Voice of the Faithful

Voice of the Faithful is a worldwide movement of mainstream Roman Catholics working 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 has three goals: to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and shape structural change within the Church.

Homepage: https://voicefaithful.wordpress.com

In closing Catholic News Service, U.S. bishops undermine their pastoral work / National Catholic Reporter

So many of the Catholic media outlets that are opposed to Francis and Vatican II exist only to promote their views, not to report, write, edit and publish Catholic news, and the truth as we can best ascertain it.

By David Gibson, National Catholic Reporter

“That Catholic News Service was the first to report on its own demise was both a tribute to the legacy of the 102-year-old outlet’s editorial independence and perverse proof of what a bone-headed decision the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops made in opting to gut CNS.

“The May 4 announcement that effectively shutters CNS’ domestic operations eliminates a rare source of credibility for the hierarchy, a critical tool for reliably informing American Catholics about the church beyond their own diocese, and a counterwitness to the proliferation of ideologically driven Catholic media platforms that are driving the church apart, and regular Catholics around the bend — often right out of Catholicism.

“According to the news service, staffers were told that the core operations in Washington and New York were to be shuttered and that only the Vatican bureau would be retained. (CNS also wrote that USCCB Publishing, which holds the rights to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the U.S. Adult Catechism and many other books, will cease its publishing operations at the end of 2022.) How even that isolated remnant in Rome can actually work, or whether it will survive, remains to be seen, as they say in television.”

By David Gibson, National Catholic Reporter — Read more ...

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Ministry & Governance: What might ‘Praedicate Evangelium’ have started / Commonweal

Gianfranco Ghirlando {Pontifical Gregorian University emeritus professor of canon law) made this striking change even clearer at a March 21 press conference, saying that ‘the power of governance in the Church does not come from orders, but from one’s mission.’ Governance becomes linked to canonical mission, which one is eligible for through baptism—not from the power of orders …

By Paul Lakeland, Commonweal

“There is great rejoicing in heaven today, or at least in that little corner where Yves Congar is still toiling away. No other twentieth-century Catholic theologian was so insistent on the close connection between baptism and mission. Now that Pope Francis has made clear in his motu proprio, Praedicate evangelium, that because “the Pope, bishops and other ordained ministers are not the only evangelizers in the church,” and “any member of the faithful can preside over a dicastery,” Congar’s great work, Lay People in the Church, comes to full fruition.

“Jesuit Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlando made this striking change even clearer at a March 21 press conference, saying that “the power of governance in the Church does not come from orders, but from one’s mission.” Governance becomes linked to canonical mission, which one is eligible for through baptism—not from the power of orders, as John Paul II had said in the previous curial reform. Now, in principle, all levels of Church governance are open to any Catholic, male or female. But there are two questions to be asked about the implications of the change for the role of ordained ministry. First, what is left for ordained ministry if governance is removed from the job description? And second, how, if at all, can we reconnect ministry and governance for the good of the Church?

“Pope Francis has long wanted the ordained to give more attention to pastoral concerns and spend less time managing a complex institution like a parish or diocese. Given the growing shortage of ordained ministers, this surely makes good sense—except, of course, that just as the pope has now made clear that there is no essential connection between ordination and governance, so it is also evident that there is no essential connection between ordination and pastoral activities.”

By Paul Lakeland, Commonweal — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful at 20: Women’s Voices

By Svea Fraser, VOTF trustee and chair of Women’s Emerging Voices

Listen. Can you hear the sound of voices getting louder in support of women’s roles in the Church?

For 20 years VOTF has championed the change for women to be fully recognized as equals in the Church. We took advantage of every opportunity to raise awareness of the needs that would be better met when women have a place at the table. Resources on the website included articles, papers, videos, cards, templates for letter writing and books. One book in particular gave us a laser focus for our ongoing efforts.

The groundbreaking work of theologian Dr. Phyllis Zagano published in the book Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future (by Gary Macy, Phyllis Zagano and William T. Ditewig) was a wakeup call for many of us. A free study guide made it possible to hold group discussion groups across the country. We learned things we never knew about women deacons in our faith tradition. Two points were of great significance:

  1. Women ministered as deacons in the past.
  2. The permanent order of deacons is clearly distinct from priestly ordination.

With increasing awareness, we began discussing women deacons at webinars, at lectures, and among networking groups. Women began to ask the question, “What can we do?” Our VOTF Women’s Working Group invited others from across the continent to advocate for women and ultimately formed an “advocacy network.” Invested in our faith communities and ministering in diaconal ways, we were buoyed by others who shared our pains and hopes for inclusion. As we shared these stories, we changed the working group title from “Women’s Roles” to “Women’s Emerging Voices” to better reflect our work.

At the same time, other voices were rising in support of women and their status in the Church: at the meeting of the International Union of Superiors General, at the Amazonian Synod, and in a papal-appointed Commission to study the issue.

In Durham, N.C., another voice also attracted our attention. That was the voice of Casey Stanton, the mother of two young children and holder of a Master of Divinity degree with a certificate in prison studies. When Casey encountered incarcerated women in her prison ministry, she came face to face with the reality of abuse and violence leveled against women.

During Mass one day, Casey made a connection: Because only men preach and preside at Mass, could the implicit message that men are more important than women contribute to their treatment as “less than”? What does our Catholic Liturgy say about women?

Casey wondered if other women wrestled with the same issue, and if they shared her strong vocational desire to preach the Gospel. She initiated conversations to find out. Each individual encounter affirmed that she was not alone. Also affirmed was a feeling that women’s stories needed to be told. From this grew a desire for a liturgical service to engage others in praying and sharing and listening together.

Saint Phoebe’s Feast Day on September third provided an ideal opportunity for a Virtual Prayer Service. Phoebe is the only person named a deacon (in Greek) in the New Testament, yet she was unknown to many of us. Her name is unspoken because the passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 16:1-2 is excluded from both Sunday and weekly lectionary cycles. Saint Phoebe also suffers the indignity of her Feast Day having been replaced by Pope Gregory I.

The first prayer service attracted 500 participants. Four women spoke of their heartfelt callings to minister as deacons, and their deeply felt emotions brought tears of recognition. The experience set hearts on fire.

Thus emerged a movement, a defined mission, and an informative website was created, under the name Discerning Deacons.

VOTF found common ground with Discerning Deacons: Our goals and mission statements harmonized. We joined in collaboration and mutual support. VOTF’s “advocacy network” began to call itself a “Deacon Circle.”

The success and spirited activity that followed is a testament to the power of prayer, the value of story-telling, the dedication of faithful disciples, and the overarching belief that the Holy Spirit will not deny what the Church needs.

The second Virtual St. Phoebe Prayer Service on September 3, 2021, registered 1,500 people from around the world.

From this side of the world, we sponsored an international delegation to Rome: five women from Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States. With the words of St. Paul in mind when he commended his sister Phoebe to be “welcomed in the Lord as is fitting for the saints,” we sent our group with our prayers and an image of St. Phoebe preaching to the faith community.

I believe that Saint Phoebe is interceding on behalf of women today. The Rome delegation was invited to a front row seat at Pope Francis’ weekly audience. When Ellie Hidalgo (a co-director of Discerning Deacons) presented the image of St. Phoebe to the Pope, he accepted it with a smile. And when Sr. Cira Mees told him about her ministry in the Amazon, he looked at her and said, “Firme! Adelante!” (“Keep going forward with inner strength.”). The women were truly welcomed and received “in the Lord.”

As climactic as that event was for us, the story gets better.

In an unprecedented moment in the history of the Church, Pope Francis in 2021 called for a Synod on Synodality. He wants to hear from all the people, both Catholics and non-Catholics, to discern the Holy Spirit’s will for the Church.

When was the last time a pope asked you for your thoughts?

As ancient as synods are in the Church’s tradition, it is a puzzling word for most of us. Pope Francis explains it as simply journeying together. He invites us to walk together, tell our stories, and listen to the Holy Spirit—just as VOTF and Discerning Deacons have been doing all along! Without naming it, we have been synodal in the process of sharing, listening, and discerning.

An inaugural Mass on October 10, 2021, opened the Synodal path. The window for the laity to tell our hurts and hopes for the Church is open right now. Pope Francis wants to hear from you.

Both VOTF and Discerning Deacons, along with other groups and individuals, are offering listening sessions to share your thoughts. Go to the VOTF webpage “Listening to the Faithful: Synod 2021-2023” to register for the opportunity.

It is time to tell your story.

