Archive for April, 2022

Voice of the Faithful puts children first with new study of dioceses’ child protection efforts

Voice of the Faithful has published the first independent, online review of all U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses’ level of compliance with child protection and safe environment guidelines. The average overall score was 67%, with the most frequently achieved score 63.5%. Although some dioceses did well, no diocese achieved 100%, and three dioceses scored in the 20s.

Click here to read the entire report

The study is the first independent analysis of child protection and safe environment policies in all U.S. dioceses. VOTF operates independently of the Church’s institutional structure, and the study is not an audit like those conducted by the U.S. Bishop’s National Review Board. Called “2022 Report: Measuring Abuse Prevention and Safe Environment Programs as Reported Online in Diocesan Policies and Practices,” the report is being released in April because the month is designated in the United States as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The report’s conclusions include:

The breadth of clergy sexual abuse cases within the Church indicates that historical responses to accusations of abuse by the hierarchy were inadequate; those responses protected the reputation of the institution over supporting victims and preventing further child abuse within the Church. The hierarchical construct of privileged, secretive, unaccountable, male-only institution provides the backdrop that foments a culture of leaders who enabled the protection of the abusers and church leadership above the victims’ best interests and suffering of children. Unchanging defense of this already damaged institution ignores the need to remedy faulty structures, such as bishops’ deficient adherence to their own standards, as well as a lack of urgency and decisive actions that would demonstrate their professed resolve to protect and heal.

2022 Report: Measuring Abuse Prevention and Safe Environment Programs as Reported Online in Diocesan Policies and Practices

A few recent examples illustrating the report’s conclusions include: former Albany Diocese leader Bishop Howard Hubbard’s admission the diocese regularly moved priests accused of sexually abusing minors among parishes without informing police, victims’ families or parishioners; Portugal’s investigation that received 290 church sex abuse claims within 90 days with many more expected; and similar recent investigations in Germany, Switzerland, France and Spain; the Pennsylvania grand jury report in 2018; and other investigations dating back to The Boston Globe’s report on clergy abuse in the Boston Archdiocese in 2002, which brought about VOTF.

“The Church most often claims such investigations reveal just historic abuse,” said Patricia T. Gomez, VOTF trustee and Protection of Children Working Group co-chair. “But our report, as an indication of commitment to child protection, does not show that widespread cultural change toward safer environments for children has taken place, and we won’t know the extent of present abuse for some time because victims typically don’t report it for decades.”

To conduct this study, VOTF reviewers studied 177 websites, those of 176 U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses and the Archdiocese for the Military, USA. Reviewers used a worksheet that included 33 questions in the following 10 categories: policy; code of conduct; reporting abuse; background checks; prevention, education, and training; contact information; annual audit reporting; diocesan review boards; list of accused clergy; and victim assistance. The study used diocesan websites because the internet is so widely used for information, and the extent to which a diocese’s website provides safe environment policies and procedures is an indication of the bishop’s commitment to protecting children and preventing further sexual abuse by clergy.

“This (report) will surely promote a constructive conversation about how to monitor and improve child safety in the church environment,” said David Finkelhor, Ph.D., who is professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center and co-director of the Family Research Laboratory. “The report is sensible, systematic and well-conceived.”

The five highest scoring dioceses were Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 95.5%; Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, 93.5%; Venice, Florida, 92.5%; Baltimore, Maryland, 92.5%; and Richmond, Virginia, 89.5%. The five lowest scoring dioceses were Shreveport, Louisiana, 22.5%; Lubbock, Texas, 23.5%; Corpus Christi, Texas, 27%; Military Services, 38.5%; and Colorado Springs, Colorado, 41.5%.

