Theodore McCarrick has been laicized, nearly 10 months after sex abuse allegations against him were first made public. Here is a timeline of major events since last summer.

June 20
The Archdiocese of New York announces that an allegation of sexual abuse by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been found to be “credible and substantiated.” 

July 19
The New York Times reports a new allegation by a man who says he was McCarrick serially abused him beginning in 1969, when the man was 11 years old.

July 28
Pope Francis accepts the resignation of McCarrick from the College of Cardinals and suspends him from the exercise of any public ministry. He directs McCarrick to observe a life of prayer and penance, pending the canonical process against him.

August 16
The U.S. bishops’ conference calls for a Vatican-led investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up surrounding McCarrick.

August 17
CNA interviews reveal numerous Newark priests claiming McCarrick had a widely-known reputation for sexual advances toward seminarians.

August 25
Former apostolic nuncio to the U.S. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano releases a “testament” claiming that Pope Francis knew about sanctions imposed on McCarrick by Benedict XVI but chose to repeal them.

August 26
Asked during an in-flight interview about Vigano’s letter, Pope Francis says he “will not say a single word” on the subject and instructs journalists to use their “journalistic capacity to draw your own conclusions.”

August 30
Archdiocese of Washington confirms that seminarians were permitted to serve as assistants to McCarrick while the archbishop was being investigated for the alleged sexual abuse of a teenager.

September 12
Pope Francis calls for all the presidents of the Catholic bishops’ conferences of the world to meet at the Vatican Feb. 21-24 to address the protection of minors.

September 19
The administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announces new accountability measures, including a code of conduct for bishops and the creation of an independent reporting mechanism for complaints against bishops. The committee also calls for a full investigation into the allegations against McCarrick and the Church’s response to these allegations.

September 28
The Diocese of Salina and Archdiocese of Washington announce that Archbishop McCarrick has begun his life of prayer and penance at St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary in Victoria, Kansas.

October 6
The Vatican announces that Pope Francis has ordered a review of all Holy See files pertaining to allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of McCarrick.

November 12
U.S. bishops gather for an annual fall meeting in Baltimore; the Vatican instructs them to delay until after the February meeting a vote on two proposals intended to be the foundation of the U.S. Church’s response to the abuse crisis.

November 14
The U.S. bishops fail to pass a resolution that would have “encouraged” the Holy See to release all documents on the allegations of misconduct against McCarrick.

December 27
James Grein testifies in a canonical deposition by the Archdiocese of New York, saying he was serially sexually abused by McCarrick, beginning when he was 11 years old.

January 11
McCarrick is laicized. Also known as losing the clerical state, he no longer has the right to exercise sacred ministry in the Church, except in the extreme situation of encountering someone who is in immediate danger of death. In addition, he no longer has the canonical right to be financially supported by the Church.

January 14
Archbishop Vigano writes an open letter urging McCarrick to publicly repent of the sexual abuse and misconduct of which he has been accused.

February 13
McCarrick appeals decision against him.

February 15
Appeal rejected and decision confirmed.

McCarrick laicized by Pope Francis

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2019 / 01:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ordered this week the laicization of Theodore McCarrick, a former cardinal and archbishop emeritus of Washington.

Once a powerful figure in ecclesiastical, diplomatic, and political circles in the U.S. and around the world, McCarrick, 88, is now removed from the clerical state. He was publicly accused last year of sexually abusing at least two adolescent boys, and of engaging for decades in coercive sexual behavior toward priests and seminarians.

The CDF conducted an administrative penal process which 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,” according to a Feb. 16 Vatican communique.

An administrative penal process is a much-abbreviated penal mechanism used in cases in which the evidence is so clear that a full trial is unnecessary.

Because Pope Francis personally approved the guilty verdict and the penalty of laicization, it is formally impossible for the decision to be appealed.

According to a Feb. 16 statement from the Vatican, the CDF issued the decree Jan. 11 finding McCarrick guilty. This was followed by an appeal, which the CDF rejected Feb. 13.

