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  • June 21, 2019

    A Statement of the Archdiocese re: False allegation of abuse against Bishop George Sheltz

    Yesterday, a number of Chancery Departments, along with at least one Pastor, began receiving copies of a letter addressed to Bishop George Sheltz from an individual identifying herself as Yannah Nowak.  Her letters do not have a return address or any contact information and our efforts to identify any individual by that name have been unsuccessful.

    In the letter, the author makes an accusation that she was molested by Bishop Sheltz in 1971, when she was a minor.  The author also expressed anger and outrage over the recently announced decision of the Archdiocese to move her Pastor, Father Hai Dang, to another parish assignment.  The author closes the letter with a threat to Bishop Sheltz that if he goes forward with Father Dang’s new assignment, she will go public with her accusation against Bishop Sheltz.

    Bishop Sheltz has served as a priest of this Archdiocese for more than 48 years and has never had a single complaint of inappropriate conduct with minors or adults.  We firmly believe this allegation to be completely false.  It seeks to use blackmail tactics to keep a Pastor in his current assignment while casting a shadow on what we know is a lifetime of superb and selfless priestly ministry.

    While we firmly believe this accusation lacks any credibility, we have reported it to the Houston Police Department and Children’s Protective Services for investigation.   Since the allegation has been made against a bishop, we have also notified the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

    Bishop Sheltz will continue his valued assistance in the Chancery Office, but he has volunteered to temporarily step aside from public priestly ministry.

    If you become aware of any related information or any other allegation of abuse of a minor, we urge you to notify civil authorities immediately (local law enforcement and CPS).

    Please keep Bishop Sheltz and all those impacted by abuse in your prayers.

     

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  • June 20, 2019

    The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston continues to prepare the men who will shepherd the city’s rapidly growing 1.7 million Catholics at St. Mary’s Seminary. On the weekend of the Feast of Corpus Christi (June 22-23, 2019), the local faithful will have the opportunity to directly support Archdiocesan seminarians with the Corpus Christi Collection.

    This effort provides funds to operate the Seminary and facilitate formation for the seminarians studying at St. Mary’s.  The seminary also houses the Archdiocese’s permanent diaconate program and the University of St. Thomas School of Theology.

    “The seminary is a peaceful environment that lends itself to a prayerful place for meditation and spiritual formation, which is essential to the formation of a seminarian,” said Father Trung Nguyen, rector of St. Mary's and also a graduate of the seminary. “The seminary is unique in that the seminarians live here, study here and worship here. The campus is arranged so the living spaces, academic classes and spiritual spaces are separate but also easy to get from one to the other. The architecture was well thought out to allow our seminarians space for thoughtful contemplation and also for social gatherings.”

    Cardinal DiNardo has said that the need for more priests continues to be crucial for the growth of our Catholic faith. He asks us to pray for current seminarians in formation and for an abundance of new vocations to join their ranks so that we may evangelize and proclaim the good news of salvation to all people. 

  • June 11, 2019

    Three new members have been appointed to serve on the National Review Board (NRB) by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

    BALTIMORE — Three new members have been appointed to serve on the National Review Board (NRB) by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

    The NRB advises the bishops' committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, and the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection at the USCCB. The NRB was established by the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People, which the bishops adopted in 2002.

    As Cardinal DiNardo said in a letter sent to all newly appointed members, "The bishops are very grateful to the Board for the work that it does and believe that it has been a tremendous help with the continued healing of the Church and protection efforts. The prudent counsel that the Board has provided has been beneficial to so many as we continue to establish cultures of protection and healing.”

    The three new NRB members include those with expertise in law, victim advocacy and theology and they are as follows:

    Elizabeth A. Hayden is a retired District Court Judge for the State of Minnesota. She is a graduate of the College of St. Benedict with a degree in Social Work. While working in that field, she held positions in a psychiatric hospital, county social services and the State Dept. of residential licensing. She received her law degree from Oklahoma City University. Subsequently, she served as a prosecutor in the office the Stearns County Attorney for six years before being appointed a District Court Judge. In her more than 23 years as a judge she presided over criminal, civil and family law cases and trials including many sexual abuse cases. She served as Chair of the MN Supreme Court Committee on the General Rules of Practice which led to a change in MN law to allow cameras in the courtroom.