The VOTF report made the following points:

  • Diocesan safe environment webpage content must align with dioceses’ child protection policies. Any lack of consistency calls into question the diligence afforded to safe environment and child protection efforts and diocesan commitment to transparency.
  • Comprehensive abuse prevention efforts must include criminal background checks of all employees, clergy, and volunteers, as well as mandatory abuse prevention education and training for all groups.
  • Dioceses must fully disclose credibly accused offenders’ information, such as name, current status, past assignments, etc.
  • Diocesan review boards must ensure that Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People-related policies and procedures are current and clearly stated.
  • Mandatory participation in annual audits and a time-limited period for correction of deficiencies must be enforced.

The report concluded on the particularly important role of parishioners in child protection: “There is a key role for parishioners to ensure the protection of children in our parishes. Parishioners should work with diocesan and parish safe environment personnel to bolster safety guidelines at the diocesan level and ensure that safety measures are carried out in their faith communities. Alive in the life of Jesus, the entire People of God can transform into a sacramental community where children, youth, and the vulnerable are nurtured and protected in safe environments.”


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 www.votf.org.

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

April 25, 2022

TOP STORIES

N.J. Catholic diocese agrees to $87.5M deal to settle clergy sex abuse suits
“A New Jersey Catholic diocese has agreed to pay $87.5 million to settle claims involving clergy sex abuse with some 300 alleged victims in one of the largest cash settlements involving the Catholic church in the United States(link is external). The agreement between the Diocese of Camden, which encompasses six counties in southern New Jersey on the outskirts of Philadelphia, and plaintiffs was filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Camden on Tuesday (Apr. 19).” By Mike Catalini, Associated Press

Spanish bishops brief pope on abuse commission
“Pope Francis met with the leaders of the Spanish bishops’ conference and was briefed on the independent commission established by the bishops to investigate clerical sexual abuse in the country(link is external). Speaking with journalists outside the Vatican press office April 7, Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona, president of the conference, said the pope encouraged the bishops to continue supporting survivors of abuse. Pope Francis ‘encouraged us to walk along that path of accompanying victims because they are at the center of everything, to collaborate in everything and, above all, to prevent these things from happening again,’ Omella said.” By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

Portugal probe: 290 church sex abuse claims in 90 days work
“A lay committee looking into historic child sex abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church said Tuesday (Apr. 12) it received witness statements from 290 alleged victims in its first three months of work, with cases involving children as young as two years old(link is external). More than half the reported cases suggest many more victims were involved, said Pedro Strecht, a psychiatrist who heads the Independent Committee for the Study of Child Abuse in the Church. The six-person committee, which includes psychiatrists, a former Supreme Court judge and a social worker, began its work in January at the behest of the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference.” By Barry Hatton, Associated Press

Is Pope Francis prepping for doomsday in the church? I hope so.
“If you’re not a Vaticanista, the announcement of the proposed reform of the Roman Curia on March 17 might have seemed like some pretty standard Catholic gobbledygook … But in the midst of the release of the reform document, Vatican experts recognized something that actually could change things for you and me in a potentially massive way(link is external). As one theological expert who worked on the constitution put it, the Vatican seems to be saying that the ‘power of governance in the church does not come from the sacrament of [Holy] Orders’ but from one’s mission in the church. That is, being in positions of leadership in the church should not require a collar, ordination or being a man.” By Jim McDermott, America: The Jesuit Review

74 bishops sign open letter warning of German Synodal Path’s potential for schism
“In an open letter, 74 bishops from North America, Africa, Italy and Australia have expressed their ‘growing concern’ about the German Synodal Path process and content(link is external), warning about its ‘potential for schism.’ Joining recent letters of concern by the Nordic and Polish bishops, the ‘fraternal open letter to our brother bishops in Germany’ said ‘the Synodal Path’s actions undermine the credibility of church authority, including that of Pope Francis.’” By Greg Erlandson, Catholic News Service, in America: The Jesuit Review

ACCOUNTABILITY

An island retreat: sin, secrecy, and the offshoring of sexually abuse priests
“[This is] an historical account that encourages scholars and activists alike to rethink the geography of clerical sexual abuse: though there is a generally agreed upon history that bishops throughout the United States transferred priests between parishes to evade suspicion and at times prosecution, this provides a previously untold account of how the U.S. Church leveraged developments in moral theology, pastoral psychology, and free market capitalism to secure transnational lines of flight for some of its most incorrigible abusers(link is external).” By Kevin Lewis O’Neill, John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics

FOR A SYNODAL CHURCH: COMMUNION, PARTICIPATION AND MISSION

Frustration with German Synodal Path should not derail path of synodality
“Last week, 74 bishops signed a letter to the German bishops expressing concern about that country’s ‘Synodal Path,’ which voted on a series of reforms in February. The letter warns the German synodal consultations hold the ‘potential for schism’(link is external) and identifies seven specific criticisms, such as the charge the German process relied more on ‘sociological analysis and contemporary political, and gender, ideologies’ … The German Synodal Path is part of a universal process. The German bishops have made clear that they understand certain doctrinal matters can only be developed by the universal church.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

PRIESTS

Grace of priesthood is given for service, not priests’ glory, pope says
“In the life of every Christian, but especially of priests, God’s love and forgiveness are the greatest rewards, and any attempt to seek one’s own glory plays into the hands of the devil(link is external), Pope Francis said. With some 1,800 priests concelebrating and renewing the promises made at their ordinations, Pope Francis celebrated the chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica April 14. ‘There is no recompense greater than friendship with Jesus,’ the pope told them. ‘There is no peace greater than his forgiveness. There is no greater price than his precious blood, and we must not allow it to be devalued by unworthy conduct.’” By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Vatican approves norms to reshape U.S. priestly formation
“The Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy has approved new norms for the formation of seminarians(link is external), which were drafted by the U.S. bishops’ conference in 2019, and have been under discussion between Rome and the USCCB since that time. The sixth edition of the Program for Priestly Formation, which governs seminary education for priests, will require seminaries and dioceses to reshape their formation programs, in order to accommodate new stages of formation at both the start and conclusion of seminary studies.” By The Pillar

VOICES

On the power of Resurrection and healing from abuse
“Early on in my healing work, a friend suggested that I think back to who I was before I was sexually abused(link is external). They wondered if I might find power in remembering characteristics or aspects of myself before the abuse that are still a part of me today. When I first attempted to recall who I was before the abuse, I could not remember specific traits or memories. I was so young when the abuse started, no older than 5, and it felt like trying to recall the memories of someone who wasn’t yet a person. The abuse occurred during my formative years, when a child’s brain develops into who they will become later in life, from our social lives to our emotions to how we show up relationally.” By Meredith McKay, National Catholic Reporter

 ‘Good Policy’
“Since 2002, numerous bills have been introduced in the New York State Legislature to add clergy to the list of mandated reporters for child sexual abuse. The bills — which have respected the sanctity of the confessional — long have been supported by the New York State Catholic Conference (NYSCC), which represents the state’s bishops in matters of public policy, and by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany, who has been a national leader in responding to the clergy abuse crisis. But 20 years since the first bills were introduced — which were spurred on by the sexual abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston that was exposed by the Boston Globe — clergy still are not included in the expansive state list of mandated reporters(link is external) that includes doctors, social workers, police officers, social service workers and most school officials.” By Mike Matvey, The Evangelist, The Official Publication of the Diocese of Albany

Reclaiming the Catholic moral and intellectual tradition form the culture wars
“When Michael Murphy, director of Loyola’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, first invited me to join this conversation, he asked me to give a few remarks as part of a panel on how the culture wars have distorted Catholic bioethics. But then I was relocated to a keynote address on the topic ‘Reclaiming the Catholic Moral and Intellectual Tradition from the Culture Wars(link is external).’ If the first topic was big, the second is, colossal. So I am going to take the original starting point that he gave me — the culture wars and bioethics — as a way into the larger question.” By M. Therese Lysaught, National Catholic Reporter

