Archive for January, 2021

In came Latin, incense and burned books, out went half the parishioners / National Catholic Reporter

‘The Charlotte Diocese is not alone. While Pope Francis preaches an accompaniment for all spiritual seekers and castigates clericalism … seminaries in the U.S. continue to graduate priests for ordination who look not to Francis, but to Pope John Paul II for inspiration. It is a quiet, awkward and uneasy kind of schism in church practice and discipline.”

National Catholic Reporter

“Religion scholar Maria Lichtmann felt a strangeness overcome St. Elizabeth of the Hill Country Parish in Boone, North Carolina, four years ago.

“Fr. Matthew Codd, the then-pastor at St. Elizabeth’s, was joined by a group of seminarians who went through the church’s theology library and removed books deemed heretical, including those of spiritual writers Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton. The books were later burned, she was told by a parish staff member.

“Lichtmann, a retired religious studies professor at Appalachian State University, left the region in part, she told NCR, because of the changes in the parish. She now lives in Georgia.

“‘I felt it was a lost cause,’ she said about St. Elizabeth’s.

“The spirit of hyper-orthodoxy in parish leadership continued, noted Lichtmann, after Codd was replaced in July 2019 by Fr. Brendan Buckler.

“Nearing 18 months since Buckler arrived, on the edge of Boone, a college town and popular retirement community in the mountain foothills, a few dozen now gather every other Sunday at a car restoration shop shared by a hospitable non-Catholic, the husband of a parishioner.”

By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

January 25, 2021

TOP STORIES

Francis changes Catholic Church law: women explicitly allowed as lectors, altar servers
“Pope Francis has changed Catholic Church law to make explicit that laywomen can act as readers and altar servers in liturgical celebrations(link is external), effectively removing a previous option for individual bishops to restrict those ministries only to men. In an unexpected apostolic letter published Jan. 11, the pontiff says he is making the change to recognize a ‘doctrinal development’ that has occurred in recent years. That change, the pope says, ‘shines a light on how some ministries instituted by the church have as their foundation that common condition of baptism and the royal priesthood received in the Sacrament of Baptism.’” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Indictment of fundraising priest exposes lack of diocesan oversight
“Fr. Lenin Vargas’ request for money seemed more fitting for a spam email than from a Catholic priest. From 2014 until 2018, Vargas allegedly solicited funds from parishioners at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Starkville, Mississippi, where he was the pastor(link is external), for what he claimed were expenses for his cancer treatment and for charities in his native country of Mexico. … Furthermore, the Diocese of Jackson failed to divulge the fraud, allowing Vargas to pilfer money for years, according to a report from the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, which cites an affidavit filed in federal court by Homeland Security Investigations, the investigative arm of the U.S Department of Homeland Security.” By Mark Nacinovich, National Catholic Reporter

North Dakota bill would force priests to violate confession seal in abuse cases
“Three North Dakota state legislators introduced a bill this week that would oblige Catholic priests to violate the seal of confession in cases of confirmed or suspected child abuse, on penalty of imprisonment or heavy fines(link is external). The current mandatory reporting law in North Dakota states that clergy are considered mandatory reporters of known or suspected child abuse, except in cases when “the knowledge or suspicion is derived from information received in the capacity of spiritual adviser”, such as in the confessional.” By Mary Farrow, Catholic News Agency

Journalists reject Cologne’s confidentiality agreement
“Signing the agreement ‘would have meant that one could not report anything one had obtained from other sources(link is external) as one would have had to prove that one had not obtained it from the background discussion,’ Joachim Frank, chairman of the German Catholic Publicists and chief correspondent of the DuMont media group, who was one of the eight journalists, told Deutschlandfunk.” By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet

ACCOUNTABILITY

Record payment ordered in Church abuse case
The Church will make a $2.45 million payout to a clergy sexual abuse survivor in Western Australia, in what is believed to be a record payout(link is external). The survivor will receive $2.45 million-plus legal costs to compensate him for abuse by teacher and priest Bertram Adderley, who groomed and raped him between 1977 and 1980 when he was aged 10 to 12. Lawyers involved in seeking restitution for victims of sexual abuse say they believe the settlement is up to $1 million higher than any payout previously awarded to someone suing the Catholic Church.” By CathNews.com

Buffalo’s new Catholic bishop says he will remove abusers and their enablers
“Having lived most of his life in the Baltimore-Washington area, we asked Buffalo’s new Catholic bishop, Michael Fisher, if he knew anyone in Western New York. Bishop Mike, as he prefers to be called, thought for a moment and answered, ‘No.’ To his knowledge, there are no familiar names or faces for him in the Buffalo Catholic Diocese. That may prove to be an asset because after Fisher is installed on Friday (Jan. 15) afternoon, he faces a number of tough decisions. He says he’s willing to toss out clergy and others involved in the sex abuse scandal that rocked the diocese(link is external).” By Steve Brown and Joseph O’Rourke, WGRZ-TV2 News

Probe highlights Vatican legal system’s limited protections
“A criminal investigation into a Vatican real estate investment is exposing weaknesses in the city state’s judicial system and a lack of some basic protections for those accused — highlighting the incompatibility of the Holy See’s procedures with European norms. The Vatican has never been a democracy, but the incongruity of a government that is a moral authority on the global stage and yet an absolute monarchy is becoming increasingly evident(link is external). The pope is supreme judge, legislator and executive, who holds the ultimate power to hire and fire officials, judges and prosecutors and make and waive laws and regulations.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Factbox: Reports into abuses in the Irish Catholic Church
“Thousands of infants died in Irish homes for unmarried mothers and their offspring run by the Catholic Church from the 1920s to the 1990s, an inquiry found on Tuesday (Jan. 12), an ‘appalling’ mortality rate that reflected brutal living conditions. There have been a series of reports into allegations of abuse and mistreatment by priests and members of religious orders(link is external). Here are some details of their findings …” By Reuters

BISHOPS

New Buffalo bishop seeks to ‘listen’ as he takes over troubled diocese
“When Auxiliary Bishop Michael Fisher of Washington is installed as the 15th bishop of Buffalo on Friday, he’ll be entering a diocese in the throes of controversy(link is external). In November, New York State attorney general Letitia James sued the diocese, former Bishop Richard Malone and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Edward Grosz for failing to protect minors and inadequately investigating and reporting claims against diocesan priests that went back decades.” By John Lavenburg, Cruxnow.com

