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Pope Francis: Inculturated Mass shows us the gifts of the Holy Spirit

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis said Tuesday that inculturated liturgy can teach Catholics to better appreciate the diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit.

In a preface to a new book, Pope Francis said “this process of liturgical inculturation in Congo is an invitation to value the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are a treasure for all humanity.”

A year ago, Pope Francis offered Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for Congolese immigrants, marking the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Congolese Catholic Chaplaincy of Rome.

The inculturated Mass included traditional Congolese music and the Zaire Use of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

The Zaire Use is an inculturated Mass formally approved in 1988 for the dioceses of what was then known as the Republic of Zaire, now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in central Africa. 

The only inculturated Eucharistic celebration approved after the Second Vatican Council, it was developed following a call for adaptation of the liturgy in “Sacrosanctum concilium,” Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

“One of the main contributions of the Second Vatican Council was precisely that of proposing norms for adapting to the disposition and traditions of various peoples,” the pope said in a video message published Dec. 1.

“The experience of the Congolese rite of the celebration of Mass can serve as an example and model for other cultures,” the pope said.

He urged the bishops of Congo, as St. Pope John Paul II did during the bishops’ visit to Rome in 1988, to complete the rite by also adapting the other sacraments and sacramentals. 

The pope sent the video message in advance of the Vatican’s publication of the Italian-language book “Pope Francis and the ‘Roman Missal for the Dioceses of Zaire.’”

Francis said that the subtitle, “A Promising Rite for Other Cultures,” “indicates the fundamental reason behind this publication: a book that is the testimony of a celebration lived with faith and joy.”

He recalled a line from his post-synodal apostolic exhortationQuerida Amazonia,” published in February, in which he said that “we can take up into the liturgy many elements proper to the experience of indigenous peoples in their contact with nature, and respect native forms of expression in song, dance, rituals, gestures and symbols.”

“The Second Vatican Council called for this effort to inculturate the liturgy among indigenous peoples; over 50 years have passed and we still have far to go along these lines,” he continued, quoting the exhortation.

The new book, which includes a preface by Pope Francis, has contributions from professors at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, a PhD student at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and a journalist from the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

“The spiritual and ecclesial significance and the pastoral purpose of the Eucharistic celebration in the Congolese Rite were the basis of the drafting of the volume,” the pope explained.

“The principles of the need for scientific study, adaptation and active participation in the Liturgy, strongly desired by the Council, have guided the authors of this volume.”

“This publication, dear brothers and sisters, reminds us that the true protagonist of the Congolese Rite is the People of God who sing and praise God, the God of Jesus Christ who saved us,” he concluded.

Catholic diocese prays for the dead and injured after car plows into pedestrians in Trier

CNA Staff, Dec 1, 2020 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- A Catholic diocese said Tuesday that it was praying for the dead and injured after a car plowed into pedestrians in the city of Trier in southwest Germany. 

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the Diocese of Trier wrote on its Twitter account Dec. 1: “We pray for the victims and all those affected.”

Local police announced shortly after 2 p.m. that a car had hit and injured several people in a pedestrian zone in downtown Trier. In a later update, they said that they had arrested a 51-year-old man from the local area and secured a vehicle.

Roger Lewentz, interior minister of the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, confirmed that four people were killed and 15 injured. Media reported that one of the dead was a baby.

The public broadcaster SWR quoted Wolfram Leibe, the mayor of Trier, as saying that he had walked through the city center after the incident “and it was just horrible.” 

"There is a sneaker lying on the ground, and the girl it belongs to is dead," he said.

A Christmas market usually held in the city was canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but shops were open.

In a statement Dec. 1, Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier said: “I am deeply shocked by the rampage that happened almost on our doorstep.” 

“We still know little about the circumstances or the background, but the incident is affecting people far beyond the city of Trier.” 

He said that Trier Cathedral -- the oldest church in Germany -- was open for prayer and that emergency pastors were on duty to help visitors. He added that an ecumenical prayer service would take place at the cathedral at 8 p.m. 

Pro-life candidate elected to Congress by six votes

CNA Staff, Dec 1, 2020 / 10:00 am (CNA).- In one of the last results in the 2020 election to be called, another pro-life female candidate won election to the House of Representatives in Iowa’s 2nd district race certified on Monday.

Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks eked out victory over Democratic candidate Rita Hart by the narrowest of margins in the state’s southeast district, winning by only six votes as the election results were certified on Monday: 196,964 to 196,958.

Miller-Meeks’ victory marked took the Republicans’ net gains in the House to ten seats, narrowing the Democratic majority and raising hopes of stalling a slate of pro-abortion legislative priorities. She is the 18th new woman backed by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List (SBA Lits) to be elected to the House this cycle.

“The exponential growth of pro-life women in the House is reflective of the fact that life has gone from being viewed as a political problem to a winning issue,” said SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser on Monday.

With 11 pro-life women incumbents returning, Dannenfelser noted that 29 women identifying as pro-life will serve in the House come January, and will be “a brick wall against the radical pro-abortion agenda” that includes repealing the Hyde Amendment.

In an election where Democrats won the White House and gained at least one seat in the Senate, the party lost ground in the House while still maintaining control of the chamber. While Speaker Nancy Pelosi had suggested House Democrats could see double-digit gains in the elections, the reverse has proven to be the case.

SBA List-endorsed women were responsible for ten of eleven seats lost by Democrats. Another race in upstate New York’s 22nd district has yet to be called; as of Tuesday morning, Republican candidate Claudia Tenney held only a 12-vote lead over Democratic incumbent Rep. Anthony Brindisi, with votes yet to be certified, according to WBNG.

Speaker Pelosi has said she plans to scrap the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal tax dollars from funding abortions, next year. With a reduced majority in the House, it remains to be seen if she will be able to follow through on that promise. Democrats have also talked about passing the Equality Act, which would recognize sexual orientation and so-called gender identity as protected legal classes, and could expand abortions.

However, Republicans currently hold 50 seats in the Senate with two races going to a January runoff. If they win just one of those seats, they will maintain control of the chamber and could possibly nullify attempts to repeal the Hyde Amendment or pass the Equality Act.

SBA List has already announced a $4.1 million effort to elect the two Republican candidates in Georgia, aiming to reach one million voters through door-knocking, phone calls, digital ads, and voter mail.

Rwanda’s first cardinal sees family as key to planting the seeds of peace

Rome Newsroom, Dec 1, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Rwanda’s first cardinal lost seven members of his immediate family in the 1994 genocide. Now he is using his role as archbishop of Kigali to plant “seeds of peace” by promoting the family as the foundation for building a peaceful future.

Cardinal Antoine Kambanda made history when he received his red biretta from Pope Francis in the consistory on Nov. 28 as the first cardinal from the east-central African country.

“It was a great joy and I was thanking the Lord for this great grace for the Church in Rwanda and the country and Africa,” Cardinal Kambanda told EWTN News Nov. 30.

Immediately following the consistory, the 11 new cardinals present in Rome greeted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in Vatican City.

“He still has a very good memory,” Kambanda said. “When I was presented as the archbishop of Rwanda, he remembered Rwanda and he told me: ‘Your people suffered so much.’ It showed that he had a good memory of Rwanda and what took place in Rwanda, and he prays for us.”

Rwanda experienced a 100-day genocide in 1994 in which more than 800,000 people were killed as members of the Hutu ethnic majority took up machetes and turned on their minority Tutsi neighbors, friends, and colleagues.

Kambanda lost his parents and five of his siblings in the genocide. The only other surviving member of his family is a brother who currently lives in Italy.

Kambanda was 35 years old and studying moral theology in Rome at the time of the genocide. He returned to Rwanda in 1999 after receiving his doctorate to direct the local Caritas in helping to rebuild the country torn apart by violence.

“The Church in Rwanda has taken an important role, has had an important role in the process of reconciliation,” Kambanda said.

For the past 20 years, Kambanda was directly involved in this process of reconciliation and rebuilding in Rwanda, first as the director of the Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace in Kigali from 1999 to 2005 and later as bishop of the dioceses of Kibungo and Kigali. 

He told EWTN that in the process of rebuilding, strengthening the family was especially important.

“The family is something that we are working upon because the family is the domestic church and the family is the foundation of the society to prepare the lasting peace in the future,” he said.

“When we take care of the young ones, the children are brought up in love and peace and kindness. It is a seed of peace that we plant in their hearts and a foundation for the peaceful relationships and peaceful country in the future.”

