Voice of the Faithful presents “Conversations on Synodality with Vatican Commission Experts”

Rafael Luciani & Kristin Colberg

Voice of the Faithful is presenting a webinar, “Conversations on Synodality with Vatican Commission Experts,” on April 20 as one of the events marking its 20th anniversary in 2022. The synod theological commission members featured on the webinar are Rafael Luciani and Kristin Colberg.

The Synod on Synodality, being held in three phases between 2021 and 2023, is called “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” This Synod is the most significant opportunity ever for the church’s laity to influence the future of the Church and will provide all people of God with a chance to express how they see the Church becoming the synodal, pastoral, evangelical Church it should be.

Rafael Luciani is a Venezuelan theologian and associate professor of theology/professor extraordinarius in the ecclesiastical faculty of the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College. He also serves as theological advisor to the Latin American Bishops Council and is a member of the Theological Advisory Team of the presidency of the Latin American Confederation of Religious men and women. Among his articles and books is Pope Francis and the Theology of the People.

Kristin Colberg is associate professor of theology at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary, covering theology, eccelesiology, and theological anthropology. She also has worked with the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, striving for Christian unity. Her theological work is rooted in her desire to show the church can speak meaningfully in the modern context. Among her publications is her book Vatican I and Vatican II: Councils in the Living Tradition.

Click here to register(link is external) for “Conversations on Synodality with Vatican Commission Experts.”

Click her to register for VOTF’s Synod on Synodality input sessions for April and May.

Voice of the Faithful® mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. VOTF’s goals are to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, to support priests of integrity, and to shape structural change within the Catholic Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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You can now register for VOTF Synod on Synodality input sessions for April & May

Voice of the Faithful has scheduled additional input sessions for the Synod on Synodality for April & May. The Synod is the most significant opportunity ever for the Church’s laity to influence the future of the Church. Anyone interested may note the following points and then register for one Set of two sessions using the links below:

  • Each Set will include two sessions.
  • Questions in session two follow those of session one in each Set.
  • You need register for only one set of sessions to ensure your input.
  • Sessions are restricted in size to ensure all can effectively share their experiences.
  • Registration for each Set will be closed when Set is full.
  • Please feel free to invite friends, neighbors, adult children, and others.

VOTF’s previous sessions ended with Set 9, so these sessions start with Set 10. Set 10 and Set 11 differ from those VOTF usually offers because they are being held on consecutive days instead of on consecutive weeks. This is to avoid holding the second sessions in each of these Sets during Holy Week.

Please note that the final “Submit” button when registering links to the “Synod Overview” document needed to prepare for the questions asked during the sessions. Registration for each Set will be closed when Set is full.

Set 10: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Wed., Apr. 6, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Thur., Apr. 7, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT

Set 11: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Sat., Apr. 9, 2 p.m. EDT, 1 p.m. CDT, Noon MDT, 11 a.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Sun., Apr.10, 2 p.m. EDT, 1 p.m. Central, Noon MDT, 4 p.m. PDT

Set 12: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Tues., Apr. 19, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Tues., Apr. 26, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT

Set 13: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Thurs., Apr. 21, 5 p.m. EDT, 4 p.m. CDT, 3 p.m. MDT, 2 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Thurs., Apr. 28, 5 p.m. EDT, 4 p.m. CDT, 3 p.m. MDT, 2 p.m. PDT

Set 14: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Mon., Apr. 25, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Mon., May 2, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT

Set 15: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Wed., Apr. 27, 11 a.m. EDT, 10 a.m. CDT, 9 a.m. MDT, 8 a.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Wed., May 4, 11 a.m. EDT, 10 a.m. CDT, 9 a.m. MDT, 8 a.m. PDT

Set 16: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Sun., May 1, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Sun., May 8, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT

Set 17: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Tues., May 10, 6 p.m. EDT, 5 p.m. CDT, 4 p.m. MDT, 3 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Tues., May 17, 6 p.m. EDT, 5 p.m. CDT, 4 p.m. MDT, 3 p.m. PDT

Set 18: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Thurs., May 12, 11 a. EDT, 10 a.m. CDT, 9 a.m. MDT, 8 a.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Thurs., May 19, 11 a. EDT, 10 a.m. CDT, 9 a.m. MDT, 8 a.m. PDT

Set 19: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Fri., May 13, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Fri., May 20, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT

Set 20: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Sat., May 14, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Sat., May 21, 4 p.m. EDT, 3 p.m. CDT, 2 p.m. MDT, 1 p.m. PDT

