Archive for April 13th, 2020

Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup


April 10, 2020

TOP STORIES

George Pell freed after Australian court overturns sex abuse conviction
“Australia’s highest court on Tuesday (Apr. 7) overturned the sexual abuse conviction of Cardinal George Pell(link is external), the highest-ranking Roman Catholic leader ever found guilty in the church’s clergy pedophilia crisis. Cardinal Pell, 78, who was the Vatican’s chief financial officer and an adviser to Pope Francis, was sentenced to six years in prison last March for molesting two 13-year-old boys after Sunday Mass in 1996.” By Livia Albeck-Ripka and Damien Cave, The New York Times

Francis creates new women deacons commission, naming entirely different membership
“Pope Francis has created a new commission to study the ordaining of women as deacons(link is external) in the Catholic Church, the Vatican announced April 8. The new group, composed of 12 members, appears to replace the earlier study commission on the issue, which the pontiff had instituted in 2016. None of the members of the earlier group have been appointed to the new commission.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

The Church after coronavirus: how our communities are changing (Part 1 of a survey series)
“Catholic parishes across the world are closed. Millions of Catholics have been unable to physically take part in the celebration of the Mass for weeks, and they may not be able to again for months. Simply put, the coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally changing how we do and be church(link is external). What could these changes mean for us in the long-term?” By Heidi Schlumpf, Michael Sean Winters and Joshua McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

The American Parish, Part 2
“In this second special episode on the American parish today, we talk with three writers about their concrete proposals for creating more vibrant, hope-filled parish communities(link is external). Their suggestions are simple: let more people, including women, preach; reach out to LGBTQ Catholics, and learn from their journeys; and finally, help young families, help parents with restless young children in tow make it through Mass by shortening homilies—no more than five minutes please. Plus, the Commonweal staff share thoughts about what our readers most want in parishes: robust social justice ministries, prayerful liturgies, and a sense of home.” By The Editors, Commonweal

ACCOUNTABILITY

Pell ruling prompts mixed reaction from church leaders, victims’ groups
“The Australian High Court’s decision to dismiss charges against Cardinal George Pell has been praised as a successful rendering of justice by some and emphatically denounced by others(link is external). While an immediate reaction from a number of clergy and others associated with the institutional church was largely positive, organizations that support survivors of clergy sexual abuse varied in their reactions, with some harshly criticizing the Australian judicial system and others holding firm that Pell’s case still represents progress.” By Jesse Remidios, National Catholic Reporter

Civil claims expected against Cardinal George Pell and Catholic Church despite acquittal
“The high court acquittal of George Pell is likely to be followed by a string of civil claims against the cardinal and the Catholic Church(link is external) from alleged abuse survivors and their families, lawyers say. Pell was freed from Victoria’s Barwon prison on Tuesday (Apr. 7) after the high court allowed his appeal and quashed a conviction for charges related to the alleged sexual assault of two choirboys in 1996. He strenuously denies all allegations. The father of one of the boys, who has since died, is suing the Catholic church and has said his case will continue despite the high court’s decision to overturn the jury verdict.” By Ben Smee, The Guardian

George Pell’s accuser issues rallying cry to sexual abuse survivors in wake of verdict
“The man at the heart of the failed case against Cardinal George Pell has issued a rallying cry to sexual abuse survivors(link is external). He said he would hate to think that anyone might not report to the police because of his outcome. Witness J said he was glad the tumultuous legal process was over and that while darkness was never far away, the legal saga would not define him. The man said he respected the decision and accepted the outcome. But he called on survivors not to be discouraged about going to the authorities.” By Australian Associated Press in The Guardian

WOMEN DEACONS

If Francis really wants women deacons, this seems an odd way to go about it
“’Synodality’ is the shibboleth of the Pope Francis era, and so it should be no surprise that the pontiff acted Tuesday (Apr. 7) on one of the recommendations of the recent Synod of Bishops for the Amazon by creating – for the second time in four years – a commission to study whether women might be ordained as deacons(link is external). During last October’s synod, the idea of female deacons surfaced as part of a broader discussion about finding new ways to recognize and institutionalize the contributions of women, especially in isolated rural areas where they’re often the Church’s primary catechists, prayer organizers and even leaders of communities.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com

FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Vatican statistics show decline in number of consecrated men, women between 2013-2018
“The decrease in the number of religious brothers and of women in religious orders is ‘worrying(link is external),’ according to the Vatican statistics office. While the number of religious brothers in Africa and Asia continues to increase, the number of religious brothers worldwide experienced an 8 percent drop between 2013 and 2018, while the number of women religious fell 7.5 percent globally in the same period, the Vatican Central Office for Church Statistics reported.” By Junno Arocho Esteves, Cruxnow.com