Pope accepts resignation of French archbishop amid financial challenges
“Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Jean-Pierre Cattenoz of Avignon, a month after the archbishop celebrated his 75th birthday, amid ongoing questions about his management style and handling of archdiocesan finances(link is external) … As early as 2019, about 200 faithful belonging to a group called Christians in Vaucluse had requested the archbishop’s early retirement because of what they saw as a style of governance that created ‘real suffering’ for local Catholics. Among the contentious issues were that of personnel management, concern for the poor, people feeling unwelcomed, the lack of ecumenical and interreligious initiatives and diocesan finances.” By Catholic News Service in National Catholic Reporter

WOMEN DEACONS

Diaconal ministries link women religious to restoration of women deacons
“In May 2016, Pope Francis responded to a question posed at the triennial assembly of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG): If women religious are already performing the many ministries of deacons, why not form a commission to study the restoration of women to the diaconate?(link is external) The pope responded immediately, naming 12 scholars the following August to the Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women who met in Rome four times and returned a report by June 2018. The pope gave a portion of the report to the UISG leadership at their May 2019 assembly. It has not been published.” First in a Series of Five by Phyllis Zagano, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

CHURCH FINANCES

Parish leaders: Review of Catholic cathedral funds finds $117,000 in unauthorized transactions
“An internal review by the Diocese of Nashville found about $117,000 in unauthorized transactions from the Cathedral of the Incarnation’s financial accounts(link is external). The transactions in question were discovered during a scheduled review of the cathedral’s funds, according to a letter church leaders sent Tuesday (Jan. 12) to parishioners. An accountant in the diocese’s finance office helped with the investigation, which determined the misappropriated parish funds had been used for personal benefit since 2015 … The review of parish funds followed Fowlkes’ recent appointment as pastor.” By Holly Meyer, Nashville Tennessean

Vatican, AUSTRAC seek data clarification
“Australia’s financial watchdog is reviewing its calculation that transfers worth $US1.8 billion ($A2.3 billion) had been sent to the country from the Vatican since 2014, after Vatican and Australian Church calls for clarification. A senior Vatican official and an Australian bishop told Reuters last week they had no knowledge of the transfers and would be seeking clarification(link is external). The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) cited the amount in response to a parliamentary question by Australian Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.” By Philip Pullella, Reuters, in Canberra Times

VOICES

The pope’s latest decree is a victory for Catholic women
“A lot of American Catholics might not see the importance of Pope Francis’ declaration that women can take part in the formal ministries of acolyte and lector. After all, there have been ‘altar girls’ in many American parishes for years. But ‘many’ is not ‘all.’(link is external) Some parishes and dioceses allow only boys to assist the priest at the Mass and other ceremonies. The pope’s decree doesn’t focus on children and adolescents or require that girls be allowed to serve Mass. It says that church law will be changed to say that “lay persons” of either sex may be formally installed in the ministries of acolyte (a priest’s assistant) and lector (a reader of Scripture during the liturgy).” By The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

Victims of child sexual abuse need more time to confront their abusers
Sexual abuse of children is extremely difficult to prosecute. It often takes years(link is external) — and even decades — before a person who was abused as a child is prepared to confront the abuser in a court of law. That seldom happens, because of the difficulty of presenting evidence and because of the sense of shame that all too often keeps this horrible crime hidden in secrecy, allowing the abusers to remain untouched by the law.” By The Grand Forks Herald Editorial Board

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

Should alleged victims of child sex abuse have more time to sue? Soon voters may decide
“Voters may soon decide if alleged victims of child sexual abuse will have more time to file civil lawsuits(link is external) against the people or organizations they are accusing. However, critics voiced concern the proposal could tip the scales of justice towards the accuser while taking away rights of the accused. House Bill 14 is a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would establish a 2-year-long window in which civil claims arising from child sexual abuse could then be asserted even if they had previously been barred by a statute of limitations.” By Jamie Bittner, FOX43-TV News

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

Priest accused of abetting alleged sex abuse ring is hired by diocesan charity
“On a scorching day in August 2015, the mother of a teenage girl walked into the confessional of a small church near the Sicilian city of Catania, in southern Italy. She believed that the leader of her lay Catholic group, a man known as the Archangel, had repeatedly raped her underage daughter and possibly others(link is external). She trusted the priest, the Rev. Orazio Caputo, who had worked closely with the Archangel’s Catholic Culture and Environment Association or ACCA, to listen to her fears.” By Claire Giangravé, Religion News Service

Malta archdiocese condemns charismatic group accused of abuse
“Following a 5-month investigation into the charismatic Community of Jesus the Savior, the Archdiocese of Malta has issued a decree forbidding participation in the group after finding what it described as abusive tendencies causing harm to members(link is external). In a Jan. 8 communique, the bishops’ conference of Malta, consisting of the Malta and Gozo dioceses, said they ‘reaffirm the decision to disassociate themselves from Komunità Ġesù Salvatur,’ referring to the group by its Maltese name.” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com

CONNECTICUT

Norwich Diocese Likely To Shell Out More Apart From $9.5 Million, After Facing 35 New Sexual Assault Lawsuits
“More trouble’s in store for the Diocese of Norwich and former Bishop Daniel Reilly, as he now faces 35 lawsuits pertaining to accusations made by men who alleged that they were sexually abused as children and teens by Christian Brother K. Paul McGlade, who ran the former Academy at Mount Saint John in Deep River in the 1990s … Recent reports also suggest that McGlade has had a history of inflicting abuse on assaulting young boys in Australia before he came to Norwich.” By Pooja Prabbhan, Latin Times

LOUISIANA

Alleged church sex abuse victim says George Brignac raped him in 1977
Brian Manix held on to a secret for 43 years and says it took its toll. ‘These people don’t realize what they’ve done to all of us. I’ve gone to drugs, I’ve gone to alcohol, I’ve tried to commit suicide three times,’ said Manix. Manix was an altar boy at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in New Orleans when George Brignac was a deacon. He says he was just 10-years-old in 1977, when Brignac raped him in City Park(link is external).” By Kimberly Kurth, FOX8News Live

MASSACHUSETTS

Catholic priest pleads not guilty to rape, assault charges on minor
“The Catholic priest charged with multiple counts of rape pleaded not guilty to all charges Monday during his arraignment in Barnstable Superior Court. Mark Hession was arraigned on charges including two counts of rape, one count of indecent assault and battery on a child less than 14(link is external) and one count of intimidation of a witness. He was released after posting $2,500 cash bail.” By Jessica Hill, Cape Cod Times

