Archive for January, 2023

Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

Jan. 20, 2023


Hierarchy’s sacramental betrayal in abuse scandal obstructs synodality
“What I eventually came to understand about the scandal affected not only my career … It would also ultimately place in question much of what I knew and understood about the church. What transpired regarding the scandal in the more than 35 years since that phone conversation continues to be the dominant lens through which I view developments in the church, including the synodal process underway. I agree with theologian Massimo Faggioli and Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, who wrote recently in this space: ‘It must be understood that the chances of the synodal process that will soon begin its continental phase are closely tied to what the Catholic Church is doing and not doing on the abuse crisis. It’s about the abuse crisis even when it’s not explicitly about the abuse crisis.’” By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter

The life and complicated legacy of Pope Benedict XVI
“Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died at 95 on Saturday (Dec. 31), leaving behind a complicated legacdy and a lasting impact on Catholics across the globe. Margaret Roylance, vice president of Voice of the Faithful – a lay group that supports survivors of clergy sexual abuse – and Thomas Groome, professor of theology & religious education at Boston College, spoke to Liz Neisloss about the positive changes the late pope made within the Church, as well as the darker periods of his papacy.” By WGBH-TV News

Exclusive: Vatican must treat abuse victims better, pope’s lead investigator says
“Pope Francis’ lead clergy abuse investigator has acknowledged survivors’ frustrations with the Vatican’s strict culture of secrecy about Catholic bishops accused of misconduct or cover-up. Victims who bring a claim forward have a right to know how it is handled, said Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna. In a National Catholic Reporter interview, Scicluna admitted the Vatican is not at what he termed ‘an optimal point’ with regard to how it follows up with abuse victims, calling the matter ‘something that needs to be developed.’” By Joshua J.McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Traditionalists, reform and women
“As the Catholic Synod on Synodality enters its ‘continental phase,’ some have wondered if the church is moving toward Vatican Three. Of course, there are still fights going on about Vatican Two. Not long ago, Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod, said the current synod would lead ‘to a new reception of the Second Vatican Council,’ allowing the reforms of the mid-1960s to finally take hold. A small but vocal cadre of Catholics fears that precise possibility, which they caricature as a church overrun with bad liturgy, bad moral theology and guitar music.” By Phyllis Zagano, Religion News Service

Women and the Church
“We should not forget Sarah, but rather, we should remember her more than we do, and recognize her role in salvation history was at least equal to Abraham’s. What has happened to Sarah, the way we tend to forget about her and think only of Abraham, shows how easy it is for us to ignore the role women have played in salvation history. We must not think this is a problem only for those women born before Christ, for if we look at Christian history, it is clear that the role Christian women have played in history has been marginalized or forgotten, just like it was for their pre-Christian counterparts.” By Henry Karlson, Patheos


Diocese again receives high grade in annual VOTF report
“In the recent 2022 financial transparency report by the Voice of the Faithful, a national lay organization of Catholics that formed after the revelations of clerical sexual abuse in 2002, the Fall River Diocese was again ranked among the top dioceses belonging to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For the second consecutive year the diocese earned a score of 92 out of 100 points. The report is based on a review of 177 dioceses across the country. The review was done last summer by a team of independent reviewers, with results published on November 30. The average score for the 177 dioceses surveyed was 70 (up from 69 last year).” By Anchor News of the Diocese of Fall River

McCarrick’s lawyers say he’s not competent to stand trial
“Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick is in ‘significant’ mental decline and may not be fit to stand trial for allegedly sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy, his attorneys say in a new court filing. The legal team for the 92-year-old ex-prelate said it plans to file a motion to dismiss the case, citing a neurological exam conducted by Dr. David Schretlen, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The exam took place on Dec. 5, 2022, at a facility in Missouri where McCarrick is living.” By Joe Bukuras, Catholic News Agency


Pope Francis: synodal journey ‘a challenge and task’ for American seminarians
“Pope Francis told American seminarians in Rome that they are called to take up the ‘challenge and task’ of the synodal journey — of listening to the Holy Spirit and to one another — as they study to become priests. The pope met with students, staff, and faculty of the Pontifical North American College at the Vatican on the morning of Jan. 14. ‘Your time here in Rome,’ he said, ‘coincides with the synodal journey that the whole Church is presently undertaking, a journey that involves listening, to the Holy Spirit and to one another, in order to discern how to help God’s holy people live his gift of communion and become missionary disciples.’” By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

Church in Oceania prepares response to Synod of Bishops report
“The rich diversity of the Catholic Church across Oceania, as well as its unity, was evident during a meeting in Melbourne last week of representatives of the region’s four bishops conferences and Eastern Catholic churches. More than 20 people from across the Pacific gathered to reflect on and respond to the Working Document for the Continental Stage released by the Synod of Bishops Secretariat, titled Enlarge the Space of Your Tent. The discernment and writing group was convened to prepare a draft report from Oceania to be considered at next month’s assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO) in Fiji.” By Catholic Outlook, News from the Diocese of Parramatta

Synod on Synodality: ‘great moment of ecclesial communion’: Catholic bishops in CAR
“The ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality offer an opportunity for ‘ecclesial communion’ among the people of God in the Central African Republic (CAR), Catholic Bishops in the country have said. In a statement issued Sunday, Jan. 15, members of the Central African Episcopal Conference (CECA) say the synodal process has helped the Church in CAR to seek a new beginning in Christ.” By Jude Atemanke,

If taken seriously, the synodal process could transform race relations in the U.S. church
“Since our nation’s origin, color and race have crippled the quest for equality. The racial gap that many believed was narrowing has abruptly widened. White backlash to eight years of a Black president, police and vigilante killings of unarmed Blacks, the cumulative impacts of mass incarceration, disparities in health care, job opportunities, home financing, school suspensions, criminal justice sentences and other inequities confirm the 1968 Kerner Commission finding that America is two unequal societies.” By Daryl Grigsby, National Catholic Reporter


Pope Francis reorganizes Diocese of Rome in face of ‘epochal change’
“Pope Francis on Friday Jan. 6) issued a document reorganizing the Vicariate of Rome in what he called a time of ‘epochal change.’ The apostolic constitution, In Ecclesiarum Communione, replaces a 1998 constitution promulgated by Pope John Paul II. It goes into effect on Jan. 31. ‘In arranging this new Constitution for the Vicariate,’ Francis wrote in the preface, ‘in the face of an ‘epochal change’ that involves everything and everyone, I hope that it will be primarily an exemplary place of communion, dialogue and proximity, welcoming and transparent, at the service of the renewal and pastoral growth of the Diocese of Rome, an evangelizing community, a synodal Church, a people which credibly witness to God’s mercy.’” By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, in National Catholic Register

Benedict’s burial leaves Francis alone, and unbound
“Since the first day of his papacy nearly a decade ago, Pope Francis has had to navigate an unprecedented complication in the Roman Catholic Church: coexisting with his retired predecessor in the same Vatican gardens. Supporters of Francis studiously played down the two-pontiff anomaly, but it generated confusion, especially when conservative acolytes of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI sought to wrap their fervent opposition in their leader’s white robes.” By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times


George Pell, cardinal whose abuse conviction was overturned, dies at 81
“Cardinal George Pell, an Australian cleric and adviser to Pope Francis who became the most senior Roman Catholic prelate to be sent to prison for child sexual abuse and was later acquitted of all charges, died on Tuesday (Jan. 10) in Rome. He was 81 … Cardinal Pell was for decades one of Australia’s most powerful religious figures. A former athlete with a formidable intellect and a combative streak, he was a conservative voice heard regularly in the media, opposing abortion while defending the church against accusations of child abuse as the archbishop of the Melbourne diocese and then the Sydney diocese.” By Natasha Frost and Damien Cave, The New York Times

