Archive for January, 2018

Pope sends Maltese archbishop to investigate Chilean bishop in abuse cover up case / National Catholic Reporter

“(Juan Carlos) Cruz told NCR Jan. 23 that while ‘the bigger abuse was behind closed doors,’ (Juan) Barros was in the room when (Fr. Fernando) Karadima touched the genitals and put his tongue in the mouth of Cruz and other victims.” (National Catholic Reporter)

“Pope Francis is sending Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta to Chile to take testimony about Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid of Osorno, Chile, who is accused of covering up allegations of abuse by a Chilean priest who was found guilty of abuse.

“The Vatican announced Scicluna’s trip to Chile in a statement this morning (Jan. 30).

“Scicluna was in charge of sexual abuse cases in the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith from 2002 until 2010. Francis appointed him to lead a commission in the doctrinal congregation  to hear appeals of priests accused of sexual abuse.

“‘Following recently received information regarding the case of H.E. Msgr. Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid, Bishop of Osorno (Chile), the Holy Father Francis has arranged for H.E. Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and President of the College for the examination of appeals (in matters of delicta graviora) at the Ordinary Session of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to go to Santiago de Chile to hear those who have expressed their willingness to submit elements in their possession,’ the Vatican press office statement read.”

By Dennis Coday, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful “Focus” News Roundup


Francis’ commitment to abuse survivors in question
“It is hard even to imagine the pain survivors of clergy sexual abuse have had to endure(link is external). After being raped or brutalized by people their communities had taught them to see as nearly infallible, many were left silent for decades, ashamed or just unable to speak. When they did come forward, their motives were questioned and their integrity impugned. They were savaged, re-victimized, in court proceedings and public announcements, as bishops, diocesan lawyers and church officers denied their charges … Within the space of four days, Pope Francis twice slandered abuse survivors. On the papal flight from Peru Jan. 21, he again called testimony against Chilean Bishop Juan Barros Madrid ‘calumny.’” By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff

Call for Pope Francis to meet with abuse survivor Marie Collins during visit to Ireland
“A meeting between Pope Francis and clerical abuse survivor, Marie Collins, must be on the papal agenda(link is external) when the Pope visits Ireland next August, a Catholic lobby group has said. We Are Church Ireland (WACI), a lobby group seeking to liberalize some of Catholicism’s structures and sexual teachings, said a personal meeting with Collins would show the Pope’s appreciation of her ‘valuable work’ on the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.” By Sarah MacDonald, The Independent

Let laity lead parishes, priests’ resolution urges U.S. bishops
“Priests are graying, fewer in number, with little relief in sight. That reality was the impetus for a resolution endorsed by the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, calling upon Catholic bishops in the United States to enlist the aid of lay pastoral workers to administer parishes(link is external). Passed by the association at its convention in Atlanta last June, the resolution calls upon the church to allow ‘well prepared pastoral ministers who, working collaboratively with canonical pastors, can know, guide and accompany the faithful on their journey of faith via parish communities.’” By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter

Proud to be Catholic? A groundbreaking America survey asks women about their lives in the Church
“Catholic women may be part of a Democratic voting wave in 2018. They are ready to welcome women deacons. Many feel their parishes are inclusive of women and welcome divorced and remarried Catholics and non-heterosexual Catholics. But they think the church could do more to welcome unmarried parents, single mothers and people who have lost their spouses … These are just a handful of the findings of the America Survey, commissioned by America Media(link is external) and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in partnership with GfK, a survey firm.” By Mark Gray and Mary Gautier, America: The Jesuit Review


Amid abuse allegations, Vatican names trustee to lead Sodalitium
“Saying Pope Francis is following the situation with concern, the Vatican named a Colombian bishop to be the trustee of the scandal-plagued SodalitiumChristianae Vitae(link is external), a Catholic movement based in Peru.The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life appointed Bishop Noel Londono Buitrago of Jerico, Colombia, trustee of the group, the Vatican press office announced Jan. 10.” By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter


Pope delivers mixed messages to clergy abuse survivors during Chile trip, casting doubt over his commitment to reform and healing
During his recent visit to Chile (Jan. 15-18), Pope Francis sent mixed signals to clergy abuse survivors. Early in his visit, he met with survivors, wept with them, admonished Chile’s clergy for abuse and betrayed trust, apologized for “irreparable damage” done by abuse and sought forgiveness from victims. Just before celebrating Mass at the end of his visit, however, the Pope changed course when confronted with questions concerning Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, who had been accused of covering up Fr. Fernando Karadima’s sexual abuse. The Pope said, “The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk. But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?” Here are links to some of the media coverage that resulted:

