Archive for March, 2012

Was Benedict XVI Just Being Polite or Did He Really Mean to ‘Debunk’ Clericalism During His Trip to Latin America

National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen writes today in his article, Benedict’s Gentle Debunk of Clericalismthat during his trip to Mexico and Cuba earlier this week “the pope offered a gentle, yet unmistakable, debunking of clericalism.”

Allen’s article goes on to state that expressions of “clericalism include:

  • Clergy see themselves as political powerbrokers, playing a direct role in affairs of state.
  • The church projects an image of power and privilege, with its preferred spiritual imagery emphasizing God as a cosmic monarch.
  • The role of the laity is conceived in largely passive terms — “pay, pray and obey.”
  • Little premium is placed on evangelization or faith formation, with pastoral care understood largely in terms of administering the sacraments.”

Voice of the Faithful similarly defines clericalism as the attitude on the part of the clergy that they are different than, separate from and above others and therefore exempt from rules and consequences that apply to everyone else in society. VOTF has stated that clericalism lies at the heart of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

In October of last year, after an internal committee study, VOTF trustees released the committee’s conclusions on the John Jay College Report on the causes and context of the Catholic Church’s worldwide sexual abuse scandal. In “The John Jay Report: Right Context, Wrong Conclusions,” VOTF trustees faulted the John Jay Report most especially for describing but not naming clericalism as a major contributor to clergy sexual abuse.

Whether the Vatican makes a similar connection between clericalism and the abuse scandal, we can only guess, but we can see they know clericalism exists and is not a positive influence in the Church.

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Bishop Wants Total Re-examination of Catholic Faith & Culture

Retired Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson has been speaking recently in various U.S. cities about inherent problems he sees in the Catholic Church that have contributed to the clergy sexual abuse scandal. His latest stop was yesterday in Chicago. He cited several issues, such as the Church hierarchy’s culture of secrecy and sensus fidei as recognized by the Second Vatican Council, that have been long-held tenets of Voice of the Faithful®.

As reported by National Catholic Reporter in Bishop: Total Re-Examination of Catholic Faith, Culture Needed, the bishop’s talked was attended by about 150 city and state officials and, notably, archdiocesan priests. NCR said Los Angeles’ archbishop Cardinal Roger Mahony had earlier denied Bishop Robinson permission to talk there, and Detroit’s Archbishop Allen Vigneron had sent a letter to priests discouraging them from attending the bishop’s Chicago talk.

Hosts for the bishop’s talk in Chicago included Richard Sipe, Fr. Tom Doyle, local prominent Catholics and Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke. Justice Burke will be a keynote speaker at Voice of the Faithful’s 10th Year Conference this fall in Boston.

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Philadelphia Monsignor’s Child Endangerment Trial Starts Today, Or Not

Philadelphia’s sexual abuse scandal is complicated. As the trial of Msgr. William Lynn is about to start (or possibly be postponed because defense lawyers’ are calling for a new jury), here is a Philadelphia Inquirer story, With Church Abuse Trial Set to Start, Tensions Abound, that may provide some perspective.

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Disappointment at Elevation of Bridgeport’s Bishop Lori to Archbishop of Baltimore

Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful, which supports survivors of clergy sexual abuse, is disappointed at the elevation of Bridgeport, Conn., Bishop William Lori to archbishop of Baltimore, which the Vatican announced today.

Although Bishop Lori in many ways has acted to shore up child-protection policies and institute reforms in those policies, on the question of transparency he has fallen short.

Bishop Lori has supported measures to protect children from clergy sexual abuse, has instituted child protection measures in his Bridgeport diocese and was a key participant in the drafting in 2002 of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ national Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. He also has apologized to those abused by priests.

Despite this, Lori for years opposed disclosure of sealed documents alleging clergy sexual abuse, refused to remove priests from ministry who lost civil suits in which the diocese paid settlements to victims and has been taken to task by SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) for not honoring his promises of full transparency about priests and deacons removed from ministry up to date.

“We will never rid our Church of the clergy sexual abuse scandal and all its effects until we have complete and total transparency and accountability,” said Mark Mullaney, VOTF president. “We do not think elevating clerics whose actions demonstrate a preference for secrecy is the proper road toward healing.”

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Vatican II Priests — How are they faring 50 years after the Council?

The 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council is this October. Columnists, bloggers, reporters and others already are reflecting on what the Council has meant to the Church. Dan Morris-Young of National Catholic Reporter has given us this week, “Vatican II Priests Still Embrace Council’s Model Despite Reversals,” a lengthy piece on Vatican II priests whom, he says, “predominantly embrace ‘the spirit of Vatican II.'” That spirit lives in Voice of the Faithful amid the struggles outlined by the priests in Morris-Young’s article.

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Voice of the Faithful Sees Church Legal Pressure Crippling SNAP Efforts to Protect the Vulnerable

Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful stood with SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) during a press conference in Washington, D.C., today, as SNAP continues its efforts against forceful disclosure of confidential information about sexual abuse victims.

The press conference was held in front of the U.S. bishops’ conference headquarters, where bishops are holding administrative meetings, to express the view that the Church’s recent legal attacks, according to SNAP, “are crippling our work to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.”