Woman accusing prominent cardinal of sexual misconduct reveals identity
“The woman who alleges she experienced unwanted sexual touching by Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet has revealed her identity, saying she wants more transparency from the Vatican and to encourage others to come forward with their stories of abuse. Paméla Groleau is one of the more than 130 people taking part in a class action lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec, which includes allegations of sexual misconduct against 96 members of its clergy dating back to 1940.” By CBC News


LCWR leaders talk about unprecedented transformation of religious life
“The biggest issues in religious life in the United States today all revolve around the transformation it is undergoing, say leaders of the organization representing about two-thirds of the country’s Catholic sisters. That was the focus of an hourlong interview Global Sisters Report staff had via Zoom with officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2022, during a GSR staff ‘summit’ at the National Catholic Reporter offices.” By Dan Stockman, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

For 2023, USIG officers prioritize the synodal journey and a ‘culture of care’
“Catholic sisters are looking both deeply outward and deeply inward — affirming both ministries to help heal a broken world and accompanying people on their spiritual journeys. Those are among the takeaways from a nearly 90-minute interview Global Sisters Report staff had via Zoom with officers of the International Union of Superiors General, or UISG, on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at National Catholic Reporter offices in Kansas City, Missouri.” By Chris Herlinger, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter


Dolores Curran had the shocking idea that laity might lead the Catholic Church
“With a peal of laughter, the dynamic, groundbreaking Dolores Curran arrived in heaven on Dec. 4. At a time when the U.S. Catholic Church was dominated by priests and religious, she introduced the then-shocking notion that the laity might also play a part. In her groundbreaking 1985 book “Who, Me Teach My Child Religion?” she suggested the home was an arena for spirituality and that parents just might find God there. She taught that the sacred work of relationships doesn’t happen only at church or on retreat, but in kitchens, garages and bedrooms.” By Kathy Coffey, National Catholic Reporter


Safeguarding requires experts, survivors, support, cardinal says
There can be no improvising or going it alone when it comes to preventing and handling cases of abuse in the Catholic Church, said U.S. Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Everything must be considered with an accusation: ‘the rights of victim, the rights of the accused, the civil authorities, the church, the parish, the families’ and more, the cardinal told Catholic News Service in Rome Jan. 6.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, on


French priest restricted, not defrocked, after abuse claims
“The Vatican has ordered a prominent French priest who advised the Holy See for years on matters of sex and homosexuality to cease his psychotherapy practice following allegations he sexually abused men in his therapeutic care. But the Vatican didn’t defrock or otherwise sanction the Rev. Tony Anatrella despite several well-documented complaints against him, in further evidence of the Holy See’s reluctance to invoke harsh measures to punish priests who abuse adults.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press


The legacy of Cardinal George Pell: Is it what the church needs now?
“Cardinal George Pell, who died this week as a result of complications related to hip surgery, was the poster boy for Pope John Paul II’s ‘heroic priesthood,’ a discernible type of prelate that was common throughout the 20th century. Conspicuous, forceful, determined, dismissive toward contrary opinions, he was a polarizing figure convinced of the need to risk polarization in order to defend the church’s teachings.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

More Americans stay away from church as pandemic nears year three
“At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every congregation in the United States shut down, at least for a while. For some Americans, that was the push they needed to never come back to church. A new report, which looked at in-person worship attendance patterns before the beginning of the pandemic and in 2022, found that a third of those surveyed never attend worship services. That’s up from 25% before the start of the pandemic.” By Bob Smietana, National Catholic Reporter


Diane Langberg on church leaders and abuse: ‘We have utterly failed God’
“Not long after Diane Langberg began working as a clinical psychologist in the 1970s, a client told her that she had been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her father. Not sure of what to do, Langberg went to talk to her supervisor. The supervisor, Langberg recalled, dismissed the allegations. ‘He told me that women make these things up,’ Langberg said. ‘My job was to not be taken in by them.’ The supervisor’s response left Langberg in a dilemma. Did she believe her client? Or did she trust her supervisor’s advice?” By Bob Smietana, Religion News Service

Benedict XVI’s quiet exit at odds with his lasting imprint on the pontificate
“Some popes go out with a bang. The announcement of Pope John Paul II’s death in 2005 reverberated around the world, and in Rome, locals will tell you that his funeral was the biggest one in memory: Cars were abandoned mid-traffic, as mobs rushed toward St. Peter’s Basilica. An estimated 3 million faithful lined up for hours on end to glimpse John Paul’s casket. By comparison, the news of Benedict XVI’s death, delivered on New Year’s Eve, was met with an unmistakable air of quiet.” By Claire Giangravé, Religion News Service


Survivors of sexual abuse plead for changes in Kansas law that protects pedophiles
“Four survivors of childhood sexual abuse revealed details about the worst moments of their lives in a public rebuke of state law that protects pedophiles from criminal prosecution or civil lawsuits. Backed by a bipartisan coalition of state lawmakers, the women emphasized that it can take years before a survivor accepts what happened and is willing to talk about it. Most people who are victimized as children won’t share their experiences until they are over age 50. Kansas state law requires requires survivors to file a civil lawsuit by age 21.” By Shermin Smith, Louisiana Illuminator

New Pa. speaker wants ‘work group’ after slow session start
“A week after he was a surprise choice to become speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Democratic state Rep. Mark Rozzi on Monday (Jan. 9) canceled sessions for the rest of the week after failing to reach a deal on his primary legislative priority. Lawmakers were brought to the Capitol for a hastily called special session designed to speed passage of a two-year window for letting some victims of child sexual abuse file otherwise outdated lawsuits.” By Mark Scolforo, Associated Press

Child sex abuse is ‘soul murder.’ Massachusetts should lift the statute of limitations
“A recent change in Maine law has given people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s a chance to seek justice, at long last, for the sex abuse they endured as children. The measure retroactively eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits in these cases, allowing victims to seek restitution from the churches and summer camps and Boy Scout troops that had failed them so grievously decades ago. Robert Dupuis, 73, is among those who have filed suit since the law changed.” By The Boston Globe Editorial Board

Part 2: Law could eliminate statute of limitations in civil cases involving sexual assault
“Churches across the country, including Corpus Christi, have survivors of sexual abuse by priests asking for information about their alleged assailant. Patrick Wilkes has requested secret files on his father, James Wilkes, who was a priest in Corpus Christi but he said they have not been provided. He also said his father sexually abused him, his siblings and others.” By Bryan Hoffman, KRIS-TV6 News


Archbishop Scicluna defends Benedict XVI’s efforts to fight abuse
“Benedict XVI’s passing has reignited talk about how adequately he addressed sexual abuse in the Church. From being the first Pontiff to meet with abuse victims, to taking action against powerful and guilty priests, to being accused of mismanaging cases in his diocese when he was a bishop in Germany, the Pope Emeritus left a mixed record, according to many observers. However, the Archbishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna, has instead strongly defended the Pope Emeritus’ efforts in various statements published by multiple media outlets.” By Isabella H. de Carvalho, Aleteia

How might the latest George Pell coverage affect child sexual abuse survivors?
“You might have wondered if the recent death of George Pell, who was jailed in 2019 for child sexual abuse and then later acquitted, would bring a sense of relief or closure for victim survivors of Catholic clergy sexual abuse. After all, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found Pell had failed to do enough during his time in senior church roles in Australia to stop priests who abused children.” By The Conversation