Set 21: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Mon., May 16, Noon EDT, 11 a.m. CDT, 10 a.m. MDT, 9 a.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Mon., May 23, Noon EDT, 11 a.m. CDT, 10 a.m. MDT, 9 a.m. PDT

Set 22: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Wed., May 18, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Wed., May 25, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT

Set 23: Click here to register(link is external)

  • Session 1 — Tues, May 24, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT
  • Session 2 — Tues., May 31, 7:30 p.m. EDT, 6:30 p.m. CDT, 5:30 p.m. MDT, 4:30 p.m. PDT

The Synod is for Mutual Discernment

This is your opportunity to express your hopes, dreams, desires, and, yes, even your concerns for the future of the Catholic Church. We will listen intently to the Holy Spirit and engage in mutual discernment to seek a path forward for our Church. The Synod on Synodality, officially called “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” will provide all people of God with a chance to express how they see the Church becoming the synodal, pastoral, evangelical Church it should be.

VOTF emphasizes that all voices are to be heard for the Synod, even the voices of those who feel uncomfortable talking in a group about their experiences and hopes for the future of the Church. Anyone who would like additional information may email office@votf.org(link sends e-mail).

Click here to go to VOTF’s Synod 2021-2023 resources webpage …

Click here for Zoom instructions …

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In shockingly frank deposition, former bishop admits moving alleged abusers from treatment to ministry / America: The Jesuit Review

In similarly straightforward testimony, Bishop Hubbard said that in instances when priests admitted to him that they had committed abuse, he did not report this to Albany police.

Kevin Clarke, America: The Jesuit Review

“In testimony conducted over four days in April 2021, Bishop Howard Hubbard, the former leader of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., described in unusually frank terms how he moved diocesan priests who had been accused of molesting children in and out of treatment centers and back into ministry. He admitted that the transfers were consistently made without informing local police, families of abuse victims or Catholics in Albany’s parishes, where the men were reassigned.

“Bishop Hubbard testified that parishioners were told that their pastors had been removed for ‘treatment’ with no further explanation.

“‘My perspective is we did not reveal the reason for his treatment,’ Bishop Hubbard told Jeff Anderson, the lead attorney for one of the survivors suing the diocese, in reference to one priest.

“‘And the reason for his treatment was he had been accused of sexually abusing a minor, correct?’ Mr. Anderson asked.

“‘That is correct,’ answered the bishop, who led the diocese from 1977 until 2014, answered.

“Mr. Anderson pressed further. ‘As a matter of practice and protocol, you as the bishop were required to keep that secret to avoid scandal and protect the reputation of the church, of the diocese, correct?’ he asked.

“‘I think both were reasons for not disclosing fully the reason for his treatment,’ Bishop Hubbard responded, after clarifying objections from his attorney.”

By Kevin Clarke, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Ex-Albany bishop acknowledges covering up abuse allegations / Associated Press

Hundreds of people have sued the Albany diocese over sexual abuse they say they endured as children, sometimes decades ago.

Associated Press

“The former bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has acknowledged covering up allegations of sexual abuse against children by priests in part to avoid scandal and protect the reputation of the diocese.

“Howard J. Hubbard made the admission during a deposition taken last year as part of a response to dozens of claims filed under New York’s Child Victims Act. A judge ordered the deposition released on Friday.

“Hundreds of people have sued the Albany diocese over sexual abuse they say they endured as children, sometimes decades ago.

“During the four-day deposition, Hubbard named several priests who had been accused of sexual abuse who were referred to treatment and later returned to ministry, without notification to the public. One, David Bentley, admitted to Hubbard that he had engaged in the behavior alleged.”

By Associated Press — Read more …

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A Voice of the Faithful Retrospective: 20 Years of Work on Protection Our Children

Voice of the Faithful marks its 20th year in 2022 and is offering a series of articles about who we are and what we do. The following is by Patricia T. Gomez, Voice of the Faithful Trustee and Co-Chair Protection of Children Working Group.

March 28, 2022

Twenty years have passed since the public exposé of clergy sexual abuse within the Catholic Church by the Boston Globe Spotlight Team. And it is 20 years since the foundation of Voice of the Faithful and the Protection of Children Working Group in response to those revelations.

