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Updated: Sheen beatification postponement not related to 2007 cover-up allegation, sources say

Peoria, Ill., Dec 3, 2019 / 02:43 pm (CNA).- The delay of the beatification of Archbishop Fulton Sheen is not related to a 2007 allegation that Bishop Fulton Sheen witnessed and covered up an act of clerical sexual abuse, sources close to the beatification told CNA.

Sheen was due to be beatified at a Mass in Peoria, Illinois Dec. 21. The Diocese of Peoria announced Dec. 3 that the beatification will be delayed, so that more time can be given to examine Sheen's life.

A source close to the beatification told CNA that the delay is not related a 2007 lawsuit which alleged that while an auxiliary bishop, Sheen walked in on an act of sexual abuse in a New York Church office, “called the victim a slut, told the priest to put his pants on, and did nothing to report the incident or comfort the victim. Bishop Sheen covered-up the crime.”

Sheen was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of New York from 1951 to 1966.

The lawsuit was filed by now-laicized priest Robert Hoatson, who in 2007 was a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark. It catalogs a number of instances of clerical sexual abuse Hoatson claims to have witnessed or heard about. Hoatson said he had learned about a number of those instances of abuse through his ministry of pastoral counseling.

A Church official connected to the beatification told CNA that “the allegation from the U.S. lawsuit has been on the internet for ten years. Every thing said of Sheen's life has been examined during the process for beatification.”

In its Dec. 3 statement on the beatification delay, the Diocese of Peoria said that “it has been demonstrated definitively that [Sheen] was an examplary model of Christian conduct and a model of leadership in the Church. At no time has his life of virtue ever been called into question.”

The diocese said that on Dec. 2 “the Holy See decided to postpone the date of Beatification, at the request of a few members of the Bishops’ Conference who have asked for further consideration.”

“Bishop Jenky is deeply saddened by this decision,” the statement added.

“In particular, Bishop Jenky is even more concerned for the many faithful who are devoted to Sheen and who will be affected by this news.”

Jenky is “firmly convinced of the great holiness” of Sheen, and “remains confident that Sheen will be beatified.” The cause for Sheen’s beatification and canonization will continue and, the press release stated, there have been “many miracles” reported through Sheen’s intercession, including some as recently as the last three weeks.

The Peoria diocese stated that the delay was not the result of any allegations of abuse of a minor.

“In our current climate, it is important for the faithful to know there has never been, nor is there now, any allegation against Sheen involving the abuse of a minor,” the release added.

Hoatson's 2007 lawsuit also alleged that former cardinal Theodore McCarrick was “actively homosexual,” also naming Archbishop John Myers, Cardinal Edward Egan, and Bishop Howard Hubbard.

“These bishops have been compromised in their positions and status as employers by predators and pedophiles in ministry and motivated to retaliate against the plaintiff for exposing criminal acts, corruption, immorality, hypocrisy and criminal acts by predators and amongst bishops,” the suit claimed.

The lawsuit was initially filed federally, and dismissed, and the lawyer who filed it was sanctioned by the court, which suggested that the suit was seeking publicity and was “littered with wholly irrelevant, inflammatory, and embarrassing facts concerning defendants and non-defendants alike that have no bearing on the actions brought.”

The suit was subsequently filed in state court and then dismissed.

Hoatson told CNA Dec. 3 that at the request of the victim he would not comment on the allegation at this time, citing her desire for anonymity and confidentiality.

“The victim just wants to remain quiet about it, and has asked me not to say anything more,” he told CNA.

Hoatson was laicized in 2011 and now leads an organization called Road to Recovery, through which he has offered support to victims of clerical sexual abuse, and advocated for changes to Church teaching and discipline on clerical issues.
 

This story is developing and has been updated. It will continue to be updated as information becomes available.

 

 

 

 

 

Fulton Sheen beatification postponed

Peoria, Ill., Dec 3, 2019 / 01:10 pm (CNA).- The scheduled beatification of Ven. Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen has been postponed after several U.S. bishops asked that the cause be given more time for examination. The Diocese of Peoria announced the delay on Dec. 3.

Archbishop Sheen's beatification was set to take place on Dec. 21. 

“With deep regret, Bishop Daniel Jenky, C.S.C, Bishop of Peoria, announces that he has been informed by the Holy See that the beatification of Fulton Sheen will be postponed,” said the press release from the diocese. 

The diocese originally received word from the Vatican on Nov. 18 that the beatification had been approved to take place the following month. But the diocese said that on Dec. 2 “the Holy See decided to postpone the date of Beatification, at the request of a few members of the Bishop’s Conference who have asked for further consideration.” 

“Bishop Jenky is deeply saddened by this decision,” said the press release. “In particular, Bishop Jenky is even more concerned for the many faithful who are devoted to Sheen and who will be affected by this news.” 

