Archive for category church reform

U.S. diocesan synod reports highlight ‘enduring wounds’ in Church / Cruxnow.com

“Throughout the diocesan phase of the Synod on Synodality, U.S. Catholics consistently highlighted several ‘enduring wounds’ that plague the nation’s church, including the still-unfolding effects of the sexual abuse crisis, divisions over the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, and a perceived lack of unity among the nation’s bishops.

“The feedback was published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Sept. 19, in a national synthesis of the diocesan synod phase. The synthesis is the culmination of diocesan Synod reports and contributions from other Catholic entities since last fall.

“An estimated 700,000 people out of an estimated 66.8 million U.S. Catholics contributed to the feedback that went into creating the synthesis.

“Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, the USCCB’s committee on doctrine chair who oversaw the national process, called the document a ‘significant moment’ for the U.S. church, while cautioning that it’s only the first step in a larger process.”

Click here to read the National Synthesis of the People of God in the United States of America for the Diocesan Phase of the 2021-2023 Synod.

By John Lavenburg, Cruxnow.com — Read more …

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Conclusion: Voice of the Faithful Synod on Synodality Submission

Voice of the Faithful’s Synod 2021-2023 submission was sent directly to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in Rome to ensure that the voices expressed during many Synod sessions held January through May, 2022, would be represented among the lay voices seeking to be heard in the Synod for Synodality. Following is the conclusion of VOTF’s submission. You can read the entire submission by clicking here.

The recommendations emerging from the VOTF sessions hold all the Faithful—the laity, the priests, the bishops, and the Pope—responsible for implementation. “We should all ask ourselves, what would Jesus do?” many said. Frustrations felt at local levels generally come from the actions and inactions of the bishops and the hierarchy. Participants universally agreed that resolution requires the laity to become more involved and to obtain greater roles in the guidance and governance of the Church. The clergy and laity must work together in mutual respect for any of these changes to be achieved.

The Laity need to be included in meaningful ways when selecting new bishops and parish pastors. Parish Councils and Finance Councils need to be selected by the parishioners and empowered to make decisions.  Several called for the priest to provide spiritual guidance and for the laity to provide administrative management of the parish and diocese.

Participants viewed the parish as the place to provide both spiritual nourishment and a sense of community. Many believed that their spiritual sustenance was better achieved through small faith communities formed within their parishes or elsewhere. Pastors should encourage the formation of such small faith communities so that the need can be fulfilled within the Catholic Church itself.

Recommendations to ensure a welcoming church, especially welcoming those on the margins, stressed the need for the priests to lead this effort from the pulpit. Participants frequently emphasized the lack of welcome for LGBTQ+ persons and their families and  for sex abuse survivors and their families. Homilies that stress Catholic Social Teaching and promote inclusion of all God’s children are essential. The Church must move away  from judging people by rigid rules and must become more merciful and inclusive. 

The feeling that the priesthood is broken was universal amongst the participants, and the initial recommendations to address this included changing seminary education and training as well as providing ongoing spiritual formation and training in homiletics for priests. Seminary training should include education at co-ed Catholic institutions, training in the Spirit of Vatican II as well as the documents, and a required internship in a parish prior  to ordination. Once ordained, priests should be required to continue their spiritual formation throughout their lives—perhaps using the practices of some Religious Orders as a model. 

All stressed the need for women’s voices to be heard at all levels of the Church. As a first step, the Pope must ensure women are in positions of responsibility and authority in all departments of the Curia. Bishops must ensure that women hold positions of authority on diocesan pastoral and finance councils. Parishes must invite women as well as non-ordained men to preach. Women provide a different point of view that can broaden the perspective of those engaged in decision-making. The treatment of women is also a factor in the declining number of priests; many women will not encourage their sons to become  a priest in a church that treats women with disrespect.

When considering the pervasive nature and numerous scandals and problems fueled by clericalism in the Church, participants believe priests and bishops must welcome laity into a mutual relationship. Such acceptance will require education and ongoing formation for priests that emphasizes humility and servant leadership. Participants  stated that the laity must take steps to break down the notion that “Father knows best” and open meaningful communications with their pastors. 

Continuation of the synodal process should be required to ensure we continue to listen respectfully to one another. We must all—ordained and non-ordained—live out our Baptismal responsibilities within the Church, because together we are the Church.

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Report: Catholic clergy’s unquestioned – and uneducated – power spurs abuse / Religion News Service

(Paul J.) Schutz (of Santa Clara University) told Religion News Service that their aim was to understand how ‘structural clericalism operates in the church,’ comparing clericalism to the way structural racism shapes the lives of people of color.

By Alejandra Molina, Religion News Service

“A new report based on interviews with some 300 Catholic priests, nuns and laypeople concludes that clergy aren’t adequately prepared to wield the power they exercise and need more education on questions of sex and gender.

“The report, ‘Beyond Bad Apples: Understanding Clericalism as a Structural Problem & Cultivating Strategies for Change,’ released Monday (Aug. 15), explores the links between clericalism — clergy’s focus on its authority — and clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse. 

“The study’s authors, Julie Hanlon Rubio and Paul J. Schutz, both professors at Santa Clara University, a Jesuit institution in Northern California, initially intended to survey 600 respondents, drawn proportionally from lay, religious (those who take vows but are not ordained to the priesthood) and priests, but were turned away by five of the six dioceses and diocesan seminaries they approached.”

By Alejandra Molina, Religion News Service — Read more …

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In synod reports, US Catholics call for women’s leadership, LGBTQ welcoming / National Catholic Reporter

Still, the estimated 650,000 synod participants represent a little more than 1% of the roughly 51 million Catholic adults in the United States. The diocesan reports indicate that about two-thirds of those who attended listening sessions were 55 or older, and that most of those participants were women. An overwhelming majority of synodal participants were also white — 94% in the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, for example — and were more likely to be married and attend Mass weekly.

By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter

“More than a half million U.S. Catholics have participated in synodal listening sessions over the past year as part of Pope Francis’ two-year process of grassroots listening ahead of the 2023 Synod of Bishops in Rome, and responses indicate that many Americans want a more welcoming church that reaches out to the marginalized, especially the LGBTQ community, and that allows women to serve in leadership positions, including ordained ministry.

“A review of more than a dozen synodal ‘synthesis’ reports, posted online by dioceses across the country, also indicates that most Catholics are tired of the polarization in the church; believe that clerics need to do a better job communicating and involving the laity in ecclesial governance; and appreciate the opportunity to be heard, even if they harbor misgivings about what the Synod on Synodality will ultimately accomplish.

“‘I’ve been really touched by the amount of honesty that I’ve seen. Sensitive things are coming up, difficult conversations about difficult topics are coming up,’ said Julie McStravog, a consultant helping to coordinate the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ synodal work.

“McStravog told NCR that since fall 2021, more than 650,000 Catholics in the United States participated in synodal listening sessions, either online or in person, or responded to written surveys. In all, she said Catholics had more than 30,000 opportunities to participate in the synod.

“‘I’m delighted to see that every single report I’ve read expresses an appreciation for and a desire to continue the synodal listening, to enter into a sacred space and engage in deep listening and discernment with one another on a regular basis,’ McStravog said.

By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

Read Voice of the Faithful’s Synod report by clicking here …

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Catholics’ reports on the state of the Church are in. Here’s what they have to say. / Religion News Service

Clericalism is a scourge on the Church, Catholics say, and women are not included in leadership.

Religion News Service

“More than a year ago, Pope Francis announced the Synod on Synodality, an initiative to take the pulse of the Catholic Church. The U.S. Catholics have been mostly silent about this effort, but in several countries, including Australia, France, England and Wales, and Germany, things are moving full steam ahead.

“Two major problems have come up time and time again: clericalism and the place of women in the Church. 

“If you haven’t heard much about this effort, which completes its first phase this summer, you are not alone. In May 2021, six months prior to the synod’s October 2021 opening, the Vatican asked the world’s bishops to name synod coordinators in their dioceses, who were expected to organize a program of public meetings for Catholics, ex-Catholics and non-Catholics alike to talk about the Church.

“Some did. Some did not. Yet, somehow most U.S. dioceses — 95%, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — wrote reports, though relatively few are published. Participating dioceses melded parish reports into diocesan reports, which were combined into regional reports. From the regional reports, as well as reports from some 110 independent Catholic organizations, the USCCB will create a 10-page report, due in Rome by mid-August.”

By Phyllis Zagano, Religion News Service — Read more … 

To see Voice of the Faithful’s “Listening to the Faithful: Synod 2021-2023” webpage, click here …

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup, July 29, 2022

TOP STORIES

Women are now helping to select Catholic bishops. It is historic and long overdue.
“Reforming the church has been compared to turning a large ship around: You can’t hurry the task or you risk capsizing the ship. Last week (July 13), however, Pope Francis hurried his reforms quite a lot. The appointment of three women to serve on the Dicastery for Bishops is an enormous change in the life of the Roman Curia and in the life of the universal church. The Dicastery, known as the Congregation for Bishops until the reforms Francis implemented on Pentecost, is the body that receives the ternas — lists of three candidates — from the apostolic nuncios scattered around the globe for all open bishoprics that are not located in mission territory.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

US bishops: 2,930 abuse victims came forward in 2020-2021
“The U.S. bishops’ annual report on compliance with the ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People’ shows that 2,930 victim survivors came forward with 3,103 allegations during the audit year of July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. The number of allegations is 1,149 less than that reported in 2020, according to the audit report released July 12 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection.” By Catholic News Service in National Catholic Reporter

Francis begs forgiveness for ‘evil’ Christians inflicted on Indigenous people
“Pope Francis offered a sweeping apology to Indigenous people on their native land in Canada on Monday (Jul. 25), fulfilling a critical demand of many of the survivors of church-run residential schools that became gruesome centers of abuse, forced assimilation, cultural devastation and death for over a century. ‘I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,’ Francis said to a large crowd of Indigenous people, some wearing traditional clothing and headdresses, in Maskwacis, Alberta, the site of a former residential school.” By The New York Times

ACCOUNTABILITY

Chilean academic says more needs to be done to tackle Church abuse
“According to Dr. Ignacio Sanchez Diaz, the rector of Chile’s Catholic University, the country’s clerical sexual abuse crisis will be solved by three kinds of people: victims and survivors who are able and willing to come forward, academics who study the issue and suggest solutions, and journalists. Chile’s Catholic University, one of Latin America’s highest-ranking colleges, has lent its credibility to address the country’s abuse crisis, which is often labeled as the worst outside of the English-speaking world.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com

U.S. congregations face their complicity in trauma of Native boarding schools
“Sr. Eileen McKenzie had always been proud of her congregation’s nearly nine decades of ministering to Indigenous people through their school in northern Wisconsin. But in the summer of 2020, McKenzie, the president of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, got an email from the La Crosse County Historical Society saying its magazine was going to publish a story about the school’s legacy. St. Mary’s Catholic Indian Boarding School operated on a reservation in Odanah, Wisconsin, from 1883 to 1969. The historical society wanted to let McKenzie know about the article because the topic was so sensitive.” By Dan Stockman, Global Sisters Report, Natioinal Catholic Reporter

