NY Catholics show up in force to lobby for Child Victims Act

April 24, 2015


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I thank NY Survivors for this link.

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NY Catholics show up in force to lobby for Child Victims Act

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, at lectern, and fellow assemblymembers and senators lead a rally in support of the Child Victims Act of New York on Wednesday in Albany, N.Y. More than 100 advocates and supporters of the legislation came to Albany to meet with assemblymembers and senators to lobby them to support the bill. (NY State Assembly)

Jamie Manson  |  Apr. 22, 2015NCR Today

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While many folks around the world marked April 22 as Earth Day, in Albany, N.Y., State Assemblywoman Margaret M. Markey used the occasion to host a Lobby Day to promote awareness of child sexual abuse.

Across the country, April is known as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Markey and sixty other assemblymembers have called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to extend the proclamation to New York state, which ranks among the worst for the way in which it deals with victims of child sexual abuse crimes, according to a survey by Professor Marci Hamilton of Cardozo Law School.

Unlike some states that have either no statute of limitation or an extended statute of limitation, in New York, victims must bring criminal or civil charges against their abusers within five years of their 18th birthday.

For years, Markey has sponsored the Child Victims Act, a bill that would “reform New York’s archaic criminal and civil statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse crimes,” according to a press release from Markey’s office.

“The Child Victims Act calls for the total elimination of the criminal and civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes in the future, with a complete one year suspension of the civil SOL to benefit older victims,” the release also states. More than one-third of the members of the State Assembly have joined Markey to co-sponsor the bill.

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Among the organizations supporting the Albany Lobby Day, five were Catholic groups, including the Catholic Coalition of Conscience, an umbrella group comprised of Call to Action Metro NY, Call to Action Upstate NY, Voice of the Faithful NY, and Dignity/NY.

Two of the event’s speakers, Fr. Jim Connell and Notre Dame de Namur Sr. Maureen Turlish, were from Catholic Whistleblowers, a group of canon law experts and religious leaders. Turlish previously helped lead a successful drive to enact statute of limitations reform in the state of Delaware.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Child Victims Act has proven unpopular with Catholic bishops throughout the state. Their ongoing campaign against the measure has been called “shrewd and relentless” by The New York Times.

Bishop William Murphy of the diocese of Rockville Centre has been especially vocal in his opposition to the bill, most recently charging that it “seeks to penalize only the Catholic Church for past crimes of child sex abuse.”

Art McGrath of CTA Metro NY and Mariann Perseo of VOTF-NY acknowledged institutional resistance to the bill but insisted that their religious tradition calls for these kinds of reforms. “Catholic theology and the Catholic Catechism call for reparative justice for the victims; consequences for the perpetrators; and protection for child victims,” they said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Markey published a letter that she wrote to Pope Francis, asking him to meet with survivors of child sexual abuse during his upcoming visit to New York City in September. The letter cites the pope’s strong message to Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors on Feb. 2, 2015, and asks Francis for his “help in convincing New York Bishops to bring their views in alignment with yours on the subject of abuse.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and chair of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, was also copied on the letter.

An online petition of support for the Child Victims Act was also announced at the Lobby Day.

“There is no limit on what is a lifetime of suffering and anguish for so many victims of child sexual abuse,” Markey said. “Nor should there be any limit on holding accountable those institutions and organizations that have deliberately protected and hidden perpetrators.”

“Their actions make it possible for pedophiles to continue to prey on new victims,” Markey concluded.


US Bishop Finn, symbol of church’s failure on sexual abuse, resigns

April 21, 2015


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I thank Steve Sheehan, editor of NSAC News, for this link.

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US Bishop Finn, symbol of church’s failure on sexual abuse, resigns

Jackson Country, Mo., prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, center, announces the indictments of Bishop Robert Finn and the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese in an Oct. 14, 2011, news conference. (NCR photo/Zoe Ryan)





Joshua J. McElwee  Brian Roewe  Dennis Coday  |  Apr. 21, 2015

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U.S. Bishop Robert Finn, the Catholic prelate in the U.S. heartland who became a symbol internationally of the church’s failures in addressing the sexual abuse crisis, has resigned. He was the first bishop criminally convicted of mishandling an abusive priest yet remained in office for another two and a half years.

The Vatican announced Finn’s resignation as head of the diocese of St. Joseph-Kansas City, Mo., in a note in its daily news bulletin Tuesday.

While the note did not provide any reason for the move, it is rare for bishops in the Catholic church to resign without cause before they reach the traditional retirement age of 75.

Finn, who is 62 and had led the diocese since 2005, was neither assigned a new diocese nor as yet given a new leadership role in the church.

Other than for reasons of health, only one other bishop among the some 200 U.S. Catholic dioceses and eparchies has resigned his role in such a manner in at least the past decade.

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Tuesday’s Vatican note read: “The Holy Father Francis has accepted the resignation from the pastoral government of the diocese of St. Joseph-Kansas City, Mo. (U.S.A.) presented by His Excellency Msgr. Robert W. Finn.”

The announcement cites the portion in the Code of Canon Law that states that a bishop who “has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”

Francis has not named a replacement as bishop of the diocese.

While the Vatican bulletin does not indicate whether the pope appointed an apostolic administrator for the diocese, Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocesan director of communications Jack Smith said in a statement that Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., was named as the diocese’s administrator.

In a letter to addressed to the people of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, Naumann asked for prayers, acknowledging the “vitality and beauty” of the community but also stating “I am also keenly conscious of some of challenges and difficulties this Diocese has suffered in recent years.” He added that the role of an administrator, by its definition, “is for a very short season.”

“This will not be a time for innovation or change, but a time to sustain the ordinary and essential activities of the Church and where possible to advance the initiatives that already are under way,” Naumann said.

Naumann said he hoped the coming months would be “a time of grace and healing for the Diocese.”

Finn’s resignation will have significance beyond the borders of Missouri. The issue of holding bishops accountable has long been the largest and most provocative unresolved element in the church’s handling of sexual abuse cases.

In diocese after diocese and country after country, abuse victims, parents and advocacy groups have asked why bishops who inappropriately handle dangerous priests are rarely, if ever, held accountable.

Finn’s leadership has long been under question in the Missouri diocese, at least since his September 2012 conviction of a misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse in the case of a now-former diocesan priest who was producing child pornography.

