Archive for October, 2012
In response to the organized efforts of the U.S. bishops to define a single permissible “Catholic” position on election issues this year, Voice of the Faithful® issues the following statement:
All Catholics have a primary responsibility to act according to their own consciences. Not the conscience of a bishop. Not the conscience of a parish priest. Not the consciences of neighbors or family members or employers or friends. Your own conscience. You are answerable to God for your own actions. No one else’s.
F.Y.I. — On Oct. 30, National Catholic Reporter explored how, during every election cycle, voter guides advise Catholics how to vote based on the “intrinsically evil” concept in its editorial, ‘Intrinsically Evil’ Canard Is a Deception.
Fr. James Connell, a Sheboygan, Wisconsin, priest and committed supporter of clergy sexual abuse survivors, spoke at the Voice of the Faithful® 10th Year Conference last month. He recently was profiled in the Sheboygan Press. He talks about the day that changed his life and his “new mission: serving those who have been hurt by the church.”
One of the Catholic Church’s leading clerics, Cardinal Richard Schonborn of Austria, recently had this to say about the laity:
… we want to favor a growing number of small Christian communities led by laity – laity who aren’t full-time, who aren’t bureaucrats, but volunteers. These are people living in the field, who do what laity in many parishes and other communities already do, which is to take responsibility for a large part of the life of the church, the vibrant aspects of community life. We want to implement more explicitly the great theme of Vatican II: the common priesthood of all the baptized, with the ministerial priesthood at its service, promoting the holiness of the people of God. Laity today – or, I would rather say, the baptized today – are fully capable of being true witnesses to faith in Christ in their daily lives, and therefore in the lives of small Christian communities.” (our emphasis)
Cardinal Schonborn was being interviewed on Oct. 23 by John L. Allen, Jr., of National Catholic Reporter during the Bishops Synod on the New Evangelization in Rome.
Although the Synod of Bishops on New Evangelization is almost over, Rome heard an appeal today for one factor in the church’s missionary success that hasn’t yet had much echo among the bishops: transparency and responsibility when it comes to handling the church’s money.”
Allen was reporting on the presentation given by Fr. Daniel Mahan, director of the O’Meara Ferguson Center for Catholic Stewardship at the Marian University of Indianapolis, during a conference held in Rome at the same time as the Bishops Synod, which ends Oct. 28. Fr. O’Meara’s talk was called Rendering an Account to the Faithful, and his take away quote, “Holiness is the fruit of transparency.”
Now, read the Synod’s intervention by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, President of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. His take away quote, “In cases of the possible bad administration of ecclesial goods, as therapy, the evangelical medicine of fraternal correction must be applied. Before denouncing to the authorities, personal confrontation must be applied to give the possibility of reformation and repairing. Transparency does not automatically mean the publicizing of evil which leads to scandal.”
Financial scandal, like the scandal of clerical sexual abuse, is enabled by lack of transparency. Voice of the Faithful® has said as much in its Financial Transparency and Accountability paper distributed last month at its 10th Year Conference.
Australian Catholic Church & Boy Scouts of America Scandals Show Depth & Breadth of Child Sex Abuse & Cover-Up
Recent revelations of child sexual abuse and cover-up in the Roman Catholic Church in Australia and the Boy Scouts of America show the depth and breadth of this continuing worldwide perversion and scandal, according the Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful®.
“Although our mission drives us to address Church scandal,” said Mark Mullaney, VOTF president and board chair, “we recognize and abhor the horrific scandal of child sexual abuse and the secrecy that surrounds these crimes in all areas of society and the world. We realize that what’s at work is the widespread criminal tendency not just to abuse the weak, but also to place the reputations of individuals and institutions above all other concerns.”
According to media reports from the state of Victoria in the southeast corner of Australia, a recent parliamentary inquiry found 620 cases of abuse since 1956 that the Church had not reported to police. This underscores the worldwide nature of the scandal that, only a few years ago, was purported to be only an American problem.
Oct. 12, Victoria Deputy Police Commissioner Graham Ashton reported to the inquiry, “If a stranger were to enter the grounds of a Church and rape a child, [then] that would be reported to police. But if that stranger happened to be a member of the clergy, such as a priest, then that would not be reported. A special process is wrapped around him, which discourages a victim to complain to police, seeks to ensure the offending clergy member is not only not prosecuted and jailed, but never entered on the sex offenders register. The process is designed to put the reputation of the Church first and victims second.”
Similarly to the Church in Australia, and worldwide, the Boy Scouts of America have sought repeatedly to keep reports of child sexual abuse by scout leaders secret. Last week, however, the Oregon Supreme Court made public thousands pages of documents about abuse allegations nationwide from 1959 to 1985. This followed previous reports of other files by The Los Angeles Times. Regarding the Oregon case, The New York Times said documents showed decades of abuse and “what child welfare experts say was a corrosive culture of secrecy that compounded the damage.”
According to The Boston Globe, Carmen Durso, a Boston lawyer experienced in child sex abuse cases against the Boy Scouts, Catholic Church and other organizations, said the cover ups no longer surprise him. “It saddens me,” he said, “that what you keep seeing over and over again, institution after institution … is that the goal of preserving the organization’s reputation and its funds have become more important than taking care of the kids for whom the organizations were started in the first place.”