Immediate reaction to the horror of child abuse within our church spurred us into action: listening to victims’ stories, supporting victims of clergy abuse in their journey of recovery, and working to create and maintain safe environments for children and vulnerable adults in our faith communities. The Protection of Children (POC) working group continues its mission to ensure safety of children today; in the past few years members have been working on an analysis of diocesan safe environments by reviewing diocesan website postings. 

Early in the history of VOTF the POC team identified the ongoing need to raise awareness and educate adults and children on abuse prevention measures in parish communities. We worked with local and national organizations to promote abuse prevention training. Over the years POC members engaged in conversations with many abuse prevention organizations, including consultations with the chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Review Board on dispersing prevention information and tips for parents and adults on perpetrator grooming behaviors.

We also consulted with researchers at the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center. Through these and other efforts we came to understand that, to truly protect children in our parish communities, changes must occur at the local level. To that effect, the POC team created helpful hints to aid parishes in education and awareness efforts. Our Safety Sunday project, for example, provides short tips for publication in parish bulletins, especially during the month of April, which has been designated National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Many parish safe environment coordinators have continued to utilize the resources found on our Child Protection webpages.

Maintaining safe environments in our parishes is a strong prevention measure against potential abuse, but in recent years POC members have noted a de-emphasis on this key program. This de-emphasis diverts us from the shame and horror that abuse of children occurred and persisted for so many years in our churches. Timely reminders to remain vigilant are needed. For example, the annual observance in April of National Child Abuse Prevention month in the United States should be promoted in every diocese as a reminder of the ongoing necessity to protect the children and the vulnerable among us. Does your diocese promote this annual observance?

Voice of the Faithful has been working to help ensure the safety of our children from the beginning of its mission 20 years ago.

The responses of many bishops to cases of clergy sexual abuse over the past 20 years were designed to protect the institution at the expense of sacrificing the well-being of victims of clergy abuse. But ultimately such posturing has sacrificed the image and future of the institution. Clergy sexual abuse still resonates within the Church today because the faulty structures that allowed this abuse to occur and to be covered up still exist. The fact is: the institution has been damaged. It is time for the hierarchy to be held accountable to their own mandates for safe environments and abuse prevention measures. And it is time to enforce diocesan standards of prevention and safe environments in our parishes.

What can you do? The POC team encourages you to look into abuse prevention measures posted on your diocese’s website. Are these measures comprehensive and carried out in your parish or faith community? It is time for us in the pews to evaluate diocesan child protection measures to determine whether they are lived out in local parish communities.

During this month of April, dedicated to educate and raise awareness of the need to protect children from predators in every environment, VOTF members recall our outrage at the injustice served on victims of clergy sexual abuse, their families, and communities. We recall the shame we feel at the failure of leadership to protect our children. We support the call from Hans Zollner, S.J., president of the Centre for Child Protection in Rome, for forceful implementation of changes in church law introduced by Pope Francis and his predecessors, especially the 2019 motu propio, Vos Estis Lux Mundi (America Magazine, Feb 4, 2022).

We also call for the enforcement of standards set in the U.S. bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons. And we call for change in the faulty structures and attitudes that foment clericalism, especially the insular and authoritarian culture fostered in many dioceses.

VOTF has focused on supporting survivors, promoting parish safe environment efforts, and calling for structural change in the governance of the Church for 20 years. And our work continues!

Following the example of the VOTF Finance Working Group, the most recent work by the POC Working Group investigated how the church as institution presents its efforts to prevent abuse and responds to those abused. Over the past three years, the POC team developed a comprehensive set of questions for reviewing diocesan websites to assess efforts of bishops in every diocese. We recently completed the website review for diocesan Child Protection and Safe Environment efforts and scored performances of the 177 dioceses in the U.S. A link to the detailed findings from that review will be available shortly on the VOTF’s Child Protection webpage.

Ongoing Child Protection Efforts

Results of our review indicate the need to enhance diocesan child protection policies and safe environment measures. Actions by all are essential to keep children safe in our church communities:

  • Clearly stated, publicly available, and comprehensive diocesan guidelines for safe environments provide measurable standards that can be modeled in parishes and are essential to prevent further child abuse.
  • The USCCB can more frequently update their Charter and Norms. 
  • The USCCB National Review Board should more closely monitor compliance with the bishops’ own standards for child protection by augmenting annual audits.

VOTF will continue to monitor diocesan child protection measures on an annual basis.

