Archive for August, 2014

Notes for Sunday’s sermon (on clericalism) / National Catholic Reporter

 … A few weeks ago, approximately 800 members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious gathered in Nashville, Tenn. Against a backdrop of Vatican criticism of their organization and of the sister who would receive LCWR’s annual award, the sisters listened as a Vatican representative listed eight points for their reflection.

“A letter from the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life — the acronym they use is CICLSAL — challenged the sisters, asking: 1) about their return to the sources of Christian life; 2) had they adapted in an evangelical way to the changed conditions of the times; 3) if their supreme rule is to follow Christ in the Gospel; 4) do they preserve their founding charisms; 5) do they “think with the church”; 6) are their members made aware of the needs of the church so they may live in communion with others; 7) is each member loved personally; and, 8) whether obedience and authority are dimensions of the life of true fraternity amongst them or instruments of power and of enslavement, perhaps disguised by an unhealthy spirituality?

“My friends, can we not surround clericalism with this octagon of statements? Can we not consider the specter of an unfeeling church bureaucracy that ignores real situations? Can we not reflect on the ways some clerics personally and institutionally treat others?”

By Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this column

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Retired priest’s letter calls upon Pope Francis to investigate Kansas City bishop / National Catholic Reporter

A judge’s recent affirmation that the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese pay $1.1 million for breaching abuse settlement terms has led a retired Milwaukee priest to again request that the pope initiate a penal process investigating Bishop Robert Finn for violations of church law.

“In a letter dated Aug. 21, Fr. James Connell, a canon lawyer, wrote to Pope Francis to inform him of recent developments that ‘solidify the need for a penal process in this matter.’”

By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Ex-diplomat for the Vatican could be tried / The New York Times

The Vatican’s former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, who has been accused of paying underage boys there to engage in sexual acts, has lost his diplomatic immunity and could ultimately face prosecution in criminal courts outside of the Vatican, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church announced on Monday (Aug. 25).

“The former ambassador, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, has already been defrocked by the Vatican, the harshest penalty under the church’s canon law short of excommunication. Beyond that, the Vatican has also said that it intends to try Mr. Wesolowski on criminal charges — the first time it will hold a criminal trial for sexual abuse.

“But the Vatican has also caused an uproar in the Dominican Republic because it abruptly recalled Mr. Wesolowski last year before he could face a criminal inquiry and possible prosecution there. Acting against its own guidelines for handling abuse cases, the church failed to inform the local authorities of the evidence against him, secretly recalled him to Rome, and then invoked diplomatic immunity …

“The announcement on Monday came a day after a New York Times article detailed the allegations against Mr. Wesolowski and the Vatican’s handling of the case. In the Vatican’s statement on Monday, the church said that it took the proper steps to make sure that the allegations against Mr. Wesolowski were dealt with seriously.”

By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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For nuncio accused of abuse, Dominicans want justice at home, not abroad / The New York Times

“… Acting against its own guidelines for handling abuse cases, the church failed to inform the local authorities of the evidence against him, secretly recalled him to Rome last year before he could be investigated, and then invoked diplomatic immunity for Mr. Wesolowski so that he could not face trial in the Dominican Republic.”

He was a familiar figure to the skinny shoeshine boys who work along the oceanfront promenade here. Wearing black track pants and a baseball cap pulled low over his balding head, they say, he would stroll along in the late afternoon and bring one of them down to the rocky shoreline or to a deserted monument for a local Catholic hero.

“The boys say he gave them money to perform sexual acts. They called him ‘the Italian because he spoke Spanish with an Italian accent.

“It was only after he was spirited out of the country, the boys say, his picture splashed all over the local news media, that they learned his real identity: Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

“’He definitely seduced me with money,’ said Francis Aquino Aneury, who says he was 14 when the man he met shining shoes began offering him increasingly larger sums for sexual acts. ‘I felt very bad. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I needed the money.’

