Archive for category Voice of the Faithful

Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

February 22, 2021

TOP STORIES

Pope appoints more women to Vatican posts previously held only by men
“Pope Francis has appointed two women to Vatican posts previously held only by men(link is external), in back-to-back moves giving women more empowerment in the male-dominated Holy See. He appointed Nathalie Becquart, a French member of the Xaviere Missionary Sisters, on Saturday (Feb. 6) as co-undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, a department that prepares major meetings of world bishops held every few years on a different topic. The previous day, Francis named Italian magistrate Catia Summaria as the first woman Promoter of Justice in the Vatican’s Court of Appeals.” By Reuters on NBC News

New York’s Catholic church leaders control billions outside the reach of abuse survivors
“The Catholic bishops of New York sold a lucrative insurance business they controlled and stored the proceeds in a foundation they also administer, keeping billions out of the reach of survivors of childhood sexual abuse(link is external). The move occurred in 2018, with the church selling its Fidelis Care insurance company and moving $4.3 billion of the proceeds into the new Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. At the same time, the Child Victims Act in New York was gaining momentum in the Legislature, a measure that the church had lobbied against for more than a decade.” By Edward McKinley, Albany Times Union

Pope again updates Vatican legal code amid scrutiny, probes
“Pope Francis has made another set of changes to the Vatican City State’s legal code, which has come under heightened scrutiny and criticism as Vatican prosecutors seek to crack down on financial crimes and mismanagement(link is external) by Holy See monsignors and money managers. In a new law published Tuesday, Francis made two modifications to criminal trial procedures when defendants don’t show up, one of which allows their lawyers to defend them fully even in absentia.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

St. Louis Archbishop Rozanski accused of covering up clergy sex abuse at previous post
“A civil lawsuit filed in Springfield, Massachusetts, alleges St. Louis Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski was part of ‘abhorrent attempts’ to protect the reputation of a now disgraced Roman Catholic bishop while at his previous post in the northeast(link is external). The plaintiff, named John Doe in court records, had already claimed that the late Springfield Bishop Christopher J. Weldon sexually abused him in the 1960s when he was an altar boy. Now he alleges he was also harmed by the alleged cover-up of the abuse decades later when he first started reporting it to the diocese in late 2014.” By Jesse Bogan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ACCOUNTABILITY

Kansas Catholic bishop under investigation by KBI for alleged sexual abuse of a minor
“Kansas’ top law enforcement agency is investigating an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against Roman Catholic Bishop John B. Brungardt of Dodge City(link is external), the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas announced Monday (Feb. 8). ‘An investigation conducted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) is under way,’ the archdiocese said in a statement published in The Leaven, its official newspaper. ‘Bishop Brungardt denies the allegation and is cooperating fully with the KBl.’” By Judy L. Thomas, The Kansas City Star

POPE FRANCIS

Opposition to Francis rooted in opposition to Vatican II
“At the end of January, Pope Francis delivered an important address to participants in a meeting of the National Catechetical Office of the Italian Bishops conference. It warrants attention from all the local churches because it shows, I think, why the opposition to Francis is rooted in the desire to put the Vatican II toothpaste back into a pre-conciliar tube(link is external). In the address, the pope presented an understanding of catechesis that is so far from the dry appeals to chapter and verse that tend to characterize a certain kind of apologetical, conservative Christianity.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

PRIESTS

Catholic priests accused of sex abuse increasingly use defamation lawsuits to fight allegations
“As clergy abuse lawsuits proliferate across the U.S., a growing number of priests who say they were falsely accused are pushing back(link is external) — by suing their accusers, investigators and even church officials. The list includes the Rev. Roy Herberger of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, New York. Last year, he filed a defamation case against a 42-year-old man who said the priest had assaulted him as a boy. The diocese cleared Herberger after a six-month investigation, but the experience was devastating, he said.” By Deena Yellin, NorthJersey.com

WOMEN’S VOICES

Women’s voices necessary for genuine discernment at synods
“The good news: Pope Francis named Xaverian Sr. Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary to the Vatican’s office of the Synod of Bishops, possibly with voting rights. The other news: the second undersecretary named, Augustinian Fr. Luis Marín de San Martín, will become a bishop. The more things change. … Still, it is important to have a woman’s voice near the top(link is external), and the fact that Sr. Becquart will likely have a vote makes an important statement about the role of the nonordained.” By Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter

Nun says her Vatican appointment means ‘clericalist mindset is changing’
“A French nun who could potentially be the first woman to cast a vote in the Synod of Bishops said Wednesday (Feb. 10) that her appointment is evidence the ‘clericalist mindset is changing’(link is external) as more and more women assume high-level decision-making responsibilities in the Catholic hierarchy. Sister Nathalie Becquart told journalists that Pope Francis has been underlining the importance of including women in the decision-making processes, helping move the Church from a clericalist attitude towards a more synodal one.” By Inés San Martín, Cruxnow.com

Pope’s move for women’s rights anything but a token gesture
“In what’s being hailed as a demonstration that Pope Francis is in earnest about empowering women within ecclesiastical structures(link is external), on Friday (Feb. 5), for the first time ever, the pontiff named a woman as the Promoter of Justice for the Appeals Court of the Vatican City State. In effect, the Promoter of Justice functions like a District Attorney in the United States, making the case for a criminal charge in front of the justices of the Vatican tribunal whenever a conviction comes up for appeal.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com

Women Religious, Women Deacons Q&A: Why would the ministry of women religious/women deacons be beneficial?
“Francis’ repeated calls for a ‘more incisive female presence’ in church leadership have met uneven implementation around the world(link is external) as well as at the Vatican. There are possible positions open to laypersons that might allow women — if appointed — to have a ‘more incisive presence’ in the church. These are typically administrative positions and, at the Vatican at least, can be limited to five-year terms. Again, women can be appointed to some positions, and women’s viewpoints can make a difference, but only if they are considered. Depending on the Vatican office or diocesan structure, a woman is too often at risk of being ornamental and eliminated from actual decision-making.” Last is a series of five by Phyllis Zagano, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

VATICAN

Priest in Vatican youth seminary trial denies abuse claims
“An Italian priest denied Wednesday (Feb. 10) that he sexually molested a fellow altar boy when both were teenagers at the Vatican’s youth seminary(link is external), taking the stand for the first time in a criminal trial over alleged abuse within the Vatican walls. The Rev. Gabriele Martinelli told the Vatican tribunal that the allegations against him were unfounded and implausible. He said they were the fruit of divisions in the seminary as well as ‘jealousy’ among former seminarians that he was eventually ordained a priest.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

CHURCH FINANCES

Envoy’s case confirms culture, not law, is real roadblock to reform
“In virtually any reform effort, there are usually two targets, one of which is obvious and relatively easy to tackle if there’s the will to do it, the other far more elusive and resistant to change. The first of those targets is outright, blatant corruption, and the other is formed by cultural assumptions and patterns of behavior that aren’t generally perceived as criminal or even immoral. It would seem that Pope Francis’s financial reform of the Vatican has reached that second stage(link is external), and it’s an open question whether it will succeed and how many other contretemps may erupt along the way.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com

Sitting on billions, Catholic dioceses amassed taxpayer aid
“Scores of Roman Catholic dioceses in the U.S. had more than $10 billion in cash and other readily available funds when they received at least $1.5 billion from the nation’s emergency relief program(link is external) for small businesses slammed by the coronavirus, an Associated Press investigation has found. The financial resources of several dioceses rivaled or exceeded those available to publicly traded companies — like Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steak House — whose participation in the Paycheck Protection Program triggered outrage last spring.” By Reese Dunklin and Michael Rezendes, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter

VOICES

A cardinal in the dock would mark real reform in Vatican justice
“From the outside, the commonplace assumption about the Vatican’s system of criminal justice probably is that it’s too lenient, because, as people would see it, the system boils down to Vatican personnel policing their peers and thus, many likely assume, the temptation is to go easy. Insiders, however, have long felt it’s precisely the other way around. The whole point of Vatican tribunals, as they rather cynically perceive it, is to deliver lower-level scapegoats to insulate senior figures from culpability(link is external), so the system is stacked in favor of the prosecution.” By John L. Allen Jr., Cruxnow.com

Legislation needed to help victims of child sexual abuse
“We’ve been told by thinkers and self-help gurus through the years that mistakes can be a source of learning, inspiration and growth(link is external) that we shouldn’t fear them, and we should courageously move on from them. Advice along these lines has undoubtedly been ricocheting through the mind of now-departed Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar in recent days. Boockvar fell on her sword and resigned last week after a mistake the State Department made that had the distinction of being both trivial and exceptional.” By Editorial Board, Observer-Reporter

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

House Sponsors Hope Derailed Sex Abuse Survivor Rights Amendment Will Get Back On Track
“A proposal to give childhood sexual abuse survivors in Pennsylvania two more years to sue after the statute of limitations has expired(link is external) is getting another chance in the state legislature. The measure would have amended the commonwealth’s Constitution, but its years-long approval process was set to start over when the Department of State revealed this week it failed to advertise the amendment last year, as required by the Constitution.” By Sam Dunklau, WSKG-FM National Public Radio

State agency bungles ballot referendum for child sex victims
“Some victims of child sexual abuse might have to wait two years or more to pursue legal claims because of a major bureaucratic bungle that prompted angry denunciations across the political spectrum Monday (Jan. 29) and the resignation of Pennsylvania’s top state elections official. A proposed state constitutional amendment allowing lawsuits over decades-old claims — prompted by investigations into child sexual abuse allegations inside Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic diocese(link is external) — wasn’t advertised as required and so cannot appear on the ballot this spring, the Wolf administration disclosed Monday (Jan. 29).” By Mark Scolforo, Associated Press

Abuse survivors and advocates push emergency measure for May ballot
“A bipartisan team of Pennsylvania lawmakers will invoke a rare emergency provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution, seeking to restore a constitutional amendment ballot question long sought by victims of child sex abuse(link is external). An administrative error by the Department of State, discovered late last month, prevents the question from appearing on the May 18 ballot. The proposed amendment gives child sexual abuse victims a retroactive two-year ‘window’ in which to file civil lawsuits, no matter how long ago the alleged abuse occurred.” By Deb Erdley, TribLive.com

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

Charity says assault allegations against founder ‘plausible’
“International charity Aid to the Church in Need said it found ‘very plausible’ the claim that its founder, the late Fr Werenfried van Straaten, had sexually assaulted a former employee(link is external) in the 1970s. The charity, which supports Christians suffering under persecution or extreme poverty, confirmed in a statement last week that the victim came forward with the allegation in 2010 and that preparations for a sainthood cause for Fr van Straaten stopped at the time. ‘The leadership of the charity took the accusation very seriously. It immediately sought out the person concerned and, in a personal meeting, listened to her. Her portrayal of the incident seemed very plausible,’ ACN said in the statement published after Christ und Welt, a supplement of the German newspaper Die Zeit, reported the charity had paid the woman 16,000 euros ($25,000).” By CathNews.com

CALIFORNIA

New Diocese of Oakland sex abuse lawsuit reveals seminaries as a hot bed of abuse
“New revelations of disturbing sexual abuse at a seminary are coming to light(link is external) after a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Diocese of Oakland settled last year. According to a local NBC affiliate, “The accusations come from a former seminarian, 28, who had previously alleged in 2019 that he was raped by Livermore priest Fr. Michael Van Dinh three years ago. He does not wish to be identified, so NBC Bay Area is calling him John Doe.” By Los Angeles Legal Examiner

DELAWARE

Diocese of Wilmington again found in compliance with plan to deal with sexual abuse of minors
“The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington has once again been found to be in compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People(link is external), the comprehensive action plan adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002 to effectively deal with sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy and other church personnel. The findings are a result of a review of data collected for the 2019/2020 Charter audit period by StoneBridge Business Partners, an independent firm hired by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Diocese of Wilmington has been found to be in compliance in all audits including its first audit in 2004.” By The Dialog

FLORIDA

Former Jacksonville bishops failed to report sexual abuse allegations, records show
“Since the early 1990s, at least four women have repeatedly come to the Diocese of St. Augustine with complaints of how now-deceased priest William Malone molested and fondled them, impregnating at least one of them(link is external), in the 1980s. His victims were young girls, the youngest just 11 years old. The Diocese of St. Augustine told its parishioners in 2019 — for the first time — it knew of credible allegations against Fr. Malone. Church leaders didn’t specify how many victims came forward or what they knew.” By Kelly Wiley, News4Jax

ILLINOIS

Cardinal Blase Cupich demanding details on abusive order priests but won’t post findings
“Two and a half years after the latest sex abuse scandal rocked the Catholic church and prompted new pledges of transparency, the church in the Chicago region has yet to make a full accounting to the public of its problem priests(link is external). Cardinal Blase Cupich has demanded for more than two years now that Catholic religious orders that operate in his territory fully disclose to him any information on their clergy members who now face or previously have faced accusations of child sexual abuse.” By Robert Herguth, Chicago Sun-Times

LOUISIANA

New Orleans archdiocese to add clergy abuse survivor to allegation review board
“For the first time since a sexual abuse scandal erupted within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans decades ago, its leader is adding an abuse survivor to the panel that reviews allegations involving clergy(link is external). Archbishop Gregory Aymond announced Thursday (Feb. 11) that a clergy abuse survivor, whose identity will be kept confidential, will become part of his Independent Review Board. The board, comprised of ‘primarily lay professionals’ according to the archdiocese, reviews abuse claims to see if they are credible and then makes recommendations to the archbishop.” By Greg LaRose, WDSU-TV6 News

