Posts Tagged clericalism
“One cannot be ‘responsible’ for the ‘Church’s being and action,’ for example, if ignorant of basic facts about what’s going well or poorly … Who knows why such information was not shared more widely within that archdiocese over the decades … No matter how well-meaning the motive, the lack of transparency with basic information smacks of what church leaders like the late Cardinal Francis George and Pope Francis have called an unhealthy ‘clericalism.'”
Recent events in the Hartford Archdiocese underscore our church’s profound challenges, yet also point the way to toward a better future. Archbishop Leonard Blair recently announced a sweeping and painful reorganization: consolidating 212 churches down into 126 …
“As part of that process, one parish’s congregants were briefed about the broader context. Since 1969, the number of Catholics in the archdiocese had declined by 69 percent; the number of priests had fallen by roughly two-thirds.
One parishioner told National Catholic Reporter that such statistics were greeted by an audible gasp in the church. ‘It’s an unbelievable attrition,’ the parishioner said, ‘It was a real shock.’ Her ‘shock’ points to a first step on the long path to a revitalized Catholic Church …
Consider that “audible gasp” as an indictment of sorts and a cry to do things differently from now on: parishioners should never be in a position to be shocked by news about the ongoing health of their own parishes and diocese.” (emphasis added)
By Chris Lowney, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …
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 …
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.
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:
- Eradicate the corrosive culture of clericalism – “an evil . . . in the Church” (Pope Francis).
- 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.
- Appoint women to more senior diocesan positions, such as chancellor and delegate of bishops.
- 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.
- Further remodel priestly formation, including ongoing development, assessment and registration.
- Reconcile publicly and fully with all the persons abused, their families and communities, and commit to just redress.
- 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
March 17, 2017
Exclusive: Marie Collins responds to Cardinal Muller’s allegations about abuse commission
“Marie Collins of Ireland is a clergy sexual abuse survivor who resigned March 1(link is external) from Pope Francis’ Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave an interview shortly following Collins’ resignation. Collins has written an open letter to Müller in response to that interview.” By Marie Collins, National Catholic Reporter
Five great achievements of Pope Francis’ first four years
“In four years, (PopeFrancis) has had a profound impact on the church(link is external). True, he has not changed the church’s position on birth control, celibacy, women priests and gay marriage, but he has fundamentally changed how we see the church in five ways.” By Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter
— A Crux rundown of memorable moments from Francis’ first four years,(link is external) By Cruxnow.com
— Editorial: What we celebrate about this pontificate(link is external), By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Board
Pope Francis signals openness to ordaining married men in some cases
“Pope Francis this week (Mar. 10) signaled receptiveness to appeals from bishops in the remote and overwhelmed corners of the Roman Catholic Church to combat a deepening shortage of priests by ordaining married men(link is external) who are already committed to the church. In an interview with a German newspaper, the pope made clear that he was not advocating an end to celibacy for current priests or those aspiring to join the clergy. But his seeming openness about the prospect of ordaining married men in places hardest hit by a dearth of priests was unusually explicit and brought the issue to the forefront.” By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times
— Pope Francis discusses ordination of married men in response to priest shortage(link is external), By Kevin Clarke, America: The Jesuit Review
— Pope Francis signals openness to ordaining married men(link is external), By Cruxnow.com Staff
— Pope signals he’s open to married Catholic men becoming priests(link is external), By Delia Gallagher, CNN Rome
— Svea Fraser, a VOTF founder, is interviewed on WGBH-TV’s ‘Greater Boston’ about Pope Francis’ comments on ordaining married Catholic men as priests(link is external), By WGBH-TV
Since 2013, Pope Francis has endeavored to shift church culture
“In January, the Vatican office that oversees Catholic priests, sisters and brothers in global religious orders had a plenary session … It was the first time in decades that women had been present at such a meeting, the result of a direct request to Pope Francis … Four years into this pontificate, many of the changes taking place(link is external) at the upper echelons of the church echo the sisters’ experience: Transformations build slowly as a culture shifts.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
Editorial: Clergy culture sustains sex abuse scandal
“The resignation of Marie Collins from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is a turning point in Pope Francis’ pontificate(link is external). It cannot be seen any other way. For all the hope and promise that we find in Francis and his vision for the church, we believe his pontificate teeters on the brink of failure on the issue of sexual abuse by the clergy.” By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff
Religious have ‘moral responsibility’ for half cost of redress scheme
