Voice of the Faithful Focus

Voice of the Faithful’s biweekly news roundup highlighting
issues we face working together to Keep the Faith, Change the Church

VOTF LogoApril 21, 2017

TOP STORIES

It was an honor to know you, Joe Crowley
“No one taught me more about the incalculable damage of sexual abuse(link is external), and the surprising resiliency of the human spirit, than Joe Crowley. I met Joe in the fall of 2001, when my Spotlight Team colleagues and I were searching for people who had been molested by Catholic priests. Through a network of lawyers and advocates, I contacted Joe, then 42. He was smart, funny, and articulate, but also nervous, insecure, and still trying to recover emotionally from what had happened to him decades earlier.” By Sacha Pfeiffer, The Boston Globe

Atlanta archbishop says clericalism continues to hinder sex abuse reforms
“Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during the tumultuous years when the wide scope of the clergy sexual abuse scandal was brought to light, said in a new interview that clericalism is still hampering efforts to address the issue(link is external), even at the highest levels of the church. ‘I would say there is a resistance to do the hard thing,’ the Atlanta archbishop told NPR affiliate WABE in a March interview broadcast on April 10.” By Michael O’Loughlin, America: The Jesuit Review

Pope makes appointments amid criticism of sex abuse response
“Pope Francis on Tuesday (Apr. 4) named a new official to oversee the Vatican office that processes clerical sex abuse cases(link is external) amid mounting criticism over a years-long backlog of cases and Francis’ handling of the problem. The promotion of Monsignor John Kennedy to head of the discipline section of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith was the second abuse-related appointment in recent days. Francis named the Rev. Hans Zollner, one of the Catholic Church’s top experts on fighting abuse and protecting children, as an adviser to the Vatican’s office for clergy on Saturday (Apr. 1).” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in The Washington Post

Child sex abuse: Catholic bishops ‘must meet Pope Francis to push for urgent change’
“Australia’s bishops must lead an urgent delegation to Pope Francis(link is external) seeking changes to some of the church’s most fundamental views on women, celibacy, governance and the handling of child sex cases, according to Australia’s peak Catholic reform group in a call to arms to Catholics across the country. In an open letter sent to all parishes, Catholics for Renewal has urged bishops and archbishops not to “defer to the Holy See”, or wait for the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, before acting on serious issues identified by the commission that contributed to the child sexual abuse crisis.” By Joanne McCarthy, The Sydney Morning Herald

German bishops divided on diaconate for women
“A German theologian-bishop has called for the ordination of woman deacons(link is external), saying it is more important than relaxing mandatory celibacy or ordaining married men of proven virtue (viri probati) to the priesthood. ‘Women should be ordained deacons. It is a sign of the times,’ said Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Rottenburg-Stuttgart. He told a 27 March gathering of the German Catholic Women’s Association the time had come for women deacons. The association, which has been demanding the move for over twenty years, was marking its 100th anniversary.” By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, La Croix International

ACCOUNTABILITY

Guam Catholic Church sees a perfect storm of controversy
“The Catholic Church on the Pacific island of Guam has been devastated by allegations that its longtime archbishop sexually abused altar boys(link is external). But even before the scandal broke, Guam’s church was divided over another issue — the presence of a controversial European lay movement that became so toxic that a community of nuns fled to the mainland U.S. in despair. The battle on the tiny tropical U.S. territory pits the Neocatechumenal Way lay group against critics on a majority Catholic island that was colonized by Spanish missionaries in the 17th century.” By Grace Garces Bordallo and Nicole Winfield

PONTIFICAL COMMISSION FOR THE PROTECTION OF MINORS

Abuse commission member: We asked pope to create Vatican office to train in responding to survivors
“A member of Pope Francis’ commission on clergy sexual abuse says his group has asked the pontiff to create a new Vatican office to train the city-state’s personnel in how to respond to letters from abuse survivors(link is external). Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told the Italian Catholic channel TV2000 Monday  that Vatican officials need training before they can respond to survivors.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

POPE FRANCIS

Pope Francis’ message faces intensifying criticism
“It seems that criticism of Francis is increasing(link is external) and becoming more overt and intense. What is it about Francis that is making him a more and more controversial figure? One reason, of course is that he has created a more open papacy in which dissent is tolerated and even encouraged. The opportunity to share one’s thoughts, however, should not include being disrespectful.” By Pat Perriello, National Catholic Reporter

Letter from Rome: Who is Francis listening to?
“… It is about his apparently ambivalent attitude towards holding bishops accountable(link is external) for mishandling cases, protecting abusive priests, or showing more concern for the reputation of the institution than for victims. However, there was a small sign last week that the pope’s attitude may be changing (and, note well, Francis has shown an amazing capacity to listen, learn, and change). It came with the forced resignation of a bishop in Southern France. The resignation of the prelate in question—Bishop Hervé Gaschignard of the Diocese of Dax and Aire—was accepted on April 6. It occurred just a few months after people in his diocese went to the French bishops’ conference and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with complaints over the bishop’s inappropriate ‘words and attitude with respect to several young people.’” By Robert Mickens, Commonweal
How are Pope Francis’ reforms of the Roman Curia going?
“Kurt Martens is a Belgian-born lay Catholic civil and canon lawyer who serves as a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America. He is a consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committee on canonical affairs and specializes in the working and organization of church structures, including published research on the reform of the Roman Curia. He is the editor of ‘The Jurist,’ the only canon law periodical in the United States. I recently interviewed Dr. Martens by email about the ongoing efforts of Pope Francis to reform the Roman Curia(link is external).” By Sean Salai, S.J., America: The Jesuit Review

BISHOPS

Atlanta’s Catholic archbishop on abuse scandal news, married priests
“As Christians began to observe Holy Week, the leader of the world’s Catholics was preparing for a two-day visit to Egypt despite the recent deadly bombings at Christian churches there. Among other things, the April 28-29 visit by Pope Francis is aimed at further improving relations between the Catholic Church and the world’s Muslims. But the church continues its internal struggles over how the Vatican and Catholic bishops have handled the clergy abuse scandal(link is external). Recently, an abuse survivor, who had been a member of a commission advising the Vatican, quit in frustration.” By Denis O’Hayer, National Public Radio, Atlanta, WABE.org

PRIESTS

Catholics surge in Africa but priest shortages persist in other parts of the globe
“The number of Catholics worldwide is rising fastest in Africa(link is external) while the church continues to suffer from a shortage of priests in some parts of the world … Despite an increase in the number of Catholics, there was a fall in the number of priests called to ministry in some parts of the world. The number of priests rose by more than 1,100 in Africa and 1,100 in Asia but fell by 2,502 (6 percent) in Europe between 2014 and 2015. There were a total of 47 new priests in the Americas in 2015.” By Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service

CHURCH REFORM

Fix a disconnect that hobbles the Church
“A new book offer suggestions about how the laity can get more involved(link is external) in the life of the parish and Church at large. ‘Everyone Leads: How to Revitalize the Catholic Church’ looks at a disconnect between Church leadership and the people in the pews.” By Chris Lowney, Cruxnow.com

Married priests and female deacons? What the Pope’s politics look like from Latin America
“Priests are Catholicism’s greatest figures: shepherds who manage the relationship with the divine. But their numbers have been dwindling worldwide(link is external) since the 1930s. In Argentina, the Church lost 23% of its priests and nuns from 1960 to 2013. France and Spain have also seen a dramatic reduction in clergy. In Europe, the number of priests declined 3.6% between 2012 and 2015 alone.” By Veronica Gimenez Beliveau, University of Buenos Aires, in The Huffington Post

FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Not just another ‘trade meeting,’ convocation seeks to unify U.S. church
“This summer’s Convocation of Catholic Leaders comes at a time when the U.S. Catholic Church is seeking how best to respond to a changing social landscape(link is external) while bringing Pope Francis’ vision for a church that offers mercy and joy to the world. Called by the bishops, the historic convocation will find more than 3,000 Catholic leaders — bishops, clergy, religious and laypeople — meeting July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida, to focus on how the pope’s 2013 apostolic exhortation, ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ (‘The Joy of the Gospel’), applies in the United States.” By Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

Letter from Rome: Who will speak to solve the vocations crisis?
“The (Second Vatican) Council stated clearly that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the church’s life and all its activity. And in its decree on priestly life and ministry Vatican II said it’s impossible to truly build up a Christian community ‘unless it has its basis and center in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist.’ Hence, the need for priests(link is external) … But the church has a serious shortage of ordained presbyters in almost every part of the world, except in some countries in Africa and Asia. And this “vocations crisis” is not something new. The first signs of it started appearing even before Vatican Council II got underway.” By Robert Mickens, Commonweal

Vatican statistics confirm the Catholic future is in Africa
“New statistic released by the Vatican on Thursday (Apr. 6) show that Africa continues to position itself as the future axis of Catholicism(link is external), with the number of baptized Catholics on the continent growing at a significantly faster rate than anywhere else in the world. According to the numbers released on Thursday by the Vatican’s press office, Catholicism has grown globally from 1.272 billion in 2014 to 1.285 in 2015. This represents a 1 percent annual growth, and 17.7 percent of the world’s population.” By Ines San Martin, Cruxnow.com

“AMORIS LAETITIA”

On ‘Amoris’ anniversary, let’s appreciate its beauty and relevance
“Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington says the one-year anniversary of the release of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ spotlights the ‘beauty and relevance’ of the document(link is external), including the way it does not reverse Church teaching on marriage but rather offers ‘greater emphasis on the role of the individual conscience in appropriating those moral norms in the person’s actual circumstances.’” By Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Cruxnow.com

WOMEN IN THE CHURCH

Role of women in the modern Catholic Church ‘unacceptable’
“‘Women are stalwarts of the Catholic Church when it comes to attendance and participation. The role of women in the church(link is external), as it is now, is unacceptable in modern times,’ Fr O’Hanlon said Pope Francis wanted to change the role of women, and he urged the Bishops to embrace his ideas more enthusiastically.” By Kim Bielenberg, Irish Independent

Francis’s words about women: What does he really think?
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers some sage advice on how to take someone else’s words. In article 2478, it says: To avoid rash judgment, everyone ought to be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbors’ thoughts, words, and deeds, in a favorable way … I thought about this advice when considering some of Pope Francis’s words about women(link is external). As many have noted, despite his stated intention of including and promoting women, the Pope has caused no little consternation by some of his remarks concerning them.” By Rita Ferrone, Commonweal

CLERICALISM

New clericalism is imposing old ways on modern church architecture
“Church architecture has become a frontline of the liturgy wars as Catholic churches undergo re-renovations. Michael DeSanctis, a church building consultant and theology professor, is not pleased. Restoration-minded pastors, most who came of age well after Vatican II, are ordering the changes. Gone are what they sometimes disparage as ‘Pizza Hut’ churches. The goal is to restore tradition. They impose altar rails, the placement of the Blessed Sacrament near the altar, and use expensive marble on the floor to seal off the sanctuary area as a polished and exclusive arena for clerical liturgical action(link is external).” By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter

MARRIED PRIESTS

Why married priests won’t really fix the shortage
“What the Holy Father did say is that he is open to exploring the possibility of proven men(link is external) (‘viri probati,’ in Latin) who are married being ordained to the priesthood. Currently, such men, who are typically over the age of 35, are eligible for ordination to the permanent diaconate, but not the priesthood. However, marriage was not the first solution to the priest shortage Pope Francis proposed. In fact, it was the last.” By Mary Rezac, Catholic News Agency

Married priests would broaden perspective of Catholic Church
“Pope Francis is open to the possibility of ordaining married men as priests(link is external). But don’t get too excited. The Catholic Church moves at glacial speed, and a cadre of married priests won’t be joining the clerical ranks any time soon. My initial reaction was cynical. Ordaining married men seemed like a convenient way to shut women out. But, upon reflection, I decided that was unfair. Married priests would be a good thing for Roman Catholicism.” By Louise McEwan, Troy Media of Canada

VOICES

The Catholic Church’s child sexual abuse scandal revisited
“A few days ago in this space I kicked off Holy Week with an expression of dismay over the Catholic Church’s incorrigible ineptitude in dealing with its never-ending child sex abuse scandal(link is external). I wrote about being stunned over the Church’s legislative campaign to make it more difficult for people to sue their rapists and molesters.” By Bruce R. Nelson, “Let’s Think This Out” Blog

A new genre of civic literature: official reports of government inquiries into international cases of abuse of institutionalized children
“This is a story about institutional crime and social justice. At times, it may seem there is too much of the former and not enough of the latter. That’s the bad news. The good news is, when the institutional crime involves the abuse and exploitation of children(link is external), a number of different governments, in different countries, in different parts of the world, are finally beginning to do something. Unfortunately, the U.S. government is not one of them.” By Arthur McCaffrey, Los Angeles Review of Books

CHURCH FINANCES

Catholic priest who stole almost €60K from parish spared jail
“A Roman Catholic priest who stole £50,000 (€58,447) from his parish(link is external) after falling in love with his housekeeper and lavishing gifts on her family has been spared jail. Judge Christopher Prince said Father John Reid’s fraud was an ‘aberration’ which persisted over 40 months while he was in charge of St Cuthbert’s Church in Chester-le-Street, County Durham.” By Tom Wilkinson, Irish Independent

Pope dismisses priest who stole $300K from bishop, hospital
“The Diocese of Manchester said Friday, April 7, that Pope Francis dismissed Arsenault from the priesthood on Feb. 28. Arsenault is serving a jail sentence after he was convicted of stealing thousands of dollars(link is external) from a hospital, a bishop and a deceased priest’s estate.” By Associated Press on Cruxnow.com

Rector charged with stealing money at Catholic priests’ home
“The rector of a church-owned retirement home for Roman Catholic priests has been charged with embezzling $535,000(link is external) to pay for casino visits, high-end dinners and Philadelphia Pops concerts. Federal prosecutors have charged Msgr. William A. Dombrow with skimming money for nearly nine years from an account meant to support Villa St. Joseph. The Philadelphia archdiocese runs the facility to house aging priests and those accused of sexual abuse. Much of the stolen money came from insurance payments for priests who died and from parishioners who left the facility money.” By Associated Press in The Washington Times
Pennsylvania monsignor to plead guilty to embezzling $500,000(link is external), By David DeKok, Religion News Service

Italy puts Vatican on ‘clean’ financial institutions list, ending years of mistrust
“Italy put the Vatican on its ‘white list’ of states with cooperative financial institutions on Tuesday (Apr. 4), ending years of mistrust and providing an endorsement(link is external) of efforts by Pope Francis to clean up the city state’s banking sector. The list includes countries with which Italy has agreements on the exchange of financial and tax information, such as other EU member states.” By Philip Pullella, Reuters, in U.S. News & World Report

Diocese filing for bankruptcy to settle sex abuse claims
“A second Montana Roman Catholic diocese will file for bankruptcy(link is external) protection as part of settlements involving more than 400 people in sex abuse lawsuits, church officials said Friday. The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings said it expected to make the Chapter 11 reorganization filing later in the day, and the diocese and its insurance carriers would contribute to a fund to compensate victims and set aside additional money for those who have not yet come forward.” By Amy Beth Hanson, Associated Press
Great Falls-Billings Diocese becomes 15th to file for bankruptcy(link is external), By Dan Morris-Young

