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Colorado’s Catholic bishops will open abuse records for review

Denver, Colo., Feb 19, 2019 / 08:51 pm (CNA).- An agreement between Colorado’s attorney general and the state’s Catholic bishops aims to investigate clergy sex abuse of minors in the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses the dioceses’ past handling of sex abuse, and current procedures and responses to abuse allegations.
 
“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said at a Feb. 19 press conference held with the Colorado attorney general.
 
This process will involve “painful moments” and “cannot ever fully restore what was lost,” the archbishop said.
 
“We pray that it will at least begin the healing process,” he said. Transparency for the Church’s history on child abuse is needed, said the archbishop, who hoped that the programs offer a “path to healing for survivors and their families.”
 
Also speaking at the press conference were Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, who took office in January; Colorado’s immediate past attorney general Cynthia Coffman; and Father Randy Dollins, vicar general of the Denver Archdiocese. In addition to the Archdiocese of Denver, the Colorado Springs diocese and the Pueblo diocese are parties to the agreement.
 
“It’s well known that child sexual abuse is a societal-wide program,” Weiser said. “It demands our attention and action. I am so pleased the Church today has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for survivors.”
 
The process involves an independent review of church records, a compensation process for victims, and a victims’ support service to aid their participation in the compensation program.
 
Robert Troyer, former U.S. Attorney for Colorado, will conduct the independent review. The agreement with the dioceses gives him “full access” to their files on sexual abuse of minors by diocesan clergy, according to a Feb. 19 joint statement from Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and the Catholic bishops of Colorado.
 
The review will examine the records and policies of Colorado’s three Roman Catholic dioceses about the sexual abuse of minors. A public report will be drafted and released to the public. The review aims to ensure that there are “no known or suspected abusers in active ministry.”
 
The review aims to provide transparency regarding abuse in the Church and the dioceses’ historic responses. The report will analyze dioceses’ current policies and procedures for abuse prevention and their response to abuse allegations.
 
The independent review aims to provide “recognition of past wrongdoing” and an opportunity for healing. The report process is not a criminal investigation, but an “independent inquiry with the full cooperation of the Catholic Church.”
 
The joint statement from the attorney general and the bishops said that they are not aware of any previously unreported criminal conduct. Should the review find any abusers, they will be reported to law enforcement immediately.
 
The report is expected to be released by fall 2019. It will not identify victims by name to protect their privacy. It will name diocesan priests with “substantiated allegations” of sexually abusing minors. It will detail these substantiated allegations, including the assignments of abusive priests and the years of the alleged abuse.
 
Misconduct with minors, described as “inappropriate but not illegal behavior,” will also be included in the report, but those accused of misconduct will not be named.
 
The term “diocesan priest” does not include religious order priests, who, according to the agreement, are “assigned, transferred, and subject to the control of their own religious orders and religious superiors,” and not subject to the governance of the Colorado dioceses.
 
While sexual misconduct with adults is not a focus of the report, if adult victims of abuse come forward, the attorney general’s office will support them, Weiser said.
 
Half the costs of Troyer’s independent review will be met by the three dioceses, and the rest by anonymous donors.
 
The Catholic dioceses will also fund “an independent, voluntary program that will compensate victims of abuse, regardless of when the abuse occurred,” the joint statement said.
 
The program will be developed by nationally recognized claims administrations experts, Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros.
 
They were involved in compensations in the wake of the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting in 2012 and are also been involved in Catholic sex abuse victims’ compensation programs in New York, New Jersey and other states.
 
Colorado’s bishops and the attorney general agreed that the program must accept claims through the public release of the independent review, as well as for “a reasonable period of time” after.
 
Former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown will chair an independent commission overseeing the reparations program.
 
The reparations program will be augmented by a victims’ support service that will be created to aid victims or survivors. The service will be staffed by professionals who can discuss the reparations, program, hear stories from abuse victims, answer possible claimants’ questions, and help support the submission of documentation to the program.
 
Coffman, Weiser’s predecessor as Colorado attorney general, initiated action investigating Catholic clergy sex abuse in Colorado in late 2018.
 
“There is a recognition that childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution,” Coffman said. “The spotlight is on the Catholic Church but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on the activity.”
 
After a July Pennsylvania attorney general report compiled allegations against over 300 Catholic clergy, with over 1,000 reported victims, Coffman’s office began receiving calls from Colorado citizens who had suffered sexual abuse in the past. Some were abused in other states by priests who were no longer alive.
 
“There is a recognition that childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution,” Coffman said at the press conference. “The spotlight is on the Catholic Church but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on the activity.”
 
