Archive for March, 2020

Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

March 27, 2020


The American parish today
“A few years ago Commonweal published a special issue on parishes in the U.S. We sent out correspondents to report on what they encountered … These dispatches provided an interesting, eclectic account of what it meant to worship in different parishes in different parts of the U.s.. At the same time, such an approach was unable to take the full measure of the changes remaking the U.S. Catholic Church(link is external)—most of all the significant changes in demographics and geography, set against the backdrop of declining vocations and broader trends in religious disaffiliation—and what they meant for local communities of Catholics.” By The Editors, Commonweal

Reporting system to record abuse complaints against bishops begins
“A reporting system accepting sexual misconduct allegations against U.S. bishops and eparchs is in place(link is external). Called the Catholic Bishops Abuse Reporting Service, or CBAR, the system became operational March 16. The mechanism incorporates a website and a toll-free telephone number through which individuals can file reports regarding a bishop. The website is Calls can be placed at (800) 276-1562.” By Dennis Sadowsky, Catholic News Service, in Catholic Standard

Retrial of U.S. Catholic official delayed over virus concerns
“The retrial of the only church official who has ever gone to prison in the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal was delayed Monday (Mar. 16) because of the coronavirus outbreak(link is external). The retrial of Monsignor William Lynn, the longtime secretary for clergy in the Philadelphia archdiocese, had been to start Monday in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court but was put on hold until January amid court shutdowns meant to slow the spread of the pandemic.” By Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press

Theologian says clerical sexual abuse ‘always about abuse of power’
“Karlijn Demasure taught religion at a secondary school for girls in Belgium when she first came across child abuse. It turned out a girl was sexually abused at home and no one at the school knew exactly what to do(link is external). ‘The psychiatrist associated with the school was also unable to help us,’ said Demasure. ‘Should we address the father that we knew about it and that it shouldn’t be happening? Should we send the girl to therapy? Nobody knew. This episode made me decide to go back to university for further study, and to specialize as a theologian in this field. We must help these children.’” By Joke Heikens, Katholiek Nieuwsblad, on

Court-appointed official says Vatican failing on accountability in Nienstedt case
“A court-appointed official for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is alleging that the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops is failing to comply with new protocols for bishop accountability(link is external) created by Pope Francis with regard to a potential investigation into former Archbishop John Nienstedt. Nienstedt led the archdiocese from 2008 until resigning under fire in 2015 after charges of failing to protect children from sexual abuse. In addition to allegations that he actively covered up for abusive priests, Nienstedt has been the subject of investigations regarding his own misconduct.” By Christopher White,

Post-reformation theology of the priesthood influenced abuse crisis, author says
“My (Clare McGrath-Merkle, OCDS, DPhil,) work has been focused mainly on the theology of the priesthood and its possible role, if any, in the crisis of sexual abuse and cover-up(link is external). The causes of the crisis are, of course, varied, but I have wanted to try to understand how this theology might have somehow contributed to a clerical identity prone to the abuse of power.” By Charles C. Camosy,


Priest chaplain at Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse had abuse record
“In January, Lindsey Faust and her partner visited the Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, Kentucky, for a mini vacation. Faust was a former volunteer with Loretto Volunteers and shared a rapport with the sisters and community members. It was almost like home to her. During their stay, Faust’s partner, out of curiosity, inquired about the priest who lived there, celebrating daily Mass. It was then that a community member revealed details about Fr. J. Irvin Mouser that no volunteer knew. Mouser, a priest from the Archdiocese of Louisville, was removed from public ministry in 2002 on charges of child sex abuse(link is external).” By Sarah Salvadore, National Catholic Reporter

Erie, other dioceses unveil system to report bishops
“The creation of the nationwide Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service grew out of the clergy abuse crisis. Roman Catholic dioceses nationwide have launched a system to report claims of abuse against bishops(link is external), the Catholic Diocese of Erie announced on Tuesday (Mar. 17). The Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service, which started operating on Monday, grew out of a document called ‘Vox estis lux mundi,’ or ‘You Are the Light of the World,’ which Pope Francis issued in May 2019 after an international meeting of bishops in Rome in February 2019 to address clergy sexual abuse.” By Erie Times-News Staff

You’ll need a strong stomach to digest Revelation’s insights into child sexual abuse in the Catholic church
“Despite an extensive royal commission, scores of criminal trials and excellent books such as Louise Milligan’s Cardinal and David Marr’s The Prince, there are still some unanswered questions about child sexual abuse in the now-tattered narrative of the Catholic church in Australia(link is external). These include: why did these priests do such horrible things? How did they justify their crimes to themselves and to God? What kind of conversations may they have had with, say, their archbishop or monsignor, once they were rumbled by a parent or teacher or victim?” By Brigid Delaney, The Guardian


What lies ahead for Pope Francis as he enters the eighth year of his pontificate
Today (Mar. 13) is the seventh anniversary of the election of Pope Francis(link is external). It is a holiday in the Vatican, but it takes place under the most extraordinary circumstances dominated by the coronavirus pandemic that began in China and then spread worldwide, infecting some 138,000 people in at least 117 countries. So far it has caused the deaths of more than 5,000 people, including more than 1,200 in Italy.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review


Cardinal Pell’s lawyers move quickly to file documents
“Lawyers for Cardinal George Pell have already filed supplementary material with the High Court amid hopes of a quick decision in his appeal(link is external). The cardinal’s legal team was asked to file a short note on the evidentiary relationship between the two separate incidents of abuse of which he was convicted. The note was filed on Friday (Mar. 13) night following the second and final day of his appeal. Sources close to the case doubt the issue will impact the decision in any significant way.” By


U.S. Hispanic Catholics are future, but priest numbers are dismal
“Maria Chavira, a senior administrator in the Diocese of Phoenix, says Spanish-speaking Catholic parishes in her area are ‘bursting at the seams(link is external)’ and celebrates the emergence of Hispanics as the largest ethnic component of the church nationwide. Throughout the Southwest, where the surge has been dramatic, Roman Catholic leaders are excited by the possibilities — and well aware of daunting challenges.” By David Crary, Associated Press, in The Island Packet


Emerging communities: Religious life is changing, but changing to what?
“At almost every national gathering of sisters in the United States in recent years, the speakers say, ‘Religious life is changing.’ However, no one knows what it is changing to(link is external). There might be a way to get a snapshot of what is to come. In 2017, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University published the third edition of a directory, ‘Emerging U.S. Communities of Consecrated Life since Vatican II,’ that lists each operating religious community in the United States that was formed since 1965, the year the Second Vatican Council ended.” By Dan Stockman, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter


Advocate says quest for female deacons not over, despite silence in pope’s Amazon document
“There’s arguably no one in the United States that has championed the cause of women deacons more the Phyllis Zagano(link is external) – a senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University – who was tapped by Pope Francis in 2016 to serve on the Vatican commission to study the historical evidence as to whether there were women deacons in the early Church. While many had expected that Pope Francis would green light the proposal to ordain women as deacons in the Amazon after last October’s Synod on the region, instead the pope has said that he would reconstitute a new commission to study the issue further.” By Christopher White,


Former Rapid City priest convicted on 65 counts in theft, wire fraud and money laundering scheme
“A formerly ordained priest of the Catholic Diocese in Rapid City, South Dakota, was found guilty by a federal jury of wire fraud, nine counts of money laundering, transportation of stolen money, and making and subscribing a false tax return(link is external). During the trial, evidence was shown that Marcin Stanislaw Garbacz, 41, while employed as a priest with the Catholic Diocese of Rapid City, arranged a plan to steal money from that was collected from parishioners from various churches.” By


Child protection pioneer McChesney to receive Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal
“Kathleen McChesney, a leading trailblazer in the fight against clergy sexual abuse, will receive the highest honor in the U.S. Catholic Church(link is external). On Sunday (Mar. 22), the University of Notre Dame announced that McChesney, who worked for decades in law enforcement before being tapped to establish and lead the Office of Child Protection for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), will be awarded the 2020 Laetare Medal, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic award.” By Christopher White,


Top anti-abuse expert says ‘paternalistic’ is worse than clericalism
“German Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, one of the Catholic Church’s leading experts in child protection, has said that more dangerous than clericalism in the clerical abuse crisis is a ‘paternalistic’ attitude within the Church(link is external) that both devalues laypeople and puts clergy on a pedestal. While clericalism has become a hot-button issue under Pope Francis and while it certainly contributes to the problem of abuse, ‘What I think is a deeper problem is the paternalistic attitude that exists, said German Jesuit Father Hans Zollner in an interview with Crux.” By Elise Ann Allen,