    After being appointed by the MN Supreme Court, she served on a three-judge panel that presided over the U.S. Senate election contest of Norm Coleman vs. Al Franken. Judge Hayden was President of the Minnesota District Judges Association. She has served on the Board of Trustees of the College of St. Benedict and is currently a member of the Board of Governors of St. Thomas University School of Law. She is also a Trustee for St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud MN. Appointed by Bishop Donald Kettler she has been on the Diocesan Review Board for the Diocese of St. Cloud and is serving her second term as Chair of that Board. As a member of the CentraCare Health Foundation Board, she chairs the Grants Committee. Judge Hayden and her husband, retired Judge Charles A. Flinn live in St. Cloud MN.

    John N. Sheveland is Professor of Religious Studies and the current Flannery Chair of Catholic theology at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA., where he teaches courses on Christian theology, interreligious dialogue, and religion and violence. He holds a doctorate in systematic and comparative theology from Boston College, a master’s degree in Christian theology from Yale Divinity School, and a bachelor’s degree in history and theology from the University of Portland. His current areas of research and writing include theological reflection upon traumatic wounding and upon religious violence. At Gonzaga he organizes the annual lecture series called Being Religious Inter-religiously which advances the Jesuit commitment to interreligious dialogue.

    He received in 2013 a Faculty Diversity Leadership Award and in 2015 an Exemplary Faculty Award from Gonzaga University. He serves on the boards of the College Theology Society and the Society of Buddhist-Christian Studies, the steering committee of the Interreligious and Interfaith Studies Group of the American Academy of Religion, the advisory board of the Currents of Encounter monograph series with Brill and is a book review editor for Horizons. His research articles have appeared in a variety of academic journals and scholarly books, and he is the author of Piety and Responsibility (Ashgate/Routledge, 2011 (2017 2nd edition).

    Belinda G. Taylor served as the first Victim Assistance Coordinator on contract for the Diocese of Amarillo for sixteen years and worked with three Bishops over the course of nineteen years. She served on the Bishop’s Advisory Committee and Review Board to address issues related to clergy misconduct and sexual abuse of minors by priests. Prior to retiring in 2018, Mrs. Taylor established and operated a private counseling practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor working with child and adult victims of sexual abuse, as well as providing individual, family, and play therapy. In 2003, Mrs. Taylor established an ongoing therapy support group for victims abused by clergy which allowed the group to create a training video for clergy on the effects of abuse. Through these efforts, victims were invited to participate in clergy trainings and reconnect with their church communities.

    As a Texas Registered Sex Offender Treatment Provider, Mrs. Taylor provided thirteen years of ongoing treatment services for registered adolescent and adult sex offenders on probation or parole. In addition, Mrs. Taylor served as the Executive Director for fifteen years at a local non-profit community center providing an array of social services from early childhood education, afterschool programs, counseling, a senior citizen center, and numerous youth programs serving predominately low-income residents struggling in poverty. In 2010, Mrs. Taylor was awarded the ‘Friend of the Child’ Mayor’s Service Award. Mrs. Taylor continues to volunteer as a Safe Environment Trainer and serves on the Amarillo Bi-City-County Public Health Board. Together, she and her husband Wayne have spent their married life farming and ranching in the Texas Panhandle. They have four adult children, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

     

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Texas Catholic Herald

  • June 13, 2019

    Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, chairman of the bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, and Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond, Virginia, met with three survivors of clergy sexual abuse late June 12.

    Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, looks on at the conclusion of the second day of the spring general assembly of the USCCB in Baltimore June 12, 2019. Looking on is Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary. CNS photo/Bob Roller.

    BALTIMORE (CNS) --  Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, chairman of the bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, and Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond, Virginia, met with three survivors of clergy sexual abuse late June 12.

    The meeting took place as the U.S. bishops were gathered in Baltimore for their spring general assembly June 11-13 where they focused on implementing bishop accountability measures in response to the abuse crisis in the church.

    In a statement released after the meeting, Cardinal DiNardo said he and his fellow bishops were "grateful for the opportunity to meet with a group of survivors. Their testimony reminds us of the unfathomable pain they have endured, and the need for vigilance in extinguishing the evil of sexual abuse from our church once and for all."

    He said that, during their spring assembly, the bishops sought to "expand and intensify existing policies in order to care for victims and prevent future instances of these crimes, holding not only clergy accountable but also ourselves as bishops. Our work will not conclude until the number of sexual abuse cases is zero."

    On the morning of June 13, Bishop Doherty tweeted about the how the bishops and some USCCB staff who met with the survivors "were reminded that this week's meeting is not an abstract exercise."

    "Thanks to the hurting who speak to us. My experience is that God comes to these conversations invited or uninvited," he added.

  • June 13, 2019

    During the June 11-13 spring assembly of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore, it was clear the bishops had to respond to the sexual abuse crisis in the church -- and on the last day of their gathering they approved a series of procedures to begin this process.

    Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, speaks on the first day of the spring general assembly of the USCCB in Baltimore June 11. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, USCCB president and archbishop of Galveston-Houston, attended the assembly as well. CNS photo/Bob Roller.

    BALTIMORE (CNS) -- During the June 11-13 spring assembly of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore, it was clear the bishops had to respond to the sexual abuse crisis in the church -- and on the last day of their gathering they approved a series of procedures to begin this process.

    On June 13, they voted to implement the document "Vos Estis Lux Mundi" ("You are the light of the world"), issued by Pope Francis in May to help the Catholic Church safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable.

    The bishops also approved the document "Acknowledging Our Episcopal Commitments" and promised to hold themselves accountable to the commitments of the charter, including a zero-tolerance policy for abuse. The document says any codes of conduct in their respective dioceses regarding clergy apply to bishop as well.

    They voted in favor of the item "protocol regarding available nonpenal restrictions on bishops," which outlines what canonical options are available to bishops when a retired bishop resigns or is removed "due to sexual misconduct with adults or grave negligence of office, or where subsequent to his resignation he was found to have so acted or failed to act."

    Their first action was a vote June 12 to authorize the implementation of a third-party system that would allow people to make confidential reports of abuse complaints against bishops through a toll-free telephone number and online. The system, which would be operated by an outside vendor contracted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, should be in place no later than May 31, 2020.

    During the first day of the assembly, several speakers discussed the challenge ahead and the need for the bishops to be both transparent and reliant upon lay leadership. The bishops also examined their plans to vote on procedures and policies in response to the abuse crisis, including some they had put aside during their fall general assembly in November at the Vatican's request.

    The bishops' postponement of voting on these procedures was addressed from the meeting's onset June 11 in a message from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican's nuncio to the United States.

    He noted that there were "some expressions of 'dissent'" by some U.S. bishops at the previous assembly about postponing votes on items related to the reemergent clergy sexual abuse crisis, but he also stressed that "unity prevails over conflict."

    "Working together provides us with the opportunity to speak and to listen," said the message from Archbishop Pierre, read by Msgr. Walter Erbi, charge d'affaires at the Vatican's nunciature in Washington. Archbishop Pierre was at the Vatican for a nuncio meeting.

    Archbishop Pierre's message said that despite the desire among U.S. bishops in November to act quickly to address new crises on clergy sex abuse, the postponement of the votes on the issue allowed the U.S. church to participate more fully at the Vatican's February summit on the protection of minors.

    "One of the reasons the Holy Father asked for a delay was that the whole church needed to walk together, to work in a synodal way," Archbishop Pierre said, "with the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make the path forward clearer."

    Moving forward was certainly a theme of the assembly, echoed by National Review Board chairman Francesco Cesareo June 11, who called for a greater role for laity in investigating allegations of abuse or reaction to reports of abuse against bishops.

    Cesareo also said National Review Board members recommend a thorough review of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and a revision in the audit process regarding diocesan implementation of the charter, which governs the church's response to clergy abuse allegations.

    "A strengthened audit would provide a means for improving your dioceses' existing methods to protect and heal," Cesareo said. "Virtually all your dioceses, including those where problems came to light under the microscope of the media and attorney generals, have easily passed the audit for years, since the bar currently is so low. Now is the time to raise the bar on compliance to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated."

    Cesareo also recommended that the charter "should be revised immediately to explicitly include bishops and demand for greater accountability."

    "You have a great opportunity," he said, "to lead by example and help show dioceses and episcopal conferences around the world not only how important it is for lay involvement to ensure greater accountability and transparency, but also how laity and the episcopacy can be co-responsible for the church's well-being."

    Both the National Review Board and the National Advisory Council pressed the bishops to encourage Vatican officials to release documents regarding the investigation of misconduct by Theodore E. McCarrick, the former cardinal who was laicized earlier this year. The allegations against him were made public nearly a year ago on June 20, 2018.

    The bishops also discussed the upcoming election, the crisis at the border and the issue of young adults leaving the church.

    They were urged to do more to support the suffering of immigrant families, to be with them spiritually as pastors and to voice support for legal measures to help them.