Because of that incident, Finn served a two-year suspended sentence in Jackson County, Mo., and struck a deal later that year with a Clay County, Mo., judge to avoid a similar charge by entering a diversion compliance agreement that included regular meetings with the county prosecutor for five years.

Local Catholics began calling for Finn’s resignation in May 2011. An online petition asking for the Vatican to remove Finn was opened in 2012 and gathered more than 260,000 signatures.

In February 2014, Kansas City Catholics engaged a canon lawyer and made a formal request that the Vatican initiate a penal process to determine whether Finn violated church law in the case of Shawn Ratigan, a then-priest of the diocese convicted of child pornography charges, whom Finn failed to report to civil authorities.

In September 2014, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Ontario, came to Kansas City for a Vatican investigation known as an apostolic visitation to interview more than a dozen people as part of an investigation into Finn’s leadership.

Prendergast told those he interviewed from Sept. 22-26 that he was there on behalf of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops.

Smith said in a brief interview Tuesday that Finn had met with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, April 14 in Rome. The bishop, Smith said, then spoke with U.S. apostolic nuncio Archbishop Carlo Vigano on Monday, at which final details of the resignation were determined.

There “probably were conversations that went on all the way up to yesterday about when or how this transition would take place,” Smith said.

The overlap of Finn’s Rome visit with a meeting of the new Vatican commission on clergy sexual abuse on April 12 was a “kind of coincidence,” Smith said.

Members of that commission, known formally as the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, met April 12 with Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the president of the commission and a member of Francis’ Council of Cardinals.

Commission member Peter Saunders said in an interview Tuesday that the members discussed Finn’s case at the meeting.

“I believe that there was already some movement on the Finn case, from what Cardinal O’Malley said, so I think this was going to happen,” Saunders said. “But maybe we were in some small way instrumental in ensuring that it did.”

While the Vatican bulletin does not say Finn was removed from office (instead, it says the pope accepted his resignation), such moves are still rare in the church.

The last Catholic prelate to be removed from diocesan office was Paraguayan Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, whom Francis removed in September mainly over accusations that he had not adequately managed his diocese and had caused strife with other prelates.

The last U.S. bishop who resigned at such an early age was former Scranton, Pa., Bishop Joseph Martino, who resigned in 2009 at age 63 mainly over concerns that he was mismanaging and was divisive in his diocese.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the former archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland, who resigned in 2013 after admitting to sexual misconduct, on March 20 resigned “the rights and privileges of a cardinal.” Those include advising the pope, holding membership in Vatican congregations and councils, and electing a new pope.

The news of Finn’s resignation was met with relief in Kansas City.

“It has been a hard time, a painful time for our diocese,” said Fr. Michael Roach, a priest of more than 30 years in the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese.

“In this Easter time, a time of new life, we are grateful that our diocese will be able to begin a time of healing and coming together,” Roach told NCR.

The diocese’s struggles had caused discontent and concern even among some of Finn’s highest-ranking officials, with one saying in an interview recently that after the bishop’s departure, the diocese would need concerted efforts focused on healing.

Jude Huntz, who served as the diocese’s second-in-command from 2011 until August 2014, said Finn’s successor would have to “take on the task to bring healing for everybody involved.”

“I think that’s what everybody needs the most,” Huntz said. “It’s been painful for everybody. I don’t think anybody has been exempt. It’s been a hard thing for everybody to endure.”

The former chancellor of the diocese also said healing efforts could not be led by just one individual.

“Everybody has got to kind of come together in some sort of a liturgical and communal way just to bring healing,” he said. “This isn’t just about sex abuse. This is about a whole lot of other things that are ideological.”

May would have marked Finn’s 10th anniversary as bishop in Kansas City.

Pressure on Finn to resign began in the spring of 2011, when it became public that diocesan officials had months before found suspect photographs of children on a computer owned by Ratigan, then the pastor of St. Patrick Parish in North Kansas City, Mo., but had not contacted civil authorities.

In January 2011, Finn removed Ratigan as pastor and sent him for evaluation and counseling. But by late winter, Ratigan was assigned as a chaplain to a sisters’ convent and to live with a group of Vincentian priests in a suburb east of Kansas City.

There was no known supervision of Ratigan, and he remained in contact with families from his former parishes, attending family gatherings and meals. It was later learned that Ratigan used these occasions to take images of children using his cellphone, some of them questionable.

Ratigan was found guilty in federal court in September 2013 of producing child pornography and sentenced to 50 years in jail. He was laicized in January 2014.

Questions about Finn’s handling of the Ratigan case emerged during the Prendergast investigation, according to Fr. Pat Rush, pastor at Visitation Parish in Kansas City.

Rush, who was interviewed as part of the apostolic visitation in September, told NCR that the Canadian archbishop asked how the accusations against Ratigan were handled, what legal advice was given, and the fallout from the conviction.

The costs of Finn’s legal defense totaled $1.39 million, the diocesan paper reported in 2012. At that time, the diocese had spent nearly $4 million for other clergy sexual abuse claims.

In March 2014, an arbiter ruled the diocese had violated five of 19 child safety measures it agreed to as part of a 2008 settlement that awarded $10 million to 47 plaintiffs. In August of that year, a Jackson County circuit judge upheld the arbiter’s decision that the diocese pay $1.1 million for breaching the terms.

“There can be no doubt that the diocese, through its leadership and higher-level personnel, failed in numerous respects to abide by the terms,” Jackson County Circuit Judge Bryan E. Round said in his decision then.

In October, the diocese resolved all its outstanding historical sexual abuse claims through a $9.95 million global settlement of 30 cases—including one which had progressed to final statements in trial.

At the time, the diocese said only one case related to Ratigan was still pending.

The cumulative amount spent by the diocese on sexual abuse claims and defense is a “staggering figure,” Huntz, the former diocesan chancellor, told NCR in September. “[The Vatican] needs to see those numbers and recognize it for what it is.”

Huntz also said that to offset expenses, the diocese had raised parish assessments—the money the diocese collects from parishes—with some “going up 33 percent.” Huntz attributed higher operating costs to increased insurance payments.

“A parish can’t afford those things,” he said. “It’s really hurting a lot of the parishes from a financial point of view.”

While the pope is considered the supreme earthly authority in the Catholic church, canon law does not specify by name his ability to fire or remove diocesan bishops. It instead says that “privation” of office can be “made known to the bishop.”

Highlighting that sensitive area of law, the Vatican bulletin announcing Livieres Plano’s removal said Francis had “provided for the alternation of the bishop” of the Paraguayan diocese.