Catholic bishops acknowledge concerns about power and sexual abuse
“Concerns about how power is exercised in the Catholic Church as well as ‘the devastating impact of clerical sexual abuse on survivors and within the wider Church’ have been acknowledged by the Catholic bishops of England and Wales. In a reflection on the national synthesis document which collates the submissions of parishes and dioceses, the bishops say: ‘The voices of those who feel marginalized or unwelcome because of their marital situation, sexual orientation or gender identity have been raised and heard sincerely. Equally, others who feel excluded from the life of the Church, or identify as being on the peripheries, have not been forgotten in our synodal process of encounter.’” By Ruth Gledhill, The Tablet

FOR A SYNODAL CHURCH: COMMUNION, PARTICIPATION AND MISSION

German Catholic leaders ‘astonished’ at Vatican warning about ‘Synodal Path’
“After a warning from the Vatican Thursday (Jul. 21) to German bishops against stoking division in their ‘Synodal Path’ consultation process, pioneers of the initiative have hit back, saying they were ‘astonished’ by the rebuke and hope to discuss contentious matters in a more formal setting. In a statement Thursday, the Vatican said Germany’s synodal path is a threat to church unity at a universal level and stressed that the undertaking lacks the authority to compel bishops to make changes on doctrine or morality.” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com

Young women reflect on Plenary Council experience
“Three young women who participated in the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia have shared their reflections on the gathering that drew significant interest over motions on the role of women in the Church. Madeline Forde, 26, said she felt ‘crushed’ after two motions aimed at elevating the role of women within the Church failed at the assembly in Sydney this month. She said the role of women in the Church had repeatedly been raised with her and she feared the failed motions could be a ‘tipping point’ for young people considering leaving the Church.” By CathNews.com

POPE FRANCIS

Pope Francis’ critics cram the church into their ideological narratives
“Author and columnist George Weigel’s analysis of the Catholic Church remains stuck in the last century, but he is still syndicated to diocesan newspapers. Therefore, when he writes something really egregious, it is necessary to respond. And last week he wrote a really egregious article, ‘The War of the Conciliar Succession, continued,’ which seeks to cram post-conciliar history into his ideological narrative, offering a caricature, not an analysis.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

Francis reimposes restrictions on Latin Mass, reversing decision of Pope Benedict
“Pope Francis cracked down July 16 on the spread of the old Latin Mass, reversing one of Pope Benedict XVI’s signature decisions in a major challenge to traditionalist Catholics who immediately decried it as an attack on them and the ancient liturgy. Francis reimposed restrictions on celebrating the Latin Mass that Benedict had relaxed in 2007. Francis said he was doing so because Benedict’s reform had become a source of division in the Roman Catholic Church and used as a tool by Catholics opposed to the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 event that led to wide reforms across the global church.” By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis: Canada visit will be a ‘penitential pilgrimage’
“The papal trip to Canada next week will be a ‘penitential pilgrimage’ to bring healing and reconciliation, Pope Francis said Sunday (Jul. 17). The pope is scheduled to travel to the Canadian cities of Edmonton, Quebec City, and Iqaluit from July 24-29. There he will meet members of Canadian indigenous groups, residential school abuse survivors, and Catholics. ‘Next Sunday, God willing, I will leave for Canada; therefore, I wish now to address all the people of that country,’ Francis said after the Angelus on July 17.” By Hannah Brockhaus for CAN, in The Catholic World Report

PRIESTS

I’m a Catholic priest. But please don’t call me Father.
“I have been a priest for almost 20 years, and I have never liked being called ‘Father.’ I dislike it so much that each year on Father’s Day some mischievous members of my family purposely make a point of calling to wish me a Happy Father’s Day. I dislike it so much that I’m afraid more of my family will now start doing the same. I know: What’s the big deal? It’s like calling your physician ‘Doctor.’ It’s like telling your kids to refer to their friends’ parents as ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ rather than ‘Tellulah and the Boz.’ It’s like referring to the guy in charge of your unit as ‘Sarge.’ It’s just a job title.” By Jim McDermott, America: The Jesuit Review

WOMEN’S VOICES

Will three women really shake up the Vatican’s bishop-aking process?
“On July 13, a glass ceiling in the Vatican was broken when Pope Francis appointed three women to the Dicastery for Bishops, giving them seats around a key decision-making table. The Dicastery for Bishops is responsible for advising the pontiff in the selection of new prelates based on the information gathered by the Vatican’s embassies throughout the world. It is led by Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet and staffed with many cardinals as advisers. Widely acknowledged as a historic leap, Pope Francis’ decision could produce a culture change in one of the Vatican’s most influential offices, since the appointment of a bishop has a long-term impact on the local and universal Church. However, for these appointments to be truly significant, their voices will need to carry the same weight as other members of the department when giving explanations as to why a candidate should become a bishop or why someone should be taken out of consideration. Otherwise, this will be viewed as nothing more than a move to fill a quota.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com, on AngelusNews.com

VATICAN

Vatican efforts to clean house in Chile stopped too soon, advocates say
“The Catholic Church in Chile today resembles a lighthouse with a broken lightbulb — the bishops have lost all credibility — and the Vatican has seemingly abandoned efforts to fix it. On the one hand, at Pope Francis’s direct order, two top Vatican officials compiled a 2,300-page report in 2018, which included a long string of allegations against bishops, priests, religious and lay church employees, documenting sexual abuse, abuses of conscience and power, and a decades-long coverup. The report by Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith was hand-delivered to the pope.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com

