Archive for December, 2015
Behind the sensational headlines about a New York priest (Rev. Peter Miqueli) accused of pilfering church coffers to pay for an extravagant lifestyle – “Priest paid his male ‘sex master’ from collection plate: lawsuit,” as the New York Post put it — is the surprisingly common accusation of a trusted employee or volunteer stealing cash from a parish …
“Miqueli’s case is tailor made for tabloid coverage, but it’s hardly unique. This year alone, a number of high-profile embezzlement cases involving Catholic institutions have been made public. While the reporting to civil authorities has increased, resulting in more publicity about such cases, one thing hasn’t changed: Pastors are too trusting and unwilling to implement strict financial controls.”
By Michael O’Loughlin, Cruxnow.com — Click here to read the rest of this story.
Voice of the Faithful’s Financial Accountability & Transparency Working Group’s long-time efforts in this area at the diocese and parish levels can be reviewed at votf.org under Programs/Financial Accountability.
Francis exhorts Vatican prelates to be more mature, recognizes ‘smallness’ of work / National Catholic Reporter
Pope Francis has strongly urged the bishops and cardinals who head the various Vatican offices to act with more respect, honesty and maturity — and has told them that reform of the church’s central bureaucracy will go forward ‘with determination, clarity, and firm resolve.’
“In an annual pre-Christmas meeting with the leaders of what is called the Roman Curia, the pontiff also quoted a prayer long attributed to slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero to emphasize the ‘smallness’ of their work in the context of ‘God’s great project of salvation.’
“Referencing a similar speech he gave at this time last year — when the pope outlined 15 diseases he said were affecting the Vatican’s work — Francis said some of those diseases had manifested themselves in 2015, ‘causing not a little pain to the entire body [of the church] and wounding many souls.’”
By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.
The Roman Catholic archdiocese here has reached an agreement with prosecutors in a civil case accusing church officials of failing to protect children from sexual abuse.
“The unusual settlement, announced Friday in a Ramsey County courtroom, calls for more transparency when claims of child sexual abuse are raised and would allow prosecutors and courts to monitor the church’s progress on such matters for three years …
“In June, Mr. Choi filed six criminal charges, misdemeanors with maximum fines of $3,000 each, accusing the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis of failing to protect children from sexual abuse. Both sides said they continued to discuss the charges, which are pending, even as the deal was struck on the civil petition that accompanied them.
“Though not unprecedented, a criminal prosecution of an entire diocese is rare. The charges filed here are among the most severe actions taken by prosecutors against a diocese, amounting to a broad, stinging critique of how the institution here handled abuse cases even after changes were announced.”
By Todd Nelson and Monica Davey, The New York Times — Click here to read the rest of this story, which contains links to earlier stories from The New York Times about criminal charges regarding clergy sexual abuse filed against the St. Paul Archdiocese.
A European watchdog has put the Vatican on notice to prosecute those suspected of financial crimes now that the city-state has brought its laws on money laundering and terrorist financing in line with international standards.
“‘The Vatican ‘needs to deliver some real results on the prosecutorial side,’ said a report published Tuesday (Dec. 15) by the Council of Europe’s Moneyval committee. Nobody has yet been prosecuted under a 2013 Vatican anti-money-laundering law.
“The committee praised the ‘intensive review process’ at the scandal-plagued Vatican bank. The bank has closed around 4,800 accounts, in some cases because a client’s profile didn’t conform with the bank’s stated mission to serve ‘works of religion.'”
By Massimo Faggioli, The Wall Street Journal — Click here to read the rest of this story.
The Catholic Church continues to harm sex abuse victims by its failure to acknowledge the extent to which it covered-up sex crimes against children. For three weeks, the County Court of Victoria has been host to countless victim survivors of Catholic clergy child-sex crimes.
“The severe psychological and psychiatric harm caused by these crimes was evident not only with the primary victims giving evidence, but also the many family members of loved ones who had killed themselves because the pain and damage of the sex crimes were too great to bear.”
By Judy Courtin, a lawyer representing victims of institutionalized sexual abuse before Australian Royal Commission, commentary in The Age — Click here to read the rest of this commentary
A lecture about Voice of the Faithful Restorative Justice Healing Circles, “Broken Vessels,” and how they can be a step toward healing for those who have been harmed by the Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal —
The power of deep listening and safe storytelling ensures a safe place for those telling his or her story. William Casey, former Voice of the Faithful board chair and Northern Virginia Mediation Service Restorative Justice Program director, explains the “Restorative Justice Healing Circle” approach as that safe place in this lecture.”
Posted to YouTube by Boston College Church in the 21st Century Center where this lecture took place on Dec. 3, 2015 — Click here to watch the lecture.
The feature film “Spotlight” about The Boston Globe’s investigation of Catholic clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston has been in wide release in the U.S. for nearly three weeks and continues to open eyes and garner critical acclaim. This story in The New Yorker is by its roving cultural correspondent, Sarah Larson.
“Since seeing the movie “Spotlight,” about the Boston Globe investigation of sexual abuse and coverups in the Catholic Church, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it and the questions it raises—about how far institutions will go to protect themselves, about who we listen to and protect, about who and what we ignore, about the power of disclosure and even conversation …”
And how did Catholics react after the events depicted in the movie?
