“The disclosure that the pope had ‘asked for’ the bishop’s resignation, appearing in a statement from the Diocese of Crookston, marked a significant advance in the long effort to hold prelates accountable for concealing clergy sexual abuse.”Commonweal
“When Msgr. Roger Grundhaus wanted to baptize his niece’s baby in the cathedral of a nearby diocese, there was the simple matter of getting a letter from his bishop affirming that he was a priest in good standing.
“Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner of Crookston in northwest Minnesota obliged the retired priest, a former vicar general of his diocese. ‘He is a person of good moral character and reputation,’ he wrote in 2012. ‘I am unaware of anything in his background which would render him unsuitable to work with minor children.’
“But contrary to that blanket statement, Hoeppner had already heard allegations directly from a diaconate candidate, Ron Vasek, that Grundhaus had molested him in the early 1970s. And so, attorney Jeff Anderson confronted the bishop with the letter during a deposition: ‘That’s a lie, isn’t it?’
“‘Counsel, can you rephrase in a non-argumentative way?’ the diocesan lawyer interjected, and there was no admission from the bishop in settling the lawsuit.
“This letter was part of a trail of evidence leading to the announcement that Pope Francis had asked for and received Hoeppner’s resignation as bishop, a first in the United States under the 2019 Vatican regulations designed to prevent cover-ups of clergy sexual abuse. The disclosure that the pope had ‘asked for’ the bishop’s resignation, appearing in a statement from the Diocese of Crookston, marked a significant advance in the long effort to hold prelates accountable for concealing clergy sexual abuse.”
By Paul Moses, Commonweal — Read more …
The sex abuse scandal is not over. The hierarchical culture still needs transformation. / National Catholic Reporter
What cannot be overstated at this point in the nearly 40-year public history of the scandal is the force that the hierarchical culture — that privileged, secretive, unaccountable, male-only construct — can apply against any movement toward radical truth-telling.Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter
“A 2004 story in The New York Times bore the headline, all in caps: ABUSE SCANDAL HAS BEEN ENDED, TOP BISHOP SAYS.
“That top bishop was a young Wilton Gregory who, two years earlier and as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, had herded the rest of the U.S. hierarchy through the first phase of accountability for the scandal.
“The headline was based on a Gregory declaration, made following the release of two studies of the scandal. “The terrible history recorded here today is history,” he said.
“That, of course, turned out to be more wish than reality. The finality implied in the statement has yet eluded the bishops, a point made clear by the recent searing assessment by Barbara Thorp, who took on the job of directing the Boston Archdiocese’s response to victims back in 2002, when the ecclesial world there was exploding. She claims that despite the decades of rolling disclosures and revelations that emerged from investigative reporting, grand jury reports, civil cases, the courage of countless victims and grudging reforms resulting in greater transparency, there is still much we don’t know.”
By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …
20 years after Spotlight investigation of Catholic sex abuse crisis, is the church a safer place? / America: The Jesuit Review
On Jan. 6, 2002, on the Feast of the Epiphany, The Boston Globe published the first in a series of reports from its Spotlight investigative team, headlined “Church allowed abuse by priest for years.” (By Kathleen McChesney, former F.B.I. executive and first executive director of the Office of Child Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)
Visit votf.org to read about the multitude of programs and initiatives undertaken by Voice of the Faithful in the 20 years since The Boston Globe Spotlight articles prompted the organization’s founding.
“The events of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol caused shock and dismay for most Americans, many of whom feared that our political system was much weaker than we had thought. On the same date nearly two decades earlier, we witnessed a similar crisis of confidence in the Catholic Church as a protector of all children.
“On Jan. 6, 2002, on the Feast of the Epiphany, The Boston Globe published the first in a series of reports from its Spotlight investigative team, headlined “Church allowed abuse by priest for years.” While the findings were not a surprise to abuse survivors, the revelations that a previously unknown number of priests in the Boston area had sexually abused minors for decades devastated Catholics in Boston and, ultimately, the faithful around the world. The Globe had learned that instead of removing many of these offenders from the priesthood, church leaders had transferred some of the men to new assignments—where the priests continued to have unsupervised access to boys and girls and had not been provided with psychological evaluation or treatment.”
By Kathleen McChesney, former F.B.I. executive and first executive director of the Office of Child Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — Read more …
Coming abuse report to review retired Pope Benedict’s tenure as German archbishop / National Catholic Reporter
Much of the public interest is focused on the retired pope’s 1977-1981 tenure as archbishop of Munich. The case concerns the assignments of a priest accused of a particularly large number of offenses.Catholic News Service in National Catholic Reporter
“In mid-January, the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl is scheduled to publish a report into the handling of clerical sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.
“The potentially explosive aspect is that three of the highest-ranking officials are still alive: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now retired Pope Benedict XVI — and Cardinals Friedrich Wetter and Reinhard Marx, reported the German Catholic news agency KNA.
“The investigation followed two years of research and covers the period from 1945 to 2019, centering on who knew what about sexual abuse and when, and what action they took, if any, KNA reported.
“Much of the public interest is focused on the retired pope’s 1977-1981 tenure as archbishop of Munich. The case concerns the assignments of a priest accused of a particularly large number of offenses.
“In early summer 2021, Cardinal Marx — the current archbishop of Munich — tried to resign from office to take responsibility — explicitly also for possible mistakes of his predecessors. Pope Francis rejected his request.”