The Pope is listening

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

May 11, 2022


Pope mandates annual audit on protection of children from abuse
“Pope Francis on Friday (Apr. 29) asked for an annual audit evaluating how national Catholic Churches are implementing measures to protect children from clergy sexual abuse, saying that without more transparency the faithful will continue to lose trust. ‘Abuse in any form is unacceptable,’ Francis told members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was established in 2014 to promote best practices and a culture of safeguarding worldwide.” By Philip Pullella, Reuters

Women religious blaze new trails in roles of authority at the Vatican
“When Pope Francis met more than 850 religious sisters attending the International Union of Superiors General plenary meeting in Rome in 2019, the pope insisted that the chair for the body’s then-president, Sr. Carmen Sammut, be seated right next to him. At the time, both Sammut, a Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa, and those in the room were touched by the pope’s deeply symbolic gesture to level the playing field. Now, as delegates from around the globe prepare to travel again to Rome for this year’s May 2-6 plenary, a wave of new appointments of sisters inside the Vatican has made it clear that Francis is backing that symbolism up with substantive changes and making room for more women religious to have a permanent seat at the table.” By Christopher White, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

Vatican clears Polish Cardinal Dziwisz of abuse cover-up
“The Vatican has wrapped up its own investigation and dismissed allegations that Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz had covered up cases of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in his archdiocese. In a written statement released April 22, the Apostolic Nunciature in Poland said the Vatican found the cardinal had been ‘correct’ in his actions after it examined the findings of an investigation led by Italian Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, on CatholicPhilly.com

Expert says too many laity ignore abuse crisis because ‘it doesn’t affect them’
“When it comes to addressing the clerical sexual abuse, the role of the laity is central, according to experts. However, according to one of the Colombian lay women at the center of the country’s bishops’ response, too many people avoid addressing it, because they don’t think it is a problem that affects them. Ilva Myriam Hoyos, former Colombian attorney general for children, adolescents and family, is the head of the bishops’ working group for the protection of minors.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com

Pope warns of lost trust without more abuse accountability
Pope Francis gave a new mandate to his sex abuse advisory commission Friday (Apr. 29), telling its members to work with bishops around the world to establish special welcome centers for victims and to audit the church’s progress on fighting abuse from its new perch within the Vatican. Francis warned that without more transparency and accountability from the church, the faithful would continue to lose trust in the Catholic hierarchy after decades of revelations about priests who raped and molested children and bishops and religious superiors who covered up those crimes.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press


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.” By Voice of the Faithful on Religion News Service Press Service

Cologne paid a million euros for priest’s gambling
“After several reports in the German secular media during Holy Week that the archdiocese of Cologne had paid more than €1m to settle a priest’s debts, including his gambling debts, the archdiocese confirmed the reports on Maundy Thursday. The money … was taken out of the special ‘bishop’s chair’ fund which is also used to pay the damages of clerical sexual abuse victims and to finance Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki’s favourite project, the Cologne University for Catholic Theology (KHKT).” By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet


Synod on synodality to be ‘process of spiritual discernment,’ participants say
“The Vatican office organizing a major 2023 Vatican summit on synodality held a preparation meeting last week, saying the synod of bishops has already begun. ‘This synod was conceived not as an event that will take place in a moment, meaning October 2023: It has already begun, and this awareness has been assumed by all of us taking part in this assembly,’ said Colombian layman Oscar Elizalde, spokesman for CELAM, the Latin American bishops’ conference. ‘We are not preparing for the synod, it has already begun.’” By Inés San Martín, Cruxnow.com

Church seeks Synod insights from Anglican, Uniting events
“To help better understand the place of synodality in the Catholic Church, ecumenical leaders will attend national Uniting and Anglican gatherings this month to see how synodality works in those communities. The global Synod on Synodality has encouraged engagement with ecumenical and interfaith groups as part of the process leading towards the gathering in Rome in October 2023. The Australian Synod of Bishops committee reached out to the National Council of Churches Australia to see how the Catholic Church and other Christian communities could walk together in their synodal journeys.” By CathNews.com


Pope Francis vows new start in fight against clerical sex abuse
“Pope Francis said Friday (Apr. 29) changes to an advisory body on preventing sexual abuse represented a fresh start in the fight against pedophile priests, but conceded ‘much remains to be done.’ The pope in March moved the Commission for the Protection of Minors into the Vatican’s powerful doctrine office, which oversees the church’s investigations of abuse cases, in a bid to give it the institutional power critics said it was lacking. The reform ‘marks a new beginning,’ the 85-year-old told commission members at the conclusion of their plenary meeting Friday.” By Agence France-Presse on Phillipines.Lics.News