VOICES

Point counterpoint: the New York Child Victims Act
“As children, we were both abused by family members, people close to us, people we trusted. We both eventually spoke out as part of our own healing process and, more importantly, to protect other people, but it took us decades to disclose our abuse even to those closest to us. The science of trauma is clear: It takes time for survivors to come forward(link is external) and by the time we’re ready, many of us have lost the chance to pursue justice in the courts. That’s why the one year look-back window of the Child Victims Act is so important. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic just hit pause for thousands of survivors who thought they still had time to file a civil lawsuit.” By Teri Hatcher and Tom Andriola

For the love of God (literally), stay home, be safe and pray
“Over the last two weeks, I have read a lot of disturbing articles and social media comments(link is external) decrying the widespread decisions of bishops to suspend the public celebration of liturgies and, in many cases, to close church buildings. That choice, painful as it has been for both the ecclesial leaders who had to make it and those who have felt the consequences, arose from the universal consensus of the best medical and public health experts. And yet, some Catholic media commentators and even a cardinal have proposed that churches should remain open …” By Daniel P. Horan, National Catholic Reporter

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

Perhaps the craziest claim by anti-SOL zealots
“The momentum has shifted from the selfish wrongdoers to the selfless innocent, from the secret-keepers to the openness advocates, from those who ignore common sense and psychology to those who understand common sense and psychology and from those who want to protect institutions and companies to those who want to protect kids and vulnerable adults … And in response to this long-overdue trend toward justice, self-serving lobbyists who are pro-arbitrary deadline, pro-secrecy and anti-victim are becoming ever-more-creative in dreaming up outlandish ‘the sky will fall!’ claims(link is external).” By Horowitz Law

CLERGY CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

We help child sex abuse survivors break their silence when we show them support
“This month, communities across the country are gathering at local ‘Take Back the Night’ events in observance and support of those impacted by sexual violence(link is external). In the last year—as news broke about Baptist church leaders abusing children and the Pope acknowledged nuns were being abused by church leaders—sexual violence facing children proved to be an international crisis. Investigations of both found the majority of the crimes had been long standing and some even continued for decades, but little is said about support for the victims.” By Ashley Garling, Ms. Magazine

MASSACHUSETTS

Fr. Peter Gori cleared of abuse allegation, reinstated
“The Archdiocese of Boston announced March 30 that Augustinian Father Peter Gori has been cleared of an allegation of abuse(link is external) and that Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, has returned him to active ministry. Father Gori has also been reinstated as pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Andover and will return to the parish by Palm Sunday.” By The Pilot

MISSOURI

KC diocese adds priest who died in 1950 to list of those credibly accused of sex abuse
“A priest who served in the Diocese of St. Joseph in the 1940s is the latest addition to a list of clergy deemed to have credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor(link is external) made against them. The Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese said the allegation against the Rev. Peter Clement Vatter was substantiated by the diocesan ombudsman, the diocese’s independent review board and Bishop James V. Johnston Jr.” By Judy L. Thomas, The Kansas City Star

Missouri child abuse and neglect line sees 50% drop in calls
“The Department of Social Services (DSS) has seen a 50 percent drop in Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline calls(link is external) since March 11, 2020, roughly the same time schools began going on spring break and students have not returned due to COVID-19 shutdowns. This drop, representatives believe, is due to the lack of reports from teachers as students are out of school … Educators and child care providers make the largest number of hotline calls during the year.” By Elizabeth Orosco, Northeast News

PENNSYLVANIA

Erie Diocese suspends compensation payments due to COVID-19
“The COVID-19 pandemic has gone far beyond keeping parishioners out of church and absent from Mass in the Catholic Diocese of Erie. The diocese said the crisis has so affected its finances that the diocese has suspended payments from its special fund for victims of clergy sexual abuse(link is external). The 13-county diocese, which on March 17 suspended public Masses due to the coronavirus, has halted operation of the compensation fund for at least 90 days because of the sharp decline in the stock market related the coronavirus outbreak, the fund’s administrators and the diocese said on Tuesday (Mar. 31).” By Ed Palattella, GoErie.com

