All Chilean bishops present resignation, await decision from pope


Vatican City, May 18, 2018 / 06:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the close of their 3-day meeting with Pope Francis, all the bishops of Chile asked victims of the country's abuse scandal for forgiveness and presented written resignations to the pope, who must decide whether to accept or reject them.

In a written May 18 statement, the bishops thanked Pope Francis for his “paternal listening and fraternal correction,” and asked forgiveness for the pain caused to victims, the pope, the People of God and the country due to their “serious errors and omissions.”

The statement was read aloud to the press in Spanish by Bishop Juan Ignacio González of San Bernardo, a member of Chile's national commission for the protection of minors, and in Italian by Bishop Fernando Ramos, auxiliary bishop of Santiago and secretary of the Chilean bishops’ conference.

In the statement, the bishops thanked Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Spanish Msgr. Jordi Bertomeu for the in-depth investigation of the crisis they carried out earlier this year.

They also thanked victims for their “perseverance and courage, despite the enormous personal, spiritual, social and familial difficulties they have had to face, many times in the midst of incomprehension and attacks from their own ecclesial community.”

They asked for the victims' help going forward and said that at the end of their last session with the pope May 17, each of the active bishops presented a written resignation and will await the pope’s decision on whether to accept or reject it.

In comments to the press, González said that for now, the bishops will return to their dioceses and will continue their work as usual until hearing from the pope, who will either reject their resignation, accept it immediately, or put it into effect only once a new bishop is named.

The May 15-17 gathering between the pope and the 34 Chilean bishops, two of whom have already retired, was called for by Pope Francis himself last month following Scicluna and Bertomeu's investigation into abuse cover-up by Church hierarchy in Chile, resulting in a 2,300-page report. To date, that report has not been made public.

The investigation was initially centered around Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, appointed to the diocese in 2015 and accused by at least one victim of covering up abuses of Chilean priest Fernando Karadima.

In 2011, Karadima was convicted by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of abusing minors and sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude. Allegations of cover-up were also made against three other bishops – Andrés Arteaga, Tomislav Koljatic and Horacio Valenzuela – whom Karadima's victims accuse of knowing about Karadima’s crimes and failing to act.

Pope Francis initially defended Barros, saying he had received no evidence of the bishop's guilt, and called accusations against him “calumny” during a trip to Chile in January. However, after receiving Scicluna's report, Francis apologized and asked to meet the bishops and more outspoken survivors in person.

In a scathing letter that was leaked to Chilean television station T13 May 17, Pope Francis skewered the Chilean prelates for a systematic cover-up of abuse involving not only the destruction of documents, but superficial investigations that led to moving accused abusers to other schools or parishes where they had access to children.

Although victims of the Chilean abuse scandals have often been dismissed and accused of making up stories to attack the Church, the pope's letter - which he gave to the bishops during their 3-day meeting - appeared to side with the victims based on the conclusions of Scicluna's report.

In his footnotes, Pope Francis noted how the investigation found that while some religious had been expelled from their orders due to “immoral conduct,” blaming their “criminal acts” on simple weakness, they were then transferred to other parishes or dioceses and given jobs where they had “daily and direct contact with minors.”

The reference was likely not only to Karadima, but to other religious orders in which scandals have recently come to light, including the Salesians, Franciscans and the Marist Brothers.

In the letter, Francis said there had also been serious flaws in handling cases of “delicta graviora,” meaning “grave offenses,” which “corroborate with some of the worrying information that some Roman dicasteries have begun to be aware of.”

These errors, he said, have to do particularly with the reception of complaints and “notitiae crimini,” or information on the crimes, which “in not a few cases have been classified very superficially as improbable,” despite bearing signs of being a serious crime.

In some cases, the pope wrote, it took months for complaints to be investigated, and in others they were not investigated at all. In still other cases, he said, there was clear evidence of “very serious negligence in the protection of children and vulnerable children on the part of bishops and religious superiors.”

Pope Francis said he was “perplexed and ashamed” to have read statements saying Church officials investigating abuse allegations had been pressured, and that in some cases, documents had been destroyed by those in charge of diocesan archives.

These actions, Francis said, constitute “an absolute lack of respect for canonical procedure and, even more, reprehensible practices which must be avoided in the future.”

