Archive for category Clergy Sexual Abuse

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

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

Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Tom Robert, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Vatican’s handling of Jesuit priest shows new dimensions of never-ending abuse crisis

I think the Rupnik case actually recapitulates and casts a light on new dimensions that have emerged in the abuse scandal in recent years.

Massimo Faggioli, National Catholic Reporter

“On Dec. 2, the global Jesuit order confirmed reports made in several conservative Italian Catholic blogs that Slovenian Jesuit Fr. Marko Rupnik, a famous Rome-based artist, had been quietly disciplined for allegedly abusing adult women, and had been barred from hearing confessions or offering spiritual direction.

“On Dec. 14, Fr. Arturo Sosa, the Jesuit superior general, revealed more information. Rupnik, known in places across the world for his iconography and for mosaics in several renowned churches and cathedrals, had earlier been convicted by the Vatican’s doctrinal office of having used the confessional to absolve a woman of having engaged in sexual activity with him.

“That is one of the most serious crimes in canon law, and incurs an automatic excommunication. Sosa said Rupnik repented, and indicated that the excommunication had thus been lifted.

“Recapping the details of the case, some may feel the usual ‘here we go again’ with regard to sexual abuse and its cover-up in the Catholic Church. But I think the Rupnik case actually recapitulates and casts a light on new dimensions that have emerged in the abuse scandal in recent years. I want to briefly highlight 10 dimensions that I see.”

By Massimo Faggioli, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Jesuit case underscores secrecy, leniency for abuse of women

(Rev. Marko Ivan) Rupnik is unknown to most Catholics but is a giant within the Jesuit order and the Catholic hierarchy because he is one of the church’s most sought after artists … When the 2021 case (unspecified problems in the exercise of his ministry) became this month, fellow Jesuits called for the Vatican to shed more light on why Rupnik wasn’t sanctioned by the Holy See after he was accused.

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

“Revelations that the Vatican let a famous priest off the hook twice for abusing his authority over adult women has exposed two main weaknesses in the Holy See’s abuse policies: sexual and spiritual misconduct against adult women is rarely if ever punished, and secrecy still reigns supreme, especially when powerful priests are involved.

“The Jesuit order, to which Pope Francis belongs, was forced to admit Wednesday (Dec. 14) that its initial statements about the Rev. Marko Ivan Rupnik, an internationally recognized religious artist, were less than complete. The order had said Rupnik was accused in 2021 of unspecified problems ‘in the way he exercised his ministry’ but that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith determined the allegations were too old to prosecute.

“But under questioning by journalists, the Jesuit superior general, the Rev. Arturo Sosa, acknowledged the Congregation had prosecuted Rupnik for a separate, prior case from 2019 that ended with his conviction and temporary excommunication for one of the gravest crimes in the church’s in-house canon law: that he used the confessional to absolve a woman with whom he previously had sexual relations.”

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press — Read more …

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Study of moral injury measures ‘added weight’ of clergy sexual abuse and its concealment / National Catholic Reporter

The Xavier team’s instrument is the first to measure moral injury in survivors of clergy sexual abuse and, according to (principal investigator Marcus) Mescher, is more comprehensive than previous methods used to assess moral injury in civilians.

Katie Collins Scott, National Catholic Reporter

“A research team from Xavier University in Cincinnati has created a tool that measures the ‘moral injury’ caused by clergy sexual abuse and its concealment by officials in the Catholic Church.

“In a report on the pilot study, released Dec. 12, moral injury is described as persistent psychological and emotional distress, spiritual anguish, moral confusion, social isolation, and distrust for institutions. It results from a betrayal of trust or violation of deeply held moral values.

“‘When the perpetrator of sexual abuse is a priest — someone ordained in persona Christi — and represents the holy, the sacred or the entire church or even God, the trauma of abuse takes on an added weight,’ said Marcus Mescher, a principal investigator for the study and professor of Christian ethics at Jesuit-run Xavier. ‘I thought the concept of moral injury would be a helpful hermeneutical lens for understanding the many ripple effects of harm caused by clergy sexual abuse.’

“Moral injury is a concept primarily applied to veterans traumatized by combat, though recently it’s been explored in high-stress professions such as law enforcement, health care, child protective services and education, according to the report.”

By Katie Collins Scott, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Maryland finds that for hundreds of clergy abuse victims, ‘No parish was safe’ / The New York Times

More than 20 state attorneys general have initiated investigations, most of which are still underway … The scale of the abuse outlined is on par with other large abuse cases uncovered in lawsuits and other investigations in dioceses in Boston, Los Angeles, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

The New York Times

“The attorney general of Maryland has identified more than 600 young victims of clergy sexual abuse over the course of 80 years in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, according to a court document filed Thursday (Nov. 17).

“The filing, which broadly outlines the attorney general’s findings, requests that a judge allow the release of the full report: a 456-page document detailing decades of clergy sex abuse in Maryland.

“The new report marks a symbolic milestone in the long-running international abuse scandal that has shaken faith in the Catholic Church and led to some reforms and billions of dollars in settlements. The Baltimore report is one of the first major investigations completed by a state attorney general on sexual abuse in the Church since a scathing report on six dioceses in Pennsylvania shocked Catholics across the nation in 2018. Colorado investigators issued their own report in 2019 on church abuse.”

By Ruth Graham, The New York Times — Read more …

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The abuse crisis should be the center of the pope’s ongoing synodal process / National Catholic Reporter

It has become evident that it is no longer an option to ignore, dismiss, belittle, or remain bystanders with regard to cases of abuse, especially in the church. Abuse of any type — sexual, spiritual, abuse of power and/or authority — blatantly contradicts the fundamental dignity of every human being.

Massimo Faggioli and Hans Zollner, S.J., National Catholic Reporter

“As American Jesuit historian Fr. John O’Malley wrote in one of his last articles published in America magazine last February, the history of synodality is older than you think. There are different phases in the history of the synodal institution and way to govern the church: from the very early church to the medieval times to early modern Catholicism. The current phase is part of what Vatican II had in mind for church reform: a mix of aggiornamento (or updating in light of new issues) and of ressourcement (taking a fresh look at the ancient sources of the Christian tradition).

“At the same time, the current synodal process initiated by Pope Francis’ pontificate cannot be understood outside of the epoch-changing abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, one of the “signs of the times” the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes of Vatican II talks about: ‘the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.’ The fact is that now it is no longer the church scrutinizing the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel. It is also the signs of the times — beginning with the voices of victims and survivors of abuse — scrutinizing the church in the light of the Gospel.

“It has become evident that it is no longer an option to ignore, dismiss, belittle, or remain bystanders with regard to cases of abuse, especially in the church. Abuse of any type — sexual, spiritual, abuse of power and/or authority — blatantly contradicts the fundamental dignity of every human being. This recognition of the terror of abuse is part of a long-term process of knowing and understanding at a sociocultural and political level (public opinion, legislation, the justice system), but also at the communal level as Catholic community (which is much larger than just the number of those who after baptism participate sacramentally in the life of the church).”

By Massimo Faggioli and Hans Zollner, S.J., National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful commends New York attorney general for Buffalo Diocese oversight

BOSTON, Mass., Oct. 27, 2022―Voice of the Faithful, which has worked for 20 years to reform Catholic Church governance that causes and abets clergy sexual abuse of minors, commends New York Attorney General Letitia James for forcing government oversight of areas of the Buffalo Diocese’s operations dealing with clergy abuse allegations.

On Oct. 25, the Diocese of Buffalo agreed to such oversight under a deal with the State of New York that mandates reforms that include restrictions on accused priests monitored by Kathleen McChesney. McChesney is a former head of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference Office of Child and Youth Protection and was a high-ranking FBI official. The New York attorney general had sued the diocese for violating the state’s laws governing religious charities by failing to follow Church rules regarding abuse allegations.

Mary Pat Fox, VOTF president, said she is angry and heartbroken that the government has had to do what the Church has failed to do. “That certain bishops were allowed to thwart the Church’s own laws and do so for such an extended period of time is unconscionable,” she said. “Thank God someone has found a way to check such aberrant behavior that put our children at risk.”

As The New York Times reported, two former Buffalo bishops, Richard Malone and Edward Grosz, shielded more than two dozen priests from Vatican investigation, allowing them to retire or go on medical leave with full salaries and benefits. The agreement with the state banned both bishops for life from any charitable fiduciary roles under the agreement with the state.

VOTF did some of its earliest work in child protection when it started in 2002 in Boston, where Malone was an auxiliary bishop. VOTF, for example, helped parishes follow guidelines set up by the U.S. Catholic bishops in the so-called 2002 Dallas Charter for the protection of children and has continued its advocacy for the past two decades. In 2022, VOTF completed its first report “Measuring Abuse Prevention and Safe Environment Programs as Reported Online in Diocesan Policies and Practices.” The study included all U.S. dioceses, and the Diocese of Buffalo received a score of 72 out of 100.

This may indicate that present Buffalo Bishop Michael Fisher’s statement in response to the oversight deal may be true, at least in part. He said, “The settlement that the diocese and the New York attorney general have agreed to confirms that the rigorous policies and protocols the diocese has put in place over the past several years are the right ones …”

While rigorous child protection policies and protocols are essential, unless diocese follow them, they will do no good. If the Church continues to shield abusing priests in secrecy and deception, the effectiveness of child protection polices will not be known until years in the future when today’s victims are finally able to come to terms with their abuse and report it, and such policies do not address past offenses.


Voice of the Faithful®: 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.


Voice of the Faithful Statement, Oct. 27, 2022, contact Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, (781) 559-3360

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Catholic Diocese of Buffalo will submit to government oversight / The New York Times

The (Catholic) church reached a settlement with the New York attorney general after a lawsuit accusing officials of a years-long cover-up of sexual abuse

The New York Times

“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo has agreed to submit to sweeping government oversight of its operations in a legal settlement reached on Tuesday with the New York attorney general, Letitia James, resolving a lawsuit that accused the church and its officials of a years-long cover-up of sexual abuse.

“The agreement, which is the first of its kind in New York, includes no financial penalties but instead mandates a series of structural reforms within the diocese, particularly regarding its handling of abuse allegations.

“Under the deal, priests who have been credibly accused of abuse will be assigned an independent monitor with law enforcement experience to ensure they comply with a list of restrictions, which include a ban on watching pornography, performing priestly duties and having a post office box.”

By Liam Stack, The New York Times — Read more …

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New York archdiocese: ‘Vos Estis’ Hubbard records can’t be turned over in sex abuse lawsuit / The Pillar

“We are not trying to pierce their attorney-client privilege. But the archdiocese says over 1,400 records are protected under the First Amendment. And we’ve made a motion to compel the production of those documents in the privilege log.” (plaintiff attorney JoAnn Harri)

The Pillar

“The Archdiocese of New York argued in an Albany courtroom on Friday that records compiled during a Vatican-ordered investigation into a retired bishop are protected by the First Amendment, and can not be turned over in response to a subpoena in a sexual abuse lawsuit.

“The case raises questions about the confidentiality of the Vos estis lux mundi process, promulgated by Pope Francis in 2019 as a mechanism for investigating allegations of abuse or misconduct against bishops.

“New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan was directed in early 2021 to investigate claims against retired Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard, who has been accused of multiple instances of sexual abuse against minors, and who admitted last year that he transferred several priests to new parish ministries without contacting police, after they were accused of sexual abuse.”

By The Pillar — Read more …

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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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