Catholic diocese releases names of credibly accused priests
“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River in Massachusetts has released a list of 75 clergy credibly or publicly accused of sexual abuse of a minor(link is external). The diocese in a statement Thursday Jan. 7) said more than three-quarters of the names released by the diocese have already been made public through previous announcements from the church, media reports, or other means. There are currently no priests in ministry who have been credibly accused. Bishop Edgar da Cunha said he was profoundly sorry for any abuse perpetrated by priests within this diocese and is working to make sure it never happens again.” By Associated Press, on WBNG-TV12 News

‘The list has triggered emotions’: Victims’ attorney digs deeper into priests accused of abuse
“The sheer number of names on the Diocese of Fall River’s list of clergy credibly or publicly accused of sexual abuse of a minor is shocking on its own, but the list provided little information about when and where the abuse occurred, how many victims there were, and who knew about it(link is external). Additionally although the lists contain 75 names, an attorney for victims of sexual abuse believes it is incomplete.” By Kiernan Dunlog, Fall River Standard-Times

MINNESOTA

Carlton County priest listed as ‘credibly accused’ of sexual abuse
“The Diocese of Duluth has added a former Carlton County priest to its list of clergy deemed ‘credibly accused’ of child sexual abuse(link is external). The Rev. David Tushar had served as a priest in Northeastern Minnesota for nearly 35 years when he was placed on leave in July 2019 pending an investigation into allegations of abuse. The allegations were related to his earlier service as a Holy Cross Father and Catholic school teacher in Niles, Illinois, from 1978-79.” By Tom Olsen, Duluth News Tribune

NEW JERSEY

Rumson Priest Named In Sex Abuse Lawsuit Against Trenton Diocese
“A priest who served for seven years at Holy Cross Church in Rumson was recently named in a sexual abuse complaint filed Tuesday (Jan. 19) against the Diocese of Trenton. Fr. Thomas A. Rittenhouse was ordained in 1976 in the Diocese of Trenton and is accused of sexually abusing a minor while assigned to the Rumson church from 1981 to 1982(link is external). He served at Holy Cross from 1981 to 1988.” By Nicole Rosenthal, Rumson Patch

Suit Alleges Sexual Abuse at Point Retreat
“For over 50 years, the Marianist Family Retreat Center, on the corner of Yale and Cape avenues, in Cape May Point, has been the site of contemplation, celebration and prayer for the faithful. One woman alleges that in summer 1974, it was a site of horror and violation that still hurts decades later … Identified in the court documents as Jane Doe RP, she filed a suit against the center and the Marianist Province of the United States, alleging that she faced repeated sexual abuse from two clergy members(link is external).” By Bill Barlow, Cape May County Herald

N.J. Catholic diocese has a plan to compensate victims of abuse. Advocates aren’t happy.
Advocates for people sexually abused by clergy are opposing a plan from a New Jersey Catholic diocese to compensate victims(link is external). The Diocese of Camden announced a proposal on Dec. 31 to speed up the process of setting aside millions of dollars for abuse claims, after the church filed for bankruptcy in October. ‘The Diocese wants to continue to pay survivors rather than lawyers and other professional advisers,’ the church said in a statement.” By Blake Nelson, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Law firm files 5 more suits alleging past child sex abuse by dead Catholic priests
“A law firm specializing in representing abuse victims has filed five additional lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Newark alleging priests sexuallly molested children going back decades(link is external). Three of the priests have been credibly accused of abuse in the past, their names and allegations made public by Catholic dioceses in New Jersey. All five are deceased. The suits were filed by Jeff Anderson & Associates, along with New Jersey attorney Greg Gianforcaro. They have filed numerous similar lawsuits in the Garden State since late 2019, when a new state law relaxed statute of limitations on such cases, opening a two-year lookback window for victims to file suit.” By Kevin Shea, NJ.com

NEW YORK.

Clergy sex abuse advocates criticize method of picking new Buffalo bishop
“While wishing new Diocese of Buffalo Bishop Michael Fisher success in his new role, a former priest turned advocate for clergy sex abuse victims says Fisher’s selection is clouded by the involvement of a former superior, who stepped down from a powerful position within the US Catholic Church amid his own accusations of covering up abuse cases(link is external). Fisher, before coming to Buffalo, served as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC under Cardinal Donald Wuerl.” By Michael Mroziak, WBFO-FM National Public Radio

EXCLUSIVE: Leaked transcript shows NY church’s attempt to block Child Victims Act
“When Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the longtime leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, introduced the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program(link is external) to the public in Oct. 2016, he expressed his hope that offering financial settlements to the victims of sexual abuse by clergy would both “promote healing” and “bring closure” after more than a decade of constant scandal.” By Pete Madden, ABC-TV News

Father Bill Lombardy accused of sexual abuse by former altar boys: suit
“One-time priest and chess grandmaster Father Bill Lombardy — who was portrayed by actor Peter Sarsgaard in a movie about famed chess player Bobby Fischer — has been accused of sexually abusing two altar boys in a new lawsuit(link is external). The now-deceased Lombardy — whose training of Fischer was depicted in the 2014 movie called “Pawn Sacrifice” — is accused in a Bronx Supreme Court lawsuit from last week of sexually assaulting two students in the 1960s, when he taught at St. Mary’s School in the Bronx.” By Priscilla DeGregory, New York Post

NORTH DAKOTA

North Dakota clergy sex abuse survivors say Catholic reforms too little, too late
“For decades, Ted Becker frequently woke up in the dead of night, gagging. Sometimes a pungent, familiar smell would force him from bed to search the house for a repressed memory that took him years to find. Not until he saw a psychiatrist in the late 1980s did he understand why the recurring sensations affected him so deeply. Memories of sexual abuse involving a Catholic priest(link is external) from the early 1950s, beginning when he was 9 years old, flooded back.” By C.S. Hagen and April Baumgarten, Mitchell Republic

OHIO

Police not investigating Catholic priest placed on leave after allegation surfaces
“Three area police departments said they have not been asked to investigate allegations against a local priest who was put on leave by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati(link is external). Father Anthony Cutcher of St. Peter Catholic Church in Huber Heights was placed on leave Monday after an allegation surfaced against him, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said Thursday (Jan. 14). Police in Huber Heights, Montgomery and Miami counties told the Dayton Daily News they have not been asked to investigate the allegation involving Cutcher.” By Eileen McClory, Dayton Daily News

SOUTH CAROLINA

Diocese of Charleston faces second lawsuit in a week
“A lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Charleston alleges abuse dating back decades. The new suit is the second filed against the diocese in a week’s time. The lawsuit was filed by a man who claims a priest sexually abused him over span of two years(link is external) in the mid-1970s while the defendant was a student at St. John’s Catholic Church and Cathedral School. The victim says in the suit he was 13 when he he started to be abused on a weekly basis. He said Frederick Hopwood, a priest, would put his hands down the victim’s pants and molest him.” By WCSC-TV5 News