To heal the church from the sex abuse crisis, we need apologies, not just policies
“The day after New Year’s my husband and I packed up our six children and drove to the Encounter Conference, in Toledo, Ohio, where 3,000 Catholics gathered for three days of inspiring talks, Eucharistic adoration and Mass. I’ll admit it: I limped into the Encounter. Since the summer of 2018, the revelations of grave sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy in the highest echelons of the church hierarchy has left me devastated and grieving(link is external).” By Colleen Duggan, America: The Jesuit Review

Editorial: How do women convince a male clerical culture to change?
“Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias had to know when he declared that he had undergone a conversion and was now an advocate for women seeking leadership roles in the global church(link is external) that those words would not be the last on the subject. Gracias made his comments during a Feb. 21 interview with NCR’s Vatican correspondent, Joshua McElwee. Gracias is not just any cardinal. The archbishop of Mumbai, he is also president of the Indian bishops’ conference and a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals.” By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff


Bill advances that aims to deliver justice for adults abused as children
“After a couple of failed attempts in recent years, Georgia lawmakers are again advancing legislation to allow adults who were victims of sexual abuse more time to sue organizations that employed their abuser(link is external). This latest version of the Hidden Predator Act passed the House late last week and its fate is now in the state Senate. Its author, Warner Robins Republican Heath Clark, said the bill raises the age a victim can bring a civil suit for child sexual abuse from 23 to 38 years and expands the amount of time a victim can bring suit from two years after becoming aware of the abuse to four years.” By Ross Williams, Georgia Recorder

Shaw: Abuse victims should be able to take civil action
“It is time for the North Dakota Legislature to open a new window, so victims of sexual abuse can seek civil action against their abusers(link is external). Many of the perpetrators were or are Catholic priests. Many of the victims were children. They were frightened, ashamed and traumatized. By the time they realized the seriousness of the offenses against them or had the courage to come forward, the statute of limitations had expired for them to take legal action.” By Jim Shaw, The Dickinson Press


Priest on PBS special offers frank accounting of past, hope for future
“If you tune in to the PBS special ‘Inside the Vatican,’ slated to air 9-11 p.m. EDT April 28, you’ll have to wait more than an hour and a half to see him, and to hear what he has to say. But German Jesuit Father Hans Zollner’s words are a necessary tonic, even if it’s sonic castor oil to some(link is external). Father Zollner wears many hats.” By Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service, in Catholic Courier

The Catholic Church hires ‘fixers’ to cover up sexual abuse – now they’re speaking out
“As survivors of child sex abuse continue speak out against the priests that attacked them, the Catholic Church continues to hide credible accused priests(link is external), allowing them to live, shop, walk, and freely roam communities throughout the US. But the communities the Catholic Church have chosen to set up these places of respite, where hundreds of priests die peacefully, without ever facing criminal charges, are carefully chosen. One former monk says his main task while employed by the church was to cover up and displace child molesting priests.” By Mick S. Grewal, The Legal Examiner


Danbury clergy sexual abuse case to resume later this month
“The case of a former local priest accused of sexually assaulting two boys(link is external) is scheduled to resume in two weeks. Jaime Marin-Cardona, 51, is charged with three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, three counts of risk of injury to child and three counts of illegal sexual contact. He pleaded not guilty to all nine charges. The warrant for Marin-Cardona’s arrest alleges that he groomed two boys over the course of four years, and sexually abused one of them over the same period of time.” By Kendra Baker, The Register Citizen


Diocese finds 1976 sexual abuse allegations against former St. Augustine priest ‘credible’
“A retired St. Augustine Catholic priest was accused of sexually abusing a minor(link is external) 44 years ago in a recent complaint, the Diocese of St. Augustine announced in a statement Monday (Mar. 23). Father John H. Dux, a former clergyman at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Augustine, was immediately suspended indefinitely in May 2019 after the alleged victim’s attorney sent the Diocese a copy of the complaint.” By Matt Bruce, The St. Augustine Record


Diocese of Des Moines investigating priest accused of sexual misconduct
“A Catholic priest has been placed on administrative leave by the Diocese of Des Moines after allegations of sexual misconduct in the 1990s(link is external) surfaced. The Rev. Robert ‘Bud’ Grant was placed on leave March 4, the diocese said Wednesday (Mar. 18) morning. A complaint about sexual misconduct was made to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s office last fall, the diocese said. The complaint involves an incident that allegedly occurred in the early 1990s, according to the diocese.” By Philip Joens, Des Moines Register


Archdiocese paid settlements for priest accused of sex, would not answer questions about bankruptcy, report says
“A New Orleans Archdiocese attorney said Wednesday (Mar. 11) the church paid out four financial settlements in cases involving former priest Lawrence Hecker, who is accused of sexually molesting children(link is external). According to The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, attorney Dirk Wegmann also said in court the church found out about at least one abuse allegation against Hecker in 1988. That is 14 years before he was removed from public ministry.” By WVUE-TV8 News


Former priest returns to Michigan to face additional sex abuse charges
“A former Michigan priest who relocated to New Mexico has returned to the state to face additional charges for allegedly sexually abusing children(link is external) decades ago. Gary Allen Jacobs was formally arraigned late Tuesday in Ontonagon County on two additional criminal sexual conduct cases that he reportedly committed in the 1980s while serving as a priest under the Catholic Diocese of Marquette in the Upper Peninsula.” By


Bankruptcy judge approves New Ulm Diocese’s clergy sexual abuse settlement
“Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kressel’s final approval clears the way for the 93 clergy abuse survivors to begin receiving compensation under the settlement(link is external). It also marks the end of a three-year bankruptcy process for the diocese. The diocese also has committed to 17 child protection protocols. In a statement, Bishop John LeVoir of New Ulm apologized for the harm abuse survivors endured and said he knows the settlement can’t make amends for all that was taken from them.” By Joe Ruff, The Catholic Spirit


Lawyer: Archdiocese moved assets before bankruptcy filing
“A creditors committee of clergy abuse survivors believes the Archdiocese of Santa Fe moved assets to hinder creditors before it filed for bankruptcy(link is external) protection, a lawyer said. Attorney James Stang told a federal judge Monday that the committee may seek standing in the case to challenge the movement of assets, the Albuquerque Journal reports.” By Associated Press


High-ranking Buffalo Diocese priest accused of misconduct
“An allegation of sexual misconduct against one of the region’s most high-profile priests(link is external) led to another shakeup in the Diocese of Buffalo on Saturday (Mar. 21). The Rev. Peter J. Karalus, one of the closest aides to acting Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, was placed by the bishop on administrative leave while an independent investigator looks into the allegation made against Karalus, the Buffalo Diocese announced Saturday.” By Dan Herbeck, The Buffalo News

Abuse plaintiff calls committee’s work ‘awesome responsibility’ to uncover the truth
“Richard Brownell recalled watching a 1993 television newscast in which the Rev. Bernard ‘Corky’ Mach, a popular Catholic priest assigned to a Lockport parish at the time, tearfully denied molesting a 14-year-old boy. Brownell immediately turned to his wife during the newscast and said the priest was lying. He told her the Rev. John Aurelio had sexually assaulted him when he was 11 or 12 years old(link is external), and Aurelio was a close friend of Mach. It was the first time he had told anyone about the abuse.” By Jay Tokasz, The Buffalo News

Judge orders Buffalo Diocese to release secret files for two ‘notorious’ priests
“Two weeks before the Diocese of Buffalo declared bankruptcy, a state judge ruled that the diocese must turn over the ‘secret files’ of two of its most ‘notorious’ pedophile priests(link is external). But most Catholics — and by extension, dozens of the priests’ alleged victims — are still barred from seeing the files because of conditions the judge placed on their disclosure. State Supreme Court Justice Deborah A. Chimes ruled Feb. 13 that after months of fighting their release, lawyers for the diocese must disclose the personnel files of Fr. Norbert F. Orsolits and Fr. William F.J. White.” By Charlie Sprecht, WKBW-TV7 News

Trustee in Buffalo Diocese bankruptcy appoints seven abuse victims to creditors committee
“A trustee for the federal bankruptcy court has selected seven people suing the Buffalo Diocese over clergy sexual abuse to serve on a creditors committee(link is external) that will investigate the diocese’s finances and negotiate a bankruptcy settlement. U.S. Trustee William K. Harrington interviewed at least 20 people for seven spots on the committee, which will represent all unsecured creditors and play a major role in formulating a reorganization plan for the diocese.” By Jay Tokasz, The Buffalo News