Parishioners have a key role in ensuring the protection of children in our parishes. We need to work with diocesan and parish safe environment personnel to bolster child protection guidelines at the diocesan level and ensure that safety measures are carried out in their faith communities. Alive in the life of Jesus, the entire People of God can transform into a sacramental community where children, youth, and the vulnerable are nurtured and protected in safe environments.

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

March 28, 2022


Pope releases Vatican reform, gives weight to fighting abuse
“Pope Francis released his long-awaited reform program of the Holy See bureaucracy on Saturday (Mar. 19) that envisages greater decision-making roles for the laity and gives new institutional weight to efforts to fight clerical sex abuse(link is external). The 54-page text, titled ‘Praedicate Evanglium,’ or ‘Proclaiming the Gospel,’ replaces the founding constitution ‘Pastor Bonus’ that was penned by St. John Paul II in 1988.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Spain parliament approves independent investigation into Catholic Church sexual abuse cases
“The Spanish Parliament voted Thursday (Mar. 10) overwhelmingly in favor of a proposal to create an independent commission to investigate alleged Catholic Church sexual abuses of minors(link is external). Spain’s ombudsperson is set to chair the commission. The final vote count consisted of 286 votes in favor, 51 votes against and two abstentions. Spain’s Catholic Church has been under investigation on multiple fronts since a report from El Pais newspaper revealed 1,237 cases of sexual abuse within the church. Since then, the Catholic Church opened an investigation, lawmakers opened an inquiry, and the Attorney General launched an investigation.” By Lauren Ban, Jurist: Legal News & Commentary

1st German Catholic diocese allows women to perform baptisms
“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Essen has become the first in Germany to allow women to perform baptisms(link is external), citing a lack of priests. The diocese said in a statement Monday (Mar. 14) that Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck tasked 18 lay ministers —17 of them women — with conferring the sacrament of admission into the Church at a ceremony over the weekend. Until now only priests and deacons – functions the Catholic Church reserves for men – were allowed to perform baptisms.” By the Associated Press on ABCNews.com

For the synod to succeed, the church must listen to all of us
“As the synodal consultation process gets underway, I’ve heard from several diocesan lay leaders throughout the country about how concerned they are that this process will not be inclusive(link is external). Many fear that only a single group of people, primarily from leadership councils in parishes and dioceses, will be asked for input during this initial stage. Others share how parishes continue to serve only the dominant group in the community and are not inclusive of all cultural communities. What is painfully obvious is the lack of diversity in areas of leadership and the lack of centering the experiences of those parishioners at the margins.” By Milton Javier Bravo, U.S. Catholic


The Institutionalist: Pope Benedict and Munich’s sex-abuse crisis
“‘What did he know and when did he know it?’ That was the famous question asked by Senator Howard Baker fifty years ago at the Watergate hearings. Today that question is being asked about Pope Benedict, who has been accused of mishandling sexual-abuse cases(link is external) when he was archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982.” By Arthur McCaffrey, Commonweal


Will Catholic colleges embrace synodality
Why haven’t Catholic colleges and universities in the United States more urgently engaged Pope Francis’s repeated calls to practice ‘synodality’(link is external)? After all, these centers of intellectual development and social change are crucial in getting younger Catholics to care about the future of the Church. On this episode, we’re featuring a series of conversations with three experts on the current state of the synod and American Catholic higher education: Massimo Faggioli of Villanova University, Micah Kiel of St. Ambrose University, and Amirah Orozco of Dominican University.” By Editors at Commonweal

Parishes hold discernment sessions
“In Catholic parishes around western Oregon, Catholics have gathered over the past six weeks to pray, speak up, listen and dream about the future of their worldwide church(link is external). Information from parish discernment meetings will feed into regional writeups then move on to an Archdiocese of Portland report that will help shape documents at the national and Vatican levels. Launched by Pope Francis, the process is the largest consultation with believers in the history of Christianity. It will reach a culmination at the Vatican’s Synod on Synodality in 2023.” By Catholic Sentinel

Not many Catholics care about the synod. But I’m not ready to give up on it year.
“The apathy in the U.S. church is real. The synodal journey, and the diocesan synods, are not off to a good start(link is external). Find someone in your parish who even knows anything about it—take your time. Catch a priest off guard, and he might have a word or two to say. Good luck, though, finding any earnest enthusiasm. Thumb through Twitter a minute. Caustic medium though it is, you will really get an idea what I mean. It has had a sluggish start, this synod.” By Joshua J. Whitfield, America: The Jesuit Review