WASHINGTON

Catholic church pays $2 million to settle local abuse cases
“The Archdiocese of Seattle has reached over $2 million in settlements in the past six months due to credible allegations of sexual abuse against four Catholic priests(link is external) in Western Washington, including two former leaders of a parish in Snohomish and one in Everett. The Rev. Michael C. OBrien led St. Michael Parish from 1974 to 1979. He was succeeded by the Rev. Dennis Champagne from 1979 to 1999, who then became the priest of St. John Bosco Church in Lakewood. Church leaders put Champagne on leave in 2002, after someone accused him of sexual misconduct.” By Caleb Hutton, HeraldNet.com

CANADA

Three decades after Mount Cashel orphanage abuse scandal, victims are still fighting for justice
“For most people, it’s just another shopping plaza … But John Doe No. 26 will never forget what used to be here. The 80-year-old grandfather can still vividly see the notorious Mount Cashel orphanage that stood at this St. John’s site until it was demolished in 1992. He was a resident there for seven years, until he was 15 years old, and suffered unspeakable violence and abuse at the hands of men who were supposed to care for him(link is external).” By Greg Mercer, The Globe & Mail

GERMANY

Confidentiality dispute piles pressure on cardinal accused of mishandling abuse cases
“German media have criticized the Archdiocese of Cologne for offering to provide a ‘background briefing’ to journalists about an unpublished report into clerical sex abuse on condition that they signed a confidentiality form(link is external). Journalists from several media organizations reported that they had refused to sign the form and walked out of the meeting on Jan. 5, which was called to explain issues regarding the report’s methodology.” By Catholic News Agency

Bishop: Making up the Duty of Abuse for Years
Processing the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in Germany will remain a task for years(link is external), according to Bishop Stephan Ackermann. ‘That will be a painful process,’ said the representative of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) for questions about sexual abuse in Trier from the German news agency. Over the next five years, all 27 dioceses nationwide would face an independent review by specially formed committees dealing with ‘responsibilities’ – how people dealt with perpetrators and victims in the past.” By The Courier

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND & WALES

Priest, 63, who sexually abused boys as young as 10 on church youth club trips in the 1970s and 80s and tricked them into sex acts using a card game is jailed for five years
“Last November Hardwicke was found guilty on five counts of historic indecent assault(link is external), following a nine day trial. In one incident a victim was made to take part in sexual activity as part of a card game, prosecutors said. Hardwicke carried out the abuse by taking ‘special interest’ in his victims and made them feel as if they had nowhere else to turn, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).” By Luke May, Daily Mail

GUAM

Firms cut legal fees by $2K in church bankruptcy ahead of hearing
Two law firms in the Archdiocese of Agana’s two-year-old bankruptcy case reduced their legal fees by $2,162.50, ahead of a court hearing(link is external) on the latest interim fee applications. The fourth interim fee applications from law firms now amount to about $478,400. The archdiocese’s bankruptcy marks its second year this month. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection is aimed at reorganizing the church’s finances, and compensating nearly 300 Guam clergy sex abuse survivors while also keeping all Catholic schools and parishes open.” By Haidee Eugenio Gilbert, The Guam Daily Post

INDONESIA

Indonesian church worker jailed for molesting altar boys
“A church worker in Indonesia has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually assaulting altar boys(link is external) following the first-ever sexual abuse trial in a civil court involving the Indonesian Catholic Church. Depok District Court in West Java convicted Syahril Marbun on Jan. 6 for abusing two altar boys at St. Herkulanus Parish in Depok in Bogor Diocese, where he served as liturgical coordinator.” By Ryan Dagur, Jakarta, UCANews.com

IRELAND & NORTHERN IRELAND

Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes
“The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters was established by the Irish Government in February 2015 to provide a full account of what happened to vulnerable women and children in Mother and Baby Homes during the period 1922 to 1998(link is external). It submitted its final report to the Minister on 30 October 2020. Each element of the Report can be accessed through the links below …” From Ireland’s Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

MALTA

Pope Francis Defrocks Maltese Priest Who Sexually Abused 13-Year-Old
“Pope Francis has accepted the Conventual Franciscans Order’s request to dismiss Donald Bellizzi, the Maltese priest convicted of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy(link is external), iNews Malta reported. Last November, Bellizzi, a former Burmarrad Franciscan, was sentenced to three years in prison. Bellizzi’s offences first began in 2010, when he would invite youths interested in becoming priests on retreats to the Franciscan convent in Burmarrad. Investigations into the case were kicked off after the Curia received reports of the abuse.” By Benjamin Abela, LovinMalta.com

NEW ZEALAND

Abuse inquiry: we all know the outcome
“We must already know what the New Zealand Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care will reveal about the Catholic Church in New Zealand. That’s because it has been said before, time and time again, across the globe, by many other inquiries into the exact same issue. Independent inquiries worldwide have already looked into what happened to children(link is external), young people and adults at risk in the care of the Catholic Church over past decades.” By Matthew Epsom, The Gisborne Herald

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Indictment of fundraising priest exposes lack of diocesan oversight / National Catholic Reporter

“The odd episode — like the widespread sex-abuse scandal that has roiled U.S. dioceses for many years — marked another black eye for the church. But it points to the need for dioceses to pay attention to possible financial scandals as well as sexual abuse ones.” (National Catholic Reporter) — See Voice of the Faithful’s Financial Accountability webpage — http://votf.org/node/1587 — and “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2020 Report” — http://www.votf.org/2020FWGReport.pdf

National Catholic Reporter and Voice of the Faithful

“Fr. Lenin Vargas’ request for money seemed more fitting for a spam email than from a Catholic priest.

“From 2014 until 2018, Vargas allegedly solicited funds from parishioners at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Starkville, Mississippi, where he was the pastor, for what he claimed were expenses for his cancer treatment and for charities in his native country of Mexico. But according to a federal indictment, there was no cancer treatment. Vargas had HIV and his medical expenses were covered by his employer, the Diocese of Jackson. Still, Vargas was able to raise over $33,000.

“Furthermore, the Diocese of Jackson failed to divulge the fraud, allowing Vargas to pilfer money for years, according to a report from the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, which cites an affidavit filed in federal court by Homeland Security Investigations, the investigative arm of the U.S Department of Homeland Security.