North Dakota priest says he’s not sorry for sexually abusing two kids, but regrets the emotional trauma
“A disgraced former North Dakota priest said he’s not remorseful for sexual assaults he carried out on young children(link is external) decades ago. New documents released following an investigation into more than 50 Catholic Clergy from the Fargo and Bismarck Dioceses have named 53 priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor, including one Martin Cullen.” By Akshay Pai,


Prosecutors file notice of appeal of ruling in abuse case
“Prosecutors have filed a notice of appeal of a western Pennsylvania judge’s ruling throwing out the conviction of a retired Roman Catholic priest accused of having assaulted a boy(link is external) almost two decades ago. A spokesman for the Allegheny County district attorney’s office said Monday that the brief setting out reasons for the appeal to Superior Court in the case of the Rev. Hugh Lang will be filed at a later date.” By Associated Press

Msgr. Lynn on trial again for covering up clergy sexual abuse
“More than three years after his release from state prison, Monsignor William Lynn is scheduled to face a familiar, but unwelcome sight: a Philadelphia jury(link is external). Lynn, the first U.S. Catholic Church official to be convicted of covering up clergy sex abuse, will also face familiar allegations next week, when the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office begins retrying the 69-year-old on one felony count of child endangerment.” By Aaron Moselle, WHYY-FM National Public Radio

Victims expect more dioceses to declare bankruptcy
“Adult survivors of priest abuse across Pennsylvania expect that other dioceses will follow the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg and declare bankruptcy to force victims tons seek damages through bankruptcy court rather than civil court(link is external). Mary McHale, a Reading women involved with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said ‘I think it’s only a matter of time’ before other dioceses in Pennsylvania declare bankruptcy, a move announced by the Harrisburg diocese in mid-February.” By John Finnerty, The Tribune-Democrat


Former Purcellville Church Friar Indicted in 1985 Sexual Abuse Case”

“Attorney General Mark R. Herring today (Mar. 16) announced former clergyman Scott Asalone, 63, of Asbury Park, NJ, was indicted on one felony count of carnal knowledge of a minor between 13 and 15 years old(link is external). The indictment is related to alleged sexual contact by Asalone in 1985, while he was a friar assigned to St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Purcellville involving a former parishioner in 1985.” By


Councilmember David Grosso was a childhood victim of indicted former Catholic priest
“At-Large Councilmember David Grosso revealed in an emailed statement today (Mar. 17) that he was sexually assaulted as a minor by a former Virginia priest(link is external) who was recently indicted for the alleged crime. Scott Asalone, 63, was arrested March 12 in New Jersey and is now charged with sexually assaulting a minor between the ages of 13 and 15, according to a news release from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. Asalone will be tried in Loudoun County Circuit Court and is among the 50 priests the Virginia dioceses said had been credibly accused of sexual abuse between 1974 and 2007.” By Mitch Ryals, Washington City Paper


Lay Catholic group presses West Virginia Diocese for action on Bransfield
“A group called Lay Catholic Voices for Change has sent a letter to Bishop Mark Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, asking that the diocese investigate charges of sex abuse of minors by former Bishop Michael Bransfield(link is external). The letter also asked that Bransfield be ordered not to use the title bishop emeritus to describe himself.” By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter


Police’s sex abuse investigation into retired Cheyenne bishop finishes
“Cheyenne police’s follow-up investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by a retired Catholic leader in Wyoming concluded last week(link is external), right around the time that another alleged victim of the clergyman came forward in Missouri. The investigation into retired Bishop Joseph Hart will turn 2 years old in April. Cheyenne police have said they began investigating in spring 2018, after the Diocese of Cheyenne launched its own investigation into Hart and concluded he’d sexually abused at least two then-adolescents in the 1970s and 80s. Since then, four more victims have been identified in Wyoming alone.” By Seth Clayman, Casper Star Tribune


Convicted pedophile Bernard McGrath abused dozens of children. The Catholic Church failed to report his offending
“Former brother of St John of God, Bernard McGrath, will be eligible for parole in December 2044. McGrath, who is serving two prison sentences in NSW for sex crimes against children, says his religious order and the Catholic Church covered up his offending at schools in Australia and New Zealand(link is external). In the early 1990s, after decades as a sex offender, new reports emerged about McGrath’s abuse of children at schools and a residential program he’d run for street kids in Christchurch, New Zealand.” By Sarah Ferguson, ABC News

Convicted pedophile Vincent Ryan confessed to a priest—then he continued abusing children
“Vincent Ryan is a Catholic priest and a aedophile, convicted of sexually abusing more than 30 children. In Australia’s first television interview with a convicted clerical sex abuser, Ryan said there was no reason why he should not remain a priest(link is external). ‘It’s a duty. I’ve committed myself to it,’ he said. ‘It’d have to be a very serious reason, unless I’m stopped by authority, for me to make that decision and at this moment I don’t see it.’” By Sarah Ferguson, ABC News


Clergy sex abuse victim: ‘My name is Barbara Erlandson and I am sharing my story’
“An Ottawa woman who was sexually abused by Rev. Barry McGrory(link is external) in the mid-1970s says a senior church official made her feel that she was to blame for the crime. Barbara Erlandson says she met in 1977 with then Bishop John Beahan, one of the most powerful figures in the Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa, to relate her story of abuse.” By Andrew Duffy, Ottawa Citizen


Defrocked French priest jailed for abusing scouts over 20-year period
“A defrocked French Catholic priest has been sentenced to five years in jail for sexually abusing scouts(link is external) in his care several decades ago, ending a case in which it was claimed his superiors shielded him from prosecution. After survivors testified about the abuse during his trial in Lyon, Bernard Preynat, 75, confessed in January to “caresses” he knew were forbidden.” By Agence France-Presse in Lyon


Catholic priest from the Fens steps down following historic child sex abuse claims
“A statement released by Bishop Alan Hopes and the Diocese of East Anglia on Friday (March 20) explains Father Michael Ryan had recently been accused of the non-recent sexual abuse of children(link is external). It says he voluntarily stepped down from his responsibilities while the investigation is ongoing and that the accusations have been reported to the relevant authorities, including police.” By Cambridge Times

‘Those told of abuse must report it,’ says Workington MP
Any person in a position of responsibility who is told about the sexual abuse of a child should report it to the police(link is external), says Workington MP Mark Jenkinson. The politician spoke out after the News & Star reported on the cases of two Allerdale men whose abusers were clergymen – one with the Catholic Church and the other with the Church of England – and both were allowed to continue working after they confessed their paedophilia. Neither was reported to the police by their church bosses.” By Phil Coleman, News & Star


Court dismisses discharge petition filed by Bishop Franco in rape case
“In a major setback to Bishop Franco Mulakkal, former head of the Latin Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar, the Additional District and Sessions Court I, Kottayam, on Monday (Mar. 16) dismissed the discharge petition filed by him in connection with the rape case registered against him(link is external) by the Kuravilangad police. The judge G Gopakumar directed bishop Mulakkal to face the trial in the case, which was registered on the basis of a complaint filed by a Catholic nun of the same diocese.” By The Indian Express

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Comments on “Confronting the Systemic Dysfunction of Clericalism”

I have been thinking about the white paper (Confronting the Systemic Dysfunction of Clericalism)*. I really like the format which alternates interviews with commentary, and I found the reflective pieces very effective!

Some further thoughts: Prior to the second Vatican Council the role of the laity (lay apostolate) officially was “to be helpers of the clergy in the mission of the church.” Laity saw what they did in the church as “volunteers,” assisting the pastor with his work.

Vatican II radically changed that identity. Article #33 of The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church says the laity, through their membership in the Christian community, participate directly in the mission of Jesus Christ.

“Through Baptism and Confirmation all are appointed to this apostolate (mission of the Church) by the Lord Himself … Every lay person, through those gifts given to him (sic) is at once the witness and the living instrument of the Church itself.”**

That radically new identity is carried through in other documents. Said various ways, the “proper role” of the laity is advancing the reign of God in the secular sphere. In other words, they are the “first-line” ministers of the Gospel in the world, which, according to Matthew 25 & 28, is the commission of Christ to His church.

The most pernicious effect of clericalism, in my mind, is that it subsumes all roles in the church, making them subordinate to, and derivative of, the priest’s (Laity are “helpers of the clergy in their mission.”). That “second-class” status works against true identity of the baptized as “disciples of Jesus Christ.” A derivative or second-class identity is not compelling. The idea that Christ may be “calling me” then, is hard to perceive. I still hear laity today talking about “volunteering” or “helping-out” in the church.