“In the movie, the revelations of the Spotlight investigation make (Globe Spotlight team member Sasha) Pfeiffer too uneasy to keep going to Mass with her grandmother. I asked how her grandmother reacted in real life. ‘She was shocked and saddened, but she stuck with the Church till the day she died,’ Pfeiffer said. ‘Some people left the Church; others tried to change it from within, like the group Voice of the Faithful; others loved their parish, they loved their pastor, and they sort of said, ‘Oh, that’s terrible,’ and they kept going to Mass.’”
Voice of the Faithful applauds Boston Archdiocese’s program for helping secure parish donations against theft
Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful applauds the Archdiocese of Boston’s parish “Offertory Collection Controls Initiative,” which helps make sure Sunday donations make it to the bank. The pilot project was initiated in Brockton, Mass., in July. “It’s been a long time coming – more than 25 years by my counting,” said VOTF member Michael Ryan.
Ryan has been advocating at least that long for more secure practices for parish collections. He is a retired federal law enforcement official with experience in conducting financial audits and security. He also wrote Nonfeasance: the Remarkable Failure of the Catholic Church to Protect Its Primary Source of Income, which was published in 2011.
The Church’s Canon Law requires that administrators ‘exercise vigilance so that the goods entrusted to their care are in no way lost or damaged.’ (Canon 1284 §2)
“Despite Canon Law, easy opportunities for theft exist throughout the Church’s parishes and dioceses,” Ryan says. “Considering there are more than 17,000 parishes and nearly 200 dioceses in the U.S., you can see the potential enormity of the problem. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops could end that nearly Conference-wide vulnerability by simple decree (under provisions of Canon 455), but for reasons best known only to them, they have steadfastly refused to do so.”
Statistics back up Ryan’s concern. A 2007 Villanova University study estimated that 85% of responding dioceses discovered losses and thefts within the previous five years. Eleven percent of these reported losses of more than $500,000. A 2014 University of Cincinnati study found that 64 percent of small businesses, which parishes resemble in size and number of employees, say they experience employee theft, but only 16 percent of them report it. And National Catholic Reporter said in a 2012 story that, “according to the most modest estimates, at least $89 million donated each year by the people never gets to the intended Catholic cause or recipient due to theft.”
Ryan has long contended that parish practices as simple and low-cost as using tally sheets, multiple counters and secure collection bags could significantly cut down on the possibility of theft from parish collections. These are exactly the practices the Archdiocese of Boston is now promulgating with its “Offertory Collection Controls Initiative.”
The initiative is explained in its “Offertory Collection Controls: Responsible Stewardship” video (https://player.vimeo.com/video/133384564?badge=0), in which Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, said, “We want to make sure that the whole process is safe and transparent so that all the people’s donations will be properly cared for and banked.” The archdiocese plans to implement its initiative at all parishes during the 2016 fiscal year.
VOTF already counts the Boston archdiocese as among the most financially transparent dioceses in the country. Ryan, an active member of VOTF’s Financial Accountability & Transparency Working Group, said he is hopeful Pope Francis’ renewed emphasis on financial accountability and transparency will be fully accepted and embraced by the USCCB and its members.
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 the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.
The U.S. Catholic Church’s primary responses to its clergy sexual abuse scandal have been protection protocols and litigation, that is, promulgating the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and leaving litigation as the primary option for abuse survivors seeking justice.
Conspicuously absent from the Church’s responses have been programs and activities focused on healing wounds from the scandal.
Voice of the Faithful has an approach that the reform movement believes has great potential as a step on the path toward healing for anyone who feels harmed by the scandal. William Casey, a former VOTF board chair and Northern Virginia Mediation Service Restorative Justice Program director, featured this “Restorative Justice Healing Circle” approach in a lecture he presented Dec. 3 at Boston College in Newton, Mass. The college’s Church in the 21st Century Center co-sponsored the event.
Called “Storytelling for Healing,” the lecture explained the power of deep listening and safe storytelling to an attentive audience of BC theology students, VOTF members, abuse survivors and community members. Casey, who also facilitates Healing Circles, described how they ensure a safe place for each participant to tell his or her story. He then quoted testimonials from people who said the Healing Circle had started them on a path toward healing or nurtured healing they were beginning to experience.
Casey also pointed out that the injury caused by clergy abuse spills over into families and friends of survivors and onto all people of faith whose trust is shaken be such betrayal. All affected by this breach in trust are welcomed into a Healing Circle.
Audience questions made it clear the concept of Restorative Justice on which Healing Circles are based is not an easy concept for those living in a 21st century, First-World country, where people are most familiar with retributive and punitive means of redress. Several people expressed their gratitude that VOTF was taking this lead in responding to survivor needs.
More information on Healing Circles is available on VOTF’s Programs webpage.
by C4C Guest Blogger
Last Friday night, I saw the movie “Spotlight” with two friends. It had been on my “to do” list since I had first seen the trailer. As a Clergy Abuse Survivor, it was interesting to me how the Catholic Church would be portrayed. All too often, Catholic apologists bash the media and critics as being “anti-Catholic” and haters – convenient defenses to cover the scandal within the Church. I was hoping that “Spotlight” would not fall into that trap.
One of the defenses that is also used is “that was in the past – it is not happening now.” However abuse from the past continues to surface involving present day priests. Two years ago, it became public that my abuser was being investigated.
This public announcement caused dozens, myself included, to file additional complaints with the Archdiocese. After two years of investigations, both by the Archdiocese…
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