MASSACHUSETTS

Archives: Diocese wanted Rev. Holley out. Personal letters detailing priest’s situation obtained by T&G
“Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan in 1971 decided that one reason the Rev. David A. Holley should go into the care of Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico or some other location operated by the order was because they would be able to find a placement for him after he completed treatment, the bishop said in a letter written at the time. Rev. Holley, denied parole last week, is now serving a 55- to 275-year prison sentence in New Mexico for sexually abusing and raping eight boys(link is external) there. Although Rev. Holley was taken in as a priest of the Worcester Diocese in 1962 and incardinated in 1967, which means he became a priest of the diocese, he proved to be problematic because of his history of sexually molesting boys.” By Kathleen A. Shaw, Telegram & Gazette

Bishop Weldon accuser files lawsuit against Springfield diocese
“A former altar boy who accused the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon of sexual assault(link is external) — and whose claim was found to be ‘unequivocally credible’ following a review ordered by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield — has filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for the physical harm he suffered in the 1960s and continued emotional distress. The plaintiff says he was between 9 and 11 years old when he was raped multiple times at multiple locations by Weldon and two other members of the clergy.” By Ray Kelly, Springfield Republican, on MassLive.com

MINNESOTA

Diocese files plan for reorganization
“The Diocese of Winona-Rochester has reached a settlement with the Creditors’ Committee representing 145 survivors of clergy sexual abuse(link is external). ‘It is my desire and hope that the compensation paid in this settlement will help the survivors heal from the pain they have felt over these many years. We must never forget the tragic anguish caused by individuals who abused their power and positions of authority. We must stay vigilant in our unwavering commitment to protect the youth in our Diocese who rely on priests, deacons, religious, and lay people to keep them safe and provide for their spiritual care.’ said the Most Reverend John M. Quinn, Bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester.” By Diocese of Winona-Rochester

  • Winona-Rochester Diocese reaches $21.5 million settlement with abuse victims, By Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune

MISSISSIPPI

Mississippi trial delayed for friar accused of sex abuse
“A trial has been postponed until April for a former Franciscan friar accused of molesting students(link is external) in the 1990s at a Catholic school in Mississippi. Paul West had been scheduled for trial in February. His case was delayed so he could undergo a mental evaluation, The Greenwood Commonwealth reported, citing dockets on the local district attorney’s website. A Leflore County grand jury indicted West in August on two counts of sexual battery and two counts of gratification of lust. If convicted, he faces life in prison.” By Associated Press

NEW MEXICO

Catholic priest sex abuse trial to begin in December 2021
“A trial date was set in the case of the late Fr. David Holley, who allegedly sexually abused a victim in Alamogordo(link is external). New Mexico Second Judicial District Judge Daniel Ramczyk set the jury trial date for the case as Dec. 13. The complainant, listed as John Doe, allegedly was one of several of Holley’s victims in Alamogordo in the 1970s, court records state.” By Nicole Maxwell, Alamogordo Daily News

Judge: Sex abuse lawsuits can proceed against the Church
“A federal judge has rejected an attempt by the bankrupt Archdiocese of Santa Fe to block three lawsuits accusing it of transferring millions of dollars(link is external) in property to individual parishes to shield the assets from settlements in sexual abuse cases. Last week’s ruling allows lawsuits for hundreds of victims to proceed, while the archdiocese says it will file another appeal. ‘The gist of the proposed actions was that [the archdiocese] allegedly transferred to its 93 parishes most of [its] property, without consideration, and with the intent to hinder, delay, or defraud its creditors (almost entirely sex abuse claimants),” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David T. Thuma wrote in his ruling.’” By Dillon Mullan, Santa Fe New Mexican

NEW YORK.

Diocese of Buffalo says audit shows it to be complying with youth safety procedures
“The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo says a newly-completed audit by a Rochester firm finds it is fully complying with guidelines put forth to protect children(link is external) and young people from harm. StoneBridge Business Partners looked at the years 2019 and 2020, collecting and measuring data from parishes, schools and key diocesan departments. The information collected covers topics including appropriate training, screening and hiring processes and procedures for working with victims.” By Michael Mroziak, WBFO-FM National Public Radio

PENNSYLVANIA

Former priest sentenced to 5 years’ probation in abuse case
“A former Roman Catholic priest in Pennsylvania who pleaded guilty to assaulting two altar boys(link is external) about two decades ago has been sentenced to five years’ probation. John G. Allen, 77, of York had pleaded guilty in November to indecent assault and corruption of minors in the assaults at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Church in Penbrook between 1997 and 2002. He acknowledged having touched the children over their clothes.” By Associated Press

TEXAS

Archdiocese of San Antonio plans to update its clergy abuse list
“Two years ago, when Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller released a landmark list of priests credibly accused of sexually assaulting and abusing children(link is external), he said that apologizing once wouldn’t suffice. Two years after that defining moment, his words torment survivors of crimes that amounted to rape. None of the cases might have resulted in imprisonment, but they embroiled the Catholic Church in a global cover-up and scandal.” By Elaine Ayala, LMTonline.com

AUSTRALIA

Catholic Church pedophile networks to be mapped ‘like organized crime’ by academics
“A ‘mafia-like’ code of silence among ‘dark networks’ within the Catholic Church has begun to emerge from a world-first project mapping clerical pedophile networks(link is external), says an academic behind the project. The project is led by Newcastle sociologist Kathleen McPhillips and criminologist Jodi Death (pronounced Deeth) from Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) law faculty. The research builds on work done by Sally Muytjens, one of Dr Death’s doctoral students, who mapped Catholic paedophile networks in Victoria.” By Giselle Wakatama, ABC Newcastle

CANADA

Supreme Court sides with London, Ont., woman suing Catholic church
“The Supreme Court of Canada has sided with Irene Deschenes, the London, Ont., woman trying to reopen her civil suit against the Diocese of London(link is external), which has tried to legally stop her for more than a decade. Thursday’s (Feb. 11) dismissal of the diocese’s appeal application marks the end of the legal road for the church, at least for now, and it means Deschenes and the church can begin renegotiating her claim. ‘It’s in the hands of the church so we will see what will happen next. If they have any compassion for the victims they created, they’d be on the phone to us by the end of the day,’ said Deschenes at a virtual media conference after the ruling.” By Kate Dubinski, CBC News

Catholic Church sued in class-action suit linked to Mount Cashel case
“A class-action lawsuit has been filed over allegations that children at two Vancouver-area Catholic schools were abused by members of the Christian Brothers(link is external) who had been transferred to B.C. from the infamous Mount Cashel Orphanage. The lawsuit says that the abuse at Vancouver College and St. Thomas More in the period from 1976 to 1995 continued a pattern of systemic child abuse at institutions run by the Christian Brothers in Canada first revealed at the Newfoundland orphanage in the mid- to late-1970s.” By Keith Fraser, Vancouver Sun

St. John’s Catholic diocese named in proposed Vancouver class action
“The legal entity of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John’s has been named in a proposed class-action lawsuit involving alleged sexual abuse at schools in Vancouver where Christian Brothers taught(link is external) decades ago. The notice of civil claim was to be filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia Monday (Feb. 8) and the local archdiocese has not had legal notification yet, according to the lawyer Joe Fiorante who hopes to get the class action certified in B.C. … Early police investigations in Newfoundland and Labrador were covered up at the time.” By Barb Sweet, The Chronicle Herald

GERMANY

Cologne Catholic sex abuse probe seen as cover-up
“Germany’s secular panel on sexualized violence against children says Cologne’s Catholic archdiocese has ‘severely damaged’ moves to own up to its abusive past(link is external). Cologne’s archbishopric ‘severely damaged’ the process of owning up to decades of sexualized violence against children in its ranks as demanded by victims and lay Catholics, a top secular German panel found on Monday. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse — a commission mandated by parliament since 2016 to probe cases across German society — decried the diocese’s own internal review, saying this must be done instead by outsiders.” By Deutsche Welle

German archbishop under fire over clergy sex abuse report
“The head of the German Bishops’ Conference has criticized the handling by one of the country’s most prominent Roman Catholic archbishops of a report on past child sexual abuse by clergy(link is external). Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, the archbishop of Cologne, faces mounting discontent in his diocese over his decision to keep under wraps a study he commissioned on how local church officials reacted when priests were accused of sexual abuse. Woelki has cited legal concerns about publishing the study conducted by a law firm.” By Associated Press

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND, AND WALES

Christian Brothers abused children at Fife care home ‘with impunity’ inquiry concludes
“St. Ninian’s School in Falkland exposed youngsters to risks of sexual, physical, and psychological danger for almost the entire time it was open(link is external). Lady Smith’s damning conclusion of the Christian Brothers was revealed today with the publication of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. She said they were the perpetrators who would ‘pursue their abusive practices with impunity.’ And her view of St Ninian’s School in Falkland was ‘depressing.’ and that abusive Brothers had ‘unrestrained access’ to vulnerable children.” By Allan Crow, Fife Today

Victim speaks out after abusive priest sentenced
“The victim of a priest sentenced to serve more than a decade in jail for child sexual abuse has attacked the Archdiocese of Birmingham for trying to dissuade him from reporting the assaults to police. Last week, Fr Joseph Quigley was jailed for 11 years and six months for sexually and physically abusing a young man(link is external). At one stage he locked him in the crypt of a church as a punishment for supposed wrongdoing.” By Catherine Pepinster, The Tablet

Catholic brother allowed to live by school had been charged with abuse of seven victims
“A Catholic brother who was allowed to live on school grounds was the former head of a school accused of abusing multiple children(link is external). The man spent several years living in France before moving onto accommodation connected to St Francis Xavier’s (SFX) College in Woolton. The ECHO has since learned that the man, a member of the French Catholic order the Brothers of Christian Instruction, was charged with 10 counts of indecent assault against seven victims, some under 13, at a school outside the Merseyside area.” By Jonathan Humphries, Liverpool Echo

GUAM

Vatican removed as defendant in Guam clergy sex abuse case
“The nephew of former Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron removed the Holy See, or the Vatican, from the list of defendants in his clergy sex abuse case(link is external). Mark Apuron, through attorney Delia Lujan Wolff, filed a ‘notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice’ of all claims against ‘Defendant Holy See, State of the Vatican City, its instrumentalities and/or agents.’ A dismissal without prejudice means the matter is not dismissed forever, and can be brought to court again.” By Haidee Eugenio Gilbert, The Guam Daily Post

MALTA

The long shadow of clerical abuse
“The Church has always been a key focal point in Maltese life and culture. Precisely because of its importance and dominance, and not just in Malta, the issue of clerical sex abuse has only begun to fully surface in recent decades(link is external). Evidence from countries which have had extensive experience of clerical abuse suggests that it is far more widespread than formal reporting would suggest. Experience to date indicates that victims are extremely slow to come forward while Church and state are notoriously slow to acknowledge the issue and society at large is significantly reluctant to even discuss it.” By Times Malta Editorial Board

Sex abuse in the Church; majority of victims don’t report cases, says expert
Victims of child and adolescent abuse rarely report their abuse, meaning many perpetrators are still within the community(link is external), a 2000 study by psychologist Mariella Dimech of 80 people with drug problems had found at the time. ‘Numbing The Pain’ focused on the link between child and adolescent abuse and drug addiction by following 80 people who had drug problems over time – 90% of these vicims had been abused during childhood and adolescence.” By Laura Calleja, Malta Today

POLAND

Poland’s Catholic church accused of failing to take action against paedophile priest for 25 years
“The Catholic church in Poland has been accused of failing to take decisive action against an accused pedophile priest for 25 years(link is external) after first being made aware of the allegations. The claims, broadcast in a new television report on Monday (Feb.15), are the latest revelations regarding the church’s alleged failure to properly investigate child sex abuse by clergy. In some instances, the institution has been accused of deliberately covering cases up and protecting perpetrators.” By NotesfromPoland.com

SPAIN

Madrid archdiocese provided support for 85 abuse victims in 2020
“The Archdiocese of Madrid provided support services for 85 victims of abuse in 2020, 75 of them direct victims and 10 who were family members(link is external). The 85 victims received free psychological care and listening sessions offered through the Repara Project for the prevention of abuse and care for victims, launched in January 2020. Altogether, the Repara Project provided free 400 psychological care and listening sessions in its first year of operation.” By Catholic News Agency

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Nun appointed to high-level Vatican post by Pope Francis says the ‘patriarchal mindset is changing’ / Associated Press in America: The Jesuit Review

“A French nun who has become the first woman to hold a voting position at the Vatican said Wednesday (Feb. 10) that her appointment is evidence the ‘patriarchal mindset is changing.'”

Associated Press in America: The Jesuit Review

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“A French nun who has become the first woman to hold a voting position at the Vatican said Wednesday that her appointment is evidence the “patriarchal mindset is changing” as more and more women assume high-level decision-making responsibilities in the Catholic hierarchy.

“Sister Nathalie Becquart said during a news conference that her appointment as an undersecretary in the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops office was a “brave signal and prophetic decision” by Pope Francis, who has repeatedly stressed the need for women to have a greater say in church governance.

“‘What I hope is that this will be seen also in the field, in the dioceses, in the parishes,” she said. “I hope this act will encourage other bishops, priests, religious authorities, and that all this will include women more and more.'”