The problems, the pope said, do not belong to just one group of people, but are the result of a fractured seminary process.

In the case of many abusers, problems had been detected while they were in seminary or the novitiate, he said, noting that Scicluna's investigation contained “serious accusations against some bishops or superiors who sent priests suspected of active homosexuality to these educational institutions.”

In the letter, Pope Francis stressed the need to recognize not only the damage done, but also the underlying causes that led to abuse and cover-up, and to identify ways to repair the pain and suffering many have endured.

He said the problem is not isolated, but everyone is responsible, “I being the first,” and that no one can be exempted by “moving the problem onto the backs of others.”

“We need a change, we know it, we need it and we desire it,” he said, and encouraged bishops to put Christ at the center. He said in recent history, the Chilean Church has lost this focus, putting itself at the center instead of the Lord.

“I don't know what came first,” he said, “if the loss of prophetic strength resulted in the change of center, or the change of center led to the loss of the prophecy that was so characteristic in you.”

He cautioned the bishops against assuming an attitude of “messianism,” in which they seek to promote themselves as “the only interpreters of God's will.” Francis also warned the prelates not to fall into an “elite psychology,” which he said can overshadow the way issues are handled.

“An elite or elitist psychology ends up generating dynamics of division, separation and closed circles that lead to narcissistic and authoritarian spiritualities in which, instead of evangelizing, the important thing is to feel special, different than others, thus making it clear that they are interested in neither Jesus Christ or others,” he said.  

Messianism, elitism and clericalism, Francis continued, “are all synonyms for perversion in ecclesial being; and also synonymous with perversion is the loss of the healthy conscience of knowing that we belong to the holy People of God, which precedes us and which – thanks to God – will succeed us.”

Prayer and sincere recognition of one's failings are necessary for grace to work, he said, adding that this saves a person from “the temptation and pretension of wanting to occupy spaces, and especially in a place that does not correspond to us: that of the Lord.”

The pope stressed that removing people from office “must be done, but it is not enough, we must go further.”

The problems the Chilean Church faces are wider, he said, and because of this “it would be irresponsible on our part not to delve into the roots and structures that allowed these specific events to happen and to be perpetuated.”

“It would be a serious omission on our part not to know the roots,” he said, and “to believe that only the removal of people, without anything more, would generate the health of the body,” calling that “a great fallacy.”

“There is no doubt that it will help, and it is necessary to do it, but I repeat, it is not enough, since this thought would dispense us from the responsibility and participation that corresponds to us within the ecclesial body,” the pope said.

Pope Francis closed his letter asking the bishops to guard against the temptation of wanting to “save their skin” and their reputations, explaining that “the severity of events does not allow us to become expert hunters of scapegoats.”

“All this requires us to have seriousness and co-responsibility to take on the problems as symptoms of an ecclesial whole, which we are invited to analyze, and which also asks us to seek all the necessary mediation so that they are never perpetuated again.”


Pope on Pentecost: The power of the Holy Spirit changes hearts


Vatican City, May 20, 2018 / 07:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Though people may promise to change things, it is the third person of the Holy Trinity that creates real change through the reinvigoration and renewal of hearts, Pope Francis said on Pentecost Sunday.

“Plenty of people promise change, new beginnings, prodigious renewals, but experience teaches us that no earthly attempt to change reality can ever completely satisfy the human heart,” the pope said May 20.

“Yet the change that the Spirit brings is different. It does not revolutionize life around us, but changes our hearts.”

This change, Francis continued, does not take away all of our problems, but “liberates us within so that we can face them. It does not give us everything at once, but makes us press on confidently, never growing weary of life. The Spirit keeps our hearts young.”

Speaking during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Solemnity of Pentecost, Pope Francis noted that when Catholics want to bring about real change in their lives, they should pray to the Holy Spirit.

“Who among us does not need a change? Particularly when we are downcast, wearied by life’s burdens, oppressed by our own weakness, at those times when it is hard to keep going and loving seems impossible,” the pope said.

In those moments, people need a powerful “jolt” or “reinvigoration” of the Spirit, he stated, pointing out how in the creed, Catholics profess that the Holy Spirit is the “giver of life.”

