Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pope Francis to Stop in Cuba Before US Trip - Yahoo News


Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis will stop in Cuba before his visit to the United States this September.

The Holy See said earlier this month that a stopover was being considered. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi officially confirmed the stopover today but gave no further details.

Pope Francis is said to have helped speed up reconciliation between the U.S. and Cuba by encouraging leaders of both nations and hosting some of the final negotiations.

Some Vatican watchers have already questioned why the pope would chose to visit the United States and Cuba before Mexico, which has the second-largest Catholic population in the world.

Pope Francis to Stop in Cuba Before US Trip - Yahoo News

Robert Finn, Missouri Bishop Convicted of Shielding Pedophile Priest, Resigns -


  • ​NYT Now

Robert Finn, Missouri Bishop Convicted of Shielding Pedophile Priest, Resigns


Pope Francis accepted the resignation on Tuesday of Bishop Robert W. Finn as head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri, heeding pleas from parishioners and priests that the bishop had lost the credibility to lead after being convicted three years ago of failing to report a priest who took pornographic pictures of girls.

It was the first time that Francis had taken action against an American bishop who neglected to protect children from pedophiles in the priesthood. Although the Vatican did not state why Bishop Finn resigned, the circumstances were clear-cut because Bishop Finn had received international notoriety as the first Roman Catholic prelate ever criminally convicted of shielding an accused priest.


  • Now Francis faces a much tougher call: whether he will take concrete steps to keep bishops worldwide accountable for protecting the children in their flocks from sexual abuse by clerics and church workers. In the long history of the abuse scandal, the Vatican says, it has defrocked more than 850 priests and penalized at least 2,500 more, but the matter of discipline for bishops has remained the great unfinished piece of business, and the pressure to act is only growing.

    In the last month, Francis has faced bitter protests from Catholics in Chile over his decision to install Bishop Juan Barros in the Diocese of Osorno despite claims that the bishop witnessed abuse years ago and did nothing.

    And on Tuesday, Marie Collins, a member of the Vatican’s special commission on clergy — which Francis appointed to advise him on handling sexual abuse — said that the group had presented him with a plan for instituting standards and procedures to keep those in the hierarchy accountable.

    “The commission has put forward a proposal to the Holy Father to advance bishop accountability, not just of bishops, but of all church leadership,” Ms. Collins said.

    A survivor of abuse from Ireland, she added that the proposal was supported by the entire commission, which includes priests and Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who also serves on a separate cardinals’ advisory board to the pope. But she declined to provide details.

    “It’s with the Holy Father, so it’s basically up to him now what he decides on that proposal,” she said, adding, “We await his response.”

    She described the resignation of Bishop Finn as “good news” that “has taken too long, obviously, but is the way that anyone, I think, who is concerned about child protection wants to see things go.”

    Parishioners and priests in Bishop Finn’s diocese had been petitioning the Vatican for three years to remove him. In September, the pope sent a Canadian archbishop to Missouri to investigate, and several local Catholics and priests said afterward that the archbishop had asked them whether they thought that Bishop Finn had lost the confidence of the faithful.

    Speculation that Bishop Finn would be removed grew when he was absent last week for a confirmation, and was then spotted in Rome.

    Such a resignation is extremely rare when a bishop is not ill or close to the retirement age, 75. Bishop Finn is 62 and has served in his diocese just short of 10 years.

    The Vatican announced the resignation in a brief note in its daily news bulletin Tuesday and did not give a reason. But the Vatican cited a provision in church law under which a bishop is “earnestly requested” to resign because of ill health or “some other grave cause.”

    In a statement released by the diocese, Bishop Finn said, “It has been an honor and joy for me to serve here among so many good people of faith.”

    Francis appointed Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who leads the archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, to administer Bishop Finn’s former diocese but did not name a successor.

    Bishop Finn was convicted in 2012 on a misdemeanor charge involving the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a charismatic parish priest who Bishop Finn had been warned was behaving inappropriately with children. When Father Ratigan took his laptop computer in for repairs in December 2010, a technician immediately told church officials that the laptop contained what appeared to be sexually explicit photographs of young girls.

    After Father Ratigan attempted suicide, Bishop Finn reassigned him to live in a convent and ordered him to stay away from children. But Father Ratigan continued to attend church events and take lewd pictures of girls for five more months, until church officials reported him to the police in May 2011, without Bishop Finn’s approval.

    The bishop was convicted after a bench trial, and sentenced to serve two years of court-supervised probation.

    Jeff Weis, a parishioner who helped to lead the petition campaign pushing for Bishop Finn’s removal, said in a statement that with the resignation, “the prayers of this hurt community have been answered.” But he added, “The damage done is immeasurable.”

    Bishop Finn is not the first to resign under a cloud for mishandling sexual abuse. Cardinal Bernard Law resigned the leadership of the Boston Archdiocese in 2002 after The Boston Globe revealed he had failed to remove priests accused of abuse and simply reassigned them to new parishes. The cardinal later received an appointment in Rome and continued to serve on influential Vatican committees. It is unclear where Bishop Finn will be assigned next, but he remains a bishop.

    In September, Francis dismissed a Paraguayan bishop, Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, who had been accused of giving a promotion to an Argentine priest accused of sexual abuse. But a Vatican spokesman said the dismissal had more to do with conflicts with his fellow bishops than with his handling of the accused priest.

    The removal of Bishop Finn will now put pressure on Pope Francis to act against Bishop Barros in Chile, said Anne Barrett Doyle, a director of, an advocacy group that maintains an online database of sexual abuse cases. She said that, as with Bishop Finn, no pope had ever confirmed that the reason for a bishop’s removal was negligence in handling child abuse cases.

    “We urge Pope Francis to issue such a statement immediately,” Ms. Doyle said. “That would be unprecedented, and it would send a bracing message to bishops and religious superiors worldwide that a new era has begun.”

    As for the commission’s proposal on accountability for bishops, the challenge for Francis is what standards he would adopt to determine when to discipline a bishop, said Kurt Martens, an associate professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, in Washington.

    “You might have busloads of European bishops you’re going to remove if you have very high standards,” Professor Martens said. “Where do you draw the line and what happens if the standards evolve?”

  • Robert Finn, Missouri Bishop Convicted of Shielding Pedophile Priest, Resigns -

    Tuesday, April 21, 2015

    Cardinal Burke Responds to Recent Criticisms | Daily News |


    by RICCARDO CASCIOLI 04/17/2015 Comments (40)

    Joaquín Peiró Pérez/CNA

    Cardinal Raymond Burke

    – Joaquín Peiró Pérez/CNA

    Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, 66, is troubled by the negative campaign that has been waged against him. Ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 1995, the respected expert in canon law was called to Rome by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 as prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura before being appointed cardinal in 2010.

    In recent months, critics have described him as an “ultraconservative fanatic,” “anti-Conciliar,” “in conspiracy against the Pope” and even ready for a schism should the upcoming family synod open up unwelcome changes.

    The criticism has been so defamatory that in Italy several bishops have even refused to host his lectures in their dioceses. Where he has been allowed to give a conference — as recently in some cities in the north of Italy — there are invariably priests who oppose him and accuse him of spreading propaganda against the Pope.

    “It’s total nonsense; I don’t understand this attitude. I have never said a single word against the Pope; I strive only to serve the truth, a task that we all have. I have always seen my talks and my activities as a support to the Petrine ministry. The people who know me well can witness to the fact I am not anti-papal. On the contrary, I have always been extremely loyal and wanted to serve the Holy Father, as I am doing now.”

    Indeed, meeting him in his apartment, a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Square, with his friendly manner and spontaneity, Cardinal Burke bears no resemblance to that hard defender of “cold doctrine” as he is described by mainstream media outlets.

    Cardinal Burke, in the debate that preceded and followed the first synod on the family, some of your statements did sound like criticisms of the Pope, or at least that is how they were interpreted. For example, quite a stir was caused by your recent remark, “I will resist; I’ll resist,” as a response to a possible decision of the Pope to grant Communion to the divorced and remarried.

    That comment was misrepresented, and there was no reference to Pope Francis. I believe that because I have always spoken very clearly on the issue of marriage and the family, there are people who want to undermine what I say by depicting me as an enemy of the Pope or even ready for a schism by using that answer I gave in an interview with a French television channel.

    How should we interpret that answer?