Observing that same attitude, a New Jersey Herald and Associated Press report said, “An array of local authorities — police chiefs, prosecutors, pastors and town Boy Scout leaders among them — quietly shielded scoutmasters and others nationwide who allegedly molested children … At the time, those authorities justified their actions as necessary to protect the good name and good works of Scouting. But …, their maneuvers protected suspected sexual predators while victims suffered in silence.”
“The damage to these abuse victims in many cases is irreparable,” Mullaney said, “but even when an individual might be healed, what about our Church, where these crimes have occurred for decades and continue to occur? The Church has initiated elaborate processes claimed to prevent abuse over the 10 years since VOTF started, but has not rid itself of the most important dynamic prolonging the abuse – the clerical mindset that closes ranks around brother hierarchs to protect the Church and keep the abuse secret. This must change.”
“Victoria’s deputy police commissioner Graham Ashton says the church has hindered justice and not reported any case of abuse in more than 50 years, while a legal expert claims cover-ups went to the “highest level.”
As the thirteenth ordinary general assembly of the synod of bishops continues in Rome, the bishop of Antigonish, Canada, asks, “How do we evangelize those who have been deeply hurt by clergy who have been involved in sexual abuse?” The following is a summary of his remarks from the synod’s press bulletin on the Vatican’s website —
Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
Oct. 15, 2012
“The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”
– H. Exc. Rev. Mons. Brian Joseph DUNN, Bishop of Antigonish (CANADA)
How do we evangelize those who have been deeply hurt by clergy who have been involved in sexual abuse? Jesus dealt with those who were disillusioned by listening attentively to the stories of the disciples and leading them to a new awareness of his presence. This example of Jesus shows that the new evangelization, which must happen in the midst of the sexual abuse crisis, occurs in at least four different ways.
Provide real opportunities of listening and discerning together to appreciate the depth of hurt, anger and disillusionment associated with this scandal. This listening ministry could become a part of every diocese in the form of an office of mediation where people could bring their hurts and seek appropriate reconciliation.
Consider the reasons why this crisis has happened. Put into place measures which will create safe environments for children and all who are vulnerable in the faith community.
A spirituality of communion must permeate all relationships and structures within our parishes and local churches, through a consultation that brings people together, acknowledges the presence of God’s Spirit working in the members of the community and assists in responding to those who feel that their voice is never heard in the Church.
Support co-responsibility by bringing change in certain structures of the Church and in the mentality, attitude and heart in the ways of working closely with lay persons. These changes could include the appointment of pastoral teams consisting of clergy and laity, an official reflection on and recognition of lay ecclesial ministers, a deliberate and systematic involvement and leadership of women at all levels of Church life, e.g., permitting women to be instituted as lectors and acolytes and the institution of the ministry of catechist.
When this happens, the Gospel will be heard anew, our faith will be passed on more effectively, we will be renewed in our faith and our witness will become more authentic in our contemporary world.
The first session of the Second Vatican Council began 50 years ago last week, on Oct. 11, 1962. Vatican II was the largest Church council convened in its 2,000-year history and only the second to take place in St. Peter’s Basilica. What happened there is still being debated. News Media coverage of the anniversary has been extensive. Voice of the Faithful has compiled a representative sample of news stories commenting on the council that you may read by clicking here.
“Ten years have passed since clergy sexual abuse became an unwelcome mark of shame on the Catholic Church, disgracing its bishops and transforming the laity’s understanding of their identity as Caholics. As with the recent Penn State scandal, American Catholics have insisted that clergy sexual abuse does not define who we are, nor what our Church believes. But the image endures.”
So begins Voice of the Faithful — A Decade of Catholic Activism, an article about the Voice of the Faithful® movement especially written by James E. Post to mark our 10th year. Post, who is a VOTF founder and former president, is now a member of VOTF’s Advisory Council, and he is the John F. Smith Jr. Professor of Management at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts. He is shown at left addressing attendees at VOTF’s recent 10th Year Conference.
Does the following story from Philadelphia show how lack of transparency and lay input into church finances lead to financial disaster, or what happens when a substantial percentage of your paying customers stop buying, or a bit of both? In its paper Financial Transparency and Accountability, distributed during its recently concluded 10th Year Conference, Voice of the Faithful shows itself to have been a long-time proponent of the idea that parishioners have a right to know where their money goes.
“The fortunes of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and its more than 250 parishes are deeply and tortuously entwined. The archdiocese, the central organizing force for 1.46 million Catholics in Southeastern Pennsylvania, depends on money from member parishes to pay for churchwide activities and to shift money to weaker parishes. But that formula is broken: Too many parishes have seen attendance fall and offerings shrivel, rendering them unable to support themselves …
“A financial report published in June that covers the fiscal year ended June 30, 2011 – before (Archbishop Charles) Chaput arrived – was far more detailed than those of his predecessors, but still lacked key information. ‘It probably seems to them that they are being more transparent,’ said Nancy Gunza, a partner in the Plymouth Meeting office of the accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen, who looked at the June financial report. ‘But without a fully consolidated set of financial statements, the picture’s not complete.'” By Harold Brubaker, Philadelphia Inquirer