Pope Francis updates canon law on dismissal from religious institutes
“Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter on Tuesday (Apr. 26) bringing Church law up to date on the rules for dismissal from religious institutes, in light of the updated penal law on sanctions related to clerical sexual abuse and other crimes. The letter, known as Recognitum librum VI and issued motu proprio (on the pope’s ‘own impulse’) on April 26, modifies one sentence from canon 695 of the Code of Canon Law.” By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency


Are lay cardinals next?
“Pope Francis is reorganizing the Vatican Curia — the church’s administrators and his senior staff — and may name new cardinals in June. Francis’ new apostolic constitution, ‘Praedicate Evangelium’ (‘Preach the Gospel’), issued last month, noted that the heads of dicasteries and other offices that manage the church need not be ordained. This highlighted Francis’ stated aim to give ‘more space’ to women in the church. Most of the important dicasteries are as a matter of fact headed by cardinals. But if any Catholic can head a curial office, the question becomes, does the title come with the job? More importantly, is the title needed to do the job?” By Phyllis Zagano, Religion News Service


Spanish bishops say they won’t participate in national clerical abuse inquiry
“Spain’s bishops announced Friday (Apr. 29) that they will not take part in an independent commission into clerical sexual abuse created by the national legislature, alleging, among other things, that the commission won’t look into all sexual abuse of minors but only those committed by members of the Catholic Church. ‘We want to state that to carry out an investigation of abuses only in the church, when it is clear that out of 15,000 open cases in Spain, only 69 refer to the church, is a surprising decision,’ said Bishop Luis Argüello, spokesman of the Spanish bishops’ conference.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com

After tense year of debates, U.S. bishops to gather for retreat in June
“The U.S. Catholic bishops will gather for a retreatlike special assembly this summer in San Diego to focus on episcopal unity after a tense year and a half in which deep divisions surfaced among prelates over the issue of denying Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians — including President Joe Biden. There will be no public session for the June 2022 meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops because the normal assembly business of committee reports and presentations are being set aside for prayer, reflection and episcopal fraternity, a spokeswoman for the conference told NCR.” By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter


Irish priest appointed to senior Vatican role investigating abuse
“An Irish priest, Msgr John Kennedy has been put in charge by Pope Francis of leading investigations into child abuse allegations against the Catholic clergy worldwide. The 53-year-old monsignor is the new secretary of the disciplinary section at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which has responsibility for dealing with credible allegations against clergy. He had been serving at the office since being appointed there by Pope Francis in 2017 and his appointment is part of a major shake-up of the Vatican curia being undertaken by Pope Francis.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times


Argentine nuns accuse archbishop, others of gender violence
“Several feminist groups are calling for protests May 3 in support of a community of cloistered nuns who have caused shockwaves by accusing the archbishop of a northern Argentine province and other church officials of gender-based psychological and physical violence. The pairing of feminists and Carmelite nuns is unusual in a country at the forefront of Latin America’s women’s movement where activists are often at odds with the Roman Catholic Church. The support illustrates how rare it is for this type of dispute to make it to the courts.” By Almudena Calatrava, The Associated Press, in Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

Editorial: Thanks to Network for 50 years of lobbying for the common good
“It is not an overstatement to say that some 17.5 million formerly uninsured Americans now have health insurance thanks, in large part, to a group of Catholic sisters. Network, a Catholic social justice lobby of religious women, was instrumental in the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, which dramatically reduced the number of uninsured Americans. That is just one of the group’s many accomplishments over the past five decades. Network, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month, has tirelessly worked for the common good, and the country is a better place for its having done so.” By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff


Should women be ordained Catholic deacons?
“In 2020, Pope Francis created a second Vatican commission to consider ordaining women as deacons—clergy who may read the gospel and preach at Mass, baptize, witness marriages, preside at funerals, and work with the needy. (A prior commission had ended two years earlier with no action taken by the Vatican.) One media report said the move signified that ‘women deacons in the Catholic Church are closer to reality than ever before.’ Correction: women deacons were reality in the early church.” By Rich Barlow, Bostonia, Boston University Alumni Magazine