    Quite simply. The journalist asked me what I would do if, hypothetically, not referring to Pope Francis, a pontiff were to make decisions contrary to the Church’s doctrine and practice. I replied I should resist, because we are all in the service of the truth, starting with the Pope. The Church is not a political body, in the sense of power. The power is Jesus Christ and his Gospel. Therefore, I replied I would resist, and it would not be the first time that this has happened in the Church. There have been several moments in history where someone had to stand up to the pope, beginning with St. Paul against St. Peter, in the matter of Judaizers who wanted to impose circumcision on the converted Greeks. In my case, I am not resisting Pope Francis at all because he hasn’t done anything against the doctrine. Nor do I see myself in a fight against the Pope, as they try to depict me. I’m not pursuing the interests of a group or party. I am simply trying, as a cardinal, to be a teacher of the faith.

    Another criticism made against you is your alleged passion for “lace,” a comment used in a demeaning way to criticize your preferred clerical and liturgical vestments as something that the Pope cannot endure.

    The Pope has never made me aware that he disapproves of the way I dress, which, anyway, has always been within norms of the Church. I celebrate the liturgy also in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, and there are vestments for this which do not exist for the celebration of the ordinary form, but I always wear what is required for the rite that I am celebrating. I am not making a political statement against the Pope’s way of dressing. It has to be said that every pope has his own style, but he does not impose this on all the other bishops. So I don’t understand why this should be a cause for controversy.

    But newspapers often use a photo of you wearing a hat clearly out of date.

    Yes, I know, but it’s just incredible. I can explain: That photo was spread around after Il Foglio published it alongside the interview I did at the time of the synod. The interview had been done well, but, unfortunately, they chose a photo that had nothing to do with it, which I regret, because, in this way, they gave the mistaken impression of a person who lives in the past. The truth is that, after being named cardinal, I was invited to a diocese in the south of Italy for a conference on the liturgy. For the occasion, the organizer decided to give me as a gift an old-fashioned cardinal’s hat. I have no idea where he got it from. I held it in my hand and obviously had no intention of wearing it regularly, but he asked me to put it on to take at least one photo. This was the only time I put that hat on my head, but, unfortunately, that picture has been published all over the world, and some use it to give the impression that I go around like that. But I’ve never worn it, not even for a ceremony.

    You have also been named as the inspiration if not the promoter of the “Petition to Pope Francis for the Family,” which has been circulated to collect signatures by a number of traditionalist websites.

    I did sign that petition, but it is not my initiative or my idea. Nor did I write or collaborate in drafting the text. Anyone who says otherwise is affirming something false. As far as I know, it is an initiative by laypeople. I was shown the text, and I signed it, as have many other cardinals.

    Another of the charges against you is that you are against the Second Vatican Council.

    These labels are easy to apply, but there is no basis in reality. All my theological education in the major seminary was based on the documents of Vatican II, and I am still trying to study these documents more deeply. I’m not at all opposed to the Council, and if one reads my writings, he will find that I quote the documents of Vatican II many times. What I don’t agree with is the so-called “spirit of the Council,” which is not faithful to the Council texts but purports to create something totally new, a new church that has nothing to do with all the so-called aberrations of the past. On this matter, I wholeheartedly follow Pope Benedict XVI’s enlightening presentation to the Roman Curia for Christmas 2005: It is the famous discourse in which he explains the correct hermeneutic, which is that of reform in continuity, as opposed to the hermeneutic of rupture in discontinuity that many sectors promote. Pope Benedict XVI’s presentation is brilliant and explains everything. Many things that happened after the Council and are attributed to the Council have nothing to do with the Council. This is the plain truth.

    Did Pope Francis “punish” you by removing you from the Apostolic Signatura and entrusting you with the patronage of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta?

    In an interview with the Argentine newspaper La Nacion, the Pope already answered this question by explaining the reasons for his decision. This already says everything, and it is not up to me to comment. I can only say, without revealing any confidential information, that the Pope has never told me or given me the impression that there was anything he wanted to punish me for.

    Perhaps your “reputation” has to do with what Cardinal Walter Kasper called the “synod battle,” which also seems to grow in intensity as we get closer to the ordinary synod this coming October. At what stage are we now?

    I would say that there is now a much more extensive discussion on the topics covered by the synod, and this is a good thing. There is a greater number of cardinals, bishops and laypeople who are intervening, and this is very positive. Therefore, I don’t understand all the fuss last year made over the book Remaining in the Truth of Christ, to which I contributed, along with four other cardinals and four specialists on marriage.