McCarrick was notified of the decision Feb. 15 and Pope Francis “has recognized the definitive nature of this decision made in accord with law, rendering it a res iudicata (i.e., admitting of no further recourse.)”

CNA contacted McCarrick’s canonical advocate this week, who declined to comment on the case.

The allegations of sexual abuse against McCarrick became public in June 2018 when the Archdiocese of New York reported that it had received a “credible” allegation that McCarrick sexually abused a teenage boy in the 1970s, while serving as a New York priest. McCarrick stepped down that same month from all public ministry at the direction of the Holy See.

In July, Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals, ordering McCarrick to a life of prayer and penance pending the completion of the canonical process concerning the allegations. Since the end of September, McCarrick has been residing at the St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary in Victoria, Kansas.

Key among McCarrick’s accusers is James Grein, who gave evidence before specially deputized archdiocesan officials in New York on Dec. 27.

As part of the CDF’s investigation, Grein testified that McCarrick, a family friend, sexually abused him over a period of years, beginning when Grein was 11 years old. He also alleged that McCarrick carried out some of the abuse during the sacrament of confession - itself a separate canonical crime that can lead to the penalty of laicization.

The CDF has also reportedly received evidence from an additional alleged victim of McCarrick - 13 at the time the alleged abuse began - and from as many as 8 seminarian-victims in the New Jersey dioceses of Newark and Metuchen, where McCarrick previously served as bishop.

As emeritus Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and also as Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark, McCarrick occupied a place of prominence in the US Church.

He was a leading participant in the development of the 2002 Dallas Charter and USCCB Essential Norms, which established procedures for handling allegations of sexual abuse concerning priests.

Though laicized, McCarrick does not cease to be a bishop, sacramentally speaking, since once conferred the sacrament of ordination and episcopal consecration cannot be undone.

The penalty of reduction from the clerical state - often called laicization - prevents McCarrick from referring to himself or functioning as a priest, in public or private. Since ordination imparts a sacramental character, it cannot be undone by an act of the Church; but following laicization he is stripped of all the rights and privileges of a cleric including, in theory, the right to receive financial support from the Church.
 

 

NJ bill would expand window for sex abuse victims to sue

Trenton, N.J., Feb 15, 2019 / 06:18 pm (CNA).- The New Jersey legislature is considering expanding the legal window to file civil actions for sex abuse against both individual perpetrators and institutions.

The New Jersey Catholic Conference backs expanding the statute of limitations for civil actions related to future crimes. However, it is arguing that only individual offenders, not institutions, should face civil action for past acts of abuse.

“The Catholic Bishops of New Jersey are committed to keeping our teaching, worship and ministry spaces safe for everyone, especially children,” said Patrick Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference.

“All of our dioceses have committed to assisting victims of abuse whenever and however we can,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

At present, criminal cases of sexual assault have no statute of limitations under state law. The statute of limitations for civil action is two years.

If the proposed New Jersey bill becomes law, victims of sex assault would have an expanded statute of limitations for civil action against both individuals and institutions.

The bill would allow child victims of sexual assault to file civil lawsuits until they turn 55 or until seven years from the time they become aware of the injury, whichever comes later. Adult victims of sexual assault would have a seven-year time frame after the incident to file a civil lawsuit, or until seven years after they become aware of the abuse, the Wall Street Journal says.

Further, the bill would create a one-time two-year legal window for civil complaints for anyone previously barred from filing civil actions due to the time limit.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy backs the proposed law.

“Victims of sexual abuse, especially those victimized in childhood, deserve to find doors held open for them as they seek justice against their abusers,” he said Feb. 14.

Bill sponsors are Sen. Joseph Vitale and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, both Democrats. Senate President Steve Sweeney, also a Democrat, supports the legislation, the Wall Street Journal said.

The New Jersey State Senate’s Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on the proposed legislation March 7.

Similar legislation in New York, passed Jan. 28, met with some initial resistance from New York’s bishops, who had expressed concern about retroactive provisions in the bill. Once those provisions were amended, the state’s bishops dropped their concerns.

New Jersey dioceses have set up their own victims’ compensation fund as an alternative to civil lawsuits. According to Brannigan, the fund has “significantly lower level of proof and corroboration than required in a court of law.” It promises “an attractive alternative to litigation” and “speedy and transparent process.”

After agreeing on and receiving a settlement, abuse survivors will not be able to pursue additional legal action against the diocese. All settlements will be funded by the dioceses themselves.

On Feb. 13, all the Catholic dioceses of New Jersey released lists of clergy who had been “credibly” accused of sexual abuse of minors dating back to 1940.

On the list is disgraced former cardinal Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who headed New Jersey’s Diocese of Metuchen from 1981 until 1986 and the Archdiocese of Newark from 1986 until 2000. He retired as Archbishop of Washington.

A total of 188 clerics, including deacons, were listed. The Archdiocese of Newark list had the most names, with 63, and the Diocese of Metuchen had the fewest with 11.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said in a statement that the release of the list of names of credibly accused clergy was part of “an effort to do what is right and just.”

“It is our sincerest hope that this disclosure will help bring healing to those whose lives have been so deeply violated,” said Tobin. “We also pray that this can serve as an initial step in our efforts to help restore trust in the leadership of the Catholic Church.”

Archbishop McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 2018 after being credibly accused of abusing two minor boys. He faces numerous charges of sexual abuse against minors and adults over a period of decades.

A verdict following McCarrick’s canonical process for his abuse of minors is expected at any time. Many expect the punishment to remove him from the clerical state.

Aid agencies highlight Christian persecution on anniversary of 'Coptic Martyrs'

Denver, Colo., Feb 15, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Four years after the so-called Islamic State released a propaganda video showing the beheading of 21 abducted Coptic Christians in Libya, aid workers and politicians continue to highlight the dangers facing Christians in the Middle East and across the world.

 

On Feb. 15, 2015, a video was released showing IS fighters beheading Egyptian workers as they knelt on a Libyan beach wearing prison-style orange jumpsuits. The Egyptian government and the Coptic Church later confirmed the video’s authenticity.

 

Edward Clancy, director of outreach for Aid to the Church in Need USA, told CNA that the killing of the Coptic martyrs helped to bring the issue of Christian persecution into focus for the wider Western culture and media, and spurred an outpouring of donations for charitable aid.

 

"It definitely brought the Christian persecution to the forefront and put it on page one," Clancy told CNA in an interview Feb. 15.

 

Soon after the video’s release, the Coptic Church announced that the men would be commemorated as martyrs in its Church calendar. In October 2018, authorities found a mass grave believed to contain the bodies of the 21 men.

 

"Seemingly every day at that time there was a story of something going on, whether it was the fall of Raqqa; the enslavement of women; obviously the killing of the Coptic martyrs. And all of these did bring this [issue] into focus, and people did respond. Obviously it touched a lot of people's hearts, and because of that they were very generous," Clancy said.

 

Aid to the Church in Need has been working to help persecuted Christians since its founding in 1947. Clancy told CNA that while the public martyrdoms brought the dangers facing persecuted Christians to wider attention, Aid to the Church in Need had considered the issue a core concern for some time.

 

"I wouldn't say that the videos changed much as far as [ACN’s priorities] go; our commitment to the Christian community there was as high before and after;" Clancy said.

 

"And that was because we saw the existential threat to the Christian communities by what was going on, by the violence, by the terrorism...The videos strengthened our resolve, I guess, to say we're not going to let this happen."

 

Last December, a mass grave of 34 Ethiopian Christians was unearthed. That grave is believed to contain the bodies of Christians killed by IS forces in a propaganda video posted on social media in April 2015, two months after the first video was released.

 

That video, similar to the first one, appeared to show the Islamic State fighters shooting and beheading the Ethiopian Christians, who were all wearing orange jumpsuits, on a beach.

 

Clancy told CNA that ancient Christian communities in the Middle East remain at risk of disappearing. In Syria alone hundreds of thousands of Christians have been driven from their homes in places like Nineveh, Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo.