An Australian bishop removed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011, William Morris, was not said to have been removed from or have resigned his office, but instead to have accepted retirement.

News of the $1.1 million judgment against the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese prompted another letter to Pope Francis requesting an investigation of Finn.

Fr. James Connell, a Milwaukee canon lawyer who had helped local Catholics write to the Vatican in February 2014, wrote again in August of that year.

“It just struck me that it would be wise to get it documented that further court actions confirmed Finn being wrong with the way he handled things and the church really ought to be doing something about that,” Connell told NCR then.

Bishop Robert Finn in the courts on Dipity.

The Ratigan case

The day after Ratigan’s arrest May 19, 2011, Finn held a meeting with parents of St. Patrick’s parish to address the situation and hear their concerns. It was an event that pointed to the ongoing feeling of many parents in the diocese, who expressed anger at the bishop’s inaction.

Standing alone at the lectern next to the parish altar for just under three hours, Finn fielded questions as mother after mother, father after father, lined up to ask why the priest was not brought to the police when the diocese first knew of his troubles the December before.

Several parishioners asked how they could ever trust Finn, or even the Catholic church, again.

One, a woman who identified herself as a member of the parish for over 10 years, recounted how she had seen Ratigan tickling young children at the school’s daycare program.

“As soon as you knew what was going on, why the hell didn’t you tell me something?” she asked, her voice shaking.

“When a priest becomes our priest, he becomes a part of our family. And this family deserves to know what is going on in this church.”

The full details of how Finn and the Kansas City diocese responded to reports about Ratigan’s behavior became part of the public record in 2012.

As part of the nonjury trial at which Finn was found guilty of failing to report suspected child abuse, both the prosecutors and defense lawyers submitted a set of 69 mutually agreed-upon facts that formed a timeline of the diocese’s handling of the Ratigan case.

Many of the facts are graphic. Key points among them included:

The diocese had received a memo in May 2010 concerning Ratigan from Julie Hess, the principal of the school attached to the parish Ratigan was serving. That memo outlined several concerns about the priest and stated teachers at the school thought “Father Shawn’s actions fit the profile of a child predator.”

Following examination by a computer technician, the diocese became aware of a number of lewd photos on Ratigan’s laptop on Dec. 16, 2010. Among those photos were those of a “little girl’s naked vagina.” Included in those who saw those photos was Msgr. Robert Murphy, then the diocese’s vicar general.

Ratigan attempted suicide on Dec. 17, 2010, leaving behind a note that said, “I am sorry for the harm caused to the children.”

In early January 2011, Finn sent Ratigan to Pennsylvania for psychiatric evaluation from Rick Fitzgibbons, who told Finn in an email that Hess “may have orchestrated false accusations” against Ratigan.

Following Ratigan’s return from Pennsylvania, Finn assigned Ratigan to live at a community of religious priests and assigned him to say daily Mass for a community of women religious.

Finn received an email from Ratigan on Feb. 7, 2011, that began: “I am going to give you a brief summary of how I got to where I am with my addiction to pornography.”

Finn emailed Ratigan in response Feb. 9, 2011, giving the priest seven restrictions, including to “avoid all contact with children.”

Finn was informed March 31, 2011, that Ratigan had attended a St. Patrick’s Day parade and a birthday party for a sixth-grade girl.

On May 11, 2011, Murphy reported the existence of “hundreds of photographs” of children on Ratigan’s computer to police.

Ratigan was arrested for possession of child pornography May 18, 2011.

The stipulated facts also state that in testimony, Murphy reported the incident to police because he thought the diocese’s response to Ratigan was “moving along with no direction, and I thought, ‘I have got to do something.’ “

According to the facts, Murphy also testified that Finn was “upset” upon hearing Murphy had reported Ratigan. According to the testimony, Murphy told his sister at the time, “I think I made a decision that will not make the bishop happy.”

Finn has rarely addressed the Ratigan situation in public after the May 2011 meeting with parents. He has not given an interview in years.

Seen walking near the Vatican in Rome April 14, the bishop shook hands pleasantly—but quickly walked away once introductions had been made.

Beginning with a clean sweep

Finn came to the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese as a coadjutor bishop in March 2004.

He was then a 53-year-old St. Louis priest and member of the conservative Opus Dei movement. He had served as a high school principal and oversaw the St. Louis archdiocesan newspaper.

Finn succeeded Bishop Raymond Boland as the diocese’s leader on May 24, 2005. Within a week of his appointment, he:

Dismissed the chancellor, a layman with 21 years of experience in the diocese; the vice chancellor, a religious woman stationed in the diocese for nearly 40 years; and the chief of pastoral planning for the diocese since 1990. He replaced them with a priest chancellor.

Canceled the diocese’s nationally renowned lay formation programs and a master’s degree program in pastoral ministry.

Halved the budget of the Center for Pastoral Life and Ministry, effectively forcing the almost immediate resignation of half the seven-member team. Within 10 months, all seven would be gone and the center shuttered.

Ordered a “zero-based study” of adult catechesis in the diocese and appointed as vice chancellor to oversee adult catechesis, lay formation and the catechesis study a layman with no formal training in theology or religious studies.

Ordered the editor of the diocesan newspaper to immediately cease publishing columns by Notre Dame theologian Fr. Richard McBrien and announced he would review all front-page stories, opinion pieces, columns and editorials before publication.

By most accounts, Finn reached these decisions without consulting any of the senior leadership of the diocese or the people in the programs affected. Virtually no staff at the diocesan headquarters knew of the changes until they were announced at a news conference two days after his appointment.

Many parish staff members and priests would first learn of the changes when they read about them in the local or diocesan newspaper.

As his first year in office unfolded and as budgets were prepared for a new fiscal year, the new bishop’s priorities emerged.

Budgets for the peace and justice office and Bolivian missions were cut in half and more. A diocesan-sponsored master’s program was transferred from the Aquinas Institute of Theology, a Dominican school affiliated with Jesuit-run St. Louis University, to the Institute for Pastoral Theology at Florida-based Ave Maria University.

A Latin Mass community, which had been using a city parish for liturgies, was given a parish in its own right, and Finn appointed himself pastor. Later, he asked the parish that the Latin Mass community would be leaving to donate $250,000 of the estimated $1.5 million the Latin group needed to renovate the old church Finn gave them.