After 9 years, Francis reorganizes Vatican with focus on evangelization, roles for laypeople
“Pope Francis has overhauled the Vatican’s central bureaucracy for the first time in over 30 years, dramatically expanding the number of top leadership roles lay men and women can hold and reorganizing Vatican departments under the central priority of evangelization(link is external). The 54-page text of the new Apostolic Constitution was released on March 19 — 9 years to the day of Francis’ inauguration as pope in 2013 — and fulfills a top priority of the College of Cardinals, who made clear their desire to improve and decentralize church governance when they gathered in Rome to name a successor to the then-recently retired Pope Benedict XVI.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Pope removes Puerto Rican bishop from office
Pope Francis has ‘relieved’ Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, of the pastoral care of the diocese(link is external), the Vatican announced without providing an explanation. The Vatican’s brief announcement March 9 added only that the pope had asked 79-year-old Bishop Álvaro Corrada del Río, retired head of the neighboring Diocese of Mayagüez, to serve as apostolic administrator. Bishop Fernández, in a statement posted on the diocesan website, said, ‘I feel blessed to suffer persecution and slander for proclaiming the truth.’ The bishop also said he had been asked to resign but refused to do so.” By Catholic News Service in National Catholic Reporter


Scandinavian bishops criticize Germany’s synodal path reform project
“The Catholic bishops of the Scandinavian countries have voiced concern about ‘the direction, the methodology and the substance’ of the Synodal Path reform consultations in Germany(link is external). In an open letter to the German bishops’ conference, the Nordic bishops’ conference said it appreciated that there was a ‘palpable need for change’ in Germany. However, the issues addressed were not a ‘purely German’ concern, they added. Although the bishops acknowledged the Germans’ desire to address the wounds caused by clergy sexual abuse and to call for a ‘radical conversion’ of the church, they said the process must stop at those issues ‘that contain unchangeable parts of the church’s teaching.’” By Katholische Nachrichten-Agentur, National Catholic Reporter


Top Vatican officials invite priests to help contribute to synodal process
“Priests should try to help show the true face of the church as an open, welcoming home inhabited by the Lord and enlivened by love, said Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the Synod of the Bishops, and Archbishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Clergy. ‘It is well known that today’s world is in urgent need of fraternity. Without realizing it, the world yearns to meet Jesus,’ they said in a letter to the world’s priests, including those who are also bishops and cardinals. In order to help people encounter Jesus, priests ‘need to listen to the Spirit together with the whole people of God(link is external), so as to renew our faith and find new ways and languages to share the Gospel with our brothers and sisters,’ they wrote. That is the precise objective of the synodal process that Pope Francis has proposed …” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter


Women’s theology mentoring program doubles in size
“The Good Samaritan Study and Mentoring Program has doubled in size for its second year(link is external), meaning eight women will receive support to undertake studies aimed at promoting women’s leadership within the Church. The popular SAM Program was able to be expanded thanks to financial assistance from a number of men’s religious orders. Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Sister Patty Fawkner, wrote to several male religious congregations in Australia offering them the opportunity to contribute to the SAM Program as a way of supporting women’s leadership in the Church.” By CathNews.com

Pope Francis: The church needs women saints
The Catholic Church needs women, especially women saints(link is external), who have shown throughout history an unwavering dedication to God and to caring for their brothers and sisters, Pope Francis said. The women honored as doctors of the church and as co-patrons of Europe, he said, are examples of “the courage to face difficulties; the capacity for being practical; a natural desire to promote what is most beautiful and human according to God’s plan; and a far-sighted, prophetic vision of the world and of history, that made them sowers of hope and builders of the future.” By Catholic News Service in America: the Jesuit Review


Church finances must be ‘exemplary,’ ‘irreproachable,’ pope says
“Financial and judicial reforms are meant not only to bring the Vatican up to date with international standards of transparency but also to make the church’s structure reflect ‘an increasingly evangelical style,’ Pope Francis said. Meeting March 12 with judges, prosecutors, investigators and other members of the Vatican’s state tribunal, the pope said that when it comes to financial management and transparency, ‘the church must be exemplary(link is external) and irreproachable, especially on the part of those who hold important roles of responsibility.’” By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, on Cruxnow.com


