Archive for category Catholic Bishops

Editorial: Knoxville Catholics deserve an update on Vatican’s investigation of Bishop Stika / National Catholic Reporter

Kristy Higgins, a Chattanooga resident, explained local Catholics’ desire for some sort of update. “We want to at least be assured that our concerns have been heard,” she said. ‘Even if the answer is that there’s nothing to these allegations, that we’ve investigated and we’ve determined there’s nothing to it. Then great. But give us that, at least. Show us that someone cares about us.’

By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff

“There are relatively few positions in the country that have the job security of a Catholic bishop. In his diocese, as the church’s Code of Canon Law puts it, the bishop has ‘all ordinary, proper, and immediate power.’ No one there can contravene his orders or force his removal from office. Neither can the national conference of bishops, nor can any regional ecclesial entities.

“Even Elon Musk, the new lord of Twitter and aspiring president of Mars, ultimately reports to various boards of directors. Catholic bishops report to the pope directly, and only he can choose to remove them.

“Given that organizational reality, one can understand the dilemma of a Catholic in the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee. As NCR staff reporter Brian Fraga highlights in a thorough and wide-ranging investigation, many parishioners there are feeling demoralized and unsure what power they have to effect change in their diocese. They certainly deserve some answers.

“Bishop Richard Stika, already a polarizing figure for his brash style of leadership, now stands accused in two lawsuits of allegedly obstructing investigations into clergy sexual abuse, and intimidating people who reported being abused. Stika denies the allegations.

“In 2021, several priests in Knoxville formally filed a complaint to the Vatican about Stika’s alleged misconduct, availing themselves of the new process Pope Francis created in 2019 to report suspicions of abuse or cover-up by bishops. (That process is outlined in the apostolic letter Vos Estis Lux Mundi, which the pope concretized as permanent church law this March).

“One of the priests who filed the complaint told NCR he has been ‘deeply discouraged’ by the process since they made their report. An apostolic visitation, or formal investigation into Stika, was not conducted until a year later, in late November and early December 2022. As of May 2023, there has been no update on what the investigators, Bishops Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, and Barry Knestout of Richmond, Virginia, have found.”

By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff — Read more …

See also, “Lingering Vatican investigation of Tennessee bishop leaves diocese demoralized,” By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter

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Lingering Vatican investigation of Tennessee bishop leaves diocese demoralized / National Catholic Reporter

‘We are just really a hot mess,’ said Susan Vance, a leader of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests in Tennessee.

By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter

“Some priests in the Diocese of Knoxville have retired early or left active ministry. Others are considering leaving the priesthood. Groups of lay Catholics in the East Tennessee area say they are demoralized and frustrated.

“‘We are just really a hot mess,’ said Susan Vance, a leader of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests in Tennessee.

“Vance and other local Catholics blame Bishop Richard Stika, who became the diocese’s third bishop in 2009, for the turmoil in their local church. In two lawsuits, the diocese is accused of allegedly obstructing investigations into clergy sex abuse and intimidating people who reported they were abused. An apostolic visitation is investigating concerns about Stika’s leadership raised by laity and clergy.

“‘This man is not a leader. A leader looks after his people,’ said Marcy Meldahl, a Knoxville resident who served for 10 years as the diocese’s human resources director until she resigned in 2014. Meldahl told NCR she left her job amid her concerns that the diocese refused to make improvements to its pension financial reporting procedures, and added that she was being frozen out of meetings toward the end of her tenure.”

By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Francis’ synod reforms show voices of Catholic laity can no longer be ignored / National Catholic Reporter

In a 2016 letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, he (Pope Francis) urged: ‘Let us trust in our People, in their memory and in their ‘sense of smell,’ let us trust that the Holy Spirit acts in and with our People and that this Spirit is not merely the ‘property’ of the ecclesial hierarchy.’ Simply stated, lay Christians have a ‘nose’ for the truth of the Gospel.

By Catherine E. Clifford, National Catholic Reporter

“Pope Francis’ decision in late April to include lay persons as full participants with voting rights in the upcoming Synod of Bishops is a significant step towards making the synod a body that more adequately represents and embodies an act of discernment by the whole entire people of God. 

“In exhorting the pastors of the local churches to embark upon a synodal process with the whole community of the baptized and listen to the voices of the marginalized, the pope has been seeking to reawaken the muscle memory of the ecclesial body. 

“The successors of the apostles are relearning the importance of consulting the whole church, in the image of the first Apostles (Acts 6:5; 9:22). A more synodal church — the goal of the present synodal process — better reflects the nature of the Christian community as followers of the Way (Acts 9:2; John 14:6), a community of disciples on a shared journey of faith.

“On many occasions Francis has astutely diagnosed the debilitating consequences of failing to receive fully Vatican II’s recognition of the equal dignity and co-responsibility of the baptized through the creation of spaces for their meaningful participation in the discernment of the church’s missional needs and priorities.”