The hierarchy have an essential role as leaders/servants of the mission. Clergy and lay ecclesial ministers are the “equipping” ministers who prepare and lead the People of God in Christ’s mission. But, as the Church in the Modern World says, it is the laity who are in the world and have the appropriate gifts to transform the secular sphere; they are “apostles,” if you will, to the world.

Is it any wonder that the Church seems to have so little impact on the world? How many full-time “ministers” does the local parish have? One―the pastor? A few―the staff? Or several hundred/thousand―the whole community/People of God? These are two radically different concepts of church.

This question of “identity,” self-perception, controls the behavior of all the baptized, clergy and lay. How can the church expect to have an impact on the world if the mission is left solely to the clergy?

There are lots of evils that flow from a monarchical clericalism; the most serious of these is that it eviscerates the mission of the church.

As I read the paper, this is what came to mind. (I know it is not new to you!)

Blessings on great work!


By Gene Scapanski, S.T.D. Vice President and Professor (retired), University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota

You also may want to view “Clericalism: Reality & Concerns” on Voice of the Faithful’s website …

**Confronting the Systemic Dysfunction of Clericalism is a joint white paper promulgated by Voice of the Faithful and the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests
**Documents of Vatican II, Austin P. Flannery, Ed.

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Lockdown / Fr. Richard Hendrick, O.F.M.

An inspiring and comforting poem as we face the COVID-19 pandemic —

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,

By Fr. Richard Hendrick, O.F.M., an Irish Capuchin Franciscan friar, March 13th 2020​​

You also may wish to visit Voice of the Faithful’s Prayer Voice web pages.

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

Mar. 14, 2020


Vatican sends top two sex crimes investigators to Mexico
“The Vatican is sending its top two sex crimes investigators to Mexico(link is external) on a fact-finding and assistance mission as the Catholic hierarchy in the world’s second-largest Catholic country begins to reckon with decades of clergy sex abuse and cover-up. Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu teamed up in 2018 to investigate the Chilean church and its wretched record of protecting pedophile priests — a bombshell expose that resulted in every active Chilean bishop offering to resign.” By Nicole Winfield and Maria Verza, Associated Press

Papal task force to help bishops, religious write, revise abuse guidelines
“Pope Francis has set up a task force of qualified experts and canon lawyers to help bishops’ conferences and congregations of men and women religious with drawing up or revising guidelines for the protection of minors(link is external). The Vatican will also be releasing — at an ‘imminent,’ but unspecified date — a handbook or vademecum, prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to help bishops and religious superiors clearly understand their responsibilities and the procedures for handling allegations of abuse.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, in The Pilot

L’Arche founder’s printed legacy damaged in sex-abuse report
“Revelations that Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, sexually abused at least six women(link is external) continues to reverberate throughout the Roman Catholic and wider church world. Vanier, who died in 2019 at age 90, wrote 30 books. Christian bookstores and publishers are among those dealing with the fallout of last month’s report on Vanier’s ‘manipulative sexual relationships.’ In Winnipeg, Stephanchew’s Church Goods took the only book by Vanier in the store off its shelves.” By John Longhurst, Winnipeg Free Press

West Virginia Catholics turn to ‘restorative justice’ I wake of bishop revelations
“More than one hundred West Virginians ranging from victim-survivors to key diocesan officials gathered at Wheeling University last week to learn how restorative justice practices might bring healing to their scandal-plagued Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston(link is external). Following Bishop Michael Bransfield’s resignation in September of 2018, West Virginians gradually learned about extensive allegations of sexual harassment and financial abuse during his thirteen-year tenure … Against that backdrop, participants at last week’s conference explored the theological and biblical foundations for the use of restorative justice.” By Nick Mayrand,

Dozens of Catholic priests credibly accused of abuse found work abroad, some with the Church’s blessing
“The Rev. Jose Antonio Pinal, a young priest from Mexico, arrived at his first parish in rural Northern California in 1980, fresh out of seminary … Thirty years later, in the spring of 2019, the Diocese of Sacramento put Pinal’s name on its list of credibly accused priests. The list had five allegations of sexual abuse against Pinal dating to the late 1980s. Pinal had ‘fled to Mexico,’ according to the list, and the diocese had prohibited him from performing priestly work in public in the 20 counties that make up the diocese. But an investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle shows the Catholic Church allowed or aided dozens of priests — including Pinal — to serve abroad as priests after being credibly accused of abuse in the United States(link is external).” By Katie Zavadski, Topher Sanders, ProPublica, and Nicole Hensley, Houston Chronicle


A year later, Catholic Church checks progress on abuse
“Since Pope Francis convened a historic summit at the Vatican one year ago to address clergy sex abuse and accountability, much has been done, but advocates say more is needed(link is external). Dozens of experts, abuse survivors and their advocates came to Rome the same week as the summit’s anniversary to emphatically reiterate the need to never let ignorance, complacency or denial ever take hold again and to make the Church safe for everyone.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, in Arkansas Catholic

Pope lets French cardinal embroiled in abuse cover-up resign
“Pope Francis on Friday (Mar. 6) accepted the resignation of a French cardinal who was convicted and then acquitted of covering up for a pedophile priest(link is external) in a case that fueled a reckoning over clergy sexual abuse in France. Lyon Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, 69, had offered to resign when the Lyon court in March 2019 first convicted him and gave him a six-month suspended sentence for failing to report the predator priest to police.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, on WSLS-TV10 News

Leading Catholic figure Francis Sullivan calling for changes after sex abuse crisis
“LEADING Catholic figure Francis Sullivan has criticized Church authorities for a ‘glaring lack of moral leadership’ over the child sex abuse crisis(link is external) and has called for the Church to change its ‘terms of engagement’ if it is to remain relevant and engaged in Australia. ‘Unless we break the shackles of entitlement and cronyism, become inclusive and more representative in our decision-making we risk losing any claim to renewal and reform,’ Mr Sullivan, former chief executive officer of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, told the biennial Catholic Social Services national conference in Melbourne on February 27.” By Mark Bowling, The Catholic Leader

Turning the abuse crisis discussion to deeper themes
“Two Catholic leaders recently turned the discussion about the crisis in the church away from a focus on institutional change to the less measurable work of transformation(link is external), the significance of relationships and the need for members of the hierarchy to confront that culture’s past. Sr. Carol Zinn, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia and executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, widely considered one of the most significant forces in revealing the truth of the sex abuse crisis, advanced their ideas in separate interviews.” By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter

Vanier abuse revelations prompt Catholic soul-searching
“When news went public last week that Jean Vanier, the renowned Canadian theologian who transformed the way the world views the disabled, had sexually abused several women seeking his spiritual counsel, the revelations provoked not just shock, but also serious reflection(link is external). Given that the news was so unexpected from a figure such as Vanier, many Catholic experts and admirers pondered deep questions, such as just how widespread this form of manipulative abuse of adults is within the Catholic Church; the speed at which such towering figures as Vanier are popularly declared as saints; as well as the complex intersection of sin and virtue, as Vanier is someone who clearly exhibited both deviance and inspiration.” By Elise Ann Allen,, in Angelus


Pope Francis’ diplomatic triumph with U.S. bishops
“For some time, a narrative has developed among Catholic pundits and observers suggesting that Pope Francis and the bishops of the United States do not get along with each other(link is external). While much of that narrative has been a creation of media spin, relationships between the U.S. bishops and the Holy See did, in fact, decline in recent years amid the real tension occasioned by the McCarrick scandal.” By Ed Condon, Catholic News Agency

Father James Alison on how Pope Francis is changing the church
“Imagine picking up the phone only to hear Pope Francis’ voice on the other line. It seems almost absurd, yet this is what happened to me a couple of years ago. After a senior member of the Brazilian church hierarchy sought to have me forcibly laicized (which I have written about in further detail elsewhere), Pope Francis called me to confirm my vocation to the priesthood(link is external).” By James Alison, U.S. Catholic


Cupich on new Catholic Church abuse protection task force: ‘regaining trust has to begin with a profound sense of responsibility
“In their first interview since Pope Francis named them among the leaders of a new worldwide task force on sexual abuse protections(link is external), Cardinal Blase Cupich and the Rev. Hans Zollner this week sketched out how they plan to help Catholic leaders across the world comply with new protection guidelines. The task force was created by Francis to help bishops write new local guidelines to adhere to universal church rules issued last year.” By Javonte Anderson, Chicago Tribune