“Religious orders have a ‘moral responsibility’ to honor a commitment to pay half the cost of compensating those who were abused in their institutions(link is external), Minister for Education Richard Bruton has said … A Comptroller and Auditor General report has revealed religious orders have contributed just €192 million of the €1.5 billion the redress scheme cost to the end of 2015.” By Michael O’Regan, The Irish Times
Church strives to apply abuse lessons globally
“Fifteen years after the clergy sexual abuse crisis shook the Catholic Church in the United States, survivors of sexual abuse and their advocates believe recent developments in Rome and elsewhere show that not all Church leaders have internalized the scandal’s gravity(link is external). In addition to several ongoing investigations into alleged abuse, observers who are concerned with the Church’s direction on the issue point to the sudden resignation of Marie Collins from the Vatican commission Pope Francis created in 2014 to protect minors.” By Brian Fraga, Our Sunday Visitor
The mysterious case of the missing Vatican tribunal
“When abuse survivor Marie Collins resigned last week from the pope’s anti-abuse advisory board she cited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s failure to implement a tribunal for trying bishops who cover up abuse(link is external). But was that idea actually scrapped, or simply modified to achieve the same result?” By Austen Ivereigh, Cruxnow.com
Pope Francis is pushing for change. Now it’s up to the Church to catch up
“There aren’t many jobs that can pluck a man in his late 70s out of obscurity and make him a global figure(link is external). That’s what happened four years ago, when a smiley Argentinian man appeared on a balcony in Rome and bade the world good evening. I was there in the crowd in St Peter’s Square, sandwiched between an Australian nun and a Canadian prelate. The nun and I had no idea who the man on the balcony was, but after a few minutes, the Canadian tumbled it. ‘That’s Bergoglio from Buenos Aires,’ he said. ‘What will he be like?’ the nun and I asked him. ‘No idea,’ said the bishop.” By Joanna Moorhead, The Guardian
Cardinal Cupich: Francis is giving new life to Vatican II reforms
“In his four years as the leader of the global Catholic Church, Pope Francis has been giving new life to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council(link is external), says Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich. In an NCR interview in advance of the March 13 anniversary of Francis’ election, the cardinal said the pontiff is ‘reinvigorating that experience of the church’ that people had following the reforms of the 1962-65 council. ‘As I read the reaction of people to him I think back to how people were responding to the council with that same sense of hopefulness and joy, pride about the church that we saw at that time,’ said Cupich.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
Cardinal Nichols: Pope Francis’ ‘toughness’ will see the Catholic Church through reforms
“The head of the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, says one way to combat ‘a corruption of the democratic system’ that he believes can accompany this strain of politics is for politicians to model their rhetoric on that of another European leader, Pope Francis(link is external). ‘The biggest challenge in political leadership is not to play to people’s fear but to genuinely appeal to what is best in them and to lead from what is best, not from what is worst,’ the cardinal told ‘America.’” By Michael O’Loughlin, America: The Jesuit Review
Pope Francis has reconnected the church with Vatican II
“Reconnecting the church ‘with the energy of the Second Vatican Council,’ may be the pope’s greatest achievement(link is external), Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington said in an exclusive interview with ‘America’ as the fourth anniversary of the pope’s election approaches on March 13.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review
Does Pope Francis need to rethink improvisational management?
“The resignation of the lone remaining survivor of clerical abuse from Pope Francis’s anti-abuse commission raises questions about the pontiff’s improvisational management style(link is external). If he really can’t get what he wants from the Vatican bureaucracy, is it maybe time to try a different way of getting it?” By Father Raymond J. De Souza, Cruxnow.com
Pope Francis’s American critics
“Catholic conservatives come in many colors across the world—traditionalists who love the old Mass and its trappings, nostalgic restorationists who opine for greater deference to the hierarchy and moral norms, fierce anti-communists who cozy up to oligarchs—and even, on some fringes, the last gasp of the blood-and-soil nationalists. But while the American opponents of Pope Francis(link is external) certainly embrace some of these positions, their enmity seems to be motivated by something else entirely—an ideology of economic libertarianism that exalts free markets and puts “economic freedom” far ahead of solidarity.” By Anthony Annett, Commonweal
Former Twin Cities vicar general leaves the priesthood
“A former vicar general of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese who resigned early in the region’s three-year-plus clergy sexual abuse scandal(link is external), has now left the priesthood altogether. Peter Laird in January was granted by Pope Francis a ‘request for laicization,’ or dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state, according to a March 10 statement from Twin Cities Archbishop Bernard Hebda. Laird had made the request in January 2014. This May would have marked his 20th anniversary of his ordination.” By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter
What does it actually mean for a priest to be ‘laicized’?