Pope Francis to face protests in Chile over bishop appointment
“Chileans protesting Pope Francis’s 2015 appointment(link is external) of a Roman Catholic bishop accused of protecting an alleged pedophile threaten to cast a shadow over the pontiff’s visit to South America next week. Parishioners in Osorno, a small city 800 kilometers (497 miles) south of the Chilean capital, say Vatican representatives denied their requests to meet with Francis. They plan to protest every day of the Pope’s Jan. 15 – 18 stay in Chile.” By Dave Sherwood, Reuters


Serving isolated parishes may mean ordaining married men
“The idea of exceptionally ordaining older married men of proven virtue to celebrate the Eucharist(link is external) in isolated Catholic communities is something that should be discussed, said Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy. ‘It is not about being in favor of or against something, but about attentively evaluating various possibilities without being closed or rigid,’ the cardinal said in a new book in Italian, Tutti gli Uomini di Francesco (‘All Francis’s Men’) released Jan. 22 by Edizioni San Paolo.” By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, on


The humble, indispensable women leading the Catholic Church you’ve (probably) never heard of
“Coleen Heckner grew up immersed in Catholic culture(link is external). From her parents and her devout grandfather, who served as an usher in his parish, to the Daughters of Charity and the Sisters of Mercy, who educated her in grade school and high school, she was surrounded by examples of faith. A member of the Vatican II generation, she was influenced by St. John XXIII and became passionate about issues of social justice, in part because the peace activists Daniel Berrigan, S.J., and Phil Berrigan were among the speakers brought to her Baltimore classroom. ‘I grew up in a really neat time to have all these folks touch my life in some way,’ she said.” By Kerry Weber, America: The Jesuit Review


New study seeks to understand why young people leave the church
“More Catholics are leaving the faith than ever before — more so than in any other religion — and a new study out this week is trying to help make sense of why so many young adults are leaving the faith(link is external) at such an early age. ‘Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics,’ released by Saint Mary’s Press of Minnesota, in collaboration with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, comes at a time when Pope Francis is seeking to focus the attention of the global Church on the needs of young people.” By Christopher White,


Pope aide says tensions around ‘Amoris’ reflect a ‘paradigm shift’
“According to the pope’s top aide, the sometimes-tumultuous debates unleashed in Catholicism by Pope Francis’s 2016 document on the family, Amoris Laetitia, aren’t primarily due to ‘certain aspects of its content,’ but rather the ‘paradigm shift’(link is external) for the Church the document represents. ‘At the end of the day, what resulted from Amoris Laetitia is a new paradigm that Pope Francis is carrying forward with wisdom, with prudence, and also with patience,’ said Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State and effectively the most senior figure in the Church after the pope himself.” By John L. Allen, Jr.,


Time to Heal
“There is no delicate way to say this about an institution that so many believe in so fervently, and put their faith in daily. It’s for that very reason — so many entrust their lives and their faith in an afterlife with the Catholic Church and its teachings — that we feel compelled to point out that the Brownsville Diocese has a serious image problem(link is external)right now and church officials must address it quickly … And it has many in this heavily Catholic region questioning whether such an incident could be repeated today or whether the church — which was just beginning to recover from a sex abuse scandal 15 years ago emanating from revelations involving the powerful Boston diocese and involving dozens of priests who abused children — has truly reformed its ways. Such questions came to the fore as a nonprofit group called Voice of the Faithful, borne of the earlier sex scandals, rated the Diocese of Brownsville among the lowest in the country as it relates to openness regarding church finances.” Editorial in the Brownsville Texas Herald


Report shows operating surplus for 2017 in Archdiocese of Baltimore
“Improvements in the stock market and sound controls on expenses helped the Archdiocese of Baltimore achieve a positive result on the financial report for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017 … In November, Voice of the Faithful, a movement of Catholics concerned with church accountability and transparency, reviewed the websites(link is external) of all 177 dioceses and archdioceses in the country to gauge fiscal accountability practices. Using a 10-question scale, the group looked at whether diocesan financial information could be easily found and reviewed. The Archdiocese of Baltimore was one of the top six dioceses in the study, earning 55 out of 60 possible points. Baird noted that the only deduction the archdiocese received was for not having a list of the members of its finance council on the web. That has been rectified, with the addition of the roster of the Board of Financial Administration to the site.” By Christopher Gunty, Archdiocese of Baltimore Online Newspaper