The word is George Pell will walk free … but first the high court must have its say
“The word around the bars is: George Pell will walk free. These barristers don’t have a heads up. They’re only talking among themselves. But those who have followed this prosecution as it has made its slow and dramatic way to the high court must face the possibility that the cardinal is about to be acquitted(link is external). Historic child sex assaults make difficult cases. The facts are frequently bizarre. So often there is no corroborating evidence and the word of the accuser is simply pitted against the denials of the accused. These trials test the criminal law.” By David Marr, The Guardian


Philippine bishops say abuse of women is an ‘affront to God’
“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has highlighted the value of women, noting that abuse of women is ‘an affront to God(link is external).’ ‘God made man and woman according to his own image and likeness. Every offense against the dignity of women is a direct offense against God himself,’[ said Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan, chairman of the CBCP’s Commission on Women.” By Catholic News Agency


Study finds more than 50 accused priests active outside U.S.
“A new analysis of diocesan lists of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse in the United States finds that more than 50 such clerics have been able to continue in ministry in another country(link is external), including work with minors, suggesting global gaps in the Church’s response to the abuse crisis. The findings, published jointly last week by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle, is a follow-up to an investigative effort commenced last year and published in January that includes the launch of an independent database listing nearly 6,000 priests accused of abuse in America.” By Christopher White,

Whistle-blower priest seeks lifting of suspension imposed by disgraced bishop
“As Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, the temporary leader of the Diocese of Buffalo, considers whether to reinstate a whistleblower priest, further questions have emerged(link is external) about both whistleblower protections and potential conflicts of interest regarding the priest in question. Father Ryszard Biernat last year secretly recorded private conversations with Bishop Richard Malone in which the now disgraced bishop raised serious questions about his handling of abuse cases and diocesan personnel matters – including a matter involving Biernat himself.” By Christopher White,


Women deacons possible after ‘Synodal Way,’ says German bishops’ chairman
“The new chairman of the German bishops’ conference has said that calling for the ordination of women could be a conclusion of the two-year ‘synodal way(link is external)’ being undertaken by the Church in Germany. Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg said in a radio interview Monday (Mar. 9) for International Women’s Day that such a conclusion would require Roman approval.” By Bishop Georg Bötzing of Limburg, Catholic San Francisco

What we can learn from the women deacons of the early Eastern Christian church
“The earliest period of Christianity flourished with great attention to the members of the community, with great care shown for women in the church(link is external). The New Testament demonstrates concern for the widows as well as the general well-being of women. The nascent Christian community worked assiduously to continue to spread the message of Jesus Christ and to develop ways of continuing to realize His mystery in their midst.” By Sean Salai, S.J., America: The Jesuit Review


Catholic women seek changes in policies, practices of church
“On International Women’s Day on Sunday (Mar. 8), women have demanded equality in the Catholic Church of India(link is external). In a memorandum submitted to Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Bombay who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and advisor to Pope Francis, women have called for a prophetic church where their voices count, and demanded respect from the clergy in their communication.” By Jyoti Shelar, The Hindu

Germany: women demand more sway in Catholic Church
“Catholic women in Germany have intensified their demand for more sway in the church(link is external) as leaders met on Tuesday to elect a new leader of the Catholic Church in Germany. Women’s rights advocates on Monday (Mar. 2) had presented church leaders at the German Bishops Conference —the governing body of the Catholic Church in Germany — with a petition with over 130,000 signatures calling for more women in leadership roles. More than 50 women also gathered outside the cathedral in the western city of Mainz, where the conference is taking place, to show their support for the movement coined ‘Maria 2.0.’ By Deutsche-Welle


Clergy and laity share ‘co-responsibility’ if Church, bishop says
“Caggiano recounted this story at a session of the ‘Called and Co-Responsible: Exploring Co-Responsibility for the Mission of the Church’ conference, hosted by the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame on March 4-6. The three-day event is part of a series of programs hosted by Notre Dame as a response to the clergy sex abuse crisis in the Church(link is external). The talks at the event addressed different facets of “co-responsibility,” a phrase Pope Benedict XVI favored over “collaboration” to describe the relationship between laity and the clergy.” By Jack Lyons,


Who’s missing on the Vatican’s new abuse task force?
“Recently the Vatican announced Pope Francis has created a task force to help bishops’ conferences around the world address the clerical sex abuse crisis. The lineup is impressive, but much like a high-profile February 2019 summit on child protection, laypeople — women in particular — are the missing link(link is external). The eight-man lineup for the task force includes seven clerics, two of whom are regarded by all sides as part of the solution to the abuse crisis: Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, once the Vatican’s top prosecutor on priestly abuse of minors; and German Father Hans Zollner, SJ, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and director of the Center for Child Protection of Rome’s Gregorian University.” By Inés San Martin,, on


Jury gets case of former Rapid City priest
“The trial of a former Rapid City Catholic priest accused of stealing from church collections is now in the hands of the jury(link is external). The jury got the case of 41-year old Marcin Garbacz after closing arguments Monday morning (Mar. 9). Garbacz is facing a total of 65 charges, including wire fraud, money laundering, transportation of stolen money and filing a false tax return. In his closing statement Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Patterson told the jury that they believe Garbacz stole nearly $260,000 from parishes in the Rapid City Diocese, depositing the money in his bank account, then taking that money across state lines when he moved to Missouri and didn’t declare the money on his tax return.” By Jack Caudill, KOTA-TV News


No system ‘will ever by perfect’ but Church abuse prevention is improving
“According to one of the lay members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, it would be ‘naïve’ to think that every case of abuse can be prevented(link is external), though much can be done to greatly reduce the number of cases and stop repeat offenders. ‘If we would expect that with all the guidelines we have in place we can prevent abuse 100 percent, we would be naïve,’ said Dr. Myriam Wijlens of the Netherlands. ‘We cannot prevent it in the Church in as much as we cannot prevent it in the Scouts or sports. No system will ever be perfect.’” By Inés San Martin,

The Protection of Minors meeting a year on: an Irish perspective
“It’s been a year since Church leaders, abuse survivors and experts came to the Vatican for an unprecedented summit entitled the ‘Protection of Minors in the Church.(link is external)’ The meeting provided the opportunity to listen to victims, raise awareness, develop new norms and procedures, and share good practices. It also focused on three key themes: responsibility, accountability and transparency.” By Lydia O’Kane, Vatican News


Argentina’s Catholic numbers in sharp decline, following Latin American trend
“A recent national survey reports that the number of Catholics in Argentina is declining while the proportion of people without a religion is increasing(link is external), but analysts consider that the still-high percentage of people who believe in God—82 percent—is a sign that the church has an opportunity to prevent further losses in the South American country … Juan Cruz Esquivel is a professor at the University of Buenos Aires and a Conicet researcher. He was part of the team that conducted the study. ‘The 1960 census showed that Catholics represented 90 percent of the population in Argentina,’ he said, noting the figure dropped by almost 14 percentage points by 2008, “a period of 48 years,’ and experienced another 14 percentage-point drop by 2019, this time over a period of only 11 years.” By Eduardo Campos Lima, America: The Jesuit Review


Leadership Roundtable brings a dose of reality to the church
“No event planner could have orchestrated a scene that better explains the state of the church in the United States at this moment than the recent tableau that unfolded in a large ballroom in the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the Leadership Roundtable, more than 260 people gathered in small groups at, appropriately enough, round tables for a by-invitation only discussion of some of the weightiest questions facing the U.S. church in the 21st century … Here in this kind of synodal space of the future, no one, not even the papal representative, voiced a public objection to the prevailing motivation for the gathering: the church is in crisis and needs help.(link is external)” By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter

Healing the scars of scandal
“This Lent, perhaps more than ever, the critically wounded Catholic Church is being called to more deeply examine its dark side(link is external). The process of repentance and reform is both individual and communal, but time has taught us that the road to conversion also needs to be collaborative. All of us — including clergy, seminarians, sisters and brothers, and the laity — need to examine the church’s past and envision its future together and use our gifts to breathe life into a gasping institution.” By Pat McDonough, Newsday

Fully reckon with the harm caused to victims of childhood sexual abuse
“The Catholic prayer known as the ‘Act of Contrition’ is prayed when seeking forgiveness. The prayer says nothing about shielding oneself from the consequences of one’s sins. It’s a simple and penitential plea, an acceptance of responsibility and a resolution to do better. If only that had been the guiding principle of the Roman Catholic Church in its handling of priestly sexual abuse of children(link is external).” By The Sentinel-Journal Editorial Board