By Catholic News Service in National Catholic Reporter — Read more …
20 years after Boston Globe’s ‘Spotlight,’ we need a national database of accused clergy / National Catholic Reporter
As the shame and anger moved from the offending cleric to the systemic cover-up by bishops, we now must face the grim reality that the most profound shame is the ongoing, real-time failure to act in a decisive manner to address the ‘abandonment of the little ones.’By Barbara Thorp, National Catholic Reporter
“In the United States, the terrible truth that Catholic clergy have sexually violated children has been known publicly now for at least 36 years. For this truth-telling, we are indebted to journalists such as Jason Berry. In stark and unsparing detail he documented in May 1985, writing for the Times of Acadiana (and NCR), the predations of admitted serial pedophile Fr. Gilbert Gauthe in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana.
“Over the decades others followed Berry’s groundbreaking truth-telling, often against and despite enormous pressure to remain silent. Led by many courageous survivors and their families, of notable mention are the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Bishop Accountability, the Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The New York Times and several state attorneys general.
“In January 2019, ProPublica published an interactive national directory of credibly accused clergy drawing on the published disclosures of dioceses and religious orders.
“The important efforts of these entities and people notwithstanding, they are all limited by the reality that they only know what they know. They don’t know what they don’t know. The full width and breadth of the story is yet to be told and is held by the archdioceses, dioceses, eparchies and religious orders.
By Barbara Thorp, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …
Is Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality bound to disappoint–or will it renew the church? / America: The Jesuit Review
An even more fundamental question could draw us into the content of our journeying together. Could we ask, ‘As God’s pilgrim people journeying together, how can we more effectively bring the life-giving power of the gospel to a world so desperately in need of it?’ That question would more closely correspond to the vision of Pope John XXIII and, I believe, of Pope Francis as well.By Louis J. Cameli, America: The Jesuit Review
“Pope Francis has begun a multi-year process for the entire church, what he has called ‘a synod on synodality.’ In his talks and in the preparatory documents, he has explained the unusual term ‘synodality’ very simply by retrieving its Greek roots. ‘Synodality,’ as he describes it, is being syn-hodos, on the road together. The Holy Father wants this vision of the church being on the road or journey together to come alive.
“When I first heard about synodality, the concept held a strong appeal for me. I saw it moving the church beyond the usual and tired constructs of institution, organization and bureaucracy. I saw it underscoring an experience of church that included a greater sense of community and connection in the unfolding of history. The Second Vatican Council had captured this with its striking image of the church as the pilgrim people of God in ‘Lumen Gentium.’ So far, synodality seemed good, indeed, very good.
“Then I began to have questions and hesitations.”
By Louis J. Cameli, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …
During his 18 years in the U.S., Abanulo has filled various chaplain and pastor roles across the country, epitomizing an ongoing trend in the American Catholic Church. As fewer American-born men and women enter seminaries and convents, U.S. dioceses and Catholic institutions have turned to international recruitment to fill their vacancies.Kwasi Gyamfi, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter
Fr. Athanasius Chidi Abanulo — using skills honed in his African homeland to minister effectively in rural Alabama — determines just how long he can stretch out his Sunday homilies based on who is sitting in the pews.
Seven minutes is the sweet spot for the mostly white and retired parishioners who attend the English-language Mass at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in the small town of Wedowee. ‘If you go beyond that, you lose the attention of the people,’ he said.
For the Spanish-language Mass an hour later, the Nigerian-born priest — one of numerous African clergy serving in the U.S. — knows he can quadruple his teaching time. ‘The more you preach, the better for them,’ he said.
As he moves from one American post to the next, Abanulo has learned how to tailor his ministry to the culture of the communities he is serving while infusing some of the spirit of his homeland into the universal rhythms of the Mass.
“‘Nigerian people are relaxed when they come to church,’ Abanulo said. ‘They love to sing, they love to dance. The liturgy can last for two hours. They don’t worry about that.'”
By Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter — Read more …
Swiss Catholic church orders study of past sexual abuse
“The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland have asked two academics to lead a study into the Swiss church’s history of sexual exploitation since the mid-20th century(link is external), joining other churches in other countries in Europe and beyond to undergo such a reckoning. The Swiss Conference of Bishops and two other organizations announced Monday (Dec. 6) that two University of Zurich history professors, Monika Dommann and Marietta Maier, will assemble a team in the coming weeks before formally launching the project and detailing its full ambitions in March.” By Jamey Keaten, Associated Press
Pope approves updates to norms for dealing with ‘grave crimes’
“Pope Francis has given formal approval to a series of updates and modifications that have been made over the years to the norms regarding clerical sexual abuse and other crimes reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith(link is external). The newest version of the so-called ‘Norms on the delicts reserved to the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith’ does not introduce any new crimes, but it does seek to improve the procedural norms regarding the penal process and to update those canons connected with the recently revised ‘Book VI: Penal Sanctions in the Church’ that was to go into effect Dec. 8.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, on Cruxnow.com
A priest ordained in 2017 is now serving a life sentence for sex abuse. How did he slip through the cracks?