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

February 8, 2021

TOP STORIES

Francis: ‘No concession’ to those who deny Vatican II teachings
“Pope Francis on Jan. 30 urged those charged with passing on the principles of the Catholic faith to consider the teachings of the Second Vatican Council as sacrosanct(link is external), saying that to be Catholic one must adhere to the reforms brought about by the landmark event. ‘You can be with the church and therefore follow the council, or you can not follow the council or interpret it in your own way, as you want, and you are not with the church,’ the pontiff said in a meeting with a group of catechists connected to the Italian bishops’ conference.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

In came Latin, incense and burned books, out went half the parishioners
“Religion scholar Maria Lichtmann felt a strangeness overcome St. Elizabeth of the Hill Country Parish in Boone, North Carolina, four years ago. Fr. Matthew Codd, the then-pastor at St. Elizabeth’s, was joined by a group of seminarians who went through the church’s theology library and removed books deemed heretical, including those of spiritual writers Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton. The books were later burned, she was told by a parish staff member(link is external). Lichtmann, a retired religious studies professor at Appalachian State University, left the region in part, she told NCR, because of the changes in the parish. She now lives in Georgia.” By Perter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter

Joy, frustration and humor: reactions to Vatican law change on lectors, altar servers
“”Am I the only one who is like: wait, women aren’t explicitly allowed to be lectors and altar servers before this?” Flora Tang wrote on Twitter Jan. 11. She was not, in fact, the only one. (For starters, more than 30 people liked her tweet). In the wake of Pope Francis’ announcement Jan. 11 that officially opened altar serving, lectoring and eucharistic ministries to all ‘lay persons(link is external),’ rather than just men, Catholic organizations and individuals expressed a mix of emotions, including joy, disappointment and a bit of wry humor — or just plain surprise. Some saw the move as a positive step that more fully recognizes women’s roles in the church.” By Madeleine Davison, National Catholic Reporter

Lots of Politics, Little Legitimacy: The USCCB needs an ecclesial and theological vision
“The second Catholic president of the United States is the first to hold office in the midst of an American intra-Church crisis. John Kennedy never had to deal with the kind of conflict currently roiling the USCCB or the opposition of so many bishops to the papacy(link is external). But Joe Biden takes office just as the situation inside the U.S. Catholic Church becomes reminiscent of the Americanist controversy of the late nineteenth century. What divided the bishops then were the warnings put forth by Leo XIII in Longinqua oceani (1895) and Testem benevolentiae (1899)—namely, admonitions against embracing the ‘American’ models of religious liberty and separation of church and state. New York Archbishop John Corrigan sided with the pope, against St. Paul Archbishop John Ireland and his allies, whom Leo ultimately disavowed for their ‘Americanist’ views. The split had long-term effects on the Church.” By Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal

Women’s Work: The pope makes it harder to keep women out of liturgy
“It must be difficult for a mainstream journalist covering the Vatican beat on days like January 11, when Pope Francis’s motu proprio, Spiritus Domini, was announced. How to convey the significance of a tweak to canon law that clarifies women’s eligibility to be lectors and acolytes at Mass(link is external)? Aren’t they…already doing those things? Pity the reporter who must quickly explain the existence of ‘stable ministries’ in the Church, and the now-obscure practice of formally instituting lay men into those roles … It’s no wonder so many outlets framed the news in terms of what hadn’t happened: ‘Pope says women can read at Mass, but still can’t be priests’ ran a typical headline.” By Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, Commonweal

ACCOUNTABILITY

Australian police find no crime in Vatican money transfers
“Australian police said Wednesday (Feb. 2) they found no evidence of criminal misconduct in money transfers from the Vatican that a financial agency mistakenly inflated(link is external) by almost $1.8 billion and fueled corruption speculation. Australian Federal Police investigated the transfers to Australia that the country’s financial intelligence agency, Austrac, reported to the Senate in December amounted to $1.8 billion over six years.” By Associated Press in Star Tribune

Catholic Church: German bishops’ summit considers women and lay roles as answer to abuse crisis
“Germany’s Catholic bishops will resume discussions this week to plan the Synodal Path, a set of conferences slated to address controversial questions such as women’s roles and LGBTQ acceptance, even as the country faces yet another scandal of sexual abuse by clergy. Many churchmen believe that the social questions and the abuse crisis are related(link is external). ‘The abuse crisis hurts the church very deeply,’ Rev Martin Maier, a Jesuit priest and former editor at the German Catholic magazine Voices of the Time (Stimmen der Zeit), told Religion News Service. ‘One of the goals of the Synodal Path is to restore trust, which is crucial and vital.’” By Claire Giangravé, Religion News Service, in Sight Magazine

A Vanishing Priest, a Wall of Secrecy and a 25-Year-Old Abuse Case
“Thirty-odd years ago, 8-year-old Timothy Schlenz spent every Saturday being tutored on the sacraments at a Manhattan church. It was there, he said, that he was regularly abused. Only years later did Mr. Schlenz come to understand that Father Jones had abused him. He wanted to press charges, though by then the statute of limitations had passed. But the New York State Child Victims Act, which allows for victims to file civil lawsuits against their abusers regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred, has given Mr. Schlenz a chance to make his case(link is external).” By Jenn Morson, The New York Times

Michael McDowell: Church, State and society all owe redress over homes
“A somewhat fractious debate has emerged on whether responsibility, legal or moral, for the awful neglect and ill-treatment of Ireland’s unmarried mothers and their children lies with the State, the churches, or with society at large. It is a combination of all three. A duty of acknowledgment of responsibility and of redress lies with all three.(link is external) The state is an emanation of society; the churches were integral parts of that society. Our church-dominated society perpetrated this terrible mistreatment of its weakest and most vulnerable.” By Michael McDowell, The Irish Times

Pope Francis

Clergy must remain united with faithful, not become elitist, pope says
“Members of the clergy should always remember they are part of the people of God and not an elite group that stands above the faithful(link is external), Pope Francis said. In a video message sent Jan. 24 to Peruvian Bishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, president of the Latin American bishops’ council, also known as CELAM, the pope said the council’s upcoming meeting with the laity highlights the importance of remaining ‘together with the people of God.’ By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, in Catholic San Francisco

BISHOPS

Sunday Mass in every church to become a thing of the past, Dublin Archbishop says
“Dublin’s new Catholic Archbishop has said celebration of Sunday Mass in every church will become a thing of the past and a declining priesthood will require a greater role for lay leadership(link is external). In a interview on the day of his formal installation, Archbishop Dermot Farrell set out the current state of his diocese in numbers , 197 parishes served by 350 active priests with an average age of 70. He said there was now a need to reorganize parishes both in terms of how they are divided out and the possibility of lay leadership.” By Patsy McGarry and Mark Hilliard, The Irish Times

Bishops throw cold water on the most Catholic inauguration in history
“Apparently, the leadership of the U.S. bishops conference, before it had even heard the speech, chose to range itself among those unwilling to ‘come together to carry all of us forward(link is external).’ Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, president of the conference, issued a churlish statement … The statement contained two big fat lies at its heart … The worse lie came when Gomez said, “Catholic bishops are not partisan players in our nation’s politics.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

WOMEN IN THE CHURCH

Leading nun says decision-making shouldn’t be a matter of ordination
“One of the Catholic Church’s most prominent nuns has said the push for women’s priestly ordination in the Catholic Church points to a deeper question that needs to be asked and stressed the need to separate ordained ministry from decision-making(link is external). ‘I think there’s a bigger question, which is really the discernment of the ministries that are needed in the Church and in the world today,’ said Sister Patricia Murray, a member of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary and secretary general of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG).” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com

The larger dimension of the pope’s new document on women and ministry
““Spiritus Domini” is the latest moment in a long-term process to de-clericalise the Catholic Church. Pope Francis’s little document Spiritus Domini on allowing women to be officially invested with the lay ministries of lector and acolyte is a most welcome development(link is external). It is a very interesting small brick in his larger pastoral edifice dedicated to implementing the reforms mandated over half a century ago by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).” By Thomas O’Loughlin, Catholic Outlook

WOMEN DEACONS

Women Religious, Women Deacons Q&A: Who could be the general superior?
It is a documented fact that women, including members of abbeys and monasteries, were ordained as deacons(link is external). The misconception that the ordination of women deacons was ‘only’ the ceremonial appointment of an abbess ignores both the fact of their sacramental diaconal ordinations and the fact of their abbatial consecrations, which gave jurisdictional powers and authority. In some liturgies, the two nominations are collapsed, but without question some abbesses were ordained as deacons and, in fact, had territorial jurisdictional authority equivalent to that of bishops within their abbey and monastery territories.” By Phyllis Zagano, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

VATICAN

Vatican says allegations against Wyoming bishop can’t be proven
“A Vatican investigation has exonerated retired Bishop Joseph Hart of Cheyenne, Wyoming, on seven accusations of sexual abuse towards minors, while five other accusations ‘could not be proven with moral certitude(link is external),’ the diocese announced in a statement Monday (Jan. 25). The decree came from the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) – the Vatican office responsible for processing clergy sex abuse complaints. However, the CDF issued a canonical rebuke to Hart for ‘his flagrant lack of prudence as a priest and bishop for being alone with minors in his private residence and on various trips, which could have been potential occasions endangering the ‘obligation to observe continence’ and that would ‘give rise to scandal among the faithful,’’ according to the diocese statement.” By John Lavenburg, Cruxnow.com

CHURCH FINANCES

Despite question marks, Vatican bank verdict is still a watershed
“We’ve been down this road before, of course, but nevertheless we witnessed what’s being hailed as a landmark moment this week for financial reform in the Vatican(link is external) when a longtime former president of the Vatican Bank, along with the bank’s lawyer, were sentenced to eight years and 11 months in jail for their roles in a $70 million fraud.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com

Former Vatican bank president guilty of embezzlement
“A former president of the Vatican bank and his lawyer have been found guilty of money laundering and embezzling millions of euros from property sales(link is external). According to a statement released by the Vatican yesterday (Jan. 21), Angelo Caloia, who served as president of the Institute for the Works of Religion from 1999 to 2009, and his lawyer, Gabriele Liuzzo, were sentenced to eight years and 11 months for skimming profits from the sale of Vatican properties. Giuseppe Pignatone, president of the Vatican tribunal, handed down the sentence and ordered Caloia and Liuzzo to pay a fine of 12,500 euros ($19,600) each.” By CathNews.com

VOICES

Opinion: It’s time for Colorado’s Catholic Church to take a moral inventory
“The dialogue about the need for accountability following reports of priestly abuse should also be the catalyst for examining other areas where the church presumes moral authority(link is external), including health care. Growing up in the Catholic faith, several guiding principles were instilled in me, including the sanctity of human life and dignity, that our humanity is measured by the compassion we show the poor and our most vulnerable, and that regardless of our differences, we are all God’s children. And of course, and perhaps most fundamentally, to trust in God, his plans, and in his holy church.” By Bri Buentello, The Colorado Sun

Catholic Church Sex Abuse: What Is Suitable Compensation for a Life of Trauma?
“If you had a choice between losing a limb or being psychologically traumatized your whole life, which would you choose? By ‘psychologically traumatized,’ I mean suffering debilitating lifetime depression and anxiety, having difficulty holding onto a job, not being able to enter into satisfying personal and intimate relationships, unshakeable (and unwarranted) self-blame and even being rejected by family who don’t understand consequent behavior. Many sex abuse victims struggle with substance abuse throughout their lives(link is external), undergo repeated hospitalization, attempt or commit suicide, and many without anyone knowing why they were so troubled. Many of them live in poverty or near poverty their whole lives.” By Janet E. Smith, Commentary in National Catholic Register

Port: We cannot let children be hurt so that priests can keep their vows
“If your religious or political beliefs require you to stay silent when a child is in harm’s way, it’s time to change those beliefs … Though I am not religious myself, I have a well-established history of supporting religious liberty. It saddens me to see the religious liberty argument invoked to protect people who are harming children(link is external). Americans are already losing faith in their cultural institutions, from the government to the news media to organized religion. Arguing that religious leaders shouldn’t be required to report child abuse because of “religious liberty” isn’t going to help with that trend.” By Rob Port, Inforum

Joe Biden, the pope and the looming schism in America’s Catholic Church
“The new president of the United States of America is a Catholic — only the second Catholic to be elected to America’s highest office after John F. Kennedy in 1960. But in recent times, a significant change in the US has seen the Catholic Church(link is external) becoming the country’s single largest community of faith … The country has no problem with [Biden] being Catholic, but a not insignificant segment of the Catholic Church in the US — from among its bishops, its clergy, and its faithful — has a problem with his brand of Catholicism.” By Deutsche Welle

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

A Pa. Dept. of State error means some sex-abuse victims will again have to wait for justice
“Pennsylvania’s top election official will resign after her agency made a mistake that will delay a statewide vote on whether survivors of decades-old sexual abuse should be able to sue the perpetrators and institutions that covered up the crimes(link is external). Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, who oversaw a tense and difficult presidential election in the battleground state, will resign Feb. 5, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday (Feb. 1).” By Angela Couloumbis, Philadelphia Inquirer

AB218: California Catholic bishops fighting 2019 clergy sex abuse law
“Most California Roman Catholic bishops are asking a judge to throw out a 2019 law that allowed accusers of clergy sexual abuse to sue even if they were molested decades ago(link is external). Motions filed this month in southern and northern superior courts ask judges to rule Assembly Bill 218 unconstitutional. Among the arguments was the assertion that the amount of time that had passed could make it harder for the defense to gather evidence.” By Robert Jablon, Associated Press, in The Mercury News

Pa. House passes measure to allow voters to create a window for child sex abuse victims to go to court
“Pennsylvania on Wednesday (Jan. 27) stepped closer to paving the way for adults who were sexually abused as children to seek recourse in court against their predators. By a vote of 187-15, the state House of Representatives passed a measure that could lead to a temporary lifting of expired statute of limitations for some abuse victims, allowing them to file civil suits.” Ivey DeJesus, By PennLive.com

Abuse amendment gets second go
“A Senate committee moved quickly Monday (Jan. 25) to start the second round needed to pass a state constitutional amendment to open a two-year retroactive window for lawsuits by child abuse survivors(link is external). The Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to approve Senate Bill 8, which addresses fallout from a 2018 statewide grand jury report that examined decades of child sexual abuse and cover-ups in six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania.” By Roger Swift, Altoona Mirror

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

Dilemma at heart of sex abuse claims
“We can’t guess at the truth, and shouldn’t try. All the public can do is wait for the case to resolve itself, which might never happen(link is external). Until then, we can look at the context in which this is occurring.