Representatives of the group Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests asked the Colorado attorney general to conduct a grand jury investigation into sex abuse of children in the Catholic Church in Colorado. The request was part of the group’s national effort to engage every state attorney general.
 
While some states’ attorneys general have the authority to launch such investigations, Colorado’s does not.
 
Coffman’s office began examining alternatives for uncovering previously undisclosed abuse involving Catholic priests. That effort drew a response from the Catholic bishops, who reached out to understand the effort. Her office discussed options on investigations.
 
Meeting with Aquila, Dollins, Bishop Stephen Jay Berg of Pueblo, and representatives of the Colorado Catholic Conference, Coffman said, “demonstrated their commitment to acknowledging past abuse by priests and moving forward with honesty and accountability.”
 
She voiced gratitude for their “cooperation and collaboration.”
 
Aquila referred questions about the Denver archdiocese’s current policy on abuse of minors to a website the archdiocese created to provide information.

 

Colorado’s Catholic bishops will open abuse records for review

Denver, Colo., Feb 19, 2019 / 08:51 pm (CNA).- An agreement between Colorado’s attorney general and the state’s Catholic bishops aims to investigate clergy sex abuse of minors in the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses the dioceses’ past handling of sex abuse, and current procedures and responses to abuse allegations.
 
“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound,” Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said at a Feb. 19 press conference held with the Colorado attorney general.
 
This process will involve “painful moments” and “cannot ever fully restore what was lost,” the archbishop said.
 
“We pray that it will at least begin the healing process,” he said. Transparency for the Church’s history on child abuse is needed, said the archbishop, who hoped that the programs offer a “path to healing for survivors and their families.”
 
Also speaking at the press conference were Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, who took office in January; Colorado’s immediate past attorney general Cynthia Coffman; and Father Randy Dollins, vicar general of the Denver Archdiocese. In addition to the Archdiocese of Denver, the Colorado Springs diocese and the Pueblo diocese are parties to the agreement.
 
“It’s well known that child sexual abuse is a societal-wide program,” Weiser said. “It demands our attention and action. I am so pleased the Church today has recognized the need for transparency and reparations for survivors.”
 
The process involves an independent review of church records, a compensation process for victims, and a victims’ support service to aid their participation in the compensation program.
 
Robert Troyer, former U.S. Attorney for Colorado, will conduct the independent review. The agreement with the dioceses gives him “full access” to their files on sexual abuse of minors by diocesan clergy, according to a Feb. 19 joint statement from Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and the Catholic bishops of Colorado.
 
The review will examine the records and policies of Colorado’s three Roman Catholic dioceses about the sexual abuse of minors. A public report will be drafted and released to the public. The review aims to ensure that there are “no known or suspected abusers in active ministry.”
 
The review aims to provide transparency regarding abuse in the Church and the dioceses’ historic responses. The report will analyze dioceses’ current policies and procedures for abuse prevention and their response to abuse allegations.
 
The independent review aims to provide “recognition of past wrongdoing” and an opportunity for healing. The report process is not a criminal investigation, but an “independent inquiry with the full cooperation of the Catholic Church.”
 
The joint statement from the attorney general and the bishops said that they are not aware of any previously unreported criminal conduct. Should the review find any abusers, they will be reported to law enforcement immediately.
 
The report is expected to be released by fall 2019. It will not identify victims by name to protect their privacy. It will name diocesan priests with “substantiated allegations” of sexually abusing minors. It will detail these substantiated allegations, including the assignments of abusive priests and the years of the alleged abuse.
 
Misconduct with minors, described as “inappropriate but not illegal behavior,” will also be included in the report, but those accused of misconduct will not be named.
 
The term “diocesan priest” does not include religious order priests, who, according to the agreement, are “assigned, transferred, and subject to the control of their own religious orders and religious superiors,” and not subject to the governance of the Colorado dioceses.
 
While sexual misconduct with adults is not a focus of the report, if adult victims of abuse come forward, the attorney general’s office will support them, Weiser said.
 
Half the costs of Troyer’s independent review will be met by the three dioceses, and the rest by anonymous donors.
 
The Catholic dioceses will also fund “an independent, voluntary program that will compensate victims of abuse, regardless of when the abuse occurred,” the joint statement said.
 
The program will be developed by nationally recognized claims administrations experts, Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros.
 
They were involved in compensations in the wake of the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting in 2012 and are also been involved in Catholic sex abuse victims’ compensation programs in New York, New Jersey and other states.
 
Colorado’s bishops and the attorney general agreed that the program must accept claims through the public release of the independent review, as well as for “a reasonable period of time” after.
 