“How good it would be for us each day to feel this jolt of life!” he encouraged. “To say when we wake up each morning: ‘Come, Holy Spirit, come into my heart, come into my day.’”

Just as wind brings change to the environment – “warmth when it is cold, cool when it is hot” – the Holy Spirit, “on a very different level, does the same.”

“He is the divine force that changes the world,” Francis stated.

Reflecting on the Acts of the Apostles, and how the power of the Holy Spirit sent the disciples to preach and convert pagans in different lands, including Philip who was sent “from Jerusalem to Gaza,” the pope exclaimed: “How heartrending that name [Gaza] sounds to us today! May the Spirit change hearts and situations and bring peace to the Holy Land.”

After Mass, Pope Francis led the Regina Coeli in St. Peter’s Square, where he also prayed for Jerusalem, saying he was spiritually united to a prayer vigil which took place May 19 in Jerusalem for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

“Today we continue to invoke the Holy Spirit to inspire the will and gestures of dialogue and reconciliation in the Holy Land and Middle East,” he said.

He also spoke about his “beloved Venezuela,” asking the Holy Spirit to give the Venezuelan people – citizens and political leaders – “the wisdom to meet the path of peace and unity,” and prayed for the 11 prisoners who died Saturday during a prison riot.

May 19 Francis sent a telegram through the Vatican’s Secretary of State Pietro Parolin for an airplane crash in Cuba which killed over 100 people. Offering his prayers for the victims and their families, he asked the Lord to give all the affected the gifts of spiritual serenity and Christian hope.


Analysis: The solid grounds of the CDF’s new economics document


Vatican City, May 17, 2018 / 02:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The notion of “proximate immorality” is the most remarkable news in the just released text by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for the Promotion of the Integral Human Development, titled Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones.

 According to the document, proximate immorality occurs in “occasions in which misuse and fraud can be easily produced, especially damaging the less advantageous counterparts.”
 
In the document, the reasoning is particularly applied to banks. In fact, the document reads that “to commercialize certain financial instruments is in itself licit, yet in a situation of inequality it profits from a lack of knowledge or weaknesses on the side of either of the counterparts”, because this is “a violation of due relational propriety, which is already a grave violation from an ethical point of view.”
 
This is the issue: there are structures that are not per se evil, and that they do not work as evil as long as they care for the closest ones. However, in the moment when their goals are set farther afield, and lose sight of the human being, they can become evil.
 
Applied as it is to banks, this theological notion might also be applied to a series of other issues, because anytime proximity is lost there is the possibility of not doing things for the sake of the common good.
 
Beyond this theological notion, which is in a certain way the evolution of the notion of the “structures of sin” denounced by St. John Paul II, the just-released Vatican document on the ethical discernment of financial activity does not come out of the blue. It is, in fact, the latest outcome of a series of documents, lectures and texts that, since the 1980s, have characterized the Church’s reflection on economic issues.
 
In the end, the document provides a moral-theological framework for the economic sphere. It does not criticize free enterprise and the free market, but it emphasizes that moral economic activity, in the end, depends on the way man uses economic tools.
 
The document states that the integral development of every person, of every human community, and of all people, is the ultimate objective of the common good that the Church, as the universal sacrament of salvation proposes.”

The document stresses that “this ethical order, rooted in the wisdom of God, the Creator, is therefore the indispensable foundation for building a worthy community of persons, regulated by laws, and imprinted with a true justice”

And the document claims that the Church recognizes among its primary duties the duty to beckon everyone, with humble certainty, to some clear ethical principles,” because “human rationality searches, in truth and justice, for that solid foundation upon which to support its work with the awareness that without it, its orientation would be weakened.”

The document also emphasizes the missed opportunity of the most recent financial crisis.

A financial crisis, it reads, “could have been the occasion to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and a new regulation of financial activities neutralising the predatory and speculative dimensions, and valuing the service of the actual economy.”

It rather brought back “the heights of myopic egoism limited to insufficient terms that, excluding the common good, excludes from its horizons the concern not only to create, but also to spread wealth and eliminate the inequality so pronounced today.”

How can this situation be solved? By going beyond the individualistic and consumerist man, whose profit is based on money.