Lawmakers hear testimony on ending the Statute of Limitations on sex assault
“Victims of childhood sexual abuse urged lawmakers Tuesday (Mar.3) to eliminate the statute of limitations on sexual abuse(link is external). Children with that traumatic experience need time to heal before disclosing what happened and that is often longer than the current time limit for prosecution of 22 years, said Catherine Devine, Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney. ‘Closing the courthouse door on an arbitrary time limit does not change prosecution,’ Devine told the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.” By Garry Rayno,

Outlier South Dakota Legislature again fails to protect children
“The South Dakota Legislature has again had the chance to vote to open the statute of limitation for survivors of child sexual abuse. The politicians again have voted it down(link is external), unlike 14 other states in the country. This is nothing new. They went so far in 2010 as to pass one of the most restrictive laws for survivors in the country. They do this despite examples of ongoing abuse such as at the St Paul’s Mission School. When will the South Dakota Legislature start protecting the children, not the predators?” By Mike Bryant, The Legal Examiner


Walking with ‘suffering Christ’ means standing with victims, priest says
“Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, one of the world’s leading experts on safeguarding minors, said the church is suffering ‘institutional trauma’ from clerical sexual abuse(link is external), trauma that it must learn to integrate into its theology and understanding of salvation if it is to overcome it. He visited the Archdiocese of Chicago March 1-3 to speak with seminarians, clergy and members of religious congregations on ‘The Present Status of Safeguarding in the Church,’ which also was the topic of his March 2 DePaul University talk.” By Michelle Martin, Catholic News Service, on

Survey of sex abuse victims hopes to dispel myths about survivors
“A survivor of sexual abuse is conducting what she believes is the first broad survey of victims of sexual abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church(link is external), with the hopes that the information will clarify and counteract common misperceptions about the survivor community. Among those myths: that all the victims are male and were abused by priests.” By Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter

Notre Dame Forum examines Catholic laity’s role in responding to sex abuse crisis
“The 2019-20 Notre Dame Forum series, ‘Rebuild My Church: Crisis and Response,’ continues March 4-6 with a look at the relationship between clergy and laity in addressing the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis(link is external). Called & Co-responsible will be an academic and pastoral conference hosted by the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame. Drawing upon Pope Benedict’s 2012 speech, the conference will address questions about the nature of leadership in the Church, and how lay people are not to be merely collaborators with the clergy, but are rather truly co-responsible for the Church’s being and activity.” By Anna Bradley, Notre Dame News


Accused priest in Rock Island sues Peoria Diocese: ‘I am innocent’
“Sometimes, John Onderko celebrates Mass alone in his home in Rock Island. Other times, he hears confessions from people who knew him from the old days, before he was barred from priestly duties by the Roman Catholic Church over sexual abuse allegations(link is external). A priest for 58 years, Onderko served from June 1981 through June 1993 at St. Mary’s in Moline, then was reassigned to LaSalle, Ill., and served at numerous other parishes in Illinois. Onderko, 83, no longer can publicly represent himself as a priest or engage in any priestly functions. Yet he maintains his innocence.” By Linda Cook, Quad City Times


Times-Picayune, three TV stations seek unsealing of records on accused predator priest
“The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate and the city’s three leading television news outlets filed a motion Monday (Mar. 9) asking a judge to publicly release court records detailing the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ handling of a retired priest who stands accused of being a serial child molester(link is external). Attorneys for an alleged victim suing both the priest, Lawrence Hecker, and the archdiocese already have the documents in question, but the archdiocese has claimed the records are confidential and subject to a protective order preventing their release.” By Ramon Antonio Vargas,

Retired New Orleans priest likened in court docs to notorious Boston clerical abuser
“A trove of still-hidden church documents show a retired New Orleans priest was ‘a serial pedophile’ who abused children for decades(link is external) and was never reported to all relevant law enforcement authorities by Archdiocese of New Orleans officials, according to allegations in a court filing Monday (Mar. 2) by attorneys representing a person claiming to be one of the priest’s victims.” By Ramon Antonio Vargas,


Former Michigan priest charged with additional child sexual abuse charges
“A former Catholic priest who allegedly abused his power to sexually abuse children while working in the Upper Peninsula was arraigned on more criminal sexual conduct charges(link is external) on Tuesday, March 10. Gary Allen Jacobs, 74, was arraigned on two additional criminal sexual conduct cases that he reportedly committed in the early 1980s while serving as a priest under the Catholic Diocese of Marquette in the Upper Peninsula, the Michigan Department of Attorney General announced.” By Justine Lofton,


Court approves $34 million clergy abuse settlement with New Ulm Diocese
“After tearful testimony by several survivors of clergy sexual abuse and a heartfelt apology from Bishop John LeVoir, the Catholic Diocese of New Ulm and area churches won approval Tuesday (Mar. 10) of a $34 million settlement with nearly 100 claimants(link is external). Just as important to the victims: The diocese agreed to adopt 17 protocols designed to protect children from abuse and to turn over its files on credibly accused priests.” By Dan Browning, Star Tribune


Witness testifies, third allegation presented against retired Catholic priest
“One witness took the stand and publicly testified to his allegations of being sexually assaulted by retired Catholic priest Fred Lutz(link is external) at a bond hearing Monday. The retired priest was arrested Feb. 19 at his home in Springfield, Missouri, and charged with the unclassified felony of forcible sodomy, two class C felony counts of second-degree statutory sodomy and one class C felony count of sexual abuse.” By Ben Matthews, Southeast Missourian


Priest sexually abused me for years and N.J. diocese knew he was a danger, woman says in suit
“A New Jersey woman has filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Camden accusing a priest of sexually abused her(link is external) decades ago when she was a child while church officials allowed it to happen. Patricia Cahill, 67, of Bergen County, claims the Rev. Daniel Francis Marks Millard, sexually abused her from 1957 to 1965, according to the suit, filed Feb. 4 in Camden County Superior Court.” By Anthony G. Attrino, NJ Advance Media for


Pope Francis accepts resignation of Buffalo’s Bishop Edward Grosz
“Pope Francis Monday (Mar. 2) accepted the resignation of Bishop Edward Grosz, the auxiliary bishop of Buffalo, who has been accused of mishandling a sex abuse allegation(link is external). Grosz, who turned 75 on February 16, offered his resignation at the age required by canon law. The Vatican’s March 2 announcement accepting Grosz’s resignation did not indicate whether it will conduct any investigation into the allegation against the bishop.” By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

Buffalo Roman Catholic Diocese seeks bankruptcy protection
“The embattled Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo filed for bankruptcy protection Friday (Feb. 28), taking another major step in its effort to recover from a clergy misconduct scandal that’s been the basis for hundreds of lawsuits(link is external), Vatican intervention and the resignation of its bishop. With its filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the western New York diocese became the second in the state to file for Chapter 11 reorganization, and one of more than 20 dioceses to seek bankruptcy protection nationwide. Most recently, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, filed Feb. 19.” By Carolyn Thompson, Associated Press, in Citrus County Chronicle

New strategy includes suing parishes to get around Buffalo Diocese bankruptcy
“South Buffalo resident Dennis Archilla filed a childhood sex abuse lawsuit in September to expose the Buffalo Diocese for protecting a pedophile priest. ‘I wanted the public to know just how deep the deception is in the Catholic Church(link is external),’ Archilla said. Archilla believes that deception continued when the diocese on Friday (Feb. 28) filed for bankruptcy – effectively bringing his and more than 250 other Child Victims Act lawsuits to a grinding halt.” By Jay Tokasz, The Buffalo News


Charlotte Diocese adds two new names to list of clergy ‘credibly accuses’ of abuse
“The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte has made additions to a list of clergy it considers credibly accused of sexual abuse(link is external). The diocese initally published a list in late December that included 14 former clergy members and 23 clergy members who were assigned here but were accused elsewhere. The update on the diocese’s website includes two new names.” By Sarah Delia, WFAE-FM Public Radio


Ex-Fargo priest says he isn’t remorseful for sexually abusing kids
“A former Fargo priest says he is not remorseful for sexual assault incidents(link is external) that happened dozens of years ago. New documents revealed his name, Martin Cullen, as well as 52 other North Dakota Catholic priests who were moved to other churches after being accused of sexually abusing minors. Three lawyers held a press conference in Fargo on Thursday (Mar. 5) stating they are making it their business to change state laws for victims of sexual abuse.” By Joshua Peguero, Valley News Live