Catholic Church lawyers defending clergy in child sexual abuse cases in Kansas City and St. Louis are demanding that SNAP hand over 23 years’ worth of confidential information, even though SNAP is not a party to the law suits. VOTF agrees with law professor and victims’ advocate Marci Hamilton, as quoted in today’s New York Times: “If there is one group that the higher-ups, the bishops, would like to see silenced, it definitely would be SNAP. And that’s what they’re after. They’re trying to silence SNAP.”

Earlier this year, VOTF joined nine other victims’ advocacy groups and the Missouri Press Association in a friend of the court brief asking the court to deny defendants’ requests to compel SNAP to turn over confidential information. The brief argued that anonymity and confidentiality are vital to the well-being of any sexual abuse victims’ group in order to work successfully with victims. SNAP executive director David Clohessy has since been deposed in an apparent “fishing expedition” for information beneficial to the defense. A Kansas City court hearing April 20 will determine whether SNAP will be compelled to turn over subpoenaed documents.

“The Church, whether in the guise of a couple of bishops or several, seems to be bent on continuing its protection of the institution rather than emphasizing compassion for child victims who speak out as adults about how devastating abuse is, not only in their own lives, but also in lives of all around them,” said Mark Mullaney, VOTF president. “The Church’s assets are important to its mission and many charitable activities, but not at the expense of atonement for the perpetration and cover-up of crimes against children. We need to get to a constructive way of healing.”

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Voice of the Faithful Sees Victory for Laity in Vatican Reversal of Cleveland Church Closings

The Roman Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful sees a clear victory for the lay voices in our Church in the Vatican’s reversal earlier this week of church closings in the Cleveland Diocese.

Many resolute Catholic lay people in the Cleveland area have been battling the closing of 50 area churches in 2009 and 2010. Thirteen of the churches filed appeals with the Vatican, and the Vatican’s decree this week, rare but not unprecedented, completely reversed Bishop Richard Lennon’s order to close those churches. The Vatican ruled that Lennon had “erred procedurally and substantively” in issuing the closing order, according to an attorney representing some of the closed churches.

“We see this as a clear cut victory for the rights of lay Catholics who feel that their voices should count when the hierarchy makes decisions about their parishes. Parish churches, although they may not legally belong to parishioners, are certainly their spiritual homes, shelters for their faith, and part of their Catholic identity for themselves and for generations of family, friends and brothers and sisters in Christ,” said Mark Mullaney, VOTF president.

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Voice of the Faithful Members Pray for Leaders Like Archbishop Martin

When members of Voice of the Faithful® pray for shepherd leaders, they pray for more Diarmuid Martins, the archbishop of Dublin, Ireland. We listened with interest to his interview on CBS-TV News’ 60 Minutes, Mar. 4.

Martin showed during the interview that he:

  • Has faced the truth about clergy sexual abuse and is not afraid to admit it out loud.
    • “You’ve said the Church in Ireland has reached a breaking point,” said correspondent Bob Simon. “It has reached a breaking point,” Martin said. “To what extent do you think the crisis in the Church is due to the sexual scandals,” Simon asked. “Oh, enormously,” Martin answered.
  • Grasps the dimensions of the scandal and is not afraid to act.
    • Martin provided Ireland’s Murphy Commission, which investigated clergy sexual abuse, more than 65,000 documents the Church had locked away. Those documents revealed the enormous breadth of the problem. Just two examples from those documents—One priest admitted sexually abusing children twice a month for 25 years and another admitted abusing more than 100 children. Martin said he believes “thousands of children suffered similar fates.”
  • Knows stopping the scandal will require an understanding not only about child sex abuse, but also how the abuse is about power.
    • “It isn’t just, you know, the actual sexual acts, which are horrendous,” Martin said, “but sexual abuse of a child is—it’s a total abuse of power.” In effect saying to a child, “I control you,” “you are worthless.”
  • Understands the pain clergy sexual abuse causes, and responds compassionately.
    • What do you say to a child who has been abused, Simon wanted to know. Martin said he does not see them until they are grown men, and then, “I don’t say much. I listen.” He said he imagines them when they were young. Like a man who said he was raped as an 8-year-old boy, and as he described a visit to 8-year-olds at a school Martin had to choke back his sobs.
  • Recognizes the Church must reconcile itself to clergy sexual abuse survivors.
    • Last year, Martin officiated with Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, in a Mass of atonement, something the Church in Ireland had never done before. He has apologized repeatedly for the way in which the Church has handled the scandal and has handled survivors.
  • Sees protection of children as lifelong pursuit.
    • “There’s still a long path to journey in honesty before we can truly merit forgiveness,” he said, and he cautioned those who believe the scandal is over. “It isn’t over. Child protection and the protection of children is something [that] will go on—for—for—you know, for the rest of our lives and into the future because the problems are there.”

Martin is rare among the Church’s leading clerics, and the Church’s hierarchy could use more like him.

To view Archbishop Martin’s 60 Minutes interview, click here.

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Vatican Overrides Bishop on 13 Cleveland Church Closings

In a rare instance, the Vatican has reversed a U.S. bishop and has taken the extraordinary step of overruling the closing of 13 parishes by the Cleveland Diocese. In addition to the Associated Press story via National Public Radio linked above, you may also want to read FutureChurch’s Statement on Vatican’s Decisions.

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