“The case is the first time that a top Vatican ambassador, or nuncio — who serves as a personal envoy of the pope — has been accused of sexual abuse of minors …

“… Acting against its own guidelines for handling abuse cases, the church failed to inform the local authorities of the evidence against him, secretly recalled him to Rome last year before he could be investigated, and then invoked diplomatic immunity for Mr. Wesolowski so that he could not face trial in the Dominican Republic.

“The Vatican’s handling of the case shows both the changes the church has made in dealing with sexual abuse, and what many critics call its failures. When it comes to removing pedophiles from the priesthood, the Vatican is moving more assertively and swiftly than before. But as Mr. Wesolowski’s case suggests, the church continues to be reluctant to report people suspected of abuse to the local authorities and allow them to face justice in secular courts …

“The people used to say, ‘I want my child to go to a Catholic church,’ said the Rev. Rogelio Cruz, a Catholic priest in Santo Domingo. ‘Now they say, ‘No child of mine is ever going to a Catholic church.’”

By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times — Click here to read the rest of this story.

Also of interest, “A familiar figure on the Santo Domingo waterfront,” by Meridith Kohut for The New York Times.

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Child abuse victim support groups outraged over Cardinal George Pell’s testimony / ABC News Australia

Support groups for child sexual abuse victims have expressed their outrage after Cardinal George Pell’s testimony at the royal commission in Melbourne last night (Aug. 21) …

“Saying it would not be appropriate for legal culpability to be ‘foisted’ on church leaders, he drew an analogy between the Catholic Church and a trucking company, citing a hypothetical example of a case involving a woman who was molested by a truck driver …

“‘It was a highly offensive comparison and showed that, at the end of the day, all he was concerned with was protecting himself and making excuses for behavior that is inexcusable,’ (said SNAP member Nicky Davis, who was present at the inquiry).”

By Thomas Oriti, ABC News Australia — Click here to read the rest of this story

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First clergy abuse settlement with archdiocese reached under new law / Star Tribune

This story reports the first settlement reached under new Minnesota law that extends time allowed to bring lawsuits in child sexual abuse cases.

First clergy abuse settlement with archdiocese reached under new law

More than 40 years after being sexually abused by a Catholic priest in St. Paul, Jon Jaker claimed a groundbreaking victory for himself and other abuse victims Wednesday (Aug. 20).

Accompanied by his 84-year-old mother, Jaker, 54, announced he had reached a financial settlement with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the first payout under a new law that temporarily extends the time in which such clergy abuse lawsuits can be brought to court.”

By Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Kansas City is still waiting for the bishop and the Catholic diocese to do the right thing / The Kansas City Star

The only reassuring news to come out of an arbitrator’s recent finding against the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is that its Victim Advocacy Program, created in 2008 in response to the priest abuse scandal, is operating well.

“But every other conclusion of the arbitrator — upheld last week by Jackson County Circuit Judge Bryan Round — brought shame to the diocese and provided more than enough reasons for Bishop Robert W. Finn, already convicted of a misdemeanor, to resign.

“In ordering the diocese to pay $1.1 million for violating its agreement with sex abuse victims, arbitrator Hollis Hanover was blunt: ‘Where they (the victims) expected protection, they received desertion; where the assertion of authority on their behalf was required, they received betrayal.’

“He also said he hopes ‘that I am dead wrong in my opinion that this Diocese as presently constituted will not mend its ways.’

“Everyone hopes that. But there’s little reason for optimism.”

Editorial in The Kansas City Star – Click here to read the rest of this editorial.

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Voice of the Faithful® Catholic reform movement will return to Hartford for its 2015 National Assembly, April 18


Marie Collins will be the featured speaker at the Voice of the Faithful 2015 National Assembly, April 18, in Hartford, Conn.

The Voice of the Faithful® Roman Catholic reform movement will hold its 2015 National Assembly on Saturday, April 18, at the Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford. The featured speaker will be Marie Collins, a Catholic clergy sexual abuse survivor from Ireland who is a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Collins has spoken out for many years on the need for change in the Catholic Church, better protection of children and justice for clergy sexual abuse survivors. She was a victim of this abuse while a patient in a Dublin children’s hospital. She suffered for many years with depression, anxiety, panic attacks and agoraphobia as a result of her abuse. Her abuser was brought to justice in 1997.

Collins helped the Archdiocese of Dublin set up its Child Protection Service in 2003 and also that year became a founding director of the advocacy and counseling support group for abuse survivors called One in Four (Ireland). She was a member of the Lynott Committee (2003/2004), which worked on drafting the Catholic Church’s all-Ireland child protection guidelines, “Our Children Our Church.”

Along with other survivors, Collins lobbied the Irish government to set up a Dublin Archdiocese commission of investigation to look into the handling of abuse cases in the diocese. The Murphy Commission issued its report in November 2009.

Collins was a founding member of the Irish depression support group “Aware” and set up and worked on their voluntary helpline phone service for many years. She was involved with other survivors in the preparation of the Liturgy of Lament and Repentance for Clerical and Religious Sexual Abuse, which was held in St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral in Dublin on Feb. 20, 2011, in the presence of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston.

In 2012 Collins gave her name to a new charity in Britain, The Marie Collins Foundation, and became a trustee. The charity helps those abused or exploited via the internet, mobile phone and such devices.

She has contributed chapters to the books The Dublin/Murphy Report: A Watershed for Irish Catholicism and Dark Night of the Catholic Church: Examining the child sexual abuse scandal. She was invited to speak about her experience as a victim of sexual abuse by a priest before Catholic Church leaders from around the world at the Vatican-sponsored symposium on child sexual abuse “Toward Healing,” held at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in February 2012.

In March 2014 Pope Francis appointed Collins to his new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Its first meeting took place in Rome in May 2014.

Workshops at the VOTF 2015 National Assembly are presently planned to cover diocesan financial accountability, restorative justice for clergy sexual abuse survivors, clergy/laity dialogue, advocacy training for the development of an ordained female diaconate and a panel discussion on clergy sexual abuse survivor support. Other features of the assembly will be announced soon.

Anyone interested may register for the VOTF 2015 National Assembly by clicking here, checking the box next to VOTF 2015 NATIONAL ASSEMBLY: APRIL 18, HARTFORD, CT, clicking the Next button and filling out the brief online form. Those who do not like to pay online by credit card can register by calling VOTF at 781-559-3360.

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at

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Sister Elizabeth Johnson: ‘The waste of time on this investigation is unconscionable’ / Religion News Service

‘When the moral authority of the hierarchy is hemorrhaging due to financial scandals and many bishops who … cover up sexual abuse of children, a cover up that continues in some quarters to this day, and thousands are drifting away from the church … the waste of time on this investigation is unconscionable,’ (Sister Elizabeth) Johnson said (to LCWR 2014 National Assembly).”

By Heidi Hall, Religion News Service — Click here to read the rest of this story.

“Let a female speculate”: Full text of Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s LCWR talk, By David Gibson, Religion News Service

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Johnson to LCWR: Sisters ahead of hierarchy in living Vatican II renewal / National Catholic Reporter

Sister Elizabeth Johnson, “… the tensions are ecclesiastical because women religious have undergone the renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council and the hierarchy has not.”

Johnson to LCWR: Sisters ahead of hierarchy in Living Vatican II renewal

The Vatican and women religious are caught up in a tension with historical, sociological and ecclesiastical roots, but a solution could be found, Sr. Elizabeth Johnson said …

“Johnson was honored Friday (Aug. 15) with the Outstanding Leadership Award by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the largest group of women religious leaders in the nation, representing about 80 percent of the 51,600 sisters in the United States …

“Johnson is widely admired by LCWR members, and she urged them to hang on despite an ongoing investigation by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”

“‘Certainly, the LCWR and the sisters they lead are far from perfect, but they have got the smell of the sheep on them,’ she said to heavy applause. ‘Post-Vatican II renewal has not taken place at the [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith].’”

By Dan Stockman, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this article.

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