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Priest & Two Lay People Will Receive Awards at Voice of the Faithful 10th Year Conference This Month

Voice of the Faithful® will present its Priest of Integrity Award and two St. Catherine of Siena Distinguished Lay Person Awards during its 10th Year Conference in Boston this month.

Fr. Patrick Bergquist

Fr. Patrick Bergquist, Voice of the Faithful Priest of Integrity Award recipient.

Fr. Patrick Bergquist, a priest from Roman Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska, will receive Voice of the Faithful’s® Priest of Integrity Award. This marks VOTF’s tenth presentation of the Priest of Integrity Award since its founding in 2002. The Priest of Integrity Award, while recognizing that most priests work faithfully and often anonymously in their ministries, acknowledges specific actions demonstrating the leadership needed in the Catholic Church. Read the announcement of Fr. Bergquist’s award by clicking here.

Joseph O'Callaghan

Joseph O’Callaghan, Voice of the Faithful St. Catherine of Siena Distinguished Lay Person Award recipient.

Phyllis Zagano

Phyllis Zagano, Voice of the Faithful St. Catherine of Siena Distinguished Lay Person Award recipient.

The Voice of the Faithful® St. Catherine of Siena Distinguished Lay Person Award recipients are Joseph F. O’Callaghan, Ph.D., of Norwalk, Connecticut, and Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., of Hempstead, New York. Both authors and educators. This recognition represents only the fourth and fifth times in its 10-year history Voice of the Faithful® has presented the award. The St. Catherine of Siena Distinguished Lay Person award recognizes exemplary lay leaders who enthusiastically use their gifts in the Church’s service and whose example encourages all Catholics to use their talents for the betterment of the Church. Read the announcement of Joseph and Phyllis’ awards by clicking here.

The Voice of the Faithful® 10th Year Conference takes place Sept. 14-15 at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke to Speak at Voice of the Faithful Conference in Boston

Justice Anne Burke

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, former interim chair of USCCB NRB, will speak at Voice of the Faithful’s 10th Year Conference in Boston, Sept. 14-15, 2012.

Illinois Supreme Court justice and child protection advocate Anne Burke will be the featured speaker during the first session of Roman Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful’s 10th Year Conference, which takes place in Boston, Sept. 14-15, at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel.

The subject of her talk will be “Voice of the Faithful: Next Steps,” and her question for conference attendees will be, “How do we inform the laity that it is their responsibility to become leaders and equal partners in the administration of Christ’s Church?” She is scheduled to speak at about 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14.

For more than two years, serving as interim chair, Justice Burke directed the efforts of the National Review Board of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops investigating the causes and effects of the clergy abuse scandal and helping to establish guidelines and policies for effectively responding to this scandal.

Justice Burke began her judicial career as the first woman appointed to the Illinois Court of Claims. During this time, she also led the reshaping and improvement of the Illinois juvenile justice system. She then served on the Illinois Appellate Court and was appointed, then elected to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Before her appointment to the judiciary, she was a leading advocate for Chicago’s most vulnerable young people. As a Chicago Park District physical education teacher, she worked with children with disabilities and went on to found the Chicago Special Olympics in 1968. She later served as a director of that organization as it grew to become the International Special Olympics represented in more than 160 countries.

Justice Burke has served on several boards and foundations impacting the civic, cultural and educational life of Chicago. She also ran a neighborhood law practice that included representing the interests of children and families involved in neglect, abuse, delinquency and parental custody. In addition, she developed a very diverse practice that included criminal trial work and defense advocacy.

Justice Burke will join other conference speakers who have in-depth knowledge and keen awareness not only of the Church’s clergy sexual abuse scandal and its effects, but also of the clericalism in the Church’s hierarchy, theological and doctrinal underpinnings of Church teaching, the effects the reform movement has had on Catholics and the Church and what the future may hold for these issues. Speakers include:

  • John Morgan, chairman, National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland;
  • Rev. Donald Cozzens, author, international commentator and lecturer on religious and cultural issues, especially on the Church’s sexual and financial crises, and writer in residence, John Carroll University;
  • Prof. Thomas Groome, theologian, author and Department of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry chairman, Boston College;
  • Rev. James Connell, canon lawyer, pastor in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and advocate for clergy sexual abuse survivors;
  • Jamie Manson, lay minister and award-winning columnist for National Catholic Reporter; and
  • David Clohessy, executive director, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Conference information is available at