Lawyers demand North Dakota Catholic dioceses ‘end cover-up of clergy abuse,’ release files
“Lawyers representing victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clerics released a report detailing the assignments of priests the church has identified as having been accused of sexual abuse and demanded the public release of church files(link is external). The lawyers provided information about the church assignments of 53 priests, deacons and others who face substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor in a news conference on Wednesday, March 4. The Catholic dioceses of Fargo and Bismarck had released the names of the priests and others in January, but did not share details about which parishes they had served.” By Patrick Springer,


Why aren’t Ohio officials investigating Catholic sex abuse cases
“A year after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus released its list of priests credibly accused of child sexual abuse, some survivors and advocates still are pressing Ohio officials to take action. The list, one of many released by dioceses across the country, was spurred in part by a state grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania, released in August 2018. But when asked why Ohio doesn’t investigate the issue, state officials point to a home-rule law stating that county prosecutors must request such an investigation before the attorney general can initiate it.” By Danae King, The Columbus Dispatch

Strongsville priest awaiting indictment by federal grand jury
“Strongsville priest Robert McWilliams is now in the custody of the U.S. Marshals as he waits indictment from a federal grand jury on child sex crime charges(link is external). McWilliams, 39, who was previously a seminarian at St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Newbury Township appeared in federal court Feb. 27 where court records show he waived a preliminary hearing on charges of child pornography, child exploitation and juvenile sex trafficking.” By Andrew Cass, The News-Herald


Rev. Hugh Lang’s abuse conviction overturned by judge
“A judge on Monday (Mar. 9) morning tossed out the conviction and sentencing of the Rev. Hugh Lang, arguing that the Catholic priest received an unfair trial(link is external) last year when he was convicted on charges he sexually assaulted an 11-year-old boy in 2001. ‘I’m going to grant a new trial,’ said Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani, who took over the case from Judge Mark Tranquilli, who presided over the trial last year.” By Peter Smith, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Monsignor Willian Lynn back in court prepping for retrial for allegedly covering up clergy sex abuse reports
“Monsignor William Lynn was back before a Philadelphia judge on Monday (Mar. 2). The former archdiocesan official is prepping for his retrial in two weeks. Lynn and lawyers won’t comment because of a gag order. Prosecutors are arguing pretrial motions to get certain evidence admitted, including grand jury testimony and testimony from his first trial. Lynn was the first highest ranking church official convicted of covering up reports of clergy sex abuse(link is external).” By Philadelphia CBS3 Staff

Allentown Diocese says earlier accusation against now jailed priest was ‘unfounded.’ Prosecutors disagree.
“In May 2016 a 15-year-old girl told someone that the Rev. Kevin Lonergan had touched her inappropriately(link is external). The allegation triggered investigations by the Northampton County Children, Youth and Families Division, Forks Township police, and the district attorney’s office. Lonergan was suspended during the investigation, and the Allentown Catholic Diocese said Monday that it reinstated him a few months later because Children and Youth determined the accusation was ‘unfounded.’” By Peter Hall, Daniel Patrick Sheehan and Sarah M. Wojcik, The Morning Call

Harrisburg Diocese files for reorganization under Chapter 11 of Bankruptcy Code
“Bishop Ronald W. Gainer said Feb. 19 the restructuring process provided for by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection will allow the Diocese of Harrisburg to lay a foundation to build upon and secure its future(link is external). ‘Our diocese has had to come to terms with the harsh reality that we no longer have the funds to meet our current obligations,’ the bishop said at a news conference to announce the diocese has filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.” By Rachel Bryson, Catholic News Service, in The Pilot


An explosive new clergy abuse lawsuit is filed as the Rhode Island Attorney General reviews the Providence Diocese’s records
“As an explosive allegation of clergy sexual abuse(link is external) in Rhode Island emerged in a lawsuit filed Thursday (Feb. 28), state prosecutors said they are conducting an exhaustive review of more than 100,000 documents related to the sexual abuse of children that have been turned over by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. The attorney general’s office is examining files going back 70 years to determine whether any of the cases warrant criminal charges — and whether there are any credibly accused clergy still in the ministry.” By Amanda Milkovits, The Boston Globe


Catholic diocese releases list of 20 priests ‘credibly accused’ of child sexual abuse
“The Catholic Diocese of Memphis has released a list of priests accused of child sexual abuse during their time in Memphis and West Tennessee. The list of ‘credibly accused’ priests spans more than 50 years and was compiled at the request of Bishop David Talley shortly after he became leader of the Diocese that covers West Tennessee including Memphis.” By Bill Dries, Daily Memphian


Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston expanding safety, background program
“In a mission to increase safety and reduce risk in Catholic schools and parishes, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is expanding its Safe Environment Program(link is external). Bishop Mark Brennan and the diocese announced changes to the program on Thursday (Mar. 5). This comes 16 months after the diocese released the names of clergy who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors, and follows former Bishop Michael Bransfield stepping down amidst sexual harassment allegations.” By MetroNews Staff


Priest accused of sex abuse cleared by Madison Diocese
“The Catholic Diocese of Madison has deemed allegations of sexual misconduct against the Rev. William A. Nolan not credible(link is external). Nolan served in several southern Wisconsin parishes. ‘In the coming days, Fr. Nolan will be reinstated to his previous status as a retired priest of the Diocese of Madison in good standing,’ according to a news release from diocese communications director Brent M. King.” By Frank Schultz, GazetteXtra


Broome bishop Christopher Saunders stands down over serious allegations
“One of Australia’s highest-ranking Catholics has voluntarily stood aside amid serious allegations(link is external). On Wednesday (Mar. 11) afternoon the Catholic Church issued a statement saying Broome Bishop Christopher Saunders, 70, had stepped aside from the administration of the diocese and Monsignor Paul Boyers had been appointed to take care of the day to day running of the parish.” By Marta Pascual Juanola, WAToday

ABC journalist Sarah Ferguson on making Revelation and coming face-to-face with two of the Catholic Church’s worst serial pedophiles
“Sarah Ferguson spends her working life wading through murky waters, tackling difficult, confronting and harrowing stories but none has tested her like the project that consumed her for the past year: Revelation — a three-part documentary investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church(link is external), in which she comes face to face with two of Australia’s most notorious serial paedophiles. ‘I’m used to intense projects but this one has been more intense and more challenging than anything I have ever done,’ says Ferguson. ‘Throughout the long-running scandal of clerical abuse in Australia, there was one voice we hadn’t heard and that was the perpetrators.’” By Natasha Johnson, ABC


Sao Paulo Archdiocese creates commission to investigate abuse
“The Archdiocese of Sao Paulo announced the creation of a commission to investigate allegations of sexual abuse linked to the Catholic Church(link is external). Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Sao Paulo said the measure follows Pope Francis’ May 2019 document establishing new procedures for reporting abuse and violence within the Catholic Church. He said the commission will not only receive reports of sexual abuse committed by clergy and religious, but it will look at all areas of the church’s life in order to prevent abuse.” By Lise Alves, Catholic News Service, in America: The Jesuit Review


Survivors irritated: IDs of most Canadian bishops protection committee members secret
“The Canadian bishops’ Standing Committee for the Responsible Ministry and Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons met for the first time in January, but the fact that the identities of the majority of its members is kept secret irritates victims(link is external), who see a lack of transparency. Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver, British Columbia, chairman of the Standing Committee, said it was clear ‘from our first meeting that they are eager to work and bring forward real change to prevent abuse from ever occurring, as well as to assume their critical role as advocates for the healing of victims-survivors.’” By Franois Gloutnay, Catholic News Service,

‘I keep asking why,’ victim tell scourt during Barry McGrory sentencing hearing
“The victim of a Catholic priest’s sexual abuse(link is external) says the incident caused him to lose his desire to be a priest, his faith in God, and his trust in the church. In a victim impact statement read at the sentencing hearing of defrocked priest Barry McGrory, the man, now an adult, said the betrayal has affected every aspect of his life. ‘The worst thing is I lost my faith for a long time: I felt so terrible without God in my life,’ he said in the written statement, read in court.” By Andrew Duffy, Ottawa Citizen


German bishops approve guidelines for abuse case payments
“Germany’s Roman Catholic bishops on Thursday (Mar. 5) approved new guidelines that likely will provide for payments ranging up to about 50,000 euros ($55,700) each for victims of sexual abuse by clergy(link is external). The church has been shaken in recent years by scandals in several countries, including Germany. A church-commissioned report in 2018 concluded that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014 — more than half of them 13 or younger and nearly a third of them altar boys. A top bishop has apologized for the abuse.” By Associated Press