Vatican puts brakes on German church reform proposals
“The Vatican put the brakes on the German Catholic Church’s reform path Thursday (Jul. 21), warning against any effort to impose new moral or doctrinal norms on the faithful on such hot-button issues as homosexuality, married priests and women’s roles in the church. The Holy See issued a statement warning that any attempts at imposing new doctrines ‘would represent a wound to the ecclesial union and a threat to the unity of the church.’ The statement marked the second time the Holy See has weighed in publicly to rein in progressives in Germany who initiated a reform process with lay Catholics as a response to the clergy sexual abuse scandals.” By Associated Press

FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Why ‘trads’ seek to root the church’s future in the past
“If you’ve never attended a Latin Mass before, just know that no one is going to tell you what’s going on. Most likely, no one will talk to you at all—though you might get a mischievous smile from the little boy on the other end of the pew, fidgeting his way between his brothers and sisters while you try to give his mother a sympathetic nod … If you take the opportunity to attend a Latin Mass, you could be transported to another place and time. A time when Mass attendance was much more obligatory and serving as an altar boy, even on weekdays, was a matter of course. A time when Catholic families were big, parents were married, and women stayed at home to manage their burgeoning households.” By Angela Denker, U.S. Catholic

CHURCH FINANCES

Orange County Catholic priest under investigation for mission funds
“When parishioners donate to their church, it’s thought the money will be used for good. So, when the archdiocese sent a letter to churchgoers at Saint Mother Teresa’s in Newburgh that their former priest is under investigation for possibly stealing from the parish, you can imagine the surprise. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office says Father William Damroth is under investigation after Catholic leaders said possible discrepancies were found during an audit.” By Blaise Gomez, News12 Westchester

Vatican overhauls investments in bid to turn page on scandals
“The Vatican is set to centralize the financial investments of its institutions, in a bid by Pope Francis to turn the page on decades of scandals that have tarnished the reputation of the Catholic church. Francis has made transparency and accountability priorities for the Vatican’s finances, after decades of scandals from the bankruptcy of the Vatican-owned Banco Ambrosiano in 1982 to the fraud-ridden purchase of a building in London’s upscale Chelsea district. The continued existence of dozens of funds managed by Vatican-linked institutions with little or no central oversight has often been at the root of controversial decisions.” By Flavia Rotondi, Bloomberg

State government clears Indian cardinal on contested real estate deals
“A cardinal who leads India’s Syro-Malabar Church has been cleared by his state government of charges of wrongdoing related to real estate deals estimated to have resulted in losses of around $10 million. The financial controversy led to protests from some of his own clergy and laity, and his temporary loss of administrative authority by Vatican edict in 2018. Officials of the Kerala state government, where Cardinal Mar George Alencherry’s Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly is located, recently filed an affidavit with India’s Supreme Court asserting that nothing illegal took place with regard to the land deals.” By Nirmala Carvalho

VOICES

Analysis: Pope Francis apologized to the Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Was it enough?
“The excited and continuous beating of drums filled the circular, tented space at Ermineskin Cree Nation territory in Maskwacis, Alberta. Pope Francis waited—with a sense of gravity and solemnity clearly visible on his face—as he sat on stage for proceedings to begin at Muskwa Park, the site of one of Canada’s former Catholic Church-run residential schools, and a place that today is also a sacred meeting ground for the Cree Nation. Here, the pope was expected to make a long-awaited and promised apology for the Catholic Church’s involvement in residential schools and the abuses perpetrated there for more than a century by priests and consecrated religious women and men.” By Ricardo da Silva, S.J., America: The Jesuit Review

  • Pope Francis issues an historic apol

Deep dive: the painful history of the Catholic Church in Canada
“Pope Francis’ highly anticipated visit to Canada begins July 24, when he will meet first with Indigenous leaders, rather than with the Canadian government or bishops. The visit is, primarily, one to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, who hope that the pope will apologize on Indigenous lands for the abuses perpetrated in Catholic-run residential schools. In a special deep-dive episode of ‘Inside the Vatican,’ residential school survivors, church leaders and a historian explain how and why Catholic religious orders like the Oblates of Mary Immaculate partnered with the Canadian government to operate schools that forcibly removed Indigenous children from the care of their parents—which flew in the face of Catholic teaching on the importance of the family—and aimed, as Canada’s Department of Indian affairs once put it,  to ‘Kill the Indian; save the man.’ By Colleen Dulle, America: The Jesuit Review

The Dallas Charter needs a redo after 20 years
“There are various metrics by which one can judge the progress of the U.S. bishops in handling sex-abuse cases since the Dallas Charter, 20 years ago. The most obvious one is the number of cases of abuse reported to law enforcement and the Church. That metric is not without value but also can be misleading. As we know, victims almost always wait decades before reporting (after all, they were threatened minors when abused) and by that time they may not be inclined to open old wounds.” By Janet E. Smith, National Catholic Register

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

The Church must do more for survivors of sexual abuse, Vatican official says
“The Church must do more for anyone affected by sexual abuse, ‘even when the Church can appear tarnished because of these scandals,’ and no matter what the local conditions are, according to Father Andrew Small. The English priest is the interim secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Safeguarding of Minors, which provides recommendations and support to dioceses around the world.” By Andrea Gagliarducce, Catholic News Agency

Do not hide reality of abuse, Pope tells religious orders
“Religious orders must never tolerate the abuse of children or vulnerable persons, and they must end the practice of moving alleged abusers to other countries, Pope Francis said yesterday (Jul. 14). Departing from his prepared remarks during a meeting with members of three religious congregations – the Order of the Mother of God, the Basilians of St Josaphat and the Congregation of the Mission – the Pope called on them to ‘not hide this reality.’ ‘Please remember this well: Zero tolerance on abuse against children or disabled persons; zero tolerance,’ he said.” By CathNews.com