Thief steals collection money from Montclair’s Immaculate Conception
“A thief made off with part of the collection money(link is external) from a Sunday morning Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and township police are investigating the crime. The Roman Catholic house of worship informed parishioners of the robbery in an email Sunday (Jan. 21) night. ‘I write to advise you that today, during the 10:30 a.m. Mass at Immaculate Conception, the first collection was stolen from the sacristy with the second collection for heat being left behind,’ wrote the Rev. Amilcar Benito Prado, administrator of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish.” By Linda Moss Montclair Local

Two-thirds of Catholic dioceses do not publish accounts online
“Almost two-thirds of the 26 Catholic dioceses in Ireland do not publish any financial details on their websites(link is external), a new survey has found. The reverse is true in the US, where almost two-thirds of the 177 dioceses carry such details on their websites. The Irish survey was carried out by We Are Church Ireland, a lay Catholic lobby group, which has called for greater transparency in diocesan finances. A summary of the financial details of each diocese, and other relevant charities in each, are published on the Charities Regulatory Authority website. However, the level of detail made available to parishioners on diocesan websites varies significantly.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times

$319,000 possibly stolen from St. Luke Catholic School, audit shows
“An investigation into missing funds at St. Luke Catholic School yielded evidence of a possible embezzlement plot amounting to $319,000(link is external), according to a release from the Archdiocese of San Antonio. The archdiocese said it sought the risk audit after concerns regarding the school’s finances arose. The audit found ‘questionable financial transactions and irregularities at the school for a several-year period.’…(link is external).” By Mariah Medina, KSAT-TV


Albany, pass the Child Victims Act
“If the #MeToo movement of the last few months has taught us anything, it’s that it is extremely painful and risky for victims of sexual harassment or assault — even those with power, money and connections — to speak out against their abusers. Now consider how much harder it must be for a child(link is external) … For these reasons, many states — including eight last year alone — have done the right thing and extended or eliminated statutes of limitations for the reporting of child sexual abuse. This has encouraged more victims to come forward and seek justice for abuse that was never properly addressed, if it was addressed at all. New York, which has had no shortage of child sex-abuse scandals, should be on that list.” By The New York Times Editorial Board


Sex abuse prevention to feature at Vatican’s family meeting
“The Vatican’s upcoming conference on families in Ireland will feature a seminar on child protection(link is external), after the church’s sex abuse scandal devastated the credibility of the Catholic Church in the country.” By Associated Press on


Priest fights witness subpoena in child sex abuse trial
“Uncomfortable discussing a sensitive matter with her family, a teenage girl made an appointment with a priest to reveal a dark secret she had been carrying for years(link is external), according to prosecutors. While taking part in the Catholic Church’s Sacrament of Reconciliation, commonly known as confession, prosecutors claim the girl disclosed to Rev. Vincenzo Ronchi that a relative had sexually abused her on several occasions beginning when she was 7 years old.” By Mike DeForest, News6 Orlando


Former St. Cloud priest, teacher added to list of likely abusers
“A Catholic priest in the St. Cloud diocese who taught at Cathedral High School in the 1970s has been added to a list of clergy who likely abused children(link is external). In a news release Friday (Jan. 12), the Diocese of St. Cloud said the Rev. Antonio Marfori is the latest name added to the diocese’s list of credibly accused priests and monks.” By Kirsti Marohn, Minnesota Public Radio

Priest returns to limited ministry
“Father Jonathan Shelley, who has been out of ministry since June 2012, will return to limited ministry(link is external) in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop Bernard Hebda announced Jan. 11.’ By The Catholic Spirit


Religious education teacher in Troy, Mo., Catholic Church accused of videotaping bathrooms
“A 28-year-old Lincoln County man is accused of covertly installing video cameras in bathrooms(link is external) at a Catholic church and in an amusement center where he worked. The surreptitious recordings were first discovered when an employee at Adrenaline Zone, a bumper cars and laser tag complex in St. Charles, called police Jan. 15 after a camera installed in the bathroom fell through the ceiling, according to Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Andy Binder.” By Erin Heffernan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St. Louis area priest charged with 16 counts of child porn and possession of meth
“A Catholic priest who was arrested Monday (Jan. 8) by Belleville police was charged with 16 counts of child pornography(link is external) Tuesday (Jan. 9). (Rev. Gerald) Hechenberger, 54, also was charged with possession of methamphetamine … Belleville police issued a statement saying Hechenberger was identified as being in possession of multiple images of child pornography in which the photographed victims were under the age of 13.” By Kaley Johnson, The Kansas City Star