“Just two years after his ordination in 2017, the Rev. Robert McWilliams was charged with a cascade of sexual assault and child pornography charges(link is external). He was sentenced to life imprisonment a few weeks ago, on Nov. 9, in a federal criminal court in Cleveland. The McWilliams case came as an unhappy shock to Catholics in the Diocese of Cleveland and all over the United States who might have hoped that years of procedural changes and an enhanced screening process for seminarians would have put an end to the ordination of priests like Father McWilliams.” By Kevin Clarke, America: The Jesuit Review
Religious institutes in France determined to fight clergy sex abuse
“In the wake of a recent devastating report by a special commission in France investigating sexual abuse of minors by clergy, a new committee has been established by the religious men and women’s conference (the Conférence des Religieux et Religieuses de France or CORREF) to hear testimonials of victims of sexual abuse by religious men and women(link is external), including abuses suffered by adults and members of religious communities. Many stories of abuses against nuns have been reported without action being taken. This new committee will allow any potential victim to state their case.” By Elisabeth Auvillain, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter
After two decades, abuse crisis has humbled the Catholic Church
“From when the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse crisis erupted in 2002 until his death more than three years later, St. John Paul II never met with a victim of clerical sexual abuse. In contrast, Pope Francis has met numerous times with abuse victims and their advocates since his election in 2013. He plans next year to meet with representatives of indigenous people from Canada who are protesting the historical abuse of children at church-run residential schools there. Those meetings are a sign of how the Catholic hierarchy has transformed its response to abuse scandals(link is external), which have left the church poorer and less influential in the countries where they have emerged.” By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal
Pope says he’ll meet with French sex abuse commission
“Pope Francis agreed Monday (Dec. 14) to meet with the commission that published a ground-breaking report into clergy sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church(link is external) and, separately, expressed “sadness” over the sudden downfall of the archbishop of Paris, according to French bishops who met with him. Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the French Bishops Conference, told reporters that Francis had agreed “in principle” to meet with the independent commission members but that a date had to be found.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press
Catholic church sexual abuse must be seen in ‘historical’ context, Pope says
“Pope Francis has called for caution in the ‘interpretation’ of a damning report released in October that found as many as 330,000 children may have been sexually abused by clergy and lay members of the Catholic Church in France. The pontiff said on Monday (Dec. 6) that the ‘historical situation’ must be framed in context when conducting studies that explore incidents dating back decades … Noting that studies ‘must be attentive to the interpretation’ people will ‘make of it,’ the Pope said that historical abuse must be viewed according to the standards of the time(link is external). He gave as an example that the ‘attitude’ of the church to cases of abuse was ‘to cover it up,’ but acknowledged that this was an ‘attitude that unfortunately still exists today in a large number of families.’” By RT.com
FOR A SYNODAL CHURCH: COMMUNION, PARTICIPATION AND MISSION
Largest Native American diocese takes unique approach to synod
“Unlike most dioceses in the U.S. that have turned to one or two key people to lead their synodal process, Bishop James Wall of Gallup has taken a different approach by turning to one of the diocese’s religious communities to take the helm(link is external). ‘We’re a diocese with very few and limited resources, so rather than hoisting this on one person’s shoulders I thought it would be a little more doable if we were to ask the [Sisters of Our Lady of Guadalupe] religious community,’ Wall told Crux. ‘Plus, they’re awesome and everybody loves them and they’re perfectly bilingual in English and Spanish.’” By John Lavenburg, Cruxnow.com
Synod phase for local listening gets an uneven start in U.S. dioceses
“Kevin Beck said the only thing he has seen thus far from his diocese in Colorado Springs, Colorado, about the 2021-23 Synod of Bishops on synodality is an article in the diocesan newspaper that reported the bishop was reviewing the consultation process(link is external). ‘That was in October, and we haven’t heard anything since,’ said Beck, who is organizing his own online listening session for a group of lay Catholics in the diocese to offer their input and have their voices heard. ‘We’ve drafted a set of questions that we’re going to send out to people who said they want to participate so they can have time to think about what they want to say,’ said Beck, who told NCR that he wished his diocese was ‘more excited’ about the synod.” By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter
- Synod on Synodality(link is external), coverage of Synod by National Catholic Reporter and link to continually updated map of dioceses with Synod consultation plans
An unprecedented gathering in Latin America is putting Pope Francis’ vision for the church into action
“Papal biographer Austen Ivereigh covered and participated in the Latin American ecclesial assembly in Mexico City last week. It was the first meeting of its kind, bringing together about 1,000 bishops, priests, religious and lay people to discuss the region’s pastoral needs in a synodal way.(link is external) On ‘Inside the Vatican,’ Austen joins host Colleen Dulle to discuss his experience at the meeting and what lessons the Latin American church can teach the rest of the world about synodality.” By Colleen Dulle, Inside the Vatican, America: The Jesuit Review
Encuentros: Learning from 50 years of synodal experience – if we’ve been paying attention
“Catholics in the United States have been engaged for 50 years in groundbreaking processes of synodal discernment, dialogue and decision-making. Some readers may ask: How is this possible? Isn’t synodality a novelty, a trend distinctive of Pope Francis’ pontificate? How come I never heard of this in my parish, diocese, Catholic school, seminary or college?