The human person “actually possesses a peculiarly relational nature and has a sense for the perennial search of an earning and wellbeing that may be total, which is reducible neither to a logic of consumption nor to the economic aspects of life.”

This would also lead to recognize “the validity of economic strategies that aim above all to the global quality of life achieved before that of the indiscriminate growth of profits, toward a wellbeing that, as such, is always integral of the entire person, and of every person,” since “no profit is in fact legitimate when it falls short of the objective of the integral promotion of the human person, the universal destination of goods, and the preferential option for the poor.”

This is the approach proposed for a “healthy” financial system, with no toxicity, because “an unacceptable phenomenon under the ethical profile is not simple profit, but to avail oneself of an inequality for one’s own advantage, in order to create remarkable profits damaging others”.

The document also notes that cooperation is needed, because “when the human person recognizes the fundamental solidarity that unites he or she with all of humanity, one realizes that he or she cannot keep only for oneself the goods that one possesses.”
 
In the end, the document gives ethical guidance for finance and economics based on “asymmetric relations”, and on an ever deeper drift between poor and rich, weak and strong, and points the finger at incorrect financial practices like offshore financial activities, and at business schools, which are required  “to foresee and provide, within their curriculum of studies, in a manner not marginal or supplementary, but rather well founded, a formational dimension which educates one to understand the economy and finance in the light of a vision of the totality of the human person, avoiding reduction of the person to only some of his or her dimensions.”
 
The CDF’s document also goes more in depth on technical details, but its clear point is that integral human development, solidarity, preferential option for poor have always been the key for the Holy See to approach financial issues.
 
Looking backward, there two documents of the 1980s that frame the CDF’s text.
 
The first is a 1986 document released by the Pontifical Council for the Justice and Peace. The document was titled “At the service of the human community: a human approach to international debt.”
 
The document backed “a reform of financial and monetary institutions” in order to avoid new situations of crisis, It previewed the effects of financial economy and noted that the growing interdependence, that was called to “give rise to new and expanded forms of solidarity that respect the equal dignity of every people”, instead to lead to the dominion of the strongest.
 
It is noteworthy that the 1986 document quoted many times the Instruction on Christian Freedom and Liberation by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the two documents dedicated to the issue of the Liberation Theology.
 
One of the quotes of the instruction read that “grave economic problems will not be solved but with new funds of solidarity: solidarity of poor among themselves, solidarity with poor, solidarity of workers with workers. Institutions and social organizations, at different levels, must participate to a general model of solidarity.”
 
The second document is a 1985 lecture by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on “Market, Economy and Ethics.”
 
The document, already in 1985, reflected some of the themes of the just released CDF document.
 
Cardinal Ratzinger noted that “the economic inequality between the northern and southern hemispheres of the globe is becoming more and more an inner threat to the cohesion of the human family.”
 
Then, he questioned the theory of the market’s inner logic.
 
Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: “Even if the market economy does rest on the ordering of the individual within a determinate network of rules, it cannot make man superfluous or exclude his moral freedom from the world of economics.”
 
Cardinal Ratzinger tried to reach a balance between the amoral determinism of the capitalistic model and the centrally planned economy of Marxism. And, in the end, he concludes that a lack of ethics “can actually cause the laws of the market to collapse.”
 
When he became pope, Benedict XVI came back to the economic issues. The encyclical Caritas in Veritate which introduced the notion of the economy of gits, was just the last in a series of Benedict’s interventions on economic issues.
 
In particular, Benedict XVI gave a meditation during the 2011 special Synod on the Middle East that addressed the “false divinities” that govern modern times.
 
“Let us remember,” the Pope emeritus said “all the great powers of the history of today. Let us remember the anonymous capital that enslaves man which is no longer in man’s possession but is an anonymous power served by men, by which men are tormented and even killed. It is a destructive power that threatens the world.”
 
From the documents of the 1980s through the 1990s until now, the Holy See’s approach to economic issues has always been ruled by the attention for integral human development and for a human economics, based on relations and not on profit.
 
The ultimate goal has always been Christ, no matter how difficult it can be believed. The CDF / Integral Human Development document is part of a long-standing Vatican approach to handling financial issues.