“When reports came out recently about Pope Francis’ decision to modify the penalties for several priests found guilty of abusing minors(link is external), the question arose as to whether the Pope was being too merciful in his decision. Another concern was whether priests found guilty of abuse of minors would continue to be dismissed from the clerical state, or ‘laicized.’ To address these issues and clear up some of the grey area on this topic, CNA spoke with a canonist, Fr. Damián Astigueta, S.J.” By Elise Harris, Catholic News Agency
Guidance on Catholic church reform might not be from Rome
“This article was triggered by some interesting occasional reading about the Irish Catholic Church, the prolonged state of the deepening decline in practice and enthusiasm, along with the seemingly inept and ineffective efforts to stem the determined and ubiquitous tide … ‘Indeed, a thorough-going repudiation of clericalism in its various non-spiritual(link is external)dimensions would seem to be a necessary requirement for an effective re-positioning of the institutional Catholic Church in Ireland at the beginning of the new millennium,’ writes James S Donnelly, Jr., in ‘Christianity in Ireland: Revisiting the Story.’” By Michael O. Murchu, The Irish Times
PONTIFICAL COMMISSION FOR THE PROTECTION OF MINORS
Additional media interest in Marie Collins’ resignation from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and Cardinal Gerhard Mueller’s comments —
— Abuse survivor Marie Collins: ‘Resistance’ from CDF led to my resignation from papal commission(link is external), By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review
— Problem with anti-abuse panel isn’t survivors, it’s the Roman Curia(link is external), By Marie Collins, Cruxnow.com
— Cardinal O’Malley says voices of clergy sexual abuse survivors are critical(link is external), By Lisa Wangsness, The Boston Globe
— Cardinal (Parolin) says abuse survivor quit to ‘shake the tree(link is external),’ By Ines San Martin, Cruxnow.com
— Pope should ditch top cardinal over abuse row(link is external), By Agence France-Presse on GMANetwork.com
— Cardinal Muller’s comments on Marie Collins resignation are rejected(link is external), By Greg Daly, The Irish Catholic
WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
Sister Simone Campbell: Women can bring about a ‘contemplative renewal’ in the church
“Sister Simone Campbell, a member of the Sisters of Social Service and executive director of Network, participated in the Voices of Faith conference in the Vatican on International Women’s Day, March 8. Afterwards, in an interview with ‘America,’ she shared her reflections on this experience, on the place of women in the church(link is external) and on her lobbying work in Washington, D.C., for the pressing issues of health care and migrants.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review
— At Vatican, Sister Simone Campbell blasts ‘male power(link is external),’ By Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service
Here’s what the Vatican is doing for International Women’s Day
“‘Voices of Faith’ might be the most extraordinary event you’ve never heard of(link is external). Now in its fourth year, this annual gathering lives up to its name: It serves to amplify the voices of women from around the world who live out their faith through works of mercy and justice. Women from many countries, languages, cultures and sectors come forward in their shared mission—to protect the dignity and rights of women and children. They share their stories and speak to a shared vision, emphasizing that their work must not be in vain.” By Nicole Perone, America: The Jesuit Review
Voices of Faith: women and leadership
“The fourth annual Voices of Faith storytelling event(link is external) takes place in the Vatican on Wednesday March 8th, which is also International Women’s Day. The initiative was started by Catholic philanthropist Chantal Goetz as she puts it, ‘to enhance the dignity, participation and leadership of women and girls through persistent and good storytelling.’ Voices of Faith is supported by the Fidel Goetz Foundation and partnered this year by the Jesuit Refugee Service.” By Vatican Radio
— Women gather at the heart of the Vatican to stir things up(link is external), By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com
Vatican ignores child protection proposals approved by pope
“It has been said of some senior civil servants, in Ireland as elsewhere, that they believe governments are elected to carry out their will. Such Sir Humphrey-like attitudes are not confined to civil societies. They also exist at the Vatican where, inevitably, similar senior bureaucrats go one better(link is external). They believe the pope has been chosen by God to carry out their will. Should a pope resist, though they prefer to think him misled, they will show him the way. He may propose, but they dispose. Or nothing happens.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times
Will Pope Francis allow married men to become priests
“In an interview with the German magazine ‘Die Zeit’ this week (Mar. 10), Pope Francis spoke about the Roman Catholic Church’s priest shortage, which has left Catholics in many rural areas without a clerical leader. The interviewer asked whether viri probati, or married men with a proven fidelity to the Church, might be able to join the priesthood. ‘We must think, yes, viri probati are a possibility(link is external),’ said Francis, according to a translation published by the Catholic News Agency. ‘But then we must also consider what tasks they could perform, for example in isolated communities.’” By Emma Green, Atlantic
— Married Catholic priests? There are about 120 in the United States already. Here’s how.(link is external) By Alene Tchekmedyian, Los Angeles Times
Pope Francis has some ideas on how to fix the priest shortage
“In a newly-released interview Pope Francis discussed the shortage of vocations to the priesthood, saying the first response must be prayer. He also mentioned working with youth, the low birthrate, and the ordination of married men(link is external) … He called the lack of priests, to the point that some parishes are cared for by female ‘community leaders’ in Switzerland, ‘a problem that the Church must resolve.’ By Catholic News Agency
Why does the Catholic Church require its priests to be celibate and is this going to change
