History > 2008 > USA > Faith (II)
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI
L: Pope Benedict XVI
Break With Ex-Pastor
Sets Sharp Shift in Tone
The New York Times
By JEFF ZELENY and ADAM NAGOURNEY
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Senator Barack Obama broke forcefully on Tuesday with his
former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., in an effort to curtail a drama
of race, values, patriotism and betrayal that has enveloped his presidential
candidacy at a critical juncture.
At a news conference here, Mr. Obama denounced remarks Mr. Wright made in a
series of televised appearances over the last several days. In the appearances,
Mr. Wright has suggested that the United States was attacked because it engaged
in terrorism on other people and that the government was capable of having used
the AIDS virus to commit genocide against minorities. His remarks also cast
Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, in a positive light.
In tones sharply different from those Mr. Obama used on Monday, when he blamed
the news media and his rivals for focusing on Mr. Wright, and far harsher than
those he used in his speech on race in Philadelphia last month, Mr. Obama tried
to cut all his ties to — and to discredit — Mr. Wright, the man who presided at
Mr. Obama’s wedding and baptized his two daughters.
“His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they
end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not
portray accurately the perspective of the black church,” Mr. Obama said, his
voice welling with anger. “They certainly don’t portray accurately my values and
One week before Democratic primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, contests
that party officials are watching as they try to gauge whether Mr. Obama or
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton would be the stronger nominee, the controversy
surrounding Mr. Wright again erupted into a threat to Mr. Obama’s ability to
show that he could unify the Democratic Party and bring the nominating contest
to a quick and clean end. With Mrs. Clinton having shown particular strength
among working-class white voters in recent big-state primaries, the racial
overtones of Mr. Obama’s links with Mr. Wright have been especially troublesome
for the Obama campaign.
Asked how the controversy would affect voters, Mr. Obama said: “We’ll find out.”
At a minimum, the spectacle of Mr. Wright’s multiday media tour and Mr. Obama’s
rolling response grabbed the attention of the most important constituency in
politics now: the uncommitted superdelegates — party officials and elected
Democrats — who hold the balance of power in the nominating battle.
Eileen Macoll, a Democratic county chairman from Washington State who has not
chosen a candidate, said she was stunned at the extent of national attention the
episode has drawn, and she said she believed it would give superdelegates pause.
“I’m a little surprised at how much traction it is getting, and I do believe it
is beginning to reflect negatively on Senator Obama’s campaign,” Ms. Macoll
said. “I think he’s handling it very well, but I think it’s almost impossible to
make people feel comfortable about this.”
It was the second straight day that Mr. Obama had responded to Mr. Wright, a
former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago whose derisive
comments about the United States government have become a fixture of cable
television. Saying that he had not seen or read Mr. Wright’s remarks when he
responded to them on Monday, Mr. Obama said he was “shocked and surprised” when
he later read the transcripts and watched the broadcasts, and he felt compelled
to respond more forcefully.
“I’m outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle
that we saw yesterday,” Mr. Obama said. He added: “I find these comments
appalling. It contradicts everything that I’m about and who I am.”
The press conference came in what may well be the toughest stretch of Mr.
Obama’s campaign as he grapples with questions about Mr. Wright as well as the
fallout from his defeat last week in Pennsylvania. He set out this week to
reintroduce himself but instead found himself competing for airtime with Mr.
Wright and trying to bat away suggestions that he shared or tolerated Mr.
As he answered question after question here, Mr. Obama appeared downcast and
subdued as he tried to explain why he had decided to categorically denounce his
minister of 20 years. His decision to address reporters not only stretched the
Wright story into another day but also marked at least the third time he has
sought to deal with the issue, including his well-received speech on race last
month in Philadelphia.
“The fact that Reverend Wright would think that somehow it was appropriate to
command the stage for three or four consecutive days in the midst of this major
debate is something that not only makes me angry, but also saddens me,” Mr.
Even amid the wall-to-wall news coverage about Mr. Wright, Mr. Obama won the
support of two more superdelegates, including Representative Ben Chandler of
Kentucky. Meanwhile, Representative Ike Skelton of Missouri and Gov. Michael F.
Easley of North Carolina announced their support for Mrs. Clinton.
The first real evidence of whether the controversy has extracted a political
price could come on Tuesday. Superdelegates suggested that they would watch
closely to see how voters respond in the Indiana and North Carolina primaries
Bob Mulholland, a superdelegate from California, said the difficulties Mr. Obama
had experienced put a premium on results in the remaining contests.
“We’ve got nine elections to go through June 9,” Mr. Mulholland said in an
interview. “I’ve never been involved in a successful presidential race where the
candidate had no trouble in the primary. It’s challenging to him. He is a young
man, and this is the first time he’s run for president. I see this as a learning
Asked how he thought Mr. Obama was doing, Mr. Mulholland paused before
responding. “Getting better,” he finally said.
The appearances by Mr. Wright, which began Friday and concluded Monday, were
anticipated by the Obama campaign, but aides said they were taken aback by the
tenor of the remarks. His first interview, with Bill Moyers on PBS, offered few
hints of what he intended when he arrived at the National Press Club on Monday.
“At a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so
fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of
the National Press Club, then that’s enough,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s a show of
disrespect to me. It’s also, I think, an insult to what we’ve been trying to do
in this campaign.”
Mr. Obama became a Christian after hearing a 1988 sermon of Mr. Wright’s called
“The Audacity to Hope.” Joining Mr. Wright’s church helped Mr. Obama, with his
disparate racial and geographic background, embrace not only the
African-American community but also Africa, his friends and family say.
Mr. Obama had barely known his Kenyan father; Mr. Wright made pilgrimages to
Africa and incorporated its rituals into worship. Mr. Obama toted recordings of
Mr. Wright’s sermons to law school. Mr. Obama titled his speech at the 2004
Democratic National Convention “The Audacity of Hope,” and gave his next book
the same name.
As Mr. Wright’s more incendiary statements began circulating widely, Mr. Obama
routinely condemned them but did not disassociate himself from Mr. Wright. In
his speech in Philadelphia, Mr. Obama tried to explain his pastor through the
bitter history of American race relations.
Five weeks later, the men seem finished with each other.
“Whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence
of this,” Mr. Obama said Tuesday. “I don’t think that he showed much concern for
me. More importantly, I don’t think he showed much concern for what we’re trying
to do in this campaign and what we’re trying to do for the American people.”
Jeff Zeleny reported from Winston-Salem, and Adam Nagourney from Indianapolis.
Jodi Kantor contributed reporting from New York.
Obama’s Break With Ex-Pastor Sets Sharp Shift in Tone,
Wright Says Criticism
Is Attack on Black Church
April 29, 2008
The New York Times
By JOHN HOLUSHA
Attacks on him are really attacks on the black church, the Rev. Jeremiah A.
Wright Jr. said in a speech to the National Press Club in Washington on Monday,
in which he mounted a spirited defense of views and sermons that have become an
issue in the presidential campaign because Senator Barack Obama attended his
church for many years.
Mr. Wright told the press club audience that the black church in America grew
out of the oppression of black people, and that his sermons reflected that
Snippets from his sermons have been used in Republican commercials seeking to
depict Senator Obama as unpatriotic, and the Democratic presidential candidate
has given a carefully calibrated speech seeking to distance himself from Mr.
Wright’s more inflammatory statements.
Speaking Monday, Mr. Wright said that political opponents of Senator Obama were
exploiting the fact that the style of prayer and preaching in black churches was
different from European church traditions — “Different, but not deficient,” he
Historically, he said, when black people were prohibited from meeting in groups,
they did so anyway “out of the eyesight and earshot of those who defined them as
less than human.”
The result was that black churches, which have existed in America since the
1600s, were “invisible to the dominant culture.” Because of slavery and racial
discrimination, he said, black churches focused on the themes of liberation and
“The black church’s role in the fight for equality and justice from the 1700s to
2008 has always had as its core the non-negotiable doctrine of reconciliation,
children of God repenting for past sins against each other,” he said.
As a result of this background and the unfamiliarity of many white people with
black preaching, he said, some might find his sermons unsettling. He also noted
that the widely circulated clips of his remarks were only short snippets lifted
out of the context of much longer, closely reasoned arguments.
“We root out any teaching of superiority, inferiority, hatred or prejudice,” he
said. “And we recognize that for the first time in modern history, in the West,
that the other who stands before us with a different color of skin, a different
texture of hair, different music, different preaching styles and different dance
moves; that other is one of God’s children just as we are, no better, no worse,
prone to error and in need of forgiveness just as we are.”
Asked about remarks that some critics have called unpatriotic, Rev. Wright noted
that men and women from his Chicago congregation had fought in all the country’s
recent wars, “while those who call me unpatriotic have used their positions of
privilege to avoid military service.”
Wright Says Criticism Is
Attack on Black Church, NYT, 29.4.2008,
Battle in Brooklyn | A Principal’s Rise and Fall
Critics Cost Muslim Educator
Her Dream School
April 28, 2008
The New York Times
By ANDREA ELLIOTT
Debbie Almontaser dreamed of starting a public school like no other in New
York City. Children of Arab descent would join students of other ethnicities,
learning Arabic together. By graduation, they would be fluent in the language
and groomed for the country’s elite colleges. They would be ready, in Ms.
Almontaser’s words, to become “ambassadors of peace and hope.”
Things have not gone according to plan. Only one-fifth of the 60 students at the
Khalil Gibran International Academy are Arab-American. Since the school opened
in Brooklyn last fall, children have been suspended for carrying weapons,
repeatedly gotten into fights and taunted an Arabic teacher by calling her a
“terrorist,” staff members and students said in interviews.
The academy’s troubles reach well beyond its cramped corridors in Boerum Hill.
The school’s creation provoked a controversy so incendiary that Ms. Almontaser
stepped down as the founding principal just weeks before classes began last
September. Ms. Almontaser, a teacher by training and an activist who had
carefully built ties with Christians and Jews, said she was forced to resign by
the mayor’s office following a campaign that pitted her against a chorus of
critics who claimed she had a militant Islamic agenda.
In newspaper articles and Internet postings, on television and talk radio, Ms.
Almontaser was branded a “radical,” a “jihadist” and a “9/11 denier.” She stood
accused of harboring unpatriotic leanings and of secretly planning to
proselytize her students. Despite Ms. Almontaser’s longstanding reputation as a
Muslim moderate, her critics quickly succeeded in recasting her image.
The conflict tapped into a well of post-9/11 anxieties. But Ms. Almontaser’s
downfall was not merely the result of a spontaneous outcry by concerned parents
and neighborhood activists. It was also the work of a growing and organized
movement to stop Muslim citizens who are seeking an expanded role in American
public life. The fight against the school, participants in the effort say, was
only an early skirmish in a broader, national struggle.
“It’s a battle that’s really just begun,” said Daniel Pipes, who directs a
conservative research group, the Middle East Forum, and helped lead the charge
against Ms. Almontaser and the school.
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, critics of radical Islam focused largely on
terrorism, scrutinizing Muslim-American charities or asserting links between
Muslim organizations and violent groups like Hamas. But as the authorities have
stepped up the war on terror, those critics have shifted their gaze to a new
frontier, what they describe as law-abiding Muslim-Americans who are imposing
their religious values in the public domain.
Mr. Pipes and others reel off a list of examples: Muslim cabdrivers in
Minneapolis who have refused to take passengers carrying liquor; municipal pools
and a gym at Harvard that have adopted female-only hours to accommodate Muslim
women; candidates for office who are suspected of supporting political Islam;
and banks that are offering financial products compliant with sharia, the
Islamic code of law.
The danger, Mr. Pipes says, is that the United States stands to become another
England or France, a place where Muslims are balkanized and ultimately threaten
to impose sharia.
“It is hard to see how violence, how terrorism will lead to the implementation
of sharia,” Mr. Pipes said. “It is much easier to see how, working through the
system — the school system, the media, the religious organizations, the
government, businesses and the like — you can promote radical Islam.”
Mr. Pipes refers to this new enemy as the “lawful Islamists.”
They are carrying out a “soft jihad,” said Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a trustee of the
City University of New York and a vocal opponent of the Khalil Gibran school.
Muslim leaders, academics and others see the drive against the school as the
latest in a series of discriminatory attacks intended to distort the truth and
play on Americans’ fear of terrorism. They say the campaign is also part of a
wider effort to silence critics of Washington’s policy on Israel and the Middle
“This is a political, ideological agenda,” said John Esposito, a professor of
international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University who has been
a focus of Mr. Pipes’s scrutiny. “It’s an agenda to paint Islam, not just
extremists, as a major problem.”
That portrait, Muslim and Arab advocates contend, is rife with a bias that would
never be tolerated were it directed at other ethnic or religious groups. And if
Ms. Almontaser’s story is any indication, they say, the message of her critics
wields great power.
Ms. Almontaser watched city officials and some of her closest Jewish allies
distance themselves from her as the controversy reached its peak. She was
ultimately felled by an article in The New York Post that said she had
“downplayed the significance” of T-shirts bearing the slogan “Intifada NYC.”
Last month, federal judges issued a ruling — related to a lawsuit brought by Ms.
Almontaser to regain her job — stating that her words were “inaccurately
reported by The Post and then misconstrued by the press.”
While city officials and the Education Department declined to comment about Ms.
Almontaser because of the lawsuit, a lawyer for the city said she had not been
forced to resign.
In her first interview since stepping down, Ms. Almontaser said that education
officials had pressured her to speak to The Post and had monitored the
conversation. After the article was published, she said, the department issued a
written apology in her name, without her approval.
“I kept saying I wanted to set the record straight,” said Ms. Almontaser, 40.
“And they kept telling me, ‘You can’t undo what was done.’ ”A Call to Lead
In April 2005, Debbie Almontaser got a telephone call that would change her
life. The man on the line, Adam Rubin, worked for a nonprofit organization, New
Visions for Public Schools. He was exploring whether to help the city create a
public school that would teach Arabic. The group already had seed money — a
$400,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — but needed the right
person to help lead the venture.
Everywhere Mr. Rubin went — from the mayor’s office to a falafel stand in
Brooklyn — people mentioned Ms. Almontaser. She was a teacher, a native Arabic
speaker and arguably the city’s most visible Arab-American woman.
After 9/11, Education Department officials had enlisted Ms. Almontaser to hold
workshops on cultural sensitivity for schoolchildren. She spread the message
that Islam was a peaceful religion. She told of how her own son had served as a
National Guardsman in the clearing effort at ground zero. She was soon attending
interfaith seminars, befriending rabbis and priests. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
honored her publicly. She became a ready commentator for the media, prompting
some Muslims to joke that she was the city’s “talking hijabi.”
In fact, it had taken a long time for Ms. Almontaser to embrace the hijab, or
head scarf. Born in Yemen, she was 3 when she moved with her family to Buffalo.
Her parents encouraged her to blend in. She called herself Debbie rather than
Dhabah, her given name. She began wearing a veil in her 20s, as a Brooklyn
mother whose life revolved around PTA meetings and Boy Scout trips. She took to
riding on the back of her husband’s motorcycle, her head scarf tucked beneath a
black helmet. She got used to the stares and learned to be unapologetic.
In the months following the Sept. 11 attacks, she offered other Muslim women the
lessons she had learned: “The only way to claim this as your country is to
continue on with your life here,” she recalled telling them.
For years, Ms. Almontaser had hoped to become a principal. But soon after
joining hands with New Visions, she faced her first challenge. To administer the
Gates grant, the school needed a community partner. Two groups wanted the job: a
secular Arab-American social services agency and a Muslim-led organization that
runs Al-Noor School, a private Islamic establishment in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Ms. Almontaser said she tried to remain neutral as discord erupted between the
two groups. Quietly, though, she worried that if an organization linked to a
private Islamic school took the lead, the city would never approve the project,
despite the group’s pledge to keep religion out of the curriculum.
Ultimately, a steering committee led by Ms. Almontaser voted in favor of the
social services agency. Leaders of the Muslim group walked away feeling
disrespected and distrustful of her, several of the group’s members said in
interviews. It was a rupture that would come back to haunt Ms. Almontaser.
As preparations moved forward, a design team assembled by Ms. Almontaser named
the school after the Lebanese Christian poet and pacifist Khalil Gibran. A
Palestinian immigrant had suggested the name, hoping it would deflect any
concerns that the school carried a Muslim orientation.
In February 2007, the Department of Education announced that the school had been
approved. It would eventually encompass grades 6 through 12, teach half of its
classes in Arabic and be among 67 schools in the city that offer programs in
both English and another language, like Russian, Spanish and Chinese. Ms.
Almontaser designed a recruitment brochure to attract the school’s first class
of sixth graders.
The leaflet cited the words of Mr. Gibran: “In understanding, all walls shall
Irene Alter, a peppy, retired Queens schoolteacher, was sitting at her computer
one morning that February when she read an article in The New York Times about
the Khalil Gibran school, she said. A series of questions flooded her head.
Which courses would be taught in Arabic? How would Israel be treated in the
study of Middle Eastern history? Then in April, she read an op-ed article by Mr.
Pipes in The New York Sun.
Conceptually, such a school could be “marvelous,” Mr. Pipes wrote, but in
practice, it was certain to be problematic. “Arabic-language instruction is
inevitably laden with Pan-Arabist and Islamist baggage,” he wrote, referring to
the school as a madrassa, which means school in Arabic but, in the West, carries
the implication of Islamic teaching.
Given how little Mr. Pipes knew about the school at the time, the word was “a
bit of a stretch,” he said in a recent interview. He defended its use as a way
to “get attention” for the cause. It got the attention of Ms. Alter, 60, who
contacted Mr. Pipes and, with his encouragement, helped form a grass-roots
organization in response to the school project. Mr. Pipes joined the advisory
board of the group, which called itself the Stop the Madrassa Coalition.
Mr. Pipes, 58, has emerged as a divisive figure in the post-9/11 era. An author
of 12 books who has a doctorate in history from Harvard, he has made a career
out of studying and critiquing Islam. His research group, which he established
in downtown Philadelphia in the early 1990s, “seeks to define and promote
American interests in the Middle East,” according to its Web site.
Among his supporters, Mr. Pipes enjoys a heroic status; among his detractors, he
is reviled. Those sharply divergent views reflect the passions that infuse
Middle Eastern politics, arguably nowhere in the United States more than in New
Mr. Pipes is perhaps best known for Campus Watch, a national initiative he
created to scrutinize Middle Eastern programs at colleges and universities. The
drive has accused professors of, among other things, being soft on militant
Islam and sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. It has stirred widespread
controversy and, in some cases, may have undermined professors’ bids for tenure.
Mr. Pipes was joined in the monitoring effort by other self-declared watchdogs
of militant Islam. Their Web sites are often linked to one another and their
messages interwoven. One critic, David Horowitz, founded Islamo-Fascism
Awareness Week, a campaign aimed at college campuses. He noted in an interview
that monitors of radical Islam have increasingly trained their sights on
“They don’t throw bombs, but they create political cover for ideological support
of this jihadi movement,” he said.
Mr. Pipes places Muslims in three categories, he said: those who are violent,
those who are moderate and those in the middle. It is this middle group, he
argued, that now poses the greatest threat to American values.
“Are these people who are not using violence but who are not fully enthusiastic
about this country and its mores, its culture — are they on our side or are they
on the other side?” he asked.
Ms. Almontaser never considered herself unenthusiastic about America, she said.
But as the conflict over the Khalil Gibran school intensified, she came to be
seen by many through Mr. Pipes’s lens. In his article in The Sun, he referred to
Ms. Almontaser by her birth name, Dhabah, and called her views “extremist.” He
cited an article in which she was quoted as saying about 9/11, “I don’t
recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims.” (As
The Jewish Week later reported, Mr. Pipes left out the second half of the quote:
“Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and have stolen my
The Stop the Madrassa Coalition focused primarily on Ms. Almontaser as a
strategy, said Mr. Pipes, because the group could get little information about
the school itself. The coalition quickly publicized several discoveries. Ms.
Almontaser had accepted an award from the Council on American-Islamic Relations,
a national Muslim organization that critics claim has ties to terrorist groups
(an assertion the group adamantly denies). In news articles, Ms. Almontaser had
been critical of American foreign policy and police tactics in fighting
terrorism. She also gave $2,000 to Representative Cynthia A. McKinney of
Georgia, whom Mr. Pipes and others have characterized as an Islamist
sympathizer. (Ms. McKinney, who is no longer in office and did not respond to
requests for an interview, has had a strong following among Arab-Americans in
part because of her criticism of the Patriot Act.)
Critics of the Madrassa Coalition say its tactics are typical of campaigns
singling out Muslims: They lean heavily on guilt by association. The nuances of
the claims against Ms. Almontaser were lost as the controversy lit up the
blogosphere, said Chip Berlet, a senior analyst at Political Research
Associates, a liberal organization outside Boston that studies the political
right. One Web site, MilitantIslamMonitor.org, displayed photographs of Ms.
Almontaser wearing her hijab in different styles, suggesting that she had
undergone a public relations makeover to “disguise” her “Islamist agenda.” The
criticism of Ms. Almontaser and the school spread to newspapers, eliciting
negative editorials in The Daily News and The New York Sun.
Ms. Almontaser was stunned, she said: Her school would touch upon religion only
in its global studies class, following the same curriculum as all New York
public schools. She tried to keep her head down, she said, and set out to
recruit students, half of whom she hoped would be Arab. But opposition to the
school mounted after critics learned that its advisory council included three
imams (along with rabbis and priests), that there would be an internship for
students with a Muslim lawyers’ association and that the proposal for the school
suggested it might offer halal food. (The advisory council never met and has
since been dismantled, and the school does not offer halal food, Education
Department officials said.)
As the attacks continued, Joel Levy of the New York chapter of the
Anti-Defamation League published a letter defending Ms. Almontaser in The Sun.
Mr. Levy made reference to the possibility that his organization would provide
anti-bias training to Ms. Almontaser’s staff.
The letter caused a stir among some Arab-Americans, who were bothered by Ms.
Almontaser’s ties to Jewish groups. In late June, Aramica, an Arabic and English
newspaper based in Brooklyn, ran a cover story with the headline “Zionist
Organization Supports Gibran School Principal,” focusing on the link between Ms.
Almontaser’s school and the Anti-Defamation League.
In just five months, Ms. Almontaser’s image had been transformed. She was
rendered a radical Muslim by one group and a sellout by another.
T-Shirts, and a Resignation
At first, some city officials rallied to Ms. Almontaser’s side. Among them was
David Cantor, the chief spokesman for the Department of Education, who wrote in
an e-mail message to the editor of The New York Sun, Seth Lipsky: “I won’t allow
Dan Pipes a free pass to smear Debbie Almontaser as an Islamist proselytizer who
denies Muslim involvement in 9/11. It is a false picture and an ugly effort.”
But behind closed doors, department officials were nervous, Ms. Almontaser
recalled. With her help, she said, they drafted a confidential memo of talking
points to review with reporters: the school was “nonreligious,” for example, and
Ms. Almontaser was a “multicultural specialist and diversity consultant.”
The Stop the Madrassa Coalition pressed its campaign. In July, one of its
members, Pamela Hall, made a discovery that would elevate the controversy. At an
Arab-American festival in Brooklyn, she spotted T-shirts on a table bearing the
words “Intifada NYC.” The organization distributing them, Arab Women Active in
the Arts and Media, trains young women in community organizing and media
production. The group sometimes uses the office of a Yemeni-American association
in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Ms. Almontaser sits on the association’s board.
Ms. Hall took a photograph, and a few weeks later, the coalition announced on
its blog that Ms. Almontaser was linked to the T-shirts.
On Aug. 3, Ms. Almontaser received a call from Melody Meyer, a spokeswoman for
the Education Department. “What does ‘Intifada NYC’ mean?” Ms. Almontaser
recalled Ms. Meyer asking.
Ms. Almontaser was stumped, she said. She knew of the group. But she had never
heard about the T-shirts, she said she told Ms. Meyer, adding that “intifada”
meant “uprising” and was linked to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Most reporters lost interest in the T-shirts after Ms. Meyer explained that
neither Ms. Almontaser nor the school was linked to them, but The Post
persisted. Ms. Almontaser said Ms. Meyer and Mr. Cantor pressured her to respond
to the newspaper in an interview.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute,’ ” recalled Ms. Almontaser, who was critical of The
Post’s coverage of Arabs and Muslims. “ ‘I am not comfortable doing the
Ms. Meyer promised to monitor the conversation, Ms. Almontaser said, and Mr.
Cantor instructed her not to be “apologetic” about the T-shirts. While both Ms.
Meyer and Mr. Cantor said they could not comment on the case, a city lawyer said
that Ms. Almontaser was told to avoid discussing the T-shirts and intifada
altogether, and was never pressured to speak to The Post.
During the Post interview, Ms. Almontaser said, she told the reporter, Chuck
Bennett, that the Arab women’s organization was not connected to her or the
school, and that she would never be affiliated with any group that condoned
violence. Then Mr. Bennett asked her for the origins of the word intifada, she
“The educator in me responded,” Ms. Almontaser said. She explained, with Ms.
Meyer listening in on the three-way phone call, that the root of the word means
“shaking off.” Ms. Almontaser then offered what she described as a lengthy
explanation about the evolution of the word and the “negative connotation” it
had developed because of the Arab-Israeli struggle.
“The thought went across my mind to be extremely careful with my words — not to
offend the Jewish community and not to offend the Arab-American community,” she
said. “I was feeling pressure from all sides.”
Although Ms. Almontaser said she never spoke to the reporter about the T-shirts,
she defended the girls in the organization because she believed that the
reporter was set on “vilifying innocent teenagers.”
After the reporter hung up, Ms. Almontaser recalled, Ms. Meyer told her, “Good
The next day, The Post ran the article under the headline “City Principal Is
‘Revolting’ — Tied to ‘Intifada NYC’ Shirts.” The article quoted Ms. Almontaser
as saying that the girls in the organization were “shaking off oppression,”
words that The Post, according to a ruling by federal appellate judges,
attributed to Ms. Almontaser “incorrectly and misleadingly.”
Complaints about Ms. Almontaser began pouring into the Education Department, and
Mr. Cantor informed her that an apology would be issued in her name. Ms.
Almontaser objected, she said, and asked that the department clarify her
comments to The Post, which she said were distorted, rather than apologize.
Mr. Cantor insisted on an apology, she said, and e-mailed her the proposed
wording. The first sentence was not negotiable, she recalled him telling her.
The apology began: “The use of the word intifada is completely inappropriate as
a T-shirt slogan for teenagers. I regret suggesting otherwise.” Ms. Almontaser
responded in an e-mail message that Mr. Cantor should change the latter sentence
to “I regret my response was interpreted as suggesting otherwise.”
The press office issued the original apology. Pressure soon mounted for Ms.
Almontaser to resign. Randi Weingarten, the head of the teachers’ union,
published a letter in The Post criticizing Ms. Almontaser for not denouncing
“ideas tied to violence.” On Aug. 9, Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott asked Ms.
Almontaser to step down, she said. “The mayor wants your resignation by 8 a.m.
tomorrow so he can announce it on his radio show,” Ms. Almontaser recalled Mr.
She said he promised her that in exchange for her resignation, the school would
still open, and she would remain employed. She resigned the next day, taking an
administrative job at the Education Department. She kept her principal’s salary
On his radio program, Mayor Bloomberg announced that Ms. Almontaser had
“submitted her resignation,” which “was nice of her to do.”
“She’s certainly not a terrorist,” he said, adding that she was not “all that
media savvy maybe.”
Three days later, Ms. Almontaser was replaced by an interim principal, Danielle
Salzberg, who is Jewish and speaks no Arabic.
Chaos in a New School
On Sept. 4, the Khalil Gibran International Academy opened its doors at 345 Dean
Street as parents ushered their children past a throng of reporters,
photographers and television crews.
Chaos soon erupted inside. Students cut classes and got into fights with little
consequence, said staff members, parents and students. At least 12 of the 60
students showed signs of behavioral problems or learning disabilities, said
Leslie Kahn, a licensed social worker and counselor who was employed at the
school until January. (Education Department officials, who denied repeated
requests by The Times to visit the school, said there are currently six
special-needs students there.)
“Something is flying through the air, every class, every day,” Sean R. Grogan, a
science teacher at the school, said in an interview. “Kids bang on the
partitions, yell and scream, curse and swear. It’s out of control.”
Physical altercations are frequent, Mr. Grogan and others said, with Arab
students and teachers the target of ethnic slurs. “I just don’t feel safe,” said
an Arab-American student, 11, who will not return to the school next year.
In the first days after Ms. Almontaser resigned, she felt numb, she said. Her
support among Arab-Muslims remained uneven. Had she not alienated some who
wanted more of a role in the school’s creation, “the whole community would have
stood behind her,” said Wael Mousfar, president of the Arab Muslim American
Federation. “A lot of our kids would be part of that school.”