Jenky is “firmly convinced of the great holiness” of Sheen, and “remains confident that Sheen will be beatified.” The cause for Sheen’s beatification and canonization will continue and, the press release stated, there have been “many miracles” reported through Sheen’s intercession, including some as recently as the last three weeks. 

The Peoria diocese explicitly stated that the delay was not the result of any allegations of abuse of a minor. 

“In our current climate, it is important for the faithful to know there has never been, nor is there now, any allegation against Sheen involving the abuse of a minor,” added the release. 

It was not revealed in the release which, or how many, bishops requested the delay, nor did the release state what prompted these requests. 

The diocese said that throughout the investigation of Sheen’s life during the beatification process, “it has been demonstrated definitively that he was an exemplary model of Christian conduct and a model of leadership in the Church. At no time has his life of virtue ever been called into question.” 

The diocese says they are “confident” that any further investigation into the life of Archbishop Sheen will only result in positive discoveries that will only bolster the case for his beatification. 

“The Diocese of Peoria has no doubt that Fulton Sheen, who brought so many souls to Jesus Christ in his lifetime, will be recognized as a model of holiness and virtue.” 

There is no indication from the diocese of when they expect a rescheduled date for the beatification. The Diocese of Peoria and the USCCB did not respond to CNA’s requests for comment in time for publication.

Pete Buttigieg cites Gospel in campaign ad

Charleston, S.C., Dec 2, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg quoted the Gospel of Matthew in his first statewide ad in South Carolina, the latest in the candidate’s references to Christianity in his campaign messages. 

The ad opens with a clip from an Iowa speech Buttigieg gave Nov. 1: 

“In our White House, you won’t have to shake your head and ask yourself: What ever happened to ‘I was hungry and you fed me; I was a stranger and you welcomed me’,” a reference to Matthew 25:35. 

The ad will be released on Tuesday in South Carolina television markets. 

Although he has polled better in Iowa and New Hampshire, Buttigieg polls at an average of 6.5 points in South Carolina, behind former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). 

As the first southern state in the primary process, South Carolina is generally considered an important campaign milestone, and primary performance in the state is regarded as an indication of a candidate’s national electability. 

The South Carolina primary is especially a key indicator of support for candidates among black voters, who make up 30% of the state’s electorate and 60% of Democratic primary voters.

Buttigieg has come under harsh criticism for his record on racial issues during his term as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and has only 4% support among black voters nationwide. Some political analysts have suggested his Gospel-themed video is intended as an overture to churchgoing black voters in the state.

In the ad, Buttigieg stresses a need to “unify the American people,” saying that unification “doesn’t mean pretending that we’re all the same. It means unifying around issues from wages and family leave to gun violence and immigration. The hope of an American experience defined not by exclusion, but by belonging.” 

Among black voters in South Carolina, Buttigieg has less than 1% support. 

In November, Buttigieg was accused of fabricating support among black leaders in South Carolina, several of whom who denied giving his campaign permission to list their names as supporters.  Nearly half of a campaign list of black supporters in the state were found to actually be white people. 

The Buttigieg campaign also admitted to using a stock photo of a Kenyan woman and child to promote his “Douglass Plan for Black America” on the campaign website. The campaign said it did not know the picture had originated from Africa and has since removed it. 

Buttigieg, a baptized Catholic who now attends an Episcopalian Church, has repeatedly invoked his Protestantism to support his stance on a range of political issues, including support for same-sex marriage. Earlier this year, he said that those who opposed same-sex marriage had a problem “with my Creator.” Buttigieg is in a civil same-sex partnership. In recent months he has also invoked his religious affiliation to criticize Republican tax and immigration policies.

In an April appearance on Meet The Press, Buttigieg also defended earlier remarks in which he appeared to question President Donald Trump’s belief in God, and suggested that Evangelical Christians who support President Trump are hypocrites. 

Trump, said Buttigieg, is not following scriptural imperatives for believers to care for widows and immigrants, and therefore is not behaving in a Christlike manner.

“The hypocrisy is unbelievable,” said Buttigieg. “Here you have somebody who not only acts in a way that is not consistent with anything that I hear in scripture in church, where it’s about lifting up the least among us and taking care of strangers, which is another word for immigrants, and making sure that you’re focusing your effort on the poor--but also personally, how you’re supposed to conduct yourself.”

Self-described white born-again/evangelical Christians voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, with 81 percent in favor compared to only 16 percent voting for Hillary Clinton.

Catholics, particularly Hispanic Catholics, supported Trump in 2016 at higher levels than they did Mitt Romney in 2012. The last time a Republican presidential candidate won majority support among Catholic voters was George W. Bush in 2004.