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

If Pennsylvania senators don’t extend time limits for sexual abuse cases, Wolf will call special session
“Gov. Tom Wolf says if state lawmakers don’t temporarily extend the statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse this year, he’ll call a special session on the matter(link is external). A 2018 grand jury recommended the state temporarily lift legal time limits for survivors with decades-old cases to allow them to sue their alleged abusers. Pennsylvania now lets anyone who says they were abused as a child come to court with a civil lawsuit before age 55, but some survivors missed their opportunity when the time window was smaller. Research shows social and psychological pressures can keep survivors from coming forward for far longer.” By Sam Dynkjlau, WESA-FM Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

Legionaries’ updated abuse report reveals four new allegations
“The Legionaries of Christ received four new allegations of sexual abuse against members of the congregation between March 2021 and March 2022(link is external), and new allegations also have been made against priests already undergoing canonical procedures after being named in previous reports. The Legionaries’ 2021 ‘Annual Report: Truth, Justice and Healing’ was released April 6 with updates to their ongoing effort to ‘give an account of their commitments to the victims of sexual abuse since the publication three years ago (December 2019) of all cases from their history.’ Since releasing its previous annual report in March 2021, the congregation received four new allegations, it said.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Agency

CONNECTICUT

New Haven priest accused of sexual abuse in 1990s
“The Rev. Joseph M. Elko, administrator of St. Martin de Porres Roman Catholic Church, has been placed on administrative leave because of a claim of sexual abuse that allegedly occurred in the 1990s(link is external). In an email Monday (Apr. 11), David Elliott, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Hartford, said the news was announced at Masses this weekend. The church is located at 136 Dixwell Ave. ‘As a result of the receipt of that claim, pursuant to the Archdiocese’s protocol, Fr. Elko has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation of the claim,’ Elliott said in the statement.” By Ed Stannard, New Haven Register

ILLINOIS

Trial set for priest charged in 2017 sexual assault case
“The trial of a Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting a Shapiro Developmental Center resident(link is external) in 2017 is set to begin Monday (Apr. 18) in Kankakee County Circuit Court. Formerly a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Goodrich and longtime assistant at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Kankakee, Richard E. Jacklin, 70, is facing three felony charges that could carry a prison term of 12 to 50 years. He is charged with aggravated sexual assault, six to 30 years; criminal sexual assault, four to 15 years; and sexual misconduct, two to five years.” By Jeff Bonty, Daily Journal

INDIANA

Carmel priest files lawsuit in response to allegations of inappropriate conduct
“A Carmel priest filed a lawsuit in response to allegations of inappropriate conduct(link is external). In March, the Diocese of Lafayette suspended Father James DeOreo after receiving allegations of inappropriate conduct with a minor. DeOreo was suspended from public ministry. The diocese said at the time that the allegation violates the Diocesan Code of Conduct for Clergy. The diocese said the allegation was reported to Indiana Child Protective Services.” By WTHR-TV13 News

Evansville priest on leave after allegations of sexual misconduct
“A Evansville priest has been removed from the public ministry after an allegation of sexual misconduct from 20 years ago(link is external) was reported to the Diocese of Evansville. According to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Father Bernie Etienne served at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church and is currently placed on administrative leave. The Diocese did not clarify the nature of the allegations against Father Etienne, regarding the age, gender of the victim and where the sexual misconduct took place.” By Shwetha Sundarrajan, WANE-TV15 News

MASSACHUSETTS

Diocese asks state’s top court to halt suit by Bishop Weldon sexual abuse survivor
“A lawyer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield asked the state’s top court Monday (Apr. 4) to halt a civil lawsuit brought by the former Chicopee altar boy who suffered sexual assaults decades ago at the hands of former Bishop Christopher J. Weldon(link is external). The high-profile case was elevated from the Appeals Court to the Supreme Judicial Court in December because the high court wanted to consider issues it raises. They include whether the diocese, which includes all of Berkshire County, is protected by what’s known as charitable immunity, a legal protection that existed under certain circumstances at the time of the assaults in the 1960s.” By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle

MISSISSIPPI

Ex-friar found guilty of sexual abuse of former student at Catholic school
“A former Franciscan friar has been found guilty of sexually abusing a student(link is external) during the 1990s at a Greenwood Catholic school. A Leflore County jury deliberated less than an hour Wednesday (Apr. 13) before finding Paul West guilty of one count of sexual battery and one count of gratification of lust. West, 62, was sentenced by Circuit Judge Ashley Hines to 30 years on the first count and 15 years on the second, to be served consecutively.” By Kevin Edwards, McComb Enterprise-Journal

NEW YORK.