The formation of the next generation is critical, he explained. “The youth have got the strength, they have the talents, and they need formation in skills in order to have their talents developed. … The youth are vulnerable, but when they are well trained, well taken care of, they become a solution instead of being a problem in the society.”

Kambanda, 62, has served as archbishop of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, since 2019. Prior to this appointment, he was bishop of Kibungo from May 2013. His episcopal motto is “Ut vitam habeant’’ (That They May Have Life).

Born in Kigali in 1958, Kambanda attended primary schools in Burundi and Uganda before completing secondary school in Kenya. 

He returned to Rwanda for seminary and was ordained a priest by St. John Paul II in 1990 during the pope’s pastoral visit to Rwanda.

After receiving his doctorate in moral theology from the Alphonsian Academy in Rome, he taught moral theology and was a spiritual director at seminaries in Rwanda. He also served as rector of the major seminary of philosophy in Kabgayi and the Saint Charles Borromeo Major Seminary in Nyakibanda.

“I never ever dreamt of being a cardinal. It was the Lord who wanted it. I love the Lord, and I consecrated my life to work for Him. Being a cardinal gives me the opportunity to do even much more for the Lord,” Kambanda said in an interview with Vatican News the day after Pope Francis announced that he had chosen 13 new cardinals.

“I thank the Lord for his grace which is at work in his Church all the time –a Church which today faces several challenges. Therefore, we must work hard to share and make the message of salvation better understood. It is both joy, a great burden, and a challenge,” Cardinal Kambanda said.

In a 2014 interview with Patheos, Kambanda recalled the genocide.

He said “1994 was a terrible agony for all Rwandans. Those in the country lived it physically, psychologically and spiritually. For us outside the country we lived it psychologically and spiritually. It was quite painful to live it from far in Europe where I was surrounded by a rather an indifferent society that continued its normal life. I have to adapt to it in order to be able to go ahead with it in spite of my deep sorrow and suffering.”

“But I must say that it was faith and prayer that sustained me in that difficult period ... I developed an intensive and deep prayer. Hours of meditation of the word of God and prayer brought me to deeper communion with God and through Him also communion with the dear ones who passed away. This gave me life courage and strength to finish my studies and accomplish my mission in Rome despite the difficult situation.”

Exiled Catholic archbishop to hold virtual Advent retreat for flock

CNA Staff, Dec 1, 2020 / 08:05 am (CNA).- Exiled Belarusian Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz will lead his flock in a virtual Advent retreat this month.

The website of the Catholic Church in Belarus reported Dec. 1 that the archbishop will lead the retreat at the Cathedral of the Holy Name of Mary in the capital, Minsk, from Dec. 3 to Dec. 6 “with the help of audiovisual media.”

It said that recordings of Kondrusiewicz’s reflections would be posted on the website.  

Kondrusiewicz, the archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev and president of the Belarusian bishops’ conference, was turned back at the border Aug. 31 when he attempted to return home following a trip to Poland. The authorities later claimed that his passport was “invalid,” but invited him to appeal the decision. 

He had spoken out in defense of protesters after they were targeted by police following an election in August in which the incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, claimed victory with 80% of the vote. 

The election result prompted mass demonstrations calling for the resignation of Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994. 

Kondrusiewicz demanded an investigation into reports that riot police blocked the doors of a Catholic church in the capital, Minsk, while clearing away protesters from a nearby square. Earlier he had prayed outside of a prison where detained protesters were reportedly tortured.

Protests are continuing in Belarus months after the disputed election. On Monday, hundreds of retirees rallied in Minsk calling for Lukashenko to step down, according to the Associated Press.

Kondrusiewicz issued a pastoral message for Advent on Nov. 22 in which he urged Catholics to consider the deeper spiritual reasons for the “unprecedented socio-political crisis” facing Belarus. 

He wrote: “At the beginning of the New Year we make plans for a new time of our lives. A new liturgical year begins today. We therefore need to make our spiritual plans and ordinances to live according to the teachings of Jesus, whose birth we are going to celebrate.” 

“Jesus is the light of the world, and Advent is the time to come out of the darkness of sin to live in the light of the Gospel of Christ.”