 

"We've been able to support $55 million in aid over the years in Iraq and probably about $40 million in Syria in different programs to help keep the Christian communities alive," Clancy said.

 

"Unfortunately though, even with all of those efforts, there's been a great decline in the number of Christians. Iraq is down to about 20% of its Christian population as compared to 2000. And Syria's down probably something like 40% since that time too."

 

Clancy highlighted the continued dangers faced by Christians all over the region and the world, and noted the moral imperative on the international community to remember and support them.

 

"For us here in the United States, in the West, in the sort of 'safe world,' we actually take for granted that our faith is part of our lives. There, it's part of their lives, but it could also be a reason for their death. So we should do our best to pray for them, to be aware of what's going on and to support them by financial means and also for advocating on their behalf in the public arena.”

 

Clancy highlighted the recent announcement that the United States would withdraw troops from Syria as a source of fear among some in the Christian community. The move, he said, raised anxiety that terrorist forces might be emboldened by the decision.

 

"I think we have to be fair enough to say that when there's a need for [military] protection that we should do it," he said.

 

"It's really all dependent on international governments, on the United States, the West, Europe, to stand up and say we're not going to allow Christianity to die there. As Catholics, we can't be afraid to say that," Clancy said.

 

One such advocate in the United States is Arkansas Congressman French Hill, who introduced a resolution Jan. 16 supporting the religious freedom of Coptic Christians in Egypt.

 

Hill’s resolution called on the Egyptian government to “end the culture of impunity” with which Christians have been attacked and to “make examples by arresting, prosecuting, and convicting those responsible for attacks on Christians.”

 

"We forget that it's not wrong to say that Christians belong [in the Middle East] and Christians should stay there. That's what I always ask people to remember," Clancy said.

Kentucky Senate approves fetal heartbeat bill

Frankfort, Ky., Feb 15, 2019 / 04:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Kentucky Senate has approved a bill that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks into pregnancy.

The bill passed 31-6 on Feb. 14. It will now head to the state’s House, which has a Republican majority.

During a committee review of the measure earlier on Thursday, the heartbeat of a Kentucky resident’s unborn baby was played live through an electronic monitor. The woman, April Lanham, is a resident of the district of the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Matt Castlen (R).

“That child in her womb is a living human being,” said Castlen, according to the Associated Press. “And all living human beings have a right to life.”

Lanham, who is 18 weeks into her pregnancy, told reporters that she thought her baby’s heartbeat would be a “powerful noise” for lawmakers ahead of the vote.

If the law passes, an examination would be required before an abortion to determine whether the unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected. If so, an abortion would be illegal, unless the mother’s health is determined to be in danger.

The Kentucky bill is one of several similar heartbeat bills being considered throughout the country.

Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia have also introduced fetal heartbeat bills this year. A handful of states have passed similar bills in recent years, although they generally face court challenges.

Opponents of the bill promised similar legal challenges if Kentucky’s legislation becomes law.

“This law is patently unconstitutional,” said Kate Miller, who works with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. “The second it is signed, the ACLU of Kentucky will file a lawsuit. And much like the other laws you have passed, we expect that you will be held up in litigation unsuccessfully for years.”

Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood and now pro-life activist, spoke in favor of the legislation at the committee hearing on Thursday.

“Abortion can never, on its face, be safe, because in order for an abortion to be deemed successful, an individual and unique human with a beating heart must die,” Johnson said, according to WDRB.

McCarrick has 'private income' in the event of laicization

Washington D.C., Feb 15, 2019 / 03:11 pm (CNA).- Ahead of an expected decision in the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, new details have emerged about his likely financial status in the event that he is laicized.

Sources close to the former cardinal told CNA that McCarrick has previously declined an income from the Church, and that he has private means of support in place.

McCarrick’s conviction and possible laicization have been the subject of consistent media speculation and expectation in recent days. He faces numerous charges of sexual abuse against minors and adults over a period of decades. A decision in the case is widely predicted to be announced ahead of a Vatican summit on child sexual abuse, which begins Feb. 21.