If you asked any of these or similar questions, chances are that you are unaware of some of the most exciting — and yes, synodal — conversations about ecclesial life, mission and evangelization among Hispanic Catholics, who constitute nearly 45% of the Catholic population in the U.S.(link is external)” By Hosffman Ospino, National Catholic Reporter
Pope praises ‘dignity’ of French bishops in tackling abuse crisis
“During a press briefing held at the French Seminary in Rome, members of the presidency of the Bishops’ Conference of France noted that their Monday (Dec. 13) meeting with Pope Francis was an annual custom, in order to report on the work of their recent plenary assembly(link is external). This year, the bishops, who met in Lourdes from 2 to 8 November, focused in particular on the CIASE report. Its publication on 5 October caused shock in France, particularly with the survey that showed there have been 330,000 victims of sexual violence within the Catholic Church since 1950.” By Cyprien Viet, VaticanNews.va
Pope could visit Canada in 2022 as part of reconciliation process, archbishop says
“After Pope Francis voiced his intention earlier this year to travel to Canada as part of the nation’s reconciliation process with indigenous communities, one of the country’s top prelates has said the papal visit could come as early as next year(link is external). Currently in Rome for meetings between the leadership of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and Vatican officials, Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jérôme and Mont-Laurier and president of the CCCB, told Crux that ‘it’s possible’ the pope could visit Canada in 2022.” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com
Pope Francis: ‘I accepted the resignation of the archbishop of Paris not on the altar of truth but on the altar of hypocrisy’
“On the flight back from Athens to Rome, Pope Francis surprised journalists by stating that he had accepted the resignation of the archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, ‘not on the altar of truth but on the altar of hypocrisy(link is external).’ He accepted the resignation (submitted on Nov. 26) during the visit to Cyprus. The pope’s answer was given in response to one of several questions from five journalists on the 90-minute flight. Francis also revealed the possibility that he could meet Patriarch Kirill of Moscow for a second time and said plans for this will be discussed next week.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review
- Pope on resignation of French archbishop: What did he do that was so bad?(link is external) By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com
- Pope’s answer on Paris prelate raises more questions that it answered(link is external), By John L. Allen, Cruxnow.com
Fr. Donald Cozzens, who challenged clericalism in the church, dies at 82
“As an author and lecturer, Father Donald B. Cozzens, a Cleveland diocesan priest and former seminary rector, shared candid insights on the priesthood, challenging the Catholic Church to confront clericalism and renew its structure(link is external). Despite criticism privately and publicly from fellow clergy, Father Cozzens maintained that it was his love of the priesthood that prompted his outspokenness for positive change. Father Cozzens, 82, died Dec. 9 … It was Father Cozzens’ book, ‘The Changing Face of the Priesthood,” published in 2000, that set the course for much of his life after he stepped down as president-rector of St. Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in the Diocese of Cleveland a year later to focus on teaching and writing.” By Dennis Sadowsky, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter
- Fr. Donald Cozzens receives Voice of the Faithful Priest of Integrity Award, By Voice of the Faithful
- Remembering Donald Cozzens, the priest who saw the sex abuse crisis coming―and worked to change the priesthood(link is external), By Edward P. Hahnenberg, America: The Jesuit Review
- Fr. Don Cozzens unveiled problems in the priesthood, and modeled solutions(link is external), By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter
Pressure on parishes with dozens of aging priests due to retire
“The number of Catholic priests serving in Ireland is set to decline dramatically over the coming months. Priests who were due to retire over the past year but stayed on to help colleagues during the pandemic are now hoping they can step down from active ministry — but a lack of ordinations means there is no one to replace them(link is external). In the Diocese of Cork and Ross, for example, around 11 priests are due to retire over the next three years. Nine of the diocese’s 94 serving parish priests are aged over 75.” By Neil Michael, The Irish Examiner
Pope cites new book on nun abuse in warning to superiors
“Pope Francis on Saturday (Dec. 11) drew attention to a problem that the Vatican has long sought to downplay: the abuses of power by mother superiors against nuns who, because of their vows of obedience, have little recourse but to obey(link is external). During an audience with members of the Vatican’s congregation for religious orders, Francis cited a new investigative expose of the problem written by a reporter for the Holy See’s media, Salvatore Cernuzio. Francis noted that the book, ‘Veil of Silence: Abuse, Violence, Frustrations in Female Religious Life,’ doesn’t detail ‘striking’ cases of violence and abuse ‘but rather the everyday abuses that harm the strength of the vocation.’” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press
Catholic women urge Vatican to sign Europe rights convention
“A consortium of Catholic women’s groups is calling on the Holy See to join the Council of Europe and to sign the European Convention on Human Rights, arguing that the Vatican should show consistency by expressing its firm commitment to protecting human rights(link is external). In a petition marking the Human Rights Day declared by the United Nations, the groups said the Holy See is recognized internationally as a sovereign state and presents itself as a firm promotor of human rights and dignity. Yet they noted the Vatican hasn’t followed up by adhering to the European Convention, regarded as the gold standard for rights protections around the world.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press
Barred from the priesthood, some Catholic women find other roles
“Women aspiring to leadership in the Catholic church have long come to terms with the glass ceiling that exists in the male-dominated institution, but Pope Francis’ spate of female appointments in the Vatican hierarchy suggests that change, however modest, is underway(link is external). A growing number of women hold consequential positions in the church and at the Vatican. But it’s the roles women occupy at the grassroots level — in parishes, dioceses and universities — that suggest to female Catholics that despite the institution’s slowness to change, women are taking the lead, making new demands and inspiring new perspectives.” By Claire Giangravé and David Crary, Religion News Service/Associated Press (This story is part of a series by The associated Press, Religion News Service and The Conversation on women’s roles in male-led religions)
