Archive for January, 2022

The sex abuse scandal is not over. The hierarchical culture still needs transformation. / National Catholic Reporter

What cannot be overstated at this point in the nearly 40-year public history of the scandal is the force that the hierarchical culture — that privileged, secretive, unaccountable, male-only construct — can apply against any movement toward radical truth-telling.

Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter

“A 2004 story in The New York Times bore the headline, all in caps: ABUSE SCANDAL HAS BEEN ENDED, TOP BISHOP SAYS.

“That top bishop was a young Wilton Gregory who, two years earlier and as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, had herded the rest of the U.S. hierarchy through the first phase of accountability for the scandal.

“The headline was based on a Gregory declaration, made following the release of two studies of the scandal. “The terrible history recorded here today is history,” he said.

“That, of course, turned out to be more wish than reality. The finality implied in the statement has yet eluded the bishops, a point made clear by the recent searing assessment by Barbara Thorp, who took on the job of directing the Boston Archdiocese’s response to victims back in 2002, when the ecclesial world there was exploding. She claims that despite the decades of rolling disclosures and revelations that emerged from investigative reporting, grand jury reports, civil cases, the courage of countless victims and grudging reforms resulting in greater transparency, there is still much we don’t know.”

By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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20 years after Spotlight investigation of Catholic sex abuse crisis, is the church a safer place? / America: The Jesuit Review

On Jan. 6, 2002, on the Feast of the Epiphany, The Boston Globe published the first in a series of reports from its Spotlight investigative team, headlined “Church allowed abuse by priest for years.” (By Kathleen McChesney, former F.B.I. executive and first executive director of the Office of Child Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)

Visit votf.org to read about the multitude of programs and initiatives undertaken by Voice of the Faithful in the 20 years since The Boston Globe Spotlight articles prompted the organization’s founding.

“The events of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol caused shock and dismay for most Americans, many of whom feared that our political system was much weaker than we had thought. On the same date nearly two decades earlier, we witnessed a similar crisis of confidence in the Catholic Church as a protector of all children.

“On Jan. 6, 2002, on the Feast of the Epiphany, The Boston Globe published the first in a series of reports from its Spotlight investigative team, headlined “Church allowed abuse by priest for years.” While the findings were not a surprise to abuse survivors, the revelations that a previously unknown number of priests in the Boston area had sexually abused minors for decades devastated Catholics in Boston and, ultimately, the faithful around the world. The Globe had learned that instead of removing many of these offenders from the priesthood, church leaders had transferred some of the men to new assignments—where the priests continued to have unsupervised access to boys and girls and had not been provided with psychological evaluation or treatment.”

By Kathleen McChesney, former F.B.I. executive and first executive director of the Office of Child Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Read more …

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Coming abuse report to review retired Pope Benedict’s tenure as German archbishop / National Catholic Reporter

Much of the public interest is focused on the retired pope’s 1977-1981 tenure as archbishop of Munich. The case concerns the assignments of a priest accused of a particularly large number of offenses.

Catholic News Service in National Catholic Reporter

“In mid-January, the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl is scheduled to publish a report into the handling of clerical sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

“The potentially explosive aspect is that three of the highest-ranking officials are still alive: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now retired Pope Benedict XVI — and Cardinals Friedrich Wetter and Reinhard Marx, reported the German Catholic news agency KNA.

“The investigation followed two years of research and covers the period from 1945 to 2019, centering on who knew what about sexual abuse and when, and what action they took, if any, KNA reported.

“Much of the public interest is focused on the retired pope’s 1977-1981 tenure as archbishop of Munich. The case concerns the assignments of a priest accused of a particularly large number of offenses.

“In early summer 2021, Cardinal Marx — the current archbishop of Munich — tried to resign from office to take responsibility — explicitly also for possible mistakes of his predecessors. Pope Francis rejected his request.”

