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2011 Year in Review

Posted By December 29, 2011 | 12:08 pm | Lead Story #1
New missal translation becomes new evangelization tool By Nancy Frazier O’Brien Catholic News Service Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl doesn’t have a problem with the fact that there will be some missteps and some wrong words spoken during the first weeks of using the new English translation of the Roman Missal at Mass. “We are going to have to live with the fact that not every celebration is going to be perfect,” the archbishop of Washington said during a Dec. 6 teleconference. “But that can be inviting to some people who are afraid they are going to do the wrong thing. They might say, ‘That’s the same struggle I’m having.’”

New missal translation becomes new evangelization tool

By Nancy Frazier O’Brien
Catholic News Service

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl doesn’t have a problem with the fact that there will be some missteps and some wrong words spoken during the first weeks of using the new English translation of the Roman Missal at Mass.
“We are going to have to live with the fact that not every celebration is going to be perfect,” the archbishop of Washington said during a Dec. 6 teleconference. “But that can be inviting to some people who are afraid they are going to do the wrong thing. They might say, ‘That’s the same struggle I’m having.’”
Cardinal Wuerl, who co-wrote “The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition” with Mike Aquilina, joined in a panel discussion about the impact of the new translation, which went into use in the United States on the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27.
As 2011 drew to a close, American Catholics were greeting the new missal translation with a mostly positive response and finding some unexpected spiritual benefits in the need to pay closer attention to the words spoken at Mass – at least for a while.
Father Dan Barron, an Oblate of the Virgin Mary who is director of spiritual formation at John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego and editor of Magnifikid!, a weekly worship aid for children, said he has been “amazed to see that 18-, 19-year-old students are talking about the liturgy.”
“What brilliant youth minister could have been able to get young people talking about the missal?” he asked. “I give thanks to God for this great moment that I can be a part of.”
Father Barron said children, who are “the least resistant to change,” will pick up the new wording quickly.
But introduction of the new translation throughout the English-speaking world can serve as an “occasion to teach them the traditions that are so much larger than them and their parish” and that they are “united with parishes around the world, from the rising of the sun to its setting.”
Edward Sri, provost and professor of theology and Scripture at the Augustine Institute in Denver and author of “A Biblical Walk Through the Mass,” compared the process of implementing the new missal to the preparations some of his students make for the annual trip to Rome that he leads.
They might have read about and seen pictures of the Vatican before taking the trip, he said, “but there is nothing like walking into St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time” and experiencing it in person.
“That’s the experience that many lay Catholics will be having in the next weeks and months” related to the new missal translation, Sri said. “They have heard about it, but now they are saying it, hearing it. It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring people deeper into the mystery of the Mass.”
Liturgical musician Matt Maher said the introduction of the new translation marks a moment when “the innovation of the culture meets the slow, deliberate movement of the church.” Although the media and the blogosphere might want to report immediate results, Maher said he was more excited about “the re-evangelization of the faithful” that might occur generations down the road.
“We live in a very, very tumultuous time of change” in today’s society, he added. “But the church always has the wisdom to reaffirm what is true and beautiful and important.”
As a musician who works with Christians of other denominations, Maher said he also found an “unintended consequence” of the new missal translation has been “a rise in interest in re-embracing liturgical spirituality.”
“As we are re-educating and re-evangelizing, there is a tremendous opportunity to be building bridges,” he said.
During a question-and-answer period, Cardinal Wuerl acknowledged that in the first days of using the new translation, he would sometimes find himself “drifting back” to the words of the former translation “if I didn’t keep concentrating.”
“Isn’t that the way for all of us?” he asked. “I have to be aware that I can’t take my eyes off the page. It made me much more conscious of the words and much more aware that I say those words in a way that was inviting the congregation into the mystery” of the Mass.
Father Barron said he found himself celebrating the Mass “in a way that I have not done since I was a deacon.”
Although he said the first weeks of the new translation might be “messy,” he said Catholics should be experiencing that fact that “God has come to be with us in our mess. That’s part of the life of the Mass.”