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Message from LCWR Assembly: No Compromise on Mission

LCWR Will Continue Dialogue, But Not Compromise on Mission

(Aug. 10, 2012) The organization which represents the majority of U.S. Catholic sisters said Friday afternoon it would continue discussions with church officials regarding a Vatican-ordered takeover, but “will reconsider” if it “is forced to compromise the integrity of its mission.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Leadership Conference of Women Religious Decides Next Steps in Responding to CDf ReportLCWR press release at 2012 Assembly in St. Louis, Aug. 10, 2012

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What can we make of Sandusky/Lynn, Penn State/Catholic Church?

By Bill Casey, former Voice of the Faithful Trustee and member of VOTF Northern Virginia

The highest ranking Roman Catholic Church official to be found guilty of covering up crimes against children in the Church’s decades-old clergy sexual abuse scandal was sentenced today in a Philadelphia court. Msgr. William Lynn, former head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia office that made priest assignments, was sentenced to up to six years in prison for child endangerment, transferring pedophile priests secretly. Lynn’s trial was a textbook example of how the Church has fought to maintain its reputation and treasure at the expense of innocence and the destructive effects  of child abuse. With Lynn’s conviction and sentencing, concerned Catholics and others could only hope for more accountability.

Contrast how the Church’s scandal has played out against another secular child molestation scandal at Pennsylvania State University. One glaring disparity between the two is that children abused by clergy most often must seek justice through civil trials while the Church maintains perpetrators and abettors in their clerical positions.

The underlying crimes in these contrasting examples–Church and secular–are the same:

  • the sexual abuse of children and cover-up by hierarchical officials;
  • callous disregard for the harm done to vulnerable children in favor of protecting the image, reputation and honors of the institution; and
  • shifting of the story from the lifelong wounds and needs of the actual victims to the “victimhood” of the perpetrators and others who get caught in the consequences.

But when evidence of such horrific wrongdoing at Penn State, a secular institution, seeped out, and was confirmed by a full independent investigation, those responsible were held accountable by appropriate criminal and civil actions brought in the name of the victims. The conviction of former football coach Jerry Sandusky on 45 counts of child sexual abuse, the resignations/firings of the highest university staff by the Board of Trustees, the unprecedented NCAA sanctions levied against Penn State yesterday and the inevitability of civil lawsuits to follow show clearly how secular society generally holds its citizens accountable for gross malfeasance and crimes.

In the Catholic Church, however, the hierarchy has covered up systemic abuse of children in diocese after diocese, religious order after religious order. Church officials claim exemption from the way secular society treats these crimes based on their self-perpetuated views that clergy are separate, above and exempt from the same norms that apply to everyone else. So, when the Church commits crimes:

  • no full independent investigation by qualified investigators outside the hierarchy’s control takes place;
  • statutes of limitations run out, too often precluding criminal or civil reviews of evidence, while the hierarchy fights tenaciously against statute of limitation reform in state after state; and
  • no local boards of trustees, a la Penn State, are available to judge the merits of the revelations on the grounds of ethical behavior, common decency and Gospel values.

The bishop in every Catholic diocese is accountable to no one, under Canon Law, except the pope. In the United States, the Vatican has held not a single bishop accountable for failing to do what decency, ethics and Gospel values alone, not to mention civil law, would expect from leaders of a secular institution,  let alone a religious one.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the closest approximation of an oversight body such as the NCAA, is toothless under Canon Law and, in my opinion, cowardly under any other standard.

If not for the work of survivor advocates, the media and the courts (in those limited cases where courts have jurisdiction), the public would continue to hear only the hierarchy’s spin on reality after allegations of clergy sexual abuse come to light.

In those cases of Church wrongdoing that have gone to trial, however, the evidence of what happened at the time of abuse and thereafter follows the same pattern as at Penn State, and at almost every other organization that thinks the truth can be hidden. Fortunately, unlike the Catholic hierarchy, most secular institutions cannot keep the evidence hidden, and none escapes accountability when the evidence is revealed, evaluated and judged.

The time has come, and long since passed, for the same kind of accountability that is applied to secular institutions like Penn State to be applied to the Church. The time has come, and long since passed, for the full truth, full justice and full accountability that is applied to secular institutions to be applied to the Catholic hierarchy.