“Pope Francis has given a wide-ranging interview to the German publication Die Zeit, where his comments on the issue of married clergy are generating conversation and questions about the Catholic practice of requiring priests to refrain from marriage(link is external).” By Zac Davis, America: The Jesuit Review
Drop the ‘cliché’ of a reforming pope v. Vatican foes, cardinal says
“German Cardinal Gerhard Muller, whose Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was cited by abuse survivor Marie Collins as part of the reason for her resignation from Pope Francis’s anti-abuse commission, has fired back, saying it’s time to drop the ‘cliché’ of a reforming pope being hobbled(link is external) by internal opposition in the Vatican.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com
Guam’s Catholic Church embraces financial transparency
“The Archdiocese of Agana, which last year spent about $213,000 more than it collected, is trying to restore public confidence in its leadership as it asks residents to donate to the archdiocese and its programs during the current Lenten season. The archdiocese has embraced financial transparency and accountability(link is external) to help rebuild that trust, Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes and other officials said as the church deals with a deficit and at least $125 million in clergy sex abuse lawsuits.” By Haidee Eugenio, Pacific Daily News
Despite 2015 deficit, progress made in implementing reforms, Vatican says
“Although the Holy See reported a deficit of 12.4 million euros ($13.1 million) in 2015, significant progress has been made(link is external) in the budgeting process and carrying out economic reform, the Vatican said. Vatican City State, on the other hand, which has a separate budget, reported a surplus of 59.9 million euros ($63.4 million) ‘largely due to continued revenue from cultural activities, especially those linked to the museums,’ a statement from the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy said March 4.” By Junno Arocho Esteves, Cruxnow.com
New Ulm diocese third in Minnesota to file for bankruptcy
“A third Catholic diocese in Minnesota facing clergy sexual abuse lawsuits has declared bankruptcy, as New Ulm filed on March 3 for financial(link is external) reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. In announcing the decision, the diocese cited the 101 lawsuits brought against it during the three-year window into the state’s statutes of limitations on civil cases involving sexual abuse of minors, which was opened by the 2013 Minnesota Child Victims Act. That window closed May 25, 2016.” By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS REFORM
Victims, Roman Catholic Church spar over N.Y. sex abuse bill
“New York legislation to relax one of the nation’s most restrictive statutes of limitations on child molestation victims(link is external) continues to stall under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church and other opponents. The bill has circled the drain in Albany for a decade, but victims and advocates are optimistic this year because they’ve gained a key supporter, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The fate of the Child Victims Act could rest with Senate Leader John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, who supporters say has refused to meet to discuss the bill.” By David Klepper, Associated Press, in Minneapolis Star Tribune
CLERGY CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
The Vatican drags its feet on accountability for clergy sex abuse
“When Pope Francis established a commission in 2014 to address sexual abuse by clergy members, he picked two survivors, victims themselves(link is external), to serve on the 17-member panel. Now, three years later, both are gone, having denounced foot-dragging and official intransigence inside the Vatican.” By The Washington Post Editorial Board
Reflections from the frontline in the war on Catholic child sex abuse
“The presentation of victim impact statements is one of the most powerful and revealing parts of a child sexual abuse trial(link is external). Each one is different, a unique voice speaking out, usually after decades of painful, secretive silence. But there is a terrible consistency in the effect the abuse had on these people’s lives.” By Jonathan Flynn, ABC News Australia
Hear no evil: How culture of resistance may hinder child protection
“When a child-protection advocate resigned from a papal advisory board in early March, she did so because of growing frustration with persistent resistance and a ‘toxic’ sense of superiority from some in the Roman Curia(link is external). A number of church leaders on the front lines promoting child protection policies have also long noted the biggest challenge they face is a cultural one — an aversion to the unknown, playing it safe rather than speaking up, and denial and defensiveness to protect an institution over a possible victim.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
The end of Pope Francis’ zero tolerance?
“Sexual abuse victim Marie Collins has resigned from the Pontifical Commission(link is external) for the Protection of Minors. CDF prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Müller has contested her accusations.” By Nicolas Senèze, La Croix International
Judge sentences Eugene priest to 90 days in jail
“A Eugene priest was sentenced to three years of probation and 90 days in jail Thursday (Mar. 9) for hiring a teenage girl for sex(link is external), according to the Lane County District Attorney’s Office. Erik Hasselman, chief deputy district attorney, said Daniel MacKay was sentenced to 30 days in jail for each of his three counts of prostitution behavior, totaling 90 days.” By KVAL-TV
Catholic priest pleads guilty to child porn charges in Wayne County
“A Roman Catholic priest from New Jersey pleaded guilty Friday (Mar. 10) to child pornography charges(link is external) in Wayne County. In an orange jumpsuit, Father Kevin Gugliotta went into court ready to plead guilty. ‘Whenever you have a person who is in a position of faith, respect, it’s upsetting to the public to know that person abused that position by doing what he did,’ Wayne County District Attorney Janine Edwards said.” By Wayne Deabill, WYOU-TV
Editorial: Bishop’s plan good first step in long journey toward justice for victims