    That was when the theory of a conspiracy against the Pope was born, a view echoed recently by the well-known Italian historian Alberto Melloni, co-author of a famous history of the Vatican Council II that pushes for a progressive interpretation of the Council. Melloni wrote an article for the most popular Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, blaming the five cardinals of a conspiracy against the Pope.

    It is simply absurd. How can you possibly accuse of plotting against the Pope those who uphold what the Church has always taught and practiced on marriage and Communion? The book was certainly written as an aid for the synod to answer Cardinal Kasper’s thesis. But it is not polemical, it is a presentation completely faithful to the Tradition, and it is also of the highest scholarly quality possible. I am absolutely disposed to receive criticism on the content, but to say we conspired against the Pope is unacceptable.

    Who is behind this witch hunt?

    I do not have any direct information, but there is definitely a group that wants to impose on the Church not only Kasper’s thesis on Communion for the divorced and remarried, or for those in irregular situations, but also other positions related to the themes of the synod. I think, for instance, of the idea of identifying the positive aspects of extramarital or homosexual relationships. It is evident there are forces pushing in this direction, and this is the reason why they want to discredit those of us who are trying to defend the Church’s teaching. I have nothing personal against Cardinal Kasper; for me, the question is only to proclaim the Church’s teaching, which in this case is tied to words spoken by the Lord.

    Looking at some of the themes that emerged strongly in the synod, there is talk again about a “gay lobby.”

    I can’t precisely identify it, but I see more and more that there is a force moving in this direction. I can see people either consciously or subconsciously driving a homosexual agenda. How it’s organized, I don’t know, but it is evident there is a force of this nature. At the synod, we said that homosexuality had nothing to do with the family; rather, a synod should be convoked on the subject if we wanted to speak about this theme. And, instead, we found in the relatio post disceptationem this theme which had not been discussed by the fathers.

    One of the theological arguments that is frequently repeated to justify Cardinal Kasper is that of the “development of doctrine.” It isn’t change, but a deeper understanding that can lead to new practice.

    Here, there is a big misunderstanding. The development of doctrine, as, for example, Blessed Cardinal [John Henry] Newman put it or other good theologians, means a deepening in appreciation in the knowledge of a doctrine, not the change of doctrine. Development in no case leads to change. An example of this is Pope Benedict’s post-synodal exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis, where he presents the development of the knowledge of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, also expressed in Eucharistic adoration. There have in fact been some who were contrary to Eucharistic adoration, because the Eucharist is to be received within us. But Benedict XVI explained — also citing St. Augustine — that if it is true that the Lord gives us himself in the Eucharist to be consumed, it is also true that you cannot recognize this reality of Jesus’ presence under the Eucharistic species without worshipping these species. This is an example of the development of doctrine, but it is not the case that the doctrine on the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist changed.

    One of the recurring themes in the controversy on the synod is the alleged opposition between doctrine and practice, doctrine and mercy. The Pope often insists on the pharisaic attitude of those who use doctrine to keep out love.

    I think you have to distinguish between what the Pope says on certain occasions and those who affirm an opposition between doctrine and practice. The Church can never allow a contrast between doctrine and practice, because we live the truth that Christ communicates to us in his holy Church, and the truth is never something cold. It is the truth that opens to us a space for love; to love, really, you have to respect the truth of the person and of the person in the particular situations in which you find him or her. Thus, creating a kind of contrast between doctrine and practice does not reflect the reality of our faith. One who supports the thesis of Cardinal Kasper — a change of discipline that does not touch doctrine — should explain how this is possible. If the Church allows Communion for a person who is bound by marriage but who is living with another person in a matrimonial relationship, that is in a state of adultery: How can the Church allow this and maintain at the same time that marriage is indissoluble? The contrast between doctrine and practice is a false contrast that we must reject.

    But it is also true that you can use doctrine without love.

    Absolutely, and this is what the Pope is condemning, the use of doctrine or law to promote a personal agenda in order to dominate people. But this does not mean there is a problem with the doctrine and discipline; only there are people of ill will who commit abuses, for instance by interpreting the law in a way that harms people. Or they apply the law without love, insisting on the truth of a situation of a person but without love. Even when someone is in a state of grievous sin, we have to love that person and help him or her like Our Lord did with the adulteress and the Samaritan woman. He was very clear in announcing the state of their sin, but at the same time, he showed great love by inviting them to come out of this situation. This is not what the Pharisees did; instead, they showed cruel legalism: denouncing the violation of the law without offering any help to the person on how to turn away from sin so as to find peace again.