Former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown will chair an independent commission overseeing the reparations program.
 
The reparations program will be augmented by a victims’ support service that will be created to aid victims or survivors. The service will be staffed by professionals who can discuss the reparations, program, hear stories from abuse victims, answer possible claimants’ questions, and help support the submission of documentation to the program.
 
Coffman, Weiser’s predecessor as Colorado attorney general, initiated action investigating Catholic clergy sex abuse in Colorado in late 2018.
 
“There is a recognition that childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution,” Coffman said. “The spotlight is on the Catholic Church but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on the activity.”
 
After a July Pennsylvania attorney general report compiled allegations against over 300 Catholic clergy, with over 1,000 reported victims, Coffman’s office began receiving calls from Colorado citizens who had suffered sexual abuse in the past. Some were abused in other states by priests who were no longer alive.
 
“There is a recognition that childhood sexual abuse is not specific to one institution,” Coffman said at the press conference. “The spotlight is on the Catholic Church but this abuse is indicative of what has happened in other institutions. We want to shine a light on the activity.”
 
Representatives of the group Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests asked the Colorado attorney general to conduct a grand jury investigation into sex abuse of children in the Catholic Church in Colorado. The request was part of the group’s national effort to engage every state attorney general.
 
While some states’ attorneys general have the authority to launch such investigations, Colorado’s does not.
 
Coffman’s office began examining alternatives for uncovering previously undisclosed abuse involving Catholic priests. That effort drew a response from the Catholic bishops, who reached out to understand the effort. Her office discussed options on investigations.
 
Meeting with Aquila, Dollins, Bishop Stephen Jay Berg of Pueblo, and representatives of the Colorado Catholic Conference, Coffman said, “demonstrated their commitment to acknowledging past abuse by priests and moving forward with honesty and accountability.”
 
She voiced gratitude for their “cooperation and collaboration.”
 
Aquila referred questions about the Denver archdiocese’s current policy on abuse of minors to a website the archdiocese created to provide information.

 

Chilean whistleblower to meet with bishops, victims ahead of abuse summit

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2019 / 07:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Juan Carlos Cruz, a clerical sex abuse whistleblower and a victim of Fr. Fernando Karadima, will meet with bishops and with fellow victims of clergy sexual abuse Wednesday, one day before the start of a Vatican summit on the topic.

"I am very proud that I am entrusted with such a task," Cruz said, according to Chilean newspaper La Tercera.

Cruz said he was invited to the meeting by Vatican officials in charge of organizing the abuse summit, which will gather bishops from all over the world for three days in Rome to discuss the importance of handling cases of sexual abuse properly at all levels of the Church’s hierarchy.

The summit is a result of months of revelations of clerical sex abuse scandal in the United States and other countries. One of the most high-profile cases in the United States involved Theodore McCarrick, former cardinal and archbishop emeritus of Washington, who was publicly accused last year of sexually abusing at least two adolescent boys, and of engaging for decades in coercive sexual behavior toward priests and seminarians.

McCarrick was laicized by Pope Francis last weekend, just days before the summit.

Cruz was a key whistleblower in highlighting the extent of clerical sex abuse in Chile. Last year, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, regarded as the Vatican's top abuse investigator, traveled to the United States and Chile in February to investigate allegations of sex abuse cover-up within Church hierarchy in Chile.

Scicluna’s trip resulted in a 2,300-page report, the laicization of multiple priests and bishops, the en masse proffering of all Chilean bishops’ resignation, and a major “mea culpa” from Pope Francis, who had originally expressed doubts about the allegations against Chilean Bishop Juan Barros.

Pope Francis met privately last May with Cruz and fellow whistleblowers and abuse survivors James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo. The pope expressed his apologies and sorrow for having been “part of the problem” and resolved to do better on abuse.

Scicluna was one of the Vatican officials to invite Cruz to the pre-summit meeting, and asked him to give his testimony and to help facilitate much of the meeting.

Cruz told La Tercera that the meeting will be “very important for the Catholic world, for many people. This is a meeting where many people in the world should give their testimony, which is impossible because of the volume.”

Instead, Cruz said, there will be a group of 12 people to give voice to this issue and to impress its seriousness on the leaders of the Church.

"I sincerely hope that the Church will take it for what it is, something very serious...it deserves zero tolerance once and for all,” he added. “These people [the abusers] cannot hide in the institution anymore.”

Cruz also expressed doubts about Bishop Luis Fernando Ramos Perez, Auxiliary Bishop of Santiago and president of the Chilean bishops' conference, who is representing Chile at the meeting.

