Welcome to Starting Seven, The Pillar’s new daily newsletter.
I’m Luke Coppen and I aim to guide you each weekday morning to the most interesting Catholic news and comment.
😇 Today’s feast: Bl. Alexandrina Maria da Costa.
📜 Today’s readings: Eph 1:1-10 ▪ Ps 98:1, 2-3AB, 3CD-4, 5-6 ▪ Lk 11:47-54.
🗞 Starting seven
2: Fr. Peter Gumpel, S.J., the Church historian and relator of Pope Pius XII’s cause, has died at the age of 98 (German report).
4: A survey has concluded that the Catholic Church is “twice as multicultural” as other Christian communities in Australia.
6: Fr. You Guo Jiang, S.J., and Fr. Michael Kelly, S.J., discuss China and the Catholic Church (podcast).
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Papal audiences with USCCB president Archbishop José H. Gomez, vice-president Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, and general secretary Fr. Michael J.K. Fuller; Archbishop Stefan Heße of Hamburg, Germany; Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco; Bishop Oswaldo Estéfano Escobar Aguilar of Chalatenango, El Salvador; the bishops of Senegal, Mauritania, Cabo Verde, and Guinea Bissau on their ad Limina visit; and members of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (P.I.M.E.), on the 150th anniversary of “Mondo e Missione.”
🧐 Look closer
Pressure in Portugal When members of the permanent council of Portugal’s bishops’ conference issued a statement at the end of their meeting in Fatima this week, it was largely devoted to one topic: clerical abuse. Church leaders are under intense pressure to address a torrent of claims that have emerged in recent months.
Why now? In November 2021, Portugal’s bishops announced the creation of an independent commission to investigate clerical abuse from 1950 to the present day.
Pedro Strecht, the head of the Independent Committee for the Study of Child Abuse in the Catholic Church, said on Tuesday that the commission had compiled a list of 424 alleged victims. He noted that the panel was uncovering “serious situations that lasted for decades [and] in some places reached truly endemic proportions.”
At the same time, a senior serving bishop is facing accusations that he mishandled cases. Fatima Bishop José Ornelas insisted on Wednesday that he was “not worried” about being named in a probe into alleged cover-ups in cases from 2011 and 2014.
The Associated Press reported that Ornelas, who was elected president of Portugal’s bishops’ conference in 2020, is “being investigated by Portugal’s attorney general’s office on suspicion he covered up for abuser priests in Mozambique.”
Ornelas, who was installed as bishop of Leiria-Fátima in March, said at a press conference that he had taken “appropriate measures” and “there was no cover-up.”
What the bishops are saying In their carefully worded Oct. 11 communiqué, the bishops expressed support for the independent commission’s work. They said that the media had an important role to play in uncovering wrongdoing, but underlined “the need not to publicly condemn people or institutions based on unproven suspicions.”
“In the current circumstances, we believe that, rather than participating in the media debate around this issue, it is necessary not to disturb the ongoing work of study and investigation,” they said.
But on the same day, Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa caused uproar when he appeared to downplay the independent commission’s interim findings.
“Having 400 cases doesn’t seem to me to be a lot because in other countries investigating shorter time periods there were thousands of cases,” he said.
What’s next? The continuing fallout could overshadow World Youth Day, which is due to be held in Lisbon, in the pope’s presence, on Aug. 1-6, 2023.
The bishops likely fear that the crisis could alienate the country’s Catholics, especially young people. A 2018 survey found that 27% of Catholic young adults in Portugal attended Mass weekly. Only Poland had a higher percentage (47%), suggesting that Portugal’s Catholic Church is one of the most dynamic in Europe.
The bishops will be hoping that Portugal — where roughly 80% of the 10-million-strong population identifies as Catholic — can avoid the fate of other historically Catholic countries such as Spain and Ireland.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇻🇦 Archbishop Gabriele Caccia has told the UN General Assembly that “there remain avenues for de-escalation” in Ukraine.
🇦🇺 A “little shrine” for prayer for persecuted Christians will be opened at Brisbane’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
📅 Coming soon
Oct. 18 Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi turns 80.
Oct. 19 Anniversary of Bl. Jerzy Popiełuszko’s death.
Oct. 20 The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in England and Wales publishes its final report; Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) youth symposium begins in Kraków, Poland.
Oct. 23 World Mission Day.
Oct. 24 French President Emmanuel Macron due to meet with Pope Francis.
Oct. 26 Trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen due to resume.
Have a blessed feast of Alexandrina Maria da Costa.