Desolate country: mapping clergy sexual abuse in native America
“In the United States, Jesuits are best-known for teaching in high schools and colleges. They also directed missions to Indigenous communities during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Between 2001 and 2009 the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus paid tens of millions of dollars to settle claims by 200 mainly Indigenous survivors of sexual abuse. In 2009 the province filed for bankruptcy, and two years later in a bankruptcy settlement it agreed to pay $166 million to about 500 additional survivors. In 2017 the Oregon Province united with the California Province under the name ‘Jesuits West.’ The next year, this Western Province published a list of Jesuits with ‘credible claims of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult,’ dating to 1950.” By desolatecountry.com

Father of ex-choirboy sues Pell, Church
“The father of an ex-choirboy is suing Cardinal George Pell and the Catholic Church claiming he has suffered psychological injury over his deceased son’s alleged sexual abuse. Cardinal Pell was in 2018 convicted of molesting two teenage choirboys in the sacristy at St Patrick’s Cathedral while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996. Pell has always maintained his innocence and his conviction was quashed in a unanimous decision by the High Court in 2020, after the judges found there wasn’t enough evidence for a jury to convict him beyond reasonable doubt.” By Yahoo News

CALIFORNIA

Bakersfield priest’s defamation suits should be dismissed, appeals court says
“Less than a week after former Bakersfield-based Roman Catholic Monsignor Craig Harrison settled a defamation suit with the Fresno Catholic Diocese over statements made in connection with an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct, a Fresno appeals court tossed out two others. Friday (Jul. 22), the Fifth District Court of Appeals ruled in two separate but connected defamation suits Harrison filed against monk Justin Gilligan and Catholic activist Stephen Brady ordering Kern County judges to dismiss the suits. In 2019, Gilligan alleged that he was a victim of sexual advances from Harrison, and he said he witnessed the priest take advantage of children in a sexual manner.” By Reid Stone, The Bakersfield Sun

MAINE

Catholic Church says sexual abuse allegations against Maine priest were unfounded
“A Maine priest is being returned to active ministry after a yearlong investigation by Catholic Church officials found allegations that he sexually abused two girls in the 1980s are unfounded, the Portland Diocese said Wednesday Jul. 27). The Rev. Robert Vaillancourt was placed on administrative leave last July after church officials received a complaint from a woman who said that she was sexually abused by the priest in the 1980s. Two months later, another woman came forward and said she, too, had been sexually abused by Vaillancourt during the same period. Both women were girls at the time.” By Edward D. Murphy, Portland Press Herals

MARYLAND

‘Announcement coming’ in Maryland Catholic Church sex abuse investigation
“It’s been five decades since a group of Maryland women say they were sexually abused by a Catholic priest and other men at their Baltimore-area high school. They say they still don’t have justice, despite documenting their abuse years ago with the Archdiocese of Baltimore, in court, and in the 2017 Netflix series “The Keepers.” The series followed their stories and the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a young nun who suspected the abuse was carried out –– and led — by the school’s priest A. Joseph Maskell.” By Glynis Kazanjian, ABC-TV7 News

MASSACHUSETTS

Alleged sex offender resigns in Worcester, but critic says it’s not enough
“Following a diocesan investigation into allegations that for years he coerced vulnerable women into sex, the head of a parish soup kitchen in the Diocese of Worcester in Massachusetts has resigned amid complaints from at least one accuser that the diocese itself needs to take greater responsibility. The investigation into allegations against William ‘Billy’ Riley, former head of the St. John’s Catholic Church food program, began in mid-March. The final report was published on July 14, one day after Riley resigned from his post.” By John Lavenburg, Cruxnow.com

MICHIGAN

Former Shelby Township priest sent to prison for sex abuse
“A former Macomb County priest will spend years in prison after being convicted of sex abuse, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced today. Judge Diane Druzinski sentenced Neil Kalina, 67, to up to 15 years in prison after the former priest was convicted on two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) by a jury in Macomb County Circuit Court last month. Kalina was a priest at St. Kiernan Catholic Church in Shelby Township from 1982-1985.” By Michigan Department of Attorney General on Michigan.gov

NEBRASKA

Call for reports of Daniel Kenney, ‘the monkey priest’
“Researchers at Creighton University have reached out to Into Account about numerous reports from men who describe grooming, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse perpetrated by Rev Daniel Kenney, known as ‘The Monkey Priest,’ formerly active at Creighton Preparatory School and Camp Buford, a children’s wilderness camp in Wyoming. Some of Kenney’s behaviors include memorizing student schedules, appearing wherever they were throughout the day, pulling students out of class, asking invasive questions about their private lives including about masturbation, providing ‘counseling’ in which he asked about masturbation and sexual thoughts, bringing boys to confession, and asking boys to undress.” By intoaccount.org

NEW JERSEY

How many New Jersey priests have been accused?
“The Roman Catholic dioceses in New Jersey have released more than 180 names of New Jersey priests and other clergy who allegedly sexually abused children. The internal investigation named 63 men from the Newark Archdiocese, according to the Democrat & Chronicle. Of the priests included on the list, 33 have died, while the same number had more than one victim. Eight of the currently-living priests have been accused of abusing multiple victims, and all of these men have been defrocked. The Camden Diocese published 56 names, Trenton 31 names, Paterson 29 names, and Metuchen 14 names, according to a comprehensive list from ProPublica cited by Patch.com.” By Joanna Szabo, TopClassActions.com

NEW YORK.