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS REFORM

House seeks wider window for child sex abuse lawsuits
“The state House (North Carolina) will likely vote this week on a bill to lengthen the statute of limitations(link is external) for civil lawsuits by victims of childhood sexual abuse. House Bill 585 had its first hearing Wednesday morning, passing the House Judiciary IV Committee by a unanimous vote.” By WRAL.com

A standard for sex abuse liability
Enabling victims of child sexual abuse to seek damages(link is external) after they become adults is a no-brainer in concept. But the tortured path of a bill in the state Legislature to expand that opportunity demonstrates that the matter is far more complex in practice.” By Standard-Speaker Editorial Board

Child sex abuse survivors rally for 2-year retroactive window
Survivors of child sex abuse(link is external) and their supporters took to the steps of the state capitol to ask lawmakers to pass their bill, one they are calling the ‘real deal.’ With his back to a row of reporters now facing his supporters, Rep. Mark Rozzi summed up why those wanting a statute of limitations reform stood together outside the Capitol Building on Monday (Apr. 3).” By Kody Leibowitz, WJAC-TV

CLERGY CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

Report charges cover-up of sexual abuse by traditionalist society
“An explosive report airing tonight (Apr. 5) on Swedish television charges that the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X knew about at least three cases of its priests being accused of sexually abusing minors(link is external), but failed to enforce a ‘zero tolerance’ policy. An alleged victim told Crux he believes the Vatican should have done more to hold the society accountable.” By Ines San Martin, Cruxnow.com

Ending the horror of child abuse is crucial
“Last weekend (Apr. 15) on my radio show, I had the distinct honor of interviewing Angela Liddle, the president of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, a heroic organization based in Harrisburg that lobbies on behalf of children(link is external) who are in danger of being abused, or who have already suffered abuse.” By Christine Flower, Delaware County Daily Times

Renegade Catholic order in UK ‘harbors clergy accused of sexual abuse’
“A British Catholic priest who has been excommunicated twice by different popes is allegedly harboring clergy accused of sexual abuse(link is external) in his renegade religious order. Richard Williamson, who was illicitly ordained as a bishop in 1988 by an ultra-conservative group, the Society of St Pius X, and later convicted of Holocaust denial by a German court, is now head of the ‘SSPX Resistance,’ based in Broadstairs, Kent.” By Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian
Breakaway Catholic order ‘hides priests accused of sexual crimes’ in British coastal town(link is external), By RT.com

ILLINOIS

Chicago archdiocese pays $3.15 million to settle abuse suits
“The Archdiocese of Chicago will pay $3.15 million to settle lawsuits brought by three men who allege they were sexually abused by a notorious former pastor(link is external) of a West Side Catholic church more than a decade ago, the plaintiffs’ attorney said Wednesday (Apr. 13). The accusers, all identified in court papers as John Doe, said former priest and convicted sex offender Daniel McCormack sexually abused them more than once during their participation in an after-school program called S.A.F.E. at Our Lady of the Westside Catholic School.” By Manya Brachear Pashman, Chicago Tribune

MASSACHUSETTS

Eight clergy abuse victims receive $880,000 settlement
“The Diocese of Fall River has agreed to an $880,000 settlement with eight men who as children were sexually abused by a West Harwich priest(link is external), the victims’ attorney announced Monday. The late Rev. James Nickel, who served at Holy Trinity Parish in West Harwich, sexually abused at least eight boys in the early 1970s and 1980s, some as many as 50 times over several years. Attorneys for the men suspect there are more victims.” By Jan Ransom, The Boston Globe

MISSOURI

At sex abuse trial, St. Louis archbishop says he was unaware of priest’s sleepovers
“St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson testified Monday (Apr. 3) he told the Rev. Xiu Hui ‘Joseph’ Jiang to counsel a Lincoln County family about their participation in a rogue nun’s religious rituals(link is external) but that he didn’t know the priest sometimes slept overnight at the family’s home.” By Joel Currier, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Jury sides with St. Louis Archdiocese, suspended priest in civil sex abuse trial(link is external), By Joel Currier, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

NEW YORK

All Saints teacher’s aide promised 60 years for child porn filmed at home
“A teacher’s aide at All Saints Elementary School in Syracuse quietly admitted today (Apr. 19) that she exploited two young girls(link is external) — one less than a year old — for child pornography at her home and at the school. Emily Oberst, 24, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and child porn charges in federal court today in exchange for a promised sentence of 60 years in prison. There is no parole in federal prison, so she will not be released early.” By Douglass Dowty, Syracuse.com

PENNSYLVANIA

Grand jury hears testimony about alleged abuse in Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh
“A grand jury has been meeting behind closed doors about sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh(link is external). Jurors heard testimony on Tuesday (Apr. 11) during the secret proceedings about cases that could date back 70 years. Target 11’s Rick Earle learned one man who testified claims that he was abused by a priest and nun. Earle previously spoke with Johnny Hewko about the allegations. Hewko said he was abused over a nearly three-year span of time. ‘I’d have to say, on average, maybe once a week would be around right,’ he told Earle in February.” By WPXI-TV

AUSTRALIA

This Easter, it’s the Church that needs redemption
“In short, Jesus’ death and resurrection saves us from our sins. This Holy Week I won’t be at church. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no saint. I make no claim to sinlessness. I could use some of that forgiveness and redemption. But it is hard to take seriously a church that, in its very organization, seems so sinful(link is external). If Jesus’ death and resurrection imparts some saving grace to humanity, how is it that the very institution that is meant to mediate Christ to his followers can be so intrinsically flawed?” By Kristina Keneally, The Guardian

Act now against the criminals protected by the Catholic Church
“It is difficult to stop crying. A child sexual abuse expert(link is external) from the US, Bruce Perry, simply picked a random example. He spoke via video link to the Royal Commission into Institutional ­Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; he was one of 36 experts in the field who gave evidence last week at the final public hearing of the royal commission, titled Case Study 57: Nature, Cause and Impact of Child Sexual Abuse. Perry’s example was of ‘a little five-year-old child and somebody is raping you,’ and he talked of what it does to the young mind.” By Chrissie Foster, The Australian

Victim advocate: The abuse scandal has broken the heart of the Catholic Church in Australia
“In this exclusive interview with ‘America,’ Francis Sullivan, the chief executive officer of the Australian Catholic Church’s ‘Truth, Justice, and Healing Council,’ reflects on what contributed to the abuse of minors by priests and religious in Australia, and what he thinks the Royal Commission that has been investigating(link is external) this abuse might say in its report at the year’s end.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review

‘They were empty word’: abuse survivors lose faith in George Pell’s Roman vow
Survivor Paul Levey said he’d lost all faith in Cardinal Pell(link is external), who stood on the steps of the Hotel Quirinale in Rome last year, pledging to help the survivors and do something to stop suicides of victims in Ballarat … ‘He’s [Cardinal Pell] done nothing since then,’ Mr Levey said. ‘They were empty words. He was just waiting for us to go away and hoping we couldn’t come back.’” By Melissa Cunningham, The Age

‘The dirty linen is out there’: slow progress on sex abuse compensation frustrates victims and states
“After decades waiting for justice and recognition, survivors of Australia’s legacy of institutional child sexual abuse(link is external) are losing patience with the slow development of a major national compensation scheme. Nearly five months after Social Services Minister Christian Porter announced an opt-in redress system to run until 2028, state governments say no further detail has been provided and the Catholic Church’s representative on a key advisory body has warned that political resistance to costly payouts will weaken any plan.” By Tom McIlroy, The Sydney Morning Herald