NCR documented Finn’s first year in office in a 2006 cover story titled “Extreme makeover.”

The new bishop “came with an agenda,” Fr. Richard Carney told NCR in 2006. Carney was then a priest of more than 50 years and a respected leader in the diocese. He died in 2008.

“[Finn] didn’t ask us who we are and what we are about,” Carney told NCR. “He looked at it from the vantage point of a coadjutor bishop and made decisions of what he was going to do about us.”

“Well, we’re not used to that kind of authoritarianism,” the priest continued. “It didn’t show much respect for prior bishops who established it that way. We feel beaten up.”

Unhappiness had reached such a level by the fall of 2005 that Finn had his new chancellor and vice chancellor host a series of town hall meetings in various regions of the diocese.

NCR described these meetings as “the first and only chance [lay parishioners had] to confront officials regarding the changes they had only heard about. Much of the discussion focused on that. Much was passionate, some of it heated.”

Fr. Norman Rotert, another highly respected priest and leader in the diocese who had also retired by 2006, told NCR about the listening sessions.

“[Finn] is the king. I heard [vice chancellor Claude] Sasso said that at one of the listening sessions,” said Rotert, who died in 2014. “Jesus is a king and the bishop is king in his diocese. That hardly works as a leadership style today. People demand a voice. The people know as much about things today as the bishop does and sometimes more.”

Rotert told NCR then that his great fear was that “instead of speaking up and holding bishops accountable, people will just gradually fade away,” a development he said would be “terribly, terribly unfortunate.”

According to Huntz, the former chancellor, in September 2014: “Ten years ago … when Bishop Finn came to Kansas City, the diocese had 165,000 Catholics. This past year, I submitted our official statistics to Rome, and we only had 128,000 Catholics. That’s a 25 percent decline.”


Finn was popular among area Catholics, especially those who appreciated his traditional approach to ecclesiology and liturgy. He also attracted a good number of men to the seminary. This year, the diocese has 32 men in various stages of formation. Seven are to be ordained priests by the end of 2015.

Other projects have not gone as well. Finn announced in 2010 an ambitious plan to build a new $30 million high school in an eastern suburb of Kansas City. With this came the launch of a $15 million capital campaign.

The campaign struggled to take off, and fundraising is reportedly far behind projections. Though a name for the school has been chosen—Michael the Archangel High School—and a mascot—the Guardians—opening of the new school has been moved back from fall 2015 to fall 2016.

Another long-term dream of Finn’s was to build a dormitory for Catholic college students. He hoped to build a dorm on the site of the closed school of St. Francis Xavier Parish, which is located between the campuses of Jesuit-run Rockhurst University and the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

The parishioners and neighborhood groups had other dreams for the property. Each side had feasibility studies conducted and hosted meetings and shared ideas, but never reached a consensus.

“We met several times [to discuss proposals], and the bishop clearly said he was only interested in the Catholic student housing project,” parishioner Ken Spare said.

Finn’s last chance was a March 17 meeting of the City Plan Commission of Kansas City.

Finn wrote to his priests and deacons before the hearing, inviting them “to be present at the meeting and support the Diocese’s plan. If you attend it would certainly be appropriate for you to wear your collar.”

Eleven women religious and one priest attended alongside Finn. The City Plan Commission unanimously voted against the project.

[Joshua J. McElwee (jmcelwee@ncronline.org) is NCR Vatican correspondent. Brian Roewe (broewe@ncronline.org) is NCR staff writer. Dennis Coday (dcoday@ncronline.org) is NCR editor.]


NSAC News, 4.21.2015

April 21, 2015

Received by email from Steve Sheehan, 4.21.2015.

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              April 21, 2015                                                                                                    Vol. 7, No. 38


Click on the headline to read entire article.

1.   Sex abuse victims, including former speedskater Bridie Farrell, to call on Albany to eliminate statutes of limitiations for future cases – NEW YORK – New York Daily News

2.  $525,500 for 1950s Priestly Abuse – OREGON – Courthouse News Service

3.  Seek Help of Pope Francis to Enact SOL Reform in New York – NEW YORK – Assemblywoman Margaret M. Markey

4.  MPR News wins Peabody Award for ‘Betrayed by Silence’ – MINNESOTA – Minnesota Public Radio

5.  Kansas City swamped with unsubstantiated rumors of Finn’s resignation – KANSAS CITY (MO) –
National Catholic Reporter

6.  Pope Francis is mulling a proposal on bishop accountability – CONNECTICUT – Crux

Cardinal Francis E. George, Who Urged ‘Zero Tolerance’ in Abuse Scandal, Dies at 78

April 18, 2015


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George talked a good game but his actions did not align with his words.

First, SNAP’s comments and then the New York Times story.


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April 17, 2015 1:55 PM


IL- Cardinal George of Chicago passed away; SNAP responds

For immediate release April 17, 2015

Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago, SNAP President and Founder – bblaine@snapnetwork.org; 312-455-1499 (office), 312-399-4747 (cell)

We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Chicago’s Catholics and everyone grieving the loss of Cardinal George, including the many members and supporters of SNAP who are faithful Catholics who relied on George for guidance and prayer.


We do not know how many children would not have had their innocence shattered by Fr Dan McCormick – and other predator priests- if George had done the right thing. Their preventable pain and suffering will, no doubt, haunt them for years to come.

We hope the lessons learned will be passed to George’s successors. During these difficult days for Chicagoland parishioners, we hope the faith that sustained George will provide consolation and peace to the Catholic community of Chicago.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

Contact – David Clohessy 314-566-9790, davidgclohessy@gmail.com, Barbara Dorris 314-503-0003, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org, Barbara Blaine 312-399-4747, bblaine@SNAPnetwork.org

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Cardinal Francis E. George, Who Urged ‘Zero Tolerance’ in Abuse Scandal, Dies at 78


Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago in Rome in 2005.

CreditPeter Dejong/Associated Press

Cardinal Francis E. George, who was the Roman Catholic archbishop of Chicago for 17 years and helped shape the American Catholic bishops’ response to the child sexual abuse scandal and their resistance to the Obama health plan’s contraception coverage, died on Friday at his residence in Chicago. He was 78.

The cause was cancer, the archdiocese said. Discovered in 2006, the cancer originated in his bladder and spread. But Cardinal George continued to work until November, when he stepped down. In December he announced that experimental treatments he had received had failed.