Cruz told La Tercera that Bishop Ramos “has no empathy with the Chilean victims and I do not know what his contribution can be in this important meeting."

There will be 190 participants in the  Vatican summit, most of whom are presidents of national bishops' conferences.

Notre Dame rescinds McCarrick's honorary degree

South Bend, Ind., Feb 19, 2019 / 05:52 pm (CNA).- The University of Notre Dame has rescinded the honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree it conferred on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2008, becoming the latest of a growing number of schools who have rescinded honorary degrees from the defrocked former archbishop.  

“The Vatican has announced the conclusion of the adjudicatory process against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, finding that he transgressed his vows, used his power to abuse both minors and adults and violated his sacred duty as a priest,” said the University of Notre Dame in a statement posted to its website on Saturday, the day McCarrick was laicized, or removed from the clerical state.  

“In accord with University President Rev. John I. Jenkins’ statement of Aug. 2, 2018, the University of Notre Dame is rescinding the honorary degree conferred in 2008.”

In August, Jenkins said that the school would revoke the degree if McCarrick were found guilty at the conclusion of his canonical process, but would hold off on a decision until that point.

McCarrick, who was Archbishop of Washington until his retirement in 2006, was found guilty on Saturday of charges of sexually abusing adults and minors, as well as soliciting sex from the confessional. Prior to his laicization, he was forbidden from public ministry and had been sentenced to a life of prayer and penance while the canonical process was ongoing. He is currently living at a friary in Kansas.

In July 2018, he resigned from the College of Cardinals after the Archdiocese of New York received two credible and substantiated claims that he had abused minors.

After these allegations were made public, it was revealed that the Archdiocese of Newark and the Dioceses of Metuchen and Trenton had paid two settlements to men who had been abused by McCarrick when they were adult seminarians in New Jersey. More people came forward throughout the summer of 2018 to describe a culture of abuse and sexual harassment that permeated seminaries in New Jersey while McCarrick was the Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark.

During his time as a bishop, McCarrick was awarded honorary degrees by more than 30 colleges and universities from around the world. Since June, a number of universities have rescinded honorary degrees they had conferred upon McCarrick.

His honorary degrees from Fordham University, Catholic University of America, College of Mount Saint Vincent, Siena College, University of Portland, and University of New Rochelle were all rescinded in 2018 after he resigned from the College of Cardinals. Georgetown University is currently reviewing whether or not to rescind the Doctor of Humane Letters it conferred on McCarrick in 2004. Providence College and St. John’s University, which conferred honorary degrees on McCarrick in 1987 and 1974, respectively, did not respond to CNA’s request for comment in time for publication.

Until Monday, the only other honorary degree that the University of Notre Dame had rescinded was an LL.D. the school conferred on comedian Bill Cosby in 1990. The school rescinded the degree after Cosby was convicted on numerous sexual assault charges in 2018 and sentenced to 3-10 years in prison.

Notre Dame rescinds McCarrick's honorary degree

South Bend, Ind., Feb 19, 2019 / 05:52 pm (CNA).- The University of Notre Dame has rescinded the honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree it conferred on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in 2008, becoming the latest of a growing number of schools who have rescinded honorary degrees from the defrocked former archbishop.  

“The Vatican has announced the conclusion of the adjudicatory process against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, finding that he transgressed his vows, used his power to abuse both minors and adults and violated his sacred duty as a priest,” said the University of Notre Dame in a statement posted to its website on Saturday, the day McCarrick was laicized, or removed from the clerical state.  

“In accord with University President Rev. John I. Jenkins’ statement of Aug. 2, 2018, the University of Notre Dame is rescinding the honorary degree conferred in 2008.”

In August, Jenkins said that the school would revoke the degree if McCarrick were found guilty at the conclusion of his canonical process, but would hold off on a decision until that point.

McCarrick, who was Archbishop of Washington until his retirement in 2006, was found guilty on Saturday of charges of sexually abusing adults and minors, as well as soliciting sex from the confessional. Prior to his laicization, he was forbidden from public ministry and had been sentenced to a life of prayer and penance while the canonical process was ongoing. He is currently living at a friary in Kansas.

In July 2018, he resigned from the College of Cardinals after the Archdiocese of New York received two credible and substantiated claims that he had abused minors.

After these allegations were made public, it was revealed that the Archdiocese of Newark and the Dioceses of Metuchen and Trenton had paid two settlements to men who had been abused by McCarrick when they were adult seminarians in New Jersey. More people came forward throughout the summer of 2018 to describe a culture of abuse and sexual harassment that permeated seminaries in New Jersey while McCarrick was the Bishop of Metuchen and Archbishop of Newark.