While no decision or penalty has yet been announced, sources close to the archbishop told CNA Friday that, in the event he were defrocked, he would still have a personal income.

This could prove significant, as clerical offenders of advanced age or poor health are often kept in a penitential assignment, in recognition that they might otherwise have no means of support. If McCarrick were known to be able to provide for his own living outside of Church support, it could weigh against him in any deliberation about imposing a penalty of laicization.

As a cleric and former archbishop of Washington and Newark, and former bishop of Metuchen, McCarrick currently has a right to financial support from the Church. At present, expenses at the Kansas monastery where McCarrick is living in “prayer and penance” are being met by the Archdiocese of Washington which, as the last diocese of his assignment, has an ongoing obligation to provide basic “sustenance” under canon law.

That right would cease, along with many others, if he were expelled from the clerical state - laicized - following a conviction for sexual abuse.

But sources close to the former cardinal told CNA that he never drew either a salary or a pension from any of the three dioceses he led. They said that he declined to take remuneration from his former dioceses, but that he does have a private income from savings and monthly annuities.

“While he is not without resources, they are modest, in keeping with what one might expect of a parish priest,” one source close to McCarrick told CNA.

The same source told CNA that the annuities had been privately purchased over a period of years.

Questions remain, however, about the scale and sources of McCarrick’s private income. If, as those close to him have indicated, he declined any formal remuneration from the dioceses he led as a bishop, what was the source for any savings he might have, and how did he come to purchase the annuities to give himself a private income in retirement?

One source close to McCarrick speculated that the annuities could have come from “friends or benefactors” of the archbishop before his fall from grace.

The web of formal and informal financial networks around him remains hard to untangle, but what is known gives a strong indication of his access to funds.

In 2001, McCarrick established the Archbishop’s Fund, which he continued to personally oversee during his retirement, only ceding control to Cardinal Donald Wuerl in June last year.

According to the Archdiocese of Washington, that fund was designated for McCarrick’s personal “works of charity and other miscellaneous expenses.”

McCarrick also sat on the board of numerous grant-making bodies during his time in office, at least two of which combined to donate more than $500,000 to his personal charitable fund. These included nine grants of $25,000 each from the Minnesota-based GHR Foundation designated for the “former archbishop’s fund” or the “former archbishop’s special fund,” according to tax records.

The Virginia-based Loyola Foundation made grants of $20,000 - $40,000 per year to the archbishop’s fund for at least a decade. According to the foundation, the sums were “specifically designated by Archbishop McCarrick” who as a trustee could allocate “limited discretionary grants” to qualified 501(c)(3) organizations.

While the archdiocese told CNA in August 2018 that the fund was audited annually and that “no irregularities were ever noticed,” it would not confirm the balance of the fund at the time McCarrick turned over control, or how much money had passed through the fund over the years, or where it had gone.

McCarrick was known for producing sizable donations for projects and funds with which he was associated, including the Papal Foundation, as well as individual projects in dioceses around the world. At the same time, he was also well known for his more personal acts of generosity.

In September 2018, a cardinal who formerly served as a curial official recalled McCarrick’s habit of doling out large sums, in cash, to senior officials in Rome.

“When he would visit Rome, Cardinal McCarrick was well-known for handing out envelopes of money to different bishops and cardinals around the curia to thank them for their work,” the cardinal told CNA.

“Where these ‘honoraria’ came from or what they were for, exactly, was never clear – but many accepted them anyway.”

Given that McCarrick has access to a private income, unconnected to the Church, it is unlikely that any of the three dioceses which he once led would put themselves forward to offer him additional support in the event he were laicized.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Metuchen confirmed to CNA that McCarrick had not received a pension from the diocese but could not confirm if he drew a salary as bishop, citing diocesan files on salaries which only date back seven years.

Both the Archdiocese of Newark and the Archdiocese of Washington declined to comment on McCarrick’s private financial circumstances. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington referred CNA to the archbishop’s personal attorney.