Diocese moves to reinstate freeze on cases
“In a bid to keep parishes and officials, including Bishop Salvatore Matano, from answering scores of sexual-abuse allegations against church officials in state court(link is external), the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester has asked for a Bankruptcy Court trial. Known as adversarial proceedings or APs for short, such trials look to have a bankruptcy judge resolve differences between parties in a case. Parties not satisfied with a bankruptcy judge’s ruling can appeal the ruling to a federal district court.” By Will Astor, Rochester Beacon

Two accused priests sue Buffalo Diocese after their pensions are cut
“Two retired Buffalo priests accused of sexually abusing minors(link is external) are suing the Buffalo Diocese to restore their pensions, which were reduced or eliminated after the priests refused to submit to a monitoring program pushed by the State Attorney General’s Office. The Rev. Arthur J. Smith and the Rev. Pascal D. Ipolito maintain that they are not child molesters and haven’t had a fair hearing to defend themselves against the accusations. They also said they earned the pensions that were promised to them when they became priests decades ago and when they retired a few years ago.” By Jay Tokasz, The Buffalo News

PENNSYLVANIA

Sexual assault survivor shares story, what he is doing to help victims
“In 2016, a Pennsylvania grand jury report revealed widespread sexual assault by Catholic priests in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. One of the accounts in that report came from Shaun Dougherty who is from Johnstown, PA and survived sexual abuse by his priest when he was 10 years old(link is external). ‘I’m here to share my story so it is not repeated again,’ Dougherty said to an small audience in the HUB’s Ohio Room. Dougherty came to IUP as part of the University’s Six O’clock Series which are a series of guest lectures open to the public. He does not want his story to be ‘heavy.’ Instead, he wants his story to be an inspiration for others to speak up and act.” By Samuel Bigham, ThePenn.org

Preventing child abuse – ‘Fight for that kid’: Law enforcement, court professionals work to seek justice
“Chris Swartz is a tall, barrel-chested police officer. He’s not exactly the kind of guy who, at first appearance, would be envisioned spending countless hours comforting children in their times of most desperate need. But as a member of the Johnstown Police Department, he has been providing compassion and justice for young victims of sexual and physical abuse for years(link is external). ‘With me, I took this position as a juvenile detective because I care about kids,’ Swartz said during an interview on April 1, just hours after a 14-month-old Johnstown girl died at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, the victim of a homicide.” By Dave Sutor, Tribune-Democrat

WISCONSIN

Details lacking in Kaul clergy sex probe
“Wisconsin’s attorney general said his investigation into clergy sex abuse across the state has resulted in 1,000 calls to his tipline, 204 reports, and one criminal case. But there are some questions the AG is not answering. Kaul launched his investigation into the Catholic Church in Wisconsin one year ago. On Tuesday (Apr. 19), he provided an update on his progress. ‘As of April 18, the Wisconsin Department of Justice Clergy and Faith Leader Initiative has received a total of 204 completed reports to the toll-free tip line and the online reporting tool accusing more than 150 individuals of abuse …’ Kaul said in a statement.” By Benjamin Yount, The Center Square, on apg-wi.com

AFRICA

Priest urges Rmaphosa to establish inquiry into historical sexual abuse
“Activist and Anglican priest, Reverend June Major, has taken her fight for justice for sexual assault victims to the president’s office(link is external). On Wednesday (Apr. 12), Major handed a memorandum to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office in Tuynhuys, Cape Town, calling for a commission of inquiry into historic child sexual offences within churches and other faith-based institutions.” By Bulelwa Payl, iol.co.za