What do we know? Such accusations have exploded. In 2019, accusations of sexual abuse against Catholic clergy quadrupled, from what had been a steady 1,000 or so a year, to 4,434. The church paid out more than a quarter billion dollars in settlements that year.” By Neil Steinberg, Chicago Sun-Times

ARIZONA

Former Tempe pastor accused of child sex abuse
“A man known in his community as being devoted to God is now facing child abuse allegations(link is external). A six-month investigation led Tempe police to the arrest of 48-year-old Mario Rodriguez-Ramirez, a man who was once a pastor. Police say the abuse began in 2015, when the little girl was 9 years old. Rodriguez-Ramirez took the victim and two other children to Kiwanis Park in Tempe, police say. There, he allegedly hugged and kissed the girl when she reached the ground after going down the slide, police say.” By Andriana Loya, 12News Phoenix

Tucson Diocese being sued for racketeering over alleged sex abuse
“A federal lawsuit accuses the Tucson Diocese and Los Angeles Diocese of violating Arizona’s racketeering laws by burying allegations that some priests sexually abused children and moving those priests from parish to parish(link is external) instead of turning them over to law enforcement. This is the second major case of its kind after a recent change to state law gave sexual abuse victims more time to take their abusers and the organizations that protected them to court. Two lawsuits have been making their way through Arizona court aimed at the Corpus Christi Diocese alleging abuse by a priest who was moved to Arizona by the Diocese there.” By Jerod MacDonald-Evoy, Arizona Mirror

CALIFORNIA

New Sexual Abuse Claims Against Two Oakland Diocese Priests
New sexual abuse allegations within the Oakland Diocese are publicly coming to light(link is external) for the first time after being included in a lawsuit against the Diocese that settled late last year for $3.5 million, without any admission of liability. The accusations come from a former seminarian, 28, who had previously alleged in 2019 that he was raped by Livermore priest Fr. Michael Van Dinh three years ago.” By Candice Nguyen, Michael Bott and Mark Villarreal, NBCBayArea.com

CONNECTICUT

Lawsuit: Priest raped boy on day of his sister’s wedding
“A Catholic priest raped a 9-year-old altar boy on the day of his sister’s wedding(link is external) that the priest officiated, according to a new lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport. The lawsuit, filed in Superior Court in Bridgeport, charges that the diocese knew or should have known that Father Kiernan Ahearn was unfit to be around children but continued to assign him duties that involved children.” By Associated Press

ILLINOIS

St. Sabina’s Rev. Michael Pflegerfaces 2nd allegation of child sex abuse; priest’s lawyers assail ‘false attacks’
“A second person has come forward with allegations of sex abuse as a minor by Rev. Michael Pfleger(link is external), which attorneys of the longtime St. Sabina Church pastor have called ‘false attacks … motivated by greed.’ Pfleger, one of the most prominent figures in the Catholic community in Chicago, stepped away from the Auburn Gresham parish earlier this month at the archdiocese’s request as it investigates decades-old sexual abuse allegations made by another person. The Archdiocese of Chicago’s general counsel ‘just received’ the additional allegation, a spokesperson said Sunday evening.” By Madeline Kenney, Chicago Sun-Times

KANSAS

Lawsuit accusing Kansas priest of sexual abuse in 1980s can go forward, court says
“A lawsuit alleging a Topeka priest sexually abused a boy(link is external) in the 1980s can proceed after an appeal by church officials was struck down this week. The lawsuit, which says the boy was 9 years old when a priest at St. Matthew’s Church began abusing him, was filed in Wyandotte County District Court in August 2017. The lawsuit names as defendants a priest identified in court records only as M.J. and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, which has authority over St. Matthew’s.” By Katie Moore and Judy L. Thomas, The Kansas City Star

LOUISIANA

Archdiocese suspends pastor of St. Peter Claver after he is accused of child rape in lawsuit
“The Archdiocese of New Orleans on Wednesday (Jan. 27) suspended the pastor of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Treme after he was accused in a lawsuit of raping a 10-year-old boy while hearing his confession(link is external) during an out-of-state retreat in 2008. The Rev. John Asare-Dankwah’s suspension will remain in effect until church authorities can complete an investigation into the allegations, archdiocesan officials said in a statement.” By Ramon Antonio Vargas, NOLA.com

Attorneys for alleged church sex abuse victims asking court to unseal deposition of accused pedophile priest
“Attorneys for alleged church sex abuse victims are fighting to get the deposition of an accused pedophile priest unsealed(link is external). Those lawyers claim the Archdiocese of New Orleans concealed almost all of Lawrence Hecker’s crimes from law enforcement. In a new court filing, lawyers for the alleged church sex abuse survivors say ‘there is more than ample evidence and support’ that both Hecker and the Archdiocese concealed multiple felonies perpetrated by Hecker against children.” By Kimberly Kurth, WVUE-TV8 News

MASSACHUSETTS

The Boston Archdiocese’s list of priests accused of abuse does not include cases settled with alleged victims
“The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has paid millions of dollars in recent years to resolve accusations of sexual abuse against priests working in local parishes. Yet, the names of many of those priests are missing from the archdiocese’s public roster of clergy accused of sexually abusing children(link is external), an accounting that began a decade ago under pressure from victims. Their exclusion has angered survivors of abuse, particularly in light of Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley’s longstanding pledge to be transparent about clergy sexual abuse after decades of secrecy.” By Shelley Murphy, The Boston Globe

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Seven decades after a priest assaulted her, a Plainfield woman is still grappling with the trauma
“When trauma resurfaced in Patty Rondeau’s life 50 years ago, it came in a sleek black car rolling up to her sister’s Hartford home. The day had been beautiful; sunny and bright, just before a christening party one of her sisters was throwing. Rondeau, then in her 30s, was sitting among the lilacs and grass outside, turning the sandy dirt into small castles with her children. The arrival of the Rev. Daniel Roberts dashed the idyllic moment(link is external).” By Anna Merriman, The Valley News

NEW YORK.

Buffalo Diocese: Audit shows compliance with Catholic Church child safety charter
“The Buffalo Diocese says that an independent audit shows they were in full compliance with the Catholic Church’s child safety charter for 2019-2020(link is external). Rochester firm StoneBridge Business Partners conducted the audit, which the diocese says required extensive data collection from schools, parishes and diocesan departments, including the documentation of procedures, training conducted, and hiring practice.” By Emyle Watkins, WGRZ-TV2 News

Church deacon busted for trying to have sex with teen he met on Grindr: officials
“A church deacon was busted this week for trying to have sex with a 14-year-old boy(link is external) he met on the gay hook-up site Grindr, officials said. It turns out that Rogelio Vega, 50, of Maspeth, Queens, was actually chatting up an undercover detective posing as a youngster, according to prosecutors. ‘This defendant by all outward appearances is a church-going family man,’ said Queens DA Melinda Katz.” By Rebecca Rosenberg, New York Post

NORTH DAKOTA

North Dakota bill to close child abuse reporting loophole nixed after Catholic opposition
“A bill that would have required North Dakota clergy to report cases of child abuse and neglect learned during confession(link is external) or other private religious conversations has been withdrawn from consideration this session. Current state law presents a loophole that does not mandate that pastors, priests and other clergy report abuse to a law enforcement agency if it’s information received when acting as a spiritual advisor. The withdrawal of Senate Bill 2180 on Friday, Jan. 29, came after the Catholic Church publicly condemned the legislation as ‘draconian.’” By Inforum.com

PENNSYLVANIA

Allentown Diocese sells 171 acres to pay priest sex abuse victims
“The Allentown Diocese has sold some of its property in Lower Macungie and Upper Saucon townships to help compensate victims of clergy sexual abuse(link is external). The diocese sold 118 acres on Flint Hill Road in Upper Saucon for $3.55 million and 53 acres on North Krocks Road across from Hamilton Crossings in Lower Macungie for $7.5 million, the diocese said in a Jan. 8 news release. With the land sales, the diocese finished paying off a loan taken out to fund a compensation program for victims of clergy sexual abuse.” By Michelle Merlin, The Morning Call

VIRGINIA

Catholic Diocese of Richmond says allegations one priest found not credible
“The Catholic Diocese of Richmond announced Thursday (Jan. 28) that child sexual abuse allegations against Thomas Long, a former priest of the diocese, were not credible(link is external) and that his name will not be added to its list of clergy for which credible and substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse have been made. The allegations were part of an investigation launched in June 2020 after the diocese received an allegation of child sexual abuse against Long, who was accused of the abuse while serving at Christ the King School in Norfolk in 1986.” By Holly Prestidge, Richmond.com

AUSTRALIA

New Church protocol published for responding to sexual abuse
“A new protocol to be introduced next week provides a framework for Catholic entities across Australia to respond consistently to people raising concerns or allegations of child sexual abuse(link is external). Source: ACBC Media Blog. The National Response Protocol, which was adopted by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference at its November 2020 plenary meeting, is the product of two years of work and widespread consultation within and beyond the Church. That consultation included engagement with victims and survivors and their advocates.” By CathNews.com

Sex abuse victim speaks out after Perth Catholic church consents to pay $2.45m compensation
“A victim who will be awarded $2.45 million in compensation for sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a Catholic priest has spoken out about the ‘severe’ impact the abuse continues to have on his life(link is external). Perth’s Catholic archbishop consented to pay the compensation after the victim, who is now aged in his 50s, described being raped by Father Bertram Adderley in the 1970s. The landmark judgement was approved by a District Court judge last week and is believed to be one of the highest known sums paid by any Catholic church in Australia to a survivor of historic sex abuse.” By Keane Bourke and Amelia Searson, ABC News

Case highlights horror of abuse: Archbishop Costelloe
“Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB says the case of the former altar boy who was abused by a priest in Perth in the 1970s highlighted the horror of sexual abuse and the dreadful effects it had on victims(link is external). The Church will make a record payment of $2.45 million to the survivor, agreed to after one day of trial in Western Australia’s Supreme Court. Fr Bertram Adderley, who died in the 1980s without ever being charged, abused many boys in regional WA and Perth, the survivor’s Victorian law firm Rightside Legal said yesterday (Jan. 21).” By CathNews.com

GERMANY

Priests urge Cologne cardinal to resign in sexual abuse report crisis
“Priests in Cologne’s Catholic archdiocese are demanding their archbishop resign for suppressing a critical report into clerical sexual abuse(link is external) in the western German diocese. The growing crisis in the powerful western diocese has taken on fresh urgency after claims that Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki ignored church guidelines rather than report a friend’s sexual abuse record to Rome. The case involves a priest friend who had convictions for sexually abusing young boys in the 1970s.” By Derek Scally, The Irish Times

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND & WALES

Diocese asking for voices of church sex abuse survivors to be heard
“An independent review of all past safeguarding cases related to Church of England churches in the region wants to ensure that survivors’ voices are heard(link is external). All dioceses nationally are taking part in the Church of England’s Past Cases Review 2 including the Diocese of Lichfield, which is home to more than 500 churches in Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent, Shropshire and the Black Country. Lichfield Diocese was also one of seven dioceses identified as needing to carry out further work to provide an updated and comprehensive version of the first Past Cases Review published in 2010.” By James Vukmirovic, Express & Star

GUAM

Judge OKs latest legal fees of $476K in church bankruptcy case; 1-month stay ordered
“U.S. District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood on Tuesday (Jan. 26) approved $476,000 in revised legal fees and costs in the Archdiocese of Agana’s two-year-old bankruptcy case(link is external). Two days later, the judge issued an order approving stipulation for stay of proceedings and suspension of work at least until Feb. 28, 2021, except for certain matters. The judge, in her Jan. 28 order, said all parties shall make their best efforts to reduce legal fees by limiting work in the main case and the adversary proceeding case for at least a month.” By Haidee Eugenio Gilbert, The Guam Daily Post

MALTA

‘The First Time Was A Sunday’: Bursting Into Tears, Gozo Rape Victim Recalls Being Pushed Into A Confessional And Touched By Priest
“‘He used to threaten me and use force when I refused. I often tried to run away but he would hold me down. He would force me in, telling me I’m going to hell or that he was going to speak to my parents.’ These were the harrowing words of a former altar boy who was allegedly raped by priest Joseph Sultana(link is external).” By David Grech Urpani, LovinMalta.com