Albany bishop to ‘walk with’ alleged clergy abuse victim
“Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger has agreed to meet on the steps of Corpus Christi Church in Round Lake on Sunday with a 47-year-old man who was allegedly sexually abused as a child by a former priest. The unprecedented encounter — which is scheduled to take place before Scharfenberger presides over an 11 a.m. Mass at the church — was arranged after the alleged victim, Stephen Mittler, wrote a letter inviting the Albany bishop and other officials with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany to follow through on their pledge to ‘walk with the survivors.’” By Brandan J. Lyons, Albany Times Union

Attorney who handled Boston diocese sex abuse claims to mediate Albany’s
“A Massachusetts attorney who oversaw the settlement of 552 cases of sexual abuse against the Archdiocese of Boston, and a New York City attorney with extensive experience managing sexual misconduct funds, have been selected to mediate hundreds of claims filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany under the Child Victims Act. Paul A. Finn, who received a ‘lawyer of the year’ award in 2003 for his work resolving the claims filed against the Boston archdiocese, and Simone Lelchuk, who specializes in mediation and allocation of settlement funds, were selected during negotiations this week between the Albany diocese and attorneys for roughly 440 victims who have filed claims.” By Brendan J. Lyons, Albany Times Union

OHIO

Youngstown diocese releases findings in sex abuse investigation of Struthers priest
“A Youngstown Catholic Diocese oversight board determined though a Struthers priest had ‘inappropriate physical contact’ with a minor, it ‘did not rise to the level of sexual abuse.’ The diocese announced Sunday (Jul. 17) in a news release that board’s decision, following an independent third-party investigation into Father Marian Babjak, most recently of Christ Our Savior Parish in Struthers, who was accused in November 2021 of sexually abusing a child. That victim is now an adult, according to the diocese.” By Mahoning Matters Staff

WASHINGTON

Former Yakima bishop reprimanded by pope for ‘mistakes’
“The Vatican has issued a formal reprimand to the former bishop of the Diocese of Yakima, Washington, according to media reports confirmed to The Pillar by diocesan officials. Bishop Carlos Sevilla, SJ, was formally reprimanded by the Vatican over his handling of allegations of clerical sexual abuse in the eastern Washington diocese. Sevilla led the Yakima diocese from 1996 until his retirement in 2011, when he was succeeded by Bishop Joseph Tyson.” By The Pillar

AFRICA

Washington Post report says DRC bishop covered up rape allegations
“Nicolas Djomo, a recently retired bishop in the Diocese of Tshumbe, Democratic Republic of Congo, failed to follow Vatican guidelines in dealing with allegations of a 2020 rape of a 14-year-old girl by a diocesan priest, The Washington Post reported in a major investigation that appeared as a front-page story July 15. ‘The nuns, priests and the alleged victim who pressed Djomo about the accusations say he orchestrated a coverup that upended the life of the victim, kept his own reputation intact and absolved the alleged abuser within the church’s own system,’ said the article, reported and written by Chico Harlan, The Post’s Rome bureau chief, and Alain Uaykani.” By Chris Herlinger, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

AUSTRALIA

Cardinal George Pell And The Catholic Church Sued In Civil Case
“Just over two years after he walked free from jail, George Pell is once again facing court action. The Cardinal and the Catholic Church are being sued in a civil case. Shine Lawyers’ chief legal officer, Lisa Flynn, joins us.” By YouTube.com

CANADA

Ahead of papal visit, Canadian bishops begin payouts to Indigenous communities
“With Pope Francis’ visit to Canada just days away, the country’s bishops have announced that a special fund to support healing and reconciliation efforts with indigenous communities has begun accepting proposals. The Indigenous Reconciliation Fund was established in 2022 to support and advance healing and reconciliation initiatives with indigenous communities, following a pledge by the Canadian bishops last year. In September 2021, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) announced a $30 million financial pledge over the next five years to support projects aimed at healing and reconciliation.” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com, in The Tablet

Court approves sale of 42 Catholic church properties to settle abuse victims claims
“The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador has approved the sale of 42 properties belonging to the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of St. John’s, including 12 churches, as dozens more church property sales loom across eastern Newfoundland. The move will reshape the landscape for Catholics in the St. John’s area and beyond as the church — which has been held liable for sexual and physical abuse at the Mount Cashel orphanage — raises money to settle victim claims from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.” By Heather Gilles, CBC News

Catholic dioceses failed in past to raise money promised to survivors. Will they now?

“When 48 Catholic church entities signed on to fundraise $25 million for survivors under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, it was spelled out they would do so through their ‘best efforts.’ Ken Young puts it another way. ‘It was a weasel clause,’ the former Manitoba regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations said in a recent interview. ‘And they used it.’” By Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press, on MooseJawToday.com

Quebec judge rejects $28-million class-action settlement in Catholic Church sex-abuse case
“A Quebec Superior Court judge has rejected a $28-million settlement in a sex abuse lawsuit against a Catholic religious order because of the high legal fees associated with the agreement. The agreement would have awarded the Montreal law firm Arsenault, Dufresne and Wee, which represented the plaintiffs, more than $8 million in fees. Justice Thomas M. Davis wrote in a July 4 decision that those fees were ‘excessive’ and not in the interest of the more than 375 sexual abuse victims who were part of the class action.” By Montreal Gazette

Quebec abuse victims call on Pope Francis for ‘swift justice’ before visit to Canada
“Quebec victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy are calling on Pope Francis to deliver ‘swift justice’ to them ahead of his visit to Canada at the end of the month. In an open letter to the pontiff made public Thursday (Jul. 13), lawyers for victims said more than 2,500 people who were abused by clergy are waiting to obtain justice before the courts in Quebec. ‘Some religious congregations use manoeuvers that we believe are contrary to the interests of victims,’ says the letter signed by victims and their lawyers. ‘These strategies have resulted in delays of more than 10 years in some cases.’” By Yahoo News

CHILE

The Vatican and pedophilia. The absent gospel
“With this title, Editorial Catalonia has just published a book on the subject. The idea has been to delineate as accurately as possible the dimensions of the phenomenon and to search for its deepest historical roots in order to understand it and to be able to contribute to overcoming this very serious problem as soon as possible. The most serious aspect of the problem is the global scope it has acquired, both the profusion of cases of ecclesiastical pedophilia in recent decades and, above all, the disastrous policies of the Vatican and the majority of the world’s episcopates and religious congregations in concealing the crimes and protecting their perpetrators.” By FelipePortales, PressSenza.com

FIJI ISLANDS

The islands didn’t escapte the church’s legacy of sexual abuse
“The Marist Brothers and Fathers have educated prime ministers, judges, cardinals and All Blacks at their prestigious Catholic high schools. But their record of sexual abuse is horrific. Worse still was their handling of the abuse when it was exposed. In this series, The Secret History, Steve Kilgallon investigates the power, abuse and cover-ups at the heart of two highly-influential and wealthy religious groups. This is Part 7. The remaining chapters will be published in the coming weeks.” By Steve Kilgallon, Stiuff

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND, AND WALES

Joseph Quigley: Birmingham archbishop saw abusive priest as ‘struggling’
“A priest who assaulted children was seen by his Archdiocese as ‘struggling’ rather than abusive, a report found. Joseph Quigley, a former Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, was jailed last year. A report by Barnado’s found the church was aware of concerns but did not listen to victims, challenge his behavior or deal with complaints. The authors made 18 recommendations which the Archdiocese accepted in full. It apologized for its failures.” By BBC News

INDIA

Priest, teacher booked for sexually abusing minor a decade ago
“The city police, acting on directions from the National Human Rights Commission, have booked eight persons, including a church priest and a teacher, for sexually abusing a minor girl a decade ago. The East Division Women Police Station has registered a case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, for rape and outraging the modesty of a woman under the Indian Penal Code. The sexual abuse reportedly took place on a church premises when the victim was 10 years old.” By The Hindu

INDONESIA

The sexual predators plaguing Indonesian schools
“The arrest of several alleged sexual predators over the past few weeks has revealed the bitter reality of sexual violence against Indonesian children, particularly at religion-based schools. The latest arrest last week was of a Quran teacher in East Java for allegedly raping four underage girls in his care. One of them is pregnant and will soon deliver. A few days earlier, police arrested Mohammad Subchi Azal Tsani for allegedly raping girls at a school founded and run by his father, a respected Muslim cleric in East Java. It took days for the police to nab him, as his supporters had declared war against the police.” By Siktus Harson, UCANews.com

NEW ZEALAND

The whitewash: how the Marists cleaned the reputations of dead pedophiles
The Marist Brothers and Fathers have educated prime ministers, judges, cardinals and All Blacks at their prestigious Catholic high schools. But their record of sexual abuse is horrific. Worse still was their handling of the abuse when it was exposed. In this series,The Secret History, Steve Kilgallon investigates the power, abuse and cover-ups at the heart of two highly-influential and wealthy religious groups. This is Part 5. More chapters will be published in the coming weeks. By Steve Kilgallon, Stuff

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Pope names three women to Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops / Vatican News

“… the first time women have been appointed to the Dicastery responsible for identifying future bishops globally.”

By Deborah Castellano Lubov, Vatican News

Pope Francis on Wednesday named three women to the Dicastery for Bishops, the first time women have been appointed to the Dicastery responsible for identifying future bishops globally.

The Holy See Press Office published the Pope’s latest appointments to the Dicastery in a statement on Wednesday. 

The female members are Sister Raffaella Petrini, F.S.E., Secretary General of the Governorate of the Vatican City State; Sister Yvonne Reungoat, F.M.A, former Superior General of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians; and, Dr. Maria Lia Zervino, President of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations.

The nomination of Ms. Zervino also marks the first appointment ever of a laywoman to the Vatican Dicastery.

By Deborah Castellan Luboc, Vatican News — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful report addresses lay involvement in Catholic Church governance

Just 10% of U.S. dioceses received scores above 60% in Voice of the Faithful’s recently published 2022 report of lay involvement in Catholic Church governance. This is the first online review of diocesan finance councils’ composition and compliance with Canon Law as represented on diocesan websites.

“With diocesan finance councils that adhere to the letter and spirit of Canon Law, Catholics can be more confident that diocesan finance councils exercise proper stewardship and oversight of the secular goods of the Church,” said Joseph Finn, C.P.A., former VOTF treasurer and trustee and longtime advocate for lay role in Church governance.

However, “In our opinion,” the report’s authors concluded, “evidence of compliance with Canon Law by the diocesan finance councils is disappointingly low. The fact that only 18 dioceses achieved a passing grade obviously means there is room for improvement.” To underscore the hope for improvement, the report notes that, during VOTF’s related five-year history of producing its annual online diocesan financial transparency reviews, most dioceses have increased their scores.

Click here to read “Lay Involvement in Governance of the Church By and Through the Diocesan Finance Council: 2022 Report”

For this governance report, independent reviewers examined all 176 U.S. dioceses’ websites to ascertain DFCs’ level of compliance with Canon Law, regarding the duties, responsibilities, and authority of the DFC. Canon Law stipulates, for example, that DFC membership comprise individuals “competent” in finance, law, and real estate. Considering that clerical formation typically does not focus on these areas, the necessary competencies would be found with professionally educated and experienced lay men and women.

The governance report’s reviewers graded dioceses’ using a 10-question worksheet and seven of the questions referenced Canon Law directly:

  • Is current information about DFC members posted on the website? (Canon 492)
  • Are the terms of service for DFC members posted on the website? (Canon 492 and USCCB “Diocesan Financial Management: A Guide to Best Practices”)
  • What is the nature of DFC membership? (Canon 492 and USCCB DFM)
  • Does the posted meeting information indicate that the bishop or his representative attends DFC meetings? (Canon 492)
  • Is the DFC responsible for the preparation of the diocesan budget as to income and expenses for the coming year? (Canon 493)
  • Does the DFC perform a diocesan financial review at the end of the year? (Canons 493 and 1287)
  • Are acts of Extraordinary Administration defined on the diocesan website and does DFC approve their implementation? (Canon 1277)

“Based on our report’s findings, we feel more strongly than ever that Diocesan Finance Councils, with appropriate lay involvement, can promote diocesan financial competence, increase financial transparency, and help prevent clergy abuse, and that a properly staffed and functioning DFC can provide a check on financial malfeasance, like that perpetrated within recent memory by the former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia,” Finn said.

Such low scores support VOTF’s contention that, had dioceses followed canon 1277 with regard to obtaining “consent” from their finance councils for “extraordinary” payments to clergy abuse survivors, the “scandal and sin and sickness of abuse of children would most probably not have persisted as long as it has,” according to the report. Lay involvement would have benefited financial transparency, and bishops would have been able to avoid being criticized for covering up the scandal with secret payments to survivors.

The top five highest scoring dioceses in the report were: Memphis, Tennessee, 95%; Kansas City, Kansas, 92%; Scranton, Pennsylvania, 83%; Atlanta, Georgia, 80%; and Cheyenne, Wyoming, 80%. The two lowest scoring dioceses were Crookston, Minnesota, and Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which each scored zero. Thirty dioceses scored 7% and 26% scored 10%.

With this governance report, VOTF now has three comprehensive reviews of all U.S. dioceses’ websites that can give the faithful in each parish enough information to judge diocesan activities within the purview of the reports:

VOTF also maintains a webpage called “Financial Accountability” that contains links to resources to help Catholics understand diocesan and parish finances. Click here to view the page.One of the links on that page goes to “Financial Accountability – U.S. Dioceses,” a website VOTF developed to provide information on demographics, overall finances, the content of financials and diocesan finance council information for all U.S. dioceses. Click here to access the website directly.

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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The church with no faith in its women / The Sydney Morning Herald

It does seem to beggar belief that, shortly after a census revealed that Australians are abandoning the institutional churches in droves – for reasons including the exclusion of women from leadership, along with sex abuse scandals, irrelevance and treatment of LGBTQI people – that a group of bishops could so readily dismiss a simple, plaintive motion asking women be heard.

By Julia Baird, The Sydney Morning Herald

“‘Embarrassing. Shocking. Scandalous and absolutely unacceptable.’ The 86-year-old Benedictine nun Sister Joan Chittister was in bed this week – recovering from a bout of COVID – when she read that the plenary council of the Australian Catholic Church had refused to pass two pretty gentle, anodyne motions supporting women in positions of leadership in the church. It felt like ‘a red hot poker’ ran through her.

“Sister Joan, a best-selling American author of more than 50 books, has a large, devoted progressive global following and a profile rare for a nun, being interviewed by Oprah and appearing on Meet the Press. She has spent the past few weeks touring Australia to packed audiences, speaking about the need for renewal in the church, and the need for leaders to listen.

“But after the meeting of the plenary council – the highest formal gathering of all local churches and the first in Australia since 1937 – she called me in a state of flaming indignation: ‘The proof is in. You needn’t wear yourself out trying to convince women that the church really appreciates them, their work, their presence, their talents. They know now – right out of the mouth of the episcopacy that voted against them.’

“So what were these motions the bishops dared not approve?”

By Julia Baird, The Sydney Morning Herald — Read more …

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‘God may be calling us’: Meet the women aspiring to become deacons / America: The Jesuit Review

I do not have a cavalier attitude about ordination. A calling, a vocation, is not something you just carry around in your back pocket no matter what gifts you have.

Anna Keating in America: The Jesuit Review

“I recently attended a listening session for the synod in which the global church is now participating. The priest taking notes for the bishop began the session by saying something along the lines of: ‘Don’t waste your time coming up here and making a comment that asks the church not to be Catholic. Women cannot receive holy orders. This is an infallible teaching of the Catholic Church. No generation in the church will ever see a woman at the altar.’

“It was an odd way to begin a listening session, both because no topic is meant to be off the table at the sessions, and because the statement is false. While the Catholic Church is not considering ordaining women to the priesthood, the ordination of women to the permanent diaconate is a real possibility.

“In 2016 Pope Francis created a commission to study the history of women deacons. This focus on history is notable because it acknowledges that women deacons are an ancient tradition in the church. St. Phoebe is named as deacon in the Bible (Rom 16:1-2). Both the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) and the Council of Chalcedon (451) mention the ordination of women to the diaconate. Chalcedon states, ‘No woman under 40 years of age is to be ordained a deacon,’ thereby suggesting that older women deacons were permitted. As late as the 11th century, the right of the diocesan ordinary to ordain women deacons was confirmed by three consecutive popes. Pope Benedict VIII wrote in 1017, ‘We concede and confirm to your successors in perpetuity every episcopal ordination not only of presbyters but also of deacons or deaconesses.'”

By Anna Keating, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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