Child Victims Act would bring hidden predators to justice
“When I first heard the claims of child sexual abuse(link is external) against Alabama’s disgraced former Senate candidate Roy Moore, I was sick to my stomach. But as a long-time advocate and abuse survivor, I was not surprised that such a predator was able to remain hidden in plain sight for so long.” By Kathryn Robb, Valley News


Three men sue Archdiocese of Portland alleging sex abuse in North Bend
“Three men filed a lawsuit Wednesday (Jan. 10) against the Archdiocese of Portland alleging they were sexually abused as children(link is external) by a priest in North Bend during the early 1980s. The lawsuit, filed today (Jan. 11) in United States District Court for the District of Oregon, alleges that the three victims, who were not identified in the complaint, were each abused by the Rev. Pius Brazauskas who worked at the Holy Redeemer Church in North Bend from the late 1970s until as late as 1990.” By Tim Epperson, The World


Clergy abuse victims react to diocese creating child protection office
“The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown announced the creation of a new office dedicated to protecting children, but clergy abuse victims are worried(link is external) about its leadership. The Diocese hired Cindy O’Connor, of Johnstown, to be the director of the new Office of Children and Youth Protection, according to a release … The office’s creation and the decision to have O’Connor as the director have victims including John Nesbella concerned. He thinks that her being both Catholic and a member of the same diocese might be a conflict of interest.” By Katie O’Toole, WJAC-TV


Lawsuit dismissed against late priest, former Notre Dame principal
“A lawsuit was dismissed by District Judge David Evans in Tarrant County related to charges of sexual abuse(link is external) by a now-deceased priest and a former principal of Notre Dame Middle/High School. In March 2015, Jason Lloyd Montgomery filed the suit against the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth and Bishop Michael F. Olson, claiming he was sexually abused by the late Rev. John Sutton when he was a Notre Dame student in 1990-1992.” By Claire Kowalick, Times Record News


Edmundites to pay up in priest sex-abuse lawsuit
“A Colchester-based religious order is among several Roman Catholic institutions that recently settled a priest sex abuse lawsuit(link is external) in Connecticut for nearly $1 million. The court case centered on misconduct claims involving defrocked priest Charles Many, a Vermont native and St. Michael’s College graduate who helped lead parishes in Essex Junction and in Groton, Connecticut, and was a member of the Society of St. Edmund.” By Adam Silverman, Burlington Free Press


Former public servant on board to help protect children
“A former West Australian public servant and administrator has been appointed to the Church’s independent child protection standards(link is external), auditing and reporting organization. Dr Ruth Shean, the former WA Commissioner for Public Sector Standards with responsibility for oversight of legislative and regulatory standards in the WA public sector, will join the board of Catholic Professional Standards Limited (CPSL) from February 1.” By

Child rapist priest spared deportation by AAT named
“Irish pedophile priest Finian Egan(link is external) has been named as the child rapist the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is trying to save from deportation. AAT deputy president Janine Stevenson recently set aside former Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s decision to cancel Egan’s Australian citizenship. She also ordered that Egan not be identified and that evidence given in the case be suppressed.” By Keith Moor, Herald Sun

Ex-teacher charged with child sexual abuse
“A 71-year-old former teacher, counselor and school nurse at two Perth Catholic colleges has been charged with child sexual abuse offences(link is external) dating back almost 40 years. Arthur Frank Mowle, 71, has been charged by detectives tipped off by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.” By


Carolyn Bennett asks Catholic groups to allow residential school survivors to have documents outlining abuse made public
“The federal government is urging Catholic groups that ran Indian residential schools to allow former students who settled their abuse cases(link is external) before a compensation deal was signed with school survivors to file their court documents with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Justice Department lawyers say permission from both the government and the Catholic entities is required before abuse survivors who launched court cases before 2006, when the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) was struck, can house papers related to their cases at the center in Winnipeg that is chronicling the schools’ tragic legacy.” By Gloria Galloway, The Globe & Mail