“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown this past week (Mar. 10) pledged to tighten guidelines for dealing with priests accused of sexual abuse(link is external), and to have an outside committee provide oversight for the welfare of children. How tragic that the church – any church – must take steps to protect innocent children from the clutches of pedophiles disguised as men of God.” By Tribune-Democrat Editorial Board
Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown details sweeping changes for child sex abuse
“The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown announced sweeping changes Monday (Mar. 6) aimed at protecting children from sexual abuse(link is external) and ensuring that all allegations are immediately reported to law enforcement. The diocese also will provide sexual abuse victims with access to counseling and support services. ‘One case of sexual abuse is too many,’ Bishop Mark L. Bartchak said during an afternoon news conference. ‘We need to repent in that and make sure it doesn’t happen again.’” By Ron Musselman, WJAC-TV
Abuse survivors: Church leaders failing victims
“Survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of local Roman Catholic clergy(link is external) don’t believe much has changed since last year when a statewide grand jury revealed that about 50 religious leaders abused hundreds of children over the past 40 years in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese. About 10 members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests gathered Wednesday for a demonstration in front of the diocese administration building on Logan Boulevard.” By Russ O’Reilly, Altoona Mirror
Court finds probable cause in case against former St. Pius priest
“The case against Robert Marsicek will continue after a Milwaukee County judge ruled that there is probable cause to move the proceedings forward. The former St. Pius Church and School priest known as ‘Father Bob’ is accused of three counts of felony first-degree sexual assault of a child(link is external). He appeared before a judge as part of a preliminary hearing at the Milwaukee County Courthouse March 6.” By Chris Barlow, Wauwatosa Now
Research finds lack of coordination in child sexual abuse prevention
“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has released a new research report that finds there are limited programs and services to help prevent child sexual abuse(link is external) and those that do exist are not well coordinated. The Royal Commission contracted researchers from the Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University, to examine the potential service needs of a range of target groups, with a focus on individuals concerned that they or someone they know may sexually harm or abuse a child.” By Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
TJHC head warns Vatican may be “backsliding” on abuse reform
“The Catholic Church in Australia could end up as a ‘marginalized rump’ unless there is real change to an institutional culture hell-bent on self-protection and self-preservation(link is external), Truth Justice and Healing Council CEO Francis Sullivan says.” By CathNews.com
Catholic priest Gerald Ridsdale likely to plead guilty to child sex charges
“Catholic priest Gerald Ridsdale looks set to plead guilty to dozens of child sex charges(link is external), a court has heard. The 82-year-old was charged with 36 child sex offences in January, and police have since served him with two additional charges.” By Shannon Deery, Herald Sun
Catholic Church seeks to rebuild after pain and scandal of child sex abuse
“The leader of nearly 160,000 Catholics in the Canberra region sees light among the darkness of child sexual abuse revelations(link is external) and hopes to heal and console. Archbishop Christopher Prowse, who recently appeared before the Royal Commission and last week faced calls to resign, likened himself to biblical figure Job in the ash heap and conceded he had needed emotional support to deal with the unfolding tragedy.” By Michael Corey, The Canberra Times
Retired Ottawa priest Barry McGrory faces new abuse charges
“Rev. Barry McGrory, 82, has been charged with two counts of indecent assault on a male(link is external), and two counts of gross indecency. The incidents — two complainants are involved — are alleged to have occurred at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on Alta Vista Drive, and St. Philip Parish in Richmond.” By Andrew Duffy, Ottawa Citizen
West-end priest accused of molesting minors
“Following his third arrest on assorted sex charges(link is external) that are alleged to have been committed between 1994 and 2011, police investigators now believe 56 year-old Brian Boucher – a Catholic priest – may have assaulted several more boys (minors) over the past decade and they want to hear about it.” By P.A. Sexigny, The Suburban
Canadian files lawsuit, says Pius X Secular Institute ignored abuse
“A $367,000 (US$274,000) lawsuit filed in Quebec Superior Court charged the Pius X Secular Institute and its officials of ignoring abuse that occurred on the institute grounds(link is external) in Quebec City in the 1970s and 1980s. Andre Lachance, 48, filed the suit claiming he was sexually abused by his uncle, Jean-Paul Lachance, a lay missionary and member of the institute. Andre Lachance, then a boy, claimed the abuse occurred when he was visiting his uncle, who committed suicide in 2014, after having been accused by two different plaintiffs of indecent exposure.” By Philippe Vaillancourt, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter
Nude photos alleged in latest clergy sex abuse lawsuit
“One of two additional clergy sex abuse lawsuits(link is external) filed Wednesday (Mar. 8) said a now-deceased priest kept nude photos of ‘numerous altar boys’ and priests ‘committing sexual acts on minors.’ Tomas Afaisen De Plata and Richard Daniel Scroggs’ separate complaints bring to 26 the total number of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits filed thus far against the Archdiocese of Agana and Catholic clergy.” By Haidee Eugenio, Pacific Daily News
Catholic Church of Guam sets up $1 million abuse settlement fund
“The Roman Catholic Church of Guam has established a $1 million settlement fund for victims of child sexual abuse(link is external). In a news conference with his nine-member archdiocese finance council, Archbishop Michael J. Byrnes said the funds will become available as soon as the archdiocese has put in place an administrator who will be supported by an independent third party. After these are in place, Byrnes said victims can contact the administrator directly. He added victims’ confidentiality will be respected.” By Grace Garces Bordallo, Associated Press, on ABCNews.go.com