In response to Buttigieg’s comments on biblical imperatives, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked the mayor his thoughts on abortion. Buttigieg, who considers himself pro-choice, said he thinks abortion is a moral question that should be decided by a woman and her doctor, not by “a male government official imposing his interpretation of his religion.”

The Church teaches that abortion is the deliberate ending of an innocent human life, and is a grave sin.

Norbertine Fathers in California launch digital Advent calendar

Orange, Calif., Dec 1, 2019 / 02:11 pm (CNA).- A religious order in southern California is kicking off Advent with a digital calendar that allows Catholics to go more in-depth as they prepare for the Christmas season.

The virtual calendar was launched on the first Sunday of Advent by the priests of the Norbertine order from St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County, California.

The website, advent.theabbotscircle.com, will include daily reflections, videos, music, and commentaries.

Each day, the calendar will delve into a different Advent-related topic, such as the meaning behind Advent candles and wreaths, historical information about the magi and shepherds, and a brief biography of St. Nicholas.

The calendar also includes Christmas music performed by the Norbertine Fathers, and explores questions such as “Should Christmas be only for Christians?”

The goal of the project is to offer a “different way of engaging the faithful, and … help them prepare their hearts and minds for Christmas,” according to a press release.

“We hope that this Advent calendar will help Catholics around the world learn more about their faith, grow in their faith, and help them prepare themselves for Christ’s coming at Christmas,” said  Fr. Charbel Grbavac, one of the members of the community.

“We hope and pray that this Advent calendar will be a source for good, faithful fruits,” he added.

As canons regular, the Norbertine Fathers are religious priests who live in community and share a charism and common life of prayer. During the week, they are teachers and preachers in area schools, colleges, and catechetical programs. On weekends, they preach in more than 30 local parishes.

Last year, the Norbertines launched a digital library called “The Abbot’s Circle” to provide video, audio, and written resources on the Catholic faith beyond the bounds of their abbey and apostolates in southern California.

The Abbot’s Circle website is available to subscribers and includes video, podcasts and written reflections, as well as chant recordings and audio lectures and a documentary on the fathers called “City of Saints.”

St. Michael’s Abbey recently completed a $120 million capital campaign to support the construction of a new abbey. With nearly 50 priests and more than 30 seminarians, the order is running out of space for its new members.

Grbavac said the community is enthusiastic about the new digital Advent calendar, which they see as a means of furthering their mission to evangelize and renew the Church.

“Our order was founded by St. Norbert, a Catholic reformer who sought to renew the Church in difficult times and to preach to the faithful,” he said, “and we have been working recently to use digital media as a new way to fulfill his mission and engage the faithful and renew the Church.”

Duluth's Bishop Paul Sirba dies unexpectedly at 59

Duluth, Minn., Dec 1, 2019 / 12:44 pm (CNA).- Bishop Paul Sirba of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota died on Sunday, after suffering a heart attack before offering Mass. He was 59 years old.

“It is with an incredibly heavy heart that I must inform you of tragic news regarding our Bishop,” said a Dec. 1 statement from Fr. James B. Bissonette, who had been the diocesan vicar general until the bishop's death. The office of the vicar general ceases upon the death of the diocesan bishop.

“Words do not adequately express our sorrow at this sudden loss of our Shepherd,” Bissonette said.

Bissonette’s statement was distributed to clergy throughout the diocese and was read after Masses on Sunday.

Sirba went into cardiac arrest Sunday at St. Rose Church in Proctor, Minnesota, and was immediately rushed to a hospital, where attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. He received last rites from Fr. John Petrich, a hospital and prison chaplain in the diocese, and was pronounced dead shortly after 9 a.m. on Sunday.

Sirba was reportedly preparing for Mass when he fell ill.

“We have great hope and faith in Bishop Sirba’s resurrection to new life, and have confident assurance that he will hear the words of our Lord, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter in the joy of your master,’” Bissonette's statement added.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been made. Sirba is survived by his mother, three siblings, and their families. His brother, Fr. Joseph Sirba, is a priest of the Diocese of Duluth.

Sirba, a native of the Twin Cities, was ordained a priest in 1986 at the age of 25, and consecrated as a bishop in 2009. Sirba was just 13 days away from the 10th anniversary of his episcopal consecration.

Before he became the ninth bishop of Duluth, Sirba was a priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. From 2006 until 2009, he was the director of spiritual formation at the Saint Paul Seminary in Saint Paul.

Catholics in Minnesota and beyond expressed disbelief and grief at Sirba’s sudden passing.

“The Archdiocese of St Paul & Minneapolis grieves with the Diocese of Duluth over the passing of their beloved shepherd, Bishop Paul Sirba, recalling his many years of joyful service as a son of this local Church.  May he rest in peace,” tweeted Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver told CNA Sunday morning that the bishop's death was “tragic,” noting that Sirba was “a really good and holy bishop.”

Fr. Scott Jablonski, a priest of the Diocese of Madison who knew Sirba from seminary, said that his passing was “heartbreaking news” for the diocese, and remembered him fondly.

“Bishop Sirba was my spiritual director during my first two years of seminary in St. Paul, including that first year when my father died after a battle with cancer,” said Jablonski. “Bishop Sirba was a very good priest and he helped me tremendously. He will be deeply missed.”

The Diocese of Crookston, which is located in northwestern Minnesota, directly bordering the Diocese of Duluth, tweeted that “Our hearts are with the faithful of the Duluth Diocese as they have lost their shepherd, Bishop Paul Sirba, very suddenly today as a result of cardiac arrest. May he rest in the peace of Christ.”

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, a priest and blogger, wrote that he had known Sirba since the 80s and the two were friends.

“Paul was prayerful and gracious and real gentlemen, a priests’ priest,” wrote Zuhlsdorf on his blog. “I have it on good authority that he was an exceptional confessor and spiritual director as a priest.  And he played a heck of (a) good game of ping pong.”

The Minnesota Catholic Conference mourned Sirba as someone who was “a holy man who shone with the serenity of faith and the joy of Jesus in everything he did.”

“We will miss him dearly,” the conference wrote.

 

Monsignor Robert McClory Named to Lead Diocese of Gary, Indiana

Pope Francis has appointed Monsignor Robert McClory, 56, to be the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana. The Diocese of Gary is in northwest Indiana, on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, and has a Catholic population of 168,500 and a total population of 786,000. Bishop-elect McClory, currently serving as pastor and rector of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica in Royal Oak, Michigan, will be ordained as bishop and installed on February 11, 2020. He will succeed Bishop Donald Hying, who was appointed Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin in April of this year.

“I am honored and humbled that the Holy Father has appointed me as the bishop of Gary. During this week in which we celebrate Thanksgiving, my heart is full of gratitude that he has entrusted me to serve the people of northwest Indiana,” Bishop-elect McClory said. “I look forward to getting to know the needs of our local church and, together, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.”

Bishop-elect McClory was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit on May 22, 1999. Prior to his assignment as pastor of the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica, Bishop-elect McClory served as Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Detroit from 2009–2018, Chancellor from 2003–2009 and Administrative Secretary to Cardinal Adam Maida from 2002–2003. He also served as Pastor of Presentation/Our Lady of Victory Parish, Detroit, from 2011–2017; parochial vicar of St. Isidore Parish, Macomb Township, from 2001–2002 and St. Therese of Lisieux Parish, Shelby Township, from 2000–2001; Weekend Associate at Our Lady of the Lakes Parish, Waterford, from 2002–2004 and St. Blase Parish, Sterling Heights from 2004–2011.

“Here in Monsignor McClory’s home diocese, he is recognized as a zealous priest who generously devotes all the talents God has blessed him with to the ministry of spreading the Gospel,” said Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron. “The pastors and people of the Church of Gary will find themselves blessed by his service. We, the priests, religious and faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit, send him on mission with our heartfelt prayers.”

Bishop-elect McClory graduated from Oakland University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and Communication. He also holds a Master of Professional Studies in Economic Development from Columbia University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan. He practiced civil law in Michigan from 1991 to 1994.

He entered Sacred Heart Major Seminary in 1994 for philosophical studies. In 1998, he received a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and, in 2000, a Licentiate in Canon (Church) Law from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome.

Bishop-elect McClory is the second priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit to serve as Bishop of Gary. Bishop Dale Melczek, ordained for Detroit in 1964, led the Diocese of Gary from 1992 until his retirement in 2014.


Reverend Douglas Bignall

Reverend Douglas Bignall appointed Temporary Administrator of St. Louis Parish, Clinton Township, effective November 9, 2019, in addition to his continuing responsibilities as Pastor of St. Hubert Parish, Harrison Township.

Reverend George Patauave

Reverend George Patauave authorized for service to the Archdiocese of Military Services, effective January 6, 2020. Fr. Patauave currently serves as the Pastor of St. Mary Mystical Rose Parish, Armada.

Reverend Christopher Talbot

Reverend Christopher Talbot appointed Pastor of St. Mary Mystical Rose Parish, Armada, effective January 6, 2020, in addition to his continuing responsibilities as Pastor of St. Francis of Assisi-St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Ray Township.

Reverend Steven Mateja

Reverend Steven Mateja appointed Parochial Vicar of both St. Mary Mystical Rose Parish, Armada, and St. Francis of Assisi-St. Maximillian Kolbe Parish, Ray Township, effective January 6, 2020. Fr. Mateja currently serves as Parochial Vicar of St. Frances Cabrini Parish, Allen Park.