By Catherine E. Clifford, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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” —

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Cardinal O’Malley: Papal abuse commission shifting to ‘impact-focused direction / National Catholic Reporter

Among its new tasks, it said, were how to respond promptly to Francis’ request ‘to animate the church to combat the evils of online child abuse’ and commissioning an in-depth study on ‘the theme of vulnerability in its various forms so as to equip church entities with robust measures to combat this emerging area of abuse.’

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

“The new projects and developments at the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors represent ‘a major shift toward a more impact-focused direction,’ said its president, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston.

“‘The Holy Father has asked a lot from us, and we are all committed to making this work,’ the cardinal said, according to a press release from the commission May 8.

“‘We have sought the necessary resources to respond adequately, and we are confident in the plan we have laid out and the people we have working with us,’ he said in the statement, which was issued at the end of the commission’s plenary assembly in Rome May 3-6.

“‘At times, this new direction has been both steep and fast for all of us reflecting the urgency of the challenges. This accelerated pace over the last six months has caused growing pains as we have attempted to respond to both short- and longer-term needs,’ the cardinal’s statement said.

“During the plenary, he said, ‘we developed key adjustments to our working methodology so as to clarify our different roles and to create a sense of common ownership of our mandate and of our collective responsibility for its implementation.'”

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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My daughters have hard questions about the church. Are women deacons the answer? / America: The Jesuit Review

My kids, who are now teens, had been asking difficult questions, and I did not have good answers. They asked: ‘If God loves us all unconditionally, why doesn’t the church?

By Katie Mulcahy, America: The Jesuit Review

“Although I had attended Catholic school all my young life, I was never familiar with the concepts of synod, discernment and the diaconate. That was until last spring, when a friend invited me to her church for a Discerning Deacons event titled ‘Hope, Change and the Catholic Church.’ It was a cold Sunday evening, the Oscars were on, and I did not feel like driving across the city. But this is a friend who always shows up for me, so I went.

“Looking back on that evening, I believe it was the Holy Spirit who was nudging me to go. I had been feeling apathetic about my place in the church. My kids, who are now teens, had been asking difficult questions and I did not have good answers. They asked, ‘If God loves us all unconditionally, why doesn’t the church? Aren’t women and girls also made in the image of Christ?’ And here is a question that stopped me in my tracks: ‘If we value one group over another, aren’t we enabling oppression against the second group?’

“I attended the Discerning Deacons event with 700 other folks—men, women, teens, senior citizens, all looking for hope, professing their faith through song, prayer and sharing stories. We heard testimonies from women who have dedicated their lives to ministry and service in the church. One story really struck me: Casey Stanton, a co-director of Discerning Deacons and a woman with advanced degrees in divinity, felt called to serve in prison ministry. Because Ms. Stanton could not be ordained as a deacon in the Catholic faith, she was limited in how much she could minister to the female prisoners. I couldn’t help but wonder: Who else is restricted in their ministry because of the limitations put on women?”

By Katie Mulcahy, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Pope’s changes to Synod voting underscore Voice of the Faithful’s mission

Pope Francis changed the Roman Catholic Church yesterday (Apr. 26) by giving lay people votes in the Catholic Church Synod of Bishops, which now will be called simply the Synod.

“Our excitement at Pope Francis’ inclusion of the laity in such an important way today cannot be overstated,” says Mary Pat Fox, Voice of the Faithful president. “Since shortly after Pope Francis’ election, when it began to become evident that his leadership approach would differ from his predecessors, we have watched him gradually elevate attention on the role of the laity in the Church. We pray that the pastoral orientation, openness, and inclusivity he promotes will continue beyond his pontificate. This is the same mission VOTF has promoted since our beginning.”

For more than 20 years, Voice of the Faithful has addressed the laity’s involvement in Church structure. VOTF’s very 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.” By including lay people, and calling for half of these delegates to by women, Pope Francis is welcoming such participation.

VOTF also has called for reforms in Church structure. Over the years, these efforts have included educating the laity and equipping them with the means to address responsibly issues of vital importance within the Church. Examples include annual nationwide reviews of diocesan financial transparency and accountability, lay involvement in diocesan finance councils, and diocesan compliance with child protection and safe environment guidelines.

In addition, VOTF has worked to promote lay involvement in the selection of bishops; the creation and support of parish and diocesan pastoral councils, finance councils, and safety committees; the eradication of clericalism, perhaps the greatest threat undermining lay input in the Church; and the establishment of an ordained women’s diaconate in the church. VOTF performs this work with the conviction that the whole Church must respect the dignity and intelligence of all its members and “acknowledge the right and responsibility of the laity, flowing from their baptism, to use their God-given gifts for the good of the Church.”

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

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Report finds Freiburg’s ex-archbishop covered up sex abuse / Deutsche Welle

Catholic former Archbishop Robert Zollitsch is accused of covering up sexual abuse cases for roughly 30 years in an independent report commissioned by the Freiburg archdiocese.