Indian Catholic priest arrested for raping minor
“Roman Catholic diocese in southern India is considering using security cameras and other measures to contain sexual abuse by priests(link is external) after a vicar was arrested on charges of raping a teenage girl, a spokesman said.” By The Standard
Church will not protect priests guilty of sexual abuse
“In a sign that ecclesiastical authorities are finally ready to admit the magnitude of the problem, Cardinal George Mar Alencherry, head of the Syro Malabar church, said on Saturday (Mar. 4) that the church unequivocally condemns clergy members involved in sexual abuse and child molestation(link is external) cases and will under no circumstance protect the accused.” By The Times of India
‘Wayward priests’ accused of sexual crimes trouble Kerala’s Catholic churches
“A string of sexual assault allegations(link is external) involving clergymen is turning out to be a major embarrassment for the Catholic Church in Kerala. What is more worrying is that such incidents are popping up even after Pope Francis’s call to enforce ‘zero tolerance’ towards sexual crimes. The latest in the series is the rape of a 16-year-old girl allegedly by a 48-year-old priest who was active in social circles in north Kerala. Shockingly, there was a systemic attempt to cover up the whole incident and bail out the priest involved in the crime.” By Ramesh Babu, Hindustan Times
Pressure mounts on Church to ‘pay up’ on sexual abuse redress as Taoiseach says ‘get on with it’
“Taoiseach Enda Kenny is the latest political figure to weigh in and tell the Catholic Church that they have an obligation to pay the compensation(link is external) they owe to survivors of abuse.” By The Journal
Ex-priest loses appeal to pope on dismissal for ‘abusing minors’
“A former priest in the Diocese of Cloyne in Co Cork has lost a personal appeal to Pope Francis against his dismissal from the priesthood after the pontiff found a canonical court was right to defrock him for ‘the crime of abusing minors(link is external).’ Dan Duane (78) had already lost two appeals against a decision by the Canonical Court in Ireland to dismiss him from the priesthood after it found he had abused five girls while serving as a priest in north Cork in the 1970s and 1980s.” By Barry Roche, The Irish Times
Rev. 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—working directly with victims, their families, accused priests, and Church officials.
SNAP is well known by sex abuse survivors throughout the world. It’s also well known by those who still believe the clergy abuse phenomenon is a gross exaggeration that is primarily about harming the Church.
SNAP was started by Barbara Blaine in 1988. Barbara is a survivor of sexual violation by a priest whom she and her family trusted. She was violated as a pre-teen. By the time she was a young woman the scars were still as painful as ever. Barbara started SNAP as a support group for other survivors because, as she herself has said, “No one else would help so we had to help ourselves.”
Barbara was dead right. I have been involved with survivors since 1984. I have heard many … more than I can count … tell their sad and shocking stories. All were from devout Catholic families and naturally turned to the Church for help, but to their added shock they found they were being ignored, lied to, threatened into silence and in general treated as if they had some sort of communicable disease. Barbara Blaine experienced this and had the courage to stand up rather than stay a victim.
SNAP grew steadily because the number of victims increased when the media began actually covering it and not burying it. SNAP and the LINKUP were the only places victims could go for support. The Church was no help. In fact, when victims got involved with the Church, even to a minor degree, they almost always ended up being re-traumatized.
By the nineties, SNAP members were not just sitting in rooms listening to each other’s stories. They were organizing for a purpose: to get the attention of the bishops and the institutional church. Sex abuse by clerics was far more widespread than anyone imagined and certainly far, far worse than the Church spokespersons claimed.
This was not a few bad apples, a passing problem, or a temporary nuisance. This was the uncovering of the worst crisis the institutional Catholic Church had faced in at least a thousand years, and it was not from the outside but from within.
The institutional Catholic Church responded to the victims of abuse by its own clerics (including bishops and cardinals) in a manner that shocked, angered and scandalized not only the victims but countless others. The official Church’s highest and really only priority was self-preservation and the institutional image. The often-used term “the good of the church” really meant the good of the bishops.
The victims would have been trampled underfoot and left in the dust if it had not been for Barbara Blaine, Dave Clohessy, and the other courageous founders and leaders of SNAP.
Needless to say, SNAP wasn’t high on the list of favorites for a lot of people, especially the bishops. SNAP members got in their faces, openly criticized them, called them out for hiding predators, and condemned their duplicitous words and actions. They wrote letters, held press conferences, demonstrated and, most important, gave other victims courage to come out of the shadows.
Here was this little group of people with no money and no political connections facing off with the Catholic bishops of the United States. In spite of the impossible odds and the massive power imbalance, they made headway.
Why? Because they were right and the Church was wrong.
Now, SNAP is in the crosshairs. As most know, a former employee has filed a lawsuit that makes several allegations and in general tries to portray SNAP as a deceptive, dishonest criminal enterprise. The plaintiff makes a number of serious accusations in her complaint, but they really are aimed at SNAP’s top national leaders and not the organization. She departed SNAP four years ago and now has decided to file a lawsuit.
Her contention that SNAP was actually a cover for an elaborate system involving steering victims to attorneys who in turn paid it kickbacks is ludicrous. Victims from all over the world call SNAP leaders, especially the national leaders, all the time and a common request is for the name of a lawyer.