Natural disasters in 2011 prompt outpouring of charity amid devastation

By Carol Zimmerman
Catholic News Service

Natural disasters around the world and all across the United States this year prompted prayers, charitable giving and outreach amid unthinkable destruction.
The devastation across the globe included an earthquake and tsunami in Japan, flooding in Australia and a drought in Africa.
The United States also was particularly hard hit with a string of natural disasters: unprecedented summer heat and drought in the Southwest, deadly tornadoes, a massive blizzard in the Northeast, major river floods in the Midwest, an earthquake on the East Coast followed by a hurricane that caused massive flooding.
There also were a record number of wildfires in the Southwest and strong windstorms in Southern California to end the year.
In January, a flood in Queensland, Australia, killed 13 people and devastated much of Australia’s coal, beef and agricultural industries. The Queensland chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul set up a flood relief committee in response to the plight of more than 200,000 people affected in at least two dozen towns.
In early March, a tsunami and magnitude 9 earthquake struck Japan, devastating parts of its coast and leaving nearly 20,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. It also triggered a meltdown at a nuclear power plant, releasing radiation and forcing tens of thousands of Japanese to evacuate their homes.
Maryknoll Father Jim Mylet, who lives in Japan, noted that in the midst of the devastation, Catholics and others there were buoyed by the support they had received. “The prayers and support from around the world,” he said, “are a great source of strength and reinforce the image of us all sharing a common humanity under God our Father.”
Initially, church relief activities coordinated by Caritas Japan largely focused on cleanup and delivery of aid to survivors in the disaster zone. Months later, volunteers were still helping those who took temporary shelter in local schools, gymnasiums and town halls.
Meanwhile in Africa, the ongoing drought and famine afflicting Somalia and other East African nations this year was “a humanitarian crisis that cries out for help to Christians throughout the world,” said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, and the chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz.
CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency, estimated in October that more than 12 million people were in urgent need of aid in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. The drought caused failed crops, deaths of livestock and critical shortages of food and water.
CRS expanded its food distribution program in the region, working with local partners to provide livelihood support, water and sanitation.
Through its appeal campaign, Caritas Internationalis had raised about $41.7 million by early October and expected to raise another $40 million to provide emergency food aid, clean water, sanitation, drought-resistant seeds, and develop water conservation systems.
In the United States this spring, over the course of several weeks, tornadoes caused death and destruction in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Tornadoes leveled parts of Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The tornado that ripped through Joplin May 22 claimed at least 125 lives and flattened every building in its path including St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Parishioners retrieved the Blessed Sacrament from the church’s shattered tabernacle. Only the large steel cross at what had been the church’s entrance remained, towering over the wreckage.
Father Justin Monaghan, St. Mary’s pastor, said he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support after the tornado. “My faith has been strengthened by the amazing response of people in our parish and in the community. And to see the cross still standing reminds us what our mission is all about.”
“Quite tragically, the severity of this spring tornado and storm season has taken lives and created destruction in unheard of proportions,” said Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, April 28. Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Charities agencies provided immediate relief to disaster survivors.
An unusual June tornado struck Massachusetts communities in two dioceses.
An unusual Aug. 23 magnitude 5.8 earthquake on the East Coast shook the region. Historic churches in Washington, Maryland and Virginia were among buildings with the most serious damage of the quake which was felt as far away as Detroit, north of Toronto and into Florida.
The archdioceses of Washington and Baltimore each reported damage to several churches. But in the Diocese of Richmond, Va., where the quake was centered near the town of Mineral, the town’s St. Jude Church had the only reported damage in the diocese, and it was relatively minor.
Just days later, Hurricane Irene swept up the Atlantic Coast causing dramatic floods, wind damage and other disruptions.
More than 40 people in various states were reported to have been killed by floodwaters, falling trees, car accidents and powerful waves. Parts of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont experienced extreme flooding.
Immediately after the storm, Catholic Charities USA said its agencies up and down the East Coast were assessing damage and assisting people with food, shelter and other needs. An Aug. 30 statement said the year’s natural disasters were straining financial resources at agencies around the country.
In the Southwest, wildfires burned for 296 straight days, particularly in drought-stricken Texas. After a surge of blazes in early September, more than 1,000 homes in the state were destroyed and four deaths were attributed to the fires.
Ascension Parish in Bastrop, Texas, served as a shelter and nerve center for relief efforts related to the wildfires.
“We’re not turning anybody away,” said Steve Venzon, one of four parishioners who oversaw relief efforts.
This year, most of Texas, and significant portions of New Mexico and Oklahoma, were in a “D4” drought zone as assessed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. D4 is equal to “exceptional” drought – the most intense level on USDA’s scale.

Focus shifts to Irish abuse scandal; US problems persist
By Nancy Frazier O’Brien
Catholic News Service

In 2011, the epicenter of the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal moved from the United States to Europe, prompting a church-state crisis in Ireland and a heightened response from the Vatican.
But problems persisted in the U.S., where Bishop Robert W. Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., avoided a possible criminal misdemeanor indictment for failing to report a priest suspected of child abuse and, following a devastating grand jury report in Philadelphia, a former archdiocesan secretary of the clergy was facing criminal charges of failing to protect children from alleged abusers.
Nationwide reports released during 2011, as mandated by the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” showed that reported cases of child sexual abuse in U.S. dioceses and religious institutes declined between 2008 and 2009, as did the costs to dioceses and religious orders for lawsuits and other allegation-related expenses.
The long-awaited report on “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010,” conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York and commissioned by the independent National Review Board, was released in May. It said there is “no single identifiable ‘cause’ of sexually abusive behavior toward minors” and encouraged steps to deny abusers “the opportunity to abuse.”
But much of the abuse-related attention during the year was focused on Ireland, where fallout continued from two government reports issued in 2009 – the first detailing decades of neglect and abuse of children in church-run residential institutions, the second faulting the Archdiocese of Dublin for the way it handled 325 sex abuse claims in the years 1975-2004.
A new report on similar problems in the Diocese of Cloyne and charges by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny that the Vatican attempted to “frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago” led the Vatican to withdraw its diplomatic representative to the country, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza. Ireland then decided to close its embassy to the Vatican, citing economic factors, but continued diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
An apostolic visitation ordered by Pope Benedict XVI to assess the Irish sex abuse problem was completed in 2011 and its results were expected to be released early in 2012.
Also scheduled for early next year is a major conference at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, co-sponsored by several Vatican departments, that will be the first “systematic common reflection at the international level” on the clergy sex abuse crisis, according to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
At mid-year in 2011, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith directed every bishops’ conference in the world to draw up guidelines for handling accusations of clerical sex abuse within a year.
U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, congregation prefect, said that in every nation and region, bishops should have “clear and coordinated procedures” for protecting children, assisting victims of abuse, dealing with accused priests, training clergy and cooperating with civil authorities.
In a talk to U.S. bishops near the end of the year, Pope Benedict defended the church’s “honest efforts” to confront the priestly sex abuse scandal with transparency, and said its actions could help the rest of society respond to the problem.
While the church is rightly held to high standards, all other institutions should be held to the same standards as they address the causes, extent and consequences of sexual abuse, which has become a “scourge” at every level of society, he said.
The child sex abuse scandal that brought down the president and longtime football coach at Penn State University highlighted the harsh reality that the problem is pervasive in U.S. society, according to experts in the field and church officials.
Charol Shakeshaft, who chairs the Department of Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the first thing the Penn State staff should have learned from the Catholic Church’s experience was to “report immediately.”
In Kansas City and Philadelphia, alleged failures to report suspected child abuse in a timely manner led to charges against Bishop Finn and Msgr. William J. Lynn.
Bishop Finn’s criminal case was resolved Nov. 15 in Clay County when he agreed to meet monthly for the next five years with a county prosecutor and report all instances of suspected child abuse in the diocese. He pled guilty in mid-October to misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse brought by the Jackson County prosecutor in the case of Father Shawn Ratigan.
Father Ratigan faced state and federal charges of possessing and producing child pornography.
Msgr. Lynn is accused of having failed to protect children from two priests who were under his direction when he served as secretary of the clergy in Philadelphia.
He is standing trial with two priests, a former priest and a former Catholic school teacher who are charged with raping and sexually assaulting boys in the 1990s. The trial is not expected to start until the spring.
After a Philadelphia grand jury report said 37 priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia remained in active ministry despite credible allegations of sexual abuse against them, Cardinal Justin Rigali ordered a re-examination of the cases and eventually placed more than two dozen of them on administrative leave as the investigation continued.
Cardinal Rigali retired later in 2011. At 76, he was a year past the age at which bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignations to the Vatican. He was succeeded by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput as archbishop of Philadelphia.