‘A fugitive from justice’: concerned Catholics back move to laicize priest over abuse
“Concerned Catholics of Guam, which helped lead efforts to expose Guam’s clergy sex abuse of minors, backs the Archdiocese of Agana’s move to laicize Father Adrian Cristobal over alleged sexual abuse of multiple minors(link is external). ‘Father Adrian is a fugitive from justice, living outside of Guam, in an unknown location. Obviously, he is afraid to face his accusers for the alleged sexual abuse of children,’ Concerned Catholics of Guam President David Sablan said.” By Haidee Eugenio Gilbert, Pacific Daily News


Vatican dismisses Indian priest jailed for rape
“A diocese in southern India has announced completion of the process of laicization of a priest who is serving a 20-year jail term for raping and impregnating a minor girl three years ago(link is external). The laicization of Father Robin Vadakkumcherry has been completed with his acceptance of the Vatican’s dismissal decree and by informing the Vatican of his acceptance on March 1.” By Kochi,

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Eighteen years later, concerned Catholics still addressing clergy abuse

BOSTON, Mass., Mar. 3, 2020 – Eighteen years after The Boston Globe brought to light widespread clergy abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston and after a Pennsylvania grand jury investigation found credibly accused priests throughout the state just two years ago, Voice of the Faithful, founded within weeks of the Globe’s revelations, continues to address the scandal. VOTF members and others will gather later this year to promote their visions of a just Church. The organization’s 2020 Conference: Visions of a Just Church will take place on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, at the Boston Marriott Newton Hotel in Newton, Mass.

Offering her own vision of a just Church, the conference’s featured speaker will be internationally acclaimed theologian and Catholic studies scholar Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D. Dr. Zagano has lectured widely in this country and abroad, and she is a member of the Papal Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women. She has published hundreds of articles and reviews in the popular press and peer-reviewed journals and is the author or editor of twenty books in religious studies, including groundbreaking work on women in the diaconate, several of which have received awards from the Catholic Press Association and College Theology Society. Dr. Zagano is a recipient of the Voice of the Faithful Distinguished Layperson Award, which recognizes exemplary lay leaders who enthusiastically use their gifts in the Church’s service. She also has received the Isaac Hecker Award for Social Justice from The Paulist Center Community in Boston for “her prolific body of work that has constantly echoed the cry of the poorest in our society for dignity and for justice, both inside and outside the Church.” She currently is adjunct professor of religion at Hofstra University.

Attendees also will hear additional speakers on the conferences theme, who will be announced soon, and updates from VOTF leaders on the progress of the organization’s programs and initiatives.

Cost for the conference is $150 per person, and those interested in attending also can take advantage of a 2-for-$230 registration that will be offered through Labor Day, Sept. 7.

A continually updated webpage of conference information can be seen by clicking here …

Voice of the Faithful News Release, Mar. 9, 2020
Contact: Nick Ingala,, 781-559-3360

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful’s® mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. VOTF’s goals are to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, to support priests of integrity, and to shape structural change within the Catholic Church. More information is at

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Turning the abuse crisis discussion to deeper themes / National Catholic Reporter

“If we want to build a culture, a group of people that have things that they teach and learn, it has to be about relationships that are marked by love over fear, mercy over judgment and inclusion over exclusion.” (Sr. Carol Zinn in National Catholic Reporter)

Two Catholic leaders recently turned the discussion about the crisis in the church away from a focus on institutional change to the less measurable work of transformation, the significance of relationships and the need for members of the hierarchy to confront that culture’s past.

“Sr. Carol Zinn, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia and executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, widely considered one of the most significant forces in revealing the truth of the sex abuse crisis, advanced their ideas in separate interviews.

“The two were among participants and panelists in a Feb 28-29 session organized by the Leadership Roundtable, an organization formed in 2005 following the revelations of widespread abuse and cover-up in Boston. The Leadership Roundtable event, “From Crisis to Co-Responsibility: Creating a New Culture of Leadership,” was held at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington. The two-day event explored ways in which mostly structural change could lead to more transparency and accountability and greater involvement of laypeople in the life of the church.

“In a phone interview, Zinn provided an explanation particularly of comments she made differentiating between change and transformation and emphasized the significance of relationships in moving into the future. Scicluna, on another panel, referred to Zinn’s remarks, saying she had “profound insights about relationships. It’s all about relationships.”

By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

(Voice of the Faithful leaders President Mary Pat Fox and Vice President & Trustee Margaret Roylance were among the guests taking part in the discussions during the Leadership Roundtable’s 2020 Catholic Partnership Summit, Feb. 28-29, at the Fairmont Hotel, Washington, DC.)

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Vatican sends top two sex crimes investigators to Mexico / Associated Press

It (Vatican embassy in Mexico) stressed that Scicluna and Bertomeu would be “at the disposition of all those who want to share their experiences or to receive direction or assistance.” (Associated Press)

The Vatican is sending its top two sex crimes investigators to Mexico on a fact-finding and assistance mission as the Catholic hierarchy in the world’s second-largest Catholic country begins to reckon with decades of clergy sex abuse and cover-up.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu teamed up in 2018 to investigate the Chilean church and its wretched record of protecting pedophile priests — a bombshell expose that resulted in every active Chilean bishop offering to resign.

Their new mission to Mexico, due to take place March 20-27, was announced Monday (Mar. 2) in Mexico and at the Vatican. Officials stressed it was not an investigation per se but an assistance mission to help the Mexican church combat abuse.

By Nicole Winfield and Maria Verza, Associated Press — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

Feb. 28, 2020


Amazon Catholics pledge to press on after Pope says no to married priests
“Catholic communities across the Amazon said they would keep pushing for married men to be allowed to celebrate Mass in the remote rainforest region(link is external), after a papal decision on Wednesday (Feb. 12) blocked their path to the priesthood. In one of the most significant decisions of his papacy, Pope Francis on Wednesday dismissed the proposal designed to ease an acute scarcity of priests in the Amazon, where the Roman Catholic Church faces growing competition from Evangelical Christian faiths.” By Gabriel Stargardter and Maria Cervantes, Reuters

Defrocked priest appeals conviction for sex crimes in Maine
“A former Catholic priest is appealing his conviction for sexually abusing a young boy on trips to Maine in the 1980s(link is external). Ronald Paquin, now 77, was found guilty in 2018 of 11 counts of gross sexual misconduct. A York County jury acquitted him of similar charges related to a second boy. A judge sentenced him last year to 20 years in prison with all but 16 years suspended. Paquin was one of the priests exposed in the early 2000s by a sweeping Boston Globe investigation into clergy sex abuse.” By Megan Gray, Portland Press Herald

Cardinal McCarrick secretly gave nearly $1 million to group led by cleric accused of sexual misconduct
“In the years before his removal from ministry, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick secretly gave nearly $1 million to a controversial group of Catholic missionaries and supported leniency for its founder after the Vatican punished him for sexual wrongdoing(link is external), internal church documents show. From 2004 to 2017, McCarrick sent the Institute of the Incarnate Word dozens of checks — some as large as $50,000 — from a charitable account he controlled at the Archdiocese of Washington, according to ledgers obtained by The Washington Post.” By Shawn Boburg and Robert O’Harrow, Jr., The Washington Post

Survivor advocacy group accuses pope of cherry-picking abuse reforms
“As the one-year mark of Pope Francis’s landmark summit on child protection approaches, survivors of clerical abuse are arguing that the pope, while taking positive steps, is inconsistent in his response to the problem(link is external). Survivors have also called for the publication of the report on the Vatican’s lengthy investigation into former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and criticized Francis for apparently backing out of a commitment to a zero-tolerance approach to the issue.” By Elise Ann Allen,

Pennsylvania diocese, facing more abuse claims, files for bankruptcy
“The Diocese of Harrisburg in Pennsylvania filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday (Feb. 19), becoming the latest Roman Catholic diocese to seek protection from creditors as it faces tens of millions of dollars in outstanding claims from people who were sexually abused by clergy members(link is external). The diocese’s Chapter 11 filing came nearly two years after a devastating state grand jury report found that bishops and other leaders of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement agencies not to investigate it.” By Michael Levenson, The New York Times

Click here to read the rest of this issue of Focus …

Pssst! Have you ever clicked that little link above, the one that says “read the rest of this issue”? You should … You will find links for just about everything going on in our Catholic world that pertains to VOTF’s mission and goals. This week, in addition to the top stories, you will find links on accountability, Pope Francis, Cardinal Pell, various bishops and priests, women in the Church, church finances (a bunch), celibacy and married priests, lay voices … go ahead, click the link!

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