SNAP is far more than the national offices, which consists of a handful of people. In reality the organization is a collection of local chapters each with its own leadership. Most direct contact with victims happens on the local level because that’s where the SNAP membership is.
When responding to requests for lawyers, the SNAP policy always has been to respond to with three names or more. I also have gotten plenty of requests for help in finding a lawyer. (I gave up recommending victims to their local diocesan headquarters because I learned that this was not only useless but counter-productive.) I recommend the names of attorneys in the area where the person lives … if more than one lawyer is available, I give them contact points for all. I have never acted as an intermediary between a victim and a specific attorney. Instead I suggest they contact the attorney themselves.
On many occasions, I am asked to connect the person to a specific attorney, and the number one name on the list is Jeff Anderson. I always explain that if they are looking to get Jeff Anderson, they need to know that he does not practice in every State in the union nor can he possibly take every case that comes his way. If someone wants Jeff’s phone number or that of anyone else, I give it.
That’s how the SNAP leaders operate too. I don’t get any royalties or kickbacks, nor does SNAP.
It’s true that attorneys have donated money to SNAP over the years. Forbes Magazine wrote an article about this a few years ago and tried to make it sound like the practice was immoral, unethical, illegal, or all three—and in fact it is none of the above.
People ask for specific attorneys like Jeff Anderson because he is known worldwide and, most important, he is known to be a very compassionate and caring man. I’ve known him since 1989 and he is in fact caring and compassionate besides being a brilliant attorney. To even dream that he has some sort of backroom deal with SNAP is not only lunacy but an insult to his intelligence. He and the other attorneys who do the bulk of the sex abuse cases are not stupid. To get engaged in a kickback scheme would be stupid and, worse, it would be professionally suicidal.
SNAP has incurred the wrath of a lot of bishops and a lot of devout lay Catholics. Why? One of the more obvious reasons given is that SNAP appears to attack the Church and it never lets people forget that the “problem” is still with us. The bishops and a lot of lay people would like to see SNAP suddenly disappear into the mist—but not just SNAP: all victims and their supporters.
SNAP and the victims are a major threat to the equilibrium and to the secure image projected by the institutional Catholic Church. Shaking up the security people have in their Church, especially one that promises them salvation in exchange for obedience, docility and generosity, is bound to generate a hostile response.
Much of the hostility, anger and denial generated by the clergy abuse issue are grounded in the unwillingness to accept the reality that the Church and its clergy aren’t as perfect as people expect them to be.
One adult woman I knew, a victim of rape by a priest at twelve, put it succinctly: “Clergy abuse has destroyed the security we had that the priests would tell us everything we needed to do and to know. Now, we have to take charge of our own spirituality and be adult Catholics. That’s hard.”
Much of the angry rhetoric comes in the form of accusations that victims are dissenters from doctrine or that they are pushing anti-orthodox agendas (e.g., birth control, ordination of women). The most common accusation is that SNAP, the victims, and anyone on their side is attacking the Church.
Most victims could care less about Church teachings. They are interested in honesty and justice, two commodities in short supply in the institutional Church. The sexual violation of minors or adults and the lying and cover-up by bishops has nothing to do with orthodoxy, dissent or belief in official dogmas. It has everything to do with betrayal by the trusted clergy. But most important, it’s about the violation of the bodies and souls of the vulnerable.
Sex abuse by clergy has been around since the beginning of the Catholic Church. The institutional Church, i.e., the hierarchy, has controlled the responses to victims throughout the centuries. Until now, that is.
When Barbara started SNAP 30 years ago, she and the original members knew they were on their own and that they were up against the largest religious organization on earth, with more money, resources, power and influence than they could ever imagine. But they knew sex abuse was wrong and covering it up and lying to victims was far worse.
They didn’t have any of the resources the official church had, but they knew two things: One, they had truth … what happened to them was real, it was deeply wrong, and that was the truth. Second, they knew that the Church didn’t stop with priests and bishops. The victims were just as much “the Church” as the college of cardinals and the pope. In the eyes of Christ, everyone was on a level playing field.
So, the fundamental difference between victims now and victims 300 years ago is this: Today’s victims have taken charge of their own destiny. They are determining the course of the sex abuse nightmare. They are working to protect children today and in the future. They are in charge, not the bishops or their lawyers and not even the pope.
The fact that there have been so many grand juries, state-sponsored investigations (e.g., Ireland, England, Australia), criminal convictions and civil judgments is evidence that the official Church is no longer in control. If the Church government had been able to sidetrack all of these it would have, but this time around the bishops just don’t have the horses.
I can’t comment on many of the detailed accusations in the plaintiff’s complaint because they are about a lawsuit from Illinois which I know little about. The allegations are also about a number of individual incidents that appear to have taken place between her and the two top leaders of SNAP but certainly not the full organization.
However, I can comment on two issues, one that appears in the complaint and the other that has been in the news coverage.