Meet Sister Nathalie Becquart, the woman who is helping reshape the Catholic Church
“ Amid Pope Francis’ attempts to reform the hierarchical structures that have defined the Roman Catholic Church for centuries—structures that have in many ways limited the influence of lay people and especially women—few have had such a decisive say on shaping the future of the institution as Sister Nathalie Becquart(link is external). In February, the pope named the French religious sister of the Congregation of Xavières to become the undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, a summit of church leaders at the Vatican set to address the most cogent topics facing the institution.” By Claire Giangravé, Religion News Service
Advent: Hearing God in a female voice
“A female voice begins the Jesus story. In Luke’s version, a woman decides all by herself — a subversive thing! — whether the Jesus story will even happen. Mary’s ‘let it be’ gets everything started. A courageous, hesitant, female voice brings God more fully into the world(link is external). Advent is a good time to honor, cherish and listen to the many strong female voices that challenge us, teach us, love us, and bring us into a deeper experience of God, if we let them. Then and now, those female voices are widely ignored, marginalized, and muted by those who think that only males should be heard. The Jesus story turns all that upside-down. It places women front and center, right from the start.” By Joe Kay, Sojourners
FUTURE OF THE CHURCH
Final plan to consolidate Cincinnati Catholic parishes and schools unveiled
“Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr announced Sunday he is ready to move forward with an ambitious restructuring program that will impact every Catholic parish and school across 19 Ohio counties. The reorganization, known as Beacons of Light, will consolidate the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s 208 parishes into 57 ‘families of parishes(link is external),’ which will begin sharing priests, staff, facilities and other resources early next year. Over time, church officials expect those parish families to become single parishes, eliminating more than 70% of the archdiocese’s parishes and setting the stage for the possible closure of churches and schools.” By Dan Horn, Cincinnati Enquirer
- Archdiocese of Cincinnati to reduce 208 parishes to 57 ‘families of parishes(link is external),’ By The Associated Press, in America: The Jesuit Review
At five-years, financial transparency report shows progress, but improvement needed
“This year marks five years that Voice of the Faithful has reviewed annually all U.S. Catholic dioceses’ online financial transparency. Over the past five years, according to VOTF reviewers, overall diocesan transparency scores have increased, and some dioceses have achieved considerable success, but much work remains to be done(link is external). The 2021 report shows that overall diocesan online financial transparency scores increased from 65% in 2020 to 69% in 2021, but that only 64% of all dioceses posted current audited financial reports, even though those dioceses posting such reports increased from 104 in 2020 to 113 in 2021.” By RNS Press Release Distribution Service
Archdiocese of Louisville files documents to intervene in lawsuit brought by parishioners against long-time Catholic priest
“The Archdiocese of Louisville has filed court documents to intervene in a lawsuit brought by parishioners against a longtime Catholic priest. A civil lawsuit alleges Father Anthony Ngo is wrongfully using church money by converting some funds donated to the parish for his own personal use(link is external). Ngo has been pastor at St. John Vianney’s in south Louisville for two decades. Those bringing the suit against Ngo said they were removed from their volunteer roles on the parish council after raising concerns about church finances.” By Rachel Droze, WHAS-TC11 News
Interrogation tapes in Vatican finance trial leaked to media
“Videotapes of interrogations with a key witness in the ongoing Vatican finance trial have been leaked to an Italian newspaper. Corriere della Sera reported in a Dec. 3 article billed as an ‘exclusive’ that journalists at the Italian newspaper had viewed the video footage of interviews between Vatican prosecutors and Msgr. Alberto Perlasca(link is external), a former official at the Secretariat of State, who was once considered a suspect in the finance investigations … The Perlasca tapes have been at the center of arguments at recent hearings in the trial to prosecute alleged crimes committed against the Secretariat of State surrounding its purchase of a 350 million euro ($404 million) investment property in London.” By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency
Vatican fraud trial sees more delay amid procedural errors
“The Vatican’s big fraud and embezzlement trial, which opened to great fanfare in July, suffered another delay Tuesday (Dec. 15) as the tribunal postponed any further decisions until prosecutors finish redoing their investigation of four of the original 10 defendants(link is external). The delay means the trial, which had already been proceeding at a snail’s pace even by Italian standards, won’t get off the ground until mid-February at the earliest. Tribunal president Giuseppe Pignatone said that by then he could “finally, hopefully” unify the two branches of the trial and start in earnest.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter
Do you think everyone at Latin Mass is an ideologue? You might be wrong.
I’ve attended Church of the Holy Innocents, New York City’s main hub for Tridentine Latin Mass enthusiasts, on and off since my undergrad days. Many, including Pope Francis himself, have expressed concerns that parishes that celebrate the Latin Mass tend to attract reactionaries who are opposed to progress and give rise to insular communities. As much as this is often the case, and I applaud Francis for taking this step, my experience has shown me that there are other, more nuanced reasons people are drawn to the Tridentine Latin Mass(link is external). Yes, many are drawn to it for ideological reasons. But the Latin Mass is also a haven for those who feel misunderstood or outcasted for their unconventional personalities and aesthetic sensibilities.” By Stephen G. Adubato, National Catholic Reporter
- Contrary to traditionalist claims, many Catholics are fleeing Latin Mass parishes(link is external), By Rebecca Bratten Weiss, National Catholic Reporter
Pope Francis is asking the U.S. bishops to listen to the people. Will they?