No public Masses until January for Belgian Catholics

CNA Staff, Dec 1, 2020 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Belgium’s Catholic bishops called Tuesday for dialogue with the government after it decreed that public Masses would remain suspended until Jan. 15, 2021. 

Following a ministerial decree Nov. 29, the country’s approximately 6.5 million Catholics will be obliged to celebrate Christmas at home. 

In a Dec. 1 press statement, the bishops acknowledged the need for measures to counter the coronavirus pandemic, saving lives and relieving pressure on the nation’s healthcare system.

“However, the bishops, like many believers, feel this lockdown of public religious celebrations in churches as a limitation to the experience of their faith,” they said.

“The bishops want to resume dialogue with the competent governmental services to consult on the resumption of public religious celebrations, a resumption framed by protocols that guarantee maximum security.”

Belgium, a country of 11.5 million people bordering France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, is widely reported to have the world’s highest COVID-19 death rate. More than 577,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus and 16,645 have died in Belgium as of Dec. 1, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Church initially suspended public Masses in March as the country entered its first national lockdown. Churches remained open for individual prayers, as well as baptisms, marriages, and funerals with strictly limited numbers. 

Public worship resumed in June, but suspended once again on Nov. 2 amid a second national lockdown following a new spike in coronavirus cases. 

In their statement Tuesday, Belgium’s bishops urged priests to keep churches open for private prayer for as long as possible in December and January. 

“They also ask those responsible for parishes to allow a visit to the crib in the church over the days of Christmas, in compliance with the protection measures against COVID-19. And in particular, to be in solidarity with those who are going through a particularly difficult period, following the current crisis,” the statement said.

“Even in lockdown, let us remain in communion.”

Pope Francis names new bishop of scandal-ridden Buffalo diocese

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2020 / 05:45 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Tuesday appointed Bishop Michael Fisher, an auxiliary of Washington, to be the next bishop of the scandal-ridden Diocese of Buffalo, New York.

Fisher, 62, will take over leadership of Buffalo as the diocese faces a new lawsuit from the State of New York for failing to protect children from clergy sex abuse.

The diocese also filed for bankruptcy in February of this year, after it was named in hundreds of clerical abuse lawsuits filed in New York courts.

Fisher will be the 15th bishop of the western New York diocese, following Bishop Richard Malone, who resigned amid controversy in December 2019.

In September 2019, Bishop Malone’s former secretary leaked audio of conversations where Malone appeared to acknowledge the legitimacy of sexual harassment accusations made against a diocesan priest months before the priest was removed from active ministry.

A month later, the Vatican ordered an apostolic visitation of Malone’s diocese, which has been embroiled in scandal since November 2018, when Malone’s former assistant leaked records reportedly showing that the diocese worked with lawyers to conceal credible abuse allegations from the public.

While the diocese had reported the names of some priests credibly accused of abuse, it had not reported others, the records appeared to show. Bishop Malone denied claims that he had covered up abuse.

Six months later, Malone apologized for his handling of the case of Fr. Art Smith, a diocesan priest who faced repeated accusations of abuse and misconduct with minors.

Last week, New York’s Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit in the state’s supreme court against the Diocese of Buffalo. Malone, retired auxiliary Bishop Edward Grosz, and Buffalo’s apostolic administrator, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, were also named in the lawsuit.

The state alleges that the diocese, Malone, and Grosz failed to properly investigate claims of clergy sex abuse. The state also claims that diocesan leadership did not “refer unassignable priests to the Vatican,” monitor priests with credible accusations, or take necessary action against diocesan priests credibly accused of child sex abuse. It argued that, under state laws governing non-profits, the diocese did not act in “good faith” by failing to follow its own procedures on clergy sex abuse.

Fisher will be installed as bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo on Jan. 15, 2021, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.

In a press release from the Diocese of Buffalo Dec. 1, Fisher said “though the challenges that currently confront the Diocese of Buffalo are many and significant, they are not equal to the resolve of so many committed lay women and men, devoted priests, deacons and religious across Western New York, who are no less determined to reveal God’s transformative love that has the power to bind every wound, renew and make us whole.”

Bishop Fisher is the oldest of five children and a native of Baltimore, Maryland. After earning degrees in business administration and accounting at the University of Maryland, he worked as a comptroller for a psychiatric practice.

He discerned a vocation to the priesthood and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington in 1990.

