Archive for category Clergy Sexual Abuse
Catholic Church in California grapples with more than 3,000 lawsuits, alleging child sex abuse / Religion News Service
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Church Finances, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Voice of the Faithful on May 30, 2023
Advocates have been stunned by the number of cases that surfaced during the window, which closed at the end of December.By Alejandra Molina, Religion News Service
“At least a third of the 12 Roman Catholic dioceses in California have either filed for bankruptcy or are contemplating doing so to deal with an influx of lawsuits filed by survivors of childhood sexual abuse after a state law opened a three-year window in which cases were exempted from age limits.
“More than 3,000 lawsuits have been filed against the Catholic Church in California under a 2019 state law that allowed alleged victims to sue up to the age of 40.
“Advocates have been stunned by the number of cases that surfaced during the window, which closed at the end of December.
“So far, two dioceses have declared bankruptcy.”
By Alejandra Molina, Religion News Service — Read more …
Illinois AG’s bombshell clergy abuse report not surprising
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Clergy Sexual Abuse, Voice of the Faithful on May 24, 2023
We cannot pretend to be surprised, even as we are outraged, by the Illinois attorney general’s Catholic clergy abuse report released yesterday, May 23. The report concluded an investigation started in 2018 and found that 451 Catholic clergy had abused nearly 2,000 children since 1950. The investigation began on the heels of the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report that found 300 clergy in that state had abused more than 1,000 children. Only last month, the Maryland attorney general released his report of an investigation of abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore: 156 clergy abused 600 children between 1940 and 2002.
These reports are only two of dozens of similar revelatory reports over the past three decades that have shown the Catholic Church allowed clergy to abuse children and then covered up their crimes.
Voice of the Faithful cannot adequately describe the anguish Catholic clergy child abuse causes victims, survivors, and the entire Body of Christ, as personal testimonies of abuse in this and similar reports detail.
We intend, however, to continue to speak this truth to power and to watch carefully how well the Church today follows its own child protection guidelines. Last year, VOTF published “2022 Report: Measuring Abuse Prevention and Safe Environment Programs as Reported Online in Diocesan Policies and Practice” and is now reviewing all U.S. dioceses for its 2023 report.
VOTF’s 2022 report was not overly laudatory of the Church’s child protection efforts. Its authors concluded, in part, “Results of this Review indicate the need to enhance diocesan child protection and safe environment measures. Actions by all are essential to keep children safe in our church communities. Clearly stated, publicly available, and comprehensive diocesan guidelines for safe environments provide measurable standards that can be modeled in parishes and are essential to prevent further child abuse.”
Here is how Illinois’ six dioceses scored out of a possible 100 points in VOTF’s 2022 child protection report:
- Peoria, 41.5
- Rockford, 63.5
- Belleville, 68
- Chicago, 71
- Springfield, 87
If you have not had the opportunity to read media reports about the Illinois attorney general’s report, here are a couple of links, and a link to the entire 696-page report itself:
- Sex abuse in Catholic Church: Over 1,900 minors abused in Illinois, state says, By The New York Times
- Catholic clergy sexually abused Illinois kids far more oftehn than church acknowledged, state finds, By The Associated Press
- Report on Catholic Clergy Child sex Abuse in Illinois 2023, By the Office of the Illinois Attorney General
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. Click here to donate to VOTF.
Sex abuse in the Catholic Church: over 1,900 minors abused in Illinois, state says / The New York Times
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Clergy Sexual Abuse, Voice of the Faithful on May 23, 2023
One case among many documented in the report involves Thomas Francis Kelly, a priest who abused more than 15 boys ranging in age from 11 to 17 in several parishes in the 1960s and 1970s. A victim contacted the attorney general’s investigators to describe being singled out by Father Kelly as an 11-year-old altar server.By Ruth Graham, The New York Times
“More than 450 credibly accused child sex abusers have ministered in the Catholic Church in Illinois over almost seven decades, the office of the state’s attorney general, Kwame Raoul, said Tuesday in an investigative report. That is more than four times the number that the church had publicly disclosed before 2018, when the state began its investigation.
“The 696-page report found that clergy members and lay religious brothers had abused at least 1,997 children since 1950 in the state’s six dioceses, including the prominent Archdiocese of Chicago.
“The report adds 149 names to lists of child sex abusers whom the dioceses themselves had publicly identified before or during the investigation. That brings the total number of identified abusers to 451, the report says. The additional names were supplied by victims who came forward and shared their accounts with investigators, who then followed up on their accounts. Investigators also reviewed more than 100,000 pages of files held by the dioceses, and interviewed church leaders and their representatives.”
By Ruth Graham, The New York Times — Read more …
Lingering Vatican investigation of Tennessee bishop leaves diocese demoralized / National Catholic Reporter
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Clericalism, Voice of the Faithful on May 11, 2023
‘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 …
Cardinal O’Malley: Papal abuse commission shifting to ‘impact-focused direction / National Catholic Reporter
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Pope Francis, Vatican, Voice of the Faithful on May 9, 2023
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 …
Report finds Freiburg’s ex-archbishop covered up sex abuse / Deutsche Welle
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Voice of the Faithful on April 20, 2023
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 …
A new Catholic ministry brings the Eucharist to survivors of sexual abuse / America: The Jesuit Review
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Clergy Sexual Abuse, Voice of the Faithful on April 12, 2023
Starting in March 2023, victims of sexual abuse in Saint Paul-Minneapolis who still wish to receive the Eucharist but find it too traumatic to enter a church can have the sacrament brought to them.By Christopher Parker, America: The Jesuit Review
“In December 2018, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis emerged from bankruptcy court, one of the largest dioceses to date to go through the process. Over 450 plaintiffs had filed suits against the archdiocese over sexual abuse claims that went back as far as the 1940s. The archdiocese’s reorganization was long and arduous.
“At the time, Archbishop Bernard Hebda said, ‘Our efforts to reach out to those hurt by people in the Church is just beginning and will continue indefinitely, along with our core commitment of creating and maintaining safe environments for all.’
“A new ministry within the archdiocese is doubling down on that commitment. Starting in March 2023, victims of sexual abuse in Saint Paul-Minneapolis who still wish to receive the Eucharist but find it too traumatic to enter a church can have the sacrament brought to them.
“Starting in March 2023, victims of sexual abuse in Saint Paul-Minneapolis who still wish to receive the Eucharist but find it too traumatic to enter a church can have the sacrament brought to them.
“The lay people behind this and other initiatives in the archdiocese are survivors of clerical sexual abuse themselves. In interviews with America, they communicated their hope that, in an archdiocese where the wounds of the sexual abuse crisis are still fresh, they can chart a new path to healing.”
By Christopher Parker, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …
Report details ‘staggering’ church sex abuse in Maryland / Associated Press
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, church reform, Clergy, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Voice of the Faithful on April 10, 2023
‘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 …
Voice of the Faithful sees clergy abuse expert’s resignation as surprising and expected
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Clergy Sexual Abuse, Voice of the Faithful on March 30, 2023
Voice of the Faithful Statement, March 30, 2023, contact Nick Ingala, email@example.com, (781) 559-3360
BOSTON, Mass., March 30, 2023―Clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church filled the media yesterday with the news that the Jesuit priest who is a leading expert on safeguarding children from clergy abuse and member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children resigned from the commission. For Voice of the Faithful, an organization long dedicated to transparency and accountability in the Church regarding clergy abuse, the news was alternately surprising and expected.
In resigning, Fr. Hans Zollner was quoted as saying “the protection of children and vulnerable persons must be at the heart of the Catholic Church’s mission,” and he had “grown increasingly concerned with how the commission, in my perception, has gone about achieving that goal, particularly in the areas of responsibility, compliance, accountability and transparency.”*
Zollner’s resignation from the commission is reminiscent of the 2017 resignation of respected Irish clergy abuse survivor Marie Collins. She said at the time that she was frustrated by resistance to reforms from inside the Vatican, telling National Catholic Reporter in a statement that reluctance to implement reforms “is a reflection of how this whole abuse crisis in the church has been handled: with fine words in public and contrary actions behind closed doors.”**
“Although five years have passed since Marie’s resignation,” said Mary Pat Fox, VOTF president, “it seems nothing has changed. Zollner’s resignation also validates what we have found. The Church says one thing and does another. In 2022, for example, VOTF launched our first annual review of diocesan child protection policies and found many dioceses to be severely lacking 20 years after the Dallas Charter. I would have thought every diocese would have a homepage link to child protection policies and guidelines and how to report abuse to the police. This was not the case.”
At VOTF, the news of Zollner’s resignation was surprising because, up until that moment, he had been a supporter of the Vatican’s handling of clergy abuse, as represented in Pope Francis’ reforms. The news was expected, however, for precisely the reasons he and Collins had noted, and Fox underscored. Although the Vatican and Church hierarchy continue to express sorrow for the abuse and attempt to enact measures to prevent it and protect children, these efforts have not gotten to the roots of the problem. VOTF sees those roots, in part, in clericalism, insufficient efforts to counter a culture of secrecy in the handling of abuse cases and in financial activities, lack of accountability for perpetrators and abettors, especially regarding the hierarchy, and self-reporting and self-auditing of child protection policies and practices.
“Just when we think we might be making strides in recovering from the clergy abuse crisis,” Fox said, “we are reminded that the Church has not yet moved off the dime where clerical culture trumps the protection of our children and vulnerable adults.”
She continued, “If someone as knowledgeable, experienced, and connected as Hans Zollner is now calling out the Vatican for continuing to drag its feet on an issue first significantly raised three decades ago by Fr. Thomas Doyle’s 1995 report to the Vatican, hope fades in the face of the Church’s intransigence. Voice of the Faithful, however, will remain committed to our mission of raising Spirit-led voices for reform.”
Fox pointed out that VOTF now conducts three annual nationwide reviews aimed at exposing the Church’s lack of transparency and accountability: one in diocesan finances; a second covering compliance with child protection policies and guidelines; and a third regarding the level of lay involvement in Church governance exhibited in diocesan finance councils.
*Jesuit sex abuse expert Hans Zollner resigns from papal commission over ‘urgent concerns,’ by Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, in America: The Jesuit Review
**Abuse victim quits Vatican commission, citing ‘Resistance,’ by Elizabetta Povoledo and Gaia Pianigiani, The New York Times
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.
Jesuit resigns from pope’s clergy abuse commission, criticizing group’s leadership / National Catholic Reporter
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Clergy Sexual Abuse, Pope Francis, Voice of the Faithful on March 29, 2023
But with (German Jesuit Fr. Hans) Zollner’s departure, the commission has now lost someone long-perceived as a key ally of Francis’ reform efforts, having been selected by Francis as one of the main organizers of his historic February 2019 abuse summit at the Vatican.By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter
“One of Pope Francis’ key advisers on clergy sexual abuse has resigned from the pontiff’s child protection commission and has launched searing criticisms against the organization’s leadership and its alleged lack of transparency.
“The president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, announced on March 29 that one of the commission’s founding members, German Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, had asked the pope ‘to be relieved of his duties as a member.’
“O’Malley’s statement, which praised Zollner as a global ‘ambassador’ for combating clergy sexual abuse, said that Zollner had resigned due to his new appointment earlier this month as a consultant to the Diocese of Rome’s safeguarding office.
Yet in an unusually blunt 400-word statement issued several hours later, Zollner said that after nine years of service on the commission, it was ‘impossible’ to continue given his mounting concerns ‘in the areas of responsibility, compliance, accountability and transparency.'”
By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …