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Posted on 10/22/2018 23:32 PM (CNA Daily News)
Santiago, Chile, Oct 22, 2018 / 03:32 pm (CNA).- The president of an appeals court in Chile has denied reports that the court will order the Archdiocese of Santiago to pay some $650,000 to three victims of a laicized priest at the center of the sexual abuse scandal in that country.
"There is no ruling, no sentence has been issued nor is there even a draft decision," the President of the Court of Appeals of Santiago, Dobra Lusic said in an Oct. 22 statement.
The lawsuit against the archdiocese was rejected in March 2017. The plaintiffs appealled, and the case was heard by a Chilean appellate court on Thursday.
Chilean newspaper La Tercera reported Oct. 21 that a decision in the case was expected to be issued Monday, Oct. 22.
La Tercera reported that the archdiocese would be ordered to pay “moral damages” of 450 million pesos for its efforts to cover up crimes committed against minors. While the verdict would be open to appeal to the country’s Supreme Court, it would reportedly have been the highest judgment rendered against the Church in Chile.
The Oct. 22 statement released by the Chilean government denied this report.
The three plaintiffs in the lawsuit, James Hamilton, Jose Andres Murillo and Juan Carlos Cruz, say they were sexuallty abused by Fernando Karadima over a period of years. The public testimony of the men, especially Cruz, was instrumental in bringing the Chilean abuse crisis to international attention.
The suit argues that Cardinals Francisco Javier Errázuriz and Ricardo Ezzati were responsible for covering up Karadima’s crimes. Ezzati is the Archbishop of Santiago, Errázuriz is his predecessor.
Protests against the promotion of Bishop Juan Barros, alleged to have been one of Karadima’s proteges and protectors, turned the Chilean sexual abuse crisis into a global concern for the Church. The matter escalated during a papal visit to the country in January 2018, during which Pope Francis initially defended Barros.
Cruz and other victims travelled to Rome earlier this year to meet in private with the pope, who expressed public regret for failing to act on the matter earlier and for expressing skepticism about the allegations.
Barros’ resignation was accepted by the pope in June.
Karadima, 88, was a highly influential Santiago-area priest who for decades led a lay movement from his parish in El Bosque. He is considered to have personally fostered around 40 vocations to the priesthood.
While Karadima himself has never stood trial for his alleged crimes because of the statute of limitations, the hierarchy of the Church in Chile stands accused of systematically covering up his abuse, and of doing the same for other accused priests.
Karadima was found guilty of sexually abusing minors in a canonical process handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011. Because of his advanced age and poor health, he was ordered to “retire to a life of prayer and penance, in reparation [for his crimes] as well for the victims of abuse.”
On Sept. 27, Pope Francis laicised Karadima, expelling him from the clerical state in a move the Vatican described as an “exceptional measure” taken in response to the “exceptional damage” done by Karadima’s crimes.
Following a crisis meeting on May 15-17, during which the pope expressed his anger at evidence of systematic attempts to suppress and ignore allegations of clerical sexual abuse in the country, 34 Chilean bishops submitted their resignations.
To date, Francis has accepted seven of them, though no action has been taken against Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa, the former Archbishop of Santiago and member of the pope’s C9 Council of Cardinals, or his successor, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello.
Posted on 10/22/2018 23:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
New York City, N.Y., Oct 22, 2018 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Nikki Haley used her speech at annual Al smith dinner in New York City to acknowledge the Church’s efforts to deal with the sexual abuse scandal while continuing its “incredible work” helping “millions of desperate people” around the world.
The outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations was the guest of honor at the fundraising dinner for the Archdiocese of New York, held Oct. 18. While the dinner raises millions of dollars for the Church’s charitable outreach in the city, Haley said that the efforts she had seen went “way beyond that.”
In the course of her time as ambassador, Haley said that she had been to some “truly dark places” where the suffering endured by many people would be “hard for most Americans to imagine.”
“I’ve been to the border between Colombia and Venezuela, where people walk 3 hours each way in the blazing sun to get the only meal that they will have that day. Who’s giving that meal? The Catholic Church,” she said.
“I’ve been to refugee camps in Central Africa where young boys are kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers and young girls are raped as a matter of routine. Who was in the forefront of changing this culture of corruption and violence? The Catholic Church.”