BELGIUM

Catholic Church in Belgium honors sex abuse victims
“The Catholic Church in Belgium on Saturday (Apr. 8) took part in a day of recognition for victims of sexual abuse by priests(link is external), seven years after a paedophile scandal rocked the institution.” By Agence France-Press on Inquirer.net

CANADA

Saskatchewan Roman Catholic priest sexual assault charge stayed
“A stay of proceedings has been granted in a sexual assault case against a Roman Catholic priest(link is external) who served three rural parishes in northwestern Saskatchewan. Father Javier De Los Angeles Cortazar, 48, was charged in 2014 after an incident at a cabin near Goodsoil, Sask. The alleged victim’s name was subject to a publication ban.” By Canadian Broadcasting Company

Late Ottawa Catholic bishop who managed sex abuse complaints now accused of sex abuse
“An Ottawa man says he was sexually abused in August 1979 by Bishop John Beahan(link is external), who was then one of the most powerful figures in the Archdiocese of Ottawa. The man, now 52, has launched a $2-million lawsuit against the Catholic archdiocese. It represents the first time that Beahan, once the second-highest-ranking member of the Ottawa clergy, has been named in a sex abuse lawsuit.” By Andrew Duffy, Ottawa Citizen

More victims of sexual abuse go after Moncton church for money
“After paying out millions of dollars in damages to more than 100 victims of sexual abuse(link is external), the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moncton may owe even more money. Three new lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks by victims of sexual abuse against the priests accused of molesting them.” By Gabriele Fahmy, CBC News

COLOMBIA

Colombia’s Catholic Church shuns responsibility in potential child abuse cases
“A controversial document stipulating that priests are solely responsible in child abuse cases and not the church(link is external), has been circulated by the Catholic Church in Colombia, reported local media. So far only the archdiocese of the southwestern city of Cali has made its priests sign a document absolving their employer of all responsibility, which has once again opened the debate on liability in church pedophilia cases.” By Jamie Vaughan Johnson, Colombia Reports

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND & WALES

Catholic priest, 74, who repeatedly raped a young boy until he prayed for his own death is jailed for 17 years
“A Catholic priest who repeatedly raped a young boy(link is external) until he prayed for his own death was today (Apr. 13) jailed for 17 years. Michael Higginbottom, 74, reveled in ‘cruel, sadistic bullying’ at St Joseph’s College in Upholland, near Ormskirk, Lancashire. A court heard he used a strap and cane on boys as punishment and said he could ‘make this as easy or as hard’ as the victim wanted.” By Abe Hawken, Daily Mail
Catholic priest goes on trial accused of sex abuse at Upholland seminary(link is external), By Lynda Roughley, Liverpool Echo
Ex-Catholic school pupil who accused Darlington priest of sex abuse ‘made up the claims to get compensation(link is external),’ By Stuart Manning, The Northern Echo
Was disgraced Darlington priest Michael Higginbottom at the center of a pedophile ring?(link is external) By Joanna Morris, The Northern Echo

Catholic priest who allegedly abused boy sent to Bristol retreat near primary school
“A Catholic priest found guilty by his peers of sexually abusing a boy(link is external) was transferred to a Bristol retreat near a primary school. The unnamed priest, known as ‘Father S’ and formerly a member of the traditionalist Catholic splinter group the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), was accused of abusing a boy in 2006 while based in France.” By Lewis Pennock, Bristol Post

Child abuse inquiry to focus on Catholic Church homes
The second phase of the Scottish child abuse inquiry(link is external) will investigate children’s homes run by the Catholic Church. The inquiry is examining historical allegations about the abuse of children in care and has been taking statements from witnesses since last spring. Officials said the next phase, due to begin in autumn, will initially focus on homes run by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul.” By STV News

GUAM

Apuron accusers meet with Vatican tribunal
“A former Agat altar boy and the mother of a now deceased altar boy testified before a Vatican tribunal for the canonical penal trial of Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron, who is accused of raping and sexually abusing four altar boys(link is external) in the 1970s.” By Haidee Eugenio, Pacific Daily News

Archdiocese moves to dismiss 36 abuse cases
“The Archdiocese of Agana has asked the District Court of Guam to dismiss the 36 pending child sexual abuse cases(link is external) that have been filed against it. The archdiocese contends the recently passed law, which prompted the filing of the suits, does not actually provide for claimants to file such actions against third parties.” By Neil Pang, The Guam Daily Post

Sunday marks 42nd week of protest demanding Apuron be defrocked
“Dressed not in Sunday’s best, but with signs demanding Archbishop Anthony Apuron be defrocked. Sunday (Apr. 9) marked the 42nd week of pickets in front of the Hagatna Cathedral for members of the Concerned Catholics of Guam and the Laity Forward Movement. Apuron is four-times accused of sexually abusing former altar boys(link is external) at Mt. Carmel Parish in Agat, resulting in lawsuits filed in the federal court.” By Krystal Paco, KUAM-TV

SNAP: Guam clergy sex abuse cases could reach 150-200
“The world’s largest network of priest abuse survivors says Guam’s clergy sex abuse cases could reach into the hundreds(link is external) over the next couple of years, from 46 at present. Guam children were allegedly abused by Catholic clergy between 1956 and 1988, based on lawsuits filed in local and federal courts between Nov. 1 and April 6.” By Haidee Eugenio, Pacific Daily News

Three new clergy sex abuse cases filed
“Guam’s clergy sex abuse cases increased to 45(link is external) on Wednesday (Apr. 5), with former priest Andrew Manetta named as a defendant in the two latest filings. Two men, identified only with their initials — ‘M.B.’ and ‘G.G.’ — to protect their privacy, alleged Manetta sexually molested them during sleepovers at the rectory of Santa Teresita Church in Mangilao, around 1986 to 1987, when they were altar boys, ages 13 and 14, respectively.” By Haidee Eugenio, Pacific Daily News

40th person accuses church of sex abuse
“A 40th victim has filed suit against the Archdiocese of Agana and the Boy Scouts of America Aloha Council. Plaintiff J.C.T. alleges he was 15-years-old in the early 1970s when he was sexually molested by his Boy Scout troop leader, Father Louis Brouillard(link is external).” By Krystal Paco, KUAM-TV

Judge recusals of clergy sex abuse cases mount
“Superior Court of Guam judges continue to recuse themselves from hearing Catholic clergy sex abuse cases(link is external), now that the local court is seeing a second wave of filings. As of March 30, local judges have filed 89 disqualification memos to avoid doubts about their partiality.” By Haidee Eugenio, Pacific Daily News

Guam’s Catholic Church faces two more lawsuits
“Two more lawsuits have been filed in Guam by men who say they were sexually abused by a former priest(link is external) in the 1960s. The latest complaints bring the number of lawsuits for historical sexual abuse faced by the island’s Catholic Church to 39. Most of the allegations are against the island’s recused archbishop, Anthony Apuron, and a former priest, Louis Brouillard.” By Radio New Zealand

IRELAND

Historical abuse survivors continue to wait for compensation in Northern Ireland
Historical abuse survivors(link is external) have accused Northern Ireland’s politicians of putting their own needs before victims as they continue to wait for financial payments promised 17 months ago. Victims have warned that many have been left suicidal or facing financial ruin as the current Stormont impasse means that the findings and recommendations of a four-year inquiry into state and church abuse have still not been presented to the assembly.” By Sunday World

SPAIN

Spanish court clears priest in abuse case taken up by Pope Francis
Ending a sexual abuse case(link is external) in which Pope Francis intervened three years ago, a Spanish court on Tuesday (Apr. 11) cleared a parish priest in Granada who had been accused of molesting an altar boy. The court found no evidence that the Rev. Román Martínez had sexually abused one of his former altar boys more than a decade ago.” By Raphael Minder, The New York Times

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SNAP in the crosshairs II / Thomas Doyle

Photo of Tom DoyleRev. Thomas P. Doyle, who has a doctorate in canon law and five master’s degrees, sacrificed a rising career at the Vatican Embassy to become an outspoken advocate for church abuse victims. Since 1984, when he became involved with the issue of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy while serving at the Embassy, he has become an expert in the canonical and pastoral dimensions of this problem. The first part of his commentary on SNAP was published earlier in this blog.

As soon as the media announced that the two leaders of SNAP had resigned and that a former employee had filed a lawsuit, the usual suspects came out of the woodwork to hammer SNAP, Barbara Blaine, David Clohessy and several others who have been connected with SNAP in one way or another. The information they broadcast about SNAP and its problems all came from the complaint that initiated the lawsuit. No one has any “inside information.”

A complaint in a lawsuit is exactly that: a list of things with which the plaintiff took issue. The purpose of the legal process is to determine whether these complaints are true.

The complaint about SNAP and its central leadership tries to give the impression that the entire organization is somehow corrupt and working against sex abuse victims. Nothing could be further from reality. Nor is the national leadership the totality of SNAP, and vice versa. Thus, while the lawsuit names SNAP, the fact is that it’s really about less than a handful of members.

Most of the news stories triggered by the lawsuit have not vilified SNAP or its leaders. The exceptions come primarily from two notorious sources: David Pierre and Bill Donohue. Both of these individuals consistently deny the scope of clerical sex abuse and attribute the actions of survivors and their supporters to anti-Catholic sentiments instead of to a thirst for justice.

Pierre operates a web site called the Media Report, which I have read only once or twice and was singularly unenlightened each time.

Donohue has complained for years that SNAP promotes anti-Catholicism, and he endorses the baseless claim made in the lawsuit that SNAP leaders have a “pathological hatred of the Catholic Church.”

It’s a silly accusation. Yes, of course a lot of sex abuse survivors and those who support them are highly critical of the institutional church—and of bishops in particular. It’s a natural response to being abused and then having to endure the lying, cover ups, demonization, and manipulation by their trusted shepherds. Whether Donohue likes it or not, sexual molestation of innumerable minor boys and girls by Catholic clerics is a reality. No amount of spin or bombastic raving or charges of anti-Catholicism can make it go away. (The other reality is that the number of false accusations is miniscule.)

The ultimate anti-Catholic behavior, in my view, is the lying, cover up, demonization, and manipulation of victims by the bishops. Indeed, the prime cause of scandal, anger and “Catholic bashing” has not been the sex abuse itself but the behavior of the hierarchy world-wide.

Bishops who have secretly transferred sex abusers from parish to parish, protected them, and then lied about it not only deserve severe criticism but also, according to the Church’s own law enacted last May by Pope Francis, dismissal from office. Why? Because tolerating, protecting and enabling the molestation of children violates teachings that come from the core of the Church’s belief system: the Gospels of Jesus Christ.

Vilifying the victims of the Church’s ministers and attacking those who support them as “anti-Catholic” may generate headlines, but it cannot erase those basic truths. Catholic clergy abused children for decades (centuries); the bishops covered it up; and the Church still has not fully come to terms with that massive failure.

Contrary to the wishful thinking of many in Church leadership, it is not “over.” Victims of clergy abuse are still coming forward. In numerous other countries, the victims are organizing and standing up to the institutional Church just as they did in the U.S. Victims no longer will cower in the shadows. That era ended almost 40 years ago.

The forces who demand honesty, accountability, and transparency will continue hacking away at the False-Church facade so that the real thing, the “People of God,” can emerge to its rightful place.

A final thought about the lawsuit. A number of people who have read the complaint seem to believe there’s something fishy about it. One wonders if the real purpose has nothing to do with justice or whistleblowing but, like some of the other lawsuits aimed at SNAP, aims to use the legal process to force SNAP out of business.

April 20, 2017

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Atlanta archbishop says clericalism continues to hinder sex abuse reforms / America

If only clericalism could be quashed and the Vatican II promise of a broad, deep, significant, and effective participation of equal lay and ordained in the Church could be fulfilled — but we don’t see this happening anytime soon.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who led the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during the tumultuous years when the wide scope of the clergy sexual abuse scandal was brought to light, said in a new interview that clericalism is still hampering efforts to address the issue, even at the highest levels of the church.

“‘I would say there is a resistance to do the hard thing,’ the Atlanta archbishop told NPR affiliate WABE in a March interview broadcast on April 10. ‘I think it’s culturally driven as much as it is ideologically driven.’

“Archbishop Gregory addressed allegations by Marie Collins, an Irish laywoman and survivor of sexual abuse who resigned from the pope’s child protection commission. She complained that the Vatican refuses to implement recommendations from the group, even with the backing of Pope Francis himself. Ms. Collins, the archbishop said, ‘has touched on a truism.’

‘”‘It is the ugly face of clericalism that unfortunately still has too much influence in our church,’ Archbishop Gregory said. ‘Marie Collins is a very brave woman, and she is a very determined woman, and I believe she’s a grace for the church.’

By Michael O’Loughlin, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Francis’s words about women: What does he really think? / Commonweal

“When ordination is rightly understood, according to Pope Francis, women’s gifts for leadership can be shared within the church. Women can engage in decision-making for the church. He seems to be saying that ordination is simply less important than baptism in the grand scheme of things. And in any clerically-dominated church, that is saying a mouthful—for women and for men.”

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers some sage advice on how to take someone else’s words. In article 2478, it says:

“To avoid rash judgment, everyone ought to be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbors’ thoughts, words, and deeds, in a favorable way.

“To explain this, it offers a quote from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus:

‘Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.’

“I thought about this advice when considering some of Pope Francis’s words about women. As many have noted, despite his stated intention of including and promoting women, the Pope has caused no little consternation by some of his remarks concerning them.”

By Rita Ferrone, Commonweal — Read more …

 

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Pope makes appointments amid criticism of sex abuse response

Pope Francis

Wikimedia/Casa Rosada

“Collins’ departure laid bare the cultural chasm between the commission’s (Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors) outside experts, who proposed best-in-class ideas for protecting children, and the reality of the Vatican bureaucracy and its legal and administrative limitations.”

Pope Francis on Tuesday (Apr. 4) named a new official to oversee the Vatican office that processes clerical sex abuse cases amid mounting criticism over a yearslong backlog of cases and Francis’ handling of the problem.

The promotion of Monsignor John Kennedy to head of the discipline section of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith was the second abuse-related appointment in recent days. Francis named the Rev. Hans Zollner, one of the Catholic Church’s top experts on fighting abuse and protecting children, as an adviser to the Vatican’s office for clergy on Saturday (Apr. 1).

Francis and the Vatican have come under fresh scrutiny over their response to the abuse crisis since Irish survivor Marie Collins resigned from the pope’s sex abuse advisory commission on March 1, citing “unacceptable” resistance to the commission’s proposals from the Vatican’s doctrine office.