‘Just find the truth’: How ex-FBI aagents help the LA Archdiocese vet accusations
“For 25 years, Marty Gallagher tracked down kidnappers, investigated government fraud and foreign counterintelligence, and in one case even helped send a young military contractor to prison for espionage. After retiring from his post as a Los Angeles-based FBI agent in 1988, he spent time in the private sector … Then, in the 2000s, he discovered a new calling that asked for his talents and experience: helping the Catholic Church investigate allegations of clerical sexual abuse, part of a crisis that was then shaking the institution to its core.” By Tom Hoffarth and Pablo Kay, Angelus News


Kansas clergy not mandatory reporters for child sex crimes
“Following a KBI report involving child sexual abuse by Catholic Clergy in Kansas, the KSHB 41 I-Team has been digging into allegations made in the past, as well as examining possible solutions to prevent this type of abuse in the future. And, what we’re hearing from some critics, is that not enough is being done to ensure these crimes are reported.” By Caitlin Knute, KSHB-TV41 News

Victims’ attorney reacts to KBI report detailing child abuse by Catholic clergy in Kansas
“The 21-page report details what KBI calls an immense investigation. It has a scope of more than 50 years, looking into all four archdioceses of Kansas. During the four-year investigation, KBI’s Catholic Clergy Sexual Abuse Task Force identified more than 400 victims, opened 125 criminal cases and investigated nearly 200 clergy members. The Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, recommended this investigation to the Attorney General’s Office in November 2018. On Saturday (Jan. 7), they released a statement in response to the report — saying you cannot read it without your heart breaking.” By Peyton Headlee, KMBC-TV9 News


Suit alleges sexual abuse at religious retreats in Bucksport and Bar Harbor decades ago
“An unnamed Oregon woman, ‘Jane Doe,’ who lived in a Catholic orphanage in Massachusetts in the 1950s, has filed a federal civil suit against the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate alleging sexual abuse by priests during Oblate-run retreats in Bar Harbor and Bucksport when she was a young child … The Maine Legislature in June of 2021 lifted a statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse cases, which is allowing the case of “Jane Doe” and a dozen others to move through the Maine civil court system.” By Jennifer Osborn, The Ellsworth American

Lawsuit alleges Bangor Catholic priest sexually assaulted woman in 1970s
“Another lawsuit has been filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, alleging sexual abuse. Mary Banks, a former Cumberland resident, alleges former priest Renal C. Halle at St. John’s Catholic Church in Bangor sexually assaulted her while she was a member of the diocese’s youth organization, according to the Portland Press Herald. The lawsuit includes seven counts, including sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” By CBS-TV13 News

Decades-old abuse claims against Portland diocese, once blocked, pour in after state law change
“When the Rev. Lawrence Sabatino allegedly sexually abused a 6-year-old Ann Marie Burke at St. Peter Parish nearly 60 years ago, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland already was aware of at least one other girl Sabatino had reportedly abused at a different church in Lewiston several years earlier. The church moved Sabatino from Lewiston to Portland in 1958, after 6-year-old Patricia Butkowski‘s parents presented church officials with evidence the priest had sexually abused their daughter, a report from the Maine Attorney General’s office revealed 46 years later.” By Emily Allen and eric Russell, Portland Pess Herald


Abuse victim speaks out
“The priest who sexually abused David Rigby in 1976 said he was giving the young student a medical exam. ‘As a naive, 14-year-old boy I didn’t realize that priests with no medical qualifications don’t have the right to give a medical exam to anybody,’ Rigby said Monday (Jan. 9). He was speaking on a corner in Andover across from St. Augustine Parish, where he was accompanied by Robert Hoatson of Road to Recovery, a charity that assists victims of sexual abuse. Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston attorney who represents clergy sex abuse victims, was present on Zoom. He said he earned a low, six-figure settlement a month ago for Rigby’s abuse and that of one other boy at the hands of the priest, Robert Turnbull.” By Will Broaddus, The Eagle-Tribune


Former St. Louis priest sentenced to prison for thousands of child porn images
“A former Catholic priest was sentenced Tuesday (Jan. 10) to five years in prison after admitting to possessing thousands of pieces of child pornography and putting them into PowerPoints that he edited over the course of more than a decade. Father James Beighlie, 72, was a Vincentian priest who most recently served as an associate pastor at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in St. Louis. He pleaded guilty in October to two counts of possession of child pornography. In exchange, prosecutors recommended he receive a prison sentence within a federal guideline range of just over seven years in prison.” By Katie Kull, St. Louis Post-Dispatch


How much will Pa. have to pay for child sex abuse claims if lawsuit window is opened up?
“As state lawmakers decide the political costs of opening a two-year window for child sex abuse survivors to sue, much of the debate about the two-year window for those past the statute of limitations has been about the potential financial impact on the catholic church over the egregious abuse claims outlined in those grand jury reports. But that proposal would open the door for all adult victims of child sexual abuse, and a new study shows how much that could ultimately cost taxpayers.” By WJAC-TV21 News


Catholic priest who formerly served in Charleston indicted on federal sex abuse charges
“Federal prosecutors charged a Catholic priest who served for several years in the Charleston Diocese with sexually abusing an 11-year-old child. Jaime Adolfo Gonzalez-Farias, 68, was arrested Nov. 28, 2022, in Florida, court records show. The Chilean national had worked in South Carolina as a visiting priest of the Diocese of San Bernardo, Chile, between 2015 and 2020, according to church records. Prosecutors charged him in an October 2022 indictment with three counts of sexual crimes: coercion or enticement of a minor; transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; and aggravated sexual abuse of children.” By Jocelyn Grzeszczak, The Post and Courier


Six investigates obtains secret documents held by the Diocese of Corpus Christi
“The history of sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church is widely documented. Locally, there are at least 12 pending civil cases against the Diocese of Corpus Christi. 6 Investigates obtained secret documents from the Diocese of Corpus Christi, which showed the steps they took, or didn’t take, when dealing with accusations against a local priest.” By Bryan Hoffman, KRIS-TV6 News


Vermont lawmaker to seek to close clergy reporting exemption
“The head of the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee says he’s going to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session to close an exemption to the state’s child abuse and neglect reporting laws for members of the clergy. Democratic Sen. Richard Sears of Bennington says he was unaware that the Vermont law requiring members of a number of professions, including doctors, teachers, social workers and the clergy, to report abuse if they become aware of it contains an exemption for members of the clergy if they become aware of abuse during a setting that is considered privileged, such as during confession.” By Wilson Ring, Associated Press


Former altar boy’s father to press on with abuse case against Pell
“The father of a former altar boy will press ahead with legal action against Cardinal George Pell’s estate over the alleged sexual abuse of his son, his lawyers said Wednesday (Jan. 11). Shine Lawyers said they would continue to pursue the claim against any estate left by the cardinal, who died Tuesday in Rome. The former altar boy died in 2014, and his father — who has not been identified — filed the claim against Pell and the Archdiocese of Melbourne in 2021.” By Agence France-Presse, on


French demonstrators demand extradition of retired priest accused of abusing Inuit children
“The French government denied Canada’s extradition request for Johannes Rivoire last fall. ‘For us as French citizen[s], it’s a real shame that our government refuses to make part of justice for Inuit people,’ said Amandine Sanvisens, who was among the demonstrators. ‘We wanted to show and to put the light on this place where he lives.’ The allegations against Rivoire stem from his time working as an Oblate priest in Nunavut in the 1960s and 1970s.” By CBC News


‘Blanquita’ turns real-life case of child abuse into indictment of injustice
“In spite of her youth, Blanquita (Laura López) knows she doesn’t want to be a saint. She’s tried it before, she says, and it didn’t work out. By age 18, she’s seen enough of life’s darkest side to know being good doesn’t mean she’ll be treated justly. She has spent her life living under a care system that’s failed to care for her when she needed it most, allowing men to abuse and exploit her in myriad ways. All she wants now is a place to live with her baby daughter, the identity of the father anyone’s guess considering she’s been sexually abused repeatedly and forced to engage in sex work in order to survive.” By Jose Solis, National Catholic Reporter