“Everybody likes Pope Francis. Except, it seems, U.S. Catholic bishops. On the other hand, no one seems to like the bishops(link is external) — they damaged their own credibility with their 2002 ‘Dallas Charter’ on clerical sex abuse, which sanctioned only priests and deacons but left bishops alone … Once again, today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops seems bereft of common sense … Many American bishops are content to ignore the worldwide Synod on Synodality: Only half of the U.S. bishops have even named someone to run the synod project in their dioceses. That is, half of the U.S. bishops are not interested in what the people of God think.” By Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter
The bishops on the Eucharis and public life
“On Nov. 17, the assembled Catholic bishops of the United States overwhelmingly approved “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church(link is external)” by a vote of 222 to 8. Pope Francis’ apostolic nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre, had told the bishops that in their decision making “the path forward necessarily involves unity.” To the extent possible on this earth, that is what they demonstrated. Secular news media responded by demonstrating their single-minded focus on national politics.” By Richard Doerfinger, The Pilot
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
Proposed bill would remove statute of limitations for sexual assaults
“In November the Nebraska attorney general’s office unveiled a bombshell report that showed widespread sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in the state. While their stories were told, the victims were not given a chance to see their abusers held responsible and now a proposed piece of legislation is hoping to change that. The investigation into clergy abuse began in 2018 but the concerns about potential abuse were known by legislators long before the Attorney General’s investigation was launched(link is external).” By Alex Whitney, FOX42-TV News
Ohio House majority leader considering reforms in light of Father Drew rape case
“The Ohio House Majority Leader tells FOX19 NOW he is considering reforms to state laws in light of the Father Geoff Drew rape case. Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township said Friday (Dec.3) he recently met with a group of activist parents asking lawmakers to reform Ohio’s child abuse laws, Concerned Catholics of Cincinnati and Voice of the Faithful(link is external). ‘I pledged to them to work with them on three things. First of all, we have a law right now in Ohio that requires teachers, priests and ministers to report to the authorities known or suspected child abuse. But it has a relatively short statute of limitations within which to prosecute people for failing to meet their mandatory reporting duties. So I’m looking at extending that statute of limitations.’” By Chris Riva and Jennifer Edwards Baker, WXIX-TV19 News
CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE
Pope Francis closes clerical sex abuse loophole
“Clerics who sexually abuse minors can be canonically prosecuted even when they say they were not aware that a person with whom they had sexual contact was a minor(link is external), according to changes to canon law announced by the Vatican on Tuesday (Dec. 7). The reform of the law, authorized by Pope Francis, follows cases in which clerics claimed they did not know the age of a minor with whom they had sexual contact, or believed them to be more than 18 years old.” By The Pillar
Catholic priest abuse survivors use drama therapy techniques to heal old wounds
“The new Netflix documentary ‘Procession’ follows six men who were sexually abused by Catholic priests from the Kansas City area(link is external). The film, made by University of Missouri Associate Professor Robert Greene, shows the survivors reclaiming power through drama therapy techniques. The men attempt to heal from decades of pain by creating short films, some set at the very location the abuse happened. The scenes aren’t graphic, but symbolic of the power priests have.” By Kayla Drake, St. Louis Public Radio
Vatican removes former San Benito County priest from accused list
“The Diocese of Monterey announced that Rev. Cornelius (Scott) McCarthy was removed from the list of clergy accused of sexual assault(link is external) following a Vatican investigation that concluded on June 25. McCarthy appeared on the credibly accused list published in 2019. According to the 2019 report, McCarthy was accused in 2002 of an incident that occurred in 1976. The allegation was known, but was reclassified to “credible” in the 2019 report. ‘Fr. McCarthy’s name on a list of clerics credibly accused of abusing a minor is demonstrably false and his removal from ministry is declared invalid, and his name is to be removed from the list of Priests Credibly Accused of Sexually Abusing a Minor,’ the Vatican said in the press release.” By BenitoLink.com
Adult survivors of Catholic clergy abuse in Sacramento call for justice
“As Catholics around the world celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, new church laws take effect on Dec. 8 criminalizing the sexual abuse of adults by priests and other clergy members(link is external). This comes after Pope Francis announced the changes in June, aimed at addressing shortcomings in the Church’s handling of sexual abuse cases. The law recognizes that adults too may be victimized by priests who abuse their authority, while further providing accountability among Bishops who know about but don’t report sexual abuse.” By Giacomo Luca, ABC-TV10 News
Stephen Sauer, former priest who ran agency for disabled, booked with sex crimes
“The executive director of Arc of Greater New Orleans has been arrested on five counts of video voyeurism and one count of sexual battery(link is external), according to court records. Stephen Sauer, 59, remains behind bars in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center, pending a court hearing Thursday (Dec. 16). ArcGNO, with headquarters in Metairie, provides services to mentally disabled people in Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and St. Tammany parishes.” By Mike Perlstein, WWL-TV4 News on NOLA.com
Diocese of Fall River finds allegations of sexual abuse against three priests ‘credible’
“Three Massachusetts Catholic priests are barred from returning to ministry after the diocese found them each to be ‘credibly accused’ of sexual abuse of a minor(link is external). According to the Diocese of Fall River, Father Richard E. Degagne was suspended after allegations surfaced in 2019. He was then the pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Easton. Father Edward J. Byington and Father James F. Buckley were already retired and were not assigned to a parish when allegations surfaced during 2020, diocese officials said.” By WCVB-TV5 News
- After 10 years of sex abuse claims, Fall River accuser speaks about priest’s ouster(link is external), By WJAR-TV110 News
Committee for sex-abuse survivors seeks more money from Camden Diocese
“A committee for victims of clergy sex abuse has fired another salvo in a bankruptcy battle with the Diocese of Camden. The committee on Friday (Dec. 10) asked a judge to remove restrictions on more than $63 million in diocesan funds(link is external). The request, if approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jerrold Poslusny Jr. in Camden, would make the money available to claims by the diocese’s creditors, including the sex-abuse survivors.” By Jim Walsh, cherry Hill Courier-Post