Collins’ departure laid bare the cultural chasm between the commission’s outside experts, who proposed best-in-class ideas for protecting children, and the reality of the Vatican bureaucracy and its legal and administrative limitations.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press — Read more …

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Open Letter to the Bishops of Australia / Catholics for Renewal

Catholics for Renewal has drafted this letter in consultation with many Catholics strongly committed to the teachings of Jesus and their Church. People of the Church have been distressed by the increasing failings of our Church, particularly in the context of the evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Australian Catholics are invited to consider and sign below the following Open Letter to the Bishops of Australia. The Open Letter provides an opportunity, consistent with the Church’s Code of Canon Law, for the faithful – lay people, religious, priests, all members of the Church – to seek renewal of the Church.

Dear Bishops

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has exposed grave governance failures in our Church, failures that undermine its very mission. We, the undersigned Catholics of Australia, write to you as Pilgrim People of God, accepting shared responsibility for our Church, expressing our sense of faith which Vatican II recognised as critical to the life of the Church, and asking you our bishops to listen and to act decisively, executing necessary reforms now.

Over several decades we have seen our Church declining steadily to its now shameful state. Countless Catholics have been alienated, particularly younger generations who are our Church’s future. The Royal Commission has now exposed dysfunctional governance, an entrenched culture of clericalism, and a leadership not listening to the people. Too many bishops have denied the extent of clerical child sexual abuse and its systemic cover-up, and even protected paedophiles ahead of children.

The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry also found that the Church’s governance contributed to coverups and further abuse. Yet the failings go beyond the scandal of child sexual abuse. Archbishops have admitted to “a catastrophic failure of leadership”, and some have spoken of ‘criminal negligence’. Church credibility has been squandered. To rebuild trust, there must be reform of governance based on Gospel values, reflecting servant leadership and engagement with the faithful. There has to be accountability, transparency, and inclusion particularly of women.

Changing processes is not enough. We ask each and every bishop to act now on these reforms:

  1. Eradicate the corrosive culture of clericalism – “an evil . . . in the Church” (Pope Francis).
  2. Become truly accountable with full involvement of the faithful, including diocesan pastoral councils, and diocesan assemblies or synods; with pastoral plans and annual diocesan reports.
  3. Appoint women to more senior diocesan positions, such as chancellor and delegate of bishops.
  4. Hold diocesan synods/assemblies in 2018, with deanery and parish listening sessions, to develop the agenda for the national 2020 Plenary Council; and as part of normal diocesan governance.
  5. Further remodel priestly formation, including ongoing development, assessment and registration.
  6. Reconcile publicly and fully with all the persons abused, their families and communities, and commit to just redress.
  7. Send an urgent delegation, including laity, to Pope Francis:
    • urging him to purge child sexual abuse from the Church: legislating civil reporting of abuse, and ensuring effective discipline, major canon law reform, and review of priestly celibacy;
    • advising him of the Royal Commission’s exposure of the Church’s global dysfunctional governance; particularly its clericalist culture and lack of accountability, transparency, and inclusiveness, especially the exclusion of women from top decision-making positions; and
    • requesting immediate reform of bishop selection processes, fully including the faithful in identifying the needs of dioceses and local selection criteria.

None of the above proposals requires deferral to the Holy See or awaiting the Royal Commission’s report before acting. All these actions are within your own competence. We ask you to lead the reform of our Church now, acting promptly and decisively – anything less would be a betrayal of the Gospel.

We pray that the Spirit guide us all at this critical time.

Catholics of Australia

The Open Letter can be signed by Australian Catholics by clicking here or by downloading this PDF, printing, signing, and mailing it.

 

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Voice of the Faithful Biweekly News Roundup

Voice of the Faithful Focus

Highlighting issues we face working together to Keep the Faith, Change the Church

March 31, 2017

TOP STORIES

French TV inquiry accuses 25 bishops of abuse cover-ups
“A hard-hitting French television investigation has accused 25 Catholic bishops(link is external) of protecting 32 accused clerical sex abusers in France over the past half century and often transferring them to other parishes or even other countries when they were singled out for sexual abuse of minors.” By Tom Heneghan of The Tablet in National Catholic Reporter

Catholic leaders told to come down from the pulpit to deal with sexual abuse
Catholic leaders must come down ‘from the pulpit’(link is external) to acknowledge that clergy sexual abuse of children and cover-ups had broken the Church’s heart and to do more to prevent it, speakers at a conference said on Thursday, March 23.” By Reuters Media in the Duluth News Tribune

Vatican reform on sexual abuse has stalled
“Three weeks have passed since Marie Collins resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors(link is external), complaining that the group’s work has been thwarted by resistance from within the Roman Curia. A few days after her public announcement, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith defended his office and denied any foot-dragging on the abuse issue. Collins quickly shot back, rebutting the cardinal’s arguments.” By Phil Lawler, CatholicCulture.org

O’Malley pledges pope still committed to rooting out clergy sex abuse
“In the midst of a month in which the effectiveness of Pope Francis’ measures to fight clergy sexual abuse has come into question(link is external), Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley pledged Thursday (Mar. 23) that the pontiff is still ‘thoroughly committed to rooting out the scourge of sex abuse.’ O’Malley, the head of Francis’ Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, told participants of an education seminar hosted by the group that ‘there is simply no justification in our day for failures to enact concrete safeguarding standards for our children.’” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

How the church is combatting sexual abuse: an interview with Jesuit Hans Zollner
“‘The impression that Pope Francis is not hard enough on perpetrators is wrong(link is external). The general line of judgment and sentence has not changed,’ Hans Zollner, S.J., president of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, told ‘America’ in this interview in which he explains what the pope and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) are doing to combat child abuse and ensure the protection of children in church institutions worldwide.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review

Cardinal’s plan for laypeople to lead parishes
“Cardinal Reinhard Marx has announced plans to allow laypeople in his Archdiocese of Munich to lead parishes(link is external) where there are no priests. In doing so he has strongly rejected the increasingly common option of coping with the dwindling number of ordained ministers by combining or “clustering” parishes. The 63-year-old cardinal is a top aide and advisor to Pope Francis.” By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

ACCOUNTABILITY

Faith in Vatican lost
“A clergy sexual abuse survivor says he has lost faith the Vatican(link is external) will enact a reform to eradicate paedophile clergy from the Catholic Church. Peter Blenkiron said the Catholic Church was still focused on acting in the interests of its brand ahead of the protection of children.” By Melissa Cunningham, the Courier

Erie bishop publicizes priest dismissals
“A brief notice in a recent edition of the Catholic Diocese of Erie’s newspaper signals a new diocesan policy. Bishop Lawrence Persico is publicizing the names of priests who, from now on, have been permanently dismissed from the priesthood for disciplinary reasons(link is external) or removed from active clerical duty for reasons related to wrongdoing. The notice, in the March 5 edition of Faith Life, the diocese’s biweekly newspaper, states that Pope Francis has dismissed a former priest in the diocese, Samuel B. Slocum, 65.” By Ed Palattella, GoErie.com

Vatican maze: retracing the path of abuse accountability proposals
“Recent exchanges in the media between the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and a former member of a papal advisory commission have highlighted a lack of clarity and transparency(link is external) when it comes to finding better ways to make bishops and religious superiors more accountable for how they handle allegations of sexual abuse.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

New canon law courses launched
“A leading canon lawyer believes accountability and transparency are critical(link is external) within Church institutions to ensure they reflect the Gospel values upon which they were founded, reports BBI-The Australian Institute of Theological Education. Emeritus Professor Francis Morrisey OMI was speaking at the official launch of BBI’s new Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma in Canon Law courses at the Polding Centre offices of the Archdiocese of Sydney on Monday (Mar.20).” By CathNews.com