    Riccardo Cascioli is editor of the popular Italian Catholic website Nuova Bussola Quotidiana,

    where this interview originally appeared in Italian. Translated for the Register by Patricia Gooding Williams.

    Cardinal Burke Responds to Recent Criticisms | Daily News |

    Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Bishop Robert Finn | Daily News |


    The resignation of the bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., takes effect immediately.

    by ELISE HARRIS/CNA/EWTN NEWS 04/21/2015 Comment

    CNA file photo

    Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph

    – CNA file photo

    VATICAN CITY — Nearly two and a half years after being the first U.S. bishop convicted of a misdemeanor in failing to report suspected child abuse by a priest in his diocese, Kansas City-St. Joseph’s bishop has resigned.

    The Vatican confirmed Pope Francis’ acceptance of Bishop Finn’s resignation according to Canon 104 Article 2 in the Code of Canon Law in an April 21 statement, released at noon local time.

    Article 2 of Canon 104, according to the Vatican’s website, refers to a situation when “a diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”

    Bishop Finn’s resignation will take effect immediately, and although he will still be a bishop, he will no longer lead a diocese. It is up to Pope Francis to choose his successor.

    The brief Vatican statement gave no word as to what Bishop Finn will do following his resignation.

    Last September, two years after Bishop Finn’s trial and guilty verdict, an archbishop held a visitation on behalf of the Vatican and met with Bishop Finn.

    The reasons for the visitation were not revealed, however some reports indicate that the visitation was intended to evaluate the bishop’s leadership of his diocese.

    In September 2012, Bishop Finn, now 62, was convicted on a misdemeanor count of failure to report suspected child abuse after he and his diocese failed to report that lewd images of children had been found on a laptop belonging to Father. Shawn Ratigan a priest of the diocese, in December 2010.

    The diocese’s vicar general had told Bishop Finn about one of the images, but the bishop did not see them himself.

    Father Ratigan attempted suicide after the images were discovered and initially had not been expected to live. Diocesan officials told law enforcement officials about the images in May 2011, months after their discovery.

    A diocese-commissioned independent investigation said diocesan officials conducted “a limited and improperly conceived investigation” into whether a single image, which the vicar general did not see, constituted child pornography. The diocese’s legal counsel also said that that single image did not constitute child pornography.

    Further investigation revealed that the photos had been taken in and around churches where the priest had worked. In 2012, Father Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison on child pornography charges.

    Bishop Finn was sentenced to two years’ probation for failing to report suspected abuse.

    The diocese settled two lawsuits from the parents of two girls photographed by Fr. Ratigan for a total of $1.8 million in February 2014.

    The Father Ratigan case has also triggered further legal action from an arbitrator who levied a $1.1 million penalty against the diocese, on the grounds that the diocese violated the terms of a 2008 abuse lawsuit settlement in which Bishop Finn and the diocese agreed to report suspected child abusers to law enforcement.

    The diocese objected to the arbitrator’s penalty, but it was upheld in court and the diocese paid the fine

    Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Bishop Robert Finn | Daily News |

    Friday, April 17, 2015

    Chicago Cardinal Francis George, the ‘American Ratzinger,’ dies | Crux


    During an era under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, when Catholicism was trying to swim against an increasingly secular tide in the Western world, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago was the American prelate trusted by those two popes, almost above all others, to spearhead that project in the United States.

    George, who stepped down in November 2014, died at 10:45 a.m. Friday at his residence in Chicago of a cancer that originated in his bladder but spread to other parts of his body, rendering treatment ineffective. He was 78.

    He had been on home care since April 3 after being hospitalized for hydration and pain management issues, according to the Chicago Tribune.

    Widely acknowledged as the most intellectually gifted senior US prelate of his generation, George was once dubbed the “American Ratzinger.”

    Like German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, George’s clear and strongly stated positions on issues such as abortion, contraception, and the Catholic liturgy could be either celebrated or reviled — and he drew both reactions, repeatedly — but they could never be ignored.

    George’s abiding passion was the relationship between faith and culture, and especially the urgency of a “New Evangelization,” meaning a new missionary zeal in Catholicism

    Chicago Cardinal Francis George, the ‘American Ratzinger,’ dies | Crux

    Vatican Ends Battle With U.S. Catholic Nuns’ Group -


    The Vatican has abruptly ended its takeover of the main leadership group of American nuns two years earlier than expected, allowing Pope Francis to put to rest a confrontation started by his predecessor that created an uproar among American Catholics who had rallied to the sisters’ defense.

    Anticipating a visit by Francis to the United States in the fall, the Vatican and the American bishops were eager to resolve an episode that was seen by many Catholics as a vexing and unjust inquisition of the sisters who ran the church’s schools, hospitals and charities.

    Under the previous pope, Benedict XVI, the Vatican’s doctrinal office had appointed three bishops in 2012 to overhaul the nuns’ group, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, out of concerns that it had hosted speakers and published materials that strayed from Catholic doctrine on such matters as the all-male priesthood, birth control and sexuality, and the centrality of Jesus to the faith.

    But Francis has shown in his two-year papacy that he is less interested in having the church police doctrinal boundaries than in demonstrating mercy and love for the poor and vulnerable — the very work that most of the women’s religious orders under investigation have long been engaged in.

    Ending the standoff with the nuns is one of several course corrections that Francis has set in motion. He has also worked on reforming the Vatican Curia, the Vatican’s central administration, instituting tighter oversight of Vatican finances, and has created a commission to deal with sexual abuse by clergy members.

    He has made no changes in doctrine — on Wednesday, he reiterated the church’s teaching that marriage can be only between a man and a woman — but Catholics worldwide say he has done much to make the church’s tone more welcoming.

    On Thursday, that included calling an unexpected meeting with four of the leaders of the Leadership Conference. The four women were photographed in his office and said afterward in a statement that they were “deeply heartened” by Francis’ “expression of appreciation” for the lives and ministry of Catholic sisters.

    He met with them himself for almost an hour, and that’s an extravagant amount of papal time,” said Eileen Burke-Sullivan, a theologian and consultant for women’s religious orders and vice provost for mission and ministry at Creighton University, a Jesuit school in Omaha. “It’s about as close to an apology, I would think, as the Catholic Church is officially going to render.”

    Francis has never talked explicitly in public about the imbroglio with American nuns. But he has spoken about creating “broader opportunities” for women in the church, and the value of nuns and priests in religious orders. He is a member of the Jesuit order.

    A clear signal that the Vatican under Francis was taking a more conciliatory approach to American sisters came in December with the announcement of the conclusion of another, separate investigation of American women’s orders, which was known as an apostolic visitation. That process involved sending questionnaires to 350 religious communities and teams of “visitors” to 90 of them, asking about everything from their prayer practices to living arrangements.

    Continue reading the main story

    Both of these investigations of American women’s religious orders began at the urging of American and some foreign prelates who accused the sisters of disobeying the bishops and departing from Catholic doctrine. It set off protests by Catholic laypeople across the country, who signed petitions and sent letters to the Vatican in defense of the sisters.

    It even became a movement with its own anthem, “Love Cannot Be Silenced,” composed by a folk-singing sister in Chicago.

    The news came in a brief report issued jointly by the Leadership Conference and the three American bishops who had been appointed by the Vatican three years ago to take over and overhaul the organization.

    The report cast the process as one of collaboration, saying, “Our extensive conversations were marked by a spirit of prayer, love for the church, mutual respect and cooperation. We found our conversations to be mutually beneficial.”

    It was a far cry from three years ago, when the Vatican’s doctrinal office, led by an American cardinal, William Levada, issued a report finding that the Leadership Conference had “serious doctrinal problems.” It said the sisters were promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” It also accused the nuns of spending more time working against poverty and social injustice than abortion and same-sex marriage.

    The Vatican’s doctrinal office in 2012 appointed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, with assistance from Bishop Leonard Blair of Hartford and Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., to spend as many as five years assessing and overhauling the Leadership Conference.

    Leaders of the nuns’ group, which represents about 80 percent of Catholic sisters in the United States, insisted all along that the accusations were unfounded and that the Vatican simply did not understand the culture and process of American women’s religious orders, many of which emphasize open discussion and communal decision-making.