Vatican backs Cardinal Woelki over abuse study contracts
“The Vatican has ruled that the German Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki did not breach canon law when awarding contracts connected to a landmark report on clerical abuse. The Archdiocese of Cologne announced the Vatican’s decision on May 3, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. During a seven-month ‘period of spiritual leave’ taken by the cardinal, the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese commissioned two independent canon lawyers to study the contracts awarded by Woelki and vicar general Msgr. Markus Hofmann.” By Catholic News Agency Staff


Rome on a Mission: Pope Francis’ reform of the Curia
“This, at last, is the reform ‘strongly wished for by most of the cardinals gathered in the pre-conclave general congregations’ in 2013, as Praedicate recalls at the end of its preamble. The date of the constitution’s release—March 19, the ninth anniversary of Pope Francis’s inaugural Mass—is a reminder of those days, when cardinals in the wake of Benedict’s resignation stood up, one after another, to urge the next pope to turn a dysfunctional, inward-looking court of self-aggrandizing cronies into an effective, outward-looking organism of service to the whole Church.” By Austen Ivereigh, Commmonweal


Vatican trial places pope, top aides at center of London deal
“The former director of the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency testified Wednesday (Apr. 27) that Pope Francis asked him to help the Vatican secretariat of state get full control of a London property, once again putting the pope and his top deputies in the spotlight for their roles in the problematic deal. Tommaso Di Ruzza is one of 10 people accused in the Vatican’s sprawling financial trial, which is centered on the secretariat of state’s 350 million euro investment in a luxury London property. Vatican prosecutors have accused brokers and Vatican officials of fleecing the Holy See of millions of euros in fees, much of it donations from the faithful, and then extorting the Vatican of 15 million euros to get full control of the property.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press


Stephen Mills: Don’t tell us it’s too late to get justice
“Take it from me, the aftershocks of child sexual abuse last a lifetime. I’m 66, and the sexual violence I experienced at age 13 — a near-death experience, really — can still grip my body and mind when I least expect it. I thought I’d be released when my abuser died. But that happened 30 years ago. Then I was sure I just needed to find the right meds, the right therapy, the right spiritual practice. No, no and no.” By Stephen Mills, Trib Live

What kind of Catholics are we?
What does it mean to be a vowed Dominican Sister, a member of the Order of Preachers within a church that largely rejects women preaching in liturgical settings? Lucky for me, I am blessed with a high tolerance for perceived contradictions. In fact, it was my penchant for incongruities that, after 25 years as a non-practicing Catholic, drew me back into the fold. For me, the endurance, scope and coherence of the Catholic tradition belie a profound underlying Truth that enables me to live with the inherent, sometimes painful, contradictions of the church.” By Quincy Howard, Globe Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

Troubling past: the Church’s role in America’s Indian boarding school era
“The doll is about 6 inches tall, handcrafted of red leather, with a tan belt and headband around its long black hair. It’s a male warrior, holding a bow. ‘This is actually me,’ D. Richard Wright said of the doll. The parishioner of Gichitwaa Kateri in south Minneapolis made it as part of an effort to process recent findings in Canada of what are believed to be hundreds of graves of children on the sites of former indigenous residential schools. Some Twin Cities American Indians — mostly women — gathered together to make ‘spirit dolls’ representing the children in some of those graves, resulting in an exhibit called ‘215+’ that was on view from November to January at Indigenous Roots in St. Paul.” By Maria Wiering, The Catholic Spirit


California Catholic dioceses ask Supreme Court to hear statute of limitations extension case
“California Catholic bishops are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a case challenging the state for permitting victims of childhood sexual abuse to file claims again, after the timeframe for them to pursue legal action has expired twice. Nine California Catholic dioceses and archdioceses filed a petition for writ of certiorari, or a petition to review a lower court’s decision, in the case — Roman Catholic Bishop of Oakland v. Superior Court of California for Los Angeles — on April 15.” By Katie Yoder, Catholic News Agency, on AngelusNews.com

Iowa’s dangerous safe base for abusers
“The game of tag is one of the most classic outdoor childhood games. Although it has many versions, traditionally speaking, one player is ‘it’ and must tag other players to eliminate them. Generally, players cannot be tagged out if they are on the ‘safe base.’ Kids often complain and holler that the safe base is unfair. They have a point. There is ‘safe base’ in Iowa, but it is a dangerous one. You see, Iowa law creates a safe zone for the absolute worst – sexual predators. A sexual predator may be out and held accountable in one jurisdiction but cross the state line into Iowa and they are safe. Why?” By Kathryn Robb and Kylie DeWees, The Gazette