NEW ZEALAND

Catholic Church abuse victims: Only a fraction of them coming forward, group says
“A survivor group for people abused while in the care of the Catholic Church says only a fraction of them are coming forward. A number have spoken with the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care, but it is being seen as only the tip of the iceberg(link is external). Dr Christopher Longhurst from SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said many people are reluctant to come forward for fear of ridicule. ‘There is so much shame around the abuse that society sees the victim as wounded and defective and there is victim blaming.’” By Andrew McRae, Radio New Zealand

PERU

She Exposed Sexual Abuse in a Catholic Kids Camp. Now She’s Facing a Prison Sentence
“When reporters at the Boston Globe exposed child sex abuse within the Catholic Church, their investigative work was so celebrated that Hollywood made a film, Spotlight, about it. Now, after carrying out a similar crusading probe into pedophilia in a Catholic lay organization in South America, Peruvian journalist Pao Ugaz is facing jail time(link is external) and a hefty damages bill.” By Simeon Tegel, VICE World News

POLAND

Fresh cover-up claims against former Papal secretary
“A group of Polish politicians has pledged to press new accusations against Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, former secretary of St John Paul II, after prosecutors refused to investigate TV documentary claims that he ignored and covered up abuse by priests in his Krakow archdiocese(link is external). ‘The gravity of crimes that Cardinal Dziwisz may have committed is so enormous that failure to investigate them is obviously detrimental to the public good and the private interests of victims,’ said Lukasz Kohut, a European Parliament member from Poland’s liberal Wiosna (Spring) party.” By Jonathan Luxmoore, The Tablet

SPAIN

Jesuit order in Spain apologizes for decades of sexual abuse by members
“The Jesuit order in Spain has admitted that 81 children and 21 adults have been sexually abused by 96 of its members since 1927(link is external), and has apologized for the ‘painful, shameful and sorrowful’ crimes. In a report released on Thursday (Jan. 21), the Society of Jesus, whose members often work as teachers, said most of the abuse had taken place in schools ‘or was related to schools.’ According to the document, 48 of the 65 Jesuits who abused children are dead. Four of the surviving abusers are no longer Jesuits and 13 have been prevented from working with children pending the outcome of civil or canonical cases, or have already been ordered to cease their ministry and sent to isolated Jesuit communities.” By Sam Jones, The Guardian

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Women’s Work: The pope makes it harder to keep women out of liturgy / Commonweal

“It (motu proprio, Spiritus Domini) removes a major excuse that men have used to keep women at a distance from the altar of the Lord. But it doesn’t require them to give us anything we don’t already have. Changing canon law in this way doesn’t force ordained men to get used to working with women. At best, it nudges them toward recognizing that they should want to.”

Commonweal (Also Voice of the Faithful webpage “Women’s Roles” — http://votf.org/node/1589)

“It must be difficult for a mainstream journalist covering the Vatican beat on days like January 11, when Pope Francis’s motu proprioSpiritus Domini, was announced. How to convey the significance of a tweak to canon law that clarifies women’s eligibility to be lectors and acolytes at Mass? Aren’t they…already doing those things?

“Pity the reporter who must quickly explain the existence of ‘stable ministries’ in the Church, and the now-obscure practice of formally instituting lay men into those roles. Even the most committed American Catholics were perplexed when the news broke because, as Anthony Ruff, OSB, wrote at the Pray Tell blog, ‘Up until now, females couldn’t be installed in these ministries, but they could do these ministries anyway.’ It’s no wonder so many outlets framed the news in terms of what hadn’t happened: ‘Pope says women can read at Mass, but still can’t be priests’ ran a typical headline.

“‘The Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,’ Pope John Paul II declared in 1994 in an attempt to shut down that debate. Francis quoted that pronouncement in a letter accompanying Spiritus Domini, but he also wrote that he hoped the change he was making to canon law would help men preparing for ordination ‘better understand they are participants in a ministry shared with other baptized men and women.’ Francis’s modification to one canon—changing ‘lay men’ to ‘lay persons’—eliminates a long-standing excuse for discrimination against women, although you won’t find him or any other Vatican official putting it in those terms.”

By Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, Commonweal — Read more …

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In came Latin, incense and burned books, out went half the parishioners / National Catholic Reporter

‘The Charlotte Diocese is not alone. While Pope Francis preaches an accompaniment for all spiritual seekers and castigates clericalism … seminaries in the U.S. continue to graduate priests for ordination who look not to Francis, but to Pope John Paul II for inspiration. It is a quiet, awkward and uneasy kind of schism in church practice and discipline.”

National Catholic Reporter

“Religion scholar Maria Lichtmann felt a strangeness overcome St. Elizabeth of the Hill Country Parish in Boone, North Carolina, four years ago.

“Fr. Matthew Codd, the then-pastor at St. Elizabeth’s, was joined by a group of seminarians who went through the church’s theology library and removed books deemed heretical, including those of spiritual writers Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton. The books were later burned, she was told by a parish staff member.

“Lichtmann, a retired religious studies professor at Appalachian State University, left the region in part, she told NCR, because of the changes in the parish. She now lives in Georgia.

“‘I felt it was a lost cause,’ she said about St. Elizabeth’s.

“The spirit of hyper-orthodoxy in parish leadership continued, noted Lichtmann, after Codd was replaced in July 2019 by Fr. Brendan Buckler.

“Nearing 18 months since Buckler arrived, on the edge of Boone, a college town and popular retirement community in the mountain foothills, a few dozen now gather every other Sunday at a car restoration shop shared by a hospitable non-Catholic, the husband of a parishioner.”

By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

January 25, 2021

TOP STORIES

Francis changes Catholic Church law: women explicitly allowed as lectors, altar servers
“Pope Francis has changed Catholic Church law to make explicit that laywomen can act as readers and altar servers in liturgical celebrations(link is external), effectively removing a previous option for individual bishops to restrict those ministries only to men. In an unexpected apostolic letter published Jan. 11, the pontiff says he is making the change to recognize a ‘doctrinal development’ that has occurred in recent years. That change, the pope says, ‘shines a light on how some ministries instituted by the church have as their foundation that common condition of baptism and the royal priesthood received in the Sacrament of Baptism.’” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Indictment of fundraising priest exposes lack of diocesan oversight
“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(link is external), for what he claimed were expenses for his cancer treatment and for charities in his native country of Mexico. … 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.” By Mark Nacinovich, National Catholic Reporter

North Dakota bill would force priests to violate confession seal in abuse cases
“Three North Dakota state legislators introduced a bill this week that would oblige Catholic priests to violate the seal of confession in cases of confirmed or suspected child abuse, on penalty of imprisonment or heavy fines(link is external). The current mandatory reporting law in North Dakota states that clergy are considered mandatory reporters of known or suspected child abuse, except in cases when “the knowledge or suspicion is derived from information received in the capacity of spiritual adviser”, such as in the confessional.” By Mary Farrow, Catholic News Agency

Journalists reject Cologne’s confidentiality agreement
“Signing the agreement ‘would have meant that one could not report anything one had obtained from other sources(link is external) as one would have had to prove that one had not obtained it from the background discussion,’ Joachim Frank, chairman of the German Catholic Publicists and chief correspondent of the DuMont media group, who was one of the eight journalists, told Deutschlandfunk.” By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet

ACCOUNTABILITY

Record payment ordered in Church abuse case
The Church will make a $2.45 million payout to a clergy sexual abuse survivor in Western Australia, in what is believed to be a record payout(link is external). The survivor will receive $2.45 million-plus legal costs to compensate him for abuse by teacher and priest Bertram Adderley, who groomed and raped him between 1977 and 1980 when he was aged 10 to 12. Lawyers involved in seeking restitution for victims of sexual abuse say they believe the settlement is up to $1 million higher than any payout previously awarded to someone suing the Catholic Church.” By CathNews.com

Buffalo’s new Catholic bishop says he will remove abusers and their enablers
“Having lived most of his life in the Baltimore-Washington area, we asked Buffalo’s new Catholic bishop, Michael Fisher, if he knew anyone in Western New York. Bishop Mike, as he prefers to be called, thought for a moment and answered, ‘No.’ To his knowledge, there are no familiar names or faces for him in the Buffalo Catholic Diocese. That may prove to be an asset because after Fisher is installed on Friday (Jan. 15) afternoon, he faces a number of tough decisions. He says he’s willing to toss out clergy and others involved in the sex abuse scandal that rocked the diocese(link is external).” By Steve Brown and Joseph O’Rourke, WGRZ-TV2 News

Probe highlights Vatican legal system’s limited protections
“A criminal investigation into a Vatican real estate investment is exposing weaknesses in the city state’s judicial system and a lack of some basic protections for those accused — highlighting the incompatibility of the Holy See’s procedures with European norms. The Vatican has never been a democracy, but the incongruity of a government that is a moral authority on the global stage and yet an absolute monarchy is becoming increasingly evident(link is external). The pope is supreme judge, legislator and executive, who holds the ultimate power to hire and fire officials, judges and prosecutors and make and waive laws and regulations.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Factbox: Reports into abuses in the Irish Catholic Church
“Thousands of infants died in Irish homes for unmarried mothers and their offspring run by the Catholic Church from the 1920s to the 1990s, an inquiry found on Tuesday (Jan. 12), an ‘appalling’ mortality rate that reflected brutal living conditions. There have been a series of reports into allegations of abuse and mistreatment by priests and members of religious orders(link is external). Here are some details of their findings …” By Reuters

BISHOPS

New Buffalo bishop seeks to ‘listen’ as he takes over troubled diocese
“When Auxiliary Bishop Michael Fisher of Washington is installed as the 15th bishop of Buffalo on Friday, he’ll be entering a diocese in the throes of controversy(link is external). In November, New York State attorney general Letitia James sued the diocese, former Bishop Richard Malone and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Edward Grosz for failing to protect minors and inadequately investigating and reporting claims against diocesan priests that went back decades.” By John Lavenburg, Cruxnow.com

Pope accepts resignation of French archbishop amid financial challenges
“Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Jean-Pierre Cattenoz of Avignon, a month after the archbishop celebrated his 75th birthday, amid ongoing questions about his management style and handling of archdiocesan finances(link is external) … As early as 2019, about 200 faithful belonging to a group called Christians in Vaucluse had requested the archbishop’s early retirement because of what they saw as a style of governance that created ‘real suffering’ for local Catholics. Among the contentious issues were that of personnel management, concern for the poor, people feeling unwelcomed, the lack of ecumenical and interreligious initiatives and diocesan finances.” By Catholic News Service in National Catholic Reporter

WOMEN DEACONS

Diaconal ministries link women religious to restoration of women deacons
“In May 2016, Pope Francis responded to a question posed at the triennial assembly of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG): If women religious are already performing the many ministries of deacons, why not form a commission to study the restoration of women to the diaconate?(link is external) The pope responded immediately, naming 12 scholars the following August to the Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women who met in Rome four times and returned a report by June 2018. The pope gave a portion of the report to the UISG leadership at their May 2019 assembly. It has not been published.” First in a Series of Five by Phyllis Zagano, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

CHURCH FINANCES

Parish leaders: Review of Catholic cathedral funds finds $117,000 in unauthorized transactions
“An internal review by the Diocese of Nashville found about $117,000 in unauthorized transactions from the Cathedral of the Incarnation’s financial accounts(link is external). The transactions in question were discovered during a scheduled review of the cathedral’s funds, according to a letter church leaders sent Tuesday (Jan. 12) to parishioners. An accountant in the diocese’s finance office helped with the investigation, which determined the misappropriated parish funds had been used for personal benefit since 2015 … The review of parish funds followed Fowlkes’ recent appointment as pastor.” By Holly Meyer, Nashville Tennessean

Vatican, AUSTRAC seek data clarification
“Australia’s financial watchdog is reviewing its calculation that transfers worth $US1.8 billion ($A2.3 billion) had been sent to the country from the Vatican since 2014, after Vatican and Australian Church calls for clarification. A senior Vatican official and an Australian bishop told Reuters last week they had no knowledge of the transfers and would be seeking clarification(link is external). The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) cited the amount in response to a parliamentary question by Australian Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.” By Philip Pullella, Reuters, in Canberra Times

VOICES

The pope’s latest decree is a victory for Catholic women
“A lot of American Catholics might not see the importance of Pope Francis’ declaration that women can take part in the formal ministries of acolyte and lector. After all, there have been ‘altar girls’ in many American parishes for years. But ‘many’ is not ‘all.’(link is external) Some parishes and dioceses allow only boys to assist the priest at the Mass and other ceremonies. The pope’s decree doesn’t focus on children and adolescents or require that girls be allowed to serve Mass. It says that church law will be changed to say that “lay persons” of either sex may be formally installed in the ministries of acolyte (a priest’s assistant) and lector (a reader of Scripture during the liturgy).” By The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board

Victims of child sexual abuse need more time to confront their abusers
Sexual abuse of children is extremely difficult to prosecute. It often takes years(link is external) — and even decades — before a person who was abused as a child is prepared to confront the abuser in a court of law. That seldom happens, because of the difficulty of presenting evidence and because of the sense of shame that all too often keeps this horrible crime hidden in secrecy, allowing the abusers to remain untouched by the law.” By The Grand Forks Herald Editorial Board