    "It's so important that our works match our words on this issue," said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, June 11 after a presentation by the working group on immigration issues for the USCCB.

    Two bishop members of the group, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, gave an update of what the U.S. church is doing at the national level and in certain regions of the country on immigration issues.

    Bishop Vasquez urged the group to "redouble efforts to offer spiritual support and access to legal and social services to affected families," saying it is "vital that they feel supported by the church during this time of uncertainty."

    Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, spoke about an upcoming presentation at the fall meeting on how to respond to the growing number of young people leaving the church.

    He said getting the religiously unaffiliated, or "nones," particularly young people, back to the Catholic Church, should be a top priority for the church, noting that 50% of Catholics age 30 and younger have left the church.

    "Half the kids that we baptized and confirmed in the last 30 years are now ex-Catholics or unaffiliated," he said, and "one out of six millennials in the U.S. is now a former Catholic."

    In anticipation of the 2020 presidential election, the U.S. bishops' quadrennial document that provides guidance to voters on Catholic social teaching won't change, but it will be supplemented by a brief letter and four 90-second videos that reflect the teaching of Pope Francis, the bishops were told.

    A small group of no more than 10 protesters stood in largely silent protest June 11 outside the hotel where the meeting was taking place. One of the group's demands was that the bishops report abuse claims first to law enforcement.

    "We don't think the church can police themselves," said Becky Ianni, director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests for the Washington area.

    At the bishops' Mass at the end of the first day of the spring assembly, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and president of the USCCB, spoke about the challenges faced by early Christians and urged the bishops to follow the example of Barnabas in the Acts of the Apostles who was respected and trusted.

    "Today we honor Barnabas in our desire to do God's will and to do it carefully and with discretion but also with what the Holy Father calls boldness -- apostolic boldness," he said.

    On the meeting's final day, the bishops also approved wording to keep treatment of the death penalty in the U.S. Catechism for Adults in line with the revised universal catechism.

    During the second day of their meeting, the bishops met by regions and provinces in the morning. In the afternoon, they not only voted on the national hotline, but they also approved by electronic vote:

    -- Strategic priorities for the 2021-24 USCCB Strategic Plan, in a provisional vote.

    -- The second edition of the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States for use in U.S. dioceses.

    -- An update to texts last changed in 2003 for the ordination of clergy. The action still requires confirmation by the Vatican.

    The bishops also gave their assent by voice vote for the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan, to continue to pursue the sainthood cause of Irving "Francis" C. Houle, a man from Michigan who was said to have received the stigmata 16 years before he died in 2009, but who well before that had "many extraordinary physical and spiritual healings" attributed to him, according to a biography.

  • June 11, 2019

    More than 2,100 faithful packed the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart to standing-room-only to witness the ordination of seven priests by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo at a nearly three-hour Mass on June 1.

    Daniel Cardinal DiNardo lays his hands on Father Justin Cormie during his Ordination Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on June 1. Father José Alonso, Father David Michael Moses, Father Cormie, Father Ricardo Arriola, Father Kingsley Nwoko, Father Ryan Stawaisz and Father Vincent Thinh Trân were ordained during an Ordination Mass celebrated by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo. Photo by James Ramos/Herald.

    HOUSTON — More than 2,100 faithful packed the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart to standing-room-only to witness the ordination of seven priests by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo at a nearly three-hour Mass on June 1.

    With “great joy and happiness,” Cardinal DiNardo ordained Father José Alonso; Father Ricardo Arriola; Father Justin Cormie; Father David Michael Moses; Father Kingsley Nwoko; Father Ryan Stawaisz and Father Vincent Thinh Trân in the presence of dozens of clergy, men and women religious and the newly ordained family and friends. Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz and Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza concelebrated the Mass, alongside dozens of priests and deacons. 

    “Seven is a perfect number in the Bible. And these seven to be ordained are the largest number in the Archdiocese in some years; therefore, they are perfect,” Cardinal DiNardo said in his homily.

    “Thanks be to God, thanks to your families and parents who accompany you, to seminary decision-makers, priests and spiritual directors you look up to and thanks to the parishes from where you come. The Archdiocese gives thanks to you,” he told the men who are dedicating their lives to serve God and His people.

    Amidst the sex abuse scandal in in the Church, Cardinal DiNardo encouraged the seven men to be “testigos,” or “witnesses to Jesus” as the priesthood is “up against some real (issues of today)... crisis after crisis.” Cardinal DiNardo recognized the skeptics and worriers eyeing the Church’s mission, but there are many examples of faith.