Controversial bishops in Chile deny sex abuse coverup
“Well before Pope Francis arrived here Monday (Jan. 15) night, it was clear that his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile would be trying, in large part because of fallout from clerical sexual abuse scandals(link is external) that have badly frayed both the Church’s public image and its internal morale. As Francis was making his way from Rome to the Chilean capital on Monday, I spent over an hour with the bishop at the center of that storm, Juan Barros Madrid, whom Francis appointed to head the diocese of Osorno in March 2015. We were joined by the bishop of Talca, Horacio Valenzuela, who, along with Barros, is accused by three victims of witnessing their abuse and covering it up.” By Austen Ivereigh,


Disgraced priest to give evidence at Scottish child abuse inquiry
“A disgraced priest who sexually abused young boys(link is external) in care is to give evidence at the Scottish child abuse inquiry. Sex offender Bernard Traynor, 64, has been called to give his testimony after allegations about him were made to the inquiry by former residents at Smyllum Park in Lanark last month. Two former residents told Lady Smith, who leads the inquiry, they were sexually abused by Traynor after they were moved to another orphanage run by the same Catholic order in Newcastle.” By John Jeffay, The Scotsman


Guam archbishop denies allegations of rape, sexual abuse
“An embattled archbishop in Guam has denied an allegation that he raped his nephew(link is external) nearly 20 years ago, when his accuser was a teen. Mark Apuron, nephew of Guam’s Archbishop Anthony Apuron, filed a lawsuit Jan. 10, claiming that his uncle raped him in a Church bathroom in 1989 or 1990. This is the fifth lawsuit to accuse the archbishop of sexual abuse of minors during his time as a pastor and bishop.” By Catholic News Agency on

Church sex abuse mediation could leave victims fighting over money
“At least one attorney in the Catholic church sex abuse scandal is raising concerns over the current settlement proposal(link is external) by some of the parties—arguing it could leave 158 victims in a precarious situation in which they could end up ‘fighting over the money on their own.’ By Jolene Toves, Pacific News First


Irish bishop warns against thinking sexual abuse crisis is ‘behind us’
“A bishop in Ireland is warning that the greatest danger in the fight against abuse is to ‘relax(link is external) and believe that the worst is in some way behind us.’ Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick said society sometimes wants ‘to simplify this issue and move on. To stay with an awareness of the pervasiveness of abuse and those dark parts of our human nature and the tendency to exploit weakness and vulnerability, may be almost too much,’ he said.” By Charles Collins,


New Zealand abuse inquiry will not include faith-based organizations
“The Catholic Church in New Zealand is disappointed a government inquiry into state abuse of children may not expand to include faith-based institutions(link is external), including itself. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the primary role of an inquiry would be to focus on the state’s responsibility.” By

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Pope Francis’ blind spot on sexual abuse / National Catholic Reporter

“The fundamental problem is that the church has no process for judging bishops that is transparent and has legitimacy with the public. The bishop may or may not be innocent, but no one will trust a secret process that involves clerics investigating clerics, clerics judging clerics.” (National Catholic Reporter)

The overwhelming consensus in the media is that Pope Francis has a blind spot when it comes to sexual abuse.

“He may be on the side of refugees, migrants, the sick, the poor, the indigenous and other marginalized peoples, but he just doesn’t get it when it comes to victims of abuse.

“The evidence for this assertion is the pope’s unwavering support for Juan Barros, whom he appointed bishop of Osorno, Chile, despite accusations from victims that he witnessed and covered up abuse by the Fr. Fernando Karadima, the charismatic priest who in 2011 was found guilty by the Vatican of abusing minors in his upscale Santiago parish.

“In a leaked letter to the Chilean bishops, Francis defended his January 2015 appointment of Barros to Osorno. Francis acknowledged that the Vatican was so concerned about the crisis in Chile that it planned to ask Barros, who was the bishop for the military, and two other bishops to resign and take a sabbatical. Despite these concerns, Francis appointed Barros anyway.”

By Thomas Reese, Religion News Service, in National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Pope apologizes to abuse victims but again doubts them / The New York Times

“There was great hope that this pope understood — he ‘got it’ — but if that were true we would not have his words today,” said Marie Collins …” (The New York Times)

For years, victims of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church and their advocates have asked when Pope Francis would adjust his blind spot on an issue that has caused enormous damage to Catholics, the reputation of the church and the pontiffs who preceded him.

“But the pope’s remarks overnight Sunday as he returned from a trip to Chile and Peru — apologizing for demanding proof of abuse from victims in Chile even as he continued to doubt them — prompted concerns that he just does not understand.