Brazilian bishop: I hope the synod will end clericalism in the church
“The church needs to overcome clericalism once and for all in order to effectively promote unity and synodality(link is external), said Brazilian Bishop Pedro Carlos Cipollini in an interview conducted over Zoom last December … ‘It is clericalism that prevents the church today from being missionary,’ Bishop Cipollini said. ‘I have great hope that the synod on synodality can make clericalism collapse—perhaps not entirely, but at least in its major strongholds. If this synod doesn’t overcome that difficulty, I don’t know when we will have another opportunity.’” By Filipe Domingues, America: The Jesuit Review


Pope Francis is drawing on Vatican II to radically change how the Catholic Church is governed
“Pope Francis’ long-awaited reform of the Roman Curia takes a head-on approach to the crises facing the church, using the Second Vatican Council as a road map for reclaiming the church’s credibility. One could argue Francis was elected to carry out this reform, given that it was a main subject of the cardinals’ pre-election conversations in 2013. It is only the fifth such effort to remake the Curia in the last 500 years … The new constitution for the Roman Curia, ‘Praedicate Evangelium’ (‘Preach the Gospel’), which was finally released March 19 after nine years of work, recognizes that in the face of the crises of abuse, vocations and credibility, the way forward is not a ‘smaller but purer’ church but rather a broad evangelization(link is external), the road map for which is Vatican II.” By Colleen Dulle, America: The Jesuit Review

Commentary: a time of reckoning for Newfoundland and Labrador’s Roman Catholic churches and parishioners
“I’ve also, off and on as a reporter for 30 years, covered the physical and sexual abuse cases of Christian Brothers and priests who destroyed young boys’ lives(link is external) — right from the Hughes Inquiry to the actual trials of the Mount Cashel Christian Brothers and priests in the early 1990s.I’ve also met, spoke with and interviewed a number of victims — mostly men, and mostly still young men at the time, with their hearts and lives torn apart. Watched them crumble in front of me.” By Glen Whiffen, SaltWire.com

I am an abuse survivor. I believe the synod will teach the church how to listen.
“On Dec. 9, 1968, I pulled a stool next to my father in his room at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, the same hospital where so many coronavirus patients succumbed during the Covid-19 pandemic … Two hours later my father died. I had just turned 12, and I didn’t realize that my darkest days were ahead. His death left our family shattered. My mother fell prey to her alcoholism, and I fell prey to her escalating physical and mental abuse. Father figures in the community sought me out. Some were well-intentioned, others were not. In my 13th year, I was raped by a male teacher. Molestation by a Roman Catholic priest would follow(link is external).” By Mark Joseph Williams, America: The Jesuit Review


Irish abuse survivor: Curia reform undermines independence of commission
“A survivor of clerical sexual abuse who quit the Vatican’s advisory group on abuse said she believes new reforms of the Roman Curia will further erode the independence of the body(link is external). Marie Collins, whose advocacy led to an Irish government inquiry into the handling of abuse allegations in the Dublin Archdiocese, was one of the founding members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2014. She quit in 2017, warning that ‘the reluctance of some in the Vatican Curia to implement recommendations or cooperate with the work of a commission, when the purpose is to improve the safety of children and vulnerable adults around the world, is unacceptable.’ By Chai Brady, Catholic News Service, on Cruxnow.com


Priest at Carmel church under investigation for misconduct with a minor
“A priest at a Carmel Catholic church has been suspended from public ministry. The Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana says the Rev. James De Oreo has been accused of inappropriate conduct with a minor. De Oreo is a priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church, located on the southwest corner of West 146th Street and Oak Ridge Road.” By WISH-TV8 News


Statement regarding Rev. Michael Schemm
“Today (Mar. 7), Rev. Michael Schemm was reinstated to public ministry in the Catholic Diocese of Wichita(link is external). In October of last year, the diocese received an allegation that Father Schemm, pastor at Church of the Resurrection, sexually abused a minor in the 1990s. Rev. Schemm denied the allegation and was placed on administrative leave of absence pending investigation. In accordance with our protocols, the diocese notified the district attorney.” By the Diocese of Wichita


New lawsuit alleges members of Hope Haven sexually abused man when he stayed at home in 1970s
“On Tuesday, March 15, attorneys Jessica Arbour and Jacques Bezou, Jr. hosted a press conference regarding the filing of what they say is a ‘new child sexual abuse and coverup lawsuit(link is external).’ The suit has been filed on behalf of Larry Polizzi, a man who claims he was sexually abused as a child at Hope Haven, a church-run home for orphans and troubled youth. Court papers report Polizzi was molested during a court-ordered stay at Hope Haven in 1976. Polizzi was 14 when the allegations happened.” By Kylee Bond, WGNO-TV News