A wounded healer speaks about the sexual abuse crisis
“In this new episode of Field Hospital, Jeannie Gaffigan and I had the privilege of speaking to Mark Joseph Williams, a survivor of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest who has undergone a long journey of healing and recovery. He now advocates for and accompanies other survivors as they seek the healing and justice they need after suffering the trauma and injustice they have endured. Professionally, Mark is a management consultant and a forensic social worker from New Jersey. He also serves as special advisor in the Archdiocese of Newark for Cardinal Joseph Tobin.” By Mark Lewis, The Field Hospital Podcate, on WherePeterIs.com

Navarre will recognize the victims of abuses in Church already prescribed
“Navarre will enact a law to recognize as such the victims of pederasty in the Catholic Church, clarify the crimes committed by the members of this institution in the community and ‘contribute to a collective, democratic and critical memory’ about the problem. The draft of the law, to which this newspaper has had access, contemplates the creation of a ‘recognition commission’ composed of experts who will assess, during six years of work, the requests of people who claim to have suffered abuses by the clergy and want to benefit from the law.” By Julio Núñez, El Pais


Archdiocese of Chicago settles sex abuse claim against the Rev. George Clements: lawyer
“The Archdiocese of Chicago has reached an $800,000 settlement over claims of sexual abuse by the late Rev. George Clements, the famed Holy Angels pastor, and four other Chicago-area religious figures, according to lawyers representing the alleged abuse victims. An attorney for Clements’ now 54-year-old alleged victim called Tuesday (Apr. 26) for Cardinal Blase Cupich to place Clements on the archdiocese’s public list of ‘credibly accused priests.’ ‘The hiding has to stop. The secrecy has to stop,’ Boston-based attorney Mitch Garabedian told reporters.” By Stefano Esposito, C

Chicago Sun-Times


Judge rejects sex abuse plea deal for suspended Indy priest
“A judge rejected a proposed plea agreement for a suspended Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy in 2016 and instead set a trial date for the cleric Thursday (Apr. 21). Hamilton County Superior Court Judge Michael Casati threw out the deal that would have allowed David Marcotte to plead guilty to one count of dissemination of matter harmful to minor in exchange for the state dismissing charges of child solicitation and vicarious sexual gratification. Casati scheduled a jury trial for Oct. 10 on the three felony counts, WRTV-TV reported.” By Associated Press in The Goshen News


Lawrence priest suspended after child sex abuse allegation
“A former pastor at Catholic parishes in Lawrence and Eudora and on the Haskell Indian Nations University campus has been suspended from ministry following an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. According to March 25 issue of The Leaven, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, the archdiocese learned on Feb. 28 that Father Michael Scully had been accused of sexual abuse. Upon notification, the archdiocese ‘relieved Father Scully from public exercise of priestly ministry’ until an investigation is complete.” By Andrea Albright, The Lawrence Times

Topeka man’s status as a priest now to be decided after DA opts not to file charges in abuse claim
“Now it knows a Topeka Roman Catholic priest accused last year of child sexual abuse won’t be charged criminally, his archdiocese says it will proceed with evaluating his status as a priest. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay has decided not to file charges against the Rev. John Pilcher after reviewing the results of an investigation conducted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, he told The Capital-Journal on Monday (Apr. 25).” By Tim Hrenchir, Topeka Capital-Journal


Priests accused of sexual abuse living at Jefferson County treatment center
Catholic priests and clergy accused of sexually abusing children are living under the radar at a Missouri treatment center. Tucked behind trees in a quiet neighborhood off Eime Road in Dittmer, MO, is a Catholic community shrouded in secrecy. ‘There’s some sick people over there,’ said Michael Stenzhorn, who lives just across the street. Signs outside the Vianney Renewal Center don’t say who lives there. ‘I believe there are hundreds if not thousands sex offender clergy who have been through that place,’ said David Clohessy, the Missouri Volunteer Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).” Stenzhorn says for years his family was in the dark.” By KFVS-TV12 News


Abuse survivors and Catholic Diocese of Rochester face off in bankruptcy court
“The Rochester Catholic Diocese is being accused of acting in bad faith. Sex abuse survivors are frustrated the diocese bankruptcy case is still not settled. When they joined the case, their civil lawsuits against individual parishes and priests were frozen. After three years without a settlement, they now want to be able to proceed with those lawsuits. Brian Delafranier, a survivor of the abuse, said him and other victims deserve to be compensated for the abuse they suffered.” By Ginny Ryan, WHAM-TV13 News