“Last February, Vargas was indicted on 10 counts of wire fraud in the Northern District of Mississippi, according to court documents that were made available in July, the newspaper reported. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

“In July, the Diocese of Jackson, which was also being investigated for its alleged inaction, agreed to tighten its financial controls under a deal it reached with the feds, according to the Mississippi Catholic, the diocesan newspaper.

“As part of the deferred prosecution agreement, the diocese agreed to return the money to Vargas’ alleged victims, form a review board to focus on ethical conduct, establish a hotline for callers to anonymously report any concerns to the diocese, revise collection processes and start a penal process against Vargas.”

By Mark Nacinovich, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

January 10, 2021

TOP STORIES

Event series’ proposals aim to raise women’s voices in San Diego Diocese
“The 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sex abuse sent shock waves through the U.S. Catholic Church. For Bridget Gramme, the moment felt like a ‘call to women’ to improve the church(link is external). ‘I’m a cradle Catholic, it’s my community and my identity and my kids go to Catholic schools,’ Gramme said. ‘It’s something we really believe in and the community is so important to us. Maybe it’s time we step it up and not just sit around and let these things happen.’ Gramme is an attorney and member of the advisory board of the Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture at the University of San Diego.” By Sophie Vodvarka, National Catholic Reporter

Podcast: How 2020 changed the Vatican
“The coronavirus pandemic upended everyone’s plans for 2020—including the Vatican’s. From the first weeks of the pandemic when Pope Francis prayed in the rain in St. Peter’s Square to the London finance scandal to the new standards of transparency ushered in by the McCarrick report, it has been an unprecedented year in every way(link is external). On ‘Inside the Vatican,’ host Colleen Dulle and Vatican correspondent Gerard O’Connell recap the biggest Vatican moments of 2020. The hosts focus on three areas of change in the Vatican: transparency, missionary work and solidarity with the poor.” By Colleen Dulle and Gerard O’Connell, Inside the Vatican, America: The Jesuit Review

Australia’s Catholic bishops seek answers about mystery billions linked to Vatican
“Australia’s Catholic bishops are considering raising questions with the country’s financial watchdog authority about whether any Catholic organizations were among the recipients of billions of Australian dollars in transfers reputedly from the Vatican(link is external). AUSTRAC, Australia’s financial intelligence agency, revealed in December that the equivalent of around US$1.8 billion had been sent to Australia from the Vatican or Vatican-related entities since 2014.” By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

Looking ahead to 2021 in the life of the church in the U.S.
What will the new year bring in the life of the church in the United States?(link is external) As we learned last year, we never know what unforeseen events will enlighten or becloud all else. We can discern three major themes that will largely shape the year ahead: the relationship between the United States bishops and the Biden administration, the Year of the Family,(link is external) the appointments of new bishops in some significant sees, and how the church will continue to cope with COVID-19. Then, just before the end of the year, a new major theme emerged, arguably the most explosive: significant upheaval at EWTN.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

Vatican reforms finances following London property scandal
“Pope Francis has stripped the Vatican’s powerful central administration office of an investment portfolio worth hundreds of millions of euros(link is external) following a scandal linked to luxury London real estate development in Chelsea. The Vatican said that all of the financial assets of the Secretariat of State, the Holy See’s state bureaucracy, would be placed under the control of APSA, the Vatican’s existing centralized asset manager, from the start of the new year.” By Miles Johnson, Financial Times

ACCOUNTABILITY

Crisis Episode 10: Bishops’ Accountability
“This podcast series keeps coming back to the question of bishops’ accountability(link is external). Are the reforms of Vos estis lux mundi being applied in the US Church? This episode features Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York, reporters Harriet Ryan of the L.A. Times and Christopher Altieri of the UK Catholic Herlald, and canon lawyer Tom Doyle.” By The Catholic Project

McCarrick report shows a church infected with unchecked clericalism
“The Vatican’s report on defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick revealed sexual abuse of adults and minors by a Catholic cleric and its cover-up by church officials — more of the same pattern we’ve seen so often in the church, reaching to the highest levels … What’s the disease? Clericalism, sure, but other denominations have clericalism but don’t seem to have the problem of recurrent and widespread abuses of power. Rather, unchecked clericalism is at the root of the Catholic Church’s affliction. A tight-knit clerical culture defends itself, first by defining priests as uniquely Christ-like — different and better than the unanointed laity(link is external).” By Lisa Fullam, National Catholic Reporter

Germany: Catholic officials ask reporters for ‘silence’ on child abuse report
“With the Catholic Church shaken by the child abuse scandal in Germany, journalists walked out of a press event organized by church representatives on Tuesday (Jan. 5). The Archdiocese of Cologne had called for a press conference to discuss an unpublished child abuse report. Specifically, church officials were to explain issues regarding the report’s methodology. These issues, at least according to Cologne Archbishop Reiner Maria Woelki, were the reason for withholding the document from the public in its current form(link is external).” By Deutsche Welle

WOMEN DEACONS

Next archbishop of Dublin would like to see women deacons in Church
Dublin’s Catholic archbishop-elect Dermot Farrell has said he would like to see women becoming deacons in the Church(link is external). He said the biggest barrier to female priests in the Catholic Church ‘is probably tradition, not the scriptures.’ ‘Women have almost preserved the faith in the church, certainly in this country and probably beyond,’ he said in an interview before he assumes the role on February 2nd. But he expressed concern that the introduction of female priests could split the church as it had the Church of England.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times

CHURCH FINANCES

Former comptroller of Catholic Diocese of Steubenville sentenced to prison for tax crimes, embezzlement
“The former comptroller of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville was sentenced in federal court in Columbus this month for failing to pay payroll taxes(link is external) withheld from the paychecks of diocesan employees, filing false tax returns and embezzling $299,500 in diocesan funds between 2008 and 2017. David A. Franklin, 67, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in July 2020 to one count of willful failure to account for and pay over employment tax, one count of making a false income tax return and one count of wire fraud. Franklin was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and two years of supervised release and was also ordered to pay $1,332,885.04 in restitution.” By Highland County Press

Vatican denies knowledge of $1.8 billion transferred to Australia
“The Vatican and the Australian Catholic Church have both denied knowledge of transfers worth US$1.8 billion which Australia’s financial watchdog says have been sent from Rome to Australia in the past seven years(link is external). ‘That amount of money and that number of transfers did not leave the Vatican City,’ a senior Vatican official with knowledge of the city-state’s finances said on Wednesday (Dec. 30). The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Vatican would be seeking details from Australian authorities on the specific origin and destination of the money.” By Philip Pullella, Reuters

FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Archdiocese considers mergers, closures of Niles, Morton Grove, Skokie Catholic churches
“Five north suburban Catholic parishes are waiting to hear on Jan. 21 if they will merge with another parish, close, or stay as they are(link is external). Those parishes are St. Lambert and St. Peter in Skokie; St. Isaac Jogues and St. John Brebeuf in Niles, and St. Martha in Morton Grove. The possible consolidation is part of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s ‘Renew My Church’ initiative, which the archdiocese defines on its website as a way to ‘address the challenges of our time.’” By Myrna Petlick, Pioneer Press, Chicago Tribune

VOICES

Our Views: New Orleans archdiocese owes Catholics acknowledgment, promise not to fail again
“We knew things had been bad with the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ handling of the case of George Brignac some time ago. But new reporting by Ramon Antonio Vargas of The Times-Picayune and The Advocate and David Hammer of WWL-TV shows that the diocese has — for more than a generation — been negligent at least and intentionally evasive at worst(link is external).” By The Advocate Editorial Board

Our hearts go out to victims of sexual abuse who are suffering in silence
“A teen’s allegations that she was raped and subjected to other forms of sexual abuse by someone known to her will no longer proceed in the court system(link is external). And somewhere on Guam, a 25-year-old man, Austin Joseph Palacios Quitugua, who is known to the girl, is a free man. He once stood accused of sexually assaulting the girl – who was 12 at the time – on multiple occasions, between Christmas break 2018 to July the next year, according to court documents.” By The Guam Daily Post Editorial Board

Head of German bishops, self-described conservative, calls for change
“In a wide-ranging interview, the head of the German bishops’ conference called for far-reaching changes to the Catholic Church(link is external) and criticized the Vatican’s treatment of the church in his country. ‘I would describe myself as conservative because I love this church and enjoy devoting my life and my strength to it. But I want it to change,’ Limburg Bishop Georg Bätzing told the magazine Herder Korrespondenz. His remarks were reported by the German Catholic news agency KNA.’” By Catholic News Service on CatholicPhilly.com

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

Reporters storm out of press conference after Catholic officials ask for silence on child abuse report
“Journalists have stormed out of a press conference in Germany after Catholic Church officials asked for their ‘absolute silence’ on a long-awaited report into child sex abuse(link is external). A vast and comprehensive report investigating decades of alleged sexual abuse of young people at the hands of clerics and the resulting institutional cover-up in the Archdiocese of Cologne – the world’s wealthiest Catholic diocese, and Germany’s largest – had been pledged back in 2018 by Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki.” By Andy Gregory, The Independent

ARIZONA

As deadline nears, adults flood Arizona courts with lawsuits alleging childhood sex abuse
“Hundreds of civil lawsuits by people who allege they suffered abuse as children(link is external) are being filed in Arizona’s courts as a year-end deadline looms for them to seek justice. Many of those filing are listed in court documents simply as ‘John Doe’ or ‘Jane Doe.’” By Lauren Castle, Arizona Republic

FLORIDA

Diocese of St. Augustine investigating abuse allegations against retired priest
“The Diocese of St. Augustine is investigating abuse allegations against retired priest Father David Terrence Morgan(link is external), according to a bulletin by the diocese to parishioners. The diocese said the Church reached out to law enforcement to investigate the allegations, in addition to conducting its own investigation, which the bulletin states found ‘the allegations have a semblance of truth based on an initial review, but guilt has not been determined.’” By Matthew Copeland and Haley Harrison, WTLV-TV News

Investigation: Florida was dumping ground for priests accused of sex abuse
“Investigators in the Florida Attorney General’s office have completed a two-year investigation into sexual abuse inside Florida Catholic churches(link is external). Using 267 tips to a tip line, investigators found 97 Florida priests accused of sexual abuse in Florida. The investigation did not uncover current, ongoing or unreported sexual abuse by Florida priests. Investigators found 81 priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse in other states, then transferred, relocated or retired to Florida, sometimes without the knowledge of the Florida churches they were being moved to.” By Jeff Butera, ABC-TV7 News

ILLINOIS

Chicago’s activist priest Rev. Michael Pfleger steps aside amid past child abuse allegation
“The Rev. Michael Pfleger has temporarily stepped down from his ministry leading the Roman Catholic Faith Community of St. Sabina amid allegations of sexual abuse of a minor more than 40 years ago(link is external). Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, shared the news in a letter Tuesday (Jan. 5) to members of the Faith Community of St. Sabina and St. Sabina Academy, a predominantly Black parish on the city’s South Side.” By Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service

LOUISIANA

Archdiocese of New Orleans, SNAP meet for first time in attempts to unify for abuse victims
“For the first time, two organizations who have been at odds amid a growing list of victims of sexual assault at the hands of Catholic clergy have come together(link is external). The Archdiocese of New Orleans and New Orleans-area advocate SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) have had a strained relationship ever since the list of accused priests started. Both organizations issued the following statement saying that first steps were taken to work together for victims …” By WDSU-TV6 News

MASSACHUSETTS

Former Cape pastor indicted on rape, assault and battery charges
“A grand jury returned indictments against a former Cape pastor on Friday, with multiple counts of rape and assault and battery(link is external). The Rev. Mark Hession was indicted out of Barnstable Superior Court on two counts of rape, one count of indecent assault and battery on a child less than 14 and one count of intimidation of a witness, a superior court official confirmed Monday.” By Jessica Hill, Cape Cod Times

NEW JERSEY

Priest accused of sexually assaulting parishioner denies claims but admits to having affair
“A New Jersey priest has acknowledged he had an affair with a woman who recently filed a lawsuit alleging he sexually assaulted her(link is external). The Rev. Robert L. Sinatra, of St. Padre Pio Parish in Vineland, admitted the affair in a Jan. 2 letter to parishioners, but denied that he assaulted the woman. ‘With a deep sense of embarrassment and shame, I write to let you know that in late 2018 I had a two-month affair with an unmarried woman,’ Sinatra wrote.” By Matt Gray, NJ Advance Media, on NJ.com

NEW YORK.