Former archbishop of Paris under investigation for sexual assault is ‘outraged but serene’
“The former archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, is reportedly under preliminary investigation for sexual assault on a vulnerable person, according to a report from the Archdiocese of Paris in late November 2022, French news channel BFMTV reported. According to the TV channel’s report, the allegations date back to 2011 and concern a vulnerable former parishioner, subject to a judicial protection measure. Aupetit is suspected of having exchanged sexual emails with this parishioner, who suffers from a “slight mental deficiency.” By Solène Tadié, Catholic News Agency


Catholic Church: one year Munich abuse report
“Many who were abused by Catholic clergymen as children or young people find that too little has happened. One of them is Rolf Fahnenbruck, who experienced severe sexualized violence as a child in the diocese of Essen and now lives in the diocese of Passau. He is the spokesman for the local Advisory Board. So far, he has been compensated for his suffering with 25,000 euros. But it’s not about the money, he says in an interview BR24. Because even with the performance notice, a person affected by abuse is alone again with his problem.” By David Sadler Globe Echo World News


Vatican replaces Indian bishop accused of serious crimes
“An Indian Catholic bishop probed by a Vatican-appointed team of bishops for alleged involvement in serious crimes like murder, rape and misappropriation of church funds, has been ordered to ‘take a period of absence from the ministry.’ Bishop Kannikadass A William of Mysore (now Mysuru) has been replaced by retired Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore as apostolic administrator of southern India’s Karnataka state.” By


Spiritan scandal: ‘Why was Fr. Arthur Carragher moved to Canads, where he was free to abuse my 10-year-old brother?
“Pete Fischer was standing in a queue at the supermarket when the call came that turned everything he knew, or thought he knew, about his older brother Jeff on its head. It was August 2018. The Pope’s visit to Ireland was making international headlines. An Irish man was interviewed on Canadian television about the sexual abuse he’d suffered as a child in Dublin at the hands of a priest called Fr Arthur Carragher, who was later shunted off to Canada.” By Maeve Sheehan,


New Zealand church leaders make commitments to abuse survivors
“The bishops and the leaders of religious orders of the Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand have published a statement of commitments adopted in response to the continuing work of the Royal Commission on Abuse in Care. The statement is signed by Fr Thomas Rouse SSC, President of the Congregational Leaders Conference of Aotearoa New Zealand, and Cardinal John Dew, President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, on behalf of their respective members. The set of 10 commitments – along with others previously made – will become part of what the Church calls the ‘Tautoko Roadmap’ for the path the Church is taking in response to the royal commission and the wishes of abuse survivors.” By


Old clerical abuse habits die hard in the Philippines
One serious case shows how some Church authorities still look to cover up sex attacks on minors—The many incidents of child sexual abuse by predator priests have shamed thousands of good bishops and benevolent clerics who have been justly angered by the rampant salacious acts of their fellow pedophile priests and in some cases by high-profile bishops and high-ranking cardinals. They feel helpless when their bishop protects the abuser priest and calls him ‘his son.’ They long for justice for the victims and wish to exonerate their own vocation and the blemished priesthood from the tyranny of abuser priests.” By

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Traditionalists, reform and women / Religion News Service

If truth be told, the women of the church are leading its reform. Only they can lead its rebirth.

Phyllis Zagano, Religion News Service

“As the Catholic Synod on Synodality enters its ‘continental phase, some have wondered if the church is moving toward Vatican Three.

“Of course, there are still fights going on about Vatican Two.

“Not long ago, Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod, said the current synod would lead ‘to a new reception of the Second Vatican Council,’ allowing the reforms of the mid-1960s to finally take hold. A small but vocal cadre of Catholics fears that precise possibility, which they caricature as a church overrun with bad liturgy, bad moral theology and guitar music.

“Lately these so-called traditionalists have lost two beacons of their truths. The recent deaths of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Australian Cardinal George Pell may serve to deflate the anti-synod underground, or at least weaken its intellectual base.”

By Phyllis Zagano, Religion News Service — Read more …

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Hierarchy’s sacramental betrayal in abuse scandal obstructs synodality / National Catholic Reporter

Members of the hierarchy appear not to realize the depth to which the effects of the scandal have seeped into every level of the institution. If they did, they would be acting far differently.

Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter

“It was in late spring, 1985, when I received a call from NCR’s then-editor Tom Fox. I think he said he hoped I was sitting down.

“Fox and I often exchanged calls when we thought that one of our publications had something of interest for the other. At the time, I was news editor of what was then called Religious News Service, headquartered on a floor in the former Jesuit residence at 56th Street and Sixth Avenue in New York.

“I was sitting at my desk when he told me that NCR’s next edition would contain an extensive and rather explosive report detailing the abuse of children by Catholic priests and the failure of hierarchy to do anything about it.

“That conversation was a jarring introduction to corruption and evil that continue to reverberate to this day. That first national story to be published about the scandal was extensive, detailed, and the accompanying editors’ commentary saw far into the future.

“What I eventually came to understand about the scandal affected not only my career (I landed at NCR in 1994) and how I would spend my time in the world of religion reporting. It would also ultimately place in question much of what I knew and understood about the church.”

What transpired regarding the scandal in the more than 35 years since that phone conversation continues to be the dominant lens through which I view developments in the church, including the synodal process underway. I agree with theologian Massimo Faggioli and Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, who wrote recently in this space: “‘It must be understood that the chances of the synodal process that will soon begin its continental phase are closely tied to what the Catholic Church is doing and not doing on the abuse crisis. It’s about the abuse crisis even when it’s not explicitly about the abuse crisis.'”

By Tom Robert, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup, Jan. 6, 2023

Jan. 6, 2023


Benedict XVI, first pope to resign in 600 years, dies at 95
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the shy German theologian who tried to reawaken Christianity in a secularized Europe but will forever be remembered as the first pontiff in 600 years to resign from the job, died Saturday (Dec. 31). He was 95. Benedict stunned the world on Feb. 11, 2013, when he announced, in his typical, soft-spoken Latin, that he no longer had the strength to run the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church that he had steered for eight years through scandal and indifference.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Jesuit case underscores secrecy, leniency for abuse of women
“Revelations that the Vatican let a famous priest off the hook twice for abusing his authority over adult women has exposed two main weaknesses in the Holy See’s abuse policies: sexual and spiritual misconduct against adult women is rarely if ever punished, and secrecy still reigns supreme, especially when powerful priests are involved …But under questioning by journalists, the Jesuit superior general, the Rev. Arturo Sosa, acknowledged the Congregation had prosecuted Rupnik for a separate, prior case from 2019 that ended with his conviction and temporary excommunication for one of the gravest crimes in the church’s in-house canon law: that he used the confessional to absolve a woman with whom he previously had sexual relations.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Former bishop of French Guyana guilty of sex abuse, Vatican court says
“Bishop Emeritus Emmanuel Lafont of Cayenne, French Guyana, has been found guilty of sexual abuse in a canonical court and banned from public ministry, while the country’s civil authorities are investigating charges against him. ‘He is under house arrest, in a monastery on mainland France,’ the Bishops’ Conference of France told Agence France Presse. He must conduct a life of prayer and repentance. The bishops’ conference confirmed that the bishop faces a civil investigation.” By Kevin J. Jones, Catholic News Agency, in The Catholic World Report