Priest, nun names in new Hope Haven sexual abuse lawsuit
“A new lawsuit filed on behalf of Larry Polizzi, who lived at Hope Haven in his teens, alleges the horrific sexual abuse he endured while living there(link is external) back in the 1970s. ‘Instead of taking care of him, they abused him, pretty systemically and repeatedly,’ said Jessica Arbour, an attorney for Polizzi. The lawsuit names Father Sean Leo Rooney and Sister Alvin Marie Hagan as the perpetrators of the abuse. ‘I’ve been ashamed of myself for many years and I feel, for what they done to me, from the time I was 14, they need to be held accountable,’ said Polizzi.” By Anna McAllister, WGNO-TV News

Lawsuit filed against Diocese of Baton Rouge under new child sexual abuse law
“A lawsuit has been filed against the Diocese of Baton Rouge under a new law suspending the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases in Louisiana(link is external). The lawsuit names Fr. John Weber, who was a priest with the Archdiocese of New Orleans and Diocese of Baton Rouge. Weber died in 2000. According to the petition for damages, which was filed in East Baton Rouge Parish District Court, a man claims he was sexually abused by Weber at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Baton Rouge beginning when he was about 13 years old. The church was also named in the lawsuit.” By WAFB-TV9 News


Late Everett priest accused of sexually abusing student at least 100 times in 1970s
“A Boston Archdiocese priest has been accused of sexually abusing a student at least 100 times in the late 1970s(link is external) at a Catholic school in Everett, one of the many places where he was assigned by the archdiocese, according to the alleged victim’s lawyer and the official Catholic Directory. The late Rev. Michael J. Regan allegedly abused the girl from approximately 1977 to 1980, when she was about 14 to 17 years old and the priest was a teacher at Pope John XXIII High School, Mitchell Garabedian said at a press conference on Tuesday (Mar. 14).” By Marie Szaniszlo, Boston Herald

Trial should go forward in former altar boy’s case against diocese, SJC justice says
“Lawyers for the Springfield diocese failed to persuade a Supreme Judicial Court justice to delay action on a lawsuit brought by a former altar boy sexually abused decades ago by a bishop(link is external). In a ruling late last week (Mar. 11), Associate Justice David A. Lowy denied a motion by lawyers for the diocese and other defendants to halt proceedings in the case, saying the plaintiff ‘has a right to expeditious resolution of his case.’” By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle


No charges against northern Michigan priest
“The Michigan Attorney Generals Office will not file criminal charges against a northern Michigan priest accused of sending inappropriate texts to students(link is external). Late last year, the Diocese of Gaylord referred a complaint to the AG’s Office involving a priest sending messages through text and social media to high school students. The Attorney General’s Office said the priest involved was Bryan Medlin.” By Roxanne Werly, UpNorthLive


Legion of Christ N.H. school dismissed from sex assault lawsuit
“The Center Harbor school where several boys were reportedly molested by members of the disgraced Roman Catholic religious order, the Legionaires of Christ, is no longer a defendant in the federal lawsuits brought by the survivors(link is external). Five men filed lawsuits against the order and the school last year in the United States District Court of Connecticut accusing the order of negligence for effectively facilitating and covering up the abuse.” By Damien Fisher, InDepthNH.org


Abused as an altar boy, he biked 800 miles to inspire other victims in a new film
“A lone cyclist pedals along a rolling road as cars pass. This is David Ohlmuller. He is 52 now, divorced, the father of a college-bound son, a hall of fame champion paddle tennis player and a long-distance cyclist. He was also abused by a Catholic priest when he was an altar boy(link is external) in Montclair, New Jersey. He rides his bicycle to exorcise that memory.” By Mike Kelly, NorthJersey.com


Nassau County DA investigating Diocese of Rockville Centre pastor for possession of child pornography
“The Nassau County District Attorney’s office is investigating an associate pastor at a Levittown church for possible possession of child pornography(link is external). The church is under the umbrella of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. The Rev. Joseph Nohs is being probed and is not permitted to serve as a priest at St. Bernard’s Church in Levittown until the outcome of the investigation is complete. Requests for comment from the diocese were not returned at press time.” By Mike Smolins, LIHerald.com