Justice and accountability, severe as they are, have been applied at Penn State.

Nothing comparable has occurred within the Catholic Church.

Editor’s Note: For more commentary on this issue see:

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“So that healing and peace can one day be a reality…”

Hello *Fr. Day,

I am a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee (USA) where I serve as the pastor of two parishes in Sheboygan, and I am an advocate for victims/survivors of Catholic clergy sexual abuse.

Today (July 24, 2012), a leader of SNAP here in Wisconsin forwarded to me an article that you wrote, A new conversation about Church sex abuse, as it appeared on

Thank you for such bold writing. You call for a new conversation that would generate a long-term, collective, coordinated and global response. I agree and count me in.

The whole and complete truth about this crisis must come to light. Indeed, without knowing the whole truth, there can be no justice; and without justice, there can be no healing.

Next September 15 (Sept. 15 2012), I will be speaking in Boston at the “Voice of the Faithful 10th Year Conference,” noting ten years since the Boston Globe published its series on the Church sex abuse crisis – and ten years since the formation of the VOTF. My comments will include the call for a network and an association of priests throughout the world who are willing to stand in a public and vocal way with the victims/survivors in their call for truth and justice, so that healing and peace can one day be a reality.

Your writing energizes me.

You don’t stand alone.

May God’s blessings be with you and your people.

(Fr.) Jim Connell

*Fr Peter Day is priest assisting at Corpus Christi Parish, ACT. He holds a Bachelor of Sport’s Journalism from the University of Canberra and worked as a radio broadcaster with the ABC from 1990-92. In 2005 he founded HOME, a comunity-based centre providing supported accommodation for people with chronic mental illness who cannot live independently, or are at risk of homelessness.

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Who’s funding the Catholic bishops’ religious freedom campaign?

The U.S. bishops’ campaign for religious freedom, “Fortnight for Freedom,” which kicks off today, is going to cost a great deal of money. Who is paying for it?

Religion News Service | Faith | Leaders & Institutions | Who’s funding the Catholic bishops’ religious freedom campaign?.

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Bishops Ask If Enough Done To Stop Sex Abuse : NPR

They think they have. Have they? The following interview took place this past Friday after the conclusion of USCCB’s annual spring meeting, which took place in Atlanta.

Bishops Ask If Enough Done To Stop Sex Abuse : NPR.

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Religion News Service | Catholic bishops told to follow their own policies against sexual abuse

The lay National Review Board of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops yesterday warned the bishops at their spring 2012 meeting in Atlanta that “they must follow their own policies against abuse more rigorously if they hope to restore their fragile credibility,” according to David Gibson, Religion News Service. The NRB also said, “While the charter called for punishing priests with a one-strike policy and instituted programs to safeguard children in Catholic parishes and schools, it did not provide any mechanism for disciplining bishops who flout the charter’s provisions.

Religion News Service | Faith | Leaders & Institutions | Catholic bishops told to follow their own policies against sexual abuse.

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Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitation Stir Battle –

Voice of the Faithful members have joined others in states across the nation in efforts to extend statues of limitations on child sexual abuse cases, considering that most victims never confront their abuse as children, but only when much older. the Catholic Church has fought these efforts in every instance —

“While the first criminal trial of a Roman Catholic church official accused of covering up child sexual abuse has drawn national attention to Philadelphia, the church has been quietly engaged in equally consequential battles over abuse, not in courtrooms but in state legislatures around the country. The fights concern proposals to loosen statutes of limitations, which impose deadlines on when victims can bring civil suits or prosecutors can press charges. These time limits, set state by state, have held down the number of criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits against all kinds of people accused of child abuse — not just clergy members, but also teachers, youth counselors and family members accused of incest.”

By Laurie Goodstein and Erik Eckholm, The New York Times 

Sex Abuse Statutes of Limitation Stir Battle –

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Vatican official warns of ‘dialogue of the deaf’ with LCWR | National Catholic Reporter

In this National Catholic Reporter story, reporter Cardinal William Levada, Prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for the of the Faith, warns what might take place if discussion with the nuns turns into a “dialogue of the deaf,” the deaf being the nuns.

Vatican official warns of ‘dialogue of the deaf’ with LCWR | National Catholic Reporter.

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