Halley also acknowledged the sexual abuse crises which have rocked the Church, both in the United States and globally, saying that she would “be remiss” if she did not mention the recent scandals. Noting that sexual abuse and assault was not a problem limited to the Church but one which “deeply touches the American family,” she said that the Church had an obligation to victims.
“The church’s place must be with the victims that carry the pain with them. I know the church leaders recognize its deep responsibility to address this moral failing, and it is taking action,” she said. At the same time, the ambassador said that it would be “tragic” if the abuse scandal made the world blind to “the amazing good works the Catholic Church does every single day.”
Haley called the Church’s global works of charity, education, and healthcare “everyday miracles” and said that “those miracles are the way of the Church.”
The annual event raises money for the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, which serves the “neediest children of the Archdiocese of New York, regardless of race, creed, or color.” Each year, the dinner features a prominent politician; during presidential election years, the two main candidates are invited together.
Smith was the first Catholic to be nominated as a presidential candidate by one of the two main parties.
Speakers at the dinner traditionally deliver irreverent and light hearted political humor, and Haley offered good natured jokes at the expense of prominent Democrats and Republicans, including the president.
But she was also quick to place American political strife in context, criticising the growing tendency to term political opponents as “evil.”
“In the last two years, I’ve seen true evil. We have some serious political differences here at home. But our opponents are not evil. They’re just our opponents,” she said.
“We are blessed with a political system that allows us to resolve our differences peacefully. In the end, we must recognize that we are all Americans, and we are stronger and healthier when we are united.”
Haley’s appearance at the dinner came a little over a week after she announced that she will be stepping down from her role at the UN at the end of 2018. Haley had served as the UN Ambassador since the beginning of President Trump’s term, having previously been the governor of South Carolina.
The dinner raised nearly $4 million.
Posted on 10/22/2018 19:59 PM (CNA Daily News)
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 22, 2018 / 11:59 am (CNA).- An auxiliary policeman was shot and killed Sunday defending the home of Cardinal Norberto Rivera, the retired Archbishop of Mexico City.
The guard died on his way to hospital shortly after the shooting on Oct. 21. The cardinal was home during the attack but is reported to be safe and unharmed by the incident.
According to the Associated Press, the shooting was not an attempt on the cardinal’s life, but has been presumed to be an attempted robbery.
The guard had been approached by two unknown attackers, who were pretending to deliver a package. After the suspects rang the doorbell, the guard opened the door and was shot.
Reuters reported that at least one of the men had been dressed in military clothes, and, after gun fire broke out, the man was forced back as shots were returned by other guards.
The Mexican bishops’ conference expressed "its closeness, solidarity and support” to the cardinal, and offered prayers for the family and the soul of the slain officer.
Rivera retired as Mexico City’s archbishop in December 2017.
Posted on 10/22/2018 19:30 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Oct 22, 2018 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The Trump administration is considering reshaping some federal policies to define gender according to a person’s biology and genitalia, according to a new memo from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The department is seeking a definition based “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”
If adopted, the changed definition would clarify the application of Title IX, the 1972 civil rights law prohibiting gender-based discrimination in educational programs that receive government funding.
This change would be a departure from practices developed during the Obama administration, which recognize a person’s gender based on their own interpretation or identity rather than their chromosomal makeup or birth sex.
A 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights noted that “gender based harassment” could include harassment based upon the “actual or perceived” “gender identity” of a person. A question-and-answer document from the same office, issued in 2014, stated that sex-based discrimination under Title IX extended to discrimination based on “gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity."
If the proposed changes come into effect, sex would be defined as “a person’s status as male or female based on the immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”
The sex on a person’s original birth certificate would serve as “definitive proof” of their sex, with exceptions for those who can provide “reliable genetic evidence” that states otherwise.
Approximately 1 out of every 1,500 to 2,000 births have abnormal sex chromosomes other than the typical XX for females and XY for males. The most common of these is Klinefelter Syndrome, which means that a male has two X chromosomes in addition to a Y chromosome. Many men with Klinefelter Syndrome are unaware they have the condition.
In the United States, an estimated 1.4 million people identify as “transgender,” self-identifying as a gender other than the one recorded at birth. Some such people have undergone surgery or hormonal treatments to physically resemble their gender of self-identification.
Critics of the proposed changes have argued that they would exclude those identifying as “transgender” from protection by Title IX and other anti-discrimination measures. Supporters of the proposal contend that it merely ensures such laws are applied to the whole population based on objective criteria and not subjective self-identification.
The Department of Health and Human Services is expected to present a version of the new policy to the Department of Justice before the end of the year. If the Justice Department considers the revised definition legally viable and enforceable, HHS can then approve and implement it as policy across a range of government agencies involved with Title IX enforcement.
Posted on 10/22/2018 18:16 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Oct 22, 2018 / 10:16 am (CNA).- The 15th ordinary Synod of Bishops is meeting now to discuss young people, the faith, and vocational discernment. Many have referred to this nearly month-long meeting as the “Youth Synod.” This raises a question: What is a youth?
In the eyes of the Vatican, a youth is defined as a person between the ages of 16 and 35.
This age range extends beyond what is typically considered a “youth” in the United States. Whereas American World Youth Day participants are frequently groups of Catholic high school students accompanied by chaperones, many have observed that World Youth Day participants from European countries tend to be in their 20s and 30s.
With that established, what is a synod? A synod is a meeting of bishops gathered to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, in order to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope.
The Synod of Bishops was created in 1965 by Pope Saint Paul VI, who was canonized earlier this week. Paul VI charted the synod to encourage close union between the pope and the world’s bishops and to “insure that direct and real information is provided on questions and situations touching upon the internal action of the Church and its necessary activity in the world of today.”
Ordinary synods happen every three years on issues voted upon by synod delegates elected or appointed from each continent, and from certain Vatican offices. There have been 15 ordinary synods to date. There are also extraordinary synods and special synods.
What makes a synod extraordinary? It is a matter of timing. Extraordinary synods are called by the pope outside of the usual timing as a matter of urgency.
Special synods address a particular topic and are usually regional. For example, next year there will be a Special Synod on the Pan-Amazonian Region.
Instrumentum Laboris is Latin for “working document.” It is developed before the meeting by a small working committee of Vatican officials and diocesan bishops, and frames synod discussions. During a synod, bishops make comments and observations on the working document, and meet in small discussion groups to propose changes to the text, or to suggest new texts and additional areas for consideration.
A Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation is a document produced by the pope after synod assembly concludes. It generally reflects the recommendations made by the synod in its final document submitted to the pope, along with his own reflections.
The most recent post-synodal apostolic exhortation was Amoris laetitia, which was released after the 2015 synod on the family.
New rules for the 2018 synod of bishops say that the pope may approve, as a part of the Church’s magisterium, the final report from the synod fathers instead of producing a separate exhortation. It is not yet determined whether Pope Francis will do this at the conclusion of the synod.
Synod Fathers are the bishops and others who participate and vote in a synod.
Auditors are people appointed by the pope to participate in synod discussions and interventions within the synod hall, but without a vote on documents. Laypeople and women religious participate in the synod as auditors.
In a historic first, the 2018 Synod of Bishops has invited 34 young people participating as auditors.
Circoli Minori are small discussion groups in which synod participants who speak a common language work together to produce a report on each section of the working document, along with modi, or proposals, to be included in the final document.
At the 2018 Synod of Bishops, there are 14 language groups -- four in English, three French groups, three Italian, two Spanish, one German group, and one Portuguese.
“Synodality” is generally understood to represent a process of discernment, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, involving bishops, priests, religious, and lay Catholics, each according to the gifts and charisms of their vocation. This phrase has been emphasized in Pope Francis’ pontificate. In May, the International Theological Commission released a document on “Synodality in Life and Mission of the Church.”
Posted on 10/22/2018 16:43 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Oct 22, 2018 / 08:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- John Paul II spent much of his papacy speaking to youth. Now some of those youth are bishops.
On the feast of Saint John Paul II, one synod bishop reflected on how the Polish pope inspired generations of young people, including himself, to pursue holiness.
“Catholic youth want to implement ‘the civilization of love’ that was promised by John Paul II,” French Archbishop David Macaire said at a Vatican press conference Oct. 22.
The archbishop of Saint-Pierre and Fort-de-France in Martinique is in Rome for the 2018 Synod of Bishops convened Oct. 3-28 to discuss young people, the faith, and vocational discernment.
