A horrible tragedy, some exciting news and my trip to Paraguay

Certainly everyone is praying for those affected by the massacre at the Virginia Tech on April 16. We pray for the victims, their families and all of the students who are affected directly by this horrific experience. We also pray for the family of the perpetrator of the crime. The entire situation is a great tragedy from beginning to end.

This tragic massacre of students at the Virginia Tech underscores the need we have, as a country, to be better able to deal with mental illness – both identifying and treating it. Many of the laws and regulations we have concerning privacy and individual rights go beyond the dictates of common sense. One result of these laws is that many of the homeless people living on our streets find themselves in that situation because they are suffering from mental illness but are not receiving treatment. Schools also are unable to deal effectively with students who have mental health problems. It is my hope that in the wake of this great tragedy solutions will be proposed to deal with these problems.

– – –

On April 18, pro-life supporters received some excellent news. That day, I attended the semi-annual meeting of directors of the pro-life offices of the New England dioceses and was greeted with the good news that the United States Supreme Court has upheld the ban on partial birth abortion. Although we still have not had time to analyze the decision, it certainly is a step in the right direction. The ruling upholds the Legislature�s right to pass laws that limit abortion.


The director of our Pro-Life, Marianne Luthin (on the left) is joined at the meeting by fellow directors Mary Lou Peters of the Archdiocese of Hartford and Father Ernest Esposito of the Diocese of Bridgeport and Sister Suzanne Gross of Hartford

It has been disappointing to read politicians� reaction against this decision of the Supreme Court, given the fact that most Americans are in agreement that this is a barbaric procedure that needs to be banned.

The horrific nature of partial birth abortion, which is practically infanticide, needed to be stopped. I think this has given a sense of hope to people in the pro-life movement. The ruling also underscores the importance of the judiciary in the life of the country. It points out the need for this to be carefully considered in the next presidential elections because the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court has great implications for the future of the country and the protection of human life.


At the meeting the directors share information on common concerns and efforts they are making in their home dioceses to defend life

Certainly, it was interesting that the Catholics voted in a block, and I am sure that that�s not lost on most people.

– – –

As I mentioned in my post last week, I spent a couple of days with my family after Easter. Following that, I went to Paraguay to be present at the instillation of Bishop Adalberto Martinez Flores as bishop of the diocese of San Pedro.


Bishop Adalberto Martinez Flores

Bishop Adalberto was one of my priests in the Virgin Islands. In fact, he had been one of my parishioners in Washington D.C. He went to the seminary in Rome and studied with the Focolare movement. He finished his studies right around the time that I was named bishop of the Virgin Islands, and in the Focolare movement they need to find a bishop who will ordain them because they do not ordain for their own movement. So, recognizing the great need that we had in the islands for Spanish-speaking priests, I invited him to be a priest of the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. He served for many years there, and then he was later named auxiliary bishop in his native diocese, the Archdiocese of Asunci�n in Paraguay. After being auxiliary bishop there for a couple of years, he was named bishop for a new diocese, the Diocese of San Lorenzo, which is also in Paraguay.

Recently, there have been some rather dramatic developments in the life of the Church in Paraguay. Namely, that the bishop of San Pedro, Bishop Emeritus Fernando Armindo Lugo M�ndez, resigned his post two years ago, has become involved in politics and is now running for president of the country. As a result, the Holy Father has asked Bishop Adalberto to take over that diocese, which is a very rural, very poor diocese. It is a great challenge.

Bishop Adalberto�s previous diocese, San Lorenzo, was carved out of the Archdiocese of Asuncion and actually extends from the capital into a rural area. Territorially, the new diocese is probably the largest in Paraguay although it has perhaps half the population of the Diocese of San Lorenzo: around 350,000 Catholics. He only has 20 priests to minister to them.

Just to get to San Pedro was an adventure. I arrived on Friday in Asunci�n; the installation was Saturday morning. The vice president of Paraguay, Luis Castiglioni, offered to take me in his plane, so we went in a twin engine plane and landed in a grass field not far from the cathedral.


Our plane was the small one in the back

The vice president is a very young man who is also running for president. In fact, there were three presidential candidates at the installation. Politics are very contentious in Paraguay. They do not have a long tradition of democracy, having had a dictatorship for over 30 years under General Alfredo Stroessner. So trying to strengthen political parties and civic institutions has been a difficult task for them.

All of the bishops of the country and the nuncio were present at Bishop Adalberto�s installation. Bishop Adalberto�s parents and his brothers and their families also joined us for the occasion. There were also many, many young people there. The population is a very young population in Paraguay, and it was good to see the great representation of the different youth movements who were a part of the celebration.