Court: Albany diocese must release priest treatment files
“A recent court ruling has opened the door to the release of psychological treatment records of priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany accused of child sexual abuse. The Albany Times-Union reported the ruling came in a lawsuit by an alleged abuse victim from the 1980s who sought records detailing the treatment received by the Rev. Edward Pratt and other priests. The diocese had argued that the records were subject to patient-physician privilege, but the appeals court wrote last Thursday that the privilege was waived because the priests’ records had been shared with then-Bishop Howard J. Hubbard.” By Associated Press


Archdiocesan priest accused of inappropriately touching minor in 2018
“A report to the Archdiocese of Denver states that an archdiocesan priest inappropriately touched a minor a single time back in 2018. The inappropriate touching occurred in a public space when the young girl was exiting church immediately after Mass had ended. According to the Archdiocese of Denver, the church followed its Code of Conduct and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and immediately reported the allegation to authorities.” By Morgan Whitley, FOX-TV31 News


Diocese of Toledo Announces Final Decision Regarding Reverend Nelson Beaver
“The Diocese of Toledo is announcing the final decision regarding Rev. Nelson Beaver, who was placed on administrative leave in October 2018 having received an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor dating back over 25 years. Three other allegations of sexual abuse of a minor from a similar time period were subsequently made against Beaver … In October, 2019, the diocese announced that the investigation had been completed, the Diocesan Review Board found all four allegations to be substantiated and voted unanimously that Beaver is not suitable for priestly ministry. Bishop Daniel E. Thomas accepted the Review Board’s recommendation …” By Diocese of Toledo


Lawsuit: Knoxville diocese mishandled sex abuse claim
“A lawsuit says the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville mishandled a report about allegations that a priest sexually abused a parishioner. The lawsuit filed in Sevier County says Father Antony D. Punnackal locked an adult female plaintiff in a room on Feb. 17, 2020, and fondled her, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. Police allegedly informed the diocese about the allegations against Punnackal before he was indicted by a grand jury, but no action was taken until the indictment, the complaint states.” By Associated Press


Archdiocese of Seattle settles two sex abuse claims for $375,000
“The Archdiocese of Seattle said Thursday (Apr. 28) it will pay $375,000 to settle two separate claims of sexual abuse in the 1970s and 1980s. The Roman Catholic archdiocese said in a news release that it settled a case involving allegations of childhood sexual abuse in the early to mid-1970s by David Pearson, a volunteer at St. Joseph Parish in Issaquah. Pearson has died. The archdiocese also said it settled a case involving an allegation of sexual abuse by Father Paul Conn in about 1987 when he served at Queen of Angels Parish in Port Angeles.” By Associated Press


New portal will assess, improve safeguarding
“A new portal launched today by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Limited will help Catholic organizations measure their progress in applying the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards. Marking the launch of the portal, ACSL CEO Ursula Stephens described it as a crucial resource for entities wanting to understand where their current safeguarding standards are in relation to best practice. ‘It is intuitive, easy to navigate and use and will be invaluable to safeguarding personnel everywhere. The portal we have developed will help Catholic entities to meet their own legislative safeguarding requirements in a timely way,’ Dr Stephens said.” By CathNews.com


Sex abuse case sparks Ottawa to assert papal ambassador’s diplomatic immunity
“Three weeks after Pope Francis apologized for Catholic residential school abuses, Ottawa issued a diplomatic immunity certificate for the pope’s ambassador who faced a lawyer’s demand for records in other Catholic school sexual and physical abuse allegations. ‘Clearly, that consent is not forthcoming, because the certificate was issued,’ Sandra Kovacs, lawyer for complainant Mark O’Neill said. ‘This position is not surprising, particularly in light of the frustration also expressed by residential school survivors, who have asked Pope Francis for unfettered access to records with the Vatican’s missionary department, too,’ Kovacs said.” By Jeremy Hainsworth, Pique Newsmagazine


Brooklyn diocese settles sex abuse lawsuit vs. Filipino bishop
“The Diocese of Brooklyn has settled a lawsuit against the late Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, accused of sexual abuse of a minor when he was a visiting clergy in St. Francis de Sales Church in Belle Harbor in New York in the early 1970s. According to Road to Recovery, Inc., a non-profit in New Jersey that assists victims of sexual abuse, Father Gutierrez sexually abused a minor child parishioner of St. Francis de Sales Parish on approximately six occasions from around 1970 until 1971 when the boy was about 11 to 12 years old.” By Cristina D.C. Pastor, The FilAm Magazine