Diocese to hire another law firm in defending against AG’s lawsuit
“The Buffalo Diocese, which already is paying six law firms for work in bankruptcy proceedings, is looking to hire another firm to defend against a lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Letitia James in November(link is external). The diocese wants to retain the Jones Day firm as ‘special counsel’ for the lawsuit, which alleges that diocese leaders protected more than two dozen priests accused of child sexual abuse by not referring their cases to the Vatican for potential removal from the priesthood.” By Jay Tokasz, The Buffalo News

Child abuse allegations against Troy church divide family, friends, community
“‘No matter what people say negatively, it’s painful, it’s hurtful, it’s discouraging, it’s angering and it can defame the Lord’s bride, the church, most of all,’ Pastor Phil Smith, of Victorious Life Christian Church, said. His message — only God is the source of ultimate judgment and forgiveness — was typical for a sermon. But the apparent inspiration for the message on that Sunday was atypical, and it was not the enemy harming the church’s reputation, but a young woman suing them for allegedly abetting and harboring a Sunday school teacher who she says sexually abused her as a girl(link is external).” By Edward McKinley, Albany Times-Union

New sex abuse and ‘grooming’ allegations target former Staten Island priest
“Former priest Ralph LaBelle has again been accused of sexually abusing a young male parishioner on Staten Island(link is external). According to a civil complaint filed last week in Richmond County state Supreme Court, St. George, the victim was “groomed” and sexually abused between the ages of 13 and 16-years-old. At the time, LaBelle was assigned to St. Clare’s R.C. Church in Great Kills. He was there from 1979 to 1985.” By Kyle Lawson, SILive.com

NORTH DAKOTA

Investigation into clergy sex abuse in Catholic Church concludes in North Dakota
“Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Monday (Dec. 5) that the investigation by his office into allegations of child sexual abuse by members of the two catholic dioceses(link is external) in the state has concluded. The 18-month criminal investigation began around the time the two North Dakota Catholic Dioceses, in Fargo and Bismarck, released a list of 53 people for whom they felt allegations of child sexual abuse had been substantiated.” By Paul Jurgens, KFGO-AM 790 News

OHIO

Trial of former St. Helen’s seminarian now scheduled for May
“The trial of a Strongsville priest with Geauga County ties is now scheduled for late May, federal court records show. The priest, Robert McWilliams, 40, is facing charges of two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, three counts of sexual exploitation of children(link is external), one count of transportation of child pornography, one count of receipt and distribution of visual depictions of real minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and one count of possession of child pornography.” By Andrew Cass, News-Herald

PENNSYLVANIA

After abuse, addiction, and recovery, Mike McDonnell works to help others
Mike McDonnell understands how victims can lose their way. He was abused by two Catholic priests, one of whom was later convicted, a dark secret that traumatized him(link is external) so much he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, two of his three marriages failed, and he stole about $100,000 from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia — a crime for which he served nearly a year in jail. But through recovery, and maintaining his Catholic faith, McDonnell, 52, has rebuilt himself as a victims advocate as he tries to help others. He’s now a local leader for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).” By Isabella Simonetti, Philadelphia Inquirer

Lawmakers could let voters decide whether to allow lawsuits for abuse survivors in 2021
“The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee says that moving a bill to amend the Constitution to create a window of time for lawsuits by adult survivors of child abuse will be a top priority when lawmakers return to the Capitol next month(link is external). The bill has already passed once, but because it’s a proposed constitutional amendment, it must pass unchanged a second time before it goes on the ballot for voters statewide.” By John Finnerty, The Tribune-Democrat

SOUTH CAROLINA

Catholic Diocese of Charleston facing new lawsuit
“The Catholic Diocese of Charleston is facing a new lawsuit. Court documents filed late Monday (Jan. 4) afternoon accuse a member of the church of sexual abuse and a systematic cover up of that abuse(link is external). The charges were filed by a woman referred to as Mary Roe 1818. She alleges one of the priests, Frederick Austin McLean, repeatedly abused her and her sister when they were kids. According to the suit, the abuse took place during the victim’s formative years as a child between 1961 and 1966. Roe was part of the St. John Catholic Church and School where McLean was a priest and teacher with regular contact with children.” By Nick Reagan, WCSC-TV5 News

TEXAS

Texas Diocese Asks Court to Toss Libel Suit Over List of Accused Abusers
“The Catholic Diocese of Lubbock urged the Texas Supreme Court on Wednesday (Jan. 6) to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by a former deacon who claims it falsely outed him as a child molester(link is external). Texas Catholic bishops say the case threatens to uproot tenets of church autonomy enshrined in the First Amendment and open churches up to crippling liability simply for following their principles. Jesus Guerrero said he was ‘shocked, confused, hurt and I knew that it wasn’t true’ when the diocese published a list of clergy it said had been ‘credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor’ in January 2019 and his name was on it, according to his brief with the state high court.” By Cameron Langford, Courthouse News

VERMONT

St. Joseph’s Orphanage abuse survivors disappointed in task force report conclusions
“Abuse survivors with the group Voices of St. Joseph’s Orphanage, shared stories Wednesday (Dec. 16) of what they experienced at the orphanage decades ago. Some of the group of more than 30 is sticking to their claims that children were murdered while they were being cared for. In a nearly 300 page report(link is external) released on Monday (Dec. 14), Attorney General T.J. Donovan says evidence of abuse exists, but there isn’t enough evidence to substantiate murder. Donovan also says law enforcement and the state should have investigated when the claims were first made.” By Dom Amato, WCAX-TV3 News

WASHINGTON

Seattle archbishop is stonewalling push for more transparency of church sex-abuse cases, group contends
“Their ranks include ex-federal prosecutors, a retired judge, a one-time assistant police chief, even a former priest. But a group of prominent Catholics say they still can’t get an audience with Seattle’s new archbishop in their push to address the fallout of a lingering scandal(link is external). Members of Heal Our Church, a Seattle-based alliance of practicing Catholics who seek a public review of how the Roman Catholic Church’s worldwide sexual abuse scandal secretly festered within the parishes of Western Washington, contend they’re being stonewalled by Archbishop Paul Etienne.” By Lewis Kamb, Seattle Times

WISCONSIN

A Notre Dame Academy graduate alleged abuse by priests, then died by suicide. Over 400 alumni demand answers.
“Graduates of four Catholic high schools are demanding action from St. Norbert Abbey after its leader disputed allegations of sexual abuse lodged by a fellow alumnus(link is external) who died by suicide in March. The call for change came after the Green Bay Press-Gazette published an investigation detailing the story of Nate Lindstrom, who said three Norbertine priests abused him as a teenager in Green Bay in the late 1980s. Lindstrom received $420,000 in secret payments from the Catholic order over 10 years until the abbey stopped sending checks in 2019.” By Haley BeMiller, Green Bay Press-Gazette

AUSTRALIA

Report documents steady, meaningful progress on safeguarding
“The presidents of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia say their annual report to the National Office for Child Safety outlines comprehensive and sustained work across Church settings(link is external). The provision of an annual report on progress in child protection and safeguarding was one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Bishops Conference and CRA adopted that recommendation. They have published the Church’s third such report today (Dec. 17).” By CathNews.com