During his time as a bishop, McCarrick was awarded honorary degrees by more than 30 colleges and universities from around the world. Since June, a number of universities have rescinded honorary degrees they had conferred upon McCarrick.

His honorary degrees from Fordham University, Catholic University of America, College of Mount Saint Vincent, Siena College, University of Portland, and University of New Rochelle were all rescinded in 2018 after he resigned from the College of Cardinals. Georgetown University is currently reviewing whether or not to rescind the Doctor of Humane Letters it conferred on McCarrick in 2004. Providence College and St. John’s University, which conferred honorary degrees on McCarrick in 1987 and 1974, respectively, did not respond to CNA’s request for comment in time for publication.

Until Monday, the only other honorary degree that the University of Notre Dame had rescinded was an LL.D. the school conferred on comedian Bill Cosby in 1990. The school rescinded the degree after Cosby was convicted on numerous sexual assault charges in 2018 and sentenced to 3-10 years in prison.

Why the USCCB is speaking out against payday loan rule rollbacks

Washington D.C., Feb 19, 2019 / 04:43 pm (CNA).- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Feb. 14 officially proposed to rescind a rule to protect borrowers from predatory lending, prompting concern from Christian groups nationwide that the CFPB may weaken existing protections against loan sharks.

Catholic Charities USA and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops joined a coalition of Christian groups to sign a letter last week expressing concern that rescinding the so-called “small dollar lending rule” could harm low-income borrowers.

“We encourage you to take this opportunity to strengthen, not weaken, the rule,” the letter reads, penned by the group Faith for Just Lending.

“The rule as finalized seeks to protect vulnerable individuals and families in time of financial crisis from debt traps designed around their inability--as opposed to ability--to repay their loan...We believe that the rule was a step in the right direction, but more must be done.”

The “small dollar lending” rule, which the financial agency announced in Oct. 2017, was designed to protect financially vulnerable consumers from annual interest rates of up to 300 percent on so-called payday loans and auto title loans. The bureau announced Feb. 6 that it seeks to delay the rule’s implementation until 2020 and remove key requirements on lenders.

Though an estimated 12 million customers use small-dollar loans each year, the agency has long chronicled the risks these loans pose to the vulnerable. Faced with having to repay a loan along with high interest and fees, borrowers risk “defaulting, re-borrowing, or skipping other financial obligations like rent or basic living expenses such as buying food or obtaining medical care,” according to the CFPB.

Many borrowers will end up repeatedly rolling over or refinancing their loans, racking up more debt in the process and possibly running the risk of having their vehicle seized, the bureau says.  

The new rule would have required lenders to conduct a “full-payment test” to determine upfront that borrowers can afford to repay their loans within two weeks or a month without re-borrowing. It also would have capped at three the number of loans that could be given in quick succession, the CFPB said in its Oct. 2017 release.

The U.S. bishops’ conference and others said that the finalized rule would have also contained a loophole to allow customers to take out six successive 300% interest loans under certain conditions.

“This sanctioning of usurious loans not only contradicts our own faith traditions, but also contradicts the CFPB’s own reasoning laid out in its rule,” the Feb. 15 letter says.

“The CFPB recognizes in its proposal the harmful consequences of unaffordable loans, such as defaulting on expenses or having to quickly re-borrow. By the CFPB’s own reasoning, allowing six loans in a year in rapid succession, as exceptions to the assessment of a borrower's ability to repay, is too many.”

The letter notes that Scripture provides guidance for “honorable lending and borrowing,” which includes the principles of not taking advantage of the weak, not charging usurious interest, and seeking the good of the other person.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns usury as theft and a violation of the Seventh Commandment, specifically mentioning the “forcing up prices by taking advantage of the ignorance or hardship of another.”

“A business that targets vulnerable people with a product that leaves most of its customers worse off does not contribute to the common good,” the letter says.

Bishops throughout the U.S. have decried the use of payday loans, and have backed legislation which would restrict the effect these loans on have on the borrowers.

In November of 2013, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, then-chair of the committee on domestic justice and human development for the U.S. bishops’ conference, wrote the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about payday lending abuses, calling such lending immoral because it “preys on the financial hardship of poor and vulnerable consumers, exploits their lack of understanding, and increases economic insecurity.”

Bishops elsewhere have fought for payday loan reforms, like in Texas, where the state’s Catholic Conference has pushed for regulations at the state legislature.