CANADA

Montreal Catholic Church ombudswoman details delays, resistance to complaint process
“An independent ombudswoman hired by the Catholic Church of Montreal said Tuesday (Apr. 19) she’s encountering delays and resistance to her efforts to address complaints, warning that the process to tackle abuse and misconduct risks becoming a ‘smokescreen(link is external).’ The third quarterly report published Tuesday by Marie Christine Kirouack said that in recent months she’s faced a number of problems, including non-compliance with deadlines, delays and a failure by church officials to follow up with people who are subject to complaints.” By Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press, in Toronto Star

EAST TIMOR

Convicted UK pedophile priest visited Timor-Leste
“A Catholic priest convicted in the UK last week of sexually abusing boys in his care also came into contact with children in Timor-Leste and took them to his hotel room(link is external) during visits to the country that spanned a decade, it has emerged. Father Patrick Smythe, 79, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison by Leeds Crown Court on April 7, told police during an interview that he had visited Timor-Leste over a period of 10 years ‘sponsoring people of the country.’ He is also said to have been in contact with children of a similar age to the victims he has been convicted of abusing.” By UCANews.com

FRANCE

French Catholic Church in crisis: Trainee priests grapple with aftermath of abuse scandal
“Six months after the publication of the Sauvé report, which revealed the scale of sexual abuse over decades in the French Catholic Church, what effect has the crisis had on aspiring priests? Despite the atmosphere of mistrust currently enveloping the Church, some forty students at the diocese in Orléans are training to join the priesthood while attempting to learn from the errors of those before them(link is external). Our France 2 colleagues report, with FRANCE 24’s Emerald Maxwell.” By Emerald Maxwell, France24.com

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND, AND WALES

Catholic priest who preyed on schoolboys branded a ‘beast’ as he is jailed for historic sex offenses in Leeds
“Father Patrick Smythe was locked up for seven and a half years after a jury reached unanimous guilty verdicts after a trial at Leeds Crown Court(link is external). Jurors heard how Smythe, 79, preyed on three of his victims during swimming trips to the former Leeds International Pool. Smythe also targeted boys in his care while on a retreat at a hostel in North Yorkshire. A judge who sentenced Smythe told the pensioner he had told a ‘pack of lies’ to the court during the trial. Judge Simon Batiste said: ‘The offenses involved six different complainants who were at the time of the offences aged between 12 and 16.” By Tony Gardner, Yorkshire Evening Post

SWITZERLAND

Swiss Catholic Church to open secret files to sexual abuse investigators
“In late 2021, the Catholic Church in Switzerland instructed two historians to investigate sexual abuse within the organization. The move followed evidence of sexual abuse on a staggering scale within the organization in France(link is external). On 4 April 2022, a date was announced for the opening of the secret episcopal archives, reported RTS. Work will start on 1 May 2022. The researchers running the investigation are from the University of Zurich. The organizations requesting the investigation include the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, KOVOS and RKZ, three Catholic associations in Switzerland.” By LeNews.ch

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Is Pope Francis prepping for doomsday in the church? I hope so. / America: The Jesuit Review

If that interpretation proves accurate to the Vatican’s intent, it would mean not only that most of the departments in the dusty but incredibly well-decorated halls of Rome can be run by women and men who aren’t priests, but that our local parishes and dioceses could. 

By Jim McDermott, America: The Jesuit Review

“If you’re not a Vaticanista, the announcement of the proposed reform of the Roman Curia on March 17 might have seemed like some pretty standard Catholic gobbledygook. What is the Roman Curia? And why should I care about dicasteries? Does this mean I get to go back to eating meat on Fridays? If not, why are we talking about it?