BRAZIL

Brazil archbishop investigated for sex abuse
“Police in Brazil said on Monday (Dec. 4) they were investigating the archbishop of the city of Belem for alleged sexual abuse against underage seminary students(link is external). Confirmation of the investigation came after four alleged victims of Archbishop Alberto Taveira Correa accused him of years of abuse in a sweeping investigative report aired Sunday night on Brazil’s biggest broadcaster, TV Globo. The alleged victims, who spoke on condition of anonymity, accused the 70-year-old archbishop of abusing them from 2014 to 2018, when they were between 15 and 18 years old.” By Agence France-Presse, Rio de Janeiro

Father Marcelo Rossi and Fabio de Mela defend archbishop accused of sexual assault
“In Fantasy this Sunday (Jan. 3), it was revealed that four former seminarians were accusing the House of Albert Taveira Correa, Archbishop of Belen do Par, of sexual violence. The archbishop was defended by the religious. Among them are Father Marcello Rossi and Fabio de Mello. ‘At this hour of battle we are together in prayer,’ Father Marcelo Rossi said. ‘Don Alberta has supported me many times. I would like my prayers and my commitment to do the same for him right now,’ Melo said.” By VarietyInfo.com

CANADA

Edmonton Catholic priest removed under allegations of historic sexual abuse of minor
“An Edmonton Catholic priest has been removed from public ministry in the region after an allegation of historic sexual abuse of a minor surfaced(link is external). The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton said in a statement Christmas Eve it removed Rev. Sylvio Lacar after he was identified by the archdiocese of Los Angeles. It says Lacar was the subject of a credible accusation of sexual assault of a minor in the Los Angeles area during the 1980s.” By Lauren Boothby, The Edmonton Journal

Vancouver Catholic Church names another three priests who abused minors
“The Archdiocese of Vancouver has named another three priests who sexually abused minors(link is external). All three men — John Edward Kilty, Johannes Holzapfel and Armand Frechette — served in at least one parish in the Archdiocese of Vancouver between the mid-1940s and early 1980s, and all three are now dead. The men were identified in a follow-up report about historical cases of clergy sexual abuse in the archdiocese, published this week.” By Glenda Luymes, Vancouver Sun

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND & WALES

Catholic priest facing sex abuse charges against boys dating back 40 years
“Father Patrick Smythe entered not guilty pleas to four charges of indecent assault when he appeared before Leeds Magistrates’ Court this week. The 77-year-old is alleged to have committed the offences against four different boys aged under the age of 16(link is external) between 1978 and 1983. Smythe, a priest with the Diocese of Leeds, appeared in court for a brief hearing and spoke to confirm his name, date of birth and address.” By Tony Gardner, Wakefield Express

NEW ZEALAND

Abuse survivors speak at redress hearing
“As the first phase of the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care’s hearing into the redress processes of faith-based institutions was about to begin on November 30 in Auckland, Catholic Church leaders made statements that they would take the opportunity to listen, learn and reflect on the experience of survivors. The first week of the two-week public hearing saw 10 survivors of abuse in the Catholic Church in New Zealand or their family members speak at the royal commission(link is external). There was one closed session in the first week. The second week was scheduled to see 14 survivors of abuse in the Anglican Church or Salvation Army institutions give their testimony. Many of the testimonies were live-streamed.” By New Zealand Catholic

PHILIPPINES

Philippines: Pedophilia and the Church
“The Philippines, despite being one of the most Catholic countries in the world, has never convicted a member of the clergy for sex abuse(link is external). And yet there are survivors who say that the abuse has been going on for years. At the end of 2018, an American priest who had officiated for forty years was arrested for pedophilia by the Philippine police and the American federal authorities.” By Arte.tv

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Francis changes Catholic Church law: women explicitly allowed as lectors, altar servers / National Catholic Reporter

“Francis’ new letter, titled Spiritus Domini and issued motu proprio (on his own initiative), changes the Code of Canon Law to explicitly allow women to be installed in the Catholic Church as lectors and acolytes.”

National Catholic Reporter

“Pope Francis has changed Catholic Church law to make explicit that laywomen can act as readers and altar servers in liturgical celebrations, effectively removing a previous option for individual bishops to restrict those ministries only to men.

“In an unexpected apostolic letter published Jan. 11, the pontiff says he is making the change to recognize a ‘doctrinal development’ that has occurred in recent years.

“That change, the pope says, ‘shines a light on how some ministries instituted by the church have as their foundation that common condition of baptism and the royal priesthood received in the Sacrament of Baptism.’

“Francis’ new letter, titled Spiritus Domini and issued motu proprio (on his own initiative), changes the Code of Canon Law to explicitly allow women to be installed in the Catholic Church as lectors and acolytes.

“Lectors are ministers who proclaim readings at Mass and other liturgical celebrations. Acolytes are ministers who typically assist priests in preparing the altar during the Mass or in distributing Communion. Acolytes are often known as altar servers or Eucharistic ministers in common parlance.

“Laypeople who serve in those ministries are not ordained but can be formally instituted into the roles during a church ceremony.

“Although women in many U.S. Catholic dioceses already serve as readers and altar servers, the church’s canon law had technically only allowed for their service on a temporary basis and according to the whim of the local bishop.”

By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Read more … 

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Event series’ proposals aim to raise women’s voices in San Diego Diocese / National Catholic Reporter

“‘There’s a real need to address women’s issues in the church because historically we haven’t addressed them or we haven’t addressed them well,’ Eckery (Kevin Eckery, vice chancellor of communications and public affairs in the Diocese of San Diego) said.” (National Catholic Reporter)

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“The 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sex abuse sent shock waves through the U.S. Catholic Church. For Bridget Gramme, the moment felt like a ‘call to women’ to improve the church.

“‘I’m a cradle Catholic, it’s my community and my identity and my kids go to Catholic schools,’ Gramme said. ‘It’s something we really believe in and the community is so important to us. Maybe it’s time we step it up and not just sit around and let these things happen.’

“Gramme is an attorney and member of the advisory board of the Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture at the University of San Diego.

“Along with Catholic professionals involved in a variety of ministries, Gramme formed a planning team with the goal of healing the church by highlighting the voices of women and youth.

“This idea developed into a series called ‘Future of Faith,’ which resulted in three proposals designed to elevate women’s voices in the diocese. Those proposals include forming a speakers bureau of women, an all-women advisory council to the bishop and a diocesan synod on women’s issues.”

By Sophie Vodvarka, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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