A quiet, cerebral man, Cardinal George was appointed to lead the Chicago archdiocese by Pope John Paul II. He was the first Chicago native to hold the seat.

It was his prominent role in responding to the sexual abuse scandal in 2002 that first made Cardinal George a national figure. Although it would be five years before he was named president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he helped persuade his brother bishops to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy, barring priests who had been credibly accused of abuse from serving in ministry.

He was credited with then shepherding the policy change through an initially resistant Vatican.

Cardinal George became a hero to many Catholic traditionalists in the United States and in Rome, where he had worked for a dozen years as vicar general of his religious order, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

The foster care program of Catholic Charities closed in 2011 after he refused to comply with an Illinois state requirement that charities that receive state funding must not reject same-sex couples as potential foster care and adoptive parents.

Though a new English translation of the Roman Missal was scorned by many who attend Mass as awkward and full of antiquated phrases, he pushed for it nevertheless, resisting the entreaties of some bishops and priests who had hoped for a more accessible translation.

At the pinnacle of his power, as president of the bishops conference from 2007 to 2010, Cardinal George greeted the election of his fellow-Chicagoan Barack Obama as president in 2008 with a blunt letter warning him not to consider expanding abortion rights.

The bishops conference supported government health care reform, but early on Cardinal George took the lead in the group’s opposition to Mr. Obama’s Affordable Care Act because of its mandate that employers include coverage of birth control in their health plans.

Cardinal George often said, however, that it was unfair that he or his church was typecast as conservative. Indeed, he defended the rights of immigrant farmworkers and devoted archdiocesan resources to housing the elderly and the poor, in keeping with the church’s tradition of promoting social justice.

“I tried to be present in the life of the poor,” he said when asked in an interview with The New York Times in November what he would like to be remembered for.

The interview was in Baltimore, at the last bishops’ conference he attended. When a priest passing by congratulated him on his retirement and said, “Enjoy your years,” Cardinal George replied with his dour sense of humor, “Or months or days.”

Francis Eugene George was born in Chicago on Jan. 16, 1937. He attended Catholic schools and showed an early interest in joining the priesthood. His father was an engineer with the public school system, and his mother had worked at an advertising agency, according to The Chicago Tribune. Both were active Catholics. His survivors include an older sister, Margaret.

At 13 he came down with polio, which left him with a limp for the rest of his life. He was rejected by a diocesan high school seminary because of his disability, so he attended a boarding school run by the Oblates religious order, which is dedicated to ministering to the poor.

He was ordained a priest of the order in 1963 and rose through its ranks to become its second-highest official, vicar general, based in Rome. There he commanded respect with his erudition — he studied philosophy and theology and earned two doctorates — and spoke multiple languages, including Spanish and Italian, essential for a church leader. His experience in Rome made him a crucial player in navigating the Vatican on behalf of the American church.

Cardinal George began his climb in the American hierarchy as bishop of the small, heavily Latino diocese of Yakima, Wash. After six years there, he rose quickly, leading the diocese in Portland, Ore., before being named the eighth archbishop of Chicago 10 months later. He succeeded Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, a leading liberal voice of the post-Vatican II church, and a much-loved pastor.

Cardinal Bernardin, who also died of cancer, in 1996, made his suffering a public witness of his faith, endearing him further to the public. Cardinal George’s personal style was far more reserved.

In taking command of the Chicago archdiocese, the third largest in the American church, with 2.3 million members, Cardinal George was among a wave of theologically conservative bishops appointed by John Paul. At a forum sponsored by Commonweal, a liberal Catholic magazine, in 2004, he declared, “Liberal Catholicism is an exhausted project,” adding, “It has shown itself unable to pass on the faith.”

His successor in Chicago, Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, praised Cardinal George on Thursday, saying that in struggling “with the grave sin of clerical sexual abuse, he stood strong among his fellow bishops and insisted that zero tolerance was the only course consistent with our beliefs.”

In 2006, however, Cardinal George faced a scandal close to home when it was revealed that he had failed to remove a priest, the Rev. Daniel McCormack, despite allegations that Father McCormack had sexually abused two boys. He later pleaded guilty to molesting five children.

Cardinal George told reporters, “I’m saddened by my own failure — very much so.”

Thousands of pages of documents released only recently as part of a settlement with victims revealed there were other situations in which the cardinal erred on the side of accused priests.

In recent years, Cardinal George frequently sounded the theme that religious freedom was under threat by encroaching secularism and intrusive government. His years as a leader in his order, traveling the globe, had brought him into contact with Catholics who had risked their lives and faced persecution for their faith. He said he admired them and identified with them.

“If you tell the truth,” he told a class of new priests in an ordination homily in 2009, “you may be killed by those whose position you threaten. If you give your life to people for the love of God, they may betray you. It is all part of priestly life. You know this; your formation has prepared you to live this life. Now it is your life.”

Correction: April 18, 2015
An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Cardinal George’s actions with regard to Catholic Charities. Its foster care program was closed in 2011 in part because Cardinal George did not want to comply with an Illinois requirement that charities receiving state funding not reject same-sex couples as potential foster care and adoptive parents; he did not close Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago in entirety.

A version of this article appears in print on April 18, 2015, on page D7 of the New York edition with the headline: Cardinal Francis E. George, Who Urged ‘Zero Tolerance’ in Abuse Scandal, Dies at 78. 


Influential Catholics call for removal of San Francisco archbishop in full-page ad

April 17, 2015


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Influential Catholics call for removal of San Francisco archbishop in full-page ad

Dan Morris-Young  |  Apr. 16, 2015


San Francisco faculty handbooks


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A powerful cross-section of Catholics in the San Francisco archdiocese is asking Pope Francis to replace Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, saying the archbishop has “fostered an atmosphere of division and intolerance.”

In an April 16 full-page advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle, more than 100 signers say the embattled archbishop pursues “a single-issue agenda,” coercing teachers with a “morality code which violates individual consciences as well as California labor laws” and “[isolating] himself from our community” as he “relies … on a tiny group of advisors recruited from outside of our diocese and estranged from their own religious orders.”

Referring to themselves as “committed Catholics inspired by Vatican II,” signers include well-known philanthropists in the archdiocese, members of school and university boards, the former director of Catholic Charities CYO, high-profile attorneys and physicians, major figures in the business and corporate world, and officials of trusts, foundations and charitable organizations.