“But in the midst of the release of the reform document (which was actually a big deal for many reasons), Vatican experts recognized something that actually could change things for you and me in a potentially massive way. As one theological expert who worked on the constitution put it, the Vatican seems to be saying that the “power of governance in the church does not come from the sacrament of [Holy] Orders” but from one’s mission in the church. That is, being in positions of leadership in the church should not require a collar, ordination or being a man.

“If that interpretation proves accurate to the Vatican’s intent, it would mean not only that most of the departments in the dusty but incredibly well-decorated halls of Rome can be run by women and men who aren’t priests, but that our local parishes and dioceses could. Your sister could potentially be put in charge of the parish where I say Mass; my aunt Kathleen or Uncle Stan could even end up running the diocese someday! (And they would be awesome.)

“If this sounds hard to believe, let’s remember that almost all of our Catholic schools are run by incredibly talented women and men who are not priests, and have been so in most cases for decades. The same is true of our Catholic social service agencies, homeless shelters and pretty much every other Catholic institution. Even some parishes are already run by “lay administrators” who effectively serve as pastors.”

By Jim McDermott, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful presents “Conversations on Synodality with Vatican Commission Experts”

Rafael Luciani & Kristin Colberg

Voice of the Faithful is presenting a webinar, “Conversations on Synodality with Vatican Commission Experts,” on April 20 as one of the events marking its 20th anniversary in 2022. The synod theological commission members featured on the webinar are Rafael Luciani and Kristin Colberg.

The Synod on Synodality, being held in three phases between 2021 and 2023, is called “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” This Synod is the most significant opportunity ever for the church’s laity to influence the future of the Church and will provide all people of God with a chance to express how they see the Church becoming the synodal, pastoral, evangelical Church it should be.

Rafael Luciani is a Venezuelan theologian and associate professor of theology/professor extraordinarius in the ecclesiastical faculty of the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College. He also serves as theological advisor to the Latin American Bishops Council and is a member of the Theological Advisory Team of the presidency of the Latin American Confederation of Religious men and women. Among his articles and books is Pope Francis and the Theology of the People.

Kristin Colberg is associate professor of theology at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary, covering theology, eccelesiology, and theological anthropology. She also has worked with the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, striving for Christian unity. Her theological work is rooted in her desire to show the church can speak meaningfully in the modern context. Among her publications is her book Vatican I and Vatican II: Councils in the Living Tradition.

Click here to register(link is external) for “Conversations on Synodality with Vatican Commission Experts.”


Click her to register for VOTF’s Synod on Synodality input sessions for April and May.


Voice of the Faithful® 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 www.votf.org.

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You can now register for VOTF Synod on Synodality input sessions for April & May

Voice of the Faithful has scheduled additional input sessions for the Synod on Synodality for April & May. The Synod is the most significant opportunity ever for the Church’s laity to influence the future of the Church. Anyone interested may note the following points and then register for one Set of two sessions using the links below:

  • Each Set will include two sessions.
  • Questions in session two follow those of session one in each Set.
  • You need register for only one set of sessions to ensure your input.
  • Sessions are restricted in size to ensure all can effectively share their experiences.
  • Registration for each Set will be closed when Set is full.
  • Please feel free to invite friends, neighbors, adult children, and others.

VOTF’s previous sessions ended with Set 9, so these sessions start with Set 10. Set 10 and Set 11 differ from those VOTF usually offers because they are being held on consecutive days instead of on consecutive weeks. This is to avoid holding the second sessions in each of these Sets during Holy Week.

Please note that the final “Submit” button when registering links to the “Synod Overview” document needed to prepare for the questions asked during the sessions. Registration for each Set will be closed when Set is full.

Set 10: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Wed., Apr. 6, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Thur., Apr. 7, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT

Set 11: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Sat., Apr. 9, 2 p.m. EDT, 1 p.m. CDT, Noon MDT, 11 a.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Sun., Apr.10, 2 p.m. EDT, 1 p.m. Central, Noon MDT, 4 p.m. PDT

Set 12: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Tues., Apr. 19, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Tues., Apr. 26, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT

Set 13: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Thurs., Apr. 21, 5 p.m. EDT, 4 p.m. CDT, 3 p.m. MDT, 2 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Thurs., Apr. 28, 5 p.m. EDT, 4 p.m. CDT, 3 p.m. MDT, 2 p.m. PDT

Set 14: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Mon., Apr. 25, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Mon., May 2, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT

Set 15: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Wed., Apr. 27, 11 a.m. EDT, 10 a.m. CDT, 9 a.m. MDT, 8 a.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Wed., May 4, 11 a.m. EDT, 10 a.m. CDT, 9 a.m. MDT, 8 a.m. PDT

Set 16: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Sun., May 1, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Sun., May 8, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT

Set 17: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Tues., May 10, 6 p.m. EDT, 5 p.m. CDT, 4 p.m. MDT, 3 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Tues., May 17, 6 p.m. EDT, 5 p.m. CDT, 4 p.m. MDT, 3 p.m. PDT

Set 18: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Thurs., May 12, 11 a. EDT, 10 a.m. CDT, 9 a.m. MDT, 8 a.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Thurs., May 19, 11 a. EDT, 10 a.m. CDT, 9 a.m. MDT, 8 a.m. PDT

Set 19: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Fri., May 13, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Fri., May 20, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT

Set 20: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Sat., May 14, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Sat., May 21, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT

Set 21: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Mon., May 16, Noon EDT, 11 a.m. CDT, 10 a.m. MDT, 9 a.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Mon., May 23, Noon EDT, 11 a.m. CDT, 10 a.m. MDT, 9 a.m. PDT

Set 22: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Wed., May 18, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Wed., May 25, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT

Set 23: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Tues, May 24, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Tues., May 31, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT

The Synod is for Mutual Discernment

This is your opportunity to express your hopes, dreams, desires, and, yes, even your concerns for the future of the Catholic Church. We will listen intently to the Holy Spirit and engage in mutual discernment to seek a path forward for our Church. The Synod on Synodality, officially called “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” will provide all people of God with a chance to express how they see the Church becoming the synodal, pastoral, evangelical Church it should be.

VOTF emphasizes that all voices are to be heard for the Synod, even the voices of those who feel uncomfortable talking in a group about their experiences and hopes for the future of the Church. Anyone who would like additional information may email office@votf.org(link sends e-mail).

Click here to go to VOTF’s Synod 2021-2023 resources webpage …

Click here for Zoom instructions …

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In shockingly frank deposition, former bishop admits moving alleged abusers from treatment to ministry / America: The Jesuit Review

In similarly straightforward testimony, Bishop Hubbard said that in instances when priests admitted to him that they had committed abuse, he did not report this to Albany police.

Kevin Clarke, America: The Jesuit Review

“In testimony conducted over four days in April 2021, Bishop Howard Hubbard, the former leader of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., described in unusually frank terms how he moved diocesan priests who had been accused of molesting children in and out of treatment centers and back into ministry. He admitted that the transfers were consistently made without informing local police, families of abuse victims or Catholics in Albany’s parishes, where the men were reassigned.

“Bishop Hubbard testified that parishioners were told that their pastors had been removed for ‘treatment’ with no further explanation.

“‘My perspective is we did not reveal the reason for his treatment,’ Bishop Hubbard told Jeff Anderson, the lead attorney for one of the survivors suing the diocese, in reference to one priest.

“‘And the reason for his treatment was he had been accused of sexually abusing a minor, correct?’ Mr. Anderson asked.

“‘That is correct,’ answered the bishop, who led the diocese from 1977 until 2014, answered.

“Mr. Anderson pressed further. ‘As a matter of practice and protocol, you as the bishop were required to keep that secret to avoid scandal and protect the reputation of the church, of the diocese, correct?’ he asked.

“‘I think both were reasons for not disclosing fully the reason for his treatment,’ Bishop Hubbard responded, after clarifying objections from his attorney.”

By Kevin Clarke, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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