    Vatican Ends Battle With U.S. Catholic Nuns’ Group -

    Boiler backstory on Chicago nuns left without heat |

    Note the Marengo connection.

    Wednesday, March 04, 2015

    CHICAGO (WLS) --

    In an exclusive report, the ABC7 I-Team looked into a small religious order in Chicago that has been all over the news lately after some nuns received public donations for a new heating system at their West Side church.
    Nuns from a French religious order called Fraternite of Notre Dame last month were on Chicago TV - including ABC7 - describing how their heat broke down. The public has now contributed about a quarter of a million dollars to fix their boilers.
    But since then, the I-Team has received questions about the order's standing in the Catholic Church and why it needs donations when it owns millions of dollars of property in McHenry County.
    When word got out that these nuns who feed the poor were shivering through Chicago's record-cold February, they were invited onto TV and two internet funds were set up for contributions, now totaling more than $232,000. As the donations soared, the I-Team received viewer questions about 90-acres owned by the order behind an iron gate in Marengo.
    "When they have millions of dollars in property here and now they are expanding and wanting to add a brewery and a winery and gift shop and school and all of those things and I couldn't understand why they couldn't afford to fix their church and why other people had to be responsible for that," said Judy Link, a Marengo resident.
    A week before the boilers quit at the nuns' "motherhouse" on Chicago's West Side, the order filed this zoning permit request in McHenry County.
    According to the request filed February 11, the order wants to build and operate a school with an attached dormitory; a nursing home with hospice, a commercial kitchen with facilities to brew beer and process grapes for wine; a gift shop and tasting area.
    "When regular people want to build something they wait until they have a million dollars in the checking account, us we are different, by people see what we do," Sister Marie Valerie said with a heavy French accent during an interview with the I-Team. "We have some blue print people, an architect, doing their times, that gentleman wants to stay anonymous, he does a lot of work for us. This is how we start," said Sister Marie Valerie, who is the treasurer for Fraternite of Notre Dame.
    It is the start of an ambitious construction project in rural Marengo on these 65 acres bought for about $2.5 million in 2003, and another 30 acres bought since then.
    According to public records, the order has purchased land and homes worth more than $3 million in nearby Huntley, Harvard, southern Wisconsin and New York. An unknown amount was already spent on these grounds adorned by statues and a chapel that features an ornate altar.
    "It took us two years and a half to build it. Most of the equipment and material was donated," Sister Marie Valerie said. "We built with our own hands."
    Much of the work is documented in numerous videos on the order's website.
    "A benefactor help us with down payment but every month we have to pay for our own mortgage so it's not easy," Sister Marie Valerie said.
    The nuns - who say they receive no salary - insist that any new McHenry County project would be funded by donations, but not the money donated for the boilers in Chicago.
    "All the money we got for the boiler, all the money we got from GoFundMe, all that money stay here to our feeding program in Chicago," Sister Marie Valerie said.
    Residents who opposed the order's first expansion 10 years ago say they are mobilizing again to stop the new project.
    "They're very secretive. We kept asking them where they got their money from because that was an expensive piece of property, it was $2 million I think, and they just said 'investments'," Link said.
    The nuns call themselves a "traditional Catholic religious order" and some donors may believe that the organization is approved by the Vatican, but it isn't.
    According to a spokesperson for the Chicago Archdiocese, the order's founder Bishop Jean Marie Roger Kozik "is not a legitimately ordained bishop in the Roman Catholic Church," and, Kozik says, is not a priest in good standing with the church. Because of that, the archdiocese says "Catholics should not attend mass" at the order's West Side church. And they say the nuns are not a religious order associated with the Roman Catholic Church.
    "We are a new order. We want to be with the Vatican. We want to be with the Archdiocese. We are working on it and took some steps to be with the Vatican," Sister Marie Valerie said.
    The Archdiocese does say that the nuns are "good people of faith who do important work for the poor."
    Bishop Kozik began the order in 1977 in France after reporting the Virgin Mary spoke to him. Now he lives - at least part-time - in Marengo. Kozik did not reply to the I-Team's requests for an interview.
    There are numerous organizations like his around the world that describe themselves as a "traditional Catholic order" that follow older Catholic practices, but are not recognized by the Vatican.
    As for the zoning board hearing, the order of nuns asked that it be moved to April 9.

    Boiler backstory on Chicago nuns left without heat |