PONTIFICAL COMMISSION FOR THE PROTECTION OF MINORS

Pontifical commission on clergy abuse expresses ‘strong support’ for Marie Collins
“Pope Francis’ commission on clergy sexual abuse has expressed its ‘strong support’ for a former member(link is external) of the group who resigned earlier this month due to frustration with Vatican officials’ reluctance to cooperate with its work to protect children. The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said in a statement late Sunday (Mar. 26) that the resignation of abuse survivor Marie Collins had been ‘a central topic’ of their discussions during their plenary assembly, held in Rome March 24-26.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Child protection commission seeks new ways to be informed by victims
“Following the resignation of a prominent member and abuse survivor(link is external), a pontifical commission charged with addressing issues related to clergy sex abuse vowed to continue to seek input from victims and survivors. The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said the resignation of Marie Collins was a ‘central topic’ of its March 24-26 plenary assembly, and it ‘expressed strong support for her continuing work’ to promote healing for abuse victims and ensuring best practices for prevention.” By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service
Pope’s sex abuse board vows to go on without survivor member(link is external), By Associated Press in Chicago Tribune

Vatican abuse-prevention event ‘extremely important’ for church
“On Thursday (Mar. 23) a Vatican event on the prevention of child abuse(link is external) narrowed in on the importance of education in schools and parishes in the safeguarding of children – not only for teachers, but for parents and children – and on the Church’s role.” By Catholic News Agency
Protection of minors event draws swath of top Vatican leaders(link is external), By Elise Harris, Catholic News Agency

‘Vatican abuse commission wants compliant survivors, so I’m unlikely to return’
“Abuse survivor Peter Saunders has confirmed that he is unlikely ever to return to the Vatican’s abuse commission(link is external). Saunders, who was placed on indefinite leave from the commission last year, said that he was disappointed that Pope Francis had ‘never once visited’ the commission.” By Madeleine Teahan, Catholic Herald

POPE FRANCIS

Don’t blame Pope Francis for the confusion
“Some self-declared Catholic traditionalists have been complaining bitterly that there is much confusion and division within the Catholic Church(link is external) … They are right about one thing: there is a lot of confusion and division in the church. It’s just that it’s not the fault of Pope Francis.” By Robert Mickens, Commonweal

PRIESTS

The Church’s seminary problem
“It is such a serious problem that, according to one noted church historian, not even Pope Francis dares to speak about it(link is external). It’s the outdated model of Catholic priesthood and, even more significantly, how candidates for the ordained ministry are selected and prepared for service among the People of God. Professor Alberto Melloni of the John XXII Foundation for Religious Sciences (Bologna, Italy) recently pointed out that the archetype of today’s priest dates back to over 400 years ago and the reforms stemming from the Council of Trent (1545-1563).” By Robert Mickens, Commonweal

‘Very serious’ decline in number becoming priests in Ireland
“Papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown has expressed alarm at the lack of vocations in Ireland(link is external), and at the age profile of existing priests. ‘We’ve a lot of priests in Ireland who are in their 70s, who are working right now. Some are in their 80s. In 10 years they’re not going to be working. We’re at the edge of an actuarial cliff here, and we’re going to start into a free fall.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish News

Priest who quit over abuse cases leaves priesthood entirely
“In a period of time in which Marie Collins, clergy sex abuse survivor, resigned her place on a Vatican commission attempting to deal with new policies for dealing with clerical abuse, the spotlight has returned to these issues with new focus. A priest who resigned in frustration over mishandled abuse cases(link is external) has now decided to leave the priesthood entirely. The former vicar general of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has left the priesthood, some three and a half years after his abrupt resignation amid allegations that church officials mishandled the case of a priest found with child pornography.” By Associated Press on Cruxnow.com

CHURCH REFORM

Revisiting ‘Liturgiam Authenticam’: an update
“In January, I wrote in ‘Commonweal’ that Pope Francis has authorized a review and revision of the document that gives the Church its guidelines(link is external) for liturgical translations: ‘Liturgiam authenticam.’ Since then, some additional facts have come to light that should raise our expectations further. First, a list of names of the people appointed to this commission was leaked on March 8 by a blogger in Spain … The list has been confirmed by a reliable source, although it has still not been announced publically by the Vatican.” By Rita Ferrone, Commonweal

FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Facing large decline in priest numbers, an Irish diocese preps for change
“In one Irish diocese, the number of active priests may halve in fewer than 15 years(link is external). As a result, Bishop Francis Duffy of Ardagh and Clonmacnois has aimed to prepare his flock to take on more active roles. ‘This ongoing development will impact every parish in the diocese and will bring about considerable change in how the parishes are organized and also in the way the Good News of Jesus Christ is passed on to succeeding generation,’ he said.” By Catholic News Agency

Oklahoma monks open one of first Catholic monasteries in Ireland since 1536
“An Oklahoma Catholic Benedictine community has opened what may be the first monastery to open in Ireland since 1536(link is external). The religious community in the priory has been steadily growing since 2012 and prior Dom Mark Kirby told the National Catholic Register ‘hardly a day passes when I do not receive a vocational inquiry.’” By Frances Mulraney, Irish Central

“AMORIS LAETITIA”

‘Amoris’ is much bigger than Communion debate, cardinal insists
“Pope Francis’s point man on the family said Thursday (Mar. 30) that by allowing discussion of the pontiff’s document ‘Amoris Laetitia’ to focus narrowly on Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, the Church is playing with fire(link is external), because today the family is ‘under attack’ and needs to hear the full range of the document’s teaching.” By Ines San Martin, Cruxnow.com

Can Catholic dissent from Pope Francis’ teaching on the family? Wrong question.
“March 19 marks the one-year anniversary of the publication of ‘Amoris Laetitia(link is external),’ the apostolic exhortation promulgated by Pope Francis after the close of the latest session of the Synod of Bishops. For some, this anniversary is celebratory, a reminder of the synod’s prayerful study of the mission and vocation of the family. For others, it calls attention to what they see as the document’s dangerous ambiguities, particularly as they pertain to the pastoral care of Catholics who are divorced and civilly remarried.” By Peter Folan, S.J., America: The Jesuit Review

CELIBACY

Married Catholic priests? I am one.
“Pope Francis—ever fond of stirring the pot—has made headlines again recently with a remark during an interview with a German paper suggesting a new openness to married priests(link is external). Married priests in the Catholic Church? It’s not really new. I am one. As a former Anglican minister, I have been ordained as a Catholic priest under a special measure called the Pastoral Provision even though I have a wife and four children.” By Dwight Longenecker, Newsweek

Now is the time for married priests
“It is time for the Catholic bishops to stop hoping for an increase in vocations to the celibate priesthood(link is external) and to acknowledge that the church needs married priests to serve the people of God. We cannot have a Catholic Church without sacraments, and a priest is needed for the Eucharist, confession, and anointing. At the Last Supper, Jesus said, ‘Do this in memory of me,’ not ‘have a celibate priesthood.’” By Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter

VOICES

African lay woman warns hierarchy ‘don’t get complacent’
“Though a March 22-25 Rome summit on the African church featured four cardinals and several bishops, it was a lay woman from Nigeria who rang the loudest warning(link is external) bell, charging the powers that be with not getting complacent and allowing the faithful to get ‘lost in the crowd’ among ever-expanding numbers.” By Ines San Martin, Cruxnow.com

CHURCH FINANCES

Retired priest gets three-week sentence in money laundering case
“A retired Catholic priest pleaded guilty to money laundering(link is external) stemming from his involvement in an overseas scheme that defrauded women seeking companionship online. He was sentenced to time served (three weeks) because of a mental condition that impaired his judgment. The Rev. Thomas B. Fleming, 67, a resident of Dodge Park Rest Home, originally pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of money laundering. He changed his plea to guilty on one count.” By Craig Semon, Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Santa Clara Catholic priest guilty of stealing donations
“A Roman Catholic priest who once ran the Vietnamese Catholic Center for the Diocese of San Jose was convicted in federal court on March 21 of 14 counts of bank fraud for diverting parishioners’ donations(link is external) into his personal bank account. Hien Minh Nguyen, 57, was found guilty by U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman of San Jose, who conducted a nonjury trial on the charges in February.” By Los Gatos Patch