Dr. Robert Mayer, a professor of political theory at Loyola University Chicago, told CNA in a 2016 interview that regulations on payday lenders could successfully curb lending abuses, but they could also carry adverse consequences for some people needing a fast line of credit, including perhaps those who have successfully paid off such loans in the past without incurring large amounts of debt.

This is where the Church and faith-based organizations could step in to help those who need emergency cash at a low cost, including local St. Vincent DePaul societies and Catholic Charities branches.

Local Catholic Charities in places like Salina, Kansas already have offices that can help customers refinance their debt after falling into a cycle of predatory lending. Catholic Charities in Kansas started a program in 2016 that provides small, low interest loans, with a maximum of a $1000, so that people who do have an immediate need are able to borrow funds.
 

Why the USCCB is speaking out against payday loan rule rollbacks

Washington D.C., Feb 19, 2019 / 04:43 pm (CNA).- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Feb. 14 officially proposed to rescind a rule to protect borrowers from predatory lending, prompting concern from Christian groups nationwide that the CFPB may weaken existing protections against loan sharks.

Catholic Charities USA and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops joined a coalition of Christian groups to sign a letter last week expressing concern that rescinding the so-called “small dollar lending rule” could harm low-income borrowers.

“We encourage you to take this opportunity to strengthen, not weaken, the rule,” the letter reads, penned by the group Faith for Just Lending.

“The rule as finalized seeks to protect vulnerable individuals and families in time of financial crisis from debt traps designed around their inability--as opposed to ability--to repay their loan...We believe that the rule was a step in the right direction, but more must be done.”

The “small dollar lending” rule, which the financial agency announced in Oct. 2017, was designed to protect financially vulnerable consumers from annual interest rates of up to 300 percent on so-called payday loans and auto title loans. The bureau announced Feb. 6 that it seeks to delay the rule’s implementation until 2020 and remove key requirements on lenders.

Though an estimated 12 million customers use small-dollar loans each year, the agency has long chronicled the risks these loans pose to the vulnerable. Faced with having to repay a loan along with high interest and fees, borrowers risk “defaulting, re-borrowing, or skipping other financial obligations like rent or basic living expenses such as buying food or obtaining medical care,” according to the CFPB.

Many borrowers will end up repeatedly rolling over or refinancing their loans, racking up more debt in the process and possibly running the risk of having their vehicle seized, the bureau says.  

The new rule would have required lenders to conduct a “full-payment test” to determine upfront that borrowers can afford to repay their loans within two weeks or a month without re-borrowing. It also would have capped at three the number of loans that could be given in quick succession, the CFPB said in its Oct. 2017 release.

The U.S. bishops’ conference and others said that the finalized rule would have also contained a loophole to allow customers to take out six successive 300% interest loans under certain conditions.

“This sanctioning of usurious loans not only contradicts our own faith traditions, but also contradicts the CFPB’s own reasoning laid out in its rule,” the Feb. 15 letter says.

“The CFPB recognizes in its proposal the harmful consequences of unaffordable loans, such as defaulting on expenses or having to quickly re-borrow. By the CFPB’s own reasoning, allowing six loans in a year in rapid succession, as exceptions to the assessment of a borrower's ability to repay, is too many.”

The letter notes that Scripture provides guidance for “honorable lending and borrowing,” which includes the principles of not taking advantage of the weak, not charging usurious interest, and seeking the good of the other person.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns usury as theft and a violation of the Seventh Commandment, specifically mentioning the “forcing up prices by taking advantage of the ignorance or hardship of another.”

“A business that targets vulnerable people with a product that leaves most of its customers worse off does not contribute to the common good,” the letter says.

Bishops throughout the U.S. have decried the use of payday loans, and have backed legislation which would restrict the effect these loans on have on the borrowers.

In November of 2013, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, then-chair of the committee on domestic justice and human development for the U.S. bishops’ conference, wrote the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about payday lending abuses, calling such lending immoral because it “preys on the financial hardship of poor and vulnerable consumers, exploits their lack of understanding, and increases economic insecurity.”

Bishops elsewhere have fought for payday loan reforms, like in Texas, where the state’s Catholic Conference has pushed for regulations at the state legislature.

Dr. Robert Mayer, a professor of political theory at Loyola University Chicago, told CNA in a 2016 interview that regulations on payday lenders could successfully curb lending abuses, but they could also carry adverse consequences for some people needing a fast line of credit, including perhaps those who have successfully paid off such loans in the past without incurring large amounts of debt.

This is where the Church and faith-based organizations could step in to help those who need emergency cash at a low cost, including local St. Vincent DePaul societies and Catholic Charities branches.