Benedict was criticized for his handling of church’s sex abuse scandal
“The clerical sex abuse scandal broke under Pope John Paul II in the years that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — who would later become Pope Benedict XVI — headed the Vatican’s doctrinal office, which handled the cases of priests accused of abusing children. Presented with case files, Cardinal Ratzinger sometimes set disciplinary measures in motion, even having accused priests defrocked. But other times, the record shows, he took the side of the accused priests and failed to listen to the victims or their warnings that an abuser could violate more young people.” By Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times

20-year church abuse probe ends with monsignor’s quiet plea
“Twenty years after city prosecutors convened a grand jury to investigate the handling of priest-abuse complaints within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the tortuous legal case came to an end with a cleric’s misdemeanor no contest plea in a near-empty City Hall courtroom. Monsignor William Lynn, 71, had served nearly three years in state prison as appeals courts reviewed the fiery three-month trial that led to his felony child endangerment conviction in 2012. The verdict was twice overturned, leaving prosecutors pursuing the thinning case in recent years with a single alleged victim whose appearance in court was in doubt.” By Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press, on and The Philadelphia Inquirer

Vatican’s handling of Jesuit priest shows new dimensions of never-ending abuse crisis
“On Dec. 2, the global Jesuit order confirmed reports made in several conservative Italian Catholic blogs that Slovenian Jesuit Fr. Marko Rupnik, a famous Rome-based artist, had been quietly disciplined for allegedly abusing adult women, and had been barred from hearing confessions or offering spiritual direction … (Rupnik) had earlier been convicted by the Vatican’s doctrinal office of having used the confessional to absolve a woman of having engaged in sexual activity with him … I think the Rupnik case actually recapitulates and casts a light on new dimensions that have emerged in the abuse scandal in recent years. I want to briefly highlight 10 dimensions that I see.” By Massimo Faggioli, National Catholic Reporter

Vatican investigator says claims of Jesuit abuse true
“A Vatican-appointed investigator who helped bring to light decades-old allegations of sexual and spiritual abuse against a famous Jesuit priest is calling for the hierarchs who hid his crimes to ‘humbly ask the world to forgive the scandal.’ In correspondence obtained Monday (Dec. 19), Bishop Daniele Libanori also said the claims of the women about the Rev. Marko Ivan Rupnik were true and that they had ‘seen their lives ruined by the evil suffered and by the complicit silence’ of the church.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, on


For synod listening sessions, U.S. bishops turned to community organizers
“When Pope Francis launched his newly invigorated process for the Synod of Bishops in 2021, he challenged Catholics worldwide to ‘become experts in the art of encounter,’ saying it was ‘time to look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say, to build rapport, to be sensitive to the questions of our sisters and brothers.’ For decades, members of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a network of local faith and community-based organizations, have in many ways been experts in such an art, most often to empower marginalized communities.” By Katie Collins Scott, National Catholic Reporter

Senior Synod official to visit Australia for lecture series
“Sr Nathalie Becquart XMCJ, one of the most senior women working in the Vatican, is coming to Australia for a whirlwind tour in February and will speak at public forums and lectures in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. A member of the French Congregation of Xavière Sisters, Sr Natalie was appointed by Pope Francis in May 2019 as consultor to the Synod of Bishops. In 2021, she was again appointed by Pope Francis as undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops. She is the first woman to ever hold this position in the Vatican and the first woman to have voting rights in the Synod of Bishops.” By

Synod’s main themes come into focus as it enters its continental stage
“More than a year into Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality, the full scope of this massive, unprecedented consultation of Catholics around the world is just now beginning to come into focus, even for its organizers. ‘I find this a very interesting phase of church history,’ said Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, archbishop of Luxembourg and the general rapporteur of the synod, at a press conference Wednesday (Dec. 14) as he introduced the continental phase of the synod. In the next months, seven assemblies of bishops (in the six traditional continents, plus the Middle East) will consider a document compiled from listening sessions held in thousands of parishes and dioceses.” By Claire Giangravé, Religion News Service


Pope Francis extols Benedict XVI as pastor in historic two-pope Vatican funeral
“In one of the rarest of scenes in two millennia of Catholic Church history, Pope Francis on Jan. 5 presided over the funeral Mass of his predecessor, the late Pope Benedict XVI, and offered a subtle send-off to someone he extolled as a pastor who ‘spread and testified’ to the Gospel for his entire life. During a brief, seven-minute homily to a crowd of thousands gathered during a cool, foggy morning in St. Peter’s Square, Francis reflected on the life of Christ, marked by ‘hands of forgiveness and compassion, healing and mercy, anointing and blessing,’ seemingly drawing a parallel to the same devotion in which Benedict served the church.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Pope denounces psychological abuse as Jesuit case rocks Church
“Pope Francis on Thursday (Dec. 22) denounced psychological violence and abuse of power in the Church, as the case of a prominent priest accused of exploiting his authority to sexually abuse nuns has rocked the Vatican. The 86-year-old pope made his comments in his annual Christmas address to cardinals, bishops and other members of the Curia, the central administration of the Vatican. Francis has often used the occasion to decry perceived flaws in the top bureaucracy, such as gossip, cliques and infighting.” By Philip Pullella, Reuters

Pope Francis isn’t slowing down in 2023
“On Jan. 5, Pope Francis will preside at the requiem Mass and funeral ceremony of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. The last time a pope did this was in 1802 when Pius VII celebrated a second funeral for Pius VI, whose body was exhumed and returned to the Vatican after his death and burial in exile three years prior. On March 13, he will enter the 11th year of his pontificate. At the age of 86, he is already the third oldest pope to lead the church in the last 800 years, but he shows no signs of slowing down in terms of his agenda, notwithstanding problems of mobility due to ailments in his right knee.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review

2022 saw opposition to Pope Francis, plus intellectual and ecclesial shifts
“The year 2022 in the Catholic world was dominated by significant shifts in the intellectual and ecclesial landscape, accompanied by shockingly few shifts among key personnel in the Vatican Curia and at the headquarters of the U.S. bishops’ conference. Pope Francis continues to invite the church to try new approaches with the goal of retrieving our tradition more fruitfully, even while here in the United States he encounters a great deal of opposition.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter


Benedict remembered for pushing U.S. bishops to confront clergy abuse
“Under intense national scrutiny after the groundbreaking reporting on clergy sexual abuse and cover-up in the Boston Archdiocese in 2002, the U.S. Catholic bishops created a new lay-run review board to advise their national conference on how to better protect children and vulnerable persons from abuse. One of the group’s first tasks was to thoroughly investigate the nature of the scandal, in view of an eventual first-of-its-kind report that would detail the enormous scope of abuse in the U.S. church across some five decades. And a key ally in the task? None other than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

U.S. bishops’ rifts unlikely to ease after Benedict’s death
“Many of the conservative prelates who dominate the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops were appointed by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. His recent death deprives them of a symbolic figurehead but is unlikely to weaken their collective power or end the culture wars that have divided the USCCB, according to Catholic academics and clergy. David Gibson, director of Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture, noted that conservative-leaning bishops were appointed over a 35-year period by Benedict and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, and routinely prevail in voting over the relatively more liberal group of bishops appointed since 2013 by Pope Francis.” By David Cray, Associated Press


In synod discussion of women’s ordination, the diaconate is neglected
“The synod on synodality is exploding ideas all over the church. Some on the extreme right hope for Tridentine Masses. Some on the far left hope for changes in teachings on sex and gender. Folks in the middle just want more respect for and better recognition of women. To no one’s surprise, the working document for the synod’s ‘continental phase’ recognized women as the backbone of the church. It also admits that many women feel denigrated, neglected and misunderstood, symptomatic of narcissistic clericalism infecting clergyv. Many national synod reports sent to the Vatican from bishops’ conferences around the globe presented the desire for women to be present in church governance, certified as preachers and in the diaconate.” By Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter

As order ponders the role of women, recalling history’s lone female Jesuit
“However, Sosa actually briefed journalists on several matters of Jesuit business, including the progress of a commission to study the role of women in the Society of Jesus created in March 2021. He didn’t offer much detail, except to say that the commission, in collaboration with the Jesuit-sponsored Atheneum of Manila in the Philippines, is preparing a major survey about the contributions of women in the society for 2023, with an eye towards submitting recommendations in 2024.” By John L. Allen, Jr.,


Why laypeople and deacons – in addition to priests – are necessary for a thriving church
“The Church teaches its bishops are direct successors to Peter and the Twelve Apostles; through the sacrament of Holy Orders, a Catholic priest participates in his bishop’s apostolic ministry. Priests administer the sacraments in persona Christi, or acting in the person of Christ, when celebrating the Eucharist or hearing confessions. And yet there is more than one group of people necessary to lead the Church through what has been dubbed ‘the new Apostolic Age’ – a time when Christianity has become much like it was during the early Church, when the world wasn’t always receptive to its message of love, eternal life, absolute truth and sacrifice.” By Phil Ervin, St. Thomas University Newsroom


Vatican releases Pope Benedict’s spiritual will: ‘Stand firm in the faith’
“In a spiritual will written in 2006 and released by the Vatican on Saturday (Dec. 31), Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI thanked his family and friends, but chiefly God, for standing by him during his long life and career in the church. Benedict, known for his theological efforts to reconcile faith and reason, offered his last thoughts to the Catholic faithful, urging them to hold on to their faith despite social and philosophical opposition.” By Claire Giangravé, Religion News Service


Pope Benedict dies
“After the ‘long nineteenth century’ (as characterized by John O’Malley) of the Catholic Church was brought to an end by the calling of the council in 1959, Benedict XVI was in some ways the last pope of the delayed conclusion of the twentieth-century Catholic Church … Joseph Ratzinger was a brilliant theologian and public intellectual, but also a provocative cleric who as pope had the courage to risk unpopularity. He will remain one of the most widely published and widely read popes in Church history, and likely one of the most controversial. Few committed Catholics will be indifferent or dispassionate about him.” By Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal

25% of Christians consider leaving church in Germany over abuse scandals: Survey
“About one in four Christians in Germany are considering leaving church due to the sex abuse scandals, a survey revealed on Thursday (Dec. 13). Mostly the members of the Catholic Church have lost faith in the clergy and church after the scandals in recent years, according to the Religion Monitor study of the Bertelsmann Foundation. Among the Germans who said that they were considering leaving the church, 66% of them were members of the Catholic Church, and 33% were the members of the Protestant Church.” By Ayhan Simsek,


Catholic Church buys $2.4 million Seattle house as finances peak, parishes close
“Now the archdiocese’s finances have come under renewed scrutiny with the purchase of a home for Seattle’s Catholic leadership, prompting fresh criticism of the church’s transparency and money management. The archdiocese last month quietly acquired the $2.4 million property in the stately Mount Baker neighborhood. The five-bedroom, 3,460-square-foot gray-shingled home with a bright-blue door overlooks Lake Washington.” By Rebecca Moss, The Seattle Times


A man of contradictions, Benedict leaves us two very different legacies
“A man of contradictions. A pope of colliding centuries. It’s as if Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who is being laid to rest Thursday (Jan. 5) in Vatican City, has two legacies instead of one. The theologian Joseph Ratzinger was a significant architect of the theology that informed the doctrines of the Second Vatican Council, a reform effort in the 1960s that brought fresh air to the church by encouraging outreach to other religions, the use of local languages instead of Latin at Mass, support for religious freedom and much more.” By Donna B. Doucette, Executive Director, Voice of the Faithful, on

Seattle archbishop’s new residence is an insult to the Catholic Community
“One might assume that, at first blush, spending $2.4 million (plus remodeling costs) is not a huge outlay for a luxury view home in Seattle — at least for the privileged few who can afford it. Yet, the recent purchase of such a home by the Seattle Archdiocese for Archbishop Paul Etienne has caused serious concern among many clergy and lay Catholics. When he first arrived in Seattle in 2019, the archbishop declared, ‘I am a Pastor, not a Prince’ in renouncing residence at a mansion on First Hill in Seattle that had been purchased by contributions from the laity more than a century earlier.” By Clark Kimerer, Colleen Kinerk and Terrence A. Carroll, Special to The Seattle Times

Three predictions about what will make church news in 2023
“Looking ahead and venturing predictions is always a risky business, even in a church like ours in which traditional ways of doing things tend to be the norm. Still, in 2023 I will predict we will see the synodal process continue to garner attention, albeit fitfully and with a step backwards for every two steps forward, a spasm of anti-Francis sentiment coinciding with the 10th anniversary of his election in March, and the beginning of the most substantial remaking of the U.S. hierarchy since the 1980s.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

My encounters with Joseph Ratzinger – and Pope Benedict XVI
“I first met Joseph Ratzinger in June 1994 when he was the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. No, I was not being interrogated by the Grand Inquisitor. This was long before I got in trouble with the Vatican as editor-in-chief of America magazine. I was in Rome to interview him and other church officials for my book, Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. I almost missed the interview. Cardinal Ratzinger was sick the day of our appointment” By Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter

Catholics need a restorative justice approach to the church’s sexual abuse crisis
“Wounds remain. This was a chief conclusion of an independent working group on the clerical sex abuse crisis in the U.S. Catholic Church that proposed the following measures last month: Develop a national center with experts and practitioners to equip the broader church with practices of restorative justice that would accompany those who have been directly and peripherally harmed by abuse, particularly forums in which victim-survivors tell their stories and receive love, recognition and empathy.” By Daniel Philpott, America: The Jesuit Review

As CNS Washington closes, we reflect on more than 100 years of service
“Catholic News Service turned 100 years old in 2020. Unfortunately, our birthdate coincided with the start of a worldwide pandemic, and many of our celebration plans were canceled. A highlight, however, was Pope Francis meeting with the CNS Rome staff in February 2021 to mark the anniversary. At that meeting, Pope Francis praised the news service, saying it ‘has provided an invaluable contribution to the English-speaking world through its coverage of the church’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel and witnessing to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. In an age when news can be easily manipulated and misinformation spread, you seek to make the truth known in a way that is, in the words of your motto, ‘fair, faithful and informed,’’ the pope told the CNS staff.’” By Greg Erlandson, Catholic News Service, in The Pilot

When Vatican II became ‘model of openness,’ it had impact on CNS reporting
“Two vast upheavals in the Catholic Church in the past 60 years spurred a dramatic transformation of Catholic News Service — from a news agency with a house organ mentality to one committing to reporting facts, even embarrassing ones concerning the church itself. The first upheaval was the Second Vatican Council. From a shaky start in 1962, which the council attempting to operate semi-secrecy, it did an about-face, opened up, and by its end in 1965 was a model of openness. This was a lesson not lost on Catholic media, notably including CNS.” By Russell Shaw, The Leaven


A change in Maine law prompts a wave of new church abuse allegations
“A change in Maine law has unleashed a flood of new allegations of long-ago sex abuse by priests. But now the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland is challenging the legislation in court in an apparent attempt to stem the flow of lawsuits. The Childhood Sexual Abuse amendment, which was signed into law last summer, retroactively eliminated the statute of limitations for lawsuits alleging childhood sex abuse in most circumstances. The result is that former altar boys and Catholic school students who are now in their 50s, 60s, and 70s can sue the church over abuse that allegedly occurred half a century ago or even earlier.” By Mike Damiano, The Boston Globe