“I attended my first World Youth Day when I was 19 years old in Santiago de Compostela,” Macaire said in French.
The 1989 World Youth Day in Spain was the fourth global meeting for young people established by the John Paul II, who went on to celebrate a total of 19 World Youth Days in his pontificate with millions of young people from all over the world.
“John Paul II guided me through my youth,” Archbishop Macaire said.
Synod fathers should convey the Gospel, he continued, because “young people will receive this legacy.”
Earlier in the day, Pope Francis prayed at the tomb of Saint John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica. In April 2014, Pope Francis canonized John Paul II along with Pope John XXIII.
The Synod of Bishops did not meet Monday, while committees complete writing the draft of the final document and the synod letter to young people.
The draft document of the post-synod apostolic exhortation will be presented Oct. 23 and synod fathers will be able to propose their changes individually or as groups, Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications, announced.
It is up to Pope Francis to decide when the document will be made available to the public, Ruffini added.
As the synod nears its close, Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut said Monday that bishops and other diocesan leaders need to bring “synodality” to the local level.
“The document that we will receive tomorrow ... is an attempt to speak to a global community,” Caggiano said.
“Let's be realistic, young people in Bridgeport have a very different experience from young people in Nairobi or young people in Caracas,” he continued.
One unique experience was shared by a young girl from Guinea, Henriette Camara, who told the synod her story of growing up in a Muslim family. Camara converted to Catholicism, despite parental disapproval, through the witness and community that she encountered in a Catholic scouting group.
“The pursuit of holiness is recognizing the will of God and choosing to do it,” said Bishop Caggiano. “This entire synod has been an ecclesial exercise to unlock that pursuit of holiness.”
Posted on 10/21/2018 21:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Oct 21, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A bishop from Lebanon shared at the 2018 Synod of Bishops how his online catechesis program in Arabic has helped him to unite young Catholics across the Middle East.
“Thanks to the web I am able to connect many young people from the Middle East. We've also had conversions of young people who have recognized Jesus through our social presence,” Bishop Joseph Naffah said at the a Vatican press conference Oct. 19.
Synod fathers from Africa, South America, and the Middle East spoke Friday about their hopes for the future of evangelization and catechesis in a digital age.
Bishop Naffah is the auxiliary bishop of the Maronite Catholic eparchy of Joubbé, Sarba, and Jounieh in Lebanon.
For five years Naffah has been running an online catechetical program that connects over 500 Arabic-speaking Catholic students in conversations about the faith.
Students in the online program include youth in prison, as well as young people with disabilities.
“I’ve been moved in particular by one person who is totally paralyzed,” Bishop Naffah said.
While positive about the potential of online catechesis, the Maronite bishop also expressed concern that there are websites that contain false Catholic teaching online.
Naffah sees a need for a mechanism for Vatican approval of catechesis and teaching shared online, such as a special office to monitor Catholic webpages and then certify sites that accurately reflect the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Bishop Kofi Fianu of Ho, Ghana has also found success connecting with young people in Africa through the daily online Bible reflections that he shares with them.
“From this apostolate of digital reflections I have been in contact with many of the youth,” said Bishop Fianu. “They interact with me. They ask questions about what I have written in the reflection.”
“All of us, first of all, we the bishops, clergy need to be real ministers of the word. When we are able to drink deeply into the word of God, when we are on fire for this word, we can transmit it faithfully and more actively to the youth and the rest of the members of the Church,” Fianu continued.
Father Valdir Jose Castro from Brazil said that young people know the language and the grammar of the world of social media and are crucial in assisting the Church to reach out and open the doors.
“The Church needs to study in depth and improve its understanding of technology and the internet in particular so as to discern how she should live there and where fertile soil can be found,” Father Castro said.
The internet is a venue where the Church can encourage young people to be “protagonists in evangelization, not just the beneficiaries.”
Posted on 10/21/2018 13:24 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Oct 21, 2018 / 05:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The throne of Jesus Christ is the cross upon which he gave his life for the world, and those who wish to follow him must be prepared to sacrifice everything, Pope Francis said Sunday.
“The message of the Teacher is clear: while the great of the earth build themselves ‘thrones’ for their own power, God chooses an uncomfortable throne, the cross, from which he reigns giving his life,” the pope said Oct. 21.