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

Should alleged victims of child sex abuse have more time to sue? Soon voters may decide
“Voters may soon decide if alleged victims of child sexual abuse will have more time to file civil lawsuits(link is external) against the people or organizations they are accusing. However, critics voiced concern the proposal could tip the scales of justice towards the accuser while taking away rights of the accused. House Bill 14 is a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would establish a 2-year-long window in which civil claims arising from child sexual abuse could then be asserted even if they had previously been barred by a statute of limitations.” By Jamie Bittner, FOX43-TV News

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

Priest accused of abetting alleged sex abuse ring is hired by diocesan charity
“On a scorching day in August 2015, the mother of a teenage girl walked into the confessional of a small church near the Sicilian city of Catania, in southern Italy. She believed that the leader of her lay Catholic group, a man known as the Archangel, had repeatedly raped her underage daughter and possibly others(link is external). She trusted the priest, the Rev. Orazio Caputo, who had worked closely with the Archangel’s Catholic Culture and Environment Association or ACCA, to listen to her fears.” By Claire Giangravé, Religion News Service

Malta archdiocese condemns charismatic group accused of abuse
“Following a 5-month investigation into the charismatic Community of Jesus the Savior, the Archdiocese of Malta has issued a decree forbidding participation in the group after finding what it described as abusive tendencies causing harm to members(link is external). In a Jan. 8 communique, the bishops’ conference of Malta, consisting of the Malta and Gozo dioceses, said they ‘reaffirm the decision to disassociate themselves from Komunità Ġesù Salvatur,’ referring to the group by its Maltese name.” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com

CONNECTICUT

Norwich Diocese Likely To Shell Out More Apart From $9.5 Million, After Facing 35 New Sexual Assault Lawsuits
“More trouble’s in store for the Diocese of Norwich and former Bishop Daniel Reilly, as he now faces 35 lawsuits pertaining to accusations made by men who alleged that they were sexually abused as children and teens by Christian Brother K. Paul McGlade, who ran the former Academy at Mount Saint John in Deep River in the 1990s … Recent reports also suggest that McGlade has had a history of inflicting abuse on assaulting young boys in Australia before he came to Norwich.” By Pooja Prabbhan, Latin Times

LOUISIANA

Alleged church sex abuse victim says George Brignac raped him in 1977
Brian Manix held on to a secret for 43 years and says it took its toll. ‘These people don’t realize what they’ve done to all of us. I’ve gone to drugs, I’ve gone to alcohol, I’ve tried to commit suicide three times,’ said Manix. Manix was an altar boy at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in New Orleans when George Brignac was a deacon. He says he was just 10-years-old in 1977, when Brignac raped him in City Park(link is external).” By Kimberly Kurth, FOX8News Live

MASSACHUSETTS

Catholic priest pleads not guilty to rape, assault charges on minor
“The Catholic priest charged with multiple counts of rape pleaded not guilty to all charges Monday during his arraignment in Barnstable Superior Court. Mark Hession was arraigned on charges including two counts of rape, one count of indecent assault and battery on a child less than 14(link is external) and one count of intimidation of a witness. He was released after posting $2,500 cash bail.” By Jessica Hill, Cape Cod Times

Catholic diocese releases names of credibly accused priests
“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fall River in Massachusetts has released a list of 75 clergy credibly or publicly accused of sexual abuse of a minor(link is external). The diocese in a statement Thursday Jan. 7) said more than three-quarters of the names released by the diocese have already been made public through previous announcements from the church, media reports, or other means. There are currently no priests in ministry who have been credibly accused. Bishop Edgar da Cunha said he was profoundly sorry for any abuse perpetrated by priests within this diocese and is working to make sure it never happens again.” By Associated Press, on WBNG-TV12 News

‘The list has triggered emotions’: Victims’ attorney digs deeper into priests accused of abuse
“The sheer number of names on the Diocese of Fall River’s list of clergy credibly or publicly accused of sexual abuse of a minor is shocking on its own, but the list provided little information about when and where the abuse occurred, how many victims there were, and who knew about it(link is external). Additionally although the lists contain 75 names, an attorney for victims of sexual abuse believes it is incomplete.” By Kiernan Dunlog, Fall River Standard-Times

MINNESOTA

Carlton County priest listed as ‘credibly accused’ of sexual abuse
“The Diocese of Duluth has added a former Carlton County priest to its list of clergy deemed ‘credibly accused’ of child sexual abuse(link is external). The Rev. David Tushar had served as a priest in Northeastern Minnesota for nearly 35 years when he was placed on leave in July 2019 pending an investigation into allegations of abuse. The allegations were related to his earlier service as a Holy Cross Father and Catholic school teacher in Niles, Illinois, from 1978-79.” By Tom Olsen, Duluth News Tribune

NEW JERSEY

Rumson Priest Named In Sex Abuse Lawsuit Against Trenton Diocese
“A priest who served for seven years at Holy Cross Church in Rumson was recently named in a sexual abuse complaint filed Tuesday (Jan. 19) against the Diocese of Trenton. Fr. Thomas A. Rittenhouse was ordained in 1976 in the Diocese of Trenton and is accused of sexually abusing a minor while assigned to the Rumson church from 1981 to 1982(link is external). He served at Holy Cross from 1981 to 1988.” By Nicole Rosenthal, Rumson Patch

Suit Alleges Sexual Abuse at Point Retreat
“For over 50 years, the Marianist Family Retreat Center, on the corner of Yale and Cape avenues, in Cape May Point, has been the site of contemplation, celebration and prayer for the faithful. One woman alleges that in summer 1974, it was a site of horror and violation that still hurts decades later … Identified in the court documents as Jane Doe RP, she filed a suit against the center and the Marianist Province of the United States, alleging that she faced repeated sexual abuse from two clergy members(link is external).” By Bill Barlow, Cape May County Herald

N.J. Catholic diocese has a plan to compensate victims of abuse. Advocates aren’t happy.
Advocates for people sexually abused by clergy are opposing a plan from a New Jersey Catholic diocese to compensate victims(link is external). The Diocese of Camden announced a proposal on Dec. 31 to speed up the process of setting aside millions of dollars for abuse claims, after the church filed for bankruptcy in October. ‘The Diocese wants to continue to pay survivors rather than lawyers and other professional advisers,’ the church said in a statement.” By Blake Nelson, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Law firm files 5 more suits alleging past child sex abuse by dead Catholic priests
“A law firm specializing in representing abuse victims has filed five additional lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Newark alleging priests sexuallly molested children going back decades(link is external). Three of the priests have been credibly accused of abuse in the past, their names and allegations made public by Catholic dioceses in New Jersey. All five are deceased. The suits were filed by Jeff Anderson & Associates, along with New Jersey attorney Greg Gianforcaro. They have filed numerous similar lawsuits in the Garden State since late 2019, when a new state law relaxed statute of limitations on such cases, opening a two-year lookback window for victims to file suit.” By Kevin Shea, NJ.com

NEW YORK.

Clergy sex abuse advocates criticize method of picking new Buffalo bishop
“While wishing new Diocese of Buffalo Bishop Michael Fisher success in his new role, a former priest turned advocate for clergy sex abuse victims says Fisher’s selection is clouded by the involvement of a former superior, who stepped down from a powerful position within the US Catholic Church amid his own accusations of covering up abuse cases(link is external). Fisher, before coming to Buffalo, served as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC under Cardinal Donald Wuerl.” By Michael Mroziak, WBFO-FM National Public Radio

EXCLUSIVE: Leaked transcript shows NY church’s attempt to block Child Victims Act
“When Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the longtime leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, introduced the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program(link is external) to the public in Oct. 2016, he expressed his hope that offering financial settlements to the victims of sexual abuse by clergy would both “promote healing” and “bring closure” after more than a decade of constant scandal.” By Pete Madden, ABC-TV News

Father Bill Lombardy accused of sexual abuse by former altar boys: suit
“One-time priest and chess grandmaster Father Bill Lombardy — who was portrayed by actor Peter Sarsgaard in a movie about famed chess player Bobby Fischer — has been accused of sexually abusing two altar boys in a new lawsuit(link is external). The now-deceased Lombardy — whose training of Fischer was depicted in the 2014 movie called “Pawn Sacrifice” — is accused in a Bronx Supreme Court lawsuit from last week of sexually assaulting two students in the 1960s, when he taught at St. Mary’s School in the Bronx.” By Priscilla DeGregory, New York Post

NORTH DAKOTA

North Dakota clergy sex abuse survivors say Catholic reforms too little, too late
“For decades, Ted Becker frequently woke up in the dead of night, gagging. Sometimes a pungent, familiar smell would force him from bed to search the house for a repressed memory that took him years to find. Not until he saw a psychiatrist in the late 1980s did he understand why the recurring sensations affected him so deeply. Memories of sexual abuse involving a Catholic priest(link is external) from the early 1950s, beginning when he was 9 years old, flooded back.” By C.S. Hagen and April Baumgarten, Mitchell Republic

OHIO

Police not investigating Catholic priest placed on leave after allegation surfaces
“Three area police departments said they have not been asked to investigate allegations against a local priest who was put on leave by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati(link is external). Father Anthony Cutcher of St. Peter Catholic Church in Huber Heights was placed on leave Monday after an allegation surfaced against him, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said Thursday (Jan. 14). Police in Huber Heights, Montgomery and Miami counties told the Dayton Daily News they have not been asked to investigate the allegation involving Cutcher.” By Eileen McClory, Dayton Daily News

SOUTH CAROLINA

Diocese of Charleston faces second lawsuit in a week
“A lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Charleston alleges abuse dating back decades. The new suit is the second filed against the diocese in a week’s time. The lawsuit was filed by a man who claims a priest sexually abused him over span of two years(link is external) in the mid-1970s while the defendant was a student at St. John’s Catholic Church and Cathedral School. The victim says in the suit he was 13 when he he started to be abused on a weekly basis. He said Frederick Hopwood, a priest, would put his hands down the victim’s pants and molest him.” By WCSC-TV5 News

WASHINGTON

Catholic church pays $2 million to settle local abuse cases
“The Archdiocese of Seattle has reached over $2 million in settlements in the past six months due to credible allegations of sexual abuse against four Catholic priests(link is external) in Western Washington, including two former leaders of a parish in Snohomish and one in Everett. The Rev. Michael C. OBrien led St. Michael Parish from 1974 to 1979. He was succeeded by the Rev. Dennis Champagne from 1979 to 1999, who then became the priest of St. John Bosco Church in Lakewood. Church leaders put Champagne on leave in 2002, after someone accused him of sexual misconduct.” By Caleb Hutton, HeraldNet.com

CANADA

Three decades after Mount Cashel orphanage abuse scandal, victims are still fighting for justice
“For most people, it’s just another shopping plaza … But John Doe No. 26 will never forget what used to be here. The 80-year-old grandfather can still vividly see the notorious Mount Cashel orphanage that stood at this St. John’s site until it was demolished in 1992. He was a resident there for seven years, until he was 15 years old, and suffered unspeakable violence and abuse at the hands of men who were supposed to care for him(link is external).” By Greg Mercer, The Globe & Mail

GERMANY

Confidentiality dispute piles pressure on cardinal accused of mishandling abuse cases
“German media have criticized the Archdiocese of Cologne for offering to provide a ‘background briefing’ to journalists about an unpublished report into clerical sex abuse on condition that they signed a confidentiality form(link is external). Journalists from several media organizations reported that they had refused to sign the form and walked out of the meeting on Jan. 5, which was called to explain issues regarding the report’s methodology.” By Catholic News Agency

Bishop: Making up the Duty of Abuse for Years
Processing the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in Germany will remain a task for years(link is external), according to Bishop Stephan Ackermann. ‘That will be a painful process,’ said the representative of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) for questions about sexual abuse in Trier from the German news agency. Over the next five years, all 27 dioceses nationwide would face an independent review by specially formed committees dealing with ‘responsibilities’ – how people dealt with perpetrators and victims in the past.” By The Courier

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND & WALES

Priest, 63, who sexually abused boys as young as 10 on church youth club trips in the 1970s and 80s and tricked them into sex acts using a card game is jailed for five years
“Last November Hardwicke was found guilty on five counts of historic indecent assault(link is external), following a nine day trial. In one incident a victim was made to take part in sexual activity as part of a card game, prosecutors said. Hardwicke carried out the abuse by taking ‘special interest’ in his victims and made them feel as if they had nowhere else to turn, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).” By Luke May, Daily Mail

GUAM

Firms cut legal fees by $2K in church bankruptcy ahead of hearing
Two law firms in the Archdiocese of Agana’s two-year-old bankruptcy case reduced their legal fees by $2,162.50, ahead of a court hearing(link is external) on the latest interim fee applications. The fourth interim fee applications from law firms now amount to about $478,400. The archdiocese’s bankruptcy marks its second year this month. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection is aimed at reorganizing the church’s finances, and compensating nearly 300 Guam clergy sex abuse survivors while also keeping all Catholic schools and parishes open.” By Haidee Eugenio Gilbert, The Guam Daily Post

INDONESIA

Indonesian church worker jailed for molesting altar boys
“A church worker in Indonesia has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually assaulting altar boys(link is external) following the first-ever sexual abuse trial in a civil court involving the Indonesian Catholic Church. Depok District Court in West Java convicted Syahril Marbun on Jan. 6 for abusing two altar boys at St. Herkulanus Parish in Depok in Bogor Diocese, where he served as liturgical coordinator.” By Ryan Dagur, Jakarta, UCANews.com

