Archive for category financial transparency

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

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

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.

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

How Do We ‘Keep the Faith & Change the Church’?

Voice of the Faithful marks its 20th year in 2022 and is offering a series of articles about who we are and what we do. The following is by Margaret Roylance, VOTF trustee and vice president, and chair of VOTF’s Finance Working Group.

March 1, 2022

As Mary Pat Fox described last month, Voice of the Faithful grew at an astonishing rate in the first few months. Looking back, though, the amazing thing is the speed and clarity with which the mission and goals of the organization were discerned. Centered in prayer, speaking boldly and listening attentively to one another, we were journeying together in faith 20 years before Pope Francis’ Synod. That convinces me that VOTF was and still is a movement of the Spirit.

Founder Jim Muller’s motto was “Keep the Faith – Change the Church.” When our critics asked us what that meant, we said we respected the role of the hierarchy, but all the people of God must be involved in discerning where the Spirit is leading the Church. Cardinal George of Chicago responded that “Keep the Faith, Change the Church” was problematic because any change in the Church will, “unless most carefully thought out,” change the faith. He cited the example of Martin Luther. We were under suspicion as heretics by association with the leader of the Protestant Revolt! How could we keep the faith we loved, but change the Church whose leaders had covered up such tragic crimes?

Responding to our baptismal call we submitted our needs for new leadership to the Vatican, starting with a replacement for Cardinal Law in Boston. We studied Canon Law and Church governance structures and asked the Church to follow its own promises to involve the laity in governance and guidance through membership on Diocesan Finance Councils. Canon Law requires one in every diocese. We volunteered for parish pastoral and finance councils. We did not fade away as many bishops believed we would. We were in it for the long haul.

Recognizing that the abuse crisis was enabled by a pervasive culture of financial secrecy in the Church, a dedicated group of volunteers collaborated for five years to develop a fair, fact-based, reliable and repeatable system to measure financial transparency on diocesan websites. This Finance Working Group realized that all of us, even bishops, care about grades. We published our first diocesan financial transparency report in 2017 with financial scores for every diocese in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

The average score was 60% in 2017. In 2021, our fifth annual report showed an average diocesan score of 69%, and five dioceses received perfect scores of 100%. Thirty-eight dioceses received scores in the 90s. Diocesan leaders have realized that receiving a good transparency score from an independent organization like VOTF can help convince their members to provide financial support for their programs.

We are no longer called heretics, at least not by most Catholic bishops. Bishops have thanked us for our efforts and a steady stream of CFOs has asked us for assistance in increasing their transparency scores. Genuine financial transparency is on the rise in the U.S. Church. We will continue the yearly transparency reviews, and are using the same approach to look at child protection policies on diocesan websites. We have found that love of the Church, prayer, hard work, and persistence can produce results that were unimaginable in 2002, and we are just getting started!

, , , , ,

1 Comment

Vatican indicts 10, including a cardinal, in London deal / Associated Press

Five former Vatican officials, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu and two officials from the Secretariat of State, were indicted, as well as the Italian businessmen who handled the investment.

Associated Press

“A Vatican judge on Saturday (Jul. 3) indicted 10 people, including a once-powerful cardinal, on charges including embezzlement, abuse of office, extortion and fraud in connection with the Secretariat of State’s 350 million-euro investment in a London real estate venture.

“The president of the Vatican’s criminal tribunal, Giuseppe Pignatone, set July 27 as the trial date, though lawyers for some defendants questioned how they could prepare for trial so soon given they hadn’t yet formally received the indictment.

“The 487-page indictment request was issued following a sprawling, two-year investigation into how the Secretariat of State managed its vast asset portfolio, much of which is funded by donations from the faithful. The scandal over its multimillion-dollar losses has resulted in a sharp reduction in donations and prompted Pope Francis to strip the office of its ability to manage the money.

“Five former Vatican officials, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu and two officials from the Secretariat of State, were indicted, as well as the Italian businessmen who handled the investment.”

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press — Read more …

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Catholics must know how Peter’s Pence is spent, Vatican official says / Catholic News Service

In an interview with Vatican News June 25, Jesuit Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, said Catholics “have the right to know how we spend the money given to us.”

Catholic News Service

The head of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy said he hopes efforts at financial transparency and reform will foster Catholics’ trust ahead of the annual Peter’s Pence collection.

In an interview with Vatican News June 25, Jesuit Father Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, said Catholics “have the right to know how we spend the money given to us.”

“Sometimes contradictions arise from a lack of knowledge, which, in turn, comes from a lack of transparency,” Father Guerrero said.

Peter’s Pence is a papal fund used for charity, but also to support the running of the Roman Curia and Vatican embassies around the world. The collection for the fund occurs each year around June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

However, several reports in recent years have alleged that only a small portion of the money received annually was used for charity while the majority of the contributions were used to fill the gap in the Vatican’s administrative budget.

By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service — Read more …

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Indictment of fundraising priest exposes lack of diocesan oversight / National Catholic Reporter

“The odd episode — like the widespread sex-abuse scandal that has roiled U.S. dioceses for many years — marked another black eye for the church. But it points to the need for dioceses to pay attention to possible financial scandals as well as sexual abuse ones.” (National Catholic Reporter) — See Voice of the Faithful’s Financial Accountability webpage — http://votf.org/node/1587 — and “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2020 Report” — http://www.votf.org/2020FWGReport.pdf

National Catholic Reporter and Voice of the Faithful

“Fr. Lenin Vargas’ request for money seemed more fitting for a spam email than from a Catholic priest.

“From 2014 until 2018, Vargas allegedly solicited funds from parishioners at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Starkville, Mississippi, where he was the pastor, for what he claimed were expenses for his cancer treatment and for charities in his native country of Mexico. But according to a federal indictment, there was no cancer treatment. Vargas had HIV and his medical expenses were covered by his employer, the Diocese of Jackson. Still, Vargas was able to raise over $33,000.

“Furthermore, the Diocese of Jackson failed to divulge the fraud, allowing Vargas to pilfer money for years, according to a report from the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, which cites an affidavit filed in federal court by Homeland Security Investigations, the investigative arm of the U.S Department of Homeland Security.

“Last February, Vargas was indicted on 10 counts of wire fraud in the Northern District of Mississippi, according to court documents that were made available in July, the newspaper reported. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

“In July, the Diocese of Jackson, which was also being investigated for its alleged inaction, agreed to tighten its financial controls under a deal it reached with the feds, according to the Mississippi Catholic, the diocesan newspaper.

“As part of the deferred prosecution agreement, the diocese agreed to return the money to Vargas’ alleged victims, form a review board to focus on ethical conduct, establish a hotline for callers to anonymously report any concerns to the diocese, revise collection processes and start a penal process against Vargas.”

By Mark Nacinovich, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Annual Report: Some U.S. dioceses improve financial transparency, others remain secretive / National Catholic Reporter

“(Margaret) Roylance (VOTF Finance Working Group chair) recommended that laypeople look up their dioceses’ financial transparency scores in the table at the end of the report. If a diocese has a low score or has recently lost a significant number of points, this can be a sign of trouble, she said.” (National Catholic Reporter)

_______________________________________________________________________________

“More U.S. dioceses published audited financial documents in 2020 than before, but more than a quarter still did not publish any audited financial reports, according to an annual financial transparency report by the lay organization Voice of the Faithful.

“About 70% of dioceses posted audited financial reports on their websites in 2020, up from 65% in 2019 and from 56% in 2017, according to the review.

“Margaret Roylance, chair of the organization’s finance working group, said she was heartened to see that many dioceses published these reports on time despite delays due to COVID-19.

“‘We felt that financial transparency was beating COVID and that made us feel good,’ she said.

“On the other hand, 6% of dioceses posted only unaudited reports, and 24% posted no reports at all.

“The report, released in November, surveys the financial practices of all 177 dioceses that belong to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It scores dioceses’ financial transparency practices on a scale from 0 to 100.”

By Madeleine Davison, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Voice of the Faithful Releases 2020 Diocesan Financial Transparency Report

Despite financial stress, many, but not all, U.S. dioceses post audited financial reports

Despite financial stress from the COVID-19 pandemic and clergy sexual abuse settlements, the number of dioceses posting audited financial reports to their websites rose 5% in the past year, according to Voice of the Faithful’s 2020 study of U.S. Catholic dioceses’ online financial transparency.

However, 43 dioceses posted no financial information at all, and overall, diocesan transparency dropped slightly from 65.11% in 2019 to 64.76% in 2020. Relatively stagnant overall scores resulted, at least in part, from the change of one word in Question #8. The reviewers added the word “current” to Question #8, which refers to lists of Diocesan Finance Council members. Dioceses scoring zero on Question #8 almost doubled from 2019 to 2020, going from 68 to 113 out of 177 dioceses and offsetting major gains in scores overall. According to the study’s authors the importance of the DFC and lay membership cannot be overstated. Lay members “represent the laity of the diocese in ensuring that their donations advance the mission of the Church,” VOTF’s study says.

VOTF’s fourth annual review of all dioceses comprising the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was conducted between June 1 and Aug. 31 by three independent reviewers and their report, “Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency: 2020 Report,” found that:

  • 70% of U.S. dioceses posted audited financial reports on their websites;
  • U.S. dioceses posting audited financial reports increased from 65% in 2019 to 70% in 2020;
  • 6% of the dioceses provided only unaudited reports, and 24% posted no reports at all;
  • 93% of dioceses now post a central finance page on their websites, making it easier for members of the faithful to find available financial information.

The top five dioceses, each of which received a perfect score of 100%, were the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland, and, for the second consecutive year, the Archdioceses of Anchorage, Alaska, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Dioceses of Erie, Pennsylvania, and Rochester, New York. The five lowest scoring dioceses were Camden, New Jersey; Crookston, Minnesota; Lubbock, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

VOTF’s annual review continues to emphasize the importance of financial transparency, especially in an era of continually tightening finances and dioceses’ attempts to minimize the effects of clergy abuse settlements.

VOTF’s 2020 report points out:

“Every Catholic shares in the responsibility to ensure that funds donated for Church work actually go toward those purposes. Without access to financial reports and information on diocesan finance councils, budgets, and the overall financial health of a diocese, ordinary Catholics cannot exercise their full responsibility of stewardship or verify where their donations go … This 2020 report and the three that preceded it provide tools that faithful Catholics can use to understand how their diocese uses their donations and to help them exercise good stewardship of the gifts God has given them.”

You can read VOTF’s previous annual reports on diocesan online financial transparency by clicking here.

, , ,

Leave a comment