“Jesus says, ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”
In his mediation before the Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel, in which James and John ask Jesus to grant that they may sit one on his left and one on his right in the Kingdom of God.
“Jesus knows that James and John are animated by great enthusiasm for him and for the cause of the Kingdom, but he also knows that their expectations and their zeal are polluted by the spirit of the world,” he said.
So, Jesus tells them: “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
They must learn that to follow Christ requires sacrifice, the pope said, because “the way of love is always ‘at a loss.’”
This lesson, he continued, is not only for James and John, but for all the Apostles, and for Christians of all time, who are infected with the same worldly mentality. As Jesus said: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”
“It is the rule of the Christian,” Francis said. “The way of service is the most effective antidote against the disease” of searching to be first, “which infects so many human contexts and does not spare even Christians, the people of God, even the ecclesiastical hierarchy.”
“Therefore, as disciples of Christ, we welcome this Gospel as a call to conversion, to witness to, with courage and generosity, a Church that bows at the feet of the least, to serve them with love and simplicity,” he stated.
After the Angelus, Pope Francis led those present in St. Peter’s Square in praying a ‘Hail Mary’ for those who have given their lives for the faith.
He also praised the witness of Bl. Tiburcio Arnáiz Muñoz, a Jesuit priest and founder of the Missionaries of the Rural Parishes, who was beatified in Malaga, Spain Oct. 20.
“We thank the Lord for the testimony of this zealous minister of reconciliation and tireless announcer of the Gospel, especially among the humble and the forgotten,” the pope said.
“His example impels us to be agents of mercy and courageous missionaries in every environment; his intercession supports our journey.”
He recalled the day’s celebration of World Mission Day, and its theme of “Together with the young we bring the Gospel to all.”
“Together with the young: this is the way!” he emphasized. “And it is the reality that, thanks to God, we are experiencing in these days of the Synod dedicated to them: listening to them and involving them we discover many testimonies of young people who found the meaning and joy of life in Jesus.”
He concluded by greeting the participants of a Rome pilgrimage which took place earlier the same day, which was led by Caritas International and Cardinal Tagle.
The pilgrimage was part of an initiative called, “Share the Journey,” which promotes fraternity between immigrants and non-immigrants.
Posted on 10/21/2018 12:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Vatican City, Oct 21, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- St. John Paul II used the occasion of his first homily as pope to offer a fervent prayer that God would make him, first and foremost, a servant.
The former Cardinal Karol Wojtyla delivered the first homily of his 26-year pontificate before a packed assembly in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Oct. 22, 1978— 40 years ago this week.
His election was a few days before, on Oct. 16.
John Paul II began his homily by reaffirming the words that had once been uttered by the apostle Peter in the presence of Jesus: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
“Yes, Brothers and sons and daughters, these words first of all,” the newly-elected pope said. “He who is infinite, inscrutable, ineffable, has come close to us in Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable at Bethlehem.”
The pope exhorted those seeking God, those who already believe, and those struggling with doubt to pay attention to Peter’s profession of faith in Jesus. Peter’s faith and obedience to a higher calling led him to leave his simple way of life as a fisherman and journey to Rome.
“What else but obedience to the inspiration received from the Lord guided him and brought him to this city, the heart of the Empire?” the pope said. “Perhaps the fisherman of Galilee did not want to come here. Perhaps he would have preferred to stay there, on the shores of the Lake of Genesareth, with his boat and his nets. But guided by the Lord, obedient to his inspiration, he came here!”
“Son of Poland”
On the day he began his new mission as Bishop of Rome, Pope John Paul admitted he was “a bishop full of trepidation, conscious of his unworthiness.”
As a self-proclaimed “son of Poland,” John Paul was the first non-Italian pope in more than 400 years. In this moment, as he took over the See of Peter, he proclaimed that the unbroken tradition of the papacy had made him a Roman, too.
“Inscrutable is the design of Divine Providence!” he said. “How could one not tremble before the greatness of this call and before the universal mission of this See of Rome!”
To his fellow Polish Bishops and to the many Polish pilgrims present, John Paul II said:
“Everything that I could say would fade into insignificance compared with what my heart feels, and your hearts feel, at this moment. So let us leave aside words. Let there remain just great silence before God, the silence that becomes prayer...Remember me today and always in your prayers!”
