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The Child Sex Abuse Scandal in the Catholic Church: The 3 Denials & what NYS Catholics can do by Art McGrath

by Call To Action on 07/31/18

The child sexual abuse topic in the Catholic Church is unpleasant and not something most Catholics want to have to think about.  After all only a small percentage of child sexual abuse has taken place within the Catholic Church, it is spread across our society and has permeated all manner of institution but largely exists in families. Unfortunately, it is not over yet for our society or the Catholic Church in New York State.  Just recently the former leader of the Newark, NJ and Washington, D.C. dioceses, Cardinal McCarrick has been credibly accused of sexual abusing a minor and seminarians throughout his career as a priest.  


The hierarchy of the Catholic Church spends their careers protecting the assets of the Church and protecting the Church from scandal.  Protection of the worldly patrimony and spiritual beliefs are important goals for the Bishops.  However the single-minded protection of Patrimony and avoidance of scandal has come at a high price to Jesus message of love, truth and justice.  Saint John Paul II’s Catechism is clear: Perpetrators of crime should be given justice; the truth must be told and when it is not reparative justice is required.  Despite these moral requirements for all Catholics including the Bishops, love, truth and justice was generally not provided to the survivors of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in New York State.  Even though the bishops like St. Peter denied Christ three times lay Catholics in NYS can help correct some of the harm done by the Bishops’ denial of Jesus in their handling of the child sexual abuse tragedy. 

The situation in New York State is among the worst in the USA with regard to the Statue of Limitation (SOL) reform.  As of today in NYS, if a young person walks in a police station on or after their 23rd birthday to report that they had been sexually abused as a child they will be told that they have no rights to the criminal or civil justice systems.  Their abusers go scot-free except in some cases of rape. 


The first denial of Jesus was when the victims and their parents where lied to or diverted from justice when they sought help for the victim of the child sexual abuse in their school or parish. They were often sent away with distracting and confusing responses leaving them believing that there must be something wrong with them for trying to get help. 


The second denial of Jesus was when the leadership of dioceses throughout the state of New York maintained the cover-up of the problems of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse protecting them from the criminal justice system.  Further, the cover up was exacerbated by the horrific secret moving of known child sexual abuse perpetrators from one parish to the next parish exposing unsuspecting parents and their children to this grave danger.  


Finally, the third denial of Jesus is currently happening with the ongoing expenditure of millions of dollars, lies to the public and intimidation of state legislators by the NY Catholic Conference of Bishops to prevent the passage in Albany of the Child Victim Act. The bishops are and have been actively blocking the NYS legislature from opening a “look back windows” of 1 year to permit access to the civil justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  They were denied justice over the last decades by outdated NYS statue of limitation laws.  The painful trail of decades of human devastation and of justice denied to the survivors calls for citizens and Catholics of conscience to use the legislative processes of state government to bring justice to the hidden sins and secrets of our society and in the case of Catholics, the Catholic Church.  Catholics need to be a voice in Albany in opposition to the powerful voice of the Catholic Bishops to block the “look back window.”  

At the recent Budget session in Albany Cardinal Dolan met with the NYS Senate President Flanagan to make a special plea to block the Child Victim Act “look back window” that Cardinal Dolan characterized as “toxic for us” and “very strangling.”  In Cardinal Dolan’s pleadings to Senator Flanagan he completes the third denial of Jesus in support of Church property over love, truth and justice for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  How ironic for Cardinal Dolan to refer to potential harm to the financial state of the Church with the human reference words “toxic” and “strangling” that are so apt for what was done by the Church to the human victims of childhood sexual abuse.


Minnesota passed a child victim act in 2013 with a look back window and the St Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese recently settled with over 400 survivors and a total settlement of $200 million.  The funds for the settlement came from insurance providers estimated $170 million and about $40 million covered by the Archdiocese and parishes. (source: NCR, June 15-28, 2018).  In dioceses across the USA where a look back window passed, threats of financial doom to church operations did not materialize.  Insurance covered most of the settlements and bishops announced to the public that Church operations would not be impacted.  In fact, bankruptcy laws treat not for profits in a much more friendly way insuring that they have the resources to continue their operation after the legal challenges. 