By Catholic News Service in National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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20 years after Boston Globe’s ‘Spotlight,’ we need a national database of accused clergy / National Catholic Reporter

As the shame and anger moved from the offending cleric to the systemic cover-up by bishops, we now must face the grim reality that the most profound shame is the ongoing, real-time failure to act in a decisive manner to address the ‘abandonment of the little ones.’

By Barbara Thorp, National Catholic Reporter

“In the United States, the terrible truth that Catholic clergy have sexually violated children has been known publicly now for at least 36 years. For this truth-telling, we are indebted to journalists such as Jason Berry. In stark and unsparing detail he documented in May 1985, writing for the Times of Acadiana (and NCR), the predations of admitted serial pedophile Fr. Gilbert Gauthe in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana.

“Over the decades others followed Berry’s groundbreaking truth-telling, often against and despite enormous pressure to remain silent. Led by many courageous survivors and their families, of notable mention are the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Bishop Accountability, the Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The New York Times and several state attorneys general.

“In January 2019, ProPublica published an interactive national directory of credibly accused clergy drawing on the published disclosures of dioceses and religious orders.

“The important efforts of these entities and people notwithstanding, they are all limited by the reality that they only know what they know. They don’t know what they don’t know. The full width and breadth of the story is yet to be told and is held by the archdioceses, dioceses, eparchies and religious orders.

By Barbara Thorp, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Is Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality bound to disappoint–or will it renew the church? / America: The Jesuit Review

An even more fundamental question could draw us into the content of our journeying together. Could we ask, ‘As God’s pilgrim people journeying together, how can we more effectively bring the life-giving power of the gospel to a world so desperately in need of it?’ That question would more closely correspond to the vision of Pope John XXIII and, I believe, of Pope Francis as well.

By Louis J. Cameli, America: The Jesuit Review

“Pope Francis has begun a multi-year process for the entire church, what he has called ‘a synod on synodality.’ In his talks and in the preparatory documents, he has explained the unusual term ‘synodality’ very simply by retrieving its Greek roots. ‘Synodality,’ as he describes it, is being syn-hodos, on the road together. The Holy Father wants this vision of the church being on the road or journey together to come alive.

“When I first heard about synodality, the concept held a strong appeal for me. I saw it moving the church beyond the usual and tired constructs of institution, organization and bureaucracy. I saw it underscoring an experience of church that included a greater sense of community and connection in the unfolding of history. The Second Vatican Council had captured this with its striking image of the church as the pilgrim people of God in ‘Lumen Gentium.’ So far, synodality seemed good, indeed, very good.

“Then I began to have questions and hesitations.”

By Louis J. Cameli, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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U.S. Catholic clergy shortage eased by recruits from Africa / National Catholic Reporter

During his 18 years in the U.S., Abanulo has filled various chaplain and pastor roles across the country, epitomizing an ongoing trend in the American Catholic Church. As fewer American-born men and women enter seminaries and convents, U.S. dioceses and Catholic institutions have turned to international recruitment to fill their vacancies.

Kwasi Gyamfi, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter

Fr. Athanasius Chidi Abanulo — using skills honed in his African homeland to minister effectively in rural Alabama — determines just how long he can stretch out his Sunday homilies based on who is sitting in the pews.

Seven minutes is the sweet spot for the mostly white and retired parishioners who attend the English-language Mass at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in the small town of Wedowee. ‘If you go beyond that, you lose the attention of the people,’ he said.

For the Spanish-language Mass an hour later, the Nigerian-born priest — one of numerous African clergy serving in the U.S. — knows he can quadruple his teaching time. ‘The more you preach, the better for them,’ he said.

As he moves from one American post to the next, Abanulo has learned how to tailor his ministry to the culture of the communities he is serving while infusing some of the spirit of his homeland into the universal rhythms of the Mass.

“‘Nigerian people are relaxed when they come to church,’ Abanulo said. ‘They love to sing, they love to dance. The liturgy can last for two hours. They don’t worry about that.'”

By Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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