Ms. Almontaser soon found herself flanked by a new group of supporters,
including Jewish and Muslim activists, who began lobbying for her to be
reinstated as the school’s principal. On Oct. 16, Ms. Almontaser announced that
she was suing the Education Department and the mayor. She claimed that her First
Amendment rights had been violated because she was forced to resign after she
was quoted as saying something controversial.
She requested that the city be prevented from hiring a permanent principal until
her case was resolved. A judge rejected the request, and Ms. Almontaser
appealed. In March, a federal appeals court upheld the ruling, but the judges
were sharply critical of the city’s handling of Ms. Almontaser’s case.
“This was a situation where she was subject to sanction not for anything she
said, not for anything she did, but because a newspaper reporter twisted what
she said and the result of it was negative press for the city and the Board of
Ed,” Judge Jon O. Newman told a city lawyer at a hearing in February.
Ms. Almontaser’s case will proceed in the Federal District Court in Manhattan.
The Stop the Madrassa Coalition continues to protest the school. The group sued
the Department of Education in October, requesting detailed information about
the school’s creation, faculty and curriculum. While the department has handed
over thousands of records, the coalition’s lawyer said the documents leave many
questions unanswered, including which textbooks the school is using to teach
Arabic. A department spokeswoman said that a list of textbooks selected for the
school was sent to the lawyer last fall.
The coalition has also broadened the reach of its campaign. Some members have
joined with the Center for Policy Research in American Education, a new
organization that will research the influence of radical Islam on public schools
around the country.
In recent weeks, conditions at the Khalil Gibran school have improved, said
several students and staff members. Holly Anne Reichert, who was appointed as
the permanent principal in January, said in an interview that she had reduced
some of the disruptive behavior by minimizing class sizes. She added that the
media attention had led to a “chaotic experience” for students. “Adults have
created this, and children are the ones who have had to endure,” she said.
The school will move to a larger space in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, by next fall.
Ms. Almontaser still attends interfaith dinners and awards ceremonies. During
the day, she works for the city’s Office of School and Youth Development. Part
of her job entails evaluating other schools.
In an odd twist of fate, she was sent to the Bronx last fall to review a small,
innovative school that had opened the same month as Khalil Gibran. It also
taught a foreign language: Spanish. The students seemed to be thriving. As Ms.
Almontaser walked the hallways, she was shaken, she said.
“It wasn’t that I was envious that her dream materialized,” said Ms. Almontaser,
referring to the principal. “It was seeing her sixth graders, her teachers, and
seeing that she did it. And I didn’t get a chance.”
Critics Cost Muslim
Educator Her Dream School, NYT, 28.4.2008,
Egan May Be Leaving
the Archdiocese Soon,
Now That a Historic
Visit Has Ended
April 21, 2008
The New York Times
By ANDY NEWMAN
For Cardinal Edward M. Egan, the visit of Pope Benedict XVI was one of the
highlights of his eight-year tenure as leader of the Archdiocese of New York. On
Sunday, he escorted Benedict to ground zero and helped him celebrate Mass at
Yankee Stadium before seeing him off at Kennedy Airport.
On Saturday, the cardinal prayed in St. Patrick’s Cathedral with the pope and
then rode with him in the Popemobile through the streets of his archdiocese,
which recently completed the celebration of its bicentennial.
Serving as host to Benedict was quite likely his swan song.
Cardinal Egan, head of the Archdiocese of New York — and its 2.5 million
Catholics in three boroughs and seven counties — was required by church law to
submit his resignation as archbishop to the pope when he turned 75 last year.
When the resignation takes effect is up to the pope, and Benedict’s predecessor,
John Paul II, often let bishops and archbishops serve well past retirement age.
But Benedict has been more prompt about replacing bishops, and the consensus
among Catholic experts is that the next major event in Cardinal Egan’s
ecclesiastic life will be the acceptance of his resignation and the anointing of
“I would expect that we might hear something before August about his
replacement,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, former editor of the New York-based
Catholic journal America.
The Rev. Joseph A. O’Hare, former president of Fordham University, said, “My own
expectation is that a year from now we will have a new archbishop of New York.”
Joseph Zwilling, Cardinal Egan’s spokesman, would not comment on Sunday on
whether the cardinal desired retirement. “He wants to do whatever the Holy
Father wants him to do,” Mr. Zwilling said. “If he’s asked to stay on, he’s
delighted to stay on. If he’s asked to leave, he will leave.”
Candidates mentioned as possible replacements include Archbishop Timothy M.
Dolan of Milwaukee; Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, who was an
auxiliary bishop in New York under Cardinal Egan’s predecessor, John J.
O’Connor; and Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of Puerto Rico.
As for Cardinal Egan’s plans, they have been the subject of considerable
speculation. Mr. Zwilling said in an interview last year that the cardinal
“expects he will stay somewhere in New York,” adding, “he will be the first to
admit that he’s a city boy.”
Mr. Zwilling said on Sunday that “Cardinal Egan has expressed his desire to
remain in New York, whatever happens next.”
But Cardinal Egan is also known to have enjoyed his lengthy tenure in the
Vatican, where he studied and worked for 22 years and served as an
ecclesiastical judge and a canon law professor.
“I would say that it is unlikely that he would keep New York as a base of
operations,” said Christopher M. Bellitto, a church historian at Kean University
in New Jersey. “If he goes back to Rome, he could continue to serve on panels
until he is 80 — he’s still a member of the College of Cardinals. And, of
course, that would make life easier for his successor. If you’re a new pastor of
the parish, you don’t want the old pastor sitting around.”
Father O’Hare, however, said he had been told that the archdiocese was preparing
possible retirement residences for the cardinal in the area, something the
archdiocese’s spokesman would not confirm. “It’s pointless to speculate on
something that might not occur for several years,” Mr. Zwilling said.
The future of the leader of one of the most important dioceses in the United
States surely came up during Benedict’s visit. “The pope is listening to
everything that’s going on, said and unsaid,” Professor Bellitto said. “The
topic is floating underneath all of the conversations, sotto voce.”
When he does leave office, Cardinal Egan will leave behind an archdiocese
transformed in many ways. Cardinal Egan has made it the cornerstone of his
tenure to put the archdiocese on sounder financial footing. To do this, he has
closed or will close 15 schools and 21 parishes, earning deep antipathy from
some parishioners. The cardinal’s public-relations difficulties have not been
helped by a personal style that many have found chilly and imperious, especially
compared to that of his gregarious predecessor, Cardinal O’Connor.
Cardinal Egan has also had to deal with the effects of the sex-abuse scandals,
and the decline in candidates for the priesthood, which he has been unable to
stem. The archdiocese’s seminary, St. Joseph’s in Yonkers, where Cardinal Egan
appeared by Pope Benedict’s side on Saturday, expects to ordain just six men in
All of which, Father Reese said, makes a compelling case for leaving office on a
“Every retired bishop I’ve ever talked to said he wished he’d retired earlier,
that he didn’t realize how much fun he was going to have as a retired bishop,”
Father Reese said. “They get all the respect and the fun of being a bishop
without the responsibilities.”
Egan May Be Leaving the Archdiocese Soon, Now
That a Historic Visit Has Ended, NYT, 21.4.2008,
Cat Lovers Appreciate Soul Mate in Vatican
April 21, 2008
The New York Times
By ANDY NEWMAN
Their names are Shadow, Butch, Misty, Rusty, Sparky, Sunshine, Esther, Marty
and Spunky. They are cats, some former strays, some tiger-striped. But to Jan
Fredericks of Wayne, N.J., they are family, they are God’s creatures and
deserving of compassion.
And in Pope Benedict XVI, Ms. Fredericks, the chairwoman of the fledgling
American branch of Catholic Concern for Animals, believes that she has found a
kindred spirit: Along with an enormous entourage and a message of peace, the
Pope brought with him to the United States a lifelong love of cats.
Benedict’s kindness toward the strays of Rome is already the stuff of Vatican
legend. His house in Germany, its garden guarded by a cat statue, was filled
with cats when Benedict lived there full time before he was posted to the
Vatican in 1982.
And Benedict is, without a doubt, the first pope to have had an authorized
biography of him written by a cat — Chico, a ginger tabby who lives across the
road from Benedict’s old house in Germany.
“I think it shows a sensitive side, and I believe it shows that God lives in a
person,” Ms. Fredericks said Friday. “I think all leaders should have compassion
When the pope arrived at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, Ms. Fredericks and some
members of the group were there, handing out about 300 copies of a pamphlet
called “Are We Good Stewards of God’s Creation?” (Also represented outside the
stadium was People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which wants Benedict to
follow up on some scathing criticisms of factory farming he made when he was
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.)
The pope’s fondness for felines has been often remarked upon since his elevation
in 2005. One prominent Catholic blogger based in California, who writes under
the pen name Gerald Augustinus, claims to have a 2-year-old Siamese named
Benedictus, or Benny for short.
And the recently published “Joseph and Chico: The Life of Pope Benedict XVI as
Told by a Cat” (Ignatius Press, 2008) is a children’s book written by Chico with
the “aid” of an Italian journalist, Jeanne Perego.
The book, which has been translated into 10 languages and has sold 12,000 copies
in the United States, tells of young Joseph Ratzinger’s childhood love for all
furry animals and of the adult cardinal’s deep bond with the narrator, who lives
in the Bavarian village of Pentling.
“When I’d see that the shades were up next door, I knew he was home,” Chico
writes. “Then I’d race over and rub up against his legs. What wonderful times
we’ve spent together!”
Chico’s owner, Rupert Hofbauer, confirmed the substance of the book and said
that Chico, now 10, misses his old friend, who has not been back to visit since
“Sometimes Chico goes over there on his own,” Mr. Hofbauer said in a telephone
interview on Friday, “and he sits on the door sill or walks through the garden.”
Ms. Perego said by phone Friday that the pope’s brother, who lives near
Pentling, continues to hang the current year’s cat calendar on the wall of the
pope’s house and turn its pages every month in a sort of homage to his absent
Though Benedict is the first pope to be written about by a cat, he falls
squarely within a long Vatican tradition. According to “The Papacy: An
Encyclopedia,” by Philippe Levillain, Pope Paul II, in the 15th century, had his
cats treated by his personal physician. Leo XII, in the 1820s, raised his
grayish-red cat, Micetto, in the pleat of his cassock. And according to The
Times of London, Paul VI, pope from 1963 to 1978, is said to have once dressed
his cat in cardinal’s robes.
When Cardinal Ratzinger was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, the German newspaper Bild wrote, he tended to the cats that frequented
the garden of the congregation’s building in the Vatican and bandaged their
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told an Italian newspaper in 2005 that the cats
sometimes walked him to his office.
“One time the Swiss Guards had to intervene,” Cardinal Bertone joked. “ ‘Look,
your eminence, the cats are laying siege to the Holy See.’ ”
Italian media reported that when the pope moved into his papal quarters, he
could not bring two beloved cats — notwithstanding the protests of Rome’s animal
rights commissioner, who urged the Vatican to “give the two papal cats access to
the Apostolic Palace.”
Ms. Fredericks said she thought that the pope would benefit from continued
contact with animals. “I think every church should have a cat colony,” she said.
“But I don’t think that will happen.”
Victor Homola contributed reporting from Berlin.
Cat Lovers Appreciate
Soul Mate in Vatican, NYT, 21.4.2008,
Pope Ends Visit With Yankee Stadium Mass
April 21, 2008
The New York Times
By PAUL VITELLO
Before a crowd of nearly 60,000 people at Yankee Stadium, Pope Benedict XVI
on Sunday ended his first visit to the United States as leader of the Roman
Catholic Church with a reminder to the faithful that “obedience” to the
authority of the church, even in a country that prizes individual freedom, is
the foundation of their religious faith.
During a six-day visit to Washington and New York, the pope addressed world
issues, visited a synagogue and voiced deep shame over the child sexual abuse
scandal that has damaged the church’s standing in many American dioceses.
At a morning ceremony at ground zero, the pope blessed the World Trade Center
site, where more than 2,700 people were killed in the terrorist attack, and
prayed for peace.
But at Yankee Stadium on a cool, brilliant Sunday afternoon, with an adoring
audience of people waving yellow cloths, one of the colors of the Vatican,
Benedict acted chiefly as pastor to America’s 65 million Catholics, laying out
in simple terms their obligations to a church that represents what he has called
the “one church” established on earth by God.
“Authority. Obedience. To be frank, these are not easy words to speak nowadays,”
the pope said in his homily during the Mass, held on an acre-size platform built
over the Yankees infield, “especially in a society which rightly places a high
value on personal freedom.”
Three years after the death of Pope John Paul II, his popular and charismatic
predecessor, the reserved and theologically erudite Pope Benedict XVI gently but
unequivocally delineated the source of authority that has since devolved to him,
and that he said was integral to the church itself.
Referring to himself, he said, “The presence around this altar of the successor
of Peter, his brother bishops and priests, and deacons, men and women religious,
and lay faithful from throughout the 50 states of the union, eloquently
manifests our communion in the Catholic faith, which comes to us from the
In the Gospels, the Apostle Peter was chosen by Jesus to lead the church, and
each pope is said to be the successor of Peter.
In a glancing reference to the sexual abuse of children by priests, he said that
praying for the kingdom of God “means not losing heart in the face of adversity,
resistance and scandal. It means overcoming every separation between faith and
life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness.”
In his writings before and since becoming pope, Benedict has stressed the
importance of a strict adherence to orthodoxy, and opposition to a wide array of
modern cultural trends, including feminism, gay rights, and demands — especially
among American Catholics — for greater democracy and administrative transparency
within the church.
The Mass at Yankee Stadium was the largest public event of the pope’s tour, and
it was held on the same day as the most intimate meeting of his visit.
In his stop at ground zero on Sunday morning, the pope spoke briefly with a
small group of survivors and families of the victims of the Sept. 11 attack.
Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York stood beside him and read each one’s name
and gave the pope a brief description of the family member lost by the person.
Some took the pope’s hand, and many knelt and kissed his ring, the traditional
protocol for Roman Catholics.
For those not invited to meet personally with Benedict or able to get one of the
scarce event tickets, there were the untold number of TVs tuned in to the
various events of the week.
There were six wide screens at Billy’s Sports Bar on River Avenue in the Bronx,
where Mike Gonzale, 29, of Woodside, Queens, sat watching as the pope said Mass
on Sunday at the stadium across the street.
“You feel an energy; you feel a peace,” Mr. Gonzale said, speaking softly, like
a golf commentator, as he watched the television. “I think most people feel a
calm relief from the complicated world we’re living in.”
Inside the packed stadium, the energy was palpable, the stands a solid wall of
blurring yellow cloths and cheering.
After the Mass, waves of excitement followed the path of the pope as he first
walked, and then rode in his Popemobile, around the outside track of the field.
Surrounded by black-suited Secret Service men as he walked, the 81-year-old
pontiff moved somewhat haltingly, the papal scepter in his left hand. He waved
gingerly with his right hand. The crowd roared with all the sustained excitement
of spectators at a pennant-clinching game.
The next and final stop for the pope was Kennedy Airport, where Vice President
Dick Cheney led a ceremony before the pontiff’s return trip to Rome.
Many of the people interviewed after Sunday’s Mass said they were deeply moved
to be in the presence of Christ’s vicar on earth, as the pope is known to
believers. His role as a spiritual father figure can seem to be almost personal
for some Catholics.
“The most amazing part was when he came in the Popemobile,” said Sylvia Rios,
45, who attended the Mass with her former husband, Jesus Matthews, 46. “I know
he wasn’t waving at me, but we had good seats, and when I looked at him, he
looked like he was waving specifically at me.”
But more, people at the Mass said it was thrilling to be in a state of religious
communion with so many others — and while in the presence of the pope, who
represents the founding of the church 2,000 years ago.
Christa Rivers-Caceres, 37, who drove from Bushkill, Pa., with her husband,
Enrique, 32, said being at Yankee Stadium made her feel like part of the family
of Catholics, who number more than one billion worldwide. “You were proud to be
Catholic,” she said. “It helped reaffirm our faith.”
Efrem Menghs, a phone company salesman from Columbus, Ohio, said the experience
had made him a better person. “I will look back and say I’m glad I came to this
event,” he said. “I did something for God.”
Ian Fisher, Colin Moynihan and Bernard Vaughan contributed reporting.
Pope Ends Visit With
Yankee Stadium Mass, NYT, 21.4.2008,
In the Pit, With the Pope and Memories of a Brother
April 21, 2008
The New York Times
By MANNY FERNANDEZ and IAN FISHER
They found the remains of Firefighter Jimmy Riches in the rubble of the World
Trade Center on March 25, 2002. A brother, Tom Riches, then just 17, walked down
into the pit, and he and his father and his other two brothers carried Jimmy out
on a stretcher.
On Sunday morning, six years later, Tom Riches walked once again into the hole.
There, about 10 yards from where they found Jimmy that day, he met Pope Benedict
XVI. The pope visited the site on the last day of his six-day visit to the
United States, to bless the ground that Tom Riches had long considered sacred.
Tom Riches said it was always hard going back to ground zero. Sunday morning was
no different. “I was a little emotional at first, and then when he came down, it
got very calm and peaceful,” he said of the pope’s arrival.
Countless prayers and blessings have been uttered at the place where two
110-story towers once stood. But Sunday, on a foggy, chilly spring morning, the
leader of the Roman Catholic Church stepped onto the bedrock where 2,750 people
were killed, adding his own prayers, sprinkling holy water and meeting 24 rescue
workers, survivors and relatives of 9/11 victims.
Pope Benedict rode down a flag-lined construction ramp that led into the base of
ground zero, seated in his white Popemobile, just after 9:40 a.m. He walked the
last quarter of the way down, to a small rectangular pool where the family
members and others had gathered. He prayed silently, lighted a single candle and
delivered a prayer into a microphone, referring to ground zero as “a scene of
incredible violence and pain.”
Tom Riches and the other guests were introduced individually to the pope by
Cardinal Edward M. Egan, head of the New York archdiocese. Tom Riches knelt
before the pope, kissed his ring and spoke briefly to him.
“I told him to bless my brother’s memory and my family, and I thanked him for
coming down there,” Tom Riches said. “He said, ‘God bless you.’ ”
In his coat pocket, Tom Riches carried the Mass card from his brother’s funeral.
On one side is a picture of a smiling Jimmy; on the other side is a passage of
poetry that reads, in part: “Grieve not ... nor speak of me with tears ... but
laugh and talk of me as though I were beside you.” The funeral was held at St.
Patrick’s Cathedral, where the pope celebrated Mass on Saturday morning.
Jimmy’s father, James J. Riches, 57, a veteran firefighter who retired last year
as a deputy chief, watched the ceremony on Sunday from the top of the hole at
ground zero. He watched the pope walk on the same ramp near West and Liberty
Streets that he and his sons had walked carrying Jimmy’s body. One of Tom
Riches’s friends had submitted his name to the archdiocese, and of more than
1,100 people whose names were sent in, he was one of 24 selected to attend the
“It’s not the lottery you want to be in,” James Riches said. “We don’t want to
be in this lottery, but fate has it that way.”
Jimmy was a free spirit, a bartender turned crime fighter turned firefighter. He
was a New York City police officer before joining the Fire Department in 1999.
“What was the saying we said at his funeral? It’s not the years in your life,
it’s the life in your years,” James Riches said. “And he packed 100 years into
The three younger boys had looked up to Jimmy, especially Tom, the youngest. It
was Jimmy who was Tom’s godfather. It was Jimmy who, when they found his remains
in what used to be the lobby of the north tower, was found next to a woman who
was on a stretcher when she died. “He was that kind of kid,” James Riches said.
“He helped the underdog. He wouldn’t leave somebody behind.”
Jimmy would have turned 30 on Sept. 12, 2001. Part of the street in Brooklyn
where James Riches and the boys’ mother, Rita, live and where Jimmy grew up —
Bay Eighth Street, in Dyker Heights — was renamed Firefighter Jimmy Riches Way.
The high school and the college Jimmy attended — Xavier High School in Manhattan
and Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina — have scholarships in Jimmy’s name.
By Sunday afternoon, the significance of Tom Riches’s meeting with the pope had
not yet sunk in. He and his father rushed from interview to interview. His
cellphone kept ringing. “I need time to think about it, you know,” he said.
For his father, the pope’s visit reaffirmed the spirituality and the divinity of
a place that these days looks more like a crane-crowded construction site than
the ruin of Sept. 11, 2001. “We knew that Jimmy died there, and that’s where he
breathed his last breath,” James Riches said. “That’s where his soul left his
body, and it means a lot to us.”
One of Tom Riches’s brothers, Danny, is a firefighter who works out of Jimmy’s
firehouse, in Ladder 114 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Danny has Jimmy’s old locker.
Tom Riches’s other brother, Timothy, is a firefighter in Crown Heights,
Tom Riches is also a firefighter, like his father and his brother Jimmy before
In the Pit, With the
Pope and Memories of a Brother, NYT, 21.4.2008,
Benedict Prays for Peace at World Trade Center Site
April 20, 2008
The New York Times
By IAN FISHER and JOHN SULLIVAN
Pope Benedict XVI prayed for peace at ground zero on Sunday morning and then
met with a group of survivors and families of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist
On the last day of his visit to America, the pope asked for eternal peace for
the people who died in the attacks and for strength and healing for their
families. Making only an oblique reference to the terrorism behind the attacks
almost seven years ago — “Turn to your way of love those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred” — the pope asked for determination in the world’s
efforts toward peace.
“Grant that those whose lives were spared may live so that lives lost here may
not have been lost in vain,” he said at the bedrock level of the site, chilly
and shrouded with fog that covered the tops of some buildings nearby. “Comfort
and console us, strengthen us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage to
work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among nations and in
the hearts of all.”
The ceremony began when the pope rode down a construction ramp at the World
Trade Center site in his specially designed vehicle shortly after 9:40 a.m. As
bells pealed, the pope, 81, dressed in white, walked the last quarter or so of
the way down the ramp, to a small, rectangular-shaped pool where the family
representatives had gathered. He was accompanied by Cardinal Edward M. Egan, the
archbishop of New York. Kneeling briefly before the pool, the pope prayed
silently before rising to light a single candle, meant to symbolize
Then using on a microphone held for him, the pope delivered his prayer,
referring to ground zero as “a scene of incredible violence and pain.”
“God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world; peace in the hearts of all
men and women and peace among the nations of the earth,” he said.
The pope blessed the site with holy water, and As Carter Brey, the principal
cellist for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, played, he met briefly with
representatives of 16 victims’ families. The representatives had been chosen
from among more than 1,100 applicants.
As Cardinal Egan read each person’s name and a brief description of the lost
family member, the pope spoke briefly with each of the 24 people. The
representatives took the pope’s hand and many knelt and kissed his ring, the
traditional protocol for Roman Catholics. The pope also met with four first
responders and four survivors of the attack, including George Bachmann, a
firefighter who suffered burns and a broken back on Sept. 11.
“I didn’t really have anything to say to him,” Mr. Bachmann, now retired, said
in an interview on NY1. “Being in his presence was enough for me.”
After meeting with the family members, the pope also spoke with Mayor Michael R.
Bloomberg, Governor David A. Paterson of New York and Governor Jon S. Corzine of
New Jersey. After the 20-minute ceremony, he visited nearby St. Peter’s church,
where the steel cross that once stood at the trade center site was taken when
“He really does understand what happened here and how this was an attack on
freedom-loving people around the world and people who want to be able to
practice their religion,” Mr. Bloomberg said of the pope’s prayer in a brief
interview with Reuters. “I think that he has always been a man of peace and a
man who believes we should live together and he is praying for everyone.”
At about 2:30 p.m., Benedict is scheduled to celebrate Mass before a capacity
crowd at Yankees Stadium — his last major event before flying back to Rome on
Sunday evening after six days in New York and Washington.
The trip, his first to America as pope, has largely been defined by his public
response to the issue of sexual abuse by priests. Surprising many Catholics, he
has repeatedly spoken of the scandal, which has torn the American church. On
Thursday while in Washington, he met with several victims from Boston.
Sewell Chan contributed reporting.
Benedict Prays for Peace
at World Trade Center Site, NYT, 20.4.2008,
Defections to Pentecostalism Pose Challenge for the U.S.
April 20, 2008
The New York Times
By FERNANDA SANTOS
To say she was a practicing Catholic would be an understatement. For years,
Maria Aparecida Calazans was a mainstay at her Long Island church, joining
dozens of fellow Brazilian immigrants for the Portuguese-language Mass on Sunday
mornings. She and her husband, Ramon, were married at the church. Their two
daughters were baptized there, and every Friday she attended a prayer meeting
that she had helped organize.
But six years ago, her husband went to a relative’s baptism at a Pentecostal
church in a warehouse in Astoria, Queens, and came home smitten.
The couple made a deal: “We would go to the Pentecostal service on Thursdays and
to Mass on Sundays, and then we would decide which one we felt most comfortable
with,” Mrs. Calazans said.
Within 40 days, they had both given up Roman Catholicism and embraced
Pentecostalism, following the same path as an estimated 1.3 million other Latino
Catholics who have joined Pentecostal congregations since immigrating to the
United States, according to a survey released in February by the Pew Forum on
Religion and Public Life.
“I feel whole here,” Mrs. Calazans, 42, said one recent Sunday in the Astoria
sanctuary, the Portuguese Language Pentecostal Missionary Church, as she swayed
to the pop-rock beat of a live gospel band. “This church is not a place we visit
once a week. This church is where we hang around and we share our problems and
we celebrate our successes, like we were family.”
As Pope Benedict XVI completes his visit to the United States today with a Mass
at Yankee Stadium, in a borough that has been home to generations of Latinos, he
does so facing something of a growing challenge to the church’s immigrant ranks.
For if Latinos are feeding the population of the church, many have also turned
to Pentecostalism, a form of evangelical Christianity that stresses a personal,
even visceral, connection with God.
Today, it has more Latino followers in the United States than any other
denomination except Catholicism; they are drawn, they say, by the faith’s joyous
worship, its use of Latino culture and the enveloping sense of community it
offers to newcomers. As the Pew survey released in February revealed, nearly
half of all Latinos who have joined Pentecostal denominations were raised as
They are part of a global shift. Pentecostalism, the world’s fastest-growing
branch of Christianity, has made such sharp inroads in Latin America,
particularly in Brazil, that in an address to bishops there last year, Pope
Benedict listed its ardent proselytizing as one of the major forces the Catholic
Church in the region must contend with.
Catholic leaders and experts on the church in the United States say that the
force of Pentecostalism is less dramatic here than in Latin America and
elsewhere. Still, the pope has urged the nation’s bishops to make every effort
to welcome new immigrants — “to share their joys and hopes, to support them in
their sorrows and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home” — and any
number of Catholic clergy and lay people have conceded that the church needs to
work harder at reaching, and keeping, its Latino flock.
““That some of the newly arrived Latinos are drawn to Pentecostalism is
certainly reason for concern,” said the Rev. Allan Figueroa Deck, the executive
director of the Office for Cultural Diversity, which was created last June by
the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to help the church adjust to
its changing ethnic makeup. My faith is a big part of my life. The pope is the
head of the faith.”
“But we can counter that with the kind of music we use, with the sense of
celebration that we bring to our worship, the spontaneity and some of the
popular customs that are not part of the official liturgy of the church. We’re
doing some of that, but we could do better.”
The Pentecostal church in Astoria vividly shows what Catholicism is up against.
It offers enough activities to fill a family’s calendar: services on Sundays and
Thursdays, youth group meetings on Fridays, a Bible study group on Wednesdays
and all-night prayer vigils throughout the year. Then there are birthday and
engagement parties, to which every congregant is invited.
The church, on the second floor of a stucco building opposite a nightclub and
three blocks from the subway, is half house of worship and half community
center. It ministers primarily to a single immigrant group, Brazilians, in the
group’s language, Portuguese —much like the ethnic urban parishes founded by
European Catholics more than a century ago.
The Sunday service starts at 4 p.m., but the front door opens at least two hours
earlier, and families trickle in. One recent Sunday, children giggled and ran
around while mothers greeted one another with a kiss on each cheek, as is the
custom in Brazil.
The pastor, Zeny Tinouco, himself a former Catholic, preached to about 100
people from a pulpit framed by an American and a Brazilian flag. Arms rose into
the air and hands faced the ceiling as a guitar-and-drums band tore through
pop-inflected hymns. Over and over in his sermon, the pastor exclaimed,
“Alleluia!” and the congregants fervently responded, “Glória a Deus!” (“Praise
“The first thing I tell the newcomers is that there are no lambs without a
shepherd in our church; no one is a stranger,” said Pastor Tinouco, 62, who has
a high school education and 11 churches — three each in New York City, Portugal
and his native Brazil; one in Switzerland; and one in Newark.
“Our mission is to welcome the immigrant and be his guide and his support,” the
pastor said. “If they need money to pay the rent, we’ll raise the money for
them. If they need work, we’ll find them work. If they need someone to talk to,
they can come to me.”
He counts more than 500 members among his churches in the United States — more
than half of them, by his estimate, former Catholics. They include people like
Renato C. Silva, who converted to Pentecostalism right after he immigrated in
2005, then met his wife at Pastor Tinouco’s church. And there are others like
Tatiana DeMauro, who said her conversion in 2000 had strained her marriage.
“My husband is American and he is Catholic, and he won’t come here with me,”
said Ms. DeMauro, 40, as she fed pretzels to her 2-year-old twin daughters. “He
says I’ve changed and that this church has brainwashed me, but he doesn’t get
it. I have friends here. Some of the strongest relationships I have I made at
The Rev. Virgil Elizondo, a professor of pastoral and Hispanic religions at the
University of Notre Dame, said that Latinos who practiced a populist, emotional
brand of Catholicism in their home countries experience a cultural clash when
they encounter the more traditional, low-key ways of the church in the United
“To Latinos, the church is a place for socializing,” Father Elizondo said. “Even
people with deepest of Catholic beliefs, if they’re in a foreign country and
they can’t find a church where they can experience companionship, they will look
Father Deck, of the Office for Cultural Diversity, said the Catholic Church was
making progress. Latinos now make up about 15 percent of all seminarians. “And
we’ve had an explosion in what we call lay ministry,” he added. “There are
thousands of Latinos who are lectors during Mass, do outreach work, are
catechism teachers, and we have some who are administering parishes.”
Latinos have also fueled the growth of the church’s charismatic movement, whose
high-energy Masses are reminiscent of Pentecostal services. Many parishes,
particularly in the South and the West, have introduced mariachi Masses,
colorful processions and communal meals after the liturgy.
But Luís D. León, a professor of American religions at the University of Denver,
said many of those gestures toward Latinos were “token changes.”
“Latino immigrants still find some kind of solace and connection with their home
country through Catholicism, and they’re looking for a reason to hang on to the
church in this country,” he said. “But for that to happen, they need to feel
that their culture is being understood and recognized. They need to feel that
the church is their caretaker in a much more profound and personal way than it
Adriara Mello, who came from Brazil in 1996, said many of her Brazilian friends
began attending Pentecostal churches after immigrating.
But she has remained faithful to Corpus Christi Church in Mineola on Long Island
— the same parish that Mrs. Calazans and her family left to join the Pentecostal
congregation in Astoria.
In fact, the two women had started a series of prayer meetings, which Ms. Mello
continues to run.
Corpus Christi is a mainly English-speaking parish, but it has a long history of
catering to immigrants. Aside from its Portuguese Mass, which has been
celebrated by the same Brazilian priest for 35 years, the church has a
Portuguese ministry offering translation services and tutoring for immigrant
students who attend the parish’s school.
Ms. Mello said Brazilian parishioners have also raised money for a few
compatriots facing financial difficulties, and have cooked and cleaned for a man
who had to raise his children alone after his wife’s death.
“We’re trying to be a faith community and a support community,” Ms. Mello added.
”We’re here to help.”
Still, just a few minutes after the 8:30 a.m. Mass ended last Sunday, the
Portuguese-speaking faithful had dispersed, to make way for the English-language
service that followed.
“I can see how people might get turned off by that,” Ms. Mello said. “I mean, if
you’re alone in this country, there goes an opportunity to make the church part
of your life. There goes a chance to make friends.”
Pentecostalism Pose Challenge for the U.S. Catholic Church, NYT, 20.4.2008,
For Many Catholics, the Idea of a Pope Is Clear Even if the
April 20, 2008
The New York Times
By PAUL VITELLO
To understand the mystique, consider how the nuns first introduced Chris
Blanke and his kindergarten classmates to the idea of the man with the funny
hat, the man known to them from that day forward as the Vicar of Christ, the
apostolic successor of Peter, the pope.
“They said he was, you know, basically, God on earth,” said Mr. Blanke, now a
26-year-old business student who attended Mass at Holy Trinity Church in
Manhattan last Sunday. “We were in awe, but also, we were supposed to be trying
to see him as a kind of a role model.”
It is a lot to ask of any relationship. And though Mr. Blanke never quite took
the nuns literally about the pope being God on earth, even at age 6 he sensed
that the leader of the Roman Catholic Church was “something higher” than the
usual run of humanity.
For most grown-up Catholics, the idea of the pope as something of an official
channel to God still holds some sway, if only in the inner sanctum of truths
learned in childhood.
But in interviews last week during the first visit to the United States by Pope
Benedict XVI, Catholics around the country said that as with every human
institution, their sense of connection to the pope has a lot to do with the
human who happens to be pope.
For an office steeped in so much holy tradition, people are quite comfortable
saying whom they like and whom they don’t among the popes of their memory. John
XXIII: great guy. Paul VI: a little remote. John Paul II: loved him, loved him —
he helped set off the collapse of Communism, say some; too bad he didn’t deal
better with the pedophile priests, say others.
And the new man?
“I can’t say that I feel I know him very well,” said Mary Ann Maddock, 63, of
Deer Park on Long Island, who described herself as a lifelong Catholic
“disillusioned” by the church hierarchy’s response to the scandal of sexual
abuse of children by some priests. “But as a Catholic, I feel it is my
responsibility at least to listen to anything he says. My faith is a big part of
my life. The pope is the head of the faith.”
Anne Foster of Atlanta said she was long past thinking of the pope as “way up
there and untouchable,” but sees him now in a way that for an American, may
represent a higher kind of regard: “I see him more as one of us, and I’d love to
have a conversation with him.”
Among the world’s major religions, there are few parallels for a leadership role
so definitive and at the same time so hard to grasp as that of a pope.
He is the successor in an unbroken line of 265 men, going back to the first
pope, the Apostle Peter, whom Jesus himself chose to lead the church, according
to the Gospel of Matthew.
His picture — whether framed and hung on the wall, or a cracked and dog-eared
snapshot taped to the cash register at the local diner — has a benign but
undeniable sort of talismanic power for many believers.
Anyone who saw the tide of people, and felt the swell of the emotion at the
funeral of Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, when old people stood in
line for hours and teenagers slept in the streets around the Vatican walls in
order to get a turn to glimpse the body of an 84-year-old man, has a sense of
the heft of a pope’s being.
Yet there are no precise coordinates of a pope’s place in the faith of a
believer, say scholars. He is the voice of the conscience of the flock, but as
with most voices of conscience, people tend to hear what they want.
“We don’t have data to tell us what people in the pews really think about the
pope — this pope or any pope,” said Thomas F. X. Noble, a professor of history
and papal scholar at the University of Notre Dame. “Catholicism is a not a
democracy,” he added.
Meaning they don’t do polls to gauge these things.
“But to judge by how people have reacted when the pope has put the force of his
reputation behind a specific regulation — artificial contraception, for
instance,” Professor Nobel said, “most people have decided that the pope is not
Yet, there is “authority” in the chain-of-command sense, and there is de facto
primacy in the Catholic universe of a billion believers.
Many people interviewed last week said that more than his encyclicals or
rulings, the pope’s most important role was as the person who represents the
unity of the church — the shared beliefs, ceremonial traditions and liturgical
calendar of a specific religious faith practiced the same way in a hundred
countries by people of vastly different backgrounds.
Meera Ratnesar, a math teacher who was one of a handful of Holy Trinity
parishioners to win the church drawing for tickets to Yankee Stadium on Sunday,
when the pope is scheduled to celebrate Mass, said the Mass would in a sense
embody her understanding of the worldwide community to which she belongs.
“The idea of being in a place with a community of 50,000 other Catholics,” she
said, “to me that’s a very spiritual idea.”
Beyond the bedrock definition of the Pope’s role in canon law as “the perpetual
and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the
faithful,” there seem to be no fixed ideas among Catholics interviewed last week
about how a pope figures in one’s practice of the faith.
“I don’t spend a whole lot of time focusing on the pope,” said Mike Schoeny, 63,
of Cincinnati. “He doesn’t touch my life on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
I’m more focused on what goes on in my parish church.”
The pope may control the bureaucratic environment in which grand policy issues
are decided within the Vatican — about international affairs, the role of women
in the church, the recognition of gays, or the degree to which the church should
pursue social justice through activism — but what matters most to people like
Linda Cowan of Jonesboro, Ga., is an intangible quality of personality.
The last pope had it, she said. “He just drew the people to him,” she said about
the charismatic John Paul II, who was pope from 1978 until his death in 2005.
In interviews, people either said it was good or bad that the new pope is a
religious conservative, good or bad that he is an outspoken opponent of the war
in Iraq, good or bad that he made his Vatican reputation, as Cardinal Joseph
Ratzinger, as the staunch defender of church doctrine against so-called
liberation theology and feminism.
Sometimes people had it both ways.
In his homily at Holy Trinity Church in Manhattan last Sunday, the Rev. Edward
Beck told the story of a parish member who was torn about seeing the new pope,
though she had a ticket to hear him at Yankee Stadium. “She said she liked him
for being against the war, but she didn’t agree with his ideas about sexual
issues and about women in the church,” Father Beck said.
“For some of us, living in a multicultural and pluralistic society, it is hard
to accept some of what the pope says,” Father Beck said.
He did not say what advice he gave the parishioner. “There is no resolution,” he
said. “I was just naming what the dilemma is for some people.”
Reporting was contributed by Bob Driehaus in Cincinnati, Brenda Goodman in
Atlanta, Chris Maag in Cleveland and Katie Zezima in Boston.
For Many Catholics, the
Idea of a Pope Is Clear Even if the Definition Isn’t, NYT, 20.4.2008,
A Deep Respect for Benedict, but It’s Still True Love for John
April 20, 2008
The New York Times
By ANDY NEWMAN
At the Catholic Goods Center off Arthur Avenue in the Bronx the other day,
they were all sold out of Pope Benedict XVI holy cards. Copies of the photo of
Benedict displayed in the store window were selling briskly.
But the store’s owner, John V. Iazzetti, said his customers seemed to prefer the
gentleman whose photo was displayed on a rack inside the store. “To tell the
truth,” Mr. Iazzetti said, “I’m still selling more John Paul pictures than Pope
Benedict” — by about two to one.
Across 187th Street at the Mount Carmel religious bookstore, Antonetta I.
Mancuso, a regular customer, had gotten coveted tickets to see Pope Benedict say
Mass at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. But she, too, said she would be thinking of
the prior pope.
“Hey, John Paul II — he was my heart,” said Ms. Mancuso, 70. “I can’t wait for
them to make him a saint.”
Ms. Mancuso summed up Pope Benedict in two words: “He’s new.”
When Pope Benedict arrived in New York on Friday for the first time as leader of
the Roman Catholic Church, he stepped into the very long shadow of his
predecessor: John Paul II, the great communicator, trained actor, vanquisher of
communism, acclaimed poet, celebrity pontiff.
Yes, Benedict could fill Yankee Stadium several times over. His books and
encyclicals are being snapped up at Catholic bookstores. But there are sales and
ticket requests, and then there is passion. This time, no one is wearing a
T-shirt, like the one seen in 2005 after John Paul’s death, declaring the
pontiff the “People’s Pope” (though a neat beer stein emblazoned with Benedict’s
likeness and the slogan “I love my German Shepherd” is available on a Web site,
Interviews with dozens of Catholics around the city over the past week found
many still mourning John Paul II three years after his death. Benedict, said
Glenda Wells, 49, a dental assistant from Canarsie, Brooklyn, who was shopping
at the Daughters of St. Paul bookstore in Midtown, “still doesn’t replace my
favorite boy. I loved John Paul.”
At best, several Catholics said, Benedict ranks a tie, on the strength of the
respect owed the office of the vicar of Christ. “For me, he is the same because
he represents the same thing,” Felipe Olibos, a restaurant worker from Spanish
Harlem, said of Benedict as he left Mass on Sunday at the Church of St. Ann.
“The other died, and now he is carrying on in his place.”
As for more rigorous surveys, a poll of American Catholics in March by the Pew
Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 74 percent had a favorable
impression of Benedict. In a 1996 Pew survey, John Paul II scored a 93 percent
favorable rating. John Paul II was riding the momentum of his 1995 visit then,
but in a 1990 Pew survey of all Americans, John Paul was rated favorably by 79
percent. Benedict has never scored higher than 52 percent in nationwide Pew
polls taken since he was elevated in 2005.
Of course, being pope is not a popularity contest — particularly for the current
pope. “Under John Paul II, there was a kind of cult of personality, which I
think Benedict didn’t like,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow at
the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. “Benedict does not
want a cult of personality around himself. He wants to point toward Jesus.”
And to be fair, this is the first opportunity for many American Catholics to
form an impression of Benedict as distilled through the extensive and largely
favorable coverage of his visit by the news media.
Much of the difference in how the two popes are regarded has more to do with
their personal styles than with their substance, Catholic experts said.
“John Paul II was a pastor, and this man is a professor,” said Christopher M.
Bellitto, a professor at Kean University in New Jersey and author of “101
Questions and Answers on Popes and the Papacy.”
David Gibson, author of the biography “The Rule of Benedict,” called John Paul
II the “Broadway pope.” As for Benedict, he said, “if he were going to be a
tourist in New York City, he’d go to the Cloisters or the Metropolitan Museum.”
None of which is to say that Benedict is not being warmly received by New York
City’s approximately 3 million Roman Catholics. A papal visit — the first to
this area in 13 years — is still a big deal. The Archdiocese of New York fielded
200,000 requests for the 57,000 seats in Yankee Stadium available for the Mass.
“The demand has just been astronomical,” said Joseph Zwilling, the archdiocese’s
spokesman. “The other day, we put 5,000 tickets online for people to stand on
Fifth Avenue near St. Patrick’s and see the Popemobile go by, and they were gone
in a couple of hours.”
Another main reason John Paul II remains so popular is that people had time to
get familiar with him. He was pope for 26 years, the longest of any pope since
the mid-1800s. For Catholics who were born or came of age during his reign, John
Paul was the only pope they ever knew, or felt as if they knew.
“He was an incredible person who was so well rounded,” said Barbara Hopkins, 50,
a designer from Blauvelt, N.Y., on Friday outside the pope’s New York quarters
on East 72nd Street. “I don’t know that Benedict has done anything so tremendous
Professor Bellitto said, “I have heard people in their 40s and 50s saying, ‘I’ll
watch him on TV, but I met the real pope.’ ”
The recent Pew poll found that 15 percent of Catholics had yet to form an
impression of him.
One of those, Rita Davis, said she was more than willing to give Benedict a
“It’s like you lost a loved one and someone else takes their place,” said Ms.
Davis, 51, of the Bronx, who works at a hospital and was shopping at the
Daughters of St. Paul bookstore. She said she planned to camp out at Yankee
Stadium in the hope that a glimpse of Benedict might ease her heart. “You may
not feel the same,” she said, “but the person will do their best to fill that
Reporting was contributed by Suzanne DeChillo, Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska, Colin
Moynihan and Mathew R. Warren.
A Deep Respect for
Benedict, but It’s Still True Love for John Paul, NYT, 20.4.2008,
At St. Patrick’s, Pope Makes a Call for Unity
April 20, 2008
The New York Times
By RAY RIVERA and IAN FISHER
Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass on Saturday morning at St. Patrick’s
Cathedral, the symbolic seat of American Catholicism, where he delivered a
rallying cry for a “new spring” in a church that he acknowledged was divided in
many ways and wounded specifically by the clergy sex abuse scandal.
For the fourth time on his first trip to America as pope, Benedict referred
publicly to the suffering caused by priests who had abused children, an issue
that has become the defining theme of his six-day visit.
“I have already had occasion to speak of this, and of the resulting damage to
the community of the faithful,” he said in his 22-minute homily to the nearly
3,000 priests, deacons and seminarians present. “I simply wish to assure you,
dear priests and religious, of my spiritual closeness as you strive to respond
with Christian hope to the continuing challenges this situation presents. I join
you in praying that this will be a time of purification for each and every
particular church and religious community, and a time for healing.”
But the overall mood was celebratory, with the pope hewing to his strategy of
talking more about the positive potential of faith instead of listing sins.
“The spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral are dwarfed by the skyscrapers of the
Manhattan skyline, yet they are a vivid reminder of the constant yearning of the
human spirit to rise to God,” the pope told a cathedral packed mostly with
priests, nuns, deacons, bishops and cardinals, but also with several local
officials, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
The Mass was celebrated on the second-to-last day of the pope’s visit, which
began Tuesday in Washington. On Friday, he addressed the United Nations, calling
for renewed respect for human rights as a bridge toward solving many of world
On Sunday the pope is expected to visit ground zero and celebrate Mass at Yankee
Stadium, where 57,000 are expected to attend.
On Saturday, thousands of spectators lined up for blocks outside St. Patrick’s
in the early morning hours — not to go inside, but to wait and watch as the
priests, deacons and other members of religious orders, including cardinals,
bishops and archbishops from throughout the United States, assembled to
celebrate Mass with the pope. A sea of men and women, in white and gray robes,
encircled the structure. The police cordoned off Fifth Avenue and a wide area
around the cathedral.
The two-hour service was the first papal Mass in the history of the cathedral,
which opened in 1879 and is the largest Gothic-style Roman Catholic cathedral in
the United States. Previous popes — Paul VI and John Paul II — visited the
cathedral, but did not say Mass inside.
The service on Saturday was intended primarily for clergy, but several prominent
guests could be spotted, including former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and his
wife, Judith. Mayor Bloomberg, who had come to the cathedral to welcome the
pope, addressed the clergy briefly, calling the city a beacon of religious
Cardinal Edward M. Egan welcomed the pope formally, saying, “Most Holy Father,
welcome to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.” The pope received a standing ovation, as
the cardinal reminded him that the parish was among the most diverse in the
world, celebrating Mass in 35 languages.
At 10 a.m., as the Mass was under way, thousands of people lined Fifth Avenue
north of St. Patrick’s. They sat or stood behind metal police barricades, many
of them holding placards or banners welcoming the pope in Spanish and in
English. There were signs identifying people from parishes in Brooklyn and
farther away, like Dallas. Small groups gathered on sidewalks, beat drums,
danced and sang. Men hawked white and yellow papal flags, T-shirts and buttons
bearing the image of the pope. Some of those lining the barricades brought
blankets, food, and water and said they had arrived as early as 8 a.m.
Ron Vlieger, 50, a financial writer from Hoboken, said, “This may be a once in a
lifetime opportunity.” Mr. Vlieger said he was pleased that the Pope had given
parishes permission to use Latin at Mass once again. “He’s the leader of a
billion-person church,” he said. “I’m a new Catholic, so I’m enthusiastic about
Sewell Chan and Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.
At St. Patrick’s, Pope
Makes a Call for Unity, NYT, 20.4.2008,
Text: Pope Benedict’s Homily
April 20, 2008
The New York Times
Following is the text of Pope Benedict XVI’s homily at a Mass at St.
Patrick’s Cathedral for priests, deacons and members of religious orders on
April 19, as supplied by the Vatican and checked against delivery.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
With great affection in the Lord, I greet all of you, who represent the Bishops,
priests and deacons, the men and women in consecrated life, and the seminarians
of the United States. I thank Cardinal Egan for his warm welcome and the good
wishes which he has expressed in your name as I begin the fourth year of my
papal ministry. I am happy to celebrate this Mass with you, who have been chosen
by the Lord, who have answered his call, and who devote your lives to the
pursuit of holiness, the spread of the Gospel and the building up of the Church
in faith, hope and love.
Gathered as we are in this historic cathedral, how can we not think of the
countless men and women who have gone before us, who labored for the growth of
the Church in the United States, and left us a lasting legacy of faith and good
works? In today’s first reading we saw how, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the
Apostles went forth from the Upper Room to proclaim God’s mighty works to people
of every nation and tongue. In this country, the Church’s mission has always
involved drawing people “from every nation under heaven” (cf. Acts 2:5) into
spiritual unity, and enriching the Body of Christ by the variety of their gifts.
As we give thanks for His past blessings, and look to the challenges of the
future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in
America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with
zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present!
In this morning’s second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that spiritual unity —
the unity which reconciles and enriches diversity — has its origin and supreme
model in the life of the triune God. As a communion of pure love and infinite
freedom, the Blessed Trinity constantly brings forth new life in the work of
creation and redemption. The Church, as “a people made one by the unity of the
Father, the Son and the Spirit” (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4), is called to proclaim
the gift of life, to serve life, and to promote a culture of life. Here in this
cathedral, our thoughts turn naturally to the heroic witness to the Gospel of
life borne by the late Cardinals Cooke and O’Connor. The proclamation of life,
life in abundance, must be the heart of the new evangelization. For true life —
our salvation — can only be found in the reconciliation, freedom and love which
are God’s gracious gift.
This is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world
where self-centeredness, greed, violence, and cynicism often seem to choke the
fragile growth of grace in people’s hearts. Saint Irenaeus, with great insight,
understood that the command which Moses enjoined upon the people of Israel:
“Choose life!” (Dt 30:19) was the ultimate reason for our obedience to all God’s
commandments (cf. Adv. Haer. IV, 16, 2-5). Perhaps we have lost sight of this:
in a society where the Church seems legalistic and “institutional” to many
people, our most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and
the experience of God’s love.
I am particularly happy that we have gathered in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.
Perhaps more than any other church in the United States, this place is known and
loved as “a house of prayer for all peoples” (cf. Is 56:7; Mk 11:17). Each day
thousands of men, women and children enter its doors and find peace within its
walls. Archbishop John Hughes, who — as Cardinal Egan has reminded us — was
responsible for building this venerable edifice, wished it to rise in pure
Gothic style. He wanted this cathedral to remind the young Church in America of
the great spiritual tradition to which it was heir, and to inspire it to bring
the best of that heritage to the building of Christ’s body in this land. I would
like to draw your attention to a few aspects of this beautiful structure which I
think can serve as a starting point for a reflection on our particular vocations
within the unity of the Mystical Body.
The first has to do with the stained glass windows, which flood the interior
with mystic light. From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary.
But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light
passing through them, they reveal all their splendor. Many writers — here in
America we can think of Nathaniel Hawthorne — have used the image of stained
glass to illustrate the mystery of the Church herself. It is only from the
inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church
as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the
manifold gifts of the Spirit. It follows that we, who live the life of grace
within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery
This is no easy task in a world which can tend to look at the Church, like those
stained glass windows, “from the outside”: a world which deeply senses a need
for spirituality, yet finds it difficult to “enter into” the mystery of the
Church. Even for those of us within, the light of faith can be dimmed by
routine, and the splendor of the Church obscured by the sins and weaknesses of
her members. It can be dimmed too, by the obstacles encountered in a society
which sometimes seems to have forgotten God and to resent even the most
elementary demands of Christian morality. You, who have devoted your lives to
bearing witness to the love of Christ and the building up of his Body, know from
your daily contact with the world around us how tempting it is at times to give
way to frustration, disappointment and even pessimism about the future. In a
word, it is not always easy to see the light of the Spirit all about us, the
splendor of the Risen Lord illuminating our lives and instilling renewed hope in
his victory over the world (cf. Jn 16:33).
Yet the word of God reminds us that, in faith, we see the heavens opened, and
the grace of the Holy Spirit lighting up the Church and bringing sure hope to
our world. “O Lord, my God,” the Psalmist sings, “when you send forth your
spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30).
These words evoke the first creation, when the Spirit of God hovered over the
deep (cf. Gen 1:2). And they look forward to the new creation, at Pentecost,
when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and established the Church as
the first fruits of a redeemed humanity (cf. Jn 20:22-23). These words summon us
to ever deeper faith in God’s infinite power to transform every human situation,
to create life from death, and to light up even the darkest night. And they make
us think of another magnificent phrase of Saint Irenaeus: “where the Church is,
there is the Spirit of God; where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and
all grace” (Adv. Haer. III, 24, 1).
This leads me to a further reflection about the architecture of this church.
Like all Gothic cathedrals, it is a highly complex structure, whose exact and
harmonious proportions symbolize the unity of God’s creation. Medieval artists
often portrayed Christ, the creative Word of God, as a heavenly “geometer”,
compass in hand, who orders the cosmos with infinite wisdom and purpose. Does
this not bring to mind our need to see all things with the eyes of faith, and
thus to grasp them in their truest perspective, in the unity of God’s eternal
plan? This requires, as we know, constant conversion, and a commitment to
acquiring “a fresh, spiritual way of thinking” (cf. Eph 4:23). It also calls for
the cultivation of those virtues which enable each of us to grow in holiness and
to bear spiritual fruit within our particular state of life. Is not this ongoing
“intellectual” conversion as necessary as “moral” conversion for our own growth
in faith, our discernment of signs of the times, and our personal contribution
to the Church’s life and mission?
For all of us, I think, one of the great disappointments which followed the
Second Vatican Council, with its call for a greater engagement in the Church’s
mission to the world, has been the experience of division between different
groups, different generations, different members of the same religious family.
We can only move forward if we turn our gaze together to Christ! In the light of
faith, we will then discover the wisdom and strength needed to open ourselves to
points of view which may not necessarily conform to our own ideas or
assumptions. Thus we can value the perspectives of others, be they younger or
older than ourselves, and ultimately hear “what the Spirit is saying” to us and
to the Church (cf. Rev 2:7). In this way, we will move together towards that
true spiritual renewal desired by the Council, a renewal which can only
strengthen the Church in that holiness and unity indispensable for the effective
proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.
Was not this unity of vision and purpose — rooted in faith and a spirit of
constant conversion and self-sacrifice — the secret of the impressive growth of
the Church in this country? We need but think of the remarkable accomplishment
of that exemplary American priest, the Venerable Michael McGivney, whose vision
and zeal led to the establishment of the Knights of Columbus, or of the legacy
of the generations of religious and priests who quietly devoted their lives to
serving the People of God in countless schools, hospitals and parishes.
Here, within the context of our need for the perspective given by faith, and for
unity and cooperation in the work of building up the Church, I will say a word
about the sexual abuse that has caused so much suffering. I have already had
occasion to speak of this, and of the resulting damage to the community of the
faithful. Here I simply wish to assure you, dear priests and religious, of my
spiritual closeness as you strive to respond with Christian hope to the
continuing challenges that this situation presents. I join you in praying that
this will be a time of purification for each and every particular Church and
religious community, and a time for healing. And I also encourage you to
cooperate with your bishops who continue to work effectively to resolve this
issue. May our Lord Jesus Christ grant the Church in America a renewed sense of
unity and purpose, as all — Bishops, clergy, religious and laity — move forward
in hope, in love for truth and for one another.
Dear friends, these considerations lead me to a final observation about this
great cathedral in which we find ourselves. The unity of a Gothic cathedral, we
know, is not the static unity of a classical temple, but a unity born of the
dynamic tension of diverse forces which impel the architecture upward, pointing
it to heaven. Here too, we can see a symbol of the Church’s unity, which is the
unity — as Saint Paul has told us — of a living body composed of many different
members, each with its own role and purpose. Here too we see our need to
acknowledge and reverence the gifts of each and every member of the body as
“manifestations of the Spirit given for the good of all” (1 Cor 12:7). Certainly
within the Church’s divinely-willed structure there is a distinction to be made
between hierarchical and charismatic gifts (cf. Lumen Gentium, 4). Yet the very
variety and richness of the graces bestowed by the Spirit invite us constantly
to discern how these gifts are to be rightly ordered in the service of the
Church’s mission. You, dear priests, by sacramental ordination have been
configured to Christ, the Head of the Body. You, dear deacons, have been
ordained for the service of that Body. You, dear men and women religious, both
contemplative and apostolic, have devoted your lives to following the divine
Master in generous love and complete devotion to his Gospel. All of you, who
fill this cathedral today, as wells as your retired, elderly and infirm brothers
and sisters, who unite their prayers and sacrifices to your labors, all are
called to be forces of unity within Christ’s Body. By your personal witness, and
your fidelity to the ministry or apostolate entrusted to you, you prepare a path
for the Spirit. For the Spirit never ceases to pour out his abundant gifts, to
awaken new vocations and missions, and to guide the Church, as our Lord promised
in this morning’s Gospel, into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 16:13).
So let us lift our gaze upward! And with great humility and confidence, let us
ask the Spirit to enable us each day to grow in the holiness that will make us
living stones in the temple which he is even now raising up in the midst of our
world. If we are to be true forces of unity, let us be the first to seek inner
reconciliation through penance. Let us forgive the wrongs we have suffered and
put aside all anger and contention. Let us be the first to demonstrate the
humility and purity of heart which are required to approach the splendor of
God’s truth. In fidelity to the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles (cf.
1 Tim 6:20), let us be joyful witnesses of the transforming power of the Gospel!
Dear brothers and sisters, in the finest traditions of the Church in this
country, may you also be the first friend of the poor, the homeless, the
stranger, the sick and all who suffer. Act as beacons of hope, casting the light
of Christ upon the world, and encouraging young people to discover the beauty of
a life given completely to the Lord and his Church. I make this plea in a
particular way to the many seminarians and young religious present. All of you
have a special place in my heart. Never forget that you are called to carry on,
with all enthusiasm and joy that the Spirit has given you, a work that others
have begun, a legacy that one day you too will have to pass to a new generation.
Work generously and joyfully, for he whom you serve is the Lord!
The spires of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral are dwarfed by the skyscrapers of the
Manhattan skyline, yet in the heart of this busy metropolis, they are a vivid
reminder of the constant yearning of the human spirit to rise to God. As we
celebrate this Eucharist, let us thank the Lord for allowing us to know him in
the communion of the Church, to cooperate in building up his Mystical Body, and
in bringing his saving word as good news to the men and women of our time. And
when we leave this great church, let us go forth as heralds of hope in the midst
of this city, and all those places where God’s grace has placed us. In this way,
the Church in America will know a new springtime in the Spirit, and point the
way to that other, greater city, the city of Jerusalem, whose light is the Lamb
(Rev 21:23). For there God is even now preparing for all people a banquet of
unending joy and life. Amen.
Text: Pope Benedict’s
Homily, NYT, 20.4.2008,
Pope Speaks Up for Immigrants, Touching a Nerve
April 20, 2008
The New York Times
By DANIEL J. WAKIN and JULIA PRESTON
Even as he was flying to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of
protecting immigrant families, not dividing them.
He raised the issue again in a meeting on Wednesday with President Bush, and
later that day spoke in Spanish to the church’s “many immigrant children.” And
when he ends his visit to New York on Sunday, he will be sent off by a throng of
the faithful, showing off the ethnic diversity of American Catholicism.
The choreography underscores the importance to the church here of its growing
diversity — especially its increasing Hispanic membership.
Of the nation’s 65 million Roman Catholics, 18 million are Latino, according to
the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and they account for more than
two-thirds of the new Catholics in the country since 1960.
Millions of other recent arrivals come from Asia and Africa. More and more
parishes depend on priests brought from abroad to serve the flock.
Benedict has calibrated his immigration stance with care, stating the need to
protect family unity and immigrants’ human rights, but pointedly avoiding any
specifics of the American immigration debate, like the issue of whether to grant
legal status to illegal immigrants.
Yet last week his visit quickly stirred the crosscurrents of the debate.
His comments drew a rebuke from Representative Tom Tancredo, a Republican from
Colorado who has been a leading opponent of illegal immigration.
Accusing the pope of “faith-based marketing,” Mr. Tancredo said Benedict’s
comments welcoming immigrants “may have less to do with spreading the Gospel
than they do about recruiting new members of the Church.” Mr. Tancredo, a former
Catholic who now attends an evangelical Christian church, said it was not in the
pope’s “job description to engage in American politics.”
On the other side of the issue, some members of the Catholic hierarchy said they
were shocked that on the same day that Benedict and President Bush affirmed in a
joint statement the need for a policy that treats immigrants humanely and
protects their families, federal agents were conducting raids at five chicken
plants. They arrested more than 300 immigrants accused of being illegal workers.
The timing was coincidental, immigration officials said, and it was not clear
whether the pope had known about the arrests when he met with Mr. Bush.
But the raids surprised some American Catholic leaders, who are often on the
forefront of advocacy for immigrant rights.
“I was stunned,” said Cardinal Roger Mahony, the archbishop of Los Angeles, the
nation’s largest Roman Catholic diocese and one of the most Hispanic. “I just
feel these raids are totally negative. I thought it was very inappropriate to do
it in such a blatant way when the pope was coming, when he has been so outspoken
in defending the rights of immigrants.”
The American bishops have been consistently outspoken in favor of legislation to
give legal status to illegal immigrants and expand legal avenues for immigrants
to bring their family members from abroad.
They and other Catholic activists were among the most visible supporters of a
broad bill, supported by Mr. Bush but not enacted by Congress last year, which
included a path to legal status for 12 million illegal immigrants.
They took Benedict’s statements last week as affirmation of their work. For
while the immigration theme has been overshadowed during Benedict’s trip by his
denunciations of the sexual abuse scandal in the church, it was the second issue
after the abuse cases that he addressed on the plane from Rome, when he
responded to reporters’ questions that were submitted in advance and picked by
The separation of families “is truly dangerous for the social, moral and human
fabric” of Latin and Central American families, the pope told reporters aboard
his plane. “The fundamental solution is that there should no longer be a need to
emigrate, that there are enough jobs in the homeland, a sufficient social
fabric,” he said.
Short of that, families should be protected, not destroyed, he said. “As much as
it can be done it should be done,” the pontiff said.
The pope did not just send a message to the president and the public, he spoke
to the bishops. In his private meeting with them on Wednesday evening, he
emphasized that recent newcomers to the United States are “people of faith, and
we are here to welcome them,” Cardinal Mahony said.
The pope also dwelled on the negative impact of family separation. Several
bishops took that as a direct reference to the impact of previous immigration
raids and deportations, in which illegal immigrant parents were separated from
spouses and children who were United States citizens or legal immigrants.
“Obviously the Holy Father is not encouraging people to do anything illegal,”
Cardinal Mahony said. But the raids “do not serve as a deterrent,” he said,
adding, “They simply create fear and uncertainty in our communities.”
Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City said the pope “is not going to get into the
specific points that our country has to hash out.” Bishop Wester, who is
chairman of the Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops, said the pontiff had told the bishops “very clearly that we
need to attend to the basic human rights immigrants have.”
Bishop Wester also criticized the immigration raids, which took place at plants
in five states belonging to Pilgrim’s Pride, a major poultry processing company.
Immigration officials said they did not consider the pope’s visit when planning
the operations, which they said came after a yearlong investigation.
But Bishop Wester said: “It did strike me as inappropriate. The pope comes as a
man of peace, a man of good will, the leader of a major religion. Many of the
persons arrested were Catholic.”
As recently as mid-March, he said, his committee met with Julie L. Myers, the
head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that carried out the
raids. The bishops asked Ms. Myers not to conduct raids in churches and to
ensure legal representation for immigrants, Bishop Wester said.
The pope returned to the theme several times over the course of his visit, which
ends Sunday. About 4,000 church members from the Diocese of Brooklyn, which
includes Queens, will hold a prayer service in 29 languages at Kennedy Airport.
About half will be immigrants, said Msgr. Ronald T. Marino, the Brooklyn
Diocese’s vicar for migration. Many will wear the costumes of their homelands.
The pope will not attend, but the crowd will bid him farewell.
“Not a word has to be spoken,” the monsignor said. “What you will see says it
In Washington, Benedict encouraged the American bishops and their communities
“to continue to welcome immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their
joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them
flourish in their new home.” That, he said, was the American tradition. And in a
meeting with Catholic educators, he emphasized the importance of keeping
Catholic schools open, especially to serve immigrants and the underprivileged.
Catholic leaders say such words have bolstered their work, yet the pope’s
emphasis is no surprise in a country where much of the church’s growth and
vitality comes from the influx of immigrant Catholics. Following the polyglot
practice of his predecessor, John Paul II, Benedict used Spanish to directly
address the Latino portion of his flock during the homily at his Mass at
Nationals Park in Washington on Thursday. The Church has grown thanks to their
vitality, he said, and God calls on them to keep contributing.
Priests and bishops who lobby elected officials and minister directly to
immigrants can be more explicit.
Monsignor Marino, for example, said, “In my judgment, immigrants are heroes.”
He applauded the pope’s words. “The simple pointing to it as one of his
priorities, something coming out of his mouth, is real important,” Monsignor
Marino said. “For him to say one sentence means he knows the rest.”
Thomas G. Wenski, the bishop of Orlando, Fla., and a former head of the bishops’
Migration Committee who remains a consultant to it, said he hoped the pope’s
visit would have a practical effect.
“The pope’s visit will unleash some good will here so that Congress might live
up to its responsibility and deal with the issue,” Bishop Wenski said.
In a letter in December, Cardinal Mahony chastised all the presidential
candidates for campaigns that he said had “inflamed anti-immigrant sentiment in
the country.” Since then the three remaining candidates, Senators John McCain of
Arizona, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, have
lowered the volume on the immigration issue.
Secular advocates for immigrants also welcomed the pope’s words. “That’s big
news,” said Teresa Gutierrez, a coordinator for the May 1st Coalition for
Immigrant and Workers Rights. “Any decent comment about the reality of what’s
really happening to immigration in the United States coming from such a
prestigious person as the pope is extremely helpful.”
Pope Speaks Up for
Immigrants, Touching a Nerve, NYT, 20.4.2008,
Vatican Hints at Changes in Church Laws on Abuse
April 19, 2008
The New York Times
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
After three days in which Pope Benedict XVI has persistently addressed the
scandal of child sexual abuse by priests, a top Vatican official said on Friday
that the church was considering changes to the canon laws that govern how it
handles such cases.
The official, Cardinal William J. Levada, would not specify which canons were
under reconsideration. But he suggested that they related to the church’s
statute of limitations, saying that his office has frequently had to judge
allegations from years before because the victims “don’t feel personally able to
come forward” until they are more mature.
The comments by the cardinal, who heads the Vatican office that rules on cases
of sexual abuse that are forwarded to Rome by bishops throughout the world, were
apparently spontaneous, and came in response to questions from three reporters
as he left a luncheon in New York given by Time magazine.
The Vatican has been reluctant to focus attention on the scandal until this
trip. But in what appears to be a carefully scripted effort, Benedict brought
the scandal up on each of the first three days of his trip, his first visit to
the United States as pope, underscoring the message that he understands the
lingering bitterness over the church’s handling of the issue.
“It has overshadowed the trip,” said the Rev. Joseph M. McShane, the president
of Fordham University, who attended the luncheon with Cardinal Levada. “None of
us expected it, but everyone is grateful that he did. What he realized is that
this is a pastoral visit and he must be pastor to those who are hurt most — and
that is the victims.”
American bishops had lobbied the Vatican for months to meet with victims, and
got word in February that the pope would do so. The victims were chosen by the
Boston Archdiocese and were contacted two weeks ago. One met with two church
officials at a Cheesecake Factory restaurant outside Boston, where he learned of
the invitation. Many victims say they have been heartened by the pope’s
attention to the issue, but are waiting warily for him to match his words with
actions. They want the church to do more to prevent priests from abusing
children, and in particular, to hold bishops accountable for keeping abusive
priests in the ministry.
Besides the United States, countries like Ireland, England, Australia, Austria
and Mexico have had scandals over sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
In some cases, Cardinal Levada said, “we’ve been able to make exceptions” to the
statute of limitations that “allow us to handle cases in which strong measures
need to be taken.”
The statute of limitations under the church’s canon law is 10 years after the
victim’s 18th birthday, said Nicholas P. Cafardi, dean emeritus of Duquesne Law
School and a civil and canon lawyer.
Six years after the scandal erupted, first in Boston and then nationwide,
Cardinal Levada said his office is still dealing with a “backlog” of abuse cases
from the United States, though they are slowly being reduced. In addition, there
are fresh allegations every year, but far fewer than in the first three years of
At the luncheon, where he sat on a stage and fielded a few questions, he said he
did not foresee punishing bishops who failed to remove priests suspected of
molesting young people.
“I personally do not accept that there is a broad base of bishops who are guilty
of aiding and abetting pedophiles, and if I thought there were, or knew of them,
I would certainly talk to the pope about what could be done about it,” the
“I am aware of bishops who have admitted to making mistakes, but those seem to
be mistakes grounded in taking counsel that didn’t turn out to be good advice,”
he said, explaining that he was referring to reports from psychologists and
The pope’s decision to reach out to victims and to speak out publicly, and
repeatedly, about sexual abuse, said Cardinal Levada, came at the urging of
several key church officials in the United States: Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley,
archbishop of Boston; Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago and
president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; and Archbishop
Pietro Sambi, an Italian who is the papal nuncio, or chief Vatican diplomat, to
the United States.
Benedict has used emotional language to convey his anguish over the abuse,
starting before he even landed in the United States. On the plane from Rome, he
answered only four written questions from reporters submitted in advance, and
one was about sexual abuse by priests. He said he was “deeply ashamed.”
And in his homily at a festive outdoor Mass at Nationals Park in Washington,
Benedict said: “No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by
such abuse. It is important that those who have suffered be given loving and
He reads his speeches from texts that have been prepared in advance in Rome
after consultations with church leaders in the country he is visiting, Catholic
But it is his meeting with victims — a private session unannounced to the media
and which no television cameras captured — that has spoken far louder than his
words, said David Gibson, a Catholic journalist and author of “The Rule of
Benedict,” a look at Benedict’s papacy.
“It wasn’t even visual. Just the very fact of it was as powerful as his words,”
he said. “They didn’t want it to be the story line. But it has been the story
line. The irony is that this story line — the sexual abuse scandal — has done
more than anything else could have to help us see the Pope Benedict that the
Vatican wanted us to see.”
No matter how many expressions of remorse come from the pope, however, many
victims will not be mollified until the church holds bishops accountable. Many
victims and their parents have memories of being rebuffed when they tried to
alert a bishop to wrongdoing, or of being stunned to learn that a bishop had
quietly reassigned a priest accused of molesting a child to another parish.
Anne Burke, an Illinois Supreme Court justice and a member of a National Review
Board appointed by the bishops to help the church recover from the scandal, is
among three board members who met in 2004 with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before
he became Pope Benedict a year later.
“We named names, told him how cardinals and certain bishops were so
uncooperative,” she said. “When we left the meeting, he said, ‘Thank you very
much, I appreciate all the information.’ And he took copious notes.”
She says she is moved to see Benedict now responding to the victims, but not
surprised that he had not punished bishops.
“This is an Enron crisis in the Catholic Church,” she said. “The only difference
is that the shareholders in Enron were able to get rid of their board of
David Clohessy, an abuse victim and an organizer of the largest nationwide
support group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said on Friday, “If
the pope would clearly, publicly and severely discipline even a handful of
complicit bishops, bishops who knew or suspected abuse and ignored it or
concealed it, that’s the easiest and most effective step.”
Mr. Clohessy acknowledged that victims might sound bitter and thankless just
when the pope himself is finally taking their side.
He began to cry, as he said: “We’re not interested in punishment for
punishment’s sake. We’re interested in consequences because that deters more
recklessness, secrecy and deceit.”
Ian Fisher, Abby Goodnough and Katie Zezima contributed reporting.
Vatican Hints at Changes
in Church Laws on Abuse, NYT, 19.4.2008,
For Abuse Victims on ‘Journey of Healing,’ an Emotional
April 19, 2008
The New York Times
By ABBY GOODNOUGH and KATIE ZEZIMA
BOSTON — Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley had repeatedly urged Pope Benedict XVI to
make Boston part of his visit to the United States, both to meet abuse victims
and to foster healing in the Archdiocese of Boston, where the sexual abuse
crisis in the Roman Catholic Church erupted in 2002.
The pope ruled out a visit to Boston. But several months later, in February, one
of his emissaries asked the cardinal to find a handful of Catholics from the
region who had been abused by priests and who were willing to meet with the
“We proposed some things and they proposed some things,” the Rev. John Connolly,
a special assistant to Cardinal O’Malley, said on Friday. “But it was at the
Holy Father’s initiative that this happened. This was very much a personal
initiative of his.”
Father Connolly and Barbara Thorp, director of the Office of Healing and
Assistance Ministry for the archdiocese, then took on choosing which victims the
pope should meet. They sifted through hundreds of names, Ms. Thorp said, using a
few criteria to make the “very, very difficult” decision.
“There are so many people that have been so hurt and would have loved the
opportunity,” she said. “But the Holy Father wanted the smaller number so he
could have a more personal encounter with each of the people there.”
All five of those chosen — Faith Johnston of Haverhill, Bernie McDaid of
Peabody, Olan Horne of Lowell and two others who did not want their names
publicly disclosed — had met with Cardinal O’Malley in the past and had “ongoing
relationships” with archdiocesan officials, Father Connolly said.
“These are folks who, having had the courage to come forward and report what
happened to them, also then stayed engaged with the office,” he said. “It was
clearly people we judged to be on a journey of healing.”
At the same time, Father Connolly said, they sought people “who would be able to
do something like this in the glare of what could be a very public spotlight.”
The archdiocese did not try to restrict what the five could discuss with the
pope, he said, pointing out that two of them, Mr. McDaid and Mr. Horne, had been
openly critical of the church in the past.
“Those guys are always going to say what’s on their mind,” Father Connolly said,
while adding that in their dealings with the church, Mr. McDaid and Mr. Horne
had always been “respectful” and “socially adept.”
In an interview, Mr. McDaid, 52, said that he received a call about two weeks
ago from Ms. Thorp and Father Connolly, and that they met with him at a
Cheesecake Factory restaurant at a mall in Burlington, Mass., and told him of
“They said the Vatican wanted me to be one of the people invited,” Mr. McDaid
said. “I’ve been waiting seven years. I was ecstatic. I said, ‘Let’s go.’ It was
Ms. Johnston, 23, said in an interview that she was “flattered” and “scared”
when she got the invitation. A priest in her hometown parish was convicted in
2003 of raping her when she was 15 and working on Saturdays in the church
rectory. She is to be married in June and hopes to become an advocate for
victims of sexual abuse.
“It came completely out of the blue,” Ms. Johnston said of the invitation. “I
jumped at it.”
Mr. McDaid and Mr. Horne, 48, knew each other before the meeting but met Ms.
Johnston and the other two victims last weekend, over pizza at Cardinal
O’Malley’s home. They flew to Washington on Wednesday with a few of their
relatives, Father Connolly and Ms. Thorp.
There were no “pope-meeting lessons,” Ms. Thorp said. Ms. Johnson asked how to
address the pope, but otherwise the meeting was “completely unrehearsed.”
After Cardinal O’Malley introduced the five victims, the pope met with each for
several minutes, conversing softly and clasping their hands.
Ms. Johnston, who had not planned what to say, burst into tears when her turn
“He congratulated me about my upcoming wedding, told me he’d pray for me and my
future husband and talked about the hope of the family,” she said. “The rest is
kind of a blur.”
Mr. McDaid, who gave the pope a loaf of his mother’s homemade Irish bread, told
him how as an altar boy of 12, “I was praying, doing a most sacred thing, when I
got sexually assaulted.”
At that point, Mr. McDaid recalled, the pope “looked in my eyes and squeezed my
The group also gave the pope a hand-bound, color-washed book with the names of
nearly 1,500 people from Boston who have claimed abuse at the hands of priests.
The archdiocese hired a calligrapher to print the names in the book, which was
assembled just for the pope, Father Connolly said.
“He told us that he prays for survivors every day,” Father Connolly said, “and
now he has a tangible element.”
For Abuse Victims on
‘Journey of Healing,’ an Emotional Encounter, NYT, 19.4.2008,
In Speech, Pope Urges Promotion of Human Rights
April 18, 2008
The New York Times
By WARREN HOGE and IAN FISHER
UNITED NATIONS — Pope Benedict XVI, who was a young German prisoner in the
war that forged the United Nations, addressed that body Friday as pope,
insisting that human rights — more than force or pragmatic politics — must be
the basis for ending war and poverty.
“The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for
eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and for increasing
security,” Benedict told the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters.
“Indeed, the victims of hardship and despair, whose human dignity is violated
with impunity, become easy prey to the call to violence, and they can then
become violators of peace,” the 81-year-old pope said.
In keeping with past pronouncements, he made no explicit reference to a nation
or conflict in particular, and he laid no specific blame in the half-hour
speech, which was densely packed with philosophy and theology. But he did
mention briefly some specific priorities for the Vatican, like protecting the
environment, and making sure that poor nations, especially in Africa, also reap
the benefits of globalization.
And in a passage that will have particular resonance for the current United
Nations leadership, which is trying to establish the right of the outside world
to intervene in situations where nations fail to shield their own citizens from
atrocities, the pope said that “every state has the primary duty to protect its
own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights.”
The concept, known as “responsibility to protect,” is one that Ban Ki-moon, the
secretary general, has championed as a way for international institutions to
take action in regions like Darfur.
“If states are unable to guarantee such protection,” the pope said, “the
international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the
United Nations charter and in other international instruments.” In an apparent
allusion to countries that claim such international actions constitute
intervention in their national affairs, he said instead they “should never be
interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty.”
He added, “On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do
the real damage.”
On his fourth day in America —and his first visit as pope — Benedict traveled
north from Washington on “Shepherd One,” the Alitalia papal plane, to New York,
where he will visit ground zero and celebrate Mass at Yankee Stadium before
departing for Rome on Sunday night. He was greeted by Cardinal Edward C. Egan,
head of the New York archdiocese, and a host of state and Catholic officials at
a low-key ceremony on the tarmac of Kennedy International Airport.
After traveling by helicopter and motorcade to the United Nations, Benedict
delivered a speech that touched on themes important both to his three-year-old
papacy and his decades of writing as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
At base, the pope presented the idea that there are universal values that
transcend the diversity — cultural, ethnic or ideological — embodied in an
institution like the United Nations, founded to help prevent the ruin of another
world war. Those values are at the base of human rights, he said, as they are
for religion. Thus religion, he said, cannot be shut out of a body like the
United Nations, which he said aims at “a social order respectful of the dignity
and rights of the person.”
“A vision of life firmly anchored in the religious dimension can help achieve
this, since recognition of the transcendent value of every man and woman favors
conversion of heart, which then leads to a commitment to resist violence,
terrorism, war and to promote justice and peace,” he said.
Benedict was introduced to the thronged General Assembly hall by Mr. Ban, who
called the United Nations a sectarian institution but is “home to all men and
women of faith around the world.”
Mr. Ban said the pope supported many of the goals of the United Nations, such as
climate change, world peace, the eradication of poverty, and maintaining a
dialogue among the world’s religions.The speech to the General Assembly is a
papal tradition: Pope Paul VI made an appearance in 1965, and Pope John Paul II
in 1979 and 1995.
On Friday afternoon, Benedict is scheduled to meet with local Jewish clergy at
the Park East Synagogue, a historic Orthodox congregation founded by
Austro-Hungarian Jews in 1890. Its leader since 1962, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, is
a Holocaust survivor with longtime ties to the Vatican; he has met with two
Never before has a pope visited a synagogue in this country; indeed, only two
papal visits to synagogues have ever been recorded, both in Europe.
So far, Benedict’s American journey has been notable for a willingness by the
pope to address the sexual abuse scandals of the past decade, which have left
lasting wounds for many American Catholics.
In Washington on Thursday, the pope held an unannounced meeting with several
victims of abuse by priests in the Boston area. The pope himself had requested
the meeting, said the official, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, which took place at
the papal nuncio’s residence. The pope prayed and spoke personally to the
handful of victims who attended, in a meeting that lasted about 25 minutes. Some
wept, Father Lombardi said.
The meeting made clear that for all the messages that Benedict wished to send
during his brief time in the United States, the one concerning priestly abuse
was most central. He raised the issue first with reporters on his trip from Rome
on Tuesday, and did so for a third time Thursday morning during a huge open Mass
at Nationals Stadium before nearly 50,000 people, his first major encounter with
America’s diverse church.
“No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse,” the
pope said in his homily. “It is important that those who have suffered be given
loving pastoral attention.”
But some abuse victims in the New York area have largely ignored the pope’s
visit and say they are dubious about his public pronouncements about how deeply
he has been affected by the crisis, even questioning the motives behind his
meeting on Thursday.
Jim Hackett, of Cheshire, Conn., who waited 30 years before going public with
his account of abuse by a priest, said he is still waiting for Benedict to
publicly articulate specific steps the church will take to help prevent others
from suffering the way he did.
Mr. Hackett and other abuse victims planned to stage vigil on Friday outside a
SoHo art gallery displaying an exhibit of photographs of victims. As Benedict
addressed the United Nations, Robert Costello, who said he was abused by a
priest in West Roxbury, Mass., starting at age 10, planned to read aloud the
names of victims.
For years, victims of abuse in the United States had beseeched the Vatican for a
meeting with the pope, first asking John Paul II, who died in 2005, and finally,
six years after the outbreak of the scandal, one was granted. The scandal
affected nearly every diocese in America, revealed more than 5,000 abusive
priests and more than 13,000 victims and has cost the church more than $2
billion in settlements and legal fees. It also has cost the church trust and
respect, both of which the pope clearly hopes to restore.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who organized Thursday’s meeting and
attended, gave the pope a notebook listing some 1,000 boys and girls who had
been abused in the Boston Archdiocese alone going back several decades, a
Vatican official said.
“The fact that we finally got the pope to actually stand up and put a statement
on record, I really think he set the bar this week,” said Gary Bergeron, who
said he had been abused by a priest in Lowell, Mass.
Mr. Bergeron, author of the book “Don’t Call Me a Victim,” traveled to Rome in
2003 and tried to meet with Pope John Paul II, with no success. “We made some
progress this week, and that’s what’s important,” he said.
Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who represented hundreds of people abused by
priests, none of whom attended the meeting with the pope, said he hoped that the
pontiff would meet with more victims.
“He certainly will need more than a half hour to understand the pain victims are
feeling because of being sexually abused by priests,” he said.
While some abuse survivors were encouraged to hear of the encounter, others said
they would not feel comforted until the church calls bishops and those in the
hierarchy to account.
In Washington on Thursday, Benedict also gave a substantial address to Catholic
educators, many of whom have been struggling with money shortages, changing
missions and conflicts over whether Catholic schools are Catholic enough. He
spoke to about 200 college presidents and the superintendents of Catholic
schools in the nation’s 195 dioceses.
In his speech, the Pope did not refer explicitly to recent controversies over
what kinds of curriculums, outside speakers, campus clubs, and artistic
expression are acceptable at a Catholic institution. But he said that church
teachings must shape “all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and
outside the classroom,” in an insistence on adherence to church doctrine that
Benedict stresses for Catholics in all parts of their lives, from their personal
behavior to what kind of politicians they support.
Benedict had additional healing work to do at his evening encounter with Muslim,
Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religious leaders. On a previous trip, to his
German homeland, Benedict set off a paroxysm of anger with comments that
appeared to denigrate Islam. He has also offended Jewish leaders by
reinstituting a prayer for the conversion of the Jews in the Latin prayers on
On Thursday, he attempted to offer an olive branch to Jewish leaders, and
affirmed that all religions should have a common goal of working for peace. But
he also issued a challenge, saying that interfaith dialogue that does not deal
with existential “truth” is insufficient. And he talked of the need to protect
religious freedom, pointing out that religious minorities in some countries are
subject to discrimination and prejudice.
Reporting was contributed by Michael M. Grynbaum, Abby Goodnough, Laurie
Goodstein, Richard G. Jones and Katie Zezima.
In Speech, Pope Urges
Promotion of Human Rights, NYT, 18.4.2008,
Abuse Victims Warily Consider Pope’s Words
April 18, 2008
The New York Times
By RICHARD G. JONES and ABBY GOODNOUGH
Jim Hackett waited 30 years before going public in 2005 with his horrific
account of being sexually abused by a priest who eventually admitted that he
groped adolescent boys. The priest was placed on leave, yet found a way to
continue as a clergyman.
As Mr. Hackett anticipated Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to the United States
this week, he waited for an indication that the church would do more to help
abuse victims like him and to punish their abusers. And after the pope’s
surprise visit with a group of victims in Washington on Thursday, Mr. Hackett is
still waiting for Benedict to publicly articulate specific steps the church will
take to help prevent others from suffering the way he did.
“It’s all just window dressing,” said Mr. Hackett, 44, a computer programmer who
lives in Cheshire, Conn. “You have to look at his actions. He was pressured into
As the pope arrives in New York City on Friday, Mr. Hackett and other abuse
victims will stage a vigil outside a SoHo art gallery displaying a new exhibit
of photographs of them. While Benedict addresses the United Nations on Friday,
Robert Costello, who said he was abused by a priest in West Roxbury, Mass.,
starting at age 10, plans to read aloud the names of victims.
Mr. Costello, who is 46 and lives in Norwood, Mass., questioned why Thursday’s
meeting was with only a handful of victims and why it was not publicized ahead
“I think it’s very nice for those five victims, if they found healing or
encouragement,” he said. “But for the rest of the survivors, one of the first
questions is, ‘Why wasn’t it me?’ ”
Few have greeted Benedict’s arrival with as much ambivalence as the victims of
the priest sexual abuse scandal, which sent tremors through across the United
States six years ago, with aftershocks still resonating.
Some victims, like Mr. Hackett, have largely ignored the pope’s visit and say
they are dubious about his public pronouncements about how deeply he has been
affected by the crisis, even questioning the motives behind his meeting on
Thursday. Others have struck a more conciliatory tone, saying that Benedict
should be credited for addressing the scandal far more directly than others in
the church hierarchy.
“I’m disappointed, but I also have to give Benedict his due,” said Tim Echausse,
director of the Long Island chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by
Priests, a national victims group.
Almost all say that more important than the pope’s words are his actions,
criticizing what they say is the lack of a concrete plan to purge pedophiles
from the church and discipline bishops and other leaders who have protected
“It’s a small but overdue positive step if it leads to action,” David Clohessy,
a leader of the survivors network, said of the private meeting with five victims
from the Boston area on Thursday. “Talk can produce change or complacency.
“Despite the soothing words and promises of reform,” Mr. Clohessy added, “the
cold, hard fact is that not a single kid is safer today because of what’s been
said this week.”
Mr. Clohessy says new cases of abuse by priests still are being reported
regularly, despite the no-tolerance decree issued by the United States
Conference of Bishops in Dallas in 2002. “They don’t have to live up to their
principles because no one is able to sanction them,” Mr. Clohessy said of the
No one, that is, except for Benedict, whose public comments about the scandal
have focused more on his personal perspective of the crisis than a specific plan
to address it. In interviews this week, several victims of abuse said they hoped
that he would go further than such pronouncements.
“He’s been so troubled by this? I feel for him deeply,” another victim, Patricia
Anne Cahill, 55, said sarcastically of the sentiment the pope has repeated
several times during his visit this week. “Let him have lunch with some of us.
He’ll see what being troubled is like.”
After Thursday’s meeting, Ms. Cahill said: “The question I have is: How were
they chosen? Why wasn’t it put out there as a random sampling? Maybe they’re
saying what the church wants to hear and what the public wants to hear.”
Ms. Cahill, who said that her uncle repeatedly raped her during her childhood,
invoking his priest’s collar as a way to keep her silent, is also among the 30
victims featured in the exhibit of photographs in SoHo, titled “Crosses,” by
Carmine Galasso, a photojournalist at The Record of Hackensack, N.J.
The exhibit, and a book by the same name, includes haunting portraits of victims
returning to the churches, rectories and other locations where they said they
“I’m not a holy roller; I don’t really practice my faith,” said Mr. Galasso, who
grew up Catholic. “But if you’re born a Catholic, you’re Catholic. And this was
something that spoke to me professionally and personally.”
Several of the victims in the photographs, as well as others around the country,
awaited the pope’s visit with deep ambivalence — and reacted with deep suspicion
to his meeting with victims. Susan Renehan, 59, who said she was sexually abused
by a priest for a number of years as a child in New Jersey, questioned whether
an honest dialogue took place.
“I’ve been in touch with many survivors over the years,” said Ms. Renehan, who
is active in the New England chapter of the survivors network. “I can’t think of
one who fits the criteria of being polite enough to meet with the pope.”
She went on: “The pope talks about how he feels ashamed and all of this.
“But we are plagued by lawyers working for the Vatican and for the church to
make sure they fight tooth and nail to make sure, unless forced to, they don’t
have to be responsible for what happened. It’s sort of a hypocritical
conversation they have going. If you criticize it, they say, ‘She’s just angry.’
Rodney Ford, whose son, Gregory, reached a settlement with the Archdiocese of
Boston in 2004 relating to his abuse by the Rev. Paul Shanley from 1983 to 1989
at a church in Newton, Mass., said of the meeting: “I see this as him trying to
raise money for the Catholic Church. It’s a political statement.”
Asked why he thought his son and others who have been harshly critical of church
leaders had not been invited, Mr. Ford said: “They chose people who were going
to be more appropriate.”
Mr. Hackett, who was one of 43 abuse victims to share $22 million as part of an
agreement to settle abuse claims with the Archdiocese of Hartford, was similarly
suspicious of Benedict’s public pronouncements about the sex abuse scandal this
“He has a history of pooh-poohing it — now he’s taking a whole different line,”
said Mr. Hackett, who has distanced himself from the church. “I wonder about the
change of heart. He probably realizes that a lot of people are walking away from
the church. Now, he’s just trying to stop the bleeding.”
For victims who have struggled to reconcile with the church, the pope’s visit
can be particularly painful. “To me, the pope points out that I don’t have a
church,” said Becky Ianni, 50, a sex abuse victim and a mother of four who lives
in Virginia. “It reminds me that there is an empty spot. It’s just so glaring
because everyone is so excited. I wish I could be excited.”
Katie Zezima contributed reporting.
Abuse Victims Warily
Consider Pope’s Words, NYT, 18.4.2008,
The Pope's Visit
Benedict Meets With the Victims of Sexual Abuse
April 18, 2008
The New York Times
By IAN FISHER and LAURIE GOODSTEIN
WASHINGTON — Pope Benedict XVI came face to face Thursday with a scandal that
has left lasting wounds on the American church, holding an unannounced meeting
with several victims of sexual abuse by priests in the Boston area.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who organized the meeting and attended,
gave the pope a notebook listing some 1,000 boys and girls who had been abused
in the Boston Archdiocese alone going back several decades, a Vatican official
The pope had requested the meeting, said the official, the Rev. Federico
Lombardi, which took place at the papal nuncio’s residence. The handful of
victims are roughly in middle age. The pope prayed and spoke personally with
each of them, in a meeting that lasted about 25 minutes. Some wept, Father
“It was a moving experience,” Cardinal O’Malley told reporters afterward. “It
was very positive and very prayerful.”
The meeting made clear that for all the messages that Benedict wished to send
during his five-day trip to the United States, his first as pope, the one
concerning priestly abuse was central. He raised the issue first with reporters
on his trip from Rome on Tuesday, and did so for a third time Thursday morning
in a huge open Mass at Nationals Park before nearly 50,000 people, his first
major encounter with the country’s diverse church.
“No words of mine could describe the pain and harm inflicted by such abuse,” the
pope said in his homily. “It is important that those who have suffered be given
loving pastoral attention.”
Three of the survivors, speaking on CNN last night, reacted positively to the
One of them, Bernie McDaid said he had told the pope that “he has a cancer
growing in his ministry and needs to do something about it.” But Mr. McDaid said
he came away feeling that victims would get action.
Another, Olan Horne said, “My hope is restored today.” He said the pope had
spoken frankly and had been with the victims longer than they had expected.
The unannounced meeting far overshadowed the rest of the pope’s schedule, on the
third day of his trip to the United States and a day before he leaves for New
York to address the United Nations.
But he also gave a substantial address to Catholic educators, many of whom have
been struggling with shortages of money, changing missions and conflicts over
whether Catholic schools are Catholic enough. He spoke to about 200 college
presidents and the superintendents of Catholic schools in the nation’s 195
At a time when many dioceses are closing down schools for K-12 students,
Benedict emphasized the importance of keeping them open, especially to serve
immigrants and the underprivileged. He also used the occasion to clarify limits,
saying that although academic freedom is valuable, it must not be used to
“justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the church.”
There have been sporadic controversies over what kinds of curriculum, outside
speakers, campus clubs and artistic expressions are acceptable at Catholic
colleges and universities. The pope did not refer explicitly to those
controversies. But he addressed them indirectly when he said that church
teachings must shape “all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and
outside the classroom.”
The pope had additional healing work to do at his evening encounter with Muslim,
Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religious leaders. On a previous trip, to his
German homeland, Benedict had set off a paroxysm of anger with comments that
appeared to denigrate Islam. He has also offended Jewish leaders by
reinstituting a prayer for the conversion of the Jews in the Latin prayers on
On Thursday, he offered an olive branch to Jewish leaders, and affirmed that all
religions should have a common goal of working for peace. And he spoke of the
need to protect religious freedom, pointing out that religious minorities in
some countries are subject to prejudice.
For years, victims of abuse in the United States had beseeched the Vatican for a
meeting with the pope, first asking John Paul II, who died in 2005, and finally,
six years after the outbreak of the scandal, one was granted. The scandal
affected nearly every diocese in America, revealed more than 5,000 abusive
priests and more than 13,000 victims and has cost the church more than $2
billion in settlements and legal fees. It also has cost the church trust and
respect, both of which the pope is clearly aimed at restoring.
But reaction from victims and their advocates varied, with some praising the
meeting as an important step and others saying that still it was not enough.
“This is a small, long-overdue step forward on a very long road,” Joelle
Casteix, southwestern regional director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused
by Priests, said in a statement. “We’re confident the meeting was meaningful for
the participants, and we’re grateful that these victims have had the courage to
come forward and speak up.
“But fundamentally, it won’t change things,” Ms. Casteix said. “Kids need
action. Catholics deserve action. Action produces reform, and reform — real
reform — is sorely needed in the church hierarchy.”
But Gary Bergeron, who said he had been abused by a priest in Lowell, Mass.,
said: “I think we moved the ball down the field this week. The fact that we
finally got the pope to actually stand up and put a statement on record, I
really think he set the bar this week.”
Mr. Bergeron, author of the book “Don’t Call Me a Victim,” went to Rome in 2003
and tried to meet with John Paul II, with no success.
“We made some progress this week, and that’s what’s important,” he said.
Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer who represented hundreds of people abused by
priests, none of whom attended the meeting with the pope, said he hoped the
pontiff would meet with more victims.
“He certainly will need more than a half hour to understand the pain victims are
feeling because of being sexually abused by priests,” Mr. Garabedian said.
While the meeting with victims was historic, and a surprise, it is the address
the pope gave to Catholic educators that is most likely to receive scrutiny
within the church.
Benedict praised Catholic schools that have “helped generations of immigrants to
rise from poverty to take their place in mainstream society.” And he encouraged
Catholics to continue to contribute generously to Catholic schools “to ensure
that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata.”
Catholic universities and colleges have come under fire for inviting speakers
who favor abortion rights, like Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Eliot Spitzer
and Stanley Tucci, the actor, who was dropped from an event at Catholic
University. The University of Notre Dame was criticized for allowing a campus
staging of “The Vagina Monologues,” an edgy feminist theater piece.
The pope insisted on adherence to church doctrine, saying, “Divergence from this
vision weakens Catholic identity, and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably
leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual.”
For faculty members, he said: “I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic
freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth
wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that
any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions
that contradict the faith and teaching of the church would obstruct or even
betray the university’s identity and mission.”
The educators in the room were encouraged by the pope’s speech, and applauded
his call to keep schools open for poor students.
The Rev. Robert A. Wild, the president of Marquette University, said after the
pope’s speech: “What was most striking to me is what it was not. We were not
being told that most Catholic schools are not faithful to our message. It was
not a finger-waving exercise. It was mostly to encourage us.”
At the new Nationals Park, with a gorgeous view of the Capitol, the outdoor Mass
combined the spiritual with the spectacular: Some 46,000 people waved Vatican
flags and shed tears when Benedict arrived in his popemobile, in a ball-field
setting complete with sausage and $20 souvenir pope hats.
The Mass was the pope’s first real encounter with the American church, and the
people in the stands poured out affection as much as shined a mirror of their
diverse self back onto Benedict: conservative and liberal, black, white, Latino
and Asian. Although Benedict is avowedly part of the church’s more orthodox
wing, some at the Mass said he seemed on this American trip eager to address the
full church, in all its complexity.
“He is open to things, and that gives a feeling of hope to people who have felt
left out,” said Barbara Thomas, 51, an administrative assistant from Columbia,
In a shift of perception that the Vatican clearly hoped would be common on this
trip, Ms. Thomas said she had found him “more open, not so stern as what the
general impression had been.”
Steve Brown, 55, a doctor from Fairfax, Va., said that seeing the pope was
particularly important to him because he is suffering from terminal cancer.
“Seeing him in person gave me a warm feeling of being at peace,” Mr. Brown said.
“Just his aura — a kind of spirituality that emanated from him. Before I wasn’t
as moved with him as I was with John Paul II. Now, seeing him, I feel moved.”
Neela Banerjee, Abby Goodnough and Katie Zezima contributed reporting.
Benedict Meets With the
Victims of Sexual Abuse, NYT, 18.4.2008,
Pope Celebrates Mass With Message of Hope
April 18, 2008
The New York Times
By JOHN SULLIVAN
Saying that his visit was meant to bring a message of hope to the United
States, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his first public Mass in the country on
Thursday morning before tens of thousands of people at Washington Nationals
The 81-year-old pontiff entered the stadium to cheers from a crowd of 46,000.
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I am happy to be with you,” the pope said.
The papal visit has attracted Catholics from across the country, and the
audience at Thursday’s Mass reflected the diversity of the church. The sunlit
stadium was filled with pageantry and color, the clergy’s red and white
vestments, robed choirs and yellow and white banners.
“I feel like I am in a bit of heaven today,” said Patricia Janiak, of Webster,
Benedict delivered a homily in English and Spanish that touched on messages he
has delivered throughout his visit — the need to repair the damage of the sexual
abuse scandal that has torn the church and to strengthen Catholics’ commitment
to the church’s teachings in a secular society.
“Who can deny that the present moment is a crossroads?” the pope asked. Saying
that this is a time “of great promise,” he cautioned that “at the same time we
see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations” of society.
The mass began the third day of the pope’s first visit to the United States. On
Wednesday, he addressed American bishops at the Basilica of the National Shrine
of the Immaculate Conception in Washington and said the church needed to face a
challenge of secularism that could lead Catholics to accept abortion, divorce
and cohabitation outside marriage.
Also on Wednesday, the pope attended a reception at the White House and met with
President Bush in the Oval Office. It was only the second time that a leader of
the Roman Catholic Church has met with the president at the White House, the
first was in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter met with Pope John Paul II.
In the Mass on Thursday, the pope again addressed the sexual abuse scandal that
has led to accusations against thousands of priests and deacons.
“No words of mine could reflect the pain and harm of such abuse,” he said.
The pope said that “great efforts have already been made to deal honestly and
fairly with the tragic results of this situation,” but he called on members of
the church to reach out to the victims of abuse and “do what you can to foster
healing and reconciliation.”
The pope also asked church members to help the members of the clergy through a
difficult time and “affirm the excellent works they do.”
Some in the audience on Thursday were pleased to hear the pope speak forcefully
about the matter. “This needs to be addressed,” said Barbara Thomas, 51, an
administrative assistant from Columbia, Md. “Maybe he won’t make everybody
happy, but it is a good start.”
Pope Benedict continued to demonstrate his affection for the United States,
saying “Americans have always been a people of hope.” But he said that the
promise of the country had not always been shared by all of its inhabitants,
citing slavery and the treatment of native Americans.
“The church in the United States is now called to the look to the future,” he
He said young people in the country have shown a great enthusiasm for faith, but
there is a need to guide them in an “increasingly secular and materialistic
The pope is scheduled to address leaders of Catholic colleges and school
district on Thursday afternoon, and to follow that with a meeting with religious
leaders of other faiths at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington.
Ian Fisher contributed reporting from Washington
Pope Celebrates Mass
With Message of Hope, NYT, 18.4.2008,
Wary Reception Among Muslims Who Recall Pontiff’s Remark About
April 17, 2008
The New York Times
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
The Muslim boys at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn pass under the stone gaze
of the Virgin Mary every morning, and crucifixes adorn the classrooms where they
receive a solid Catholic education. The school band is to play for Pope Benedict
XVI when he arrives in New York on Friday, so the buzz of his first papal visit
to the United States is also inescapable.
And so is the lingering sting of the pope’s words in September 2006, when he
quoted a Byzantine emperor as saying that the Prophet Muhammad brought “things
only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he
“He brought it up from nowhere,” said Mustafa Choucair, 16, a junior and one of
76 Muslim students at Xaverian. He likes the school but suspects that the pope
may not like Muslims. “It makes me feel like you shouldn’t talk about someone’s
religion when you don’t know anything about it.”
At the time, the pope’s remarks prompted violence and expressions of outrage
from Muslims abroad. Reactions in the United States were muted, but many Muslims
today — even those closely connected to a Roman Catholic institution — remain
troubled by the remarks. Their feelings are often complicated, a mixture of
respect for the church and wariness about this pope, who will meet with Muslim
and other religious leaders in Washington on Thursday.
While many say they continue to feel welcome at Catholic schools and hospitals,
the pope’s speech has left an indelible, often negative impression.
“It reflects on him as an intolerant person at that moment,” said Dr. Yusuf
Mamdani of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., who is affiliated with St. Vincent’s Hospital
Manhattan. “The pope should be beyond these things. I believe a person should
Benedict’s views of Islam are complicated, too, but they center on his idea of —
and fears for — Europe. As a cardinal he often wrote that ever more secular
Europeans were committing a sort of moral and cultural suicide in ignoring their
Christian roots. Islam, a competitor, was gaining strength through Muslims’
conviction, he said, something that Europe had forgotten. The view seemed not
wholly negative: He has often praised the depth of Muslims’ devotion.
Benedict has sought to repair the damage from his remarks, which came fleetingly
in a speech about faith and reason in Regensburg, Germany. He said the words did
not reflect his personal views and expressed regret that critics said fell short
of an apology. Benedict has since visited a mosque in Turkey, reaffirmed the
need for dialogue, upgraded the Vatican’s department dealing with interreligious
dialogue and met with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
But in the eyes of many Muslims, Benedict delivered another slap in the face on
Easter eve when he baptized Magdi Allam, 55, a secular Muslim and writer who
immigrated to Italy from Egypt in the early 1970s and who has become well known
for his criticism of radical Islam and his support for Israel.
“It hurts when we hear things like this,” said the secretary general of the
Islamic Society of North America, Sayyid M. Syeed. “We have to convince our
people that they should overcome these things and continue.” Mr. Syeed, who
takes part in regular meetings with Catholics, will be among the religious
leaders whom the pope will address on Thursday, at the Pope John Paul II
Cultural Center in Washington.
One Muslim representative, Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim
Public Affairs Council, said he had declined an invitation because the meeting
seemed to him more about pageantry than purpose. “The substance of dialogue was
missing from the agenda,” he said.
Official Muslim-Catholic dialogue exists on a lofty plane, but on a practical
level, the relationship is most evident in Catholic institutions that have a
steady Muslim presence. They include hospitals like St. Vincent’s, which has a
room for Friday Prayer; nursing homes; social service agencies like Catholic
Charities of the New York Archdiocese, which helps Muslim asylum seekers and
immigrants; and colleges and universities like Fordham and Seton Hall, which
have Muslim students’ associations.
The Catholic Migration Office of the Diocese of Brooklyn serves a significant
stream of Muslims, providing legal advice about immigration, language classes,
job training and tenant advocacy. Msgr. Ronald T. Marino, the office’s director,
said he had detected no ill will toward Benedict.
“They don’t say, ‘You’re Catholic, and you hate us.’ They trust,” Monsignor
Catholic schools are a major intersection site. Muslim families often send their
children there when Islamic schools are full or not available. Some immigrant
parents were educated by Catholic orders in their home countries; others value
what they see as a monotheistic religious focus, even if it is not Islamic.
At St. Teresa of Avila School in South Ozone Park, Queens, Nalini Benn, a Hindu,
teaches Catholic principles to Muslim, Hindu and Catholic kindergartners. “I let
them know this school is very special because they have a chance to learn about
the love of God,” she said.
A Muslim parent and teacher’s aide at the school, Sheneza Hardial, said she had
heard about the pope’s comments but paid little attention. As a result of the
visit, “People will see who he is, what he is, what he’s saying, rather than
judging him from a podium in another country,” said Ms. Hardial, who, like many
in the neighborhood, is from Guyana, which has a mixture of Hindus, Christians
Classroom posters in the school outline the meaning of Easter, and several
Muslim children crossed themselves after a prayer. Down the hall, Muslim third
graders in a religious education class taught by the Rev. Richard Hoare, the
pastor at St. Teresa, helped act out the biblical story of Daniel in the lion’s
Many Muslims express affection for the church despite their dismay with the
pope’s speech. Dr. Mamdani, of St. Vincent’s, sent his three children to
Catholic schools and said his warm feelings for the church were established 15
years ago during a parochial school admission interview. The principal changed
seats so she would not look down on Dr. Mamdani and his wife, he said.
“I did not forget one Catholic lady, who did not want to be higher than us,” he
Dr. Mamdani, an obstetrician, ended up at St. Vincent’s about five years ago,
attracted by its values. “They don’t do abortion. I don’t either,” he said.
“It’s a mutual respect for life.”
At Xaverian, which is sponsored by the Xaverian Brothers, the student body of
1,400 boys includes 8 Jews in addition to the 76 Muslims, said Salvatore
Ferrera, the school’s president. Overlooking the Narrows, it sits on the edge of
Bay Ridge, which has a large Muslim population. The students recite Hail Marys
after lunch. Masses are held on feast days. Haytham Aboushi, a student, said he
knew the Lord’s Prayer so well that at one point he couldn’t keep it from
running through his head.
Muslim students interviewed last week said they felt comfortable at Xaverian but
were not immune to the prejudices faced by many Muslims, particularly after the
terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. There is teasing from other students, and
occasional misunderstandings about Islam by teachers, which the students said
they felt free to correct.
During a class discussion about the outrage prompted by the pope’s remark, one
teacher suggested that the rioters were looking for an excuse “to kill
Christians,” Haytham said. “He knew the minute he said it he messed up,” he
Several of the Muslim students are in the band, but none were selected to
perform for the pope when he arrives at John F. Kennedy Airport on Friday. Yaser
Jaber, 16, who plays percussion, said he would have offered his place to a
“It would be more of an experience for him than me,” he said.
Ian Fisher contributed reporting.
Wary Reception Among
Muslims Who Recall Pontiff’s Remark About Muhammad, NYT, 17.4.2008,
Text of Pope’s Speech to Bishops
April 17, 2008
The New York Times
Following is the prepared text of Pope Benedict XVI’s speech before the
bishops of the United States at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
in Washington, as provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Dear Brother Bishops,
It gives me great joy to greet you today, at the start of my visit to this
country, and I thank Cardinal George for the gracious words he has addressed to
me on your behalf. I want to thank all of you, especially the Officers of the
Episcopal Conference, for the hard work that has gone into the preparation of
this visit. My grateful appreciation goes also to the staff and volunteers of
the National Shrine, who have welcomed us here this evening. American Catholics
are noted for their loyal devotion to the see of Peter. My pastoral visit here
is an opportunity to strengthen further the bonds of communion that unite us. We
began by celebrating Evening Prayer in this Basilica dedicated to the Immaculate
Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a shrine of special significance to
American Catholics, right in the heart of your capital city. Gathered in prayer
with Mary, Mother of Jesus, we lovingly commend to our heavenly Father the
people of God in every part of the United States.
For the Catholic communities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Louisville,
this is a year of particular celebration, as it marks the bicentenary of the
establishment of these local Churches as Dioceses. I join you in giving thanks
for the many graces granted to the Church there during these two centuries. As
this year also marks the bicentenary of the elevation of the founding see of
Baltimore to an Archdiocese, it gives me an opportunity to recall with
admiration and gratitude the life and ministry of John Carroll, the first Bishop
of Baltimore — a worthy leader of the Catholic community in your newly
independent nation. His tireless efforts to spread the Gospel in the vast
territory under his care laid the foundations for the ecclesial life of your
country and enabled the Church in America to grow to maturity. Today the
Catholic community you serve is one of the largest in the world, and one of the
most influential. How important it is, then, to let your light so shine before
your fellow citizens and before the world, “that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16).
Many of the people to whom John Carroll and his fellow Bishops were ministering
two centuries ago had traveled from distant lands. The diversity of their
origins is reflected in the rich variety of ecclesial life in present-day
America. Brother Bishops, I want to encourage you and your communities to
continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their
joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them
flourish in their new home. This, indeed, is what your fellow countrymen have
done for generations. From the beginning, they have opened their doors to the
tired, the poor, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” (cf. Sonnet
inscribed on the Statue of Liberty). These are the people whom America has made
Of those who came to build a new life here, many were able to make good use of
the resources and opportunities that they found, and to attain a high level of
prosperity. Indeed, the people of this country are known for their great
vitality and creativity. They are also known for their generosity. After the
attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001, and again after Hurricane Katrina
in 2005, Americans displayed their readiness to come to the aid of their
brothers and sisters in need. On the international level, the contribution made
by the people of America to relief and rescue operations after the tsunami of
December 2004 is a further illustration of this compassion. Let me express my
particular appreciation for the many forms of humanitarian assistance provided
by American Catholics through Catholic Charities and other agencies. Their
generosity has borne fruit in the care shown to the poor and needy, and in the
energy that has gone into building the nationwide network of Catholic parishes,
hospitals, schools and universities. All of this gives great cause for
America is also a land of great faith. Your people are remarkable for their
religious fervor and they take pride in belonging to a worshipping community.
They have confidence in God, and they do not hesitate to bring moral arguments
rooted in biblical faith into their public discourse. Respect for freedom of
religion is deeply ingrained in the American consciousness — a fact which has
contributed to this country’s attraction for generations of immigrants, seeking
a home where they can worship freely in accordance with their beliefs.
In this connection, I happily acknowledge the presence among you of Bishops from
all the venerable Eastern Churches in communion with the Successor of Peter,
whom I greet with special joy. Dear Brothers, I ask you to assure your
communities of my deep affection and my continued prayers, both for them and for
the many brothers and sisters who remain in their land of origin. Your presence
here is a reminder of the courageous witness to Christ of so many members of
your communities, often amid suffering, in their respective homelands. It is
also a great enrichment of the ecclesial life of America, giving vivid
expression to the Church’s catholicity and the variety of her liturgical and
It is in this fertile soil, nourished from so many different sources, that all
of you, Brother Bishops, are called to sow the seeds of the Gospel today. This
leads me to ask how, in the twenty-first century, a bishop can best fulfill the
call to “make all things new in Christ, our hope”? How can he lead his people to
“an encounter with the living God”, the source of that life-transforming hope of
which the Gospel speaks (cf. Spe Salvi, 4)? Perhaps he needs to begin by
clearing away some of the barriers to such an encounter. While it is true that
this country is marked by a genuinely religious spirit, the subtle influence of
secularism can nevertheless color the way people allow their faith to influence
their behavior. Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and
then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures
contrary to those beliefs? Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore
or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to
Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life
of every human being from conception to natural death? Any tendency to treat
religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates
every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming
power of the Gospel.
For an affluent society, a further obstacle to an encounter with the living God
lies in the subtle influence of materialism, which can all too easily focus the
attention on the hundredfold, which God promises now in this time, at the
expense of the eternal life which he promises in the age to come (cf. Mk 10:30).
People today need to be reminded of the ultimate purpose of their lives. They
need to recognize that implanted within them is a deep thirst for God. They need
to be given opportunities to drink from the wells of his infinite love. It is
easy to be entranced by the almost unlimited possibilities that science and
technology place before us; it is easy to make the mistake of thinking we can
obtain by our own efforts the fulfillment of our deepest needs. This is an
illusion. Without God, who alone bestows upon us what we by ourselves cannot
attain (cf. Spe Salvi, 31), our lives are ultimately empty. People need to be
constantly reminded to cultivate a relationship with him who came that we might
have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). The goal of all our pastoral and
catechetical work, the object of our preaching, and the focus of our sacramental
ministry should be to help people establish and nurture that living relationship
with “Christ Jesus, our hope” (1 Tim 1:1).
In a society which values personal freedom and autonomy, it is easy to lose
sight of our dependence on others as well as the responsibilities that we bear
towards them. This emphasis on individualism has even affected the Church (cf.
Spe Salvi, 13-15), giving rise to a form of piety which sometimes emphasizes our
private relationship with God at the expense of our calling to be members of a
redeemed community. Yet from the beginning, God saw that “it is not good for man
to be alone” (Gen 2:18). We were created as social beings who find fulfillment
only in love - for God and for our neighbor. If we are truly to gaze upon him
who is the source of our joy, we need to do so as members of the people of God
(cf. Spe Salvi, 14). If this seems counter-cultural, that is simply further
evidence of the urgent need for a renewed evangelization of culture.
Here in America, you are blessed with a Catholic laity of considerable cultural
diversity, who place their wide-ranging gifts at the service of the Church and
of society at large. They look to you to offer them encouragement, leadership
and direction. In an age that is saturated with information, the importance of
providing sound formation in the faith cannot be overstated. American Catholics
have traditionally placed a high value on religious education, both in schools
and in the context of adult formation programs. These need to be maintained and
expanded. The many generous men and women who devote themselves to charitable
activity need to be helped to renew their dedication through a “formation of the
heart”: an “encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens
their spirits to others” (Deus Caritas Est, 31). At a time when advances in
medical science bring new hope to many, they also give rise to previously
unimagined ethical challenges. This makes it more important than ever to offer
thorough formation in the Church’s moral teaching to Catholics engaged in health
care. Wise guidance is needed in all these apostolates, so that they may bear
abundant fruit; if they are truly to promote the integral good of the human
person, they too need to be made new in Christ our hope.
As preachers of the Gospel and leaders of the Catholic community, you are also
called to participate in the exchange of ideas in the public square, helping to
shape cultural attitudes. In a context where free speech is valued, and where
vigorous and honest debate is encouraged, yours is a respected voice that has
much to offer to the discussion of the pressing social and moral questions of
the day. By ensuring that the Gospel is clearly heard, you not only form the
people of your own community, but in view of the global reach of mass
communication, you help to spread the message of Christian hope throughout the
Clearly, the Church’s influence on public debate takes place on many different
levels. In the United States, as elsewhere, there is much current and proposed
legislation that gives cause for concern from the point of view of morality, and
the Catholic community, under your guidance, needs to offer a clear and united
witness on such matters. Even more important, though, is the gradual opening of
the minds and hearts of the wider community to moral truth. Here much remains to
be done. Crucial in this regard is the role of the lay faithful to act as a
“leaven” in society. Yet it cannot be assumed that all Catholic citizens think
in harmony with the Church’s teaching on today’s key ethical questions. Once
again, it falls to you to ensure that the moral formation provided at every
level of ecclesial life reflects the authentic teaching of the Gospel of life.
In this regard, a matter of deep concern to us all is the state of the family
within society. Indeed, Cardinal George mentioned earlier that you have included
the strengthening of marriage and family life among the priorities for your
attention over the next few years. In this year’s World Day of Peace Message I
spoke of the essential contribution that healthy family life makes to peace
within and between nations. In the family home we experience “some of the
fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters,
the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who
are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities
of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them” (no. 3).
The family is also the primary place for evangelization, for passing on the
faith, for helping young people to appreciate the importance of religious
practice and Sunday observance. How can we not be dismayed as we observe the
sharp decline of the family as a basic element of Church and society? Divorce
and infidelity have increased, and many young men and women are choosing to
postpone marriage or to forego it altogether. To some young Catholics, the
sacramental bond of marriage seems scarcely distinguishable from a civil bond,
or even a purely informal and open-ended arrangement to live with another
person. Hence we have an alarming decrease in the number of Catholic marriages
in the United States together with an increase in cohabitation, in which the
Christ-like mutual self-giving of spouses, sealed by a public promise to live
out the demands of an indissoluble lifelong commitment, is simply absent. In
such circumstances, children are denied the secure environment that they need in
order truly to flourish as human beings, and society is denied the stable
building blocks which it requires if the cohesion and moral focus of the
community are to be maintained.
As my predecessor, Pope John Paul II taught, “The person principally responsible
in the Diocese for the pastoral care of the family is the Bishop ... he must
devote to it personal interest, care, time, personnel and resources, but above
all personal support for the families and for all those who ... assist him in
the pastoral care of the family” (Familiaris Consortio, 73). It is your task to
proclaim boldly the arguments from faith and reason in favor of the institution
of marriage, understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, open
to the transmission of life. This message should resonate with people today,
because it is essentially an unconditional and unreserved “yes” to life, a “yes”
to love, and a “yes” to the aspirations at the heart of our common humanity, as
we strive to fulfill our deep yearning for intimacy with others and with the
Among the countersigns to the Gospel of life found in America and elsewhere is
one that causes deep shame: the sexual abuse of minors. Many of you have spoken
to me of the enormous pain that your communities have suffered when clerics have
betrayed their priestly obligations and duties by such gravely immoral behavior.
As you strive to eliminate this evil wherever it occurs, you may be assured of
the prayerful support of God’s people throughout the world. Rightly, you attach
priority to showing compassion and care to the victims. It is your God-given
responsibility as pastors to bind up the wounds caused by every breach of trust,
to foster healing, to promote reconciliation and to reach out with loving
concern to those so seriously wronged.
Responding to this situation has not been easy and, as the President of your
Episcopal Conference has indicated, it was “sometimes very badly handled”. Now
that the scale and gravity of the problem is more clearly understood, you have
been able to adopt more focused remedial and disciplinary measures and to
promote a safe environment that gives greater protection to young people. While
it must be remembered that the overwhelming majority of clergy and religious in
America do outstanding work in bringing the liberating message of the Gospel to
the people entrusted to their care, it is vitally important that the vulnerable
always be shielded from those who would cause harm. In this regard, your efforts
to heal and protect are bearing great fruit not only for those directly under
your pastoral care, but for all of society.
If they are to achieve their full purpose, however, the policies and programs
you have adopted need to be placed in a wider context. Children deserve to grow
up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human
relationships. They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude
manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today. They have a right to be educated
in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person. This brings
us back to our consideration of the centrality of the family and the need to
promote the Gospel of life. What does it mean to speak of child protection when
pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely
available today? We need to reassess urgently the values underpinning society,
so that a sound moral formation can be offered to young people and adults alike.
All have a part to play in this task — not only parents, religious leaders,
teachers and catechists, but the media and entertainment industries as well.
Indeed, every member of society can contribute to this moral renewal and benefit
from it. Truly caring about young people and the future of our civilization
means recognizing our responsibility to promote and live by the authentic moral
values which alone enable the human person to flourish. It falls to you, as
pastors modelled upon Christ, the Good Shepherd, to proclaim this message loud
and clear, and thus to address the sin of abuse within the wider context of
sexual mores. Moreover, by acknowledging and confronting the problem when it
occurs in an ecclesial setting, you can give a lead to others, since this
scourge is found not only within your Dioceses, but in every sector of society.
It calls for a determined, collective response.
Priests, too, need your guidance and closeness during this difficult time. They
have experienced shame over what has occurred, and there are those who feel they
have lost some of the trust and esteem they once enjoyed. Not a few are
experiencing a closeness to Christ in his Passion as they struggle to come to
terms with the consequences of the crisis. The Bishop, as father, brother and
friend of his priests, can help them to draw spiritual fruit from this union
with Christ by making them aware of the Lord’s consoling presence in the midst
of their suffering, and by encouraging them to walk with the Lord along the path
of hope (cf. Spe Salvi, 39). As Pope John Paul II observed six years ago, “we
must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the
entire Catholic community”, leading to “a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate
and a holier Church” (Address to the Cardinals of the United States, 23 April
2002, 4). There are many signs that, during the intervening period, such
purification has indeed been taking place. Christ’s abiding presence in the
midst of our suffering is gradually transforming our darkness into light: all
things are indeed being made new in Christ Jesus our hope.
At this stage a vital part of your task is to strengthen relationships with your
clergy, especially in those cases where tension has arisen between priests and
their bishops in the wake of the crisis. It is important that you continue to
show them your concern, to support them, and to lead by example. In this way you
will surely help them to encounter the living God, and point them towards the
life-transforming hope of which the Gospel speaks. If you yourselves live in a
manner closely configured to Christ, the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life
for his sheep, you will inspire your brother priests to rededicate themselves to
the service of their flocks with Christ-like generosity. Indeed a clearer focus
upon the imitation of Christ in holiness of life is exactly what is needed in
order for us to move forward. We need to rediscover the joy of living a
Christ-centred life, cultivating the virtues, and immersing ourselves in prayer.
When the faithful know that their pastor is a man who prays and who dedicates
his life to serving them, they respond with warmth and affection which nourishes
and sustains the life of the whole community.
Time spent in prayer is never wasted, however urgent the duties that press upon
us from every side. Adoration of Christ our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament
prolongs and intensifies the union with him that is established through the
Eucharistic celebration (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 66). Contemplation of the
mysteries of the Rosary releases all their saving power and it conforms, unites
and consecrates us to Jesus Christ (cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 11, 15).
Fidelity to the Liturgy of the Hours ensures that the whole of our day is
sanctified and it continually reminds us of the need to remain focused on doing
God’s work, however many pressures and distractions may arise from the task at
hand. Thus our devotion helps us to speak and act in persona Christi, to teach,
govern and sanctify the faithful in the name of Jesus, to bring his
reconciliation, his healing and his love to all his beloved brothers and
sisters. This radical configuration to Christ, the Good Shepherd, lies at the
heart of our pastoral ministry, and if we open ourselves through prayer to the
power of the Spirit, he will give us the gifts we need to carry out our daunting
task, so that we need never “be anxious how to speak or what to say” (Mt 10:19).
As I conclude my words to you this evening, I commend the Church in your country
most particularly to the maternal care and intercession of Mary Immaculate,
Patroness of the United States. May she who carried within her womb the hope of
all the nations intercede for the people of this country, so that all may be
made new in Jesus Christ her Son. My dear Brother Bishops, I assure each of you
here present of my deep friendship and my participation in your pastoral
concerns. To all of you, and to your clergy, religious and lay faithful, I
cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Risen
* * *
1. The Holy Father is asked to give his assessment of the challenge of
increasing secularism in public life and relativism in intellectual life, and
his advice on how to confront these challenges pastorally and evangelize more
I touched upon this theme briefly in my address. It strikes me as significant
that here in America, unlike many places in Europe, the secular mentality has
not been intrinsically opposed to religion. Within the context of the separation
of Church and State, American society has always been marked by a fundamental
respect for religion and its public role, and, if polls are to be believed, the
American people are deeply religious. But it is not enough to count on this
traditional religiosity and go about business as usual, even as its foundations
are being slowly undermined. A serious commitment to evangelization cannot
prescind from a profound diagnosis of the real challenges the Gospel encounters
in contemporary American culture.
Of course, what is essential is a correct understanding of the just autonomy of
the secular order, an autonomy which cannot be divorced from God the Creator and
his saving plan (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 36). Perhaps America’s brand of secularism
poses a particular problem: it allows for professing belief in God, and respects
the public role of religion and the Churches, but at the same time it can subtly
reduce religious belief to a lowest common denominator. Faith becomes a passive
acceptance that certain things “out there” are true, but without practical
relevance for everyday life. The result is a growing separation of faith from
life: living “as if God did not exist”. This is aggravated by an individualistic
and eclectic approach to faith and religion: far from a Catholic approach to
“thinking with the Church”, each person believes he or she has a right to pick
and choose, maintaining external social bonds but without an integral, interior
conversion to the law of Christ. Consequently, rather than being transformed and
renewed in mind, Christians are easily tempted to conform themselves to the
spirit of this age (cf. Rom 12:3). We have seen this emerge in an acute way in
the scandal given by Catholics who promote an alleged right to abortion.
On a deeper level, secularism challenges the Church to reaffirm and to pursue
more actively her mission in and to the world. As the Council made clear, the
lay faithful have a particular responsibility in this regard. What is needed, I
am convinced, is a greater sense of the intrinsic relationship between the
Gospel and the natural law on the one hand, and, on the other, the pursuit of
authentic human good, as embodied in civil law and in personal moral decisions.
In a society that rightly values personal liberty, the Church needs to promote
at every level of her teaching — in catechesis, preaching, seminary and
university instruction — an apologetics aimed at affirming the truth of
Christian revelation, the harmony of faith and reason, and a sound understanding
of freedom, seen in positive terms as a liberation both from the limitations of
sin and for an authentic and fulfilling life. In a word, the Gospel has to be
preached and taught as an integral way of life, offering an attractive and true
answer, intellectually and practically, to real human problems. The
“dictatorship of relativism”, in the end, is nothing less than a threat to
genuine human freedom, which only matures in generosity and fidelity to the
Much more, of course, could be said on this subject: let me conclude, though, by
saying that I believe that the Church in America, at this point in her history,
is faced with the challenge of recapturing the Catholic vision of reality and
presenting it, in an engaging and imaginative way, to a society which markets
any number of recipes for human fulfillment. I think in particular of our need
to speak to the hearts of young people, who, despite their constant exposure to
messages contrary to the Gospel, continue to thirst for authenticity, goodness
and truth. Much remains to be done, particularly on the level of preaching and
catechesis in parishes and schools, if the new evangelization is to bear fruit
for the renewal of ecclesial life in America.
2. The Holy Father is asked about “a certain quiet attrition” by which Catholics
are abandoning the practice of the faith, sometimes by an explicit decision, but
often by distancing themselves quietly and gradually from attendance at Mass and
identification with the Church.
Certainly, much of this has to do with the passing away of a religious culture,
sometimes disparagingly referred to as a “ghetto”, which reinforced
participation and identification with the Church. As I just mentioned, one of
the great challenges facing the Church in this country is that of cultivating a
Catholic identity which is based not so much on externals as on a way of
thinking and acting grounded in the Gospel and enriched by the Church’s living
The issue clearly involves factors such as religious individualism and scandal.
Let us go to the heart of the matter: faith cannot survive unless it is
nourished, unless it is “formed by charity” (cf. Gal 5:6). Do people today find
it difficult to encounter God in our Churches? Has our preaching lost its salt?
Might it be that many people have forgotten, or never really learned, how to
pray in and with the Church?
Here I am not speaking of people who leave the Church in search of subjective
religious “experiences”; this is a pastoral issue which must be addressed on its
own terms. I think we are speaking about people who have fallen by the wayside
without consciously having rejected their faith in Christ, but, for whatever
reason, have not drawn life from the liturgy, the sacraments, preaching. Yet
Christian faith, as we know, is essentially ecclesial, and without a living bond
to the community, the individual’s faith will never grow to maturity. Indeed, to
return to the question I just discussed, the result can be a quiet apostasy.
So let me make two brief observations on the problem of “attrition”, which I
hope will stimulate further reflection.
First, as you know, it is becoming more and more difficult, in our Western
societies, to speak in a meaningful way of “salvation”. Yet salvation —
deliverance from the reality of evil, and the gift of new life and freedom in
Christ — is at the heart of the Gospel. We need to discover, as I have
suggested, new and engaging ways of proclaiming this message and awakening a
thirst for the fulfillment which only Christ can bring. It is in the Church’s
liturgy, and above all in the sacrament of the Eucharist, that these realities
are most powerfully expressed and lived in the life of believers; perhaps we
still have much to do in realizing the Council’s vision of the liturgy as the
exercise of the common priesthood and the impetus for a fruitful apostolate in
Second, we need to acknowledge with concern the almost complete eclipse of an
eschatological sense in many of our traditionally Christian societies. As you
know, I have pointed to this problem in the Encyclical Spe Salvi. Suffice it to
say that faith and hope are not limited to this world: as theological virtues,
they unite us with the Lord and draw us toward the fulfillment not only of our
personal destiny but also that of all creation. Faith and hope are the
inspiration and basis of our efforts to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of
God. In Christianity, there can be no room for purely private religion: Christ
is the Savior of the world, and, as members of his Body and sharers in his
prophetic, priestly and royal munera, we cannot separate our love for him from
our commitment to the building up of the Church and the extension of his
Kingdom. To the extent that religion becomes a purely private affair, it loses
its very soul.
Let me conclude by stating the obvious. The fields are still ripe for harvesting
(cf. Jn 4:35); God continues to give the growth (cf. 1 Cor 3:6). We can and must
believe, with the late Pope John Paul II, that God is preparing a new springtime
for Christianity (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 86). What is needed above all, at this
time in the history of the Church in America, is a renewal of that apostolic
zeal which inspires her shepherds actively to seek out the lost, to bind up
those who have been wounded, and to bring strength to those who are languishing
(cf. Ez 34:16). And this, as I have said, calls for new ways of thinking based
on a sound diagnosis of today’s challenges and a commitment to unity in the
service of the Church’s mission to the present generation.
3. The Holy Father is asked to comment on the decline in vocations despite the
growing numbers of the Catholic population, and on the reasons for hope offered
by the personal qualities and the thirst for holiness which characterize the
candidates who do come forward.
Let us be quite frank: the ability to cultivate vocations to the priesthood and
the religious life is a sure sign of the health of a local Church. There is no
room for complacency in this regard. God continues to call young people; it is
up to all of us to encourage a generous and free response to that call. On the
other hand, none of us can take this grace for granted.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send
workers. He even admits that the workers are few in comparison with the
abundance of the harvest (cf. Mt 9:37-38). Strange to say, I often think that
prayer — the unum necessarium — is the one aspect of vocations work which we
tend to forget or to undervalue!
Nor am I speaking only of prayer for vocations. Prayer itself, born in Catholic
families, nurtured by programs of Christian formation, strengthened by the grace
of the sacraments, is the first means by which we come to know the Lord’s will
for our lives. To the extent that we teach young people to pray, and to pray
well, we will be cooperating with God’s call. Programs, plans and projects have
their place; but the discernment of a vocation is above all the fruit of an
intimate dialogue between the Lord and his disciples. Young people, if they know
how to pray, can be trusted to know what to do with God’s call.
It has been noted that there is a growing thirst for holiness in many young
people today, and that, although fewer in number, those who come forward show
great idealism and much promise. It is important to listen to them, to
understand their experiences, and to encourage them to help their peers to see
the need for committed priests and religious, as well as the beauty of a life of
sacrificial service to the Lord and his Church. To my mind, much is demanded of
vocation directors and formators: candidates today, as much as ever, need to be
given a sound intellectual and human formation which will enable them not only
to respond to the real questions and needs of their contemporaries, but also to
mature in their own conversion and to persevere in life-long commitment to their
vocation. As Bishops, you are conscious of the sacrifice demanded when you are
asked to release one of your finest priests for seminary work. I urge you to
respond with generosity, for the good of the whole Church.
Finally, I think you know from experience that most of your brother priests are
happy in their vocation. What I said in my address about the importance of unity
and cooperation within the presbyterate applies here too. There is a need for
all of us to move beyond sterile divisions, disagreements and preconceptions,
and to listen together to the voice of the Spirit who is guiding the Church into
a future of hope. Each of us knows how important priestly fraternity has been in
our lives. That fraternity is not only a precious possession, but also an
immense resource for the renewal of the priesthood and the raising up of new
vocations. I would close by encouraging you to foster opportunities for ever
greater dialogue and fraternal encounter among your priests, and especially the
younger priests. I am convinced that this will bear great fruit for their own
enrichment, for the increase of their love for the priesthood and the Church,
and for the effectiveness of their apostolate.
Dear Brother Bishops. with these few observations, I once more encourage all of
you in your ministry to the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, and I
commend you to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, Mother of the Church.
* * *
Before leaving, I would like to pause to acknowledge the immense suffering
endured by the people of God in the Archdiocese of New Orleans as a result of
Hurricane Katrina, as well as their courage in the challenging work of
rebuilding. I would like to present Archbishop Alfred Hughes with a chalice,
which I hope will be accepted as a sign of my prayerful solidarity with the
faithful of the Archdiocese, and my personal gratitude for the tireless devotion
which he and Archbishops Philip Hannan and Francis Schulte showed toward the
flock entrusted to their care.
Text of Pope’s Speech to
Bishops, NYT, 17.4.2008,
Pope Praises U.S., but Warns of Secular Challenges
April 17, 2008
The New York Times
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
WASHINGTON — Pope Benedict XVI visited the White House on Wednesday, his 81st
birthday, and praised America as a nation where strong religious belief can
coexist with secular society.
But he later warned, in a speech to American bishops, of the “subtle influence
of secularism” that can co-opt religious people and lead even Catholics to
accept abortion, divorce and co-habitation outside of marriage.
“Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday and then during the
week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those
beliefs?” he asked in a lengthy address to the bishops. “Is it consistent for
practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to
promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching or to adopt
positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception
to natural death?”
“Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted,” he said.
For the second day on his first official visit to America, the pope acknowledged
the “deep shame” caused by the sexual abuse scandal that has divided and
weakened the American church. He agreed that the scandal as it unfolded was
“sometimes very badly handled.”
He said the church must “address the sin of abuse within the wider context of
“What does it mean to speak of child protection,” the pope asked, “when
pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely
He deplored the “crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today,” saying
that not only the church, but also families, teachers and the news media and
entertainment industries have to take responsibility for “moral renewal.”
His comments to the bishops, on topics like immigration, medical ethics and
attrition in the church’s ranks, seemed in contrast to the festive greeting he
received at the White House.
The general tone on a day when he was feted by thousands of flag-waving
supporters on the streets of the capital appeared aimed at celebrating and
challenging more than scolding.
He found a kindred soul in President Bush, who has made his Christianity a
central tenet of his life as a politician. Christian conservatives, including
conservative Catholics, have been a crucial component of the president’s
political base, and the papal visit gave the White House a fresh opportunity to
reinforce those ties in an election year.
The White House hosted a crowd of 13,500 on the South Lawn in the morning,
welcoming the pope with a 21-gun salute; a fife-and-drum band; the soprano
Kathleen Battle, who sang the Lord’s Prayer; and two rounds of “Happy Birthday.”
The crowd burst into applause when Mr. Bush told the pope that Americans “need
your message that all life is sacred,” a reference to the two men’s shared
opposition to abortion rights.
The president also adopted a trademark Benedict phrase when he said the nation
needed the pontiff’s “message to reject this dictatorship of relativism.”
The term is considered the defining phrase of the papal election in 2005, in
which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, on the day his fellow cardinals went into the
conclave that elected him Pope Benedict XVI, deplored the idea that all belief
is equally true.
“Here in America,” Mr. Bush said, “you’ll find a nation that welcomes the role
of faith in the public square. When our founders declared our nation’s
independence, they rested their case on an appeal to the ‘laws of nature and of
nature’s God.’ ”
The pontiff, dressed in his traditional white cassock and skullcap, said, “I
come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great respect for this
vast pluralistic society.”
He said, “Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when
political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth.”
It is only the second time that the leader of Roman Catholics has visited the
White House. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter hosted Pope John Paul II.
The pope and Mr. Bush then met privately in the Oval Office. A White House
statement said the two had “devoted considerable time in their discussions” to
the Middle East, particularly the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Although the pope
has expressed opposition to the Iraq war, the White House press secretary, Dana
Perino, said Mr. Bush had brought up the topic. Ms. Perino said they spoke
“largely about the plight of Christians,” an issue the pope raised when the two
first met last year at the Vatican. She would not elaborate, saying, “They had
an understanding that it would be private.”
After the White House, the pope returned to the home of the papal nuncio, giving
a glimpse to thousands of bystanders, who waved flags and white-and-yellow
Vatican pennants, strummed guitars and banged drums.
“It was close,” said Martha Littlefield, 44, who traveled from Houston with 200
Catholics to see the pope. “I couldn’t believe it!”
The pope ate lunch privately with American cardinals and in the early evening
met Catholic charity groups. He then traveled to the Basilica of the National
Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for an evening prayer service, vespers, and
an address to about 300 American bishops and nine cardinals.
The meeting was the pope’s opportunity to outline his vision of the state of the
American church to the prelates charged with carrying out that vision. It is the
first visit of a pope to the United States since the sexual abuse scandal
erupted in 2002.
The Basilica is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America, seating for
6,000. The pope met the bishops in the Crypt Church, designed to evoke the Roman
catacombs. About 600 guests sat upstairs, watching the proceedings on jumbo
Cardinal Francis George, the archbishop of Chicago and the president of the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the pope the church is
“troubled by ideological differences that weaken not only our witness to the
world but the life of faith itself.” Cardinal George acknowledged that the
priests’ sexual abuse was “sometimes very badly handled by the bishops,” the
pope’s phrase. The problem, the cardinal said, has made “the personal faith of
some Catholics and the public life of the church herself more problematic.”
The pope read responses to three questions submitted in advance that reflected
bishops’ concerns on secularism, Catholics abandoning the faith and a shortage
of vocations to the priesthood. Cardinal George presented the pope an $870,000
check donated by Catholics in the pews for the pope’s favorite charities.
Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., said after the meeting, “We
appreciate very much the encouragement he is giving us to reach out to victims,
efforts to maintain and expand safe environment programs, and to do so in a
context of preaching and exemplifying moral integrity and supporting the
Bishop Joseph A. Galante of Camden, N.J., said: “I felt very happy with his
talk. It hit on some of the themes I’ve been trying to emphasize in my diocese.”
Peter Isely, an abuse survivor and a national board member of the Survivors
Network of those Abused by Priests, said of the pope’s speech to bishops: “We
were hoping for a reprimand. He was looking into the faces of the men who were
directly responsible, and instead of a reprimand, he praised them.”
Ian Fisher and Katie Zezima contributed reporting.
Pope Praises U.S., but
Warns of Secular Challenges, NYT, 17.4.2008,
Base decisions on moral principles, pope tells U.S.
Wed Apr 16, 2008
By Philip Pullella and Tom Heneghan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Saying he had come as a friend of the United States,
Pope Benedict urged Americans and their leaders on Wednesday to base their
political and social decisions on moral principles and create a more just
The pope also called for "patient efforts of international diplomacy to resolve
conflicts" and promote progress around the world in an address to President
George W. Bush at the White House on the first full day of his U.S. visit.
"I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great respect for
this vast pluralistic society," Benedict said in a speech after Bush welcomed
him at a ceremony that included a fife and drum band in colonial-era garb and a
At the outdoor ceremony attended by more than 9,000 people, Bush cited the role
of faith in U.S. life, saying "Here in America, you'll find a nation of prayer."
Bush also referred to the September 11, 2001, attacks, which the pope will
commemorate when he visits New York with a prayer at the World Trade Center
"In a world where some invoke the name of God to justify acts of terror and
murder and hate, we need your message that God is love. And embracing this love
is the surest way to save man from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism
and terrorism," Bush said.
The pope, marking his 81st birthday, praised American society, sprinkling his
speech with references to the founding fathers -- citing the Declaration of
Independence and the first president, George Washington.
He made no specific references to issues such as abortion and the Iraq war,
avoiding anything that could be seen as taking sides in the presidential
campaign apart from saying freedom demanded "reasoned public debate."
Benedict and Bush, who spoke privately after the ceremony, oppose abortion and
embryonic stem cell research but differ on the Iraq war and capital punishment.
As the pope spoke, the U.S. Supreme Court, led by Bush appointee Chief Justice
John Roberts, issued a ruling that cleared the way for executions to resume for
the first time since September.
Instead, Benedict concentrated on America's religious roots, which he said were
a driving force in a process that "forged the soul of the nation" and won world
It was Bush who referred to abortion, a hot-button issue particularly with the
presidential election in November.
"In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we
need your message that all human life is sacred ... ," Bush said.
GLOBAL SOLIDARITY, PATIENT DIPLOMACY
The pope said freedom "is not only a gift but also a summons to personal
responsibility" toward the less fortunate at home and around the world.
"Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political
leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom
born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the
nation," the pope said.
Benedict, who address the United Nations as part of his first trip to the United
States as pope, was only the second pontiff to visit the White House.
Looking forward to his U.N. speech, the pope said the need for global solidarity
is "as urgent as ever if all people are to live in a way worthy of their
dignity" and secure a place at "that table which God's bounty has set for all
In a possible reference to U.S. criticism of the world body, the pope said:
"I am confident that this concern for the greater human family will continue to
find expression in support for the patient efforts of international diplomacy to
resolve conflicts and promote progress."
The pope ended his speech by saying "God bless America" in a raised voice.
Later on Wednesday, the pope was addressing U.S. bishops at the National Shrine
of the Immaculate Conception, where he was to discuss the scandal of sexual
abuse of children by priests, which he said had left him "deeply ashamed."
(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Matt Spetalnick, Andy Sullivan and
(Writing by Philip Pullella, editing by Patricia Zengerle)
(For more on religion, see the Reuters religion blog FaithWorld here )
Base decisions on moral
principles, pope tells U.S., R, 16.4.2008,
Bush Welcomes Pope to White House
April 17, 2008
The New York Times
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
WASHINGTON — With a blend of the religious and secular, a fife and drum band
and a soprano singing the Lord’s Prayer, President Bush welcomed Pope Benedict
XVI to the White House Wednesday morning, telling the pontiff that Americans
“need your message that all of life is sacred.”
More than 9,000 people, including senators and other Washington celebrities,
crowded the South Lawn for the historic arrival ceremony, conducted under clear,
The 81-year-old pontiff, who celebrates his birthday on Wednesday, was greeted
by the peal of trumpets and a 21-gun salute, and treated to rendition of Happy
Birthday by the crowd. He called for ‘’support for the patient efforts of
international diplomacy to resolve conflicts and promote progress” around the
It was Benedict’s first time in the United States since he ascended to the
papacy, and only the second time the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics has
visited the White House. The first was in 1979, when Jimmy Carter was president.
Dressed in his traditional white cassock and skullcap, the pontiff delivered a
message celebrating the greatness of American democracy, as well as the nation’s
embrace of religion. His speech was laden with references to American history,
including the struggle against slavery, the civil rights movement and George
“I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great respect for
this vast pluralistic society,” the pontiff said, adding, “Democracy can only
flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders and those
whom they represent are guided by truth.”
Mr. Bush, who has made his own Christian faith a central tenet of his life as an
American politician and who has assiduously courted religious conservatives
during his tenure as president, used his speech to affirm the role that faith
plays in American society.
“Here in America you’ll find a nation that welcomes the role of faith in the
public square,” the president said. “When our founders declared our nation’s
independence, they rested their case on an appeal to the ‘laws of nature, and of
nature’s God.’ We believe in religious liberty. We also believe that a love for
freedom and a common moral law are written into every human heart, and that
these constitute the firm foundation on which any successful free society must
There was no mention of the war in Iraq — an issue on which the two disagree —
or any explicit discussion controversial issues like abortion, embryonic stem
cell research, on which the two agree.
But Mr. Bush did get applause when, in an obvious reference to those issues, he
said, “In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and
discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred.” And the
president adopted a phrase the pope himself has used when he said the nation
needs the pontiff’s “message to reject this dictatorship of relativism.”
The ceremony was among the most elaborate the White House has ever conducted,
even more so than the one last year honoring the queen of England. The opera
singer Kathleen Battle sang The Lord’s Prayer, her clear voice pealing out in
the soft spring air. When it was over, the announcer declared, “Ladies and
Gentlemen, please join us in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the Holy Father.”
The crowd obliged.
Bush Welcomes Pope to
White House, NYT, 17.4.2008,
Pope praises role of faith in U.S. public life
Tue Apr 15, 2008
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) - Pope Benedict praised the role of faith in
American public life on Tuesday, calling it an example for more secularized
Europe as he flew to his first visit to the United States as pontiff.
The German-born pope, speaking to reporters on the flight across the Atlantic,
said European countries could not copy the U.S. model because they had their own
histories and traditions, but could learn some lessons from the American system.
Benedict has often criticized European countries for denying their Christian
roots and turning the separation of church and state -- which he supports --
into a policy denying religion's place in public life.
"What I find fascinating about the United States is that it began with a
positive concept of the lay state," he said.
"This new people was made up of communities and people who fled from state
churches and wanted to have a lay state, secular and open to possibilities for
all confessions, for all forms of religious expression.
"They were against a state church ... precisely out of their love of religion
and of its authenticity, which can only be lived freely," he said.
Religion is far less visible in public life in Europe than in the United States.
"We in Europe cannot simply copy the United States. We have our own history, but
we must all learn from each other," Benedict said.
In the United States estimates show that about one-third of Catholics attend
Mass regularly, compared to between 10 and 20 percent in European countries.
Politicians often speak of their faith, in contrast to Europe where such
discussions are considered inappropriate.
Despite the different traditions in the United States and Europe, which the
French author Alexis de Tocqueville noted in the 1830s, both societies were
under strong pressure from modern secularism, Benedict added.
"Even now in the United States, there is an onslaught of new secularism which is
completely different (from de Tocqueville's time) and therefore there are new
problems," he said.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Writing by Tom Heneghan; Editing by David Storey)
(For more on religion, see the Reuters religion blog FaithWorld here )
Pope praises role of
faith in U.S. public life, R, 15.4.2008,
Victims in Boston Criticize Pope’s Comments
April 15, 2008
The New York Times
By ABBY GOODNOUGH
BOSTON — Pope Benedict XVI may have expressed his regrets on Tuesday for the
child sexual-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, saying he was “deeply
ashamed,” but several abuse victims here, where the crisis erupted in 2002, said
his comments rang hollow.
“I think they were rehearsed,” said Robert Costello, who says he was abused by a
priest in West Roxbury, Mass., starting when he was 10. He and other victims
spoke at a news conference organized by Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer who has
represented hundreds of victims of clergy abuse.
In particular, Mr. Costello questioned why the pope would say the scandal has
caused “great suffering for the church” and “for me personally” without
acknowledging the pain of abuse victims themselves.
“What about the suffering of the children?” said Mr. Costello, who will travel
to New York to read aloud the names of victims on Friday while the pope
addresses the United Nations. “He doesn’t have any empathy for victims because
he doesn’t talk to us.”
David Carney, who says a priest abused him during his freshman year at Catholic
Memorial High School in West Roxbury, also dismissed the pope’s comments as
“Don’t sit around on your plane and talk about it,” said Mr. Carney, 41, who
also attended the news conference. “If you’re ashamed about it, do something
about it. A good company runs from the top down, right? Be a good boss.”
Mr. Carney also expressed bitterness about the pope’s decision not to visit
Boston, where the Archdiocese of Boston, struggling financially after paying
settlements to numerous victims, has closed parishes and schools. At best, he
said, the pope’s comments on the abuse scandal were lip service to Boston
“You’re on the fringes of Boston, you’re in New York, so you just better touch
on it just in case,” Mr. Carney said. “Why doesn’t he come try to fix all of the
Victims in Boston
Criticize Pope’s Comments, NYT, 15.4.2008,
The Pope's Visit
Pope Expresses Deep Shame Over Priests’ Sexual Abuse
April 16, 2008
The New York Times
By JOHN HOLUSHA and IAN FISHER
Pope Benedict XVI said on Tuesday that he was “deeply ashamed” by the Roman
Catholic Church’s child sexual-abuse scandals in the United States, and said it
is causing “great suffering” for the church and “me personally.”
Speaking to reporters on an airplane taking him for his first visit to the
United States as pope, he addressed the scandal in the U.S. that has produced
more than 5,000 sexual abuse victims since it erupted in 2002 and cost the
church more than $2 billion.
In his most extensive remarks so far on the issue, the Pope expressed his
personal remorse about the abuse scandal and said the church is increasing its
efforts to keep pedophiles out of the priesthood.
“It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the church
in general and for me personally that this could happen,” he said. “As I read
the histories of those victims it is difficult for me to understand how it was
possible that priests betrayed in this way. Their mission was to give healing,
to give the love of God to these children. We are deeply ashamed and we will do
what is possible that this cannot happen in the future.”
Apparently drawing a distinction between priests with homosexual tendencies and
those inclined to molest children, the Pontiff said: “I would not speak at this
moment about homosexuality, but pedophilia which is another thing. And we would
absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry.”
“Who is guilty of pedophilia cannot be a priest,” he added.
The Pope said church officials were going through the seminaries that train
would-be priests to make sure that those candidates have no such tendencies.
“We’ll do all that is possible to have a strong discernment, because it is more
important to have good priests than to have many priests.”
“We hope that we can do, and we have done and will do in the future, all that is
possible to heal this wound.”
The Pope is not new to issues involving abusive priests. As Cardinal Joseph
Ratzinger he headed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and
was responsible for deciding whether to discipline priests accused of sexual
He read dossiers on the cases forwarded to him from bishops around the world.
Aides said he was deeply distressed reading the accounts of victims whose trust
in the church was betrayed by the priests who violated them.
In a homily he gave just before he was elected Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger decried
the “filth” in the priesthood, which many interpreted as a reference to the
abusers. As Pope, he ordered the Rev. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the
Legionaires of Christ, to be removed from his ministry and to spend the rest of
his life in prayer and penitence. Rev. Maciel died in February.
But as Pope, he has done or said or done little publicly about the abuse issue
Advocates for victims have criticized the church for failing to call to account
bishops who allowed abusive priests to remain in the ministry.
After hearing of Pope Benedict’s remarks, Peter Isley, a national board member
of the Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests, said: “The Pope has
established a worldwide policy of saying Mass in Latin. He has not established a
worldwide policy on child sex abuse. Three year into his papacy, Benedict has
done what John Paul II did — make a few vague, brief remarks about the
continuing crisis, and nothing more.”
One of the repercussions of the child abuse scandals in the United States is
that lay Catholics across the country are demanding more financial
accountability from their bishops and more control over decisions, particularly
when it comes to parishes.
The Pope, who spoke for about 15 minutes, answered four questions from reporters
that were submitted in advance and selected by the Vatican. He also talked about
immigration and said he would discuss the issue with President Bush, who is
scheduled to meet the Papal airplane when it lands this afternoon at Andrews Air
Force Base in Maryland.
“I have seen the breadth of this problem above all the grave problem of the
separation of families,” Pope Benedict said about immigration. “This really is
dangerous for the fabric social, moral, human of these countries.” He said it
was important to think about both long-term and short-term solutions. “The
fundamental solution is that there would be no need to emigrate because there
would be sufficient jobs,” he said.
Asked if the United States could serve as a religious model for Europe and other
areas of the world, the Pope replied, ”Certainly Europe can’t simply copy the
United States. We have our own history. We all have to learn from each other.”
But he said the United States was interesting because it “started with positive
idea of secularism.”
“This new people was made of communities that had escaped official state purges
and wanted a lay state, a secular that opened the possibility for all
confessions and all form of religious exercise,” he added. “Therefore it was a
state that was intentionally secular. It was the exact opposite of state
religion, but it was secular out of love for religion and for an authenticity
that can only be lived freely.”
The Pope plans to spend several days in the Washington area before traveling to
New York to hold services, address the United Nations and visit a synagogue.
Laurie Goodstein contributed reporting.
Pope Expresses Deep
Shame Over Priests’ Sexual Abuse, NYT, 16.4.2008,
Pope T-Shirt, Anyone? Turning to Big Donors, and Souvenirs,
for a Costly Visit
April 15, 2008
The New York Times
By NEELA BANERJEE
WASHINGTON — From printing tickets for the papal Masses to organizing street
closings and security, a hefty bill looms for the hosts of Pope Benedict XVI’s
visit to the United States.
The Archdiocese of Washington predicts that the pope’s three days in the
capital, starting on Tuesday, will cost at least $3 million, but the Archdiocese
of New York, where he will spend an additional three days, has not ventured an
Past papal visits provide some benchmarks. Pope John Paul II’s trip to the East
Coast in 1995 cost $1 million to $1.2 million a day, said Msgr. Robert F.
Coleman, an organizer of the papal visit that year to the Archdiocese of Newark
and dean of Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University. But
tightened security after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will probably push the
costs higher, he said.
Representatives of the Archdioceses of Washington and New York said it was
unclear how much the entire papal visit would cost, or what economic and even
pastoral benefits might accrue.
“The Mass at Nationals Park, security, transportation of bishops and people,
planning — we don’t have a playbook for this,” said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman
for the archdiocese in Washington, which had its last papal visit in 1979.
The two archdioceses have taken different approaches to financing the visit.
Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington decided that parish and diocesan money
should not be used, Ms. Gibbs said, given the financial pressures the
archdiocese faces. Instead, Archbishop Wuerl established a foundation, Christ
Our Hope, which has raised more than $3 million, mostly from wealthy donors.
Ms. Gibbs declined to identify the donors or the size of their contributions.
Any surplus will be donated to a charity of the pope’s choice, in his name, Ms.
Gibbs said. But security costs may eat up much of the foundation’s resources.
Carrie Brooks, a spokeswoman for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty of Washington, said the
Secret Service was taking the lead on coordinating the pope’s security in the
capital. Ms. Brooks said the city’s Police Department would be most involved in
coordinating street closings for processions. The cost to the city to provide
security, close streets and clean up after parades is expected to be about $2.2
million, she said.
Ms. Brooks said in an e-mail message that the city had tried to get back from
the federal government what it spent on such efforts, and that it had “also
reached out to the archdiocese to discuss cost-sharing.”
A spokesman for the New York Archdiocese, Joseph Zwilling, said the archdiocese
would also appeal to wealthier donors for support. He said he was not concerned
about asking parishioners to contribute, despite the archdiocese’s other
“People in the archdiocese welcome an opportunity to help support a tremendous
moment in the history of the archdiocese,” Mr. Zwilling said.
The New York Archdiocese is getting a break here and there: it will not have to
pay for extra security provided by New York City or for the use of Yankee
Stadium for a papal Mass, Mr. Zwilling said. The Washington Archdiocese will
have to pay to rent Nationals Park, the new baseball stadium, though Ms. Gibbs
said she did not know the amount.
The sale of souvenirs of the visit should generate some money but not enough to
make a sizable dent in the cost of the trip, representatives of the archdioceses
said. At events in the two cities and online, at popevisit2008.com, people can
buy memorabilia, including framed photos of the pope, T-shirts that say
“Property of Pope Benedict XVI,” and “I ♥ the Pope” bumper stickers.
The retail chain Build-a-Bear is offering, online and at its stores in the
Washington area, a “tiny tee” for its bears with the visit’s logo and the pope’s
picture. A company spokeswoman declined to say how much money had been raised by
the sale of the shirts, which cost $6, but part of it will go to Christ Our
Past papal visits have sometimes yielded a windfall for hotels and restaurants.
In New York, which last had a papal visit in 1995, and Washington, officials
said they could not quantify possible economic dividends from the visit. But in
Washington, any income might be modest.
“Most of those attending the Mass are from the area,” said Carla Barry-Austin, a
spokeswoman for Washington’s tourism corporation. “Also, many people are just
coming to town for the day and not checking into hotels.”
Most archdioceses lack data on the impact of papal visits on pastoral life. But
after Pope John Paul II visited Denver in 1993 for World Youth Day, attendance
at Mass there rose by more than 7.5 percent, said Jeanette DeMelo, a spokeswoman
for the Denver Archdiocese. The number of converts also increased substantially,
Ms. DeMelo said.
Similarly, Monsignor Coleman of the Seton Hall seminary said, “Certainly, after
the papal visit, just in my recollection, did the number of applicants to the
seminary increase? Yes.”
He added: “I think there is a spiritual impact on the faithful, though it is
hard to measure. The visit gives inspiration to people to embrace the faith, to
return to the faith.”
Ian Urbina contributed reporting.
Pope T-Shirt, Anyone?
Turning to Big Donors, and Souvenirs, for a Costly Visit, NYT, 15.4.2008,
With Faith in the Spotlight, Candidates Battle for Catholic
April 15, 2008
The New York Times
By ROBIN TONER
WASHINGTON — Many years have passed since the Democratic Party was as much a
part of American Catholic identity as weekly Mass and parochial school. But it
still came as a shock to many Democrats to lose the Catholic vote, a key group
in must-win states like Ohio, in the 2004 presidential election.
It is an experience they are determined not to repeat.
The presidential candidates are in the middle of an escalating battle for
Catholic voters — most immediately between Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and
Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, but
also between the two parties as they look ahead to the general election. This
struggle is an important part of the backdrop for Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to
the United States starting Tuesday, which has drawn gestures of respect from all
of the presidential contenders.
There is widespread agreement that American Catholic voters are far more diverse
than monolithic. Even so, both the Clinton and the Obama campaigns have hired
Catholic outreach directors, deployed an army of prominent Catholic surrogates
testifying on their behalf and created mailings that highlight their commitment
to Catholic social teachings on economic justice and the common good.
Dismayed at losing so many Catholic and other religious voters to the
Republicans in 2004, Democrats talk far more often, and more comfortably, about
their values and the importance of their own faith these days.
Essentially, they have tried to broaden the definition of “values” issues beyond
abortion rights, on which they disagree with the teachings of the Roman Catholic
Church and many religious conservatives. Mrs. Clinton, for example, spoke
recently about the economy and the needs of working families to a crowd of more
than 2,000 at Mercyhurst, a Catholic college in Erie, Pa. The college and the
candidate went ahead with the event despite the objections of the local bishop,
who argued that a Catholic institution should reflect the church’s “pro-life
stance” on abortion.
On Sunday, the Democratic candidates appeared separately at a forum at Messiah
College in Grantham, Pa., for a televised discussion of poverty, health care,
energy prices and the rest of the party’s policy agenda as moral and spiritual
issues. (The forum also offered Mr. Obama a chance to note that he had once
attended Catholic school, and Mrs. Clinton a chance to praise the Vatican as
“the first carbon-neutral state in the world.”)
Mrs. Clinton, a Methodist, carried the Catholic vote overwhelmingly in Ohio,
Texas and several other major states that have held primaries and caucuses this
year, according to surveys of voters leaving the polls; she hopes to do so again
in Pennsylvania, which holds its primary next week. (Aides say she is
particularly popular among nuns.) In an open letter to Pennsylvania Catholics,
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., two children of Robert F.
Kennedy, wrote, “Catholics have a partner in Hillary Clinton, one who will work
to advance the common good of all Pennsylvanians and all Americans.”
Burns Strider, senior adviser and director of faith outreach for the Clinton
campaign, said: “There’s no grand clandestine or secret message or formula here.
It’s just a matter of middle-class and working-class people whose values match
up very well with Senator Clinton’s.”
Bill Clinton carried the Catholic vote in 1992 and 1996. Some analysts say that
considerable loyalty remains to the “Clinton brand,” notably on bread-and-butter
issues like health care. The Obama campaign is acutely sensitive to the notion
that their candidate is vulnerable among these voters; some of Mr. Obama’s
allies argue that it makes little sense to even think of Catholics as a voting
bloc, given the huge differences among them.
Even so, on Friday, the Obama campaign unveiled its national advisory council of
prominent Catholics, including elected officials, theologians, academics, nuns
and social advocates. On a conference call, Representative Patrick J. Murphy —
who represents Bucks County, Pa., and prefaced his remarks by noting that he was
St. Anselm’s Altar Boy of the Year in 1987 — said that Mr. Obama spoke “to the
better angels in all of us.”
Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, another prominent Catholic supporting Mr.
Obama, noted: “I don’t agree with him on some issues. We disagree on abortion.”
But Mr. Casey said he believed that Mr. Obama, as president, would advocate for
“the least, the last and the lost.”
Republicans said their party raised its share of Catholic voters from 37 percent
in the 1996 presidential election to 52 percent in 2004, part of their overall
success in wooing and mobilizing church-going voters. They vow to hold them this
“We’re going to devote substantial resources to winning the Catholic vote,” said
Frank Donatelli, deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee. “I think
the natural home of Catholics is the Republican Party.”
The campaign of Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, recently rolled out
his National Catholics for McCain Committee, with Senator Sam Brownback,
Republican of Kansas, as a co-chairman.
Mr. Brownback’s chief of staff, Rob Wasinger, said Mr. McCain was “the full
package” for Catholics, with his opposition to abortion and his support for
overhauling immigration laws, a major issue for Hispanic Catholics. Against this
backdrop, the pope’s words and gestures will be scrutinized not just by the
faithful and the theologians, but also by political professionals in both
“The Republicans are just hoping and praying he’ll say something about abortion
and gay marriage, and the Democrats are terrified he will,” said the Rev. Thomas
Reese, a senior fellow and political scientist at the Woodstock Theological
Center at Georgetown University. “But at the United Nations, he will also say a
lot of things to the left of Hillary and Obama.”
In fact, some conservatives worry that the war in Iraq, opposed by the Catholic
Church from its inception, is hurting the Republican Party among Catholic voters
— just as it is with other independent and swing voters.
“There’s one big question mark hanging over the Catholic vote, and that’s the
Iraq war,” said Deal Hudson, an informal adviser to Mr. McCain and a longtime
adviser to President Bush on Catholic matters.
Catholic voters are hardly monolithic, either in their demographics or in their
political philosophy. They range from upscale suburbanites to first-generation
working-class Hispanics. The church itself has teachings that, taken as a whole,
do not fit neatly into either party — often to the left on poverty, health care
and economic justice, for example, and to the right on abortion and embryonic
But Catholics play enough of a role as a swing vote to draw the intense focus of
political strategists. Catholics were a reliable part of the urban, New Deal
coalition for many years but trended Republican in the 1970s and 1980s, becoming
an important element of the so-called Reagan Democrats. After swinging back to
the Democrats in the early 1990s, and then voting 53 percent to 37 percent for
Mr. Clinton in 1996, they voted narrowly for Al Gore in 2000 but then returned
to the Republicans in 2004.
That was a difficult year for the Democrats in several respects. Their nominee,
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, was himself a Catholic, but his support for
abortion rights drew the ire of some conservative bishops who challenged his
right to receive communion. After that election, Democrats went through
soul-searching about the way they approached Catholic and other religious
Whoever ends up with the Democratic nomination, Pennsylvania is proving to be an
important testing ground for both candidates’ ability to speak to these voters.
G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist and pollster at Franklin & Marshall,
estimated that “somewhere between 32 and 36 percent” of the voters in the
primary would be Catholic.
Theories abound for why Mr. Obama runs less strongly in that group, including
the possibility that he has a evangelical speaking style that, as Mr. Reese put
it, is “just not what they hear in their churches.”
But Dr. Madonna noted that there were “overlapping demographics” at work — the
group includes a lot of older and blue-collar workers — that tended to explain
Mrs. Clinton’s advantage.
With Faith in the
Spotlight, Candidates Battle for Catholic Votes, NYT, 15.4.2008,
An Effort to Market the Priesthood
April 15, 2008
The New York Times
By DAVID GONZALEZ
The banners hanging in the main corridor of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers
declare, “Through Faith We Grow.” The class portraits that line that very same
corridor tell the opposite tale. Half a century after the halcyon days when
several hundred men at a time studied to be ordained as priests for the Roman
Catholic Archdiocese of New York, only 22 are enrolled.
Even more alarming to Catholics, although six men expect to be ordained in May,
none are entering the first-year theology program. While seminary officials
attribute the sudden drop to extra preparatory course requirements that went
into effect this year, it is nonetheless a jarring development.
“You do what you can, as well as you can, for as long as you can, and hope it
works,” said Bishop Gerald Walsh, the seminary’s rector. “I’d be optimistic if
we had enough clergy present for young people and willing to talk to them.”
He will have enough — and then some — on Saturday, when Pope Benedict XVI visits
the seminary for a prayer service and youth rally. The pope’s mere presence will
be a jolt of encouragement to the seminarians. It will also offer them and other
priests and nuns the chance to mingle with 20,000 young people and plant a seed
There will be flashy videos, with quick cuts, stirring sound tracks and fearless
priests on New York streets. Goody bags will include glossy post cards of the
pontiff emblazoned with the word “Willkommen!” — and the Web address
nypriest.com, the seminary’s recruiting site. In coming weeks, the archdiocese
will send its schools posters that announce, “The World Needs Heroes,” including
one of black-suited priests crossing an intersection — looking like “Going My
Way” meets “Reservoir Dogs.”
Officials of the archdiocese do not apologize for embracing Madison Avenue
marketing to counter a sharp decline in vocations.
An increasingly secular and materialistic culture, reluctance among the young to
accept lifelong celibacy, and anger over the church’s handling of sexual abuse
scandals have all contributed to the precipitous drop, the officials say.
Vocational directors recognize that the public’s confidence has been shaken by
the scandals. They have chosen, however, to focus their marketing campaign on an
The Rev. Luke Sweeney, director of vocations for the archdiocese — which covers
the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island and seven counties west and north of the
city — says the church must make its case if it hopes to reinvigorate a
priesthood that is increasingly elderly. “How do we get the ‘cool’ factor back
into the priesthood?” Father Sweeney said. “If we don’t sell the priesthood, we
can’t legitimately ask a young man to consider the priesthood as a vocation.”
What the seminary lacks in numbers, it may make up for in intensity and
eagerness. The seminarians speak of finding a joy and purpose that eluded them
in secular careers.
“We live in a very confusing world, a world where there is a lot of evil in it,
and good men need to step forward,” said Brian Graebe, a former high school
teacher who is finishing his first year. “You can stick your head in the sand,
or you can do something to change it. What more heroic life is there than to
touch these eternal mysteries?”
St. Joseph’s Seminary — informally known as Dunwoodie, after its neighborhood —
is hardly alone in its diminished fortunes. Nationally, the enrollment of
seminarians in four-year theology programs has been flat for the last decade,
currently numbering 3,286, said Sister Katarina Schuth, a professor at St. Paul
Seminary School of Divinity, part of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.
More than a quarter of those seminarians, she said, were foreign born.
“It’s a tough time for the church,” Sister Schuth said. “Dunwoodie has lost
proportionately more than most. It really is a puzzle, given the huge population
of New York and the boroughs.”
When St. Joseph’s opened in the late 1800s, its stone castle, topped by a
gleaming cupola and perched majestically atop a hill, was described by Bishop
Bernard McQuaid of Rochester as “the grandest seminary building in Christendom.”
It was also, according to the Rev. Thomas J. Shelley, a Fordham University
professor, one of the most progressive seminaries of its age, with an
intellectual tradition to rival the best Catholic universities, until a Vatican
crackdown on modernist thought a century ago led to a more orthodox approach.
Still, priests who were seminarians during the 1940s and ’50s recall a tranquil
place whose daily rhythms were marked by the clanging of the bell for classes,
meals and Mass. Many came from immigrant, working-class homes where the
religious life was seen as a step up.
The Rev. Gerard J. DiSenso, who grew up poor in the Bronx, said the first time
he had a room all to himself was when he entered the seminary in 1947.
That he was surrounded daily by more than 200 seminarians was encouraging and
“You sensed that you were not absolutely needed,” said Father DiSenso, who is
now retired. “There were enough candidates that the seminary could afford to
He still goes to the seminary weekly to use its library, though he has little
contact with the few men who are now there. “It’s like a shell of itself,” he
lamented. “It’s completely different.”
Yet some changes have been for the better, he and other priests of his
generation say. Unlike past years, when seminarians hardly left the grounds,
today’s students come and go. They are assigned to work in parishes each summer
to learn the demands they will encounter upon ordination.
And while enrollment is down, it better reflects the city’s changing
demographics, in that there are more Hispanic candidates, both at the seminary
and in a program aimed at cultivating high school students for the priesthood.
In addition to the 22 seminarians to be ordained for the archdiocese, 14
candidates were sent to Dunwoodie by religious orders.
The biggest change, however, is in the age and backgrounds of seminarians.
Decades ago, young men entered the seminary in their teens. Today, many have
college degrees and have worked in business, science or even the military —
experiences that can give them an added measure of empathy for their
“They have more experience in the world, more than we had,” Bishop Walsh, the
rector, said. “They’re probably a little more secure in their choice.” Among the
current seminarians are former teachers, engineers, executives and even a
At 39, Ronald Perez is the oldest candidate for ordination next month. A former
paralegal at a Midtown law firm, he moved to New York from Los Angeles 10 years
ago to change his life. By the time he decided to become a priest, he had worked
at a failed manufacturing company and a dot-com that missed the boom.
His decision to become a priest was gradual, he said, coming after years of
involvement in activities at his home parish, St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He
credited the talks he had with visiting seminarians for nudging him closer to
the religious life. Like many other contemporary candidates for the seminary, he
started studying philosophy with other prospective priests.
“The door was open, so if it was for you, go on, but if not, leave, no questions
asked,” he said. “That first year was crucial. It gave me a chance to look back
at my life and the world around me. Nothing I could have done as an engineer or
a paralegal would give me contentment and happiness. Something was missing. I
realized what it was: becoming a priest.”
The other great shift in recent decades has been a growing conservatism among
seminarians, marked by an emphasis on ritual and on being set apart from the
laity. In interviews, some older priests said their ministry was rooted in a
deep understanding of the social and material needs of their congregants.
Younger priests and seminarians emphasized the sacramental aspects of their
“Something that attracted me was the priest’s proximity to Christ at the Mass,”
said Steven Markantonis, a second-year student. “He is using the same words
Jesus used 2,000 years ago, when the bread and wine become the body and blood of
He said that after ordination, he expected to be “nothing more” than a parish
priest tending to his congregation’s spiritual life.
“Regarding their social needs, it is a fine line,” he said. “You have to know
where your job ends and another person’s job begins.”
Dean R. Hoge, a sociologist at Catholic University who has studied recently
ordained priests, said there were indications that they were less collaborative
with the laity. “They are more concerned about their status of being set apart,”
Dr. Hoge said. “The younger ones are more concerned about moral teaching. The
old guys hate to even talk about that.”
He cautioned that the American laity, now the most educated in history, want to
have a bigger say in parish decisions.
Bishop Walsh, who once served as a pastor in Washington Heights, home to many
struggling immigrants, said the church had to be understanding of its members
and their burdens.
“Many people in the parishes I was in had jobs on Sunday that they had to do to
put food on the table,” he said. “That is a religious value, too, raising a
family. We can’t say, if you do not go to church 52 Sundays a year, you are
failing as a Catholic.”
His seminarians, he said, should be gentle to the people in the pews. “People
will never forget the priest who is nasty to them,” he said. “They could care
less about who knows theology.”
However conservative the younger generation of clergy may be, Bishop Walsh said,
it is increasingly committed to working with young people. For winning new
recruits to the priesthood, no brochure or video can compete with the friendship
and example of a parish priest.
Anthony Mizzi-Gili Jr. still remembers the priests of his childhood, men who
graduated from Dunwoodie and earned his trust and admiration. After years of
indecision, he ultimately followed in their footsteps and is now a third-year
During midday Mass last week, he played the organ with gusto, as the chapel
reverberated with “Sing With All the Saints in Glory.”
Afterward, he took lunch in the refectory, which was built to hold hundreds but
now could fit the entire student body at a few tables. Mr. Mizzi-Gili looked
around but refused to sound discouraged. “It shows vocations are still there,”
he said. “Regardless of the numbers, we’re still there.”
An Effort to Market the
Priesthood, NYT, 15.4.2008,
From Texas to East Coast, Pilgrimage to See the Pope
April 14, 2008
The New York Times
By RALPH BLUMENTHAL
SPRING, Tex. — The Texas sky was still dark and studded with stars Sunday
when Ricky Pequeño Jr., rubbing sleep from his eyes, stumbled downstairs to add
his bag to a pile of backpacks, sleeping bags, food cooler, baseball glove and
ball, football, drum and guitar — everything a family of ardent Roman Catholics
might need for a 1,600-mile pilgrimage to see the pope.
They would end up in a borrowed van with a hastily added trailer and, with
little spare cash and no overnight reservations, set off. “It’s up to God in the
end,” said Ricky’s father, Ricardo Sr., 44, a machinist who grew up in Mexico,
before driving off for a final blessing from their pastor.
As Pope Benedict XVI prepared for his first papal voyage to America, Mr. Pequeño
and his family — his Mexican-born wife, Maria, 40; Ricky, 17; Andrea, 11;
Rachel, 8; and Emily, 3 — and 14 neighbors were leaving from this blue-collar
suburb north of Houston in two packed vans, headed for Washington and New York
and, they hoped, at least a glimpse of the pontiff.
“We don’t know if we’ll ever see Benedict up close,” said Rosalind Alvarez, a
fellow passenger. But Ms. Alvarez added, “Somehow the word he says is going to
Only Ricky had a prized ticket — two, in fact — to enter Nationals Park in
Washington, where the pope is to celebrate Mass on Thursday. They were gifts
from his pastor, the Rev. Miguel Solorzano of St. Charles Borromeo Church in
Houston, who had managed to get 11 from his bishop, although he had asked for
Ricky had once voiced an interest in the priesthood, and Father Solorzano said
he wanted to encourage the boy. Ricky ended up inviting a friend, a girl. “He’s
young,” the priest said, laughing.
With the church struggling to stem an erosion of faith in the face of secularism
and scandal, the fast-growing Hispanic population of Texas and the Southwest has
long been a major bulwark of Roman Catholicism in America — and an avid
constituency for Pope Benedict’s visit.
The Pequeños and their fellow pilgrims are a particularly ardent band. They are
followers of the Neocatechumenal Way, a communitarian church movement, founded
in Spain in the 1960s and accepted by the Vatican, that emphasizes a return to
early Christian roots, evangelism, intense religious practice and sacrifice.
The Pequeños’ house is filled with Bibles and Christian images. Over the
fireplace hangs a copy of an icon by the Spanish painter Francisco (Kiko)
Argüello, who co-founded the movement.
Before they joined, Mr. Pequeño said, “we would just go to church for Sundays
and holidays.” Now they go several times a week, he said, and often evangelize
door to door, sometimes playing music.
“We use a lot of instruments,” added Ricky, who plays the drum. “The devil uses
a lot of noise, and we fight against the devil, also with a lot of noise.”
The family credits their faith for helping them through many crises. Mr. and
Mrs. Pequeño, who migrated to the United States from Mexico and became citizens,
said their marriage had undergone strains. Mr. Pequeño said he complained about
his wife but learned through prayer that “the way to change my wife is me.” He
said they were also distraught when a medical condition prevented his wife from
bearing more children. They prayed over it, he said, and quickly learned of a
2-year-old girl needing adoption. They happily took in the child, Emily.
Mr. Pequeño earns about $45,000 a year making couplings for oil-drilling tools.
Mrs. Pequeño studied cosmetology and hopes to get a license soon.
The family, then living in a poor neighborhood in the Greenspoint section of
Houston, was traumatized in 2005 when Ricky fell in with a gang, began
committing petty crimes and vandalism, and was kicked out of school. (He said he
had no police record.) Comrades, he said, savagely turned on him, forcing the
family to flee for safety and often change addresses before settling in Spring
two months ago.
“That’s when I started getting into the church a lot,” said Ricky, who now
A junior in high school — he lost a year — he said he had considered becoming a
priest but now feels attracted to a career in law enforcement, perhaps with the
F.B.I. “I like solving crimes, things of that nature,” he said.
Father Solorzano said he knew of Ricky’s problems and credited God’s workings.
This is not the Pequeños’ first trip to see Pope Benedict. In 2005, leaving the
younger children with a relative, Ricky and his parents spent almost $5,000 to
travel with a group to World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, attended by the
pope, although they were too far away to see him. The family raised money for
the trip by holding garage sales and other fund-raisers. In Europe, they
detoured to Amsterdam, where they say they proselytized among prostitutes and
drug addicts, and visited a former German concentration camp.
This pilgrimage — in showery April, like Chaucer’s to Canterbury — will be
cheaper, although the Pequeños figure it should cost about $1,000 in gas alone,
which the travelers will split. The pilgrims, who hope to make side trips to
Christian shrines like the tomb of St. John Neumann in Philadelphia, expected to
lodge free with other Neocatechumenal followers but planned to stay in a motel
Sunday in Tennessee.
Early Sunday, as the pile of luggage by their door grew to alarming proportions,
Mrs. Pequeño carried a still-sleeping Emily to the family’s Chevrolet Suburban
and strapped her in. Ricky retrieved sports equipment his mother had removed
from the pile and restored it.
“We can get bored,” he said.
Andrea, who had been wearing a jokey T-shirt reading “Doesn’t Play Well With
Others,” exchanged it for one reading simply, “Benedict XVI.”
The sun was coming up.
“Ricardo!” Mrs. Pequeño shouted to her husband. “Vamanos!”
They set off to a rendezvous point at St. Charles Borromeo Church, where the
Pequeños and their neighbors swapped vehicles. Mr. Pequeño took over a 12-person
van for six passengers plus his family; someone else would drive his S.U.V.,
packed with eight. But the supplies overflowed the van. Someone was sent to pick
up a trailer.
Father Solorzano finished Mass and came out to bless the pilgrims. He was also
going to Washington, to concelebrate Mass with the pope. But he planned to go by
He sprinkled holy water on the bowed heads. “Bless them O Lord,” he said, “as
they begin this journey.”
From Texas to East
Coast, Pilgrimage to See the Pope, NYT, 14.4.2008,
In U.S., an Uncertain Church Awaits the Pope
April 14, 2008
The New York Times
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Less than two weeks ago, as final preparations were being made for the visit
of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States, the bishop of Camden, N.J., announced
plans to close or merge nearly half the parishes in his diocese. Meanwhile,
Catholics in New Orleans, Boston, New York, Toledo, Ohio, and nearly three dozen
other dioceses are mourning the loss of parishes and parochial schools they grew
So when the pope arrives in the United States on Tuesday, he will find an
American church in which many Catholics are eager not only for his spiritual
guidance, but also for his acknowledgment that their church is going through a
time of pain and uncertainty.
Hundreds of parishes are being closed and consolidated, and the reasons are
usually intertwined with the other big challenges facing the church: a shortage
of priests, fallout from the sexual abuse scandal, insufficient funds to
maintain aging churches, demographic changes and sometimes not enough people
attending Mass to justify keeping parishes open.
And yet for most observant Catholics, their primary experience of the church is
their local parish.
“It’s frustrating because you start to see the bishop as the enemy, and it puts
you where you’re conflicted,” said Leah Vassallo, a lawyer whose parish in
Malaga, N.J., is among those to be closed. “Obviously you don’t want to give up
your faith or go to a different religion, or not go to church at all. But it
does disenfranchise you. We’re going to be a lot more hesitant before we give
money to the church.”
A resistance movement to church closings that began in Boston has spread to
other dioceses. On Sunday, Catholics in six dioceses — New York, Boston,
Buffalo, Camden, New Orleans and Toledo — announced that they were forming a
national group, the Coalition for Parishes, to try to prevent the closing or
merging of viable churches.
In addition to the issues the closings and consolidations present, this will be
the first visit by any pope since the sexual abuse scandal erupted in 2002,
taking a spiritual, emotional and financial toll on Catholics across the
country. The scandal revealed more than 5,000 victims, and left behind five
bankrupt dioceses. It has cost the church more than $2 billion, so far, and it
is not over. Last week the family of two young boys filed a civil lawsuit
against a Massachusetts priest accusing him of molesting the boys as recently as
One of the scandal’s repercussions is that lay Catholics across the country are
demanding more financial accountability from their bishops and more control over
decisions, especially when it comes to closing parishes.
Many dioceses are also closing parochial elementary, junior and high schools
that have provided a rigorous education for generations of Catholics and
The cost of legal fees and settlements to abuse victims has put financial
pressure on many dioceses. But in many cases, the far larger reason for the
closings is demographic.
Urban enclaves of Italian, Irish, Polish and Eastern European Catholics who had
their own ethnic parishes are dispersing to the suburbs and seeing their
previous parishes shuttered — or having to learn to share their churches with
immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa. In some parishes the new mix has
been joyous, in others uneasy.
The pope is expected to praise the American church’s vibrancy during his visit,
and there is much for the church to celebrate. Catholics are the biggest
religious group in the United States, about 23 percent of the population, a
proportion that has held steady. Many parishes are healthy, and some are
growing, with the influx of immigrants, especially Hispanics.
A poll released on Sunday by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate
at Georgetown University showed a mixed performance review for the American
bishops: 22 percent of Catholics are “very satisfied” with the bishops, 50
percent are “somewhat satisfied,” 21 percent are “somewhat dissatisfied,” and 6
percent are “very dissatisfied.” It is an improvement from 2002, the outbreak of
But most priests, and even many bishops, will acknowledge the woes.
Of 18,634 parishes in 2007, 3,238 were without resident pastors. More than 800
parishes have been closed since 1995, most since 2000. (Some bishops are
preparing their parishioners for more closings ahead.) The number of priests
ordained in 2007 fell to 456, less than half the number of new priests in 1965.
Nearly 3 in 10 Catholics who attend Mass weekly or more said they had been
personally affected by the priest shortage, according to the Georgetown poll.
“There’s a crisis,” said William V. D’Antonio, a fellow of the Life Cycle
Institute at the Catholic University of America. “We’re running out of priests.
The average age of priests currently active is over 60. We have recruitment of
new priests way below replacement level.”
Groups that advocate opening the priesthood to women and to married men are
using the pope’s visit to promote their causes. But there is nothing to suggest
that the Vatican is close to reversing itself. The solutions promoted by
American bishops are to work harder at recruiting candidates for the priesthood,
and to ordain permanent deacons — laymen who can preach and perform many
Peter Borre, a parishioner who helped form the Council of Parishes in Boston,
said that if he could address Pope Benedict XVI, he would say: “The shortage of
priests, Your Holiness, is both a symptom and a problem itself. The deeper
problem is not a responsibility of the flock, it’s a failure of bishops to
inspire and draw more people into the priesthood.”
Some bishops, like Joseph Galante in Camden, have tried to involve the laity in
the painful restructuring process. But since the sexual abuse scandal, they are
finding many of their parishioners have become more confrontational.
The restiveness is not only among laity. In Belleville, Ill., last month, 45
priests took the step of publicly releasing a letter to the Vatican’s
representative in Washington calling for their bishop to step down. They accused
the bishop, Edward K. Braxton, of poor communication with priests and of
misappropriating more than $17,000 and using it to buy liturgical garments and
furniture. (The bishop has apologized, but said he would not resign.)
In Boston, Catholics have spent the last four years taking turns camping inside
five churches that the archdiocese wants to close. They figure that if the
church is occupied, the archdiocese will not be able to padlock it.
In Boston and Toledo, some Catholics are suing the church to prevent the
The quandary for the church is that the agitation is coming from some of the
most religiously committed Catholics, said Mr. D’Antonio, co-author of a recent
book that surveyed the members of “Voice of the Faithful,” another church reform
“These are really the loyal Catholics speaking out for change,” Mr. D’Antonio
said. “They are the ones who have been the Eucharistic ministers, they went to
Catholic parochial schools and colleges, got a terrific education, and now they
want to change the church.”
Ms. Vassallo, the lawyer in Camden who objects to the closing of her parish (the
diocese there is reducing the number to 66 from 124), spends every Thursday from
11 p.m. to midnight in her church praying before the Blessed Sacrament. She is
one in a chain of parishioners who keep up this Eucharistic Adoration for 48
uninterrupted hours every week.
As Catholics they are devoted to their church, but don’t necessarily agree with
all of its decisions. As Americans, accustomed to life in a democracy, they
think they have a right to say so.
Dan Thiel, a contractor and excavator in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, was in a
ministerial training program for five years in the Toledo diocese, which
assigned him to help gather information from parishes on which ones could be
closed or clustered. In the end, he said, he was appalled because some very
alive parishes were cut. His own was reduced to a chapel, without a resident
“They’ve totally abandoned our community,” said Mr. Thiel, who is now president
of United Parishes, a group that is fighting parish closings in Toledo. “They
took the buildings, they took the money, and said, ‘You guys can go somewhere
“There are so many people that want to be active in this church, that want to
know more about their faith, and now they’re so offended,” Mr. Thiel said. “I
tell people all the time, ‘Don’t leave your church. It’s not the pope. It’s not
the bishop. It’s your community.’ ”
In U.S., an Uncertain
Church Awaits the Pope, NYT, 14.4.2008,
Catholics seek bold papal action on sex abuse
Sat Apr 12, 2008
By Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Catholics angered and demoralized by the priest sex
abuse scandal say one man can help revitalize the Church with bold action: Pope
The pope's trip to Washington and New York next week marks the first U.S. visit
by a pontiff since a wave of sex abuse scandals began in 2002, provoking
lawsuits that have forced dioceses to pay more than $2 billion in settlements.
Some advocates for the victims want the pope to apologize, others want him to
permanently ban child molesters from the priesthood, or publicly identify them.
The Vatican has said Pope Benedict will discuss the scandal during his U.S.
visit in an effort to heal wounds. Meetings with sex abuse victims are not on
the pope's public schedule, but sometimes events are added at the last minute.
"In addition to apologizing, Pope Benedict and all our bishops should meet with
survivors, listen to their stories, and treat them with respect and compassion,"
said Dan Bartley, president of Voice of the Faithful, a Boston-based group
formed after the scandal erupted there.
Bartley called it "good news" that Benedict will address the issue, but the
group wants more accountability and transparency from the Church.
The Church commissioned a study that found 10,667 people accused 4,392 priests
of child sexual abuse from 1950 to 2002. Church leaders have said the study
illustrates how serious they are about the problem, laying bare secrets while
other institutions have not.
Moreover, it has changed its rules to more easily dismiss priests whenever there
is a credible claim of abuse, said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Walsh could not say how many of the more than 4,000 priests were removed -- many
had died or retired by the time the report came out -- but she said the pope
would address the victims' suffering.
"It's very close to Holy Father's heart. He's just horrified by this crime,"
IMAGE OF BISHOPS IMPROVING - STUDY
The Boston Globe reported in 2002 that 130 people were abused by a former priest
over three decades and he was reassigned to different parishes rather than
removed from contact with young boys.
The scandal grew from there, forcing Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law to resign.
The Boston Archdiocese later agreed to pay up to $85 million to settle lawsuits
filed by hundreds of people who said they were sexually abused by clergy.
More claims and suits led dioceses across the country to file for bankruptcy
protection. Others paid settlements, including the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,
which agreed to pay a record $660 million to 500 victims of sexual abuse.
The image of bishops suffered but has rebounded. A poll of U.S. Catholic adults
scheduled for release on Sunday shows 72 percent are somewhat or very satisfied
with their bishops, up from 58 percent in 2004, Walsh said.
Barbara Blaine, who formed the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests,
suspects the pope may meet with carefully selected victims in what she called a
public relations gesture.
She said the Church continues to protect the identities of abusers and the
bishops who know of their sins.
"The stakes are so high. Children are at risk. There's a public safety crisis
still in America today," Blaine said. "We need something bold from the pope and
we sure hope it will come during his visit."
(Editing by Stacey Joyce)
Catholics seek bold
papal action on sex abuse, R, 12.4.2008,
FACTBOX: Sex scandals in U.S. Roman Catholic Church
Sat Apr 12, 2008
(Reuters) - Details of the recent sexual abuse scandals and related
developments affecting the U.S. Roman Catholic Church:
* 1984 - Abuse scandals in Louisiana begin to attract attention leading
freelance journalist Jason Berry to shed new light on the issue of cover-ups.
His 1992 book "Lead Us Not into Temptation" contends 400 priests and brothers
were involved in abuse cases during the previous eight years in North America.
* January 2002 - The Boston Globe reports 130 people were abused by former
priest John Geoghan during three decades where he was reassigned rather than
removed from contact with young boys. The Boston scandal starts to grow from
* April 2002 - U.S. cardinals called to Rome to meet with Pope John Paul II on
the issue; in June 2002 the bishops approve plan for dealing with abuse, calling
for accused offenders to be removed from ministerial duties pending
investigation and evaluation.
* December 2002 - Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law, the most senior Roman Catholic
official in the United States, resigns over his handling of clergy sexual abuse.
* September 2003 - The Boston Archdiocese agrees to pay up to $85 million to
settle lawsuits filed by hundreds of people who say they were sexually abused by
* February 2004 - U.S. bishops issue report on abuse of children by priests over
52 years beginning in 1950. It finds 10,667 people accused priests of child
sexual abuse from 1950 through 2002, and more than 17 percent of the accusers
had siblings who were also allegedly abused.
* July-December 2004 - The dioceses of Portland, Oregon; Tucson, Arizona; and
Spokane, Washington, become the first to file for bankruptcy protection in the
face of growing abuse-related claims and suits.
* June 2005 - The Archdiocese of San Francisco and its insurance carriers
announce payment of $21 million to 15 people to settle lawsuits charging sexual
* February 2006 - The Diocese of Covington, which covers a large area of
Kentucky, settles abuse claims for $85 million.
* July 2007 - The Archdiocese of Los Angeles agrees to pay $660 million to 500
victims of sexual abuse dating back as far as the 1940s in the largest
compensation deal of its kind.
* December 2007 - A lay body appointed to oversee efforts to end abuse says
nearly all dioceses have complied with an audit to make sure they have
protective measures in place; warns that "prevention, healing and vigilance will
be demanded for the rest of our days."
(Editing by Bill Trott)
FACTBOX: Sex scandals in
U.S. Roman Catholic Church, R, 12.4.2008,
Polygamous Sect Encouraged Fear
April 12, 2008
Filed at 3:27 a.m. ET
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) -- Texas child welfare officials have brought in
mental health professionals and behavioral experts as the agency tries to ensure
a sense of normalcy for the more than 400 children removed from a polygamous
sect's enclave, an agency spokeswoman said.
But for all their lives, the boys and girls of the Fundamentalist Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have been told the outside world was hostile
and immoral. Venturing beyond the brilliant white limestone walls of their
compound would consign them to eternal damnation, their church leaders preached.
Now, if the state gets its way, hundreds of children could be put in foster
homes, in what could be a wrenching cultural adjustment that may require
''What they are up against is having to deprogram an entire community,'' said
Margaret Cooke, who left the sect with seven of her eight children near the end
of 1994. The children ''are so naive and they have been sheltered to the point
that they don't even trust their own judgment.''
Marleigh Meisner, a spokeswoman for the state Children's Protective Services,
said the agency is working with mental health and other experts to meet specific
needs of the children. That information would be passed to foster families if a
judge decides the children should be transferred to foster homes, she said.
''We want to keep their world as normal as possible,'' Meisner said. ''We also
want to be certain that these children have gained a trust with us. We want
these children to know that even if they may not have been safe in the past,
they will be safe as long as they are with us.''
Meanwhile, in court papers unsealed Friday, authorities said they found a
''cyanide poisoning document'' in their search of the compound in the town of
Eldorado. But the 80-page list of items seized gave no further explanation.
Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange said the document
consisted of pages torn out of a first-aid book on how to treat cyanide
poisoning. But she said she didn't know why the sect would have such information
Child welfare officials seized more than 400 children, most of them girls, in
the raid on the FLDS compound known as the Yearn for Zion ranch, saying the
youngsters were in danger of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
The renegade Mormon splinter group requires girls at puberty to enter into
polygamous marriages with much older men and produce children, authorities say.
The sect also teaches children to fear the outside world, including the very
authorities who removed them until a court hearing Thursday that will help
determine their future.
''You're taught to fear everyone and everything,'' said Cooke, herself a
The children and the 139 women who followed them voluntarily out of the compound
are being so secretive that child welfare officials are having trouble sorting
out who the youngster' parents are.
Most of the children are the offspring of the faith's inner circle -- including
its now-imprisoned prophet, Warren Jeffs -- who were born since construction
began on the compound in 2003, or were hand-selected by Jeffs to come to the
enclave, which the sect regards as part of Zion on Earth.
In 2003 and 2004, Jeffs, the spiritual leader of an estimated 6,000 followers in
two adjoining towns along the Utah-Arizona line, plucked children under the age
of 6 to bring to Texas, some without their parents, former sect member Isaac
''Over age 6 they were too contaminated for the world to be of use to God,''
said Wyler, who still lives in Colorado City, Ariz., and has 38 siblings. ''He
picked the ones that would be the most obedient, the ones that would be
qualified to go to Zion.''
Authorities raided the Eldorado ranch April 3 after a girl from the clan made a
whispered telephone call for help to a family violence shelter. The 16-year-old,
who indicated she was a few weeks' pregnant, said her 50-year-old husband beat
and raped her. The girl has not yet been identified among the 416 children and
may not even be among them.
In the call, the girl said that sect members warned her that if she ever left,
outsiders would hurt her and force her to cut her hair, wear makeup and have sex
with many men.
Most of the sect's children have never attended public schools or worn modern
clothing. The girls wear long, pioneer-style dresses and keep their long hair
pinned up in a braid.
In their search of the compound, police uncovered dozens of journals and other
documents that contain birth, marriage and other genealogical records. That may
help social workers match children with their parents.
The hearing next Thursday will determine whether the state gets full custody of
the children or whether they can return to the compound in Eldorado.
The women and children are being held at Fort Concho and nearby at the Wells
Fargo Pavilion. Men from the YFZ ranch and any other relatives are not being
allowed to visit.
''I think under the circumstances the folks are as happy in their environment as
they can possibly be,'' said Kevin Dinnin, the shelter manager from the Texas
governor's Division of Emergency Management.
Beyond the basic needs of food, fresh water, showers and bedding, Dinnin said
his agency has worked to provide toys for the children and address the unique
clothing and laundry needs of the FLDS, who wear long, religious underwear
year-round which are not meant to be seen by outsiders.
The educational needs of the children were being assessed as were medical needs,
including the treatment of about a dozen kids with chicken pox and prescription
medications, he said. Mental health services are also being provided.
''We have encouraged sibling groups and mothers to stay together,'' Dinnin said
of the living arrangements.
More than 500 people are working with the shelter ''guests,'' and the agency is
spending between $25,000 and $35,000 daily, Dinnin said.
Associated Press writer Betsy Blaney contributed to this report from Lubbock.
Encouraged Fear, NYT, 12.4.2008,
Benedict is coming to America
Thu Apr 10,
By Philip Pullella
CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict is coming to America and American Catholics may
be in for some surprises.
Like Catholics globally, American Catholics are still mesmerized by the 27-year
papacy of the late John Paul II and will get their first close-up look at
Benedict next week when he visits Washington and New York.
Known as a fierce conservative when elected three years ago, he has surprised
people with his gentle manner and stressing of the positive in Catholicism
rather than the negative.
"The differences between the two popes is more stylistic than substantive," said
Rev. Tom Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown
"They both hold the same theological views, the same views about Church
doctrine, Church teaching and Church practices but their styles are very
different," he said.
Indeed, John Paul was a larger-than-life personality who, because of his acting
background, knew how to dominate the stage and ignite a crowd.
Benedict, who will mark both his 81st birthday as well as the third anniversary
of his election during the trip, is reticent and shy but also charming.
"I do think that to some extent there is a disconnect between the public
impression of this man and the private personality. You will never meet a more
gracious figure," said John Allen, a prominent U.S. Catholic author and
DARTH VADER TURNED PUSSYCAT
Allen, speaking last week at the Pew Forum On Religion and Public Life in
Washington, said even Church liberals had stopped seeing Benedict as "a sort of
Darth Vader" and now give him high marks for his papacy.
When he was elected, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger brought with him the
baggage of his role as the Church's chief doctrinal enforcer, a position he held
for nearly 25 years.
He now seems not so much an enigma but someone who takes time to get to
An opinion poll by the Pew Forum this month showed that fewer Catholics in the
United States now automatically attach the "conservative" label to his name and
an increasing number identify him as moderate or even liberal.
George Weigel, a leading American lay theologian and senior fellow at the Ethics
and Public Policy Center in Washington, has described the change as a Catholic
"hunger to be fed by a master teacher".
"This man so widely regarded as a kind of enforcer, a kind of heavy, turns out
in this role (teacher) to be the gentle and brilliant grandfather who knows how
to explain things and make the most complex parts of Catholic doctrine and
practice make sense to ordinary people," Weigel said at the Pew Forum event.
Since his election, Benedict has seen his role as a strong re-assertion of a
traditional Catholic identity but with a positive spin -- what Allen calls
While some Muslims, Jews and Protestants have seen some of his actions and
comments as alienating, Benedict has offered his own flock a clearer sense of
what makes them Catholic.
"I think Benedict's diagnosis is that people are far too familiar with what the
Catholic Church is against rather than what it's for ... so I think his effort
is to try to present a positive vision of what the Catholic Church represents,"
Benedict, a professor and prolific author before he was elected, seems to have
settled well into his role of being chief teacher and leaving more
administrative affairs to his aides.
Although he was formed socially and culturally in Europe, he has a deep
awareness of the religious vitality of U.S. society.
"I think he is going to be an inspiration but at the same time challenging,"
"We are the richest, most powerful country in the world and he has an obligation
to come here and challenge us to use our wealth and our power for good," he
Vatican officials also said the pope will seek to heal wounds from the sexual
abuse scandal that shook the Church in the United States and urge reconciliation
Before his election as pontiff in 2005, then Cardinal Ratzinger went out on a
limb to decry the "filth" in the Church.
(Editing by Stephen Weeks)
Pope Benedict is coming to America, R, 10.4.2008,
America's Roman Catholic population
Thu Apr 10,
Once solidly Irish, Italian and Polish, the U.S. Roman Catholic Church, the
largest Christian denomination in the country, has become increasingly Hispanic
in recent years.
Like other mainline denominations it is also losing members to competing faiths
such as evangelical Protestant churches.
Following are some facts and figures about the U.S. Catholic population, which
will greet Pope Benedict when he visits the United States from April 15 to 20.
- According to a recent nationwide survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and
Public Life, 23.9 percent of the adult U.S. population identifies itself as
Catholic. This tallies with estimates by the U.S. Catholic Church itself.
- Since the early 1970s the percentage of the population counting itself as
Catholic has remained stable at around 25 percent. But according to Pew, no
other major faith has experienced greater net losses with 31.4 percent of U.S.
adults saying they were raised Catholic and about one in 10 describing
themselves as former Catholics.
- In the face of these losses the Church has maintained its share of the U.S.
population by winning its own converts but mostly through immigration,
especially from Latin America. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
says that about 39 percent of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic.
- The USCCB also says that since 1960, 71 percent of U.S. Catholic population
growth has been Hispanic and that by the second decade of the 21st century, more
than 50 percent of U.S. Catholics will likely be Hispanic.
- The USCCB estimates that there are 2.3 million African American Catholics.
There is also a growing population of Vietnamese Catholics in areas like north
- The U.S. Northeast remains one of the centers of American Catholicism, with 29
percent of all adults there belonging to the faith.
- One indicator of the resiliency of Catholicism in any country is the Mass
attendance rate among the flock. According to a 2007 survey by Georgetown
University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, about one fifth of
U.S. Catholics attend Mass at least once a week while 11 percent go almost every
(Sources: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life; United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops; Reuters; Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate)
(Compiled by Ed Stoddard;
Editing by Mike Conlon and Xavier Briand)
FACTBOX: America's Roman Catholic population, R,