“‘There was great hope that this pope understood — he ‘got it’ — but if that were true we would not have his words today,’ said Marie Collins, a survivor of abuse who last year resigned in frustration from the pope’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

“‘Anyone who was still clinging to the hope there would be real change in the church to the issue of abuse and this change would be led by Pope Francis will have lost that hope today,’ Ms. Collins said.”

By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times — Read More …

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How are clergy sexual abuse survivors to grasp Pope Francis calling them “slanderers”?

Voice of Faithful often receives calls from survivors seeking assistance and comfort. We received one such call from a distraught survivor on the same day that news media reports circulated about Pope Francis calling survivors “slanderers” for accusing Bishop Juan Borros Madrid of Osorno, Chile, covering up their abuse.

The survivor had been part of the original settlement between his diocese and his abuser’s victims and says he now is being denied compensation for therapy that was part of the settlement. He must ask the diocese each time he wants to see a therapist and is being denied because the diocese apparently does not consider his therapy necessary.

He has spoken with several lawyers, presented his story to many local news outlets, sent letters to his bishop, and sent innumerable emails and letters and had many phone conversations with the diocese’s pastoral support office. He has exhausted all avenues through which he might expect to receive justice. Yet, he considers himself lucky because he has not turned to alcohol or drugs to dull his pain or suicide to end it, as other survivors have, and says he knows of some who will not deal with the diocese because of the agony of disbelief they would have to endure.

Stories like these remind us at VOTF that whatever words the hierarchy may use about clergy sexual abuse, real-life failures continue. That’s one reason why, having placed renewed hope for redress of the scandal in Pope Francis, his recent remarks during his visit to Chile about survivors being “slanderers” are so disconcerting.

Just before a Mass at the end of his visit to Chile, the pope is reported to have said, “The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk. But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?” Earlier in his visit to Chile, the pope had wept with survivors, admonished Chile’s clergy for abuse and betrayed trust, apologized for “irreparable damage” done by abuse, and sought forgiveness from victims. Returning to Rome, the Pope is reported to have said he regretted the language of his remarks but maintained his support for Bishop Barros.

Which message should survivors hear – the Pope weeping with them and admonishing Chile’s clergy for abuse and betrayal of trust, apologizing for “irreparable” damage done by abuse, and seeking forgiveness? Or, calling them “slanderers” and demanding some sort of proof other than their testimony?

Sadly, our survivor’s story jibes more with the pope who accuses survivors of slander than the pope who weeps for suffering. His experience seems a case study in everything the Church has done wrong in addressing the abuse scandal and its victims/survivors.

VOTF has attempted to listen and to promote healing throughout the 15 years since Boston’s clergy sexual abuse crisis initiated our movement. We will continue to do so – and to insist on accountability for the bishops who covered up abuse and who even today are denying full justice for survivors.

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Pope accuses sex abuse victims in Chile of slandering bishop / The New York Times

“But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?” (Pope Francis in The New York Times)

Pope Francis has accused abuse victims in Chile of slandering a bishop who they say protected a pedophile priest, upending his efforts to rehabilitate the Catholic Church’s reputation while visiting South America.

“Francis told reporters Thursday there was not a shred of evidence against Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, who victims of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, Chile’s most notorious priest, have accused of being complicit in his crimes.

“‘The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk,’ Francis said before celebrating Mass outside the northern Chilean city of Iquique. ‘But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?'”

By Pascale Bonnefoy and Austin Ramzy, The New York Times — Read more …

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Proud to be Catholic? A groundbreaking America survey asks women about their lives in the Church / America: The Jesuit Review

“It is the most comprehensive survey of American Catholic women ever conducted.” (America: The Jesuit Review)

Catholic women may be part of a Democratic voting wave in 2018. They are ready to welcome women deacons. Many feel their parishes are inclusive of women and welcome divorced and remarried Catholics and non-heterosexual Catholics. But they think the church could do more to welcome unmarried parents, single mothers and people who have lost their spouses. And while Catholic women who are Republicans and Democrats differ slightly on whether or not “protecting life” or “helping the poor” is most important, on most other markers of Catholic identity their differences are statistically insignificant.

These are just a handful of the findings of the America Survey, commissioned by America Media and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in partnership with GfK, a survey firm. It is the most comprehensive survey of American Catholic women ever conducted. The following is an excerpt from the executive summary. The full summary is available online at

By Mark Gray and Mary Gautier, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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