The archdiocese issued a press release Wednesday afternoon calling the open letter “a misrepresentation of Catholic teaching, a misrepresentation of the nature of the teacher contract, and a misrepresentation of the spirit of the Archbishop.”

“The greatest misrepresentation of all is that the signers presume to speak for ‘the Catholic Community of San Francisco.’ They do not,” the release states. “The Archdiocese has met with a broad range of stakeholders. Together, we have engaged in a constructive dialogue on all of the issues raised in this ad. We welcome the chance to continue that discussion.”

The statement was likely a response to a piece posted on the Chroniclewebsite Wednesday by columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, who had been tipped to the ad’s pending publication. A copy of the ad serves as a graphic for their commentary.

“According to a source familiar with the drafting of the open letter to Francis, the disaffected Catholics first considered running the ad weeks ago. They held off while they appealed to church higher-ups—including the papal representative in Washington—to address their concerns. When nothing came of that, they went public,” the two wrote.

There is a press conference scheduled for 10:30 a.m. today at the Merchants Exchange Building owned by Clint Reilly, reportedly one of the major drivers behind the open letter and a prominent figure in San Francisco civic life. Reilly is a former chair of Catholic Charities CYO’s board and is president and chairman of Clinton Reilly Holdings.

The signers of the Chronicle ad criticized what they called “the absolute mean-spiritedness of [Cordileone’s] required language for the Archdiocesan high school faculty handbook” that “sets a pastoral tone that is closer to persecution than evangelization.

“Students, families and teachers have been deeply wounded by this language, yet the Archbishop refuses to withdraw his demands,” the ad continues.

A 2,000-word statement developed by Cordileone for inclusion in 2015-16 faculty handbooks of the four high schools owned by the San Francisco archdiocese was made public Feb. 3. It delineates areas of sexual morality and religious practice the archbishop said need increased clarity, emphasis and understanding by students, faculty, staff and administrators.

The narrative also cautions “administrators, faculty and staff” to “arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny” church teaching.

Many say the document runs roughshod on individual conscience, stands in contrast to Pope Francis’ pastoral and inclusive teaching, and criticize what they say is an overemphasis on sexual topics. They say some passages are insensitive and incendiary, notably usages such as “intrinsically evil,” “grave evil,” and “gravely evil,”

“Such language has no place in our handbooks” and “is harmful to our community and creates an atmosphere of mistrust and fear” said a petition signed by 80 percent of the faculty and staff of the four schools in early March and read into the minutes of the March 2 San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting.

Contacted by Matier and Ross about today’s open letter message, signer and attorney Frank Pitre said: “It seems [Cordileone] is going in a direction that is completely opposite where Pope Francis is going and creating an atmosphere of complete intolerance. Hopefully, this is going to get someone’s attention.” He and his wife, Diane, both signed.

Larry Nibbi, CEO of Nibbi Brothers Construction, told Matier and Ross he thinks Cordileone “is just causing a lot of discord, especially with the young people in the diocese.”

“The crux of our worry is that the faithful are going to become very disenchanted and stop going to church because they don’t like the message, and the message is not the way they lead their lives,” said Nibbi, a donor and former chair of the trustees of Archbishop Riordan High School, one of the four high schools affected by the handbook insertion.

“Neither The Chronicle’s business department nor those associated with the ad would say how much it cost. We’re told, however, that full-page ads typically run in the tens of thousands of dollars,” the columnists write.

“We believe in the traditions of conscience, respect and inclusion upon which our Catholic faith was founded,” states the introduction to the open letter advertisement. “From Archbishops Alemany, Hanna, Mitty and McGucken, to Quinn, Levada and Niederauer, our Archdiocese has been ‘an immigrant Church’ built on a rich tradition of diversity.”

The open letter also rebuked Cordileone for his appointment of “a pastor for Star of the Sea Parish who marginalizes women’s participation in the church by banning girls from altar service and who has inexplicably distributed to elementary school children an age-inappropriate and potentially abusive, sexually-oriented pamphlet.”

Star of the Sea administrator Fr. Joseph Illo and associate pastor Fr. Patrick Driscoll have been at the center of controversy over developments at the parish school that have generated wide media coverage. Tensions led to a March 25 gathering at the school attended by nearly 200 at which Auxiliary Bishop William Justice and vicar for clergy Fr. Raymund Reyes listened to 16 brief talks by parents.

The Star of the Sea gathering, the four schools’ faculty-staff petition, and the new full-page appeal to Pope Francis are three of several pushbacks against the initiatives Cordileone has undertaken since he was installed in 2013:

A March 21 letter to Cordileone signed by 21 retired priests of the archdiocese faulted him for lack of consultation and collegiality and questioned the tone and thrust of the faculty handbook language.

Two requests for statements disavowing the Star of Sea ban on altar girls surfaced during a February Council of Priests meeting but were set aside by Cordileone, who argued that Illo was acting within his rights as a pastor.

Three vigils have been staged at St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral organized by a student-parent organization, #teachacceptance, formed following revelation of the handbook language. The most recent, March 30, drew more than 500 participants who processed from historic Mission Dolores Church in San Francisco to the cathedral, where a petition signed by more than 6,500 protesting the handbook narrative was attached to a church door.

The Chronicle ran a front-page analysis charging that the faculty handbook statement flew in the face of Pope Francis’ call for embracing the marginalized and editorialized against the initiative.

Eight San Francisco Bay Area state lawmakers jointly signed a letter to Cordileone accusing him of sending “an alarming message of intolerance” to students and urging withdrawal of the handbook section.

The California Federation of Teachers issued a release objecting to language proposed by the archdiocese for pending labor contracts and to the handbook statement’s warning to school employees to avoid off-campus activities that contradict church stances.

Matier and Ross called attention to Cordileone’s scheduled participation in the April 25 March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., “three days before the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in a case that could result in the justices declaring a constitutional right for gays and lesbians to wed.”

Do not “expect Cordileone to start soft-pedaling his opposition to same-sex marriage,” they wrote.

[Dan Morris-Young is an NCR West Coast correspondent. His email address is dmyoung@ncronline.org. West Coast correspondent Monica Clark contributed to this story.]


Vatican Ends Battle With U.S. Catholic Nuns’ Group

April 17, 2015



Vatican Ends Battle With U.S. Catholic Nuns’ Group


Pope Francis met with a delegation from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious at the Vatican on Thursday.CreditPool photo by L’Osservatore Romano


The Vatican has abruptly ended its takeover of the main leadership group of American nuns two years earlier than expected, allowing Pope Francis to put to rest a confrontation started by his predecessor that created an uproar among American Catholics who had rallied to the sisters’ defense.