Ohio priest pleads guilty to raping altar boy
“A Roman Catholic priest in Ohio on Thursday (Dec. 2) pleaded guilty to raping an altar boy(link is external) during a three-year period in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Under terms of a plea agreement, Father Geoff Drew, 59, will be sentenced to seven years in prison and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He’ll receive credit for approximately 27 months he has spent in confinement.” By Associated Press
- Many still seeking accountability in Catholic church after priest pleads guilty to rape(link is external), By Cassy Arsenauilt, WKRC-TV2 News
Ex-priest charged with filming boy in Pittsburgh Target restroom
“A former priest was arrested for allegedly filming a 13-year-old boy in a Target store restroom(link is external) in East Liberty. Paul Spisak, 77, a former priest at St. Mary of the Mount in Pittsburgh, St. Benedict the Abbot in McMurray, St. Dominic in Donora and St. Mary, Cecil, was taken into custody as he attempted to drive away from the store. Spisak faces child pornography and invasion of privacy charges.” By Eric Heyl, Patch.com
Charleston diocese under fire after reappointing accused Catholic priest
“The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is denouncing the Diocese of Charleston after allowing a priest to resume preaching duties after being accused of sexual exploitation(link is external). Officials say that Father Wilbroad Mwape began preaching again at a Greenville church four months after being placed on temporary leave following a sexual exploitation allegation by a parishioner. The accusation led to a lawsuit filed on August 4th with complaints of the priest abusing his position beginning at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Orangeburg and his relocation to Greenville.” By Dianté Gibbs, WCXBD-TV2 News
Judge rules against priest sex abuse survivor in Lowcountry civil suit
“A Savannah priest sexual abuse survivor will ‘not’ be able to sue a South Carolina Catholic Diocese for the crimes he says happened to him 30 years ago(link is external) in the Lowcountry. Chris Templeton was abused by at least one priest in the Savannah diocese as a young man, the memory still harsh and vivid. But he says this decision by a Lowcountry judge hurts almost as much.” By Andrrew Davis, WSAV-TV3 News
Orphans were abused, and the bishop does nothing
“An open letter to Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, the Roman Catholic bishop of Vermont: Why are you waiting for me and other clergy abuse victims to die(link is external)? As children at St. Joseph’s Orphanage, we were physically, mentally and sexually abused. In December 2020, you said the following during an interview on the WCAX program ‘You Can Quote Me’: ‘I absolutely believe that children were abused at the orphanage. No one is contesting that at all.’ You know that there was abuse, yet you do everything you can to avoid helping the abused.” Commentary by Maura Labelle, VTDigger.com
Seattle Catholic archdiocese settles sexual abuse claim
“Seattle’s Catholic archdiocese has agreed to pay a Washington woman $725,000 as part of an early dispute resolution to her lawsuit alleging an unidentified employee sexually abused her at the Catholic school she attended(link is external) more than 40 years ago. The woman, identified by her initials, T.R., was an 8-year-old third grade student at the archdiocese’s private St. Louise Parish School in 1977 when an unidentified playground attendant started giving her candy and began sexually grooming her, the lawsuit said.” By Associated Press
‘Historic injustices require historic reparations’: Ottawa setting aside $40 billion for Indigenous children and First Nations families
“The federal Liberal government is setting aside a whopping $40 billion to settle outstanding Indigenous child welfare lawsuits and to meet the long-term health, education and social welfare needs(link is external) of First Nations children and families. Several First Nations leaders and advocates reacted positively yet warily to Ottawa’s pledge, saying discussions to settle three massive lawsuits are still underway, with no final decisions made.” By Tonda MacCharles, Ottawa Bureau, Toronto Star
Fugitive priest could still face sex charges if more Nunavummiut testify against him
“An Oblate priest accused of sexually assaulting children in Naujaat and Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, could still face charges(link is external), says Canada’s justice minister — but victims need to bring new evidence forward first. Johannes Rivoire spent time in several Nunavut communities starting in the 1960s, but returned to France in 1993 … On Monday (Dec. 13), when pressed about Rivoire in the House of Commons by Nunavut MP Lori Idlout, Justice Minister David Lametti said he can’t resurrect the stayed charges, but ‘there is always the possibility that further evidence might be brought forward by other complainants or other witnesses.’” By CBC News
Law firm seeks class action for alleged sexual assaults by priests in Diocese of Amos, Que.
“A law firm representing men who say they were sexually assaulted by at least five priests when they were children is requesting authorization for a class action lawsuit(link is external) against the entire Diocese of Amos, in Quebec’s Abitibi region. The application, being presented in the Superior Court of the District of Abitibi on Tuesday, targets the Diocese of Amos and the Bishop of Amos for alleged crimes from 1940 to the present day. The men say they were between the ages of seven and 14 at the time of the alleged assaults.” By The Canadian Press Staff on montreal.ctvnews.ca
Miller ‘puzzled’ why feds dropped appeal of Catholic Church’s residential school payments
“Newly named Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller says he wants to get to the bottom of why Ottawa abandoned its appeal of a ruling releasing the Catholic Church from its settlement obligations to residential school survivors(link is external). ‘I am as puzzled as everyone,’ he told The Canadian Press in a recent, wide-ranging interview. ‘I don’t know what there is to do yet.’” By Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press, on GlobalNews.com
IRELAND & NORTHERN IRELAND
Man wins £75,000 damages for alleged sexual abuse
“A Belfast man who says he was sexually abused at a children’s home run by a religious order(link is external) is set to receive £75,000 in damages. The payout represents settlement of the 66-year-old’s civil action against De La Salle Provincialate. No admission of liability was made in the resolution confirmed at the High Court in Belfast. The man who took the case cannot be named for legal reasons. He claimed that Christian Brothers molested him at Rubane House in Kircubbin, Co Down in the late 1960s.” By The Irish Times
New Zealand abuse report says Church hasn’t taken ‘sufficient steps’ to address problem