David Clohessy and Barbara Blaine have resigned their positions at SNAP. Some news reports have alleged there is a connection between the lawsuit and the resignations. A couple of commentators on the events have pronounced that both have resigned in disgrace because of the lawsuit. The only source of information any of them have is from the complaint itself. In fact, David had planned on resigning in 2016, before anyone knew about the suit. Barbara planned her departure before the suit was known, and it was only by coincidence that it was announced at the same time the suit was announced. Both of them had been on the front lines for three decades and well deserved a break from the non-stop stress of their positions.
The other accusation made against SNAP is that its primary goal is to hurt the Catholic Church. They don’t need to hurt the Church. The Church does a better job of hurting itself than anyone could possibly do.
SNAP has been accused of “Catholic-bashing” by just about everyone who disagrees with it or is threatened by it. Exposing world-wide sexual abuse by clergy and cover-up by bishops is not Catholic-bashing. It is telling the truth and exposing an entire culture of sex abuse that is diametrically opposed to everything the Catholic Church stands for.
Those who persist in believing that the victims’ real agenda is combatting Church teaching on various sexual issues are wildly delusional.
The accusation itself is senseless if you think about it for a minute. Consider the bottom line. On one side, we have the Roman Catholic Church, which has the most stringent sexual/morality policies of any religion on earth and teaches that every kind of sexual activity, with the exception of procreative sex by married partners, is mortally sinful—and also insists that these policies can’t even be discussed. On the other side, we have the Church’s leadership exposed for enabling and hiding clerics who have perpetrated the vilest of sexual acts, the molestation of children and the vulnerable. Does that configuration perhaps have some semblance to institutionalized hypocrisy?
Those who claim the victims and SNAP are out to “get the Church” obviously either don’t know or they reject a basic teaching of ecclesiology: The Church is the People of God, not just the clergy, the hierarchy, the devout who are at Mass every Sunday, or those who agree with every teaching and doctrine. The Church also is the victims, their parents, their spouses, and those who try to help them. It’s those who disagree with one or the other teaching or practice, and it’s those who see the layers of institutional corruption, inaction, and narcissism.
It’s pretty obvious there are plenty of people who don’t know the difference between the clerical establishment, the church’s governmental system and the People of God.
SNAP is down right now but it’s far from out. It’s made up of too many brave, committed and courageous people who are in it because they want the Church to be what it’s supposed to be: a true, living Christian community and not a gilded kingdom for the privileged or the nostalgic.
March 5, 2017
In editorializing today (Mar. 3) on the resignation of abuse survivor Marie Colllins from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, National Catholic Reporter has once again pointed out that a clerical culture blocks Church reform that would better address the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
NCR says, “A resistance to change that is planted deep within the all-male clerical culture is the largely unaddressed issue at the heart of the scandal and has been since the first major story about it appeared in these pages more than 30 years ago.”
From the beginning of its efforts against clergy sexual abuse, Voice of the Faithful has pointed to the clerical culture as an underlying cause. By May 2011, the U.S. Catholic bishops had produced their study of the scandal, releasing the results of its John Jay College report. VOTF reviewed the study and released its conclusions that October. Among many points in this exhaustive review of the report,
VOTF concluded that conspicuously absent from the bishops’ study was clericalism, as a major influence “in explaining why priests sexually abused minors and the hierarchy enabled it to continue.” VOTF then defined clericalism as “the lived belief that clergy are different, separate, and exempt from the norms, rules, and consequences that apply to everyone else.”
You can read “Voice of the Faithful’s Conclusions About the John Jay College Report, The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010” by clicking here. VOTF also maintains a webpage called “Clericalism: Reality & Concerns” that can be reached by clicking here.
NCR has editorialized in the same vein a day after Collins’ resignation:
“What we know now is that all of the emotional and intellectual investment of victims, all the lofty words and intentions of countless bishops forced to acknowledge the deep corruption of the institution, all of the straining for some manner of justice by those in the wider, secular culture, mean nothing inside the community if the clergy culture continues to refuse to confront itself and its entrenched and unyielding role in sustaining the sexual abuse scandal … What is necessary to finally put this scandal behind us is a chorus of clerical voices demanding reform of their own culture, demanding that the all-male clerical caste engage in the painful work of understanding what their culture has become, how it could be so deformed that it was able to justify what some have termed the “soul-killing” of the community’s children.”
VOTF will continue to join our voices with NCR’s to proclaim that “until that culture changes, children will remain in harm’s way within this church.”
Clergy abuse victim, Marie Collins, has resigned from the Vatican’s child protection body as of today
Voice of the Faithful knows Marie Collins to be dedicated to the protection of children from clergy sexual abuse and the healing of abuse victims/survivors. That she has decided to resign from the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors shows how extremely frustrating the Catholic Church’s resistance to accountability and healing from the scandal has been. In an article in The Irish Times today she said it has been “just shocking to me that in 2017 I can still come across these defensive, inflexible attitudes in men of the church, the same attitudes I saw 20 years ago when I was trying to bring my own case to justice here in Dublin. That’s what’s really the most shocking.”