Maryland Catholic Conference to support bill eliminating statute of limitations
“The Maryland Catholic Conference will support legislation that could potentially eliminate the statute of limitation in civil lawsuits involving cases of child sexual abuse, the MCC announced Monday (Dec. 19). The Catholic Church in Maryland will support legislation that may be introduced during the 2023 Maryland General Assembly session that prospectively eliminates the statute of limitation in civil lawsuits involving cases of child sexual abuse.” By CBS-TV News


Benedict leaves behind a conflicted legacy on clerical sexual abuse
“Before he led the Roman Catholic Church as Benedict XVI, and before he loomed over the church as a powerhouse cardinal and the Vatican’s chief doctrinal watchdog, Joseph Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich, attended a 1980 meeting about a priest in northwestern Germany accused of abusing children. What exactly transpired during the meeting is unclear — but afterward, the priest was transferred, and over the next dozen years moved around Bavaria to different parishes before he ended up in the tiny village of Garching an der Alz, where he sexually abused Andreas Perr, then 12.” By Jason Horowitz and Erika Soloman, The New York Times

Special report: Boy Scouts, Catholic dioceses find haven from sex abuse in bankruptcy
“Lawmakers around the United States have tried to grant justice to victims of decades-old incidents of child sexual abuse by giving them extra time to file lawsuits. Now some of the defendants in these cases, including church and youth organizations, are finding a safe haven: America’s bankruptcy courts. In New York, nearly 11,000 cases flooded state courts, many seeking to hold Catholic dioceses responsible for sexual abuse by clergy, after a 2019 law suspended statutes of limitations that would have otherwise barred many of the lawsuits. In response, four New York dioceses that collectively faced more than 500 sexual-abuse claims filed for bankruptcy. That halted the cases — and blocked those from anyone who might sue later — and forced the plaintiffs to negotiate a one-time settlement for all abuse claims in bankruptcy court.” By Kristina Cooke, Mike Spector, Benjamin Lesser, Dan Levine and Disha Raychaudhuri, Reuters

Hundreds of alleged clergy abuse victims come forward
Hundreds of child sex abuse lawsuits are hitting the Catholic church across California. To understand what victims now coming forward may be experiencing, the NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit spoke to San Jose’s John Salberg, who sued the Church 20 years ago after being abused as a child. Here’s his story.” By NBC-TV Bay Area News

Jesuits ask victims to come forward in artist abuse case
“Pope Francis’ Jesuit order on Sunday (Dec. 18) asked any more victims to come forward with complaints against a famous Jesuit artist who was essentially let off the hook by the Vatican twice despite devastating testimony by women who said he sexually and spiritually abused them. The Jesuits asked for new evidence against the Rev. Marko Ivan Rupnik, and offered a timeline about his case in an effort to tamp down the scandal. The Slovenian priest is relatively unknown among rank-and-file Catholics but is well known in the hierarchy because he is one of the church’s most sought-after artists.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Five years on from a royal commission, we must recognize legacy of abuse
“Five years on from the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the lived experiences of ‘forgotten Australians’ must be recognized and acknowledged, writes Ursula Stephens. When the royal commission presented its final report in 16 volumes in December 2017, its findings highlighted abuse, cover-ups, failures of leadership, a careless disregard for some of the most defenseless members of our community, and the life-long implications of the trauma they endured.” By


He says a Bay Area priest abused him. He finally found him 55 years later
“For more than a decade, Ernie Cox went online to search the faces of priests who had been accused of child sexual abuse, looking for one man. He’d only seen the priest one day in the late 1960s when, the former altar boy alleges, the priest sexually abused him before and after mass at a Contra Costa County church. The boy was 12. The priest was visiting Immaculate Heart of Mary from another parish, and Cox, now 67, didn’t remember his name.” By Joshua Sharpe, San Francisco Chronicle

Where is Father Castillo? New answers on Oakland priest who left country after abuse claims
“Oakland priest Father Alexander Castillo seemingly vanished in the months after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor. Yet four years later, the Diocese of Oakland still won’t answer many basic questions about the incident, details about what happened, where Castillo is today, and whether the priest might be a danger to children elsewhere. While the Diocese remains silent, a letter written by Castillo in the wake of his suspension, and exclusively obtained by NBC Bay Area recently, sheds new light on the priest’s frame of mind just before he left the country. Castillo maintains his innocence and blames another priest for his suspension.” By Michael Bott, Candice Nguyen, Alix Bozovic and Jeremy Carroll,

Tensions rise over Santa Rosa Diocese’s plan to seek bankruptcy protection in face of more than 130 abuse claims
“Scores of survivors of clergy abuse — people who had spent decades trying to escape the grief and trauma of childhood sex assault — have come forward over the past three years after deciding now is finally the time to seek justice. At least 130 — likely many more, attorneys say — have filed or will file lawsuits against the Santa Rosa Roman Catholic Diocese during a special three-year window that allows adults of any age to file personal injury cases for childhood sex abuse in California. That window closes on New Year’s Eve. But none of those cases is likely to go to trial.” By Mary Callahan, The Press Democrat


KBI investigation of alleged Catholic clergy abuse in Kansas approaches four-year milestone
“Susan Leighnor expressed frustration on Wednesday (Dec. 21) state law enforcement agencies had yet to release findings of an investigation launched nearly four years ago by the attorney general into alleged sexual misconduct by members of the Catholic clergy in Kansas. Leighnor, who said she was abused as a child by two Catholic priests, said she had spoken to Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents regarding her memories of what transpired at the rectory and school at Church of the Holy Cross in Hutchinson. She also has testified before the Kansas and Colorado legislatures on her experiences.” By Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector


Two more lawsuits allege abuse by priest, nun in Maine
“Two more people have filed lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic clergy member and a nun — both deceased — raising the number to over a dozen since Maine loosened the statute of limitations last year. One of the plaintiffs contended he was sexually abused by a priest and was spanked by a nun who interrupted one of the encounters in Bangor, while another said that a nun regularly spanked boys’ bare bottoms in class, and that she sexually abused him in private, according to the lawsuits.” By Associated Press in USNews


Archdiocese of Baltimore sexual abuse case assigned new judge
“A case regarding the release of a report into the sexual abuse by clergy and priests in the Archdiocese of Baltimore will have a new judge, according to our media partner The Baltimore Banner. The Banner reports Baltimore Circuit Judge Robert K. Taylor will now oversee the proceedings in the fight to release the 456-page report that details the sexual abuse of nearly 600 children by 158 clergy and Catholic priests in Baltimore. The report, a product of a four-year investigation by the attorney general’s official, reveals allegations dating back decades.” By CBS Baltimore Staff

Baltimore archbishop battled against release of abuse documents for nearly eight years: ‘I fought the good fight’
“As bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Most Rev. William E. Lori fought for nearly eight years — all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — to prevent the wide release of information about the history of child sexual abuse in that branch of the Catholic Church. The soft-spoken prelate argued in the case two decades ago that what was already publicly known about sexual misconduct by clergy in the diocese was all the information the public needed to grasp the scope of the crisis and understand who was responsible.” By Jonathan M. Pritts, The Daily Item, in The Baltimore Sun


Worcester woman sues ex-official, diocese over coerced sex allegations
“A woman who earlier this year accused a Diocese of Worcester parish soup kitchen director of coercing her and other vulnerable women into sex has sued the now-former director for his alleged actions, as well as diocesan leadership for alleged failure to act on the complaint in a timely manner. ‘This complaint reflects the unlawful actions of the defendants relating to their tortious activity and their duty of care extended to Bell and other similarly situated individuals,’ reads the complaint, filed on December 13 in Worcester Superior Court in Massachusetts.” By John Lavenburg,