“A new report on sexual abuse in New Zealand says abuse in religious settings often causes ‘particular harm’ to victims(link is external). The report quoted Thomas Doyle, a former Catholic priest and a leading expert in abuse in the Catholic Church, who called it ‘soul murder.’ The report by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care – titled He Purapura Ora, he Māra Tipu; from Redress to Puretumu — was tabled in New Zealand’s parliament on Dec. 15. The document makes recommendations on how survivors of abuse in state and faith-based care should be listened to and how they should be compensated. The three religious denominations covered in the report were the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, and the Salvation Army.” By Charles Collins, Cruxnow.com
Portugal urges victims of clergy sexual abuse to break the silence
“A commission investigating allegations of historical child sexual abuse by members of the Portuguese Catholic church urged victims on Thursday (Sec. 2) to speak up and help them lift a veil of silence around the issue(link is external). ‘We want (victims) to report, finally and without fear, what happened to them,’ the head of the newly-created commission, psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, told a news conference during which he announced the team conducting the investigation.” By Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereisa, Reuters
Switzerland to follow France and investigate sexual abuse in Catholic Church
“Following in the footsteps of France the Catholic Church in Switzerland recently instructed two historians to investigate sexual abuse within the organization(link is external), reported RTS. The researchers running the investigation are from the University of Zurich. They now have the task of collecting testimony from victims which will form the basis of a report on sexual abuse within the Swiss Catholic Church. The organizations requesting the investigation include the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, KOVOS and RKZ, three Catholic associations in Switzerland. The written agreement to proceed with the investigation was signed in November 2021. The project, which is a pilot, has been designed to ensure the investigations are independent.” By LeNews.ch
The synod on synodality, as it is referred to in church circles, is an ambitious endeavor that some observers have described as the ‘biggest consultation exercise in human history.’National Catholic Reporter
“Kevin Beck said the only thing he has seen thus far from his diocese in Colorado Springs, Colorado, about the 2021-23 Synod of Bishops on synodality is an article in the diocesan newspaper that reported the bishop was reviewing the consultation process.
“‘That was in October, and we haven’t heard anything since,’ said Beck, who is organizing his own online listening session for a group of lay Catholics in the diocese to offer their input and have their voices heard.
“‘We’ve drafted a set of questions that we’re going to send out to people who said they want to participate so they can have time to think about what they want to say,’ said Beck, who told NCR that he wished his diocese was ‘more excited’ about the synod.
“‘Maybe some bishops or priests are afraid of what might come out of it, or they just might not know how to organize something,’ he said. ‘I mean it’s an awfully big operation when you think about what the synod is asking parishes to do.’
“The synod on synodality, as it is referred to in church circles, is an ambitious endeavor that some observers have described as the ‘biggest consultation exercise in human history.'”
By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …
Synod on Synodality, links to coverage of Synod by National Catholic Reporter that includes a link to a continually updated map of dioceses with Synod consultation plans
Also see Voice of the Faithful’s “Listening to the Faithful: Preparing for the Synod’ webpage — Listening to the Faithful: Preparing for the Synod 2021-2023 | VOICE OF THE FAITHFUL (votf.org)
Encuentros: Learning from 50 years of synodal experience — if we’ve been paying attention / National Catholic Reporter
‘Lack of awareness about the National Encuentros of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (aka ‘Encuentros’), and the processes of ecclesial discernment and collaboration at their core, remains a major gap in ministerial formation as well as in our shared understanding of what it means to be American Catholics.”National Catholic Reporter
“Catholics in the United States have been engaged for 50 years in groundbreaking processes of synodal discernment, dialogue and decision-making. Some readers may ask: How is this possible? Isn’t synodality a novelty, a trend distinctive of Pope Francis’ pontificate? How come I never heard of this in my parish, diocese, Catholic school, seminary or college?
“If you asked any of these or similar questions, chances are that you are unaware of some of the most exciting — and yes, synodal — conversations about ecclesial life, mission and evangelization among Hispanic Catholics, who constitute nearly 45% of the Catholic population in the U.S.
“Lack of awareness about the National Encuentros of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (aka “Encuentros”), and the processes of ecclesial discernment and collaboration at their core, remains a major gap in ministerial formation as well as in our shared understanding of what it means to be American Catholics.
“Perhaps this is the crux of the matter. For far too long, Hispanics have been perceived as ‘foreigners,’ ‘aliens,’ ‘visitors,’ and not as constitutive members of our Catholic community.
“We continue to assume that to be Euro-American, racially white and English-speaking are the essential marks of American Catholicism. In certain circles, one could add middle-class and college-educated to that list. Consequently, whatever happens in the faith communities that do not match such identifiers fails to be perceived or treated as really American Catholic.”
By Hosffman Ospino, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …
“Pope Francis has given formal approval to a series of updates and modifications that have been made over the years to the norms regarding clerical sexual abuse and other crimes reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
“The newest version of the so-called ‘Norms on the delicts reserved to the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith’ does not introduce any new crimes, but it does seek to improve the procedural norms regarding the penal process and to update those canons connected with the recently revised ‘Book VI: Penal Sanctions in the Church’ that was to go into effect Dec. 8.
“The document, published by the Vatican Dec. 7, changes and updates modifications St. John Paul II in 2001 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2010 made to the list of canonical delicts or crimes reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the procedures for handling such cases.
“Since then, many new measures have been established: Pope Francis’ document ‘As a loving mother’ in 2016 set out procedures for removing church leaders who mishandle abuse; ‘You are the light of the world’ in 2019 established new procedures for reporting abuse and violence, and sought to hold bishops and religious superiors more accountable; a document in 2019 abolished the pontifical secret in cases of sexual violence and the abuse of minors committed by members of the clergy; and another document in 2019 raised the age to 18 of what constitutes a minor in pornographic images.”
Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, on Cruxnow.com — Read more …