IRELAND & NORTHERN IRELAND

Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes
“The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters was established by the Irish Government in February 2015 to provide a full account of what happened to vulnerable women and children in Mother and Baby Homes during the period 1922 to 1998(link is external). It submitted its final report to the Minister on 30 October 2020. Each element of the Report can be accessed through the links below …” From Ireland’s Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

MALTA

Pope Francis Defrocks Maltese Priest Who Sexually Abused 13-Year-Old
“Pope Francis has accepted the Conventual Franciscans Order’s request to dismiss Donald Bellizzi, the Maltese priest convicted of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy(link is external), iNews Malta reported. Last November, Bellizzi, a former Burmarrad Franciscan, was sentenced to three years in prison. Bellizzi’s offences first began in 2010, when he would invite youths interested in becoming priests on retreats to the Franciscan convent in Burmarrad. Investigations into the case were kicked off after the Curia received reports of the abuse.” By Benjamin Abela, LovinMalta.com

NEW ZEALAND

Abuse inquiry: we all know the outcome
“We must already know what the New Zealand Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care will reveal about the Catholic Church in New Zealand. That’s because it has been said before, time and time again, across the globe, by many other inquiries into the exact same issue. Independent inquiries worldwide have already looked into what happened to children(link is external), young people and adults at risk in the care of the Catholic Church over past decades.” By Matthew Epsom, The Gisborne Herald

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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 …

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

January 10, 2021

TOP STORIES

Event series’ proposals aim to raise women’s voices in San Diego Diocese
“The 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sex abuse sent shock waves through the U.S. Catholic Church. For Bridget Gramme, the moment felt like a ‘call to women’ to improve the church(link is external). ‘I’m a cradle Catholic, it’s my community and my identity and my kids go to Catholic schools,’ Gramme said. ‘It’s something we really believe in and the community is so important to us. Maybe it’s time we step it up and not just sit around and let these things happen.’ Gramme is an attorney and member of the advisory board of the Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture at the University of San Diego.” By Sophie Vodvarka, National Catholic Reporter

Podcast: How 2020 changed the Vatican
“The coronavirus pandemic upended everyone’s plans for 2020—including the Vatican’s. From the first weeks of the pandemic when Pope Francis prayed in the rain in St. Peter’s Square to the London finance scandal to the new standards of transparency ushered in by the McCarrick report, it has been an unprecedented year in every way(link is external). On ‘Inside the Vatican,’ host Colleen Dulle and Vatican correspondent Gerard O’Connell recap the biggest Vatican moments of 2020. The hosts focus on three areas of change in the Vatican: transparency, missionary work and solidarity with the poor.” By Colleen Dulle and Gerard O’Connell, Inside the Vatican, America: The Jesuit Review

Australia’s Catholic bishops seek answers about mystery billions linked to Vatican
“Australia’s Catholic bishops are considering raising questions with the country’s financial watchdog authority about whether any Catholic organizations were among the recipients of billions of Australian dollars in transfers reputedly from the Vatican(link is external). AUSTRAC, Australia’s financial intelligence agency, revealed in December that the equivalent of around US$1.8 billion had been sent to Australia from the Vatican or Vatican-related entities since 2014.” By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

Looking ahead to 2021 in the life of the church in the U.S.
What will the new year bring in the life of the church in the United States?(link is external) As we learned last year, we never know what unforeseen events will enlighten or becloud all else. We can discern three major themes that will largely shape the year ahead: the relationship between the United States bishops and the Biden administration, the Year of the Family,(link is external) the appointments of new bishops in some significant sees, and how the church will continue to cope with COVID-19. Then, just before the end of the year, a new major theme emerged, arguably the most explosive: significant upheaval at EWTN.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

Vatican reforms finances following London property scandal
“Pope Francis has stripped the Vatican’s powerful central administration office of an investment portfolio worth hundreds of millions of euros(link is external) following a scandal linked to luxury London real estate development in Chelsea. The Vatican said that all of the financial assets of the Secretariat of State, the Holy See’s state bureaucracy, would be placed under the control of APSA, the Vatican’s existing centralized asset manager, from the start of the new year.” By Miles Johnson, Financial Times

ACCOUNTABILITY

Crisis Episode 10: Bishops’ Accountability
“This podcast series keeps coming back to the question of bishops’ accountability(link is external). Are the reforms of Vos estis lux mundi being applied in the US Church? This episode features Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York, reporters Harriet Ryan of the L.A. Times and Christopher Altieri of the UK Catholic Herlald, and canon lawyer Tom Doyle.” By The Catholic Project

McCarrick report shows a church infected with unchecked clericalism
“The Vatican’s report on defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick revealed sexual abuse of adults and minors by a Catholic cleric and its cover-up by church officials — more of the same pattern we’ve seen so often in the church, reaching to the highest levels … What’s the disease? Clericalism, sure, but other denominations have clericalism but don’t seem to have the problem of recurrent and widespread abuses of power. Rather, unchecked clericalism is at the root of the Catholic Church’s affliction. A tight-knit clerical culture defends itself, first by defining priests as uniquely Christ-like — different and better than the unanointed laity(link is external).” By Lisa Fullam, National Catholic Reporter

Germany: Catholic officials ask reporters for ‘silence’ on child abuse report
“With the Catholic Church shaken by the child abuse scandal in Germany, journalists walked out of a press event organized by church representatives on Tuesday (Jan. 5). The Archdiocese of Cologne had called for a press conference to discuss an unpublished child abuse report. Specifically, church officials were to explain issues regarding the report’s methodology. These issues, at least according to Cologne Archbishop Reiner Maria Woelki, were the reason for withholding the document from the public in its current form(link is external).” By Deutsche Welle

WOMEN DEACONS

Next archbishop of Dublin would like to see women deacons in Church
Dublin’s Catholic archbishop-elect Dermot Farrell has said he would like to see women becoming deacons in the Church(link is external). He said the biggest barrier to female priests in the Catholic Church ‘is probably tradition, not the scriptures.’ ‘Women have almost preserved the faith in the church, certainly in this country and probably beyond,’ he said in an interview before he assumes the role on February 2nd. But he expressed concern that the introduction of female priests could split the church as it had the Church of England.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times

CHURCH FINANCES

Former comptroller of Catholic Diocese of Steubenville sentenced to prison for tax crimes, embezzlement
“The former comptroller of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville was sentenced in federal court in Columbus this month for failing to pay payroll taxes(link is external) withheld from the paychecks of diocesan employees, filing false tax returns and embezzling $299,500 in diocesan funds between 2008 and 2017. David A. Franklin, 67, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in July 2020 to one count of willful failure to account for and pay over employment tax, one count of making a false income tax return and one count of wire fraud. Franklin was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and two years of supervised release and was also ordered to pay $1,332,885.04 in restitution.” By Highland County Press

Vatican denies knowledge of $1.8 billion transferred to Australia
“The Vatican and the Australian Catholic Church have both denied knowledge of transfers worth US$1.8 billion which Australia’s financial watchdog says have been sent from Rome to Australia in the past seven years(link is external). ‘That amount of money and that number of transfers did not leave the Vatican City,’ a senior Vatican official with knowledge of the city-state’s finances said on Wednesday (Dec. 30). The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Vatican would be seeking details from Australian authorities on the specific origin and destination of the money.” By Philip Pullella, Reuters

FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Archdiocese considers mergers, closures of Niles, Morton Grove, Skokie Catholic churches
“Five north suburban Catholic parishes are waiting to hear on Jan. 21 if they will merge with another parish, close, or stay as they are(link is external). Those parishes are St. Lambert and St. Peter in Skokie; St. Isaac Jogues and St. John Brebeuf in Niles, and St. Martha in Morton Grove. The possible consolidation is part of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s ‘Renew My Church’ initiative, which the archdiocese defines on its website as a way to ‘address the challenges of our time.’” By Myrna Petlick, Pioneer Press, Chicago Tribune

VOICES

Our Views: New Orleans archdiocese owes Catholics acknowledgment, promise not to fail again
“We knew things had been bad with the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ handling of the case of George Brignac some time ago. But new reporting by Ramon Antonio Vargas of The Times-Picayune and The Advocate and David Hammer of WWL-TV shows that the diocese has — for more than a generation — been negligent at least and intentionally evasive at worst(link is external).” By The Advocate Editorial Board

Our hearts go out to victims of sexual abuse who are suffering in silence
“A teen’s allegations that she was raped and subjected to other forms of sexual abuse by someone known to her will no longer proceed in the court system(link is external). And somewhere on Guam, a 25-year-old man, Austin Joseph Palacios Quitugua, who is known to the girl, is a free man. He once stood accused of sexually assaulting the girl – who was 12 at the time – on multiple occasions, between Christmas break 2018 to July the next year, according to court documents.” By The Guam Daily Post Editorial Board

Head of German bishops, self-described conservative, calls for change
“In a wide-ranging interview, the head of the German bishops’ conference called for far-reaching changes to the Catholic Church(link is external) and criticized the Vatican’s treatment of the church in his country. ‘I would describe myself as conservative because I love this church and enjoy devoting my life and my strength to it. But I want it to change,’ Limburg Bishop Georg Bätzing told the magazine Herder Korrespondenz. His remarks were reported by the German Catholic news agency KNA.’” By Catholic News Service on CatholicPhilly.com

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

Reporters storm out of press conference after Catholic officials ask for silence on child abuse report
“Journalists have stormed out of a press conference in Germany after Catholic Church officials asked for their ‘absolute silence’ on a long-awaited report into child sex abuse(link is external). A vast and comprehensive report investigating decades of alleged sexual abuse of young people at the hands of clerics and the resulting institutional cover-up in the Archdiocese of Cologne – the world’s wealthiest Catholic diocese, and Germany’s largest – had been pledged back in 2018 by Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki.” By Andy Gregory, The Independent

ARIZONA

As deadline nears, adults flood Arizona courts with lawsuits alleging childhood sex abuse
“Hundreds of civil lawsuits by people who allege they suffered abuse as children(link is external) are being filed in Arizona’s courts as a year-end deadline looms for them to seek justice. Many of those filing are listed in court documents simply as ‘John Doe’ or ‘Jane Doe.’” By Lauren Castle, Arizona Republic

FLORIDA

Diocese of St. Augustine investigating abuse allegations against retired priest
“The Diocese of St. Augustine is investigating abuse allegations against retired priest Father David Terrence Morgan(link is external), according to a bulletin by the diocese to parishioners. The diocese said the Church reached out to law enforcement to investigate the allegations, in addition to conducting its own investigation, which the bulletin states found ‘the allegations have a semblance of truth based on an initial review, but guilt has not been determined.’” By Matthew Copeland and Haley Harrison, WTLV-TV News

Investigation: Florida was dumping ground for priests accused of sex abuse
“Investigators in the Florida Attorney General’s office have completed a two-year investigation into sexual abuse inside Florida Catholic churches(link is external). Using 267 tips to a tip line, investigators found 97 Florida priests accused of sexual abuse in Florida. The investigation did not uncover current, ongoing or unreported sexual abuse by Florida priests. Investigators found 81 priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse in other states, then transferred, relocated or retired to Florida, sometimes without the knowledge of the Florida churches they were being moved to.” By Jeff Butera, ABC-TV7 News

ILLINOIS

Chicago’s activist priest Rev. Michael Pfleger steps aside amid past child abuse allegation
“The Rev. Michael Pfleger has temporarily stepped down from his ministry leading the Roman Catholic Faith Community of St. Sabina amid allegations of sexual abuse of a minor more than 40 years ago(link is external). Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, shared the news in a letter Tuesday (Jan. 5) to members of the Faith Community of St. Sabina and St. Sabina Academy, a predominantly Black parish on the city’s South Side.” By Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service

LOUISIANA

Archdiocese of New Orleans, SNAP meet for first time in attempts to unify for abuse victims
“For the first time, two organizations who have been at odds amid a growing list of victims of sexual assault at the hands of Catholic clergy have come together(link is external). The Archdiocese of New Orleans and New Orleans-area advocate SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) have had a strained relationship ever since the list of accused priests started. Both organizations issued the following statement saying that first steps were taken to work together for victims …” By WDSU-TV6 News

MASSACHUSETTS

Former Cape pastor indicted on rape, assault and battery charges
“A grand jury returned indictments against a former Cape pastor on Friday, with multiple counts of rape and assault and battery(link is external). The Rev. Mark Hession was indicted out of Barnstable Superior Court on two counts of rape, one count of indecent assault and battery on a child less than 14 and one count of intimidation of a witness, a superior court official confirmed Monday.” By Jessica Hill, Cape Cod Times

NEW JERSEY

Priest accused of sexually assaulting parishioner denies claims but admits to having affair
“A New Jersey priest has acknowledged he had an affair with a woman who recently filed a lawsuit alleging he sexually assaulted her(link is external). The Rev. Robert L. Sinatra, of St. Padre Pio Parish in Vineland, admitted the affair in a Jan. 2 letter to parishioners, but denied that he assaulted the woman. ‘With a deep sense of embarrassment and shame, I write to let you know that in late 2018 I had a two-month affair with an unmarried woman,’ Sinatra wrote.” By Matt Gray, NJ Advance Media, on NJ.com

NEW YORK.

Diocese to hire another law firm in defending against AG’s lawsuit
“The Buffalo Diocese, which already is paying six law firms for work in bankruptcy proceedings, is looking to hire another firm to defend against a lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Letitia James in November(link is external). The diocese wants to retain the Jones Day firm as ‘special counsel’ for the lawsuit, which alleges that diocese leaders protected more than two dozen priests accused of child sexual abuse by not referring their cases to the Vatican for potential removal from the priesthood.” By Jay Tokasz, The Buffalo News

Child abuse allegations against Troy church divide family, friends, community
“‘No matter what people say negatively, it’s painful, it’s hurtful, it’s discouraging, it’s angering and it can defame the Lord’s bride, the church, most of all,’ Pastor Phil Smith, of Victorious Life Christian Church, said. His message — only God is the source of ultimate judgment and forgiveness — was typical for a sermon. But the apparent inspiration for the message on that Sunday was atypical, and it was not the enemy harming the church’s reputation, but a young woman suing them for allegedly abetting and harboring a Sunday school teacher who she says sexually abused her as a girl(link is external).” By Edward McKinley, Albany Times-Union

New sex abuse and ‘grooming’ allegations target former Staten Island priest
“Former priest Ralph LaBelle has again been accused of sexually abusing a young male parishioner on Staten Island(link is external). According to a civil complaint filed last week in Richmond County state Supreme Court, St. George, the victim was “groomed” and sexually abused between the ages of 13 and 16-years-old. At the time, LaBelle was assigned to St. Clare’s R.C. Church in Great Kills. He was there from 1979 to 1985.” By Kyle Lawson, SILive.com

NORTH DAKOTA

Investigation into clergy sex abuse in Catholic Church concludes in North Dakota
“Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Monday (Dec. 5) that the investigation by his office into allegations of child sexual abuse by members of the two catholic dioceses(link is external) in the state has concluded. The 18-month criminal investigation began around the time the two North Dakota Catholic Dioceses, in Fargo and Bismarck, released a list of 53 people for whom they felt allegations of child sexual abuse had been substantiated.” By Paul Jurgens, KFGO-AM 790 News

OHIO

Trial of former St. Helen’s seminarian now scheduled for May
“The trial of a Strongsville priest with Geauga County ties is now scheduled for late May, federal court records show. The priest, Robert McWilliams, 40, is facing charges of two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, three counts of sexual exploitation of children(link is external), one count of transportation of child pornography, one count of receipt and distribution of visual depictions of real minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and one count of possession of child pornography.” By Andrew Cass, News-Herald

PENNSYLVANIA

After abuse, addiction, and recovery, Mike McDonnell works to help others
Mike McDonnell understands how victims can lose their way. He was abused by two Catholic priests, one of whom was later convicted, a dark secret that traumatized him(link is external) so much he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, two of his three marriages failed, and he stole about $100,000 from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia — a crime for which he served nearly a year in jail. But through recovery, and maintaining his Catholic faith, McDonnell, 52, has rebuilt himself as a victims advocate as he tries to help others. He’s now a local leader for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).” By Isabella Simonetti, Philadelphia Inquirer

Lawmakers could let voters decide whether to allow lawsuits for abuse survivors in 2021
“The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee says that moving a bill to amend the Constitution to create a window of time for lawsuits by adult survivors of child abuse will be a top priority when lawmakers return to the Capitol next month(link is external). The bill has already passed once, but because it’s a proposed constitutional amendment, it must pass unchanged a second time before it goes on the ballot for voters statewide.” By John Finnerty, The Tribune-Democrat

SOUTH CAROLINA

Catholic Diocese of Charleston facing new lawsuit
“The Catholic Diocese of Charleston is facing a new lawsuit. Court documents filed late Monday (Jan. 4) afternoon accuse a member of the church of sexual abuse and a systematic cover up of that abuse(link is external). The charges were filed by a woman referred to as Mary Roe 1818. She alleges one of the priests, Frederick Austin McLean, repeatedly abused her and her sister when they were kids. According to the suit, the abuse took place during the victim’s formative years as a child between 1961 and 1966. Roe was part of the St. John Catholic Church and School where McLean was a priest and teacher with regular contact with children.” By Nick Reagan, WCSC-TV5 News

TEXAS

Texas Diocese Asks Court to Toss Libel Suit Over List of Accused Abusers
“The Catholic Diocese of Lubbock urged the Texas Supreme Court on Wednesday (Jan. 6) to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by a former deacon who claims it falsely outed him as a child molester(link is external). Texas Catholic bishops say the case threatens to uproot tenets of church autonomy enshrined in the First Amendment and open churches up to crippling liability simply for following their principles. Jesus Guerrero said he was ‘shocked, confused, hurt and I knew that it wasn’t true’ when the diocese published a list of clergy it said had been ‘credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor’ in January 2019 and his name was on it, according to his brief with the state high court.” By Cameron Langford, Courthouse News

VERMONT

St. Joseph’s Orphanage abuse survivors disappointed in task force report conclusions
“Abuse survivors with the group Voices of St. Joseph’s Orphanage, shared stories Wednesday (Dec. 16) of what they experienced at the orphanage decades ago. Some of the group of more than 30 is sticking to their claims that children were murdered while they were being cared for. In a nearly 300 page report(link is external) released on Monday (Dec. 14), Attorney General T.J. Donovan says evidence of abuse exists, but there isn’t enough evidence to substantiate murder. Donovan also says law enforcement and the state should have investigated when the claims were first made.” By Dom Amato, WCAX-TV3 News

WASHINGTON

Seattle archbishop is stonewalling push for more transparency of church sex-abuse cases, group contends
“Their ranks include ex-federal prosecutors, a retired judge, a one-time assistant police chief, even a former priest. But a group of prominent Catholics say they still can’t get an audience with Seattle’s new archbishop in their push to address the fallout of a lingering scandal(link is external). Members of Heal Our Church, a Seattle-based alliance of practicing Catholics who seek a public review of how the Roman Catholic Church’s worldwide sexual abuse scandal secretly festered within the parishes of Western Washington, contend they’re being stonewalled by Archbishop Paul Etienne.” By Lewis Kamb, Seattle Times

WISCONSIN

A Notre Dame Academy graduate alleged abuse by priests, then died by suicide. Over 400 alumni demand answers.
“Graduates of four Catholic high schools are demanding action from St. Norbert Abbey after its leader disputed allegations of sexual abuse lodged by a fellow alumnus(link is external) who died by suicide in March. The call for change came after the Green Bay Press-Gazette published an investigation detailing the story of Nate Lindstrom, who said three Norbertine priests abused him as a teenager in Green Bay in the late 1980s. Lindstrom received $420,000 in secret payments from the Catholic order over 10 years until the abbey stopped sending checks in 2019.” By Haley BeMiller, Green Bay Press-Gazette

AUSTRALIA

Report documents steady, meaningful progress on safeguarding
“The presidents of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia say their annual report to the National Office for Child Safety outlines comprehensive and sustained work across Church settings(link is external). The provision of an annual report on progress in child protection and safeguarding was one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Bishops Conference and CRA adopted that recommendation. They have published the Church’s third such report today (Dec. 17).” By CathNews.com

BRAZIL

Brazil archbishop investigated for sex abuse
“Police in Brazil said on Monday (Dec. 4) they were investigating the archbishop of the city of Belem for alleged sexual abuse against underage seminary students(link is external). Confirmation of the investigation came after four alleged victims of Archbishop Alberto Taveira Correa accused him of years of abuse in a sweeping investigative report aired Sunday night on Brazil’s biggest broadcaster, TV Globo. The alleged victims, who spoke on condition of anonymity, accused the 70-year-old archbishop of abusing them from 2014 to 2018, when they were between 15 and 18 years old.” By Agence France-Presse, Rio de Janeiro

Father Marcelo Rossi and Fabio de Mela defend archbishop accused of sexual assault
“In Fantasy this Sunday (Jan. 3), it was revealed that four former seminarians were accusing the House of Albert Taveira Correa, Archbishop of Belen do Par, of sexual violence. The archbishop was defended by the religious. Among them are Father Marcello Rossi and Fabio de Mello. ‘At this hour of battle we are together in prayer,’ Father Marcelo Rossi said. ‘Don Alberta has supported me many times. I would like my prayers and my commitment to do the same for him right now,’ Melo said.” By VarietyInfo.com

CANADA

Edmonton Catholic priest removed under allegations of historic sexual abuse of minor
“An Edmonton Catholic priest has been removed from public ministry in the region after an allegation of historic sexual abuse of a minor surfaced(link is external). The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton said in a statement Christmas Eve it removed Rev. Sylvio Lacar after he was identified by the archdiocese of Los Angeles. It says Lacar was the subject of a credible accusation of sexual assault of a minor in the Los Angeles area during the 1980s.” By Lauren Boothby, The Edmonton Journal

Vancouver Catholic Church names another three priests who abused minors
“The Archdiocese of Vancouver has named another three priests who sexually abused minors(link is external). All three men — John Edward Kilty, Johannes Holzapfel and Armand Frechette — served in at least one parish in the Archdiocese of Vancouver between the mid-1940s and early 1980s, and all three are now dead. The men were identified in a follow-up report about historical cases of clergy sexual abuse in the archdiocese, published this week.” By Glenda Luymes, Vancouver Sun

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND & WALES

Catholic priest facing sex abuse charges against boys dating back 40 years
“Father Patrick Smythe entered not guilty pleas to four charges of indecent assault when he appeared before Leeds Magistrates’ Court this week. The 77-year-old is alleged to have committed the offences against four different boys aged under the age of 16(link is external) between 1978 and 1983. Smythe, a priest with the Diocese of Leeds, appeared in court for a brief hearing and spoke to confirm his name, date of birth and address.” By Tony Gardner, Wakefield Express

NEW ZEALAND

Abuse survivors speak at redress hearing
“As the first phase of the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care’s hearing into the redress processes of faith-based institutions was about to begin on November 30 in Auckland, Catholic Church leaders made statements that they would take the opportunity to listen, learn and reflect on the experience of survivors. The first week of the two-week public hearing saw 10 survivors of abuse in the Catholic Church in New Zealand or their family members speak at the royal commission(link is external). There was one closed session in the first week. The second week was scheduled to see 14 survivors of abuse in the Anglican Church or Salvation Army institutions give their testimony. Many of the testimonies were live-streamed.” By New Zealand Catholic

PHILIPPINES

Philippines: Pedophilia and the Church
“The Philippines, despite being one of the most Catholic countries in the world, has never convicted a member of the clergy for sex abuse(link is external). And yet there are survivors who say that the abuse has been going on for years. At the end of 2018, an American priest who had officiated for forty years was arrested for pedophilia by the Philippine police and the American federal authorities.” By Arte.tv

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Francis changes Catholic Church law: women explicitly allowed as lectors, altar servers / National Catholic Reporter

“Francis’ new letter, titled Spiritus Domini and issued motu proprio (on his own initiative), changes the Code of Canon Law to explicitly allow women to be installed in the Catholic Church as lectors and acolytes.”

National Catholic Reporter

“Pope Francis has changed Catholic Church law to make explicit that laywomen can act as readers and altar servers in liturgical celebrations, effectively removing a previous option for individual bishops to restrict those ministries only to men.

“In an unexpected apostolic letter published Jan. 11, the pontiff says he is making the change to recognize a ‘doctrinal development’ that has occurred in recent years.

“That change, the pope says, ‘shines a light on how some ministries instituted by the church have as their foundation that common condition of baptism and the royal priesthood received in the Sacrament of Baptism.’

“Francis’ new letter, titled Spiritus Domini and issued motu proprio (on his own initiative), changes the Code of Canon Law to explicitly allow women to be installed in the Catholic Church as lectors and acolytes.

“Lectors are ministers who proclaim readings at Mass and other liturgical celebrations. Acolytes are ministers who typically assist priests in preparing the altar during the Mass or in distributing Communion. Acolytes are often known as altar servers or Eucharistic ministers in common parlance.

“Laypeople who serve in those ministries are not ordained but can be formally instituted into the roles during a church ceremony.

“Although women in many U.S. Catholic dioceses already serve as readers and altar servers, the church’s canon law had technically only allowed for their service on a temporary basis and according to the whim of the local bishop.”

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

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Event series’ proposals aim to raise women’s voices in San Diego Diocese / National Catholic Reporter

“‘There’s a real need to address women’s issues in the church because historically we haven’t addressed them or we haven’t addressed them well,’ Eckery (Kevin Eckery, vice chancellor of communications and public affairs in the Diocese of San Diego) said.” (National Catholic Reporter)

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“The 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sex abuse sent shock waves through the U.S. Catholic Church. For Bridget Gramme, the moment felt like a ‘call to women’ to improve the church.

“‘I’m a cradle Catholic, it’s my community and my identity and my kids go to Catholic schools,’ Gramme said. ‘It’s something we really believe in and the community is so important to us. Maybe it’s time we step it up and not just sit around and let these things happen.’

“Gramme is an attorney and member of the advisory board of the Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture at the University of San Diego.

“Along with Catholic professionals involved in a variety of ministries, Gramme formed a planning team with the goal of healing the church by highlighting the voices of women and youth.

“This idea developed into a series called ‘Future of Faith,’ which resulted in three proposals designed to elevate women’s voices in the diocese. Those proposals include forming a speakers bureau of women, an all-women advisory council to the bishop and a diocesan synod on women’s issues.”

By Sophie Vodvarka, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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