Sentencing date postponed for former pastor convicted of child rape
“For the third time, the sentencing hearing for a Catholic priest convicted in October of raping a child in 2004 has been changed. Joseph ‘Father Jack’ Baker, 60, is now scheduled for sentencing by Judge Bridget Hathaway on Feb. 17, 2023 in Wayne County’s 3rd Circuit Court in Detroit. He’s held in the Wayne County Jail, denied bond. According to a court spokesperson, sentencing was postponed on request of Baker’s defense attorney.” By Aileen Wingblad, The Oakland Press


Editorial: $121M settlement provides archdiocese path toward redemption
“‘Not now, not ever.’ Those were the apropos words of Archbishop John C. Wester after the Archdiocese of Santa Fe announced a $121.5 million settlement last week with nearly 400 survivors of sexual abuse. The settlement, which could never erase the horrible stain of clergy sexual abuse but was nonetheless necessary, is one of the largest clergy sexual abuse cases involving the Catholic Church in the United States, where about 31 Catholic dioceses or archdioceses have filed for bankruptcy as a result of abuse claims.” By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board


Alleged abuse by Catholic priest haunting, 50 years later
“A Steubenville Catholic Central High School graduate who says he was molested by a priest 54 years ago wants the Diocese of Steubenville to admit ‘it wasn’t my fault.’ The man, who asked not to be identified, alleges the Rev. Kenneth Bonadies grabbed his ‘private area’ after class and asked some inappropriate questions in the confessional 54 years ago. He said he’s looking for ‘validation from the diocese that it wasn’t my fault, I had nothing to do with that, that the diocese wasn’t doing its job.’” By Linda Harris, The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register


Melbourne priest stood down over historical child sex abuse claim
“A priest has been stood down after he was accused of sexually abusing a student while he was principal at a Catholic all-boys school in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs in the mid-1990s. Father Hugh Brown is alleged to have abused the student at Whitefriars Catholic College For Boys in Donvale when he headed the school between 1989 and 1996.” By Marta Pascual Juanola, The Age


Catholic church settles lawsuit around historical sex abuse of 210-year-old B.C. girl
“A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit involving accusations that a former Catholic priest on Vancouver Island sexually abused a 10-year-old girl during confession decades ago. The woman, now 57 and whose identity is protected, filed a notice of civil claim in 2020 against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Victoria, in B.C. Supreme Court. She alleges that Father Gerhard Hartmann, who has since died, used his position as an authority figure to take advantage of her when she was a parishioner at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church at Nanaimo in 1976.” By Karl Yu, Terrace Standard

Former Catholic priest charged in historic sex assault, police say there may be more victims
“A former Catholic priest in Peel Region has been arrested in connection with the alleged sexual assault of an underage parishioner more than 40 years ago and police say there could still be additional victims who have not yet come forward. Peel Regional Police say that officers began an investigation in October after receiving information alleging that the suspect sexually assaulted a boy while he attended his church between 1980 and 1983. Jozef Wasik, 84, was then arrested on Thursday (Dec. 15) and charged with gross indecency and indecent assault on a male.” By Chris Fox, CP24 News

New priest named in latest clerical abuse report
“The Archdiocese of Vancouver has issued its semi-annual update on clerical sexual abuse, releasing the name of a priest who was the subject of sexual abuse allegation received in 2008. The latest report of the Implementation Working Group, the archdiocesan committee responsible for implementing the approved recommendations received from the 2019 Case Review Committee, was released Tuesday (Dec. 13) and said an accusation of sexual abuse had been received in April 2008 against Father Georges Chevrier, OMI, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima in Coquitlam from 1971 to 1977.” By The B.C. Catholic


France investigating ex-archbishop over ‘sexual assault’: prosecutors
“French authorities last month opened a preliminary inquiry into allegations that the former archbishop of Paris had committed ‘sexual assault on a vulnerable person,’ prosecutors said on Tuesday (Jan. 43, 2023). The probe was opened based on a report filed by the diocese of Paris, they said. Michel Aupetit offered to resign in late 2021 following media reports of an intimate relationship with a woman in 2012 before he took on the post, allegations he has categorically denied. Pope Francis accepted the resignation.” By Michel Aupetit, Agence France-Presse, on


Canonical complaint filed against senior German bishop
“The German Victims’ Advisory Board has filed a canonical complaint against Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück for hushing up clerical sexual abuse. Bode is the vice president of the bishops’ conference and of the synodal way. The Victims’ Advisory Board for the north German dioceses of Osnabrück, Hildesheim and Hamburg announced its decision on Monday 12 December.” By Christa Pongratz-Lippit, The Tablet


University publishes new study on abuse in the Diocese of Trier
“The University of Trier today published its report on sexual abuse in the Diocese of Trier at the time of former Bishop Stein. It was also about his role. The study reveals that 81 priests have been accused of abusing more than 300 children and young people during this period. For this purpose, historians have evaluated almost 500 personnel files from the Diocese of Trier. They have also spoken to many of those affected. Something that Bishop Stein has not done in any of the cases known to him during his term of office.” By David Sadler, Globe Echo


How Pope Benedict ignored Vatican responsibility for child sex abuse in Ireland
“It must be acknowledged that Pope Benedict XVI was the first holder of that office to take the clerical child sexual abuse scandal seriously. That said, few in Ireland could feel wholeheartedly grateful about that. In 2001, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he circulated every Catholic bishop in the world with two letters, both in Latin, one instructing that both be kept secret, asking that they forward to him all credible allegations they had on file about clerical child sexual abuse involving their priests. He received thousands of responses, including from Ireland.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish times

Former Christian Brother jailed for five years for indecently assaulting five boys
“A former Christian brother who was convicted in October on 38 counts of indecently assaulting young boys has been sentenced to five years in prison. The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victims, was found unanimously guilty after a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court deliberated for four hours and twenty-six minutes. The former priest was described by one of the victims in his victim impact statement as ‘the epitome of evil.’” By Claire Henry,

Clerical abuse in Ireland ‘an open wound that has never by able to heal’ admits Archbishop Eamon Martin
“The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has said he is ‘deeply ashamed’ of the horrific sexual abuse inflicted on children by members of the Spiritan Order. More than 300 people have claimed to have been abused by 78 Spiritan priests at Blackrock College and other schools and colleges in Ireland dating back to the 1980s. In an interview with the Sunday Independent, Archbishop Eamon Martin said clerical abuse in Ireland ‘is like an open wound that has never been able to heal.’” By Rodney Edwards, Irish Independent

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A man of contradictions, Benedict leaves us two very different legacies / NBC News THINK

The pope emeritus took the first strong steps to stop clergy sex abuse, but ultimately prioritized the institution of the church.


“A man of contradictions. A pope of colliding centuries. It’s as if Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who is being laid to rest Thursday (Jan. 5) in Vatican City, has two legacies instead of one. 

“The theologian Joseph Ratzinger was a significant architect of the theology that informed the doctrines of the Second Vatican Council, a reform effort in the 1960s that brought fresh air to the church by encouraging outreach to other religions, the use of local languages instead of Latin at Mass, support for religious freedom and much more.

“Despite this promise and the potential for transparency, Benedict continued the church’s centuries-old preference for handling abuse cases privately.

“Ratzinger was deemed one of the influential progressives at the council, but as a cardinal starting in 1977 and then as pope from 2005 to 2013, he instead sought to filter the fresh air from the windows opened by the council. Yet that fresh air — including the recognition that the church is the People of God rather than the hierarchical structure alone — is what opened the path for ordinary lay Catholics to speak up and participate fully in our faith in this century.”

By Donna B. Doucette, Executive Director, Voice of the Faithful, on NBC News THINK — Read more …

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