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: St. Luke, evangelist.
📜 Today’s readings: 2 Tm 4:10-17b ▪ Ps 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18 ▪ Lk 10:1-9.
🗞 Starting seven
1: Eritrean security agents arrested Catholic Bishop Fikremariam Hagos Tsalim on Saturday morning at Asmara International Airport, the BBC has reported.
2: Gunmen have kidnapped a Catholic priest in Nigeria’s Anambra State.
3: Cardinal Robert Sarah has said that Catholics attending Traditional Latin Masses “are in no way denying the Second Vatican Council” (German interview).
4: Italian media have claimed that the Vatican has blocked the election of German monk Fr. Mauritius Wilde as abbot of Montecassino.
5: Fr. Thomas Reese says he sympathizes “with the diocesan seminarians and young priests who are going through the current trauma of change under Pope Francis.”
6: Bishop Chad Zielinski explains why his surgeon urged him to stop “driving four-wheelers through the tundra.”
7: And the Vatican has signed an agreement to return three mummies to Peru.
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Resignation of 76-year-old Bishop André Gazaille of Nicolet, Canada, accepted; Bishop Daniel Jodoin of Bathurst in Canada named his successor.
Press conference to be held Oct. 20 on events dedicated to the Apostle Peter promoted by St. Peter’s Basilica, the Courtyard of the Gentiles, and the Fratelli tutti Foundation.
🧐 Look closer
Silence and scandal French Bishop Michel Santier resigned as leader of the Diocese of Créteil, in the southern suburbs of Paris, on Jan. 9, 2021, two years before the customary retirement age of 75.
In a letter to his flock in June 2020, he explained that “the polluted air of the Paris region” had taken its toll since he was installed in the diocese in 2007. He had developed lung problems and doctors had “diagnosed asthma which also led to sleep apnea.”
“Seeing that I will not have the physical strength to continue my ministry among you until I am 75 years old and having gone through other difficulties, at the end of 2019 after reflecting, praying, and taking advice, I wrote to Pope Francis to hand over my office as Bishop of Créteil. He responded favorably and accepted my resignation,” the bishop said.
That story was widely accepted until last Friday, when the Catholic magazine Famille chrétienne revealed that Santier’s early resignation was linked to the “spiritual abuse for sexual purposes perpetrated against two adult men” in the 1990s.
Bishop Laurent Le Boulc’h of Coutances et Avranches, the diocese where Santier was ordained a priest, issued a statement acknowledging that Rome “took disciplinary action” against Santier in 2021 for the acts in the 1990s, which emerged in 2019.
“As a result of these disciplinary measures, I asked Bishop Santier to leave Saint-Pair-sur-Mer to join a community of sisters. Bishop Santier leads a life of retreat and prayer there, and has a limited ministry,” he wrote.
Bishop Dominique Blanchet, Santier’s successor in Créteil, also released a statement, underlining his “availability to all those who suffer from these revelations.”
Who is Bishop Santier? The Tablet’s Tom Heneghan said that Santier was “known for his encouragement of Church movements and advocacy of inter-religious dialogue.”
“He enjoyed a reputation as a compassionate pastor who stood up for new communities, interfaith dialogue, and groups sidelined by the Church such as homosexuals and divorced Catholics,” he wrote.
What are commentators saying? Writing for the Catholic daily newspaper La Croix, Jérôme Chapuis criticized the Church’s handling of the case.
He wrote: “The canonical penalty imposed on Bishop Santier came in October 2021, but remained secret for a year, on the pretext that ‘the victims did not want their story to be publicized.’ Was it impossible to reveal the facts while preserving their anonymity? Unfortunately, we can see that the institution, through cowardice, legalism, or calculation, has once again made the mistake of adding silence to scandal.”
What’s the context? The Santier case follows that of the East Timorese Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, who resigned as apostolic administrator of Dili in 2002, at the age of 54, citing health reasons.
A Dutch magazine reported last month that Belo faced accusations of sexual abuse, which it claimed were known to the Vatican at the time of his resignation. Belo was not publicly disciplined, but given travel restrictions, it said. The Vatican issued a statement saying that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith first became involved in the case in 2019.
The Washington Post’s Chico Harlan and Amanda Coletta said that the Belo case — and the Vatican’s handling of claims against Cardinal Marc Ouellet — “suggest that the Church, for all its vows to improve, is still falling into familiar traps and extending its foremost crisis.”
While they conceded that the Church had made progress in fighting abuse, including with the McCarrick report’s release in 2020, they wrote: “But since then, the Vatican has not been transparent about any discipline against other prelates. And it has regularly ignored its own procedures, which provide specific instructions about who should be tasked to investigate bishops.”
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🔍 Stories to watch
🇺🇸 Texas Bishop Mark J. Seitz has criticized the Biden administration’s decision to apply Title 42 to Venezuelans at the U.S.-Mexico border.
🇻🇦 Pope Francis has encouraged participants in the World Food Forum “not simply to feed the other, but to give ourselves in service to others” (Spanish full text).
🇨🇦 Canada’s bishops have announced their delegates to the synod on synodality in Rome.
🇵🇱 Polish bishops’ conference president Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki has welcomed the inauguration of the Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin.
🇵🇹 Cardinal Kevin Farrell has urged World Youth Day 2023 organizers to “make this face-to-face encounter a sign of building bridges between nations and cultures.”
🇳🇿 New Zealand’s bishops have released new guidelines on sexual diversity for Catholic schools.
🇨🇩 Congolese Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu has declared that the climate crisis is a “striking example of structural sin.”
📅 Coming soon
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; the Council of Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) youth symposium begins in Kraków, Poland.
Oct. 22 Beatification of 12 Redemptorists martyred in Madrid in 1936; Official opening of Australia’s first shrine dedicated to St. John Paul II.
Oct. 23 World Mission Day.
Oct. 24 French President Emmanuel Macron to meet with Pope Francis.
Oct. 25 Pope Francis attends a prayer for peace, organized by the Sant’Egidio Community, at the Colosseum.
Oct. 26 Trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen due to resume.
Oct. 27 CCEE online plenary assembly begins.
Have a blessed feast of St. Luke.