Immigration action in states, courts

By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

With a politically divided Congress putting immigration on the don’t-even-bother list of stagnate legislation, action on the subject in 2011 fell to state legislatures and federal courts – where challenges focused on whether states have the right to act on immigration.
Between court cases and election-year rhetoric, however, 2012 promises to give the issue a much higher profile.
The Supreme Court agreed Dec. 12 to consider the constitutionality of Arizona’s S.B. 1070 – a package of restrictions on immigrants and requirements for law enforcement officers to determine people’s immigration status – which was to have taken effect in summer of 2010.
Injunctions have blocked some of the most-criticized parts of the law, including mandatory requirements for police to check on immigration status and criminalizing various forms of assistance to undocumented immigrants.
That includes the response to a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice challenging the state’s right to step into immigration law, normally the purview of the federal government. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April upheld the federal District Court’s prohibition on parts of the law from taking effect. That set up the state’s appeal to the Supreme Court.
That case will likely be heard by the court in April, with a ruling expected by the time the court adjourns for the summer.
The major Republican candidates for president have largely staked out positions in favor of strong enforcement and calling any possibility of a path to legalization for the undocumented immigrants already in the country “amnesty.”
Although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney previously has supported broader immigration proposals, he recently has taken a firm line against possible legalization and opposes in-state tuition for young adults brought here illegally as children – a component of the perennial legislation known as the DREAM Act.
His fellow Republican, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said in one candidates’ debate: “I don’t see how the party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter-century. And I’m prepared to take the heat for saying, let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality.”
Meanwhile, the legal battle faced in Arizona hasn’t stopped other states from passing their own laws, but their most dramatic provisions also have been blocked by courts. Nevertheless, their effects have been felt broadly.
In Alabama, for example, farmers complained that they lost millions of dollars worth of produce that rotted in the fields after many farmworkers moved out of state – including some who are in the United States legally but feared being profiled.
The arrests of a German Mercedes-Benz executive and a Japanese Honda employee, both in the U.S. legally – and whose companies have auto plants in Alabama – underscored the problems with a law that mandates arrests in a wide range of situations. Charges against both men were dropped but not before the arrests were publicized worldwide.
Repercussions included high rates of absenteeism in Alabama schools, even among U.S. citizen children, as parents sought to keep a lower profile, or pulled out their kids and moved to another state. A provision that said municipal utility companies could require proof of legal residency led to some people being unable to get water or electricity service.
Alabama’s Gov. Robert Bentley said Dec. 9 the law “needs revision,” echoing state Attorney General Luther Strange, who said earlier that parts of it should be scrapped.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reported in early December that more than 1,600 immigrant-related bills and resolutions were considered in all 50 states and Puerto Rico in 2011. As of Dec. 7, 42 states and Puerto Rico had passed 197 laws and 109 resolutions.
In addition to Alabama, Utah, Georgia, Indiana and South Carolina adopted wide-reaching laws, all of which have been challenged in court. The Justice Department is among those suing to stop the laws in Alabama, South Carolina and Utah.
Several were modeled on Arizona’s law, others attempted to ease pressures on undocumented immigrants. For example, Utah’s law included provisions for local enforcement of immigration laws, but also would seek a federal waiver to create a state work-permit program for which people already in the state could apply.
For its part, the Obama administration continued to voice support for comprehensive reform but began to enact some changes in how government agencies deal with undocumented immigrants.
This summer, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told field officers to prioritize apprehension and deportation of immigrants with criminal records or repeat offenses. Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano followed up in August with orders for prosecutorial discretion in weeding out low priority cases and giving those people a chance to remain in the country.
That policy has been slow to be implemented, according to critics, including Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who regularly chides the administration over how it handles immigration cases that fall within administrative discretion.
In an October press release, for example, Gutierrez noted that the U.S. was deporting the maximum number of people the system can handle – 400,000.
“The percentage of criminals among the deportees has risen during the Obama administration,” the release said. “But let’s be clear, we are still deporting a large number of parents, workers, and others who pose no threat to this country and who contribute to our economic well-being as a nation.”
Grass-roots efforts for comprehensive immigration reform continued around the country.
In December, Mercy sisters in eastern Iowa bought space on a billboard proclaiming the passage from Matthew: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” The word “stranger” is crossed out and the word “immigrant” is inserted.
A Dec. 12 message to undocumented immigrants from the U.S. Hispanic and Latino Catholic bishops offered words of encouragement. “You are not alone,” they said, adding that they “open our hearts and arms to you” as children of God.
Two states, Utah and Iowa, circulated “compacts” outlining principles for immigration policies. Utah’s compact, drafted late in 2010 by religious, law enforcement, business and political leaders, said immigration is a federal policy issue, and called for policies that support families, focus on criminal prosecutions, not civil violations, and take “a humane approach” to problems.
Iowa’s compact, in its early stages of circulation, also calls for federal solutions, “smart enforcement,” keeping families together, and meeting economic needs of a state with a rich culture.
12/15/2011 4:07 PM ET
Copyright (c) 2011 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops