Archive for category Pope Francis

The abuse crisis as prophecy & Pascha / Commonweal

The good news is this: if the dignity of all the baptized is genuinely and deeply respected, this rules out every one of the predatory behaviors we have seen in the abuse crisis. (Rita Ferrone in Commonweal)

When Pope Francis wrote to the American bishops concerning the abuse crisis, he observed that ‘many actions can be helpful, good and necessary, and may even seem correct, but not all of them have the ‘flavor’ of the Gospel.’

“By recommending a return to the Gospel as an essential reference point, Francis is on to something. The horror of the abuse cases, the sheer numbers of victims, the longevity of the crisis, its scope, and the fact that it has proved so hard to change the institutional patterns and habits that abet it—all this has been, for many of the faithful, a profoundly shocking and disorienting experience. It has eroded the trust we used to give to our church leaders and structures. It has shamed us in the eyes of the world. We do not taste the Gospel here. Yet we long for it, even when that longing goes unnamed.

“Metaphors of taste and smell have a long history in Christian discourse. The psalmist enjoins the faithful to ‘taste and see the goodness of the Lord.’ The gift of God’s law is perfect and refreshing, ‘sweeter than syrup, or honey from the comb.’ Evil, in contrast, is something that sets one’s teeth on edge. Sour and bitter fruit come forth from wickedness.

“In the New Testament, followers of Jesus are urged to be “salt for the earth” and not to lose their savor. Because the sense of taste is allied with smell, we also find olfactory images in the Scripture. Paul refers to Christians as those who bear “the aroma of Christ.” In the ancient church, catechumens were given salt on the tongue as part of their admission to the catechumenate. Ritual expresses in the body what is believed in faith: Christian life is not bland or flavorless. It tastes like something.

“What does the Gospel taste like? Francis doesn’t say. Perhaps this is because he thinks the bishops already know …”

By Rita Ferrone, Commonweal — Read more …

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Pope issues law, with penalties, for Vatican City to address sexual abuse / The New York Times

The law, dated March 26, calls on church authorities to listen immediately to people who say they are victims and to report any credible allegations to prosecutors. (The New York Times)

 Pope Francis has issued a highly anticipated law for Vatican City officials and diplomats overseas to tackle sexual abuse, setting up what is intended to be a model for the Roman Catholic Church worldwide by requiring, for the first time, that accusations be immediately reported to Vatican prosecutors.

“The Vatican characterized the law — and accompanying pastoral guidelines — as a reflection of the most advanced thinking on preventing and addressing sexual abuse in the church. The law, dated March 26, calls on church authorities to listen immediately to people who say they are victims and to report any credible allegations to prosecutors.

“Those who fail to report could be subjected to financial penalties and jail time.

“‘Protection of minors and vulnerable people is an essential part of the evangelical message that the church and all of its members are called to spread across the world,’ the pope wrote in a personal edict enacting the law. Francis said he wanted to ‘strengthen the institutional and regulatory framework to prevent and tackle abuses against minors and vulnerable people.'”

By Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times — Read more …

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Peru bishop wants excommunication for abuse scandals, not just defrocking / Cruxnow.com

When it comes to cover-up, including the transfer of abusers from one parish to another, Schmalhausen said it has become obvious that civil justice is more proactive than the Church, which has sheltered abusers and allowed them to have access to other potential victims. (Cruxnow.com)

Bishop Kay Schmalhausen of Ayaviri, Peru believes current punishments for both the crime of clerical sexual abuse (usually expulsion from the clerical state) and the cover-up are ineffective, and suggested harsher penalties including excommunication.

“As a former member of a group whose founder has been charged with abuses of conscience, power and sexuality, Schmalhausen told Crux that some key questions need to be asked.

“‘What has been done so far with the perpetrators of such crimes? How is the damage to the victims, along with the scandal caused to the faithful of the Church and in the eyes of the world, being repaired? Is there even a minimum of proportionality and justice in the measures implemented so far?’ he asked.

“‘Clearly the answer today seems to be no …'”

By Elise Harris and John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com — Read more …

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Cardinal George Pell of Australia sentenced to sex years in prison / The New York Times

“I would characterize these breaches and abuses as grave,” the chief judge in the case, Peter Kidd, said during the sentencing. Speaking directly to Cardinal Pell, he added: “Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance.” (The New York Times)

George Pell, an Australian cardinal who was the Vatican’s chief financial officer and an adviser to Pope Francis, was sentenced to six years in prison on Wednesday (Mar. 13), for molesting two boys after Sunday Mass in 1996.

“The cardinal was convicted on five counts in December, making him the most senior Catholic official — and the first bishop — to be found guilty in a criminal court for sexually abusing minors, according to BishopAccountability.org, which tracks cases of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

“Cardinal Pell, who stood stone-faced with lips pursed when his sentence was read aloud, will not be eligible for parole for three years and eight months.

“‘I would characterize these breaches and abuses as grave,’ the chief judge in the case, Peter Kidd, said during the sentencing. Speaking directly to Cardinal Pell, he added: ‘Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance.'”

By Livia Albeck-Ripka and Damien Cave, The New York Times — Read more …

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One Step Forward / Commonweal

One line in particular from (Cardinal Blase) Cupich (of Chicago) stood out: his claim that the “structural elements” of reform would not be enough unless “we anchor all our deliberations in the piercing pain of those who have been abused and of the families who have suffered with them.” (Commonweal)

In the lead-up to last month’s four-day Vatican summit on the sexual abuse of minors, organizers made a concerted effort to lower expectations. A crisis decades in the making, the full scope of which is still coming into view, would not be solved in one meeting, they insisted. There would be no sweeping policy changes from on high, no declaration from Pope Francis that definitively addressed every concern about how the church handles sexual abuse, no “closure.” But even if such a gathering was never intended to do everything, it’s still fair to ask whether it did enough.

“The unsatisfying answer is that no one knows—yet.

“The effectiveness of the summit may only be revealed in the weeks, months, and perhaps years ahead, after the bishops have returned home and continue—or in some cases, start—the work of responding to, and safeguarding against, sexual abuse. It’s an approach in line with what Francis once described as a “healthy decentralization,” recognizing that bishops in different parts of the world might need to develop different strategies, perhaps above all when it comes to how the church relates to civil authorities. But this shouldn’t be mistaken for a lackadaisical, “hands-off” approach. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will provide the bishops with a handbook that clearly lays out their responsibilities for dealing with accusations of abuse—and, as Austen Ivereigh points out, the 2016 motu propio “As a Loving Mother” makes it clear they’ll be removed if they fail. It was also announced at the summit that special task forces would be created to offer bishops additional support. And there were proposals for how the bishops themselves, along with religious superiors, should be held accountable. Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich offered a framework, rooted in synodality, for discussion and discernment about such reforms.”

By The Editors at Commonweal — Read more …

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Vatican bishops’ summit on clergy abuse has ended. Now we wait.

Bishop sash and crossBOSTON, Mass., Feb. 27, 2019 – Ever since Catholic clergy crimes of sex abuse became widely known, the Catholic faithful have waited for accountability and healing. Voice of the Faithful is among them; this time waiting for concrete action on clergy sex abuse after bishops from around the world recently concluded a four-day summit at the Vatican to address this festering issue.

A general conclusion is that the summit at least made Church hierarchy in the rest of the world as aware of the seriousness of clergy abuse as the hierarchy in the United States – and in other countries that have long been aware of the abuse and its cover-up. Based on the Pope’s concluding speech, however, the hierarchy has yet to shift its thinking about clergy abuse from sin and forgiveness to crime and punishment. The message from the hierarchy continues to be, “this is intolerable, but …”

Summit participants talked about transparency, responsibility, and accountability. We would like to have seen at least one concrete move to attack the clerical culture at the core of the scandal that was equal to the summit’s rhetoric—one concrete move that would have overcome what summit presenter Sister Veronica Openibo, S.H.C.J., called the hierarchy’s “mediocrity, hypocrisy, complacency.” Of Sister Openibo’s presentation, VOTF trustee Margaret Roylance said, “The bishops had to sit there silent and listen to her—no denials, explanations or blaming others.”

Prior to the summit, there were expectations that the Church might at last achieve true transparency, responsibility and accountability. Then the backpedaling began: maybe expectations were too high; perhaps the summit was just the first step in a global response; its aim was to educate those who still believed this was an American problem, or a gay priest problem, or all in the past, rather than produce immediate corrections.

In one respect, new transparency did take a bow. The Vatican live-streamed all the main presentations; they invited survivors to speak first; and they listened to frank, unadorned descriptions of abuse and misuse of power. In another instance, German Cardinal Reinhardt Marx admitted that the Church had destroyed documents about abuse cases. In yet another, a Vatican spokesperson told the media that the Church does have secret protocols for priests who father children. Perhaps most astonishing for the bishops was hearing in a worldwide forum testimony from survivors of abuse that priests had ordered survivors to have abortions—a claim long whispered within the Church but never openly acknowledged.

Despite these efforts, by the conclusion of the summit, we heard little about steps that would address the crimes of abuse and cover-up. Primary results thus far seem to be a promise that the Vatican will distribute a rulebook to bishops worldwide explaining their juridical and pastoral duties and responsibilities with regard to protecting children. Also promised was a meeting among Vatican summit organizers and Vatican curia to discuss, “What next.” We suggest starting instead with removing from their positions all bishops who participated in cover-ups or molested others.

The Pope in his concluding remarks hit on two issues he cited as being at the root of the problem. One was evil at work and the other the “plague of clericalism, fertile ground for all of these disgraces.” “However, the issue seems still to be recognizing that evil and doing something about clericalism,” said Mary Pat Fox, Voice of the Faithful president. “We all want to believe people we know and trust are good, but in reality that is not always the case, and the Church and the Pope need to get better at recognizing and battling the evil in front of them – the bishops who have moved and protected abusive priests. Yes, the priests who perpetrated these crimes are sick and need to face justice, but the criminals who made this crisis bigger are the bishops who exposed children to already credibly accused priests.”

Eventually, to rebuild trust, the Church must take these steps if it hopes to regain credibility and begin healing the wounds it has inflicted on victims and all members of our global faith community. Much more will be required as well, but that’s the obvious and immediate need.


Anyone who would like to read in detail about the Vatican bishops’ summit on clergy abuse, “The Protection of Minors in the Church,” and listen to presentations and news conferences can visit the Vatican’s website on the meeting, http://www.pbc2019.org.


Voice of the Faithful Statement, Feb. 27, 2019
Contact: Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, 781-559-3360
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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Cardinal admits to Vatican summit that Catholic Church destroyed abuse files / National Catholic Reporter

Marx’s admission to the church’s destruction of files may have special significance in his native Germany, where an exhaustive September 2018 report on abuse in the country detailed cases involving 3,677 children but said files in at least two dioceses had been changed or destroyed. (National Catholic Reporter)

A top cardinal has admitted that the global Catholic Church destroyed files to prevent documentation of decades of sexual abuse of children, telling the prelates attending Pope Francis’ clergy abuse summit Feb. 23 that such maladministration led ‘in no small measure’ to more children being harmed.

“In a frank speech to the 190 cardinals, bishops and heads of religious orders taking part in the four-day summit, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said the church’s administration had left victims’ rights ‘trampled underfoot’ and ‘made it impossible’ for the worldwide institution to fulfill its mission.

“‘Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created,’ said Marx, beginning a list of a number of practices that survivors have documented for years but church officials have long kept under secret.

“‘Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated and silence imposed on them,’ the cardinal continued. ‘The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution of offences were deliberately not complied with, but instead cancelled or overridden.'”

By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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