The bishops of Paraguay process into the cathedral


Next to me is the papal nuncio to Paraguay, Archbishop Orlando Antonini


Before the installation Mass began, young Guarani Indians put on a sort of play reenacting the arrival of the first Jesuit missionaries in Paraguay






It was very colorful and they did such a great job



The main altar of the cathedral is magnificent. It features a statue of St. Peter


Following the installation there was a celebratory lunch


There was an abundance of lively music and dancing




Bishop Adalberto’s mother and I. We had beautiful weather
for the day of the installation � thank God.

The next day, April 15, there was a terrible storm, and when it rains, people just stay home because the roads are just so bad. I was worried I would not be able to get back to Asunci�n to get my plane the following day. It was about an eight-hour ride on 200 miles of dirt road, which had turned into rivers of mud. We traveled in a truck with four-wheel drive and saw very few other cars on the road. So I was confident we would make it if we did not get stuck in some river or small lake we had to drive through.


It was an eight-hour run back to Asunci�n on roads like this


It may be hard to see in this photo but there was a pounding rain

Thank goodness, we arrived back in Asuncion, and in the afternoon, I was able to perform the baptism of a little baby whose mother I had baptized in Washington many years ago. Another young man, whom I also baptized in Washington, came to visit me with his wife and children. Having been in Washington for so many years, almost everywhere I go in Latin America now, I end up meeting people I have baptized!


Ana Veronica, whom I baptized in Washington,
and her baby Diego Maria whom I baptized last week

In the morning of April 16, the last day of my trip, I went to visit the capuchin friary where the postulants are. The capucjins there are from Brazil and came to open a couple of houses in Paraguay. One of those houses is this postulancy house.


The Capuchin postulants

They have a chapel for confession where people come for the sacrament of reconciliation, much like we have the Franciscans chapel on Arch Street here in Boston. They do not have as many friars, but they have many hours for confessions during the week. It is very, very popular. The chapel is named after St. Leopold Mandic, who was a famous capuchin confessor. He died in Padua, Italy in 1942. You can read his biography here.

– – –

Once a year I meet with all the superiors of the women�s and men�s religious orders. Sister Marian Batho the archdiocese�s delegate for religious, organizes these events and brings people together. It is a chance to give them an update on what is happening in the archdiocese.


Sister Marian addresses the superiors of the men’s congregation’s

On April 18, I met with the superiors from orders of brothers and priests. The men serve in a variety of ministries. Some of them have educational institutions, others are doing chaplaincy work in the prisons, some are doing work with the poor and homeless, some are working in campus ministry and still others have parishes.

At the meeting, we talked with them about plans for the bicentennial and different things that are happening in the different ministries of the diocese, the 2010 Initiative and things like that. It is an opportunity to have a conversation with the male religious. Some of them had questions or ideas that they wanted to share with me. It was a very good meeting.

– – –
For the photo of the week I have chosen another view of the main road which links San Pedro to Asunci�n. It is the best road in all the area!


18 thoughts on “A horrible tragedy, some exciting news and my trip to Paraguay”

  1. Paz y Bien. Querido Hermano en Francisco y Clara de Asis, y Cardenal. En primer lugar comp Franciscano Capuchino quiero agradecer mucho su visita a nuestra casa de Formacin. Fue un momento muy importante para todos nosotros, hermanos y formandos recibir una visita tan ilustre.
    Gracias por acordarse de sus hermanos que aqui en estas tierras buscan vivir el mismo ideal de Francisco y Clara de Ass.
    Estamos muy felices de haber recibido importante visita. Contamos siempre con tus oraciones….
    En Fracisco y Clara, Paz y Bien.
    Hno Valentin Pesente.

  2. Padre Sean GRACIAS por haber estado presente en la instalacion de Adalberto, y que ALEGRIA ver a Ana Veronica con su bebe y a la Mama de Adalberto. Es emocionante leer y ver las fotos de su visita.
    Que Dios le bendiga a usted y a Adalberto en su nueva diocesis y a todos los feligreses.

  3. Muchas gracias Cardenal por todo su trabajo de amor hacia el Senor. Sabe que aunque no lo conozco personalment he oido mucho de usted en mi trabajo y lo admiro mucho. Definitivamente Jesus lo marco con un sello muy especial.
    Lo necesitamos mucho en la comunidad hispana de Fall River.

  4. Cardinal Sean –

    I am confused about how we discern what is mental illness and what is evil. I know that to judge is God’s business, not mine, but in looking at my own life, and my community, I would like greater insight. I know you don’t have time to answer this questions. Perhaps you could recommend some reading.

  5. My Friend Cardinal O’Malley

    “Many of the laws and regulations we have concerning privacy and individual rights go beyond the dictates of common sense. One result of these laws is that many of the homeless people living on our streets find themselves in that situation because they are suffering from mental illness but are not receiving treatment. Schools also are unable to deal effectively with students who have mental health problems. It is my hope that in the wake of this great tragedy solutions will be proposed to deal with these problems.”
    I fail to see the connection of this because that maniac was living in the dorms of a college? That’s not homeless by any means. I do dispise the fact that anyone takes anothers life for any reason.
    If there are any homeless that are not able to assist themselves then that blame goes where it belongs.President Regan closed many hospitals for mentally challenged persons, leaving them homeless and unable to understand where to go.
    Thats not to say that all homeless people are capable of murder. Just to clarify a point that this individual was not homeless and killed.
    His judgement will come from God. Hopefully God will not forgive him . I do not speak for God though nor does society,That sems to haver gotten way beyond out of hand (society and God).

    If I may also comment the fact that your reoprt on the finances seem to reflect over $500,000 going to 2 men., with another major vendor > The law firm that assists in abuse cases.” Ropes & Gray, to which it paid $1.4 million, largely for handling abuse cases,”.
    That equals over 4.75 million dollars plus as you say $150 million to satisfy abuse. Which parts of that went to the law firm and which to the victims?
    I respectfully ask these questions and wonder how without justification any organization can say they are ” trying”? Everything in life is difficult my friend and there are no answers but the ones that God says are right. God knows what to do with that killer at Virginia Tech. He also knows whats right to do in cases of abuse. Now we should all know because men have passed laws that make it a criminal act.
    Please listen

  6. Desde Paraguay le envo sentimientos de gratitud al Cardenal por su presencia y sus clidas palabras en ocasin de la toma de posesin del Obispo de San Pedro. Grande fue la alegra que nos trajo con su presencia.
    Aprovecho para enviar mi solidadridad para con los familiares y amigos de la tragedia en Virginia Tech. Atte.

  7. Dear Cardinal Sean:

    Why am i not surprised to see you so involved in the work of
    Our Lord and His Church.
    May Jesus bless your work as you seek to build His Church.

    Please keep my family in your prayers.

    In Christ & the company of Ss Francis and Clare

    Ronald A Roy SFO
    Good Shepherd Parish
    Fall River, Ma

  8. Sr. Cardenal, en nombre del Instituto de Pastoral de Juventud del Paraguay, le damos las gracias por su presencia durante la instalacin del obispo en San Pedro. Fue muy agradable conocerlo pues le sabemos amigo de Mons. Martnez, pastor cercano y querido por los jvenes paraguayos comprometidos con Jesucristo y su Evangelio. Atte.

  9. Cardin Sean,
    I am new to the blogging communities and I found your blog thru a link. Your Virginia Tech comment inspired me to remark on your response. I truly in my heart believe the Lord has even greater mercy for those pastors He called via the apostolic succession, who hide behind the mental illness myth when our landscape of the world is cluttered with glaring evidence of sin and evil. Jesus did not die on a cross to defeat a chemical imbalance. The key thing is we are all going to face God one day and see reality as He created it and not as we conveniently deem it, because it seems to me it far easier for the human conscience to dismiss the fruit of evil as mental instablility. In my estimation too many pastors to their own detriment dismiss the reality of sin and evil because as long as we defer to psychiatric theory and speculation then our hands are clean so we think of the stain of human suffering, and thus we absolve ourselves of personal obligation and moral mandation to be part of the solution of the healing and deliverance of global culture at large. Many are mentally afflicted and live meaningful and purposeful lives depite their mysterious handicaps, and such souls merit great graces hopefully to intercede on behalf of the spiritually blind.
    Also to defer to those who massacre others in the name of mental illness commits a grave injustice toward and is grossly indicative of ignorance, in regards to those innocent persons whosuffer but do not kill. I encourage you to read my article, ” The Cyclothymic Tension between Heaven and Hell.” http://www.sacredheartofjesusyougotme.blogspot.com

    I think all priests should be required to study all areas of psychology and psychiatric medicine with the same intensity and fervor that they pursue theology and canon law. It would form a more discerning picture of reality as to what is really going on in the human mind. Peace

  10. I was surprised to read that Bishop Emeritus Fernando Armindo Lugo Mendez was running for President of Paraguay. I had thought that the Vatican had forbidden clerics to run for political office. Is this true only in the United States? Thank you for providing an answer.

    Rosemary Shaw

  11. Mis amigos de la pastoral me avisaron que en este blog del Cardenal, habia noticias de la toma de posesin de la Dicesis de San Pedro en Paraguay! las fotos son bellas y describen muy bien lo sucedido en San Pedro el pasado sbado 14 de abril. Aunque no hablo ingls, quiero decir que la presencia de una Cardenal en nuestra Iglesia fue muy alentadora y emocionante, cargada de testimonio al verlo junto al querido obispo Adalberto Martnez, en medio del calor y del peligro del dengue! en una dicesis muy pobre y abandonada. Sr. Cardenal, le recordaremos por mucho tiempo! Gracias por su cario hacia el pueblo paraguayo! Dios le bendiga!

  12. Dear Cardinal Sen,
    Yes. It was a very sad day in Va Tech. But one thing is for sure. Somebody please recommend the English teacher who first noticed that there is something not right with the attacker, a promotion. She tried to tell the higher authorities but they would not listen. May be they think that foreigners normally have a strange kind of behaviour because they are neither Americans nor Westerners. If we could rewind the life of this attacker, he should not have left his motherland. Then may be his mental illness will not go uncontrolled. May be. With so many immigrants coming to USA, the Americans should make an effort to accept them. Afterall it is the government which allows them to come in. Is it so hard to accept one another ? Their looks, their colour, their language, their background, their strangeness ? Are we still influenced by what is superior or what is inferior ? Should an industralized country or a developed country have a mind that is somehow stagnant in time ? A spiritual environment is a safe environment. But a person does not always live in a spiritual environment because there is the real or unspiritual environment out there that he has to live with for all his life. Let’s hope and pray hard that there is genuine peace.

  13. Cardinal Sean, It is my belief that as a society we have abdicated our responsibility because we have been “brain washed” over recent decades to believe governments know how to do things better than we do. I have adopted and adaped a saying the late John Banner made famous when he played Sgt. Schultz on Hogan’s heroes. Not only do I know nothing I know I know nothing. If we could turn this sad turn of events around it would probably take a Millienium . Jerry from Ave.

  14. I enjoyed the photos of the installation of my namesake and of Paraguay. I’ve been there three times and on one of my visits traveled through the -very green-countryside.

    Paraguayans are a very kind, hospitable people. Somewhat forgotten by the rest of Latin America ( perhaps because of its landlocked geographical location ) I find it is a place where you are drawn to reflection, because, in a way, it is a place where time has stood still for decades. There, you are drawn to think about the simple things in life that are the ones that give true meaning to the why of our existence and journey through life.

    Of course, I am delighted that an another Adalberto has made it to the ranks of Bishop of the Catholic Church. It was another Bishop Adalbert, Patron of Prague, Checoslovakia ( or the Czech Republic ) that stood in silence on Charles Bridge in that European capital watching over its people during the difficult years of the Nazi occupation and later the communist tyranny.

    Now, in Paraguay, another bishop, named Adalberto watches over another Christian/Catholic community bringing hope and faith to their lives.

    Un abrazo,

    The Other Adalberto of Bedford, Texas
    PS When he becomes a cardinal the three of us shall pose for a photo in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. LOL

  15. There was one bright moment in the Virginia tragedy. I quote from my own Blog:

    Prof Liviu Librescu RIP

    Since hearing how Prof Liviu Librescu gave up his life to buy his students a few precious seconds to escape the shooting at Virginia University, I have been looking for more about him.

    He was a Holocaust Survivor who gave up his life on Holocaust Remembrance Day. A hero. I feel very moved by what he did.

    I’d like to quote from Meryl Yourish’s Blog, because I couldn’t say it better

    But I found myself thinking: If Librescu is one of the Jews that Hitler missed, just imagine the kinds of men and women we lost. Just imagine the leaps in science and medicine and technology we didnt make, because of Europes Jew-hatred. And today, I think, there are a few parents out there who are thanking God that Hitler missed Liviu Librescu. So should we all.

    As a Catholic, I believe that the Jewish Jesus gave up his life to save us. Another Jew has just given up his life to save a bunch of people.

    His name should be remembered with pride and his story told and retold down the generations.

  16. Padre Sean, thanks for the virtual visit to my friend and mentor Fr. Adalberto. I will pray that he continue to provide faithful service to the people of Paraguay just as he did as a priest of the diocese of St. Thomas in the VI. God’s blessings to you as well as you continue to shepherd God’s people in the archdiocese of Boston. un abrazo, -Jose

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April 2007

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