By Deutsche Welle

“A report on the past handling of sexual abuse cases in one of Germany’s larger Catholic archdioceses, Freiburg, found that the city’s former archbishop did almost everything in his power to conceal perpetrators over a period of roughly 30 years in total. 

“The independent report, one of several comparable outside investigations commissioned by Catholic Churches in Germany of late, was critical of Robert Zollitsch’s handling of abuse in the church both as archbishop and during his 20 preceding years as a close associate of his predecessor, Alexander Saier. 

“Eugen Endress, a judge and one of the authors of the report, told a press conference on Tuesday (Apr. 18) that Zollitsch would often completely ignore church law when confronted with cases. He described the problem as ‘about covering up by leading personnel.’ 

“The report said Zollitsch would neither launch preliminary investigations of allegations, as Vatican guidelines recommended, and that in his entire period in office he never reported a single case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Catholic body that can prosecute the clergy.”

By Deutsche Welle — Read more …

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North American synod gathering focused on concerns about pope’s process, says participating bishop / National Catholic Reporter

‘Asia, Europe and Africa with their vast geographies and cultural diversity were able to conduct continental assemblies. Even the Middle East created such an assembly,’ he (Bishop John Stowe) said. ‘North America did not, citing economic and practical difficulties in coming together.’

By Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter

“A U.S. bishop who helped draft the synthesis document for the North American continental phase of the ongoing process for the Synod of Bishops said he saw ‘notable differences’ in this phase’s virtual listening sessions, compared to input from the previous parish- and diocesan-level phase.

“‘Concerns about the direction of the synod were more pronounced,’ said Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, noting that among the concerns of those delegates, who were handpicked by bishops, were restrictions against the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass, possible changes to Catholic doctrine, the focus on inclusivity and the synod process itself.

“Stowe made his remarks in an April 11 talk on ‘Synodality and the Common Good’ as part of the Cardinal Bernardin Common Cause lecture series at the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage at Loyola University Chicago.

“Stowe said he was sure the late Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago ‘would have enthusiastically engaged the synodal process with all of the hope it offers for a church that is faithful and engaged as a servant of the human family.'”

By Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

See also “Synod’s ‘messy,’ ‘joyful’ North American phase concludes with call to mission, moves to Rome,” by Gina Christian, OSV News, in National Catholic Reporter

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Report details ‘staggering’ church sex abuse in Maryland / Associated Press

‘The staggering pervasiveness of the abuse itself underscores the culpability of the Church hierarchy,’ the report said.

By Lea Skene, Brian Witte, and Sarah Brumfield, Associated Press

“More than 150 Catholic priests and others associated with the Archdiocese of Baltimore sexually abused over 600 children and often escaped accountability, according to a long-awaited state report released Wednesday (Apr. 8) that revealed the scope of abuse spanning 80 years and accused church leaders of decades of coverups.

“The report paints a damning picture of the archdiocese, which is the oldest Roman Catholic diocese in the country and spans much of Maryland. Some parishes, schools and congregations had more than one abuser at the same time — including St. Mark Parish in Catonsville, which had 11 abusers living and working there between 1964 and 2004. One deacon admitted to molesting over 100 children. Another priest was allowed to feign hepatitis treatment and make other excuses to avoid facing abuse allegations.

“The Maryland Attorney General’s Office released the findings of their years-long investigation during Holy Week — considered the most sacred time of year in Christianity ahead of Easter Sunday — and said the number of victims is likely far higher. The report was redacted to protect confidential grand jury materials, meaning the identities of some accused clergy were removed.”

By Lea Skene, Brian Witte, and Sarah Brumfield, Associated Press — Read more …

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Pope Francis faces chance to radically reshape U.S. Catholic hierarchy / National Catholic Reporter

Thirteen American archdioceses and 21 dioceses could need new bishops by 2025.

National Catholic Reporter

“If Pope Francis continues to serve as bishop of Rome for another two years, he may have a notable opportunity to refashion the U.S. Catholic hierarchy. Dozens of bishops, several in historically significant archdioceses, will be required by canon law to submit resignation letters upon turning 75.

“At least 13 archdioceses and 21 dioceses could have new episcopal appointments by February 2025. In addition, two dioceses — Fairbanks, Alaska, and Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana — are operating without bishops. The number of episcopal openings could increase because of deaths or resignations.

“If he names new bishops to all those local churches, Francis will have appointed 64 percent of the U.S. episcopate since becoming pope in March 2013. Forty-six percent of current U.S. bishops are Francis appointees, said Catherine Hoegeman, a Missouri State University sociology professor who tracks U.S. episcopal appointments.

“‘Over the next two years, it looks like Francis is going from [having appointed] a little less than half of active bishops to a little less than two-thirds. I think that’s a notable shift,’ said Hoegeman. Since 1969, she said, popes have made an average of 15 episcopal appointments every year in the United States.

By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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