In 2006, Fisher was appointed vicar for clergy and secretary for ministerial leadership, with responsibility for vocations, formation and care of the clergy for the archdiocese. 

Pope Francis named him auxiliary bishop of Washington in June 2018. 

Over nearly 30 years of priesthood, Fisher served in several parishes and in leadership of different archdiocesan ministries, including on education, social justice, parish life, and youth.

He has also served on the archdiocese’s administrative board, clergy personnel board, priest council, and priest retirement board, and, according to the press release, his ministry “has involved the continuing education of priests, particularly in aiding new pastors in their roles and the planning and implementation of ongoing clergy training via convocations and retreats.”

Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington described Fisher as “an exceptionally compassionate and skilled servant of the Church.”

“His distinguished history as pastor, Vicar for Priests, and member of our Pastoral Administration have prepared him well for his new responsibilities in that diocese. While we will miss his deft pastoral talents, they will be warmly welcomed by the faithful, religious, and clergy of the Diocese of Buffalo,” Gregory said.

Pope Francis: Be God’s people, not God’s elite

Vatican City, Dec 1, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- Catholics are called to be God’s people, not God’s elite, Pope Francis said in a video message Monday.

In the message to a virtual meeting of judges, released Nov. 30, the pope said that those who truly sought social justice did not regard themselves as “an enlightened elite,” but rather as a people dedicated to “the work of including, integrating and raising the fallen.”

He said: “And, from the Gospel, what God asks of us believers is to be God’s people, not God’s elite. Because those who go the way of ‘God’s elite’ end up in the so well-known elitist clericalisms that, out there, work for the people, but nothing with the people, without feeling like a people.”

The pope was addressing judges belonging to the recently formed Committee for Social Rights of Africa and America. The judges -- from 18 countries including the United States -- were meeting online for a two-day event entitled “Building the new social justice.” 

The Committee brings together two groups under the aegis of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: the Pan-American Committee of Judges for Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine, formally established on June 4, 2019, and the Pan-African Committee of Judges for Social Rights and Franciscan Doctrine. 

The Committee draws on the magisterium of Pope Francis to promote the economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights of the world’s most vulnerable people.

In his address, the pope identified six principles which he said should guide efforts to promote social justice. 

The first, he said, was to remain connected to the reality that “a small part of humanity lives in opulence, while an ever increasing number are denied dignity and their most basic rights are ignored or violated.”

The second was to remember that justice is “a collective work” and the third was to display “an attitude of commitment, following the path of the Good Samaritan.”

The fourth was the importance of remembering and drawing on the past, and the fifth was the centrality of “the people.”

The sixth and final “basis” for social justice was solidarity in the fight against the causes of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

The pope said: “Let us build the new social justice by assuming that the Christian tradition never recognized as absolute and untouchable the right to private property and always stressed the social function of any of its forms.”

“The right to property is a secondary natural right derived from the right that everyone has, born from the universal destination of created goods. There is no social justice that can be cemented in inequality, which is the concentration of wealth.”

Pope Francis sent a second, shorter video message to judges gathered for the event. He recalled his words when he met them at the Casina Pio IV, the Vatican headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in June 2019. On that occasion, he compared the judges to poets. 

In his Nov. 30 message, he said: “The poet needs to contemplate, think, understand the music of reality and translate it into words. In each decision, in each sentence, you are faced with the happy possibility of writing poetry: a poetry that heals the wounds of the poor, that integrates the planet, that protects Mother Earth and all her descendants. A poetry that repairs, redeems, nurtures.”

He added: “And, please, always remember that when justice is really just, that justice makes countries happy and their people worthy. No sentence can be just, nor any law legitimate, if what they produce is more inequality, if what they produce is more loss of rights, indignity or violence.”

Father George Rutler accused of sexual assault, denies allegation

Denver Newsroom, Dec 1, 2020 / 04:00 am (CNA).-  

A well-known New York City priest is maintaining his innocence amid an investigation into an allegation that he sexually assaulted a female security guard earlier this month.

Father George Rutler, pastor of the Church of St. Michael in Manhattan, on Nov. 20 voluntarily stepped aside from his pastoral duties, while prosecutors are investigating the allegations, the Archdiocese of New York told CNA.

Ashley Gonzalez, a 22-year-old security guard with MG Security Services, went public Nov. 26 with an allegation that Rutler forcibly groped her, after she had allegedly seen the priest, late at night, watching homosexual pornography on an office computer in the church rectory.

Rutler is the author of over 30 books and is a well-known public speaker and television commentator on EWTN.  He has also been a frequent contributor to the National Catholic Register. The archdiocese told News12 there have been no other allegations raised against Rutler in the past.

Gonzalez hired Manuel Gomez, a private detective and founder of Black Ops Private Investigators, to help her file a police report following the alleged incident.

Gomez told CNA that the alleged victim's family was familiar with work he had done on a previous case, and that family members had recommended that Gonzalez contact him before contacting police.

The alleged incident happened around 1:20am Nov. 4, Gomez said. He said Gonzalez contacted him at 2:45am asking for help, and that he helped her to file a police report that morning.

The alleged incident took place during Gonzalez’s second night on the job, Gomez said.

According to Gonzalez, Rutler had offered that she could sit in his office when she was not actively doing her rounds. Gonzalez had finished her first set of rounds at around 1:15am and was sitting in the office texting her mother when Rutler entered the office and greeted Gonzalez.

He then sat down at the computer and checked the ongoing General Election results, Gonzalez alleges, before beginning to watch a homosexual pornographic video. Gonzalez said she filmed Rutler with her cellphone as he did so.

In the video obtained by CNA, a bald-headed man— fully clothed and wearing a grey or black sweater or long sleeve shirt— can be seen from behind sitting at a desk in an office decorated with religious photographs and holy cards, watching a video depicting lewd homosexual acts on a desktop computer. CNA could not verify the identity of the man, whom Gonzales claims is Rutler.

Gonzalez alleges that as she tried to exit the office, Rutler stood and slammed the door shut, breaking one of her fingernails. She alleges that he then grabbed her chest before she escaped the office.

Gonzalez sent a text message to her mother telling her that she felt unsafe and claiming that she had “almost” been raped.

In a Nov. 20 letter to his parish, Rutler denied that he “improperly touched” Gonzalez, but said he has offered to “step aside at this moment from my duties” while authorities conduct their investigation.

He urged his parishioners to “ignore any misleading accounts should they appear in the media” and asked for prayers.

Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the New York archdiocese, told CNA that Rutler’s case is in the hands of the district attorney, and that Cardinal Dolan does not plan to open an archdiocesan investigation while the DA’s investigation is ongoing.

Zwilling reiterated that Rutler had “voluntarily stepped away from his duties as pastor.”  He said the archdiocese is “fully cooperating” with the district attorney’s office in its investigation.

The priest has apparently curtailed all public activity.

A spokesman for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office told CNA that the office does not confirm whether investigations exist, and declined to comment.

Gomez said he hopes Rutler will soon be brought into the DA's office for questioning, and added that he has forwarded all the evidence he has collected on Rutler's alleged misconduct, including the video allegedly taken by Gonzalez, to the archdiocese.

CNA attempted to contact Father Rutler at the Church of St. Michael to discuss the allegations, but did not receive a response.

A convert from Anglicanism, Rutler was appointed a Missionary of Mercy by Pope Francis in 2016.

 

Montreal archbishop apologizes after report faults failures to address priest’s misconduct

CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2020 / 07:19 pm (CNA).- The Montreal archdiocese repeatedly failed to act on complaints regarding a former priest’s misbehavior until it was found he had likely engaged in sexual abuse of minors, says a new report. The Archbishop of Montreal has apologized to the victims, and welcomed the report’s more than 30 recommendations “in humility and with a deep sense of regret.”

“In name of the Catholic Church in Montreal and speaking for myself personally, I wish to say to the victims, to your loved ones and your parish communities how sorry we are that you experienced the effects of such terrible criminal acts, which should never occur, never,” Archbishop Christian Lépine said when the 276-page report was released Nov. 25

The report concerns former diocesan priest Brian Boucher, who was ordained a priest in 1996 and worked in 10 Montreal churches as far back as the early 1980s. In January 2019 he was convicted of sexual assault of a minor in one case, and pleaded guilty to sexual assault of another minor. He was later sentenced to eight years in prison.

The Montreal archdiocese commissioned Pepita G. Capriolo, a retired Quebec Superior Court Justice, to investigate its handling of claims about Boucher and to make recommendations on how to improve.

“What struck me most was the passing of the buck,” Capriolo said at a Nov. 25 news conference, CBC News reports. “The need to protect the reputation of Boucher seemed to be paramount.”

The Montreal archdiocese had removed Boucher’s priestly faculties in December 2015 after it learned of “alleged impropriety.” A canonical trial began in October 2016, with Archbishop Lépine appointed as judge. This trial was suspended when criminal charges were filed in March 2017. After Boucher’s conviction, the canonical process resumed. In March 2019, Lepine delivered his judgement: Boucher was removed from the clerical state.

For her investigation, Capriolo had independent access to hundreds of documents and interviewed everyone she deemed relevant, over 60 witnesses. Capriolo made 31 recommendations to help prevent abuse by improving responsibility, transparency, and accountability.

She blamed a “lack of accountability,” saying “complaints were ‘passed on’ and no one took responsibility for acting on them.”

Capriolo said that at times key documents were missing. Under Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, who was Archbishop of Montreal from 1990 to 2012, shredding documents was “a well-known practice.” She also faulted “a culture of secrecy, which reigned in the Church during the period covered by this investigation” for causing “the disappearance of important documents and the general lack of a paper trail.”

Cardinal Marc Ouellet and the late Cardinal Turcotte were among those aware of some of Boucher’s previous misconduct, the report said, according to CBC News.

Ouellet had served as rector of the seminary at the time Boucher was a seminarian.

“Until 2016, no one had come forward and claimed having been Boucher’s victim of sexual abuse while still a minor,” the report said. “No parent had ever brought such a charge against Boucher to the attention of his superiors. But this is no cause for premature exoneration of the Church authorities.”

Capriolo’s report found that he had a history of repeated complaints about his suitability dating back to his time in seminary. His behavior included rudeness, authoritarianism, and verbal and physical aggressiveness. He was observed “having a very close and worrisome relationship with a young boy at the end of the 1990s,” but no investigation resulted from the complaint.

In a different incident, during a major 1998 ice storm, Boucher spent a night smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol with an 18-year-old student from Mexico, who fled from the rectory without his shoes after the priest made a sexual advance.

In 2003, the priest had an abusive relationship with a 19-year-old. The priest was sent to psychological treatment, but no disciplinary action was taken.

In 2011, when Boucher was up for reappointment as a pastor, a senior Church official wrote a detailed summary of his failings, so as to stop the appointment. “The official left on extended sick leave and Boucher was reappointed,” said the report.

Boucher would later claim to be the victim of sexual abuse by a much younger priest, which resulted in a more thorough investigation in 2015 after he was discovered to be the perpetrator, not the victim. Then-Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Dowd conducted the investigation, which concluded there were “at least two child victims.”

Capriolo’s recommendations include the creation of an external ombudsman role to investigate the conduct of priests at each stage of their career. Similarly, all complaints should be filed in one common register for the archdiocese. All clergy personnel files should be kept in one place, with “rigorous and systematic management” of the archdiocese’s secret archives.

The archdiocese should create “a clear and well-defined organizational chart of accountability with delegated authority” that is accompanied by the power to sanction. All problems of abusive behavior, not only sexual abuse of minors, should be immediately referred to an advisory committee, Capriolo advised.

Legal and psychological support should be provided to victims, and there should be an annual external audit of how the report’s recommendations are implemented.

Capriolo has agreed to co-chair an implementation committee with Archbishop Lepine, with other members to be announced. Implementation could finish by fall 2021.

“You have accomplished a difficult task, under difficult circumstances about a very difficult subject. We are indebted to you,” Lepine told Capriolo. “We welcome the conclusions of your report in humility and with a deep sense of regret, and we commit ourselves to act decisively to deter such situations from occurring again.”

Lepine said changes had already begun with the archdiocese’s Responsible Pastoral Ministry Policy. He said people need to approach the Catholic Church with confidence and safety.

“The goal is not to point fingers but to uncover the gaps and deficiencies in our structures and policies, so that we can make the necessary changes,” he said.

The Montreal archdiocese released the Capriolo report on its website. In early 2021, a statistical audit of diocesan files dating back to 1940 will begin. It aims to compile allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.