    IN PHOTOS: 7 men ordained to the priesthood

    “You have to show by your way of life that you are a witness that is faithful,” he said. “The local Church in Galveston-Houston gives thanks to you, to your journey, for your trust and your courage.”

    Among the many supporters, Susie Lara, a member of the Knights of Columbus’ Ladies Auxiliary, said she and fellow members were ecstatic to witness the seven priests being ordained after years of continued support from the group and others. Lara said the Ladies Auxiliary at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church specifically supported Father Jose Alonso.

    “We have prayed for him as well as provided stipends and notes of encouragement to help him along his journey. We also asked him for prayers so that we could continue to do good works,” Lara said. After the ordination, she attended the reception where the new priests were busy greeting well-wishers and giving blessings for those who asked.

    Lara said, “We will continue to keep them in our hearts and prayers. We have two more seminarians that we have adopted and with God’s help, we’ll see them through to priesthood. These young men know that that they have 30-plus mothers among those praying for them and all seminarians.”

    Drawing laughter from the crowd, Cardinal DiNardo told the men, “You are not the Messiah — He already came. But you are witnesses… pour yourself out for your people.”

    Cardinal DiNardo told the newly ordained to look to the Church’s diversity for inspiration in faith.

    “The very differences in this local Church, so many different languages, tongues and nations in the priesthood, should enrich you by giving you so many different aspects of the one mystery: Jesus the High Priest who lets us share in it,” he said.

    Newly ordained begin their parochial ministries

    Father Alonso, originally from Guatemala, emigrated to the U.S. more than a decade ago. He attended Prince of Peace Catholic Church and served his diaconate year at St. Helen Catholic Church in Pearland and is now assigned to St. Helen Catholic Church in Pearland.

    Father Arriola, originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, served his diaconate year at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Spring and is now assigned to St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Katy. He served as a bilingual teacher with the Alief Independent School District before following his calling into the priesthood.

    Father Cormie, from his home parish of St. John Vianney, served a diaconate year at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land and is now assigned to St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Church in Spring.

    Father Moses, who entered college at 14 graduating with his bachelor’s four years later and accepted to the University of Houston Law School, decided to enter the seminary. Now 25, he spent his diaconate year at St. Martha Church in Kingwood and is now assigned to St. Faustina Catholic Church in Fulshear.

    Father Nwoko, originally from Nigeria, grew up a devout Catholic. He studied in Rome at the Pontifical Institute of John Paul II for marriage and family and created a program to provide resources to engaged and married couples. He spent his diaconate year at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church and is now assigned to St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in The Woodlands.

    Father Stawaisz was ordained while fighting cancer and is assigned to Prince of Peace Catholic Church in northwest Houston. Serving his diaconate year at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in The Woodlands, he recently learned of an inoperable cancer mass in his lung that will be treated. He has already beaten cancer once before when he was a college student at Texas A&M University studying petroleum engineering.

    Father Trân, from Vietnam, came to the U.S. as a college exchange student and attended his home parish of Our Lady of Lourdes in north Houston. Spending his diaconate year at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, he is now assigned to Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in Houston.

    The Rite of Ordination

    They were presented individually to Cardinal DiNardo, who, after speaking about inquiry among the people of God and the recommendation by seminary authorities, declared them worthy to be ordained.

    As a group, they were asked a series of questions, including “Are you resolved to consecrate your life to God for the salvation of His people, and to unite yourself more closely every day to Christ the High Priest, who offered Himself for us to the Father as a perfect sacrifice?” They each answered, “I am, with the help of God.”

    They also promised respect and obedience to Cardinal DiNardo and his successors. The candidates then prostrated themselves upon the marble floor of the altar as the Litany of the Saints was prayed and the congregants loudly sang back reverberating throughout the Co-Cathedral, “Christ, graciously hear us.”

    As part of the prayer of consecration, Cardinal DiNardo extended his hands over the candidates as they knelt and asked, “As co-workers with the order of bishops may they be faithful to the ministry that they receive from you, Lord God, and be to others models of right conduct.”

    After the prayer of consecration, assisting priests helped vest their newly ordained brothers with stole and chasuble. Their hands were also anointed and the presentation of the gifts of bread and wine were given to the new priests with Cardinal DiNardo instructing, “Imitate the mystery you celebrate: model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.”

    In his own aside, the Cardinal advised the new priests: “God loves you, gentlemen. Be a Jesus priest — keep Him close to you and He will do the rest.”

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