Amid cri­sis, pope calls bish­ops to sub­ur­ban re­treat

Mun­delein Sem­i­nary to host hun­dreds of Catholic lead­ers

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Angie Leven­tis Lour­gos eleven­tis@chicagotri­bune.com Twit­ter @ang­ie_leven­tis

Pope Fran­cis has called Catholic bish­ops na­tion­wide to gather for a his­toric seven-day spir­i­tual re­treat at Mun­delein Sem­i­nary in sub­ur­ban Chicago in Jan­uary as church hi­er­ar­chy grap­ple with the on­go­ing clergy sex abuse scan­dal.

As chan­cel­lor of the sem­i­nary, Arch­dio­cese of Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich — now in Rome for a month­long meet­ing of global church lead­ers — will serve as host of the gath­er­ing, which could in­clude some 300 bish­ops from across the U.S.

Loy­ola Univer­sity Chicago the­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Miguel Diaz called the re­treat “his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant for Amer­i­can Catholics.”

The con­cept of the gath­er­ing re­flects the pope’s lead­er­ship style — his Je­suit back­ground in par­tic­u­lar — to ad­dress church chal­lenges “within the con­text of col­lab­o­ra­tive and prayer­ful dis­cern­ment,” said Diaz, a former U.S. am­bas­sador to the Vat­i­can.

The an­nounce­ment of the spir­i­tual re­treat comes in the wake of a hor­ri­fy­ing grand jury re­port in Au­gust that doc­u­mented bish­ops and other Ro­man Catholic Church lead­ers in Penn­syl­va­nia cov­er­ing up the sex­ual abuse of chil­dren by hun­dreds of priests and other clergy over roughly seven decades.

Shortly af­ter its re­lease, Illi­nois At­tor­ney Gen­eral Lisa Madi­gan an­nounced plans to meet with Catholic Church lead­ers through­out the state to ex­am­ine the lo­cal ties of about a half- dozen clergy mem­bers named in the grand jury re­port. In a 2002 let­ter in­cluded in the re­port, one vic­tim from Illi­nois re­counted decades-old abuse by a priest and Air Force chap­lain once con­sid­ered a “fa­ther fig­ure.”

“I don’t think I knew what was re­ally hap­pen­ing at the time,” the vic­tim wrote. “Any­way I felt pro­tected by him, and my par­ents trusted him and I knew they wouldn’t let any­one harm me.”

Larry An­ton­sen, a Chicago leader of the Sur­vivors Net­work of those Abused by Priests, was skep­ti­cal that a week­long spir­i­tual re­treat will prompt any real change. He called on church hi­er­ar­chy to be more trans­par­ent.

“They need to be more open and not do every­thing in se­cret,” he said. “The re­treat would not be open to the pub­lic, I’m sure. They need to get laypeo­ple in­volved, be­cause they have not done a very good job of han­dling this in­house.”

An­ton­sen added that law en­force­ment or govern­ment in­ter­ven­tion might be the only way to spur true re­form.

“The only way we can get to the bot­tom of this is to have grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tions in ev­ery state, like they did in Penn­syl­va­nia,” he said.

But Diaz cau­tioned against in­ter­pret­ing the re­treat as “a mere spir­i­tual ex­er­cise.”

“The pope links prayer-filled ho­li­ness to daily acts of jus­tice, es­pe­cially on be­half of those who suf­fer, the marginal­ized and op­pressed,” Diaz said. “Make no mis­take: Pope Fran­cis knows that the sex­ual abuse scan­dal presents a se­ri­ous cri­sis to the author­ity of U.S. bish­ops. He has in­vited them to ‘re­treat’ so they can fig­ure out what needs to be done to cred­i­bly ad­dress hu­man suf­fer­ing re­lated to gen­der and sex-based forms of sex­ual abuse.”

The re­treat is sched­uled for Jan. 2 to Jan. 8, tak­ing place “as the U.S. bish­ops con­tinue their work to ad­dress the cur­rent U.S. clergy sex abuse cri­sis,” the U.S. Con­fer- ence of Catholic Bish­ops said in a state­ment.

Last month, the con­fer­ence’s ad­min­is­tra­tive com­mit­tee an­nounced an ac­tion plan on clergy sex abuse that in­cludes third­party re­port­ing pro­ce­dures and stan­dards of con­duct for bish­ops, as well as pro­to­cols for bish­ops who re­signed or were re­moved be­cause of abuse.

“Some bish­ops, by their ac­tions or their fail­ures to act, have caused great harm to both in­di­vid­u­als and the Church as a whole,” the com­mit­tee said in Septem­ber. “They have used their author­ity and power to ma­nip­u­late and sex­u­ally abuse oth­ers.”

Part of the Arch­dio­cese of Chicago, Mun­delein Sem­i­nary in Lake County is the largest Catholic sem­i­nary in the na­tion, with more than 200 sem­i­nar­i­ans from 34 dio­ce­ses across the coun­try and globe.

Choos­ing that lo­ca­tion for the bish­ops’ gath­er­ing is also sym­bolic, in that a sem­i­nary forms the next gen­er­a­tion of priests and church lay work­ers, said the Rev. John Kartje, rec­tor of Mun­delein Sem­i­nary.

“To be men of prayer who act with integrity and trans­parency in their de­ci­sions, so as to be good shep­herds who would never harm their peo­ple,” he said. “As the church moves for­ward to seek heal­ing and es­tab­lish new poli­cies of ac­count­abil­ity, it will be nec­es­sary to forge bet­ter ties be­tween bish­ops, priests and the laity.”

JOSE MORE/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE

Pope Fran­cis has called on Catholic bish­ops na­tion­wide to gather at St. Mary’s of the Lake for a spir­i­tual re­treat in Jan­uary.

VIN­CENZO PINTO/GETTY-AFP

Pope Fran­cis at­tends the weekly gen­eral au­di­ence Oct. 24 at St. Peter’s Square in Vat­i­can City.

Cupich

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