Durham priest admits stealing £50,000 from church
“A Catholic priest has admitted abusing his position by fraudulently taking at least £50,000 of church money(link is external) over more than four years. Father John Charles Leo Reid could be facing a prison sentence after changing his plea to guilty at Durham Crown Court.” By ITV.com

Retired Michigan priest arrested in Grand Forks on embezzlement charges
“A Michigan priest who retired to Grand Forks is in the process of being extradited to his home state after being charged with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars(link is external)from his former church. Rev. David Ernest Fisher, 70, was arrested at his Grand Forks home on March 11 on an extradition order from Shiawassee County, Mich.” By Andrew Hazzard, Grand Forks Herald

CLERGY CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

CNMI Law to help clergy abuse survivors get help, justice
“Three months after the CNMI lifted the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases(link is external), retired Saipan bishop Tomas A. Camacho faced accusations he raped an altar boy in the 1970s. Camacho also is a former Guam priest.” By Haidee Eugenio, Pacific Daily News

Sister Maureen: It’s time to put victims first
“For decades, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has covered up the sexual abuse of children while transferring errant priests from parish to parish, place to place, year after year(link is external). In this, it is not unlike other dioceses in Pennsylvania, including the Archdiocese of Philadelphia … Now, a year after the 2016 release of an equally scathing grand jury report on the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, an ‘independent oversight board’ is being created to ‘protect diocese children from sexual abuse in the church.’ Had it not been for that grand jury report, the cover-up would likely have continued as business as usual in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese as it has in many states across the country.” By Sister Maureen, The Tribune-Democrat

Breda O’Brien: Pope Francis must prioritize child safety
“Pope Francis has just completed four years of his pontificate. From the moment Jorge Bergoglio greeted Rome and the world with ‘Buona sera,’ he has been controversial(link is external). That is no bad thing. Jesus himself was controversial, to the extent that people left him in droves, unable to stomach his teachings.” By Breda O’Brien, The Irish Times

Cardinal George Pell could turn key witness against Catholic Church
“Cardinal George Pell could turn key witness against the Catholic Church(link is external) on behalf of sexual abuse victims. In an unprecedented move, the cardinal, the church’s third-most senior official, is expected to be summonsed to testify in a string of lawsuits against former Ballarat bishop Ronald Mulkearns.” By Shannon Deery, Herald Sun

The Vatican is ‘all words, no action’ on addressing child sex abuse
“When Pope Francis named two victims of clergy sexual abuse(link is external) to a new Vatican commission on the protection of minors in 2014, some observers took it as a sign that the pope was getting serious about the issue. But Marie Collins says there was still some skepticism. ‘A lot of people felt that I was just being asked [to join] the commission as a sort of token survivor,’ says Collins, who was sexually abused as a child by a Catholic priest in Ireland. ‘I wanted to be sure that the commission was sincere.’” By Matthew Bell, Public Radio International

HAWAII

Sex abuse suits against Hawaii priest persist
“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu has settled one of three civil lawsuits that allege a prominent retired Big Island priest sexually molested teenage boys(link is external) decades ago, according to the attorney for the plaintiffs in the cases. Mark Gallagher, a Kailua, Oahu, attorney said Monday (mar. 20) the settlement of the 2013 suit brought by two men known only as John Roe 6 and 7, concerns only the diocese and ‘there is no dismissal of any claims against Father George DeCosta.’” By John Burnett, Hawaii Tribune Herald, in West Hawaii Today

MISSOURI

Civil trial alleging St. Louis archbishop knew priest was dangerous to begin in Lincoln County
“Jury selection is set for Monday (Mar. 27) in a civil trial in which a Lincoln County teenager and her family have accused St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson of knowing a priest was a danger to children(link is external) before the cleric was charged with molesting the teen in 2012.” By Joel Currier, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

PENNSYLVANIA

Fewer priest accusers to testify at ex-official’s retrial
“A judge will allow ‘prior bad act’ testimony from perhaps only one other church-abuse victim(link is external) when a church official is retried on child endangerment charges. Monsignor William Lynn is being retried after serving nearly three years of a three- to six-year sentence in a child endangerment case.” By Associated Press

Priest retires after inconclusive Vatican review of abuse claim
“A Roman Catholic priest is retiring and will not participate in public ministry after a Vatican investigation found it could not determine whether a single allegation of past sexual abuse(link is external) by him could be proven. Bishop David Zubik granted the Rev. John P. Fitzgerald’s request for immediate retirement, the diocese said in a statement Wednesday.” By Peter Smith, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Slocum defrocked by Pope Francis
“Five years after his conviction for having an inappropriate relationship with a teenage boy(link is external), former Bradford priest Samuel Slocum has been defrocked by Pope Francis. Bishop Lawrence Persico confirmed to ‘The Era’ on Monday (Mar. 20). ‘He’s no longer ‘Father,’ he’s just Mr. Sam Slocum now.’ Reached via email on Monday, Slocum, 65, declined to comment.” By Marci Schellhammer, Bradford Era

AUSTRALIA

Police charge serving Newcastle Catholic priest with historical child sex offenses
“A Newcastle Catholic priest has been charged with historical child sex offences(link is external) on a boy between 1979 and 1980 on the Mid North Coast. The 76-year-old priest – who is still serving within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle – was arrested and charged at noon on Thursday (Mar. 23).” By Manning River Times

Catholic priest in court on abuse charges
“A Victorian Catholic priest facing historical child sex abuse crimes(link is external) will have his court hearing adjourned until July after it was revealed the judge set to hear the case had an indirect link to one of the victims. Father Frank De Dood, of the Salesian order, faced a plea hearing in the County Court in Melbourne on Thursday (Mar. 16), charged with six child sex abuse related crimes dating back to 1978.” By Melissa Iaria, Australian Associated Press, in Melbourne Herald Sun

Catholic church ‘failed’ Canberra parents by housing disgraced priest near schools
“The Catholic Education Office in Canberra has admitted it ‘absolutely failed parents’ over a church plan(link is external) to quietly house a disgraced priest beside two primary schools. The priest was dismissed from the ministry for behaving inappropriately towards children. In 2014, he was moved into a home for retired priests neighboring the Saints Peter and Paul Primary School and Malkara Specialist School in Garran.” By ABC News Australia

FRANCE

French Catholic bishops accused of ‘covering-up sex abuses’
“Twenty-five French bishops have been covering up scores of cases of sexual abuses by Catholic priests(link is external), French media revealed on Tuesday (Mar. 21) in a report reminiscent of the Spotlight investigation into clergy sex abuse.”  By France24.com
25 French bishops accused of covering up hundreds of sex abuse cases(link is external), By en.rfi.fr

INDIA

Another Catholic priest faces child abuse case in Kerala
“A Catholic priest from Mananthavadi diocese in Wayanad was booked for allegedly trying to sexually abuse a minor girl(link is external) in his room in the church. Two days back, the District Child Welfare Officer Sheeba Mumtas received secret information that a girl was allegedly molested by a priest in Mananthavadi. The officer acted quickly and recorded the statement of the victim. The plus-two student told the officer that Jino Mekkatt, a co-priest of a church in Choondakkara under Mananthavadi diocese, misbehaved with her after summoning her to his room in the church in September last year.” By AsianNetNews.tv

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