Local Catholic Charities in places like Salina, Kansas already have offices that can help customers refinance their debt after falling into a cycle of predatory lending. Catholic Charities in Kansas started a program in 2016 that provides small, low interest loans, with a maximum of a $1000, so that people who do have an immediate need are able to borrow funds.
 

Philadelphia archdiocese has authorized $8.4 million to abuse victims

Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 19, 2019 / 04:40 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has so far authorized more than $8.4 million in compensation to survivors of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy, according to an interim report released on Feb. 15.

The report analyzed the first three months of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program (IRRP), which was formally launched in mid-November 2018. All who were abused as minors by members of the clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are eligible to apply for compensation, even if the statute of limitations has expired.

All 348 people who had previously reported abuse to the archdiocese were mailed information on the program and filing a complaint.

In addition, 120 people who had not previously reported a claim have registered for the program on the IRRP website, and of these, 72 were deemed eligible to file a claim, and 39 were ruled ineligible. Nine of these claims are still pending approval.

Only those who were abused as a minor by a member of the clergy within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are eligible for compensation. All rejected claims from the IRRP website were denied because the alleged abuse was not by a member of the clergy from the archdiocese, or the alleged abuse was committed by a layperson or non-Catholic employee of a church.

Per the report, the IRRP website has led to an “unearthing of new allegations” and so far has resulted in one priest in active ministry being placed on leave after an allegation of abusing a minor in the 1970s. This priest had not previously been accused of misconduct, and the complaint is being investigated by law enforcement.

Since November, there have been 86 claims filed for compensation. All but 16 were from previously-known claimants. There have been 36 claims that have been given determination letters, and of these, 16 offers of compensation have been accepted by the abuse survivor. Twenty claims have been authorized to be paid, but the offers have not yet been accepted by the claimant and are still under consideration.

Out of the $8.4 million authorized as compensation payments, a total of $4.5 million has been paid to compensate survivors of abuse. There is no cap on the amount an abuse survivor can be compensated, nor is there a limit on how much the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will pay all survivors.

The claimant is not under any obligation to accept the compensation offered by the IRRP, but none of the settlement offers so far have been rejected. One person agreed to drop his pending litigation against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia after being offered a settlement through the IRRP.

Counseling is also offered to all who request it as part of their claim with the IRRP. Since the program began in November, 25 claimants have requested counseling services.

The archdiocese does not control the IRRP, which is being administered by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, the same people who are administering a similar program for survivors of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy in New Jersey.

The IRRP is being overseen by Former Sen. George J. Mitchell and Hon. Lawrence F. Stengel and Hon. Kelley B. Hodge. Lynn Shiner is working as victim support facilitator.

The next report will be released in May, six months into the program. Claimants have until September 30, 2019 to file for compensation.

 

Philadelphia archdiocese has authorized $8.4 million to abuse victims

Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 19, 2019 / 04:40 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has so far authorized more than $8.4 million in compensation to survivors of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy, according to an interim report released on Feb. 15.

The report analyzed the first three months of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program (IRRP), which was formally launched in mid-November 2018. All who were abused as minors by members of the clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are eligible to apply for compensation, even if the statute of limitations has expired.

All 348 people who had previously reported abuse to the archdiocese were mailed information on the program and filing a complaint.

In addition, 120 people who had not previously reported a claim have registered for the program on the IRRP website, and of these, 72 were deemed eligible to file a claim, and 39 were ruled ineligible. Nine of these claims are still pending approval.

Only those who were abused as a minor by a member of the clergy within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are eligible for compensation. All rejected claims from the IRRP website were denied because the alleged abuse was not by a member of the clergy from the archdiocese, or the alleged abuse was committed by a layperson or non-Catholic employee of a church.

Per the report, the IRRP website has led to an “unearthing of new allegations” and so far has resulted in one priest in active ministry being placed on leave after an allegation of abusing a minor in the 1970s. This priest had not previously been accused of misconduct, and the complaint is being investigated by law enforcement.

Since November, there have been 86 claims filed for compensation. All but 16 were from previously-known claimants. There have been 36 claims that have been given determination letters, and of these, 16 offers of compensation have been accepted by the abuse survivor. Twenty claims have been authorized to be paid, but the offers have not yet been accepted by the claimant and are still under consideration.

Out of the $8.4 million authorized as compensation payments, a total of $4.5 million has been paid to compensate survivors of abuse. There is no cap on the amount an abuse survivor can be compensated, nor is there a limit on how much the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will pay all survivors.