Anticipating a visit by Francis to the United States in the fall, the Vatican and the American bishops were eager to resolve an episode that was seen by many Catholics as a vexing and unjust inquisition of the sisters who ran the church’s schools, hospitals and charities.

Under the previous pope, Benedict XVI, the Vatican’s doctrinal office had appointed three bishops in 2012 to overhaul the nuns’ group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, out of concerns that it had hosted speakers and published materials that strayed from Catholic doctrine on such matters as the all-male priesthood, birth control and sexuality, and the centrality of Jesus to the faith.

But Francis has shown in his two-year papacy that he is less interested in having the church police doctrinal boundaries than in demonstrating mercy and love for the poor and vulnerable — the very work that most of the women’s religious orders under investigation have long been engaged in.

Ending the standoff with the nuns is one of several course corrections that Francis has set in motion. He has also worked on reforming the Vatican Curia, the Vatican’s central administration, instituting tighter oversight of Vatican finances, and has created a commission to deal with sexual abuse by clergy members.

He has made no changes in doctrine — on Wednesday, he reiterated the church’s teaching that marriage can be only between a man and a woman — but Catholics worldwide say he has done much to make the church’s tone more welcoming.

On Thursday, that included calling an unexpected meeting with four of the leaders of the Leadership Conference. The four women were photographed in his office and said afterward in a statement that they were “deeply heartened” by Francis’ “expression of appreciation” for the lives and ministry of Catholic sisters.

“He met with them himself for almost an hour, and that’s an extravagant amount of papal time,” said Eileen Burke-Sullivan, a theologian and consultant for women’s religious orders and vice provost for mission and ministry at Creighton University, a Jesuit school in Omaha. “It’s about as close to an apology, I would think, as the Catholic Church is officially going to render.”

Francis has never talked explicitly in public about the imbroglio with American nuns. But he has spoken about creating “broader opportunities” for women in the church, and the value of nuns and priests in religious orders. He is a member of the Jesuit order.

A clear signal that the Vatican under Francis was taking a more conciliatory approach to American sisters came in December with the announcement of the conclusion of another, separate investigation of American women’s orders, which was known as an apostolic visitation. That process involved sending questionnaires to 350 religious communities and teams of “visitors” to 90 of them, asking about everything from their prayer practices to living arrangements.

Both of these investigations of American women’s religious orders began at the urging of American and some foreign prelates who accused the sisters of disobeying the bishops and departing from Catholic doctrine. It set off protests by Catholic laypeople across the country, who signed petitions and sent letters to the Vatican in defense of the sisters.

It even became a movement with its own anthem, “Love Cannot Be Silenced,” composed by a folk-singing sister in Chicago.

The news came in a brief report issued jointly by the Leadership Conference and the three American bishops who had been appointed by the Vatican three years ago to take over and overhaul the organization.

The report cast the process as one of collaboration, saying, “Our extensive conversations were marked by a spirit of prayer, love for the church, mutual respect and cooperation. We found our conversations to be mutually beneficial.”

It was a far cry from three years ago, when the Vatican’s doctrinal office, led by an American cardinal, William Levada, issued a report finding that the Leadership Conference had “serious doctrinal problems.” It said the sisters were promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” It also accused the nuns of spending more time working against poverty and social injustice than abortion and same-sex marriage.

The Vatican’s doctrinal office in 2012 appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, with assistance from Bishop Leonard Blair of Hartford and Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., to spend as many as five years assessing and overhauling the Leadership Conference.

Leaders of the nuns’ group, which represents about 80 percent of Catholic sisters in the United States, insisted all along that the accusations were unfounded and that the Vatican simply did not understand the culture and process of American women’s religious orders, many of which emphasize open discussion and communal decision-making.



4 hours ago

Is it clear that the “Leadership Conference” actually represents 80% of allthe good Nuns and Sisters in America ?It is clear that the more…


4 hours ago

On to San Francisco, and what is going on there with the Archbishop. I have been following and supporting the sisters financially, so I am…

Big Al

4 hours ago

It looks like God arranged for the right man to get the job. They decided that rather than take a confrontational approach, they would engage in rigorous dialogue with Archbishop Sartain and the other overseers, using the same process the sisters employ among themselves to settle disagreements and make decisions.

Ultimately, the report issued on Thursday said that the nuns’ group would take care in selecting the speakers and programs at its conferences, and have “competent theologians” review its publications. It did not specify who would select the theologians, and indeed, women’s religious orders are full of trained and competent theologians.

The report said the goal was “to promote a scholarly rigor that will ensure theological accuracy and help avoid statements that are ambiguous with regard to church doctrine or could be read as contrary to it.”

On Thursday, neither the nuns nor the bishops involved would grant interviews. The Vatican’s doctrinal office also would not speak. The nuns’ group said that the doctrinal office had asked all of those involved not to speak to the news media for 30 days.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, said in a telephone interview: “Once they discussed and cleared the issues on the table, they published a joint report. That’s it.”

In a statement, Sister Sharon Holland, president of the Leadership Conference, said, “We are pleased at the completion of the mandate, which involved long and challenging exchanges of our understandings of and perspectives on critical matters of religious life and its practice.”


Archbishop Sartain, striking a similar tone, said in a statement, “Our work together was undertaken in an atmosphere of love for the church and profound respect for the critical place of religious life in the United States, and the very fact of such substantive dialogue between bishops and religious women has been mutually beneficial and a blessing from the Lord.”

The friendly resolution came as a great relief to the sisters and their supporters, who had feared that the Vatican could dissolve the Leadership Conference or take permanent control of it, said the Rev. James Martin, editor at large with the Jesuit magazine America, who wrote often about the conflict. “What you see with the sisters is true courage, which is being faithful to the church authority and also to who they are,” he said.

He said that there was no way to know how involved Francis was in the resolution, but that “as a member of a religious order who himself felt under the gun many times by his superiors, he would have some natural sympathy toward the sisters.”

Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on April 17, 2015, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Vatican Ends Investigation of U.S. Nuns.



Robert Blair Kaiser passes, at 84, on Holy Thursday

April 4, 2015


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I thank Eva Weber for this link.

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Kaiser, as his friends called him, was a very good person and a good friend.


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Robert Blair Kaiser passes, at 84, on Holy Thursday

 |  NCR Today
Robert Blair Kaiser, journalist and inveterate church lover and critic, died at the age of 84 in a hospice center in Phoenix yesterday, on Holy Thursday, with daughter, sons, and grandchildren at his bedside.Janet Hauter, co-chair of the American Catholic Council, a church reform group, today called Kaiser “a courageous man with the biggest heart of any (church) reformer I ever met; he was dauntless in pushing, prodding and confronting injustice in the church.”

Just a year from ordination into the Jesuit order, Kaiser left and and retuned as a journalist, soon moving to Rome to cover the Second Vatican Council for Time magazine. His writing, and passion for church, propelled him forward. For a period he was a staff writer for The New York Times. A half dozen of his books were to focus on the post-conciliar church and the council’s unfulfilled vision of church.

Throughout the decades that followed he was a highly outspoken critic of those he felt were trying to impede or stop the council’s reform agenda, most notably Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and the bishops they were appointing.

He pressed for reform to the last breaths of his life, a computer on his chest while hooked up to oxygen. In recent months he was finishing a book on Dominican Father Tom Doyle, who for forty years has been one of the church’s most outspoken critics of clergy sex abuse. I worked with him, writing an epilogue for that book, “Whistle: Tom Doyle’s Steadfast Witness for Victims of Clerical Sexual Abuse,” set to be published in June.

Lecturer and author of 16 books, included two novels, one about Cardinal Roger Mahony called Roger Mahony, Kaiser found every vehicle he could to fan the flames of church reform, often focusing on the need for lay men and women to elect their bishops as they once did a millenium or more back.

He was the editor of Just Good Company, an online journal of religion and culture, and co-founder of takebackourchurch.org, a web community of American Catholics whose stated mission was to seek “ownership and citizenship in the people’s church envisioned at Vatican II.” The group advocated the election of local bishops and the power to dismiss them.

More recently, he co-founded Catholic Church Reform International with which American Catholic Council, another church reform group, is associated. He was an Accelerating Catholic Church Reform(ACCR) Board member and Founding Editor/Publisher of its on-line quarterly magazine OMG!, a Journal of Religion and Culture.

Hauter, writing on the council’s website today, called Kaiser a “powerful force in the reform community partly because of the curmudgeonly personality with which he forcefully and unabashedly delivered his message to the world.”

Kaiser’s reform activities also included a speaker’s bureau he formed in Phoenix. Supported by friends, including current and former Jesuits with whom he had stayed in touch, the bureau for years gave progressive Catholics a forum to share ideas and hopes, allowing Vatican II Catholics to keep these ideas alive in dark times.

It was during the council years in the mid-1960s, a turbulent time in the West and within the church, that Kaiser formed his progressive and eventually radical vision of church: collegiate, even democratic, in nature, open to the world, and endlessly pursuing justice. It was a compelling vision and it stayed with him through his life, passionately shaping his values and writings.

For his supporters, he was a one of a kind energy source, courageously combative and a spokesperson for a church of service and the poor, one that kept the needs of ordinary people foremost in mind, a  “peoples’ church.” For his critics, he was an unyielding and arrogant ideologue. Friends and critics alike recognized his propensity for self-promotion, either accepting it as “simply Kaiser,” or viewing it as an off-putting characteristic.

He once wrote: “Clare Booth Luce discovered me when I was a young reporter for the Arizona Republicin Phoenix. Soon I was covering the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in Rome, winning prizes and plaudits for my inside reporting on the progress of Pope John’s push to bring the Church up to date. Since then, I’ve done five books on the post-conciliar Church, and a dozen others on various other obsessions.”

Whether one liked Kaiser or did not, there was little question he stayed close to the heat, at the center of church controversy and reform efforts, helping to shape the conversations, probing ideas, organizing efforts aimed at building the Vatican II church he first encountered during the council.

He spent 12 years in the Society of Jesus as a novice and scholastic before leaving to marry. Once in Rome as a young journalist, his Sunday evening dinner parties became a hot ticket item and the scene for lively conversations among journalists, priests and prelates.

He published Pope, Council and World: The Story of Vatican II, in 1963, telling the story of the struggle between progressive clerical forces and old guard-bishops as the council took shape. His writings and those of “Xavier Rynne” (Redemptorist Francis X. Murphy) in The New Yorker helped bring to wider audiences the high stakes story, the very struggle for the future of the Catholic church, that was going on at the Vatican.

The council was a high mark in Kaiser’s life, shaping it indelibly. It was also one of its darkest chapters. During those years, Kaiser and his wife hosted a friend, Jesuit Father Malachi Martin, who betrayed Kaiser, running off with his wife. That betrayal tortured Kaiser for many years. Four decades after the episode he wrote about it in a personal book called “Clerical Error.”

If Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were primarily responsible for thwarting the winds of conciliar reform in Kaiser’s eyes, Pope Francis, now two years into his pontificate has been its principle prelate conveyor of fresh hope.

Kaiser was particularly proud of having written, “The Politics of Sex and Religion,” the story of the Pope John XXIII appointed lay commission and how its ” Majority report” called for the church to change official teachings on birth control. Instead Pope Paul VI followed the “Minority report, which became the basis for his 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae. The Kaiser book, originally published in 1985, was republished as an e-book in 2012.

Last year, Kaiser published “Inside the Jesuits: How Pope Francis Is Changing the Church and the World,” a work in which the author argued that Francis’ “Jesuit DNA” is central to understanding his vision of church and its place in the wider world.

Throughout the book Kaiser emphasized not only that Francis is different from his predecessors, but also that the nature of this difference lies precisely in the fact that he is a Jesuit. The book once again allowed Kaiser to write personally about his own experience as a Jesuit, an experience that shaped his own DNA.

Kaiser was among the last of the journalists to have reported the Second Vatican Council.  With his death, a rich and lonely living memory of that epic church event is being silenced, the reforms Kaiser sought still remaining to be fulfilled.

The family announced on Kaiser’s Facebook page a wake and celebration of his life will be held at 6:30 p.m., Thursday April 9 at Santa Lucia Yaqui Church, 5445 E Calle San Angelo, in Guadalupe, AZ 85283. A Mass will be celebrated at 1:30 p.m., Friday April 10 at Francis Xavier Church, 4715 N Central Ave., in Phoenix, AZ 85012.

Fox is NCR publisher and can be reached at tfox@ncronline.org.