Member of Catholic order in Singapore who committed sex acts on two teenage boys jailed 5 years
“A man who was part of a Catholic religious order that established a school in Singapore, was sentenced to five years’ jail on Thursday (May 5) for committing unlawful sexual acts with two teenage boys. The Singaporean, who The Straits Times understands is not a priest, pleaded guilty to one charge of voluntarily having carnal intercourse against the order of nature and one charge under the Children and Young Persons Act. Two other charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.” By Samuel Devaraj, Straits Times

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New Vatican constitution will create more space at the table / U.S. Catholic

An interview with scholar Phyllis Zagano on the new constitution and the roles of women in the church.

U.S. Catholic

“On March 19 Pope Francis issued a new apostolic constitution for the Roman Curia, the offices that help him govern the Catholic Church. Praedicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel) has been in the works since the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate nine years ago. It is slated to go into effect on June 5, replacing the charter Pastor Bonus (The Good Shepherd) that was promulgated by St. Pope John Paul II in 1988. The completion of this constitution signifies an important milestone in Pope Francis’ ongoing work of making the church more pastoral, synodal, and inclusive.

“One significant change in the new constitution is that leadership of Vatican offices traditionally run by cardinals is now opened to all baptized laypersons. This includes women.

“According to internationally acclaimed scholar Phyllis Zagano, this move is less about making changes to women’s roles in ministry than it is about the pope’s determination to involve as many competent people as possible in the management structure of the church.

“Zagano is a senior research associate-in-residence and adjunct professor of religion at Hofstra University. She is the author of 23 books, including Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future (with Gary Macy and William T. Ditewig) (Paulist Press), Women in Ministry: Emerging Questions About the Diaconate (Paulist Press), Women Deacons? Essays with Answers (Liturgical Press), and Women: Icons of Christ (Paulist Press). She is a leading expert on the history of women in the church and an advocate for the ordination of women to the diaconate.”

U.S. Catholic interview with Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., — Read more …

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Pope mandates annual audit on protection of children from abuse / Reuters

Francis said he wanted a yearly “reliable account on what is presently being done and what needs to change” to protect children and vulnerable adults from predator clergy.

By Philip Pullella, Reuters

“Pope Francis on Friday asked for an annual audit evaluating how national Catholic Churches are implementing measures to protect children from clergy sexual abuse, saying that without more transparency the faithful will continue to lose trust.

“‘Abuse in any form is unacceptable,’ Francis told members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was established in 2014 to promote best practices and a culture of safeguarding worldwide.

“The commission had a rocky start, with several members resigning in frustration, complaining that it had no teeth and that they had met internal resistance.

“It was given a new lease on life in March, when the Vatican’s updated constitution placed it in the doctrinal department, which rules on abuse cases.

“Francis said he wanted a yearly “reliable account on what is presently being done and what needs to change” to protect children and vulnerable adults from predator clergy.”

By Philip Pullella, Reuters — Read more …

Click hear to read Voice of the Faithfuls recently released “2022 Report: Measuring Abuse Prevention and Safe Environment Programs as Reported Online in Diocesan Policies and Practices,” which studied the level of diocesan compliance with child protection guidelines.

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Women religious blaze new trails in roles of authority at the Vatican / Global Sisters Report

Much of the change has been fueled at the top by Pope Francis, who in his nearly decadelong papacy has repeatedly elevated the work of religious women. 

By Christopher White, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

“When Pope Francis met more than 850 religious sisters attending the International Union of Superiors General plenary meeting in Rome in 2019, the pope insisted that the chair for the body’s then-president, Sr. Carmen Sammut, be seated right next to him.

“At the time, both Sammut, a Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa, and those in the room were touched by the pope’s deeply symbolic gesture to level the playing field.

“Now, as delegates from around the globe prepare to travel again to Rome for this year’s May 2-6 plenary, a wave of new appointments of sisters inside the Vatican has made it clear that Francis is backing that symbolism up with substantive changes and making room for more women religious to have a permanent seat at the table.

“‘Change takes time,’ said Sr. Patricia Murray, executive secretary of the International Union of Superiors General, which represents 600,000 sisters from around the globe.”

By Christopher White, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter — Read more ...

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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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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