The claimant is not under any obligation to accept the compensation offered by the IRRP, but none of the settlement offers so far have been rejected. One person agreed to drop his pending litigation against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia after being offered a settlement through the IRRP.

Counseling is also offered to all who request it as part of their claim with the IRRP. Since the program began in November, 25 claimants have requested counseling services.

The archdiocese does not control the IRRP, which is being administered by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, the same people who are administering a similar program for survivors of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy in New Jersey.

The IRRP is being overseen by Former Sen. George J. Mitchell and Hon. Lawrence F. Stengel and Hon. Kelley B. Hodge. Lynn Shiner is working as victim support facilitator.

The next report will be released in May, six months into the program. Claimants have until September 30, 2019 to file for compensation.

 

Cologne's cardinal warns against inventing 'a new Church'

Cologne, Germany, Feb 19, 2019 / 04:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Noting the challenges facing the Church in Germany, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne told EWTN last week that amid dispute over the Church's “direction”, the bishops are called to preserve the faith.

“The current situation in Germany is indeed difficult. And there does seem to be a dispute about the overall direction [of the Church], which was certainly also triggered by the abuse scandal. There are now those voices who argue it is time to cast aside everything we have hitherto held onto. To abandon old times. I think that is a very dangerous concept,” Woelki told EWTN.TV's program director, Martin Rothweiler, Feb. 13.

“We are part of a great Tradition. The Church also stands for truths that transcend time. And it is not our task to now go and invent a new Church by ourselves. The Church is not just leverage that we have been handed to exercise [as we see fit]. Rather, it is our task as bishops to preserve the faith of the Church, as it has come down to us from the apostles, and to say and proclaim it afresh in our times, and also to preserve it for generations to come, and to express it for them in such a way that they too can encounter Christ as their salvation.”

Woelki commented that “one of the fundamental challenges” facing the Church in Germany “is to keep alive the question of God in our society as a whole. More and more people are convinced that they can live their lives rather well without God. Right there is where the Church has a very important task to play in making clear that God does exist, and that God is in fact the very origin of everything. The question of God to me therefore is one of the fundamental challenges we need to tackle.”

Woelki, 62, has been Archbishop of Cologne since 2014. He was ordained a priest of the archdiocese in 1984, and became its auxiliary bishop in 2003. He was Archbishop of Berlin from 2011 until his return to Cologne, during which time he was made a cardinal.

He was among the seven German bishops who wrote last year to the Vatican asking for clarification on the question of Protestant spouses of Catholics receiving Holy Communion, which possibility had been  promoted by the German bishops' conference.

Woelki told EWTN.TV that Catholics in Germany are deeply concerned by the abuse crisis: “There has been a massive loss of trust both within and outside of the Church. The challenge now is how this trust can be restored.”

Regarding Church reform, Woelki noted that “it must simply be said that the Church has never been renewed by being less, but by being more” than the culture around her. “We must once again realize that as Christians, we must foster something of an alternative culture, which has to align itself solely with the standards of the Gospel and the will of Jesus Christ. And that is not less, but always more.”

This Christian culture, he said, “is not achieved by abolishing celibacy. It is not achieved by now demanding that women be admitted to the ministries. And it is also not achieved by saying that we must have a new sexual morality. No, the Gospel is and continues to be the touchstone. It is the faith of the Church that continues to be the touchstone, just as it was presented to us by John Paul II in his Catechism.”

“The challenge is precisely to witness and proclaim this timeless faith now in such a way that it becomes understandable and comprehensible to the people of today. This is a challenge that we must face up to, rather than retreating from.”

The ground for hope for the Church in Germany “is that Christ exists and remains and continues to be the Lord of the Church and that His Holy Spirit is promised and granted to us,” Woelki reflected.

“I am convinced that He will also lead us through these times. Of course, we must open ourselves to Him so that God's Spirit can also work within us and guide us. And we mustn't start playing Holy Spirit ourselves now.”

He said that “as bishops, we are subject to the Word of God and, like all the people and bishops before us, we must give witness to and proclaim this Word of God. In other words, Christ exists, Christ remains, and He is present. He is Lord of the Church. Just as He has led His Church through difficult times in the past, so He will lead us through these present times.”

Woelki's faith is also “bouyed”, he said, “when I encounter young people who have let themselves be ignited by the faith of the Church. And it is the young people who seek precisely this 'more' of the Christian faith, who have a home in the Church, who have a home in the Eucharist, who live though he Eucharist and through adoration, and who live in the knowledge that their lives are touched by Christ.”

“That is something that encourages me, because these young people – as I experience them – live authentically and with conviction. And they simply give me hope in their witness.”