 The Rosenthal bill was approved by an overwhelming majority in the Assembly this year. In addition, Governor Cuomo put the Child Victim Act in his budget but it was deleted from the budget by Senator Flanagan. These were two major victories this year for the Child Victim Act, but the legislative session closed recently without passage of the bill in the NYS Senate.  The NYS Senate President, John Flanagan, a Catholic, has continually blocked hearings or a vote on the CVA bill.  Senator Flanagan refused to meet with survivors and advocates of the budget CVA bill, but was able to give more than an hour meeting to Cardinal Dolan the day before the vote on the budget that included the CVA. The truth is that the republican leadership of the NY Senate allows a very outsized role to the NYS Catholic Conference in the person of Cardinal Dolan. 


The next legislative session for NYS legislature in set for January 2019 and the challenge now is to get a few extra democratic seats to permit Democratic  control of the NYS Senate and then the likely passage of the CVA.  In the interim it is important to: 


  1.   Let Cardinal Dolan know that we oppose his blocking of the CVA window and that it is not the letter or spirit of Pope Francis leadership who directed that the bishops take all actions to repair the damage of the sexual abuse crisis.
  2.  It is also important to let Senator Flanagan and his Republican leadership team knows that we, lay Catholics speak for the Church and want the “look back window” and justice for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse.



Trade Unions & the Catholic Church by Gerry O'Shea

by Call To Action on 03/23/18

In the early 20th century, the Catholic church was strongly in favor of the development of trade unions, a major controversial public issue at that time. Pope Leo's encyclical Rerum Novarum, which was promulgated in 1891, vigorously promoted the right of workers to organize and negotiate their wages and terms of employment.

Employers used every trick in the book - fair and foul - to prevent workers from having an organized voice. Employees often looked to Rome for support, and every pope since Leo has affirmed that workers have a clear moral right to union representation.

 Mike Quill, the outstanding Kerry man who founded the Transport Workers' Union with help from the Communist Party in the 1930's, laced his speeches with references to papal statements of support for workers' rights.

Pope Francis has confronted the conservative argument that the best economic arrangement for workers is a laissez faire approach where big company profits will flow downwards and increase the salaries of ordinary workers. Francis knows better: Trickle-down economics "expresses a crude and naive trust in those wielding economic power."

For the last fifty years the American Catholic Church has become increasingly conservative, rarely heard about the travails of workers or the plight of trade unions, rallying its members instead against abortion, gay rights and, disgracefully, even opposing Obamacare, which mostly helped the poor and working families, because it mandated the availability of contraceptives in all health insurance policies.

Bishops and cardinals are rarely heard about the serious economic inequality that now permeates American society where the top 1% has accumulated more wealth than the bottom 80%, and current Republican economic policies are making the situation even more unfair. Where are the prophetic voices on pulpits, crying out against the moral depravity of public policies that rob the poor and ordinary workers to give the millionaires even fatter bank accounts?

The situation for workers was better in the 1970's because unions were strong enough to insist on decent wages and conditions for their members. Since then union membership has declined to a mere 6.8% of workers in private industry and to 34% among public employees.

The union movement is facing a major crisis in a case that is currently before the Supreme Court.  In what is known as the Janus case, the court must decide whether to nationalize Right-to-Work laws. If the court weighs in on the side of Janus then non-union employees would be exempted from contributing to the costs of negotiating and defending the labor contract worked out by the union.

 At present employees in 22 states who choose not to join a union are mandated to pay what is called an agency fee, contributing in that way to the cost of contractual negotiations.

If the court rules against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), then workers, like Mr. Janus, would become freeloaders, benefiting from union negotiations but not paying a penny for the service.

 Such a ruling seems likely because Republicans - against all precedent - refused to confirm Merrick Garland, President Obama's nominee to replace Anthony Scalia on the Supreme Court, instead packing the court with Neil Gorsuch, a nominee with strong right-wing conservative credentials.

A decision against AFSCME would cripple union organizing nationwide, and just imagine the disgruntlement of union members paying higher union dues to benefit freeloading co-workers. Keep in mind that nobody wants to force any worker into joining a union or to compel any employee to contribute to any political party; the sole issue is that workers who benefit from contractual negotiations should pay an agency fee for this service.

The Catholic bishops, true to their honorable pro-union heritage, have filed a strong  brief with the Supreme Court supporting the AFSCME position, arguing cogently that Janus' case is "a misguided effort to protect one individual from government coercion" without giving due weight to the powerful argument that the common good of all workers requires the rejection of any law that, in effect, protects freeloaders.

Bishop David Zubick of Pittsburg wrote a strong, heartfelt column in his diocesan newspaper seconding the amicus brief of the Bishops' Conference." I grew up in a union household. My father was able to support his family thanks to leadership of his union, Local 590.  .... The role of unions in supporting strong families is one of the reasons that the church has supported the labor movement from its earliest days."

The common good, what benefits the community as a whole as distinct from the private gain of individuals, is paramount in all the social teaching of the Catholic Church. One hopes that this core moral perspective will prevail in the Janus case before the Supreme Court.

Gerry O'Shea blogs at


Humanae Vitae - 50 Years Later by Gerry O'Shea

by Call To Action on 02/28/18

1968, 50 years ago, is sometimes described as annus horribilis  - a time of devastating events and awful tragedies. In March Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, and in June Bobby Kennedy suffered the same fate in Los Angeles. In August Soviet tanks shattered a brave and hopeful democratic dawn in Prague, and riots at the July Democratic Convention in Chicago reflected deep societal divisions about the jungle war in Vietnam.

In October in Northern Ireland  civil rights marchers faced the same police thuggery that Martin King and his supporters had to endure in Alabama and Tennessee. The mayhem of the civil rights marches morphed into the Irish "Troubles" that lasted for thirty years.

Then in the summer of 1968 Pope Paul  V1 published his much-anticipated encyclical Humanae Vitae which asserted that the use of contraceptives, even by married couples, was against the laws of nature and thus sinful.

Paul's predecessor, John XX111, had set up a consultative commission to advise him on this vital issue. The Second Vatican Council, in the spirit of the 60's, urged the church to move away from the autocratic model where the man at the top decided and  the people obeyed. This conservative approach was summarized  in church circles as Roma locuta est, causa finita est - Rome has spoken; the discussion is over.

The new mood of openness was supported by many church leaders and indeed the Council documents favored  collegial decision-making over the old hierarchical model. The 72-member advisory commission included 16 theologians, 13 doctors, 5 women and an executive of 9 bishops and 7 cardinals. After extensive deliberations it reported in 1966 to John's successor, Pope Paul. Apart from a minority of six traditionalists who claimed the Church could not change its long-held position of opposition to the use of contraceptives, the vast majority saw no moral  conflict between Catholic beliefs and the use of condoms or the contraceptive pill by married couples.

Unfortunately, Paul sided with the minority and his encyclical Humanae Vitae reflected the narrow scholastic thinking that prevailed among traditionalists. Rome had spoken but this time there was a heated and  bitter debate around what many Catholics  considered the pope's spurious arguments about contraception.

Paul was greatly influenced by the 1930 encyclical  Casti Connubii written by Pius X1. That papal letter espoused a strict ban on the use of contraceptives and branded any deviation from this ruling as a "grave sin." Paul felt - with good reason - that if he sided with the majority on the commission he would be inviting harsh condemnation from traditionalists who would demand an explanation of how sexual acts that Pius called intrinsically evil in 1930 could be morally permissible forty years later.

The pope used Natural Law reasoning which  argues that stymieing the conjugal act by preventing the possibility of pregnancy is unnatural and therefore immoral. Deriving moral imperatives from the purposes of physical acts is problematic for many modern ethicists.

There is another criterion for judging the morality of any human behavior. This involves  Catholics from all backgrounds deciding in good conscience what is right  and what is wrong from an ethical standpoint. This approach is called the Sensus Fidelium and involves ascertaining the sense of the faithful about any issue. In other words, the beliefs and practices of the people in the pews should be seriously considered before making moral pronouncements. Advocates for this democratic approach point out that  the Holy Spirit  is active with the whole community not just with the hierarchy.

Viewed through the prism of the Sensus Fidelium, Paul's  teaching about  the use of contraceptives was rejected by the vast majority of Catholics. Arguing, for instance, that the Natural Law forbids a married couple from using a condom to prevent pregnancy runs  counter to common sense.

 His central conclusion in the encyclical that  the use of contraceptives by married couples is somehow against  the Church's moral code  was rejected and disregarded by most people who agreed with the majority opinion on the papal commission.

Some conservatives still carry the torch for the teaching in Humanae Vitae. Breitbart News  joined the debate by opining that using contraceptives makes women "unattractive and crazy," and the American Catholic Bishops are seriously considering basing their upcoming pastoral letter about the importance of the family on the teaching in Pope Paul's encyclical.

Francis has not repudiated his predecessor's teaching in Humanae Vitae - to do so would almost certainly cause a schism in the church. However he recommended that three children  would be appropriate for most families and he condemned the idea of Catholic families "breeding like rabbits."

Should popes feel bound by previous papal pronouncements on moral matters? Paul couldn't follow the advice of the clear majority of Pope John's commission because of Pius's encyclical, and Francis is tied to the flawed  Natural Law reasoning used by both of his predecessors.


by Call To Action on 12/27/17

Let's consider an imaginary company in America, a publicly-traded corporation with 1000 employees who have just announced annual profits of 100 million dollars.

Their accountants say that they owe 10% in government taxes, so the question arises about where the remaining 90 millions go. There are three groups with legitimate claims on the company profits: management, shareholders and regular workers.

Forty years ago the average CEO's salary in America was twenty times more than one of the company's line workers; today the ratio has climbed to an astonishing two hundred and seventy. If we take the average worker's salary as $50,000, that gives the CEO annual compensation in multiple millions.

That is how the cake is divided. The corporate executives and the shareholders are represented at the table when the profits are divvied up and they take good care of their interests, but the workers have no voice in the decision-making. The result is that, despite big increases in corporate profits, ordinary workers' salaries have barely matched the inflation rate since the 1970's. Surely a classical example of a rigged system where the majority of those who contributed to the company's success have no say in the distribution of the profits.

In the same 50-year period union membership has declined dramatically. Now only 6.4% of private sector workers carry a union card; the figure was about five times that in the 1970's. The union contracts negotiated at that time ensured steady improvements in the lives of workers and their families. In addition there was a strong ripple effect on the wages and conditions of non-union workers as employers felt that they had to remain competitive in their salary structure.

The dramatic growth in income inequality in the United States is closely related to the decline in union membership.

Even today union workers earn up to 30% more than similar employees in companies that do not have an organized voice. And  trade union members nearly always have better healthcare, vacation and pension benefits.

Public sector workers, especially in the tri-state area, are highly unionized and their wages, pensions and working conditions reflect a powerful voice at the negotiating table. As a retired teacher, I am grateful that I am represented by a strong union, the United Federation of Teachers.

It is hard to see how the lot of most private-sector blue-collar workers will improve without a strong voice at the corporate table. This will entail an unlikely spurt of growth in trade union membership or legislation in Washington that would mandate this change.

Unfortunately, Republicans would strongly oppose any legislative proposal in the direction of worker representation on company boards. Their recent taxation policies clearly favor corporations and the rich. They promise that higher company profits will somehow dribble down and result in salary increases for workers - a very dubious proposition that doesn't meet the common sense test.

Democrats usually get the support and financial backing of the big unions and their economic and taxation policies are much more likely to favor the middle class. President Obama did raise taxes on the affluent to help fund the Affordable Care Act, and Hillary Clinton promised that, if elected, she would propose a bill that would encourage some profit-sharing by companies - surely a step in the right direction. Still, overall, Democrats lack conviction in this regard and show no plans to address these issues.

Of all the Christian denominations, the Catholic Church has been most associated with supporting workers' rights. From Pope Leo the X111's revolutionary encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891 to John XX111's Mater et Magistra 70 years later to many statements by the present pope, Rome has been clearly in the workers' corner, favoring their demands, including the right to organize and to negotiate a living wage. Mater et Magistra goes further, asserting that workers should be co-owners and thus sharing in the profits of the enterprise where they work.

Unfortunately, very little is heard from the pulpits on the glaring injustices suffered by ordinary workers. Why are there no outraged church voices raised against the immorality of stagnant employee wages and reduced worker healthcare benefits when companies are making record profits and CEO's are raking in millions? Instead we have top leaders with names like Ryan and Brady disgracefully leading the charge for improving the lot of the already well-heeled.

The millions of workers who in frustration voted for Trump last year must surely realize by now that this administration in Washington does not respond to their needs. They should rally around an assertive trade union leader - like a Cesar Chavez or a Mike Quill - to realize the power of  worker solidarity. A tall order for sure, but otherwise the remuneration of top management compared to the pay of ordinary workers will widen even further.

Is The Pope Catholic? by Gerry O'Shea

by Call To Action on 12/06/17

Asking Is the pope Catholic is widely understood as a rhetorical question indicating that the only answer has to be "yes." How could anyone cast doubt on the pope's religious affiliation?

Amazingly, a small but powerful minority of Catholic theologians and church leaders are doing just that, and they raise real doubts about his commitment to what they consider core Catholic beliefs.

 A minority of these dissidents believe that the church has already veered into schism while others assert that Francis' statements on some important moral issues have caused serious confusion and bewilderment among the faithful.

How does one explain this extraordinary situation?

 In 2014 and 2015 the Synod of Bishops met at Francis' invitation to consider how best the church could minister to the modern family in all its permutations, including divorced people in new relationships and members in same sex partnerships.

Two approaches were evident in this all-male assembly. One group argued that only an exclusive marriage union of man and woman is morally permissible. Divorce is completely out except where the divorced partner has received a church annulment. They argue that it has always been church teaching that someone in a second marital relationship - while the first spouse is still alive -  is committing adultery which rules that person out from receiving communion.

The second group, following more liberal thinking, doesn't dispute the church history of teaching against allowing the remarriage of divorced church members, but they stress that a pastoral approach to people in new marital relationships should not exclude them from participating in the most revered Catholic sacrament, the Eucharist.

These theologians point to the example of Christ who scorned many of the pharisaic laws of his time in favor of a perspective characterized by mercy and forgiveness. Pope Francis supports this approach.

Cardinal Muller who was Francis' doctrinal leader in the Vatican made no bones about his opposition to his boss: "No power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel or the pope, has the power to change church doctrine." This confrontational statement implied that the pope was acting beyond his authority when he opened the door to divorced church members receiving communion in his statement, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) published following the bishops' synod deliberations.

Four other cardinals, including the American Cardinal Burke, wrote a formal letter, called a "dubia" or doubt document, in the fall of 2016 disputing parts of Amoris Laetitia. They argued that it is an article of faith that church doctrine can never change, and they were clear that the ban on adulterers - their language - receiving communion could never be lifted.

Many conservative theologians supported the cardinals' dubia and urged Francis to meet with the dissidents to assure them that he fully supported traditional doctrine. Talk about papal heresy was only mentioned by a few clerics and theologians on the far right but there is no denying that many church conservatives are openly dissatisfied with Pope Francis.

There are other issues that seriously divide the Catholic Church. Francis' predecessor, Benedict, spoke of homosexual relationships as profoundly disordered and against the laws of nature. Francis would never use such negative and demeaning language. His attitude to gays is best summed up as "live and let live and don't play God."

He has met with transgender people and many gay partners in his office in the Vatican, at all times proclaiming that, especially in matters of sexual ethics, only God judges and even as pope he is not asking for a share in this responsibility! He appointed Blase Cupich as Archbishop of Chicago even though Cupich openly supports welcoming homosexual couples to the altar rails for communion.

Francis travelled to Sweden to celebrate with Lutheran leaders the contributions of Martin Luther to religious progress. He pronounced that Luther was "a witness to the gospel" and the Vatican issued a stamp honoring him. Traditionalists were aghast at this behavior. They have consigned Luther to the hottest corner of hell and recall the history of hatred and wars that they say his heretical revolt against Rome started 500 years ago.

They accuse Francis of relativism, an excessive openness to changing with the times. In the world of Thomas Aquinas and the scholastics what was morally wrong a thousand years ago continues to be wrong for all time and in all cultures. This is basic teaching for nearly all traditionalists. There is no place in this thinking for what is derided as situation ethics which allows for variations in what is right and wrong, depending on place, time and circumstances.

These divisions are very evident in the American church. The United States conference of bishops at their recent meeting in Baltimore agreed that following on Amoris Laetitia they will publish a document next year on meeting the complex needs of families in the United States. It seems that many of those attending want to use Humanae Vitae, the discredited 50-year old encyclical of Paul V1 which condemned the use of condoms and contraceptive pills by Catholics, as somehow a template for their 2019 letter.

This does not augur well for a pastoral letter on the changing demands of family life. It is also depressing for progressive Catholics that the bishops elected a conservative Kansas archbishop to oversee the Pro-Life Activities Committee over Cardinal Blase Cupich who mirrors Francis' pastoral approach.

Pope Francis is the most respected public figure in the world. His people in what he calls the field hospital of life are behind his agenda to move the church forward from a mostly static and immovable institution to a dynamic positive force for all people in the 21st century. He surely deserves our prayers and goodwill.


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“Amoris Laetitia”

“Amoris Laetitia” is the result of Pope Francis’ prayerful reflection on the discussions and outcomes of two Synods of Bishops (an Extraordinary Synod in 2014 and an Ordinary Synod in 2015), on the subject of marriage and the family. The Synod of Bishops is an assembly of bishops who assist the Pope by providing counsel on questions facing the Church.

Pope Francis issued “Amoris Laetitia” in 2016 as an apostolic exhortation, a papal teaching on marriage and the family. Amoris Laetitia is Latin for “The Joy of Love”. Apostolic exhortations are used to share the conclusions reached by the Pope after prayerful consideration of the recommendations of a Synod of Bishops. Such documents are a means for the pope to exhort/encourage the faithful to a deeper life of Christian discipleship. The pope has asked the clergy to accompany the faithful in addressing challenges families face today.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have asked that all who care about the future of the family should read this apostolic exhortation and study it in its entirety. In their 2017-2020 Strategic Plan (Encountering the Mercy of Christ and Accompanying His People with Joy), one of the five USCCB priorities is family and marriage -- ways to encourage and heal families.

What is the good news of Amoris Laetitia? No one is condemned forever. The pope has asked us not to put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its meaning and significance.
How should we respond, joining together with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB),
in developing a plan to implement the good news of “Amoris Laetitia”?

We, the Catholics who are the church, are called to action in strengthening and sustaining all families: 
We are called to dialogue with our leaders, who in turn are called to accompany us on this faith journey.
We are called to make moral decisions and life choices, formed by our conscience. The church is called to help form our consciences, not to replace them.
We are called to act, to engage and to support families in all the ways they are living.
We are called to pray, to engage the whole church in the power of intercessory prayer for wisdom and mercy in raising awareness of the message of “Amoris Laetitia”.

Join with the members of Call to Action, Metro NY Chapter, in the dialogue that Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the USCCB called for in his address on November 13, 2017, when he said, “It is the work of the church, the entire body of Christ, to work towards an ever-growing understanding of God’s truth.” Cardinal DiNardo asked us to speak with civility in debating issues of social challenge and social teaching.

Call to Action, Metro NY Chapter, is setting up a virtual study group to read and discuss “Amoris Laetitia”. We will explore our responsibility for the formation of our conscience and discernment. We will study each of the chapters of “Amoris Laetitia” and in doing so, will shape the prayers of the faithful in 2018. Beginning February 14th, we will start the conversation.  

Join us in this prayerful conversation of how we, together with the American bishops, will implement “Amoris Laetitia”. Thus empowered, we will open the hearts and minds of our church to invite those on the margins, to join us in celebrating God’s love for each of us.

Buy a copy of “Amoris Laetitia” which can be purchased locally at Catholic book stores such as Pauline Books & Media (112 E 29 St in Manhattan), the St Francis Book Shop (135 W 31 St in Manhattan), or on Amazon. Start reading Chapter One. Sign up now by sending an email to to receive Study Guide Questions and learn how you can join the conversation.

Follow us on Facebook (CTA Metro NY) and twitter ( @CTA_Metro_NY ) for continuing the conversation.