Priest steps down at Laflin parish amid abuse accusations
“The pastor of a Catholic church in Luzerne County has stepped down from his post amid sexual abuse allegations(link is external). A statement released by the Diocese of Scranton outlined multiple accusations against the Rev. James J. Walsh, pastor at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Laflin. Walsh, while denying the accusations leveled at him, resigned as pastor in lieu of being removed by Bishop Joseph Bambera.” By Kevin Carroll, Times Leader

Diocese Suspends Abuse Victims’ Compensation Program, Citing ‘Economic Turmoil’
“Among the people affected by the downturn on Wall Street are some alleged victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. The Diocese of Erie in northwestern Pennsylvania, identified in 2018 by the state attorney general as one of the places where clergy abuse had been especially egregious, has announced that it is suspending the processing of victim claims(link is external) in response to what it calls the “economic turmoil” brought about by the coronavirus.” By Tom Gjelten, National Public Radio

AUSTRALIA

Two new accusers say George Pell abused them when they were boys in the 1970s
“For decades, 53-year-old Bernie kept the secrets of his childhood deeply buried. As a boy growing up in a Ballarat orphanage in the 1970s, Bernie told the ABC’s Revelation program that he was abused on multiple occasions by George Pell(link is external), then a priest in the diocese of Ballarat. For years Bernie was convinced that, if he reported the abuse, he would be believed.” By Sarah Ferguson, ABC News

Redress a ‘jail free’ card for churches
“A Christian minister has labelled the national redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse as a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’ for churches(link is external). Pastor Bob Cotton has called for churches to be stripped of their tax-free status if they are not willing to accommodate their abuse victims. The senior pastor at Maitland Christian Church in NSW says the redress scheme’s compensation cap of $150,000 is far too low and ‘everything is weighted far too heavily in the favor of the church.’” By Heather McNab, 7News.com.au

COLOMBIA

Catholic priests in suspended in Colombia over abuse claim
“The Catholic Church in Colombia has suspended 15 priests accused of sexual abuse(link is external), the archdiocese of the city of Villavicencio said on Friday. The suspension was ‘a precautionary measure … because there is an ongoing investigation,’ priest Carlos Villabon told AFP. On February 14 a man, whose name has been withheld, accused the priests of ‘actions against sexual morality,’ according to the statement by the Villavicencio archdiocese. The archdiocese said it had informed the public prosecutor and had made itself ‘available to collaborate with investigators.’” By Agence France-Press in OutlookIndia.com

GERMANY

Justice checks suspected abuse in Catholic children’s home
“The judiciary is investigating allegations of abuse against a former Catholic children’s and youth home(link is external) in the municipality of Baiern near Munich. The public prosecutor’s office in Munich II, according to its own statements, initiated preliminary investigations against a former educator of the youth village Piusheim as well as a priest at the time.” By Steffen Heinemann, Web24News.com

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND & WALES

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 Louise Hepburn, Cambridge Times

IRELAND & NORTHERN IRELAND

Compensation scheme for abuse survivors ‘must be launched’ despite lockdown
“A compensation scheme for survivors of historical abuse must be launched as scheduled next week despite the coronavirus lockdown, a campaigner has said. Jon McCourt, of the group Survivors North West, said a virtual launch could deliver progress for victims without compromising safety with a public gathering. Victims have already endured long delays in their campaign for recognition and compensation.” By Rebecca Black, Belfast Telegraph

JAPAN

Catholic bishops’ forum finds 16 cases of child sexual abuse in Japan
“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan has found 16 cases of sexual abuse against minors(link is external) spanning from the 1950s to the 2010s in its internal probe of churches in the country, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday. The Tokyo-based organization has been investigating all its 16 dioceses and other convents in Japan since last May, calling for people to come forward with reports of sexual abuse regardless of when it occurred.” By Kyodo News

MALTA

St. Joseph Home sex abuse victims lose appeal for damages from church
“More disappointment for the victims of the St Joseph Home clerical sex abuse(link is external), as the Court of Appeal confirmed that their case was time-barred. Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi, Mr Justice Tonio Mallia and Madam Justice Miriam Hayman, in a decision handed down on Friday(Mar. 27), upheld a judgment of the First Hall Civil Court, ruling the claim to be time-barred.” By Malta Today

POLAND

Polish Catholic Church liable for sex abuse compensation claims
“Poland’s Catholic Church is facing a tidal wave of compensation bills(link is external) after the country’s highest court ruled it is liable for damages for people abused by its priests and religious. The supreme court dismissed a challenge by a religious order, the Society of Christ Fathers, to a lower court ruling that it carried ultimate responsibility for compensating a woman abused by one of its priests.” By Dereck Scally, The Irish Times

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