Humility and service
John Paul II chose not to wear a papal tiara, or crown; the last pope to be crowned was Paul VI in 1963. He said he didn’t want to return to “an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes,” but rather to immerse himself in “humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.”
The “power” exercised by the popes is service, John Paul II said; service to help all the people of God share in the mission of Jesus as Priest, Prophet, and King. This power expressed itself in “charity and truth” rather than in “the language of force.”
“Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power,” the saint said. “Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ's power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.”
“Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid.”
Though his homily was in Italian, John Paul II— a famous polyglot— also offered greetings to pilgrims in French, English,German, Spanish, Portuguese, Czechoslovakian, Russian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian, asking all of them for prayers.
Posted on 10/20/2018 21:00 PM (CNA Daily News)
Washington D.C., Oct 20, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- In the wake of recent reports concerning widespread sexual harassment and sexual abuse at seminaries, a seminary professor has suggestions for how the seminary process could improve.
Fr. Thomas Berg, a professor of moral theology and director of admissions at St. Joseph’s Seminary in New York, suggested in an Oct. 18 Washington Post column six ways the formation process of seminarians could be changed to ensure that they would be properly formed both spiritually and emotionally.
Berg criticized the current seminary system for an “overemphasis on academics” that leaves seminarians lesser formed emotionally and personally. He warned that those kinds of deficits do not form priests who are ready to effectively serve their parishes, and could result in additional misbehavior.
“Where focus on personal psychological integration is lacking, space opens for disordered living of precisely the type that has made headlines in recent months,” he said. Seminaries in several U.S. cities announced investigations into misconduct this summer.
Next, Berg said that there needs to be increased trust and transparency betweens seminarians and formation teams. He said it “pained [him] to hear” that some seminarians had felt as though they could not discuss recent abuse stories. This censorship was “utterly wrongheaded.”
He said that seminarians should be able to “freely, frankly and confidently express to the formation team their concerns about the seminary community, their opinions about the formation process and any other honest apprehension or contribution they want to make in the spirit of honest dialogue.”
Additionally, he called for seminaries to have clear sexual harassment policies and protocols, and said that a person associated with the seminary, lay or otherwise, should be appointed to contact the diocese regarding sexual harassment or abuse.
Berg additionally called for a possible minimum age for seminarians, and said that “bishops need to slow down the rush to ordination.” He suggested that an age of 22 may be an appropriate time to begin seminary studies, which would allow the seminarian to acquire a college degree and work experience before entering.
While the current seminary process takes about seven years, Berg suggested that the process be extended by another year. An initial year of formation would consist of “detoxing from the culture and social media,” and would result in “growth in self-knowledge, prayer, and a secure masculine identity.” The final year prior to ordination could consist of “intensive fieldwork” in pastoral ministry.
Bishops may not appreciate this idea, he said, but he believes it is necessary, as the Church cannot be well served by priests who are ordained before they are actually ready for the position. This spiritual immaturity could result in mental health crises or other issues among clergy.
“When years later some of them falter, with addictions or other personal struggles, we all pay a heavy price,” he explained.
Berg also expressed concern at what he described as “priests who lack the skill set and drive to become mentors, role models and moral guides” being assigned to seminaries as formators.
“A doctorate in theology does not render a priest automatically suitable for such ministry,” he said. Bishops need to require that the formators themselves undergo ongoing professional formation to better serve the seminarians.
For his final points, Berg addressed the number and quality of seminaries in the United States. He said that steps should be taken to identify which seminaries are successful in the formation of priests, and those that are failing at this task. He suggested that bishops should form a panel of “seasoned seminary formators” who will visit each seminary to review their processes.
Seminaries that are “failing in their mission” should be reformed or closed.
Finally, Berg said that the current number of seminaries in the United States--70--is far too high and that number needs to be consolidated. A third of those seminaries, according to a recent report, have fewer than 50 seminarians, whereas 11 of them have more than 100 men in formation.
Instead of this glut of seminaries that are clearly not needed, Berg suggested making “15 or 20” regional seminaries, staffed by the best-of-the-best formators from seminaries around the country who would work in teams.
The current times require a “radical rethinking” of seminaries, one that must be started by the bishops, he said.