Brooklyn aux bishop under Vatican investigation, whistleblower resigns
“Bishop Raymond Chappetto, 76, whose resignation was announced by the Vatican on March 7, is accused of failing to pass on to the Brooklyn diocesan review board and diocesan officials a memo about a priest who had been accused of misconduct(link is external). The Vatican has directed the bishop of a New York diocese to investigate, sources in Brooklyn and the Vatican told The Pillar. The investigation has raised questions among some in Brooklyn about the decision of Brooklyn’s Bishop Robert Brennan to leave Chappetto in place as vicar general for more than four months after he became aware of complaints to the Vatican about Chappetto’s conduct in office.” By The Pilar

Accused bishop’s funeral Mass participation provokes outcry from abuse victims
“Retired Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz kept a low profile in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo since being accused last summer of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy in 1990(link is external). At least that was the case until Monday (ar. 14), when Grosz was on the altar for the funeral of Bishop Emeritus Donald W. Trautman in St. Peter Cathedral in Erie, Pa. Grosz’s participation in the funeral Mass alongside several other bishops has sparked outrage on social media among survivors of clergy sexual abuse who thought the church had suspended him from public ministry while it investigated the abuse claim.” By Jay Tokasz, The Buffalo News


Former Franciscan friar Morrier sentenced on sex crimes
“A former Franciscan friar has been sentenced on sex crimes that took place when he was at Franciscan University of Steubenville(link is external). ‘I’ve lost the last 12 years of my life to him, the third order regular Franciscans and Franciscan university,’ the victim said in court Friday (Mar. 11). As the victim read a long and emotional statement, David Morrier sat emotionless in the Jefferson County Common Pleas Courtroom of Judge Joseph Bruzzese.” By Paul Giannamore, WTOV-TV9 News


Lawsuit accuses Charleston priest of sexual abuse of former student
“A new lawsuit accuses a Charleston priest of sexual abuse. Reverend Father Bryan Babick has been named in a federal lawsuit along with the diocese of Charleston and the Bishop of Charleston brought by a former seminary student(link is external). Babick has been the parish administrator at Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Folly Beach. The defendant was also a former chaplain at Bishop England High School. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff ‘John Doe 197,’ was a seminary student. He says he was being advised by Babick at the time of the alleged abuse in 2019.” By Anne Emerson, ABC-TV4 News


Former Rapid City priest sentenced for child sex crimes
“A former Rapid City catholic priest was sentenced on Friday (Mar. 11) for child sex crimes on top of his current sentence for stealing from the church(link is external). Marcin Garbacz, a native of Poland, first pleaded not guilty, and then guilty for illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place. While traveling in Poland, Garbacz recorded video of an unclothed minor.” By NewsCenter1 Staff


Questioning Knoxville diocese’s handling of abuse cases / Featured letter
“When you string together all that’s alleged or known about Diocese of Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika and the purported seminarian who is now accused of sexually assaulting a church employee, it paints a pretty damning picture(link is external). None of these facts or allegations, in isolation, is of course conclusive proof of wrongdoing. But taken together, they sure don’t pass the smell test.” By David Clohessy, KnoxNews.com


‘We were practically nothing to him,’ ex-seminarian says of Bishop Zanchetta’s abusive behavior
“One of the former seminarians who was the victim of sexual abuse by Argentine Bishop Emeritus Gustavo Zanchetta(link is external) of Orán says the powerful prelate manipulated young men under his authority with clothing, computers, and other gifts, discriminated against darker-skinned seminarians, and ‘bragged about being friends’ with Pope Francis. ‘The truth is that we had a bad time,’ the former seminarian, identified only as ‘M.C.’ told journalist Silvia Noviasky of the newspaper El Tribuno in an exclusive interview.” By Catholic News Agency


Toowoomba Diocese performs strongly on audit
“Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd has today published its safeguarding audit report on the Toowoomba Diocese. The audit assessed the diocese’s progress in implementing the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards. The standards provide a framework for the safety and protection of children and adults at risk in Catholic organizations. ACSL chief executive officer Ursula Stephens said that the diocese has performed strongly, with 87 per cent of the NCSS criteria and indicators relevant to the diocese either fully implemented, or substantially progressed(link is external).” By CathNews.com

Retired Catholic priest Richard Doyle found guilty of molesting young girl decades ago
“A retired Catholic priest in Perth has been found guilty of sexually abusing a young girl(link is external) more than 40 years ago. Richard Doyle, 85, was found guilty of four charges of indecent dealings with the girl when she was between the ages of six and 10. The District Court in WA was told the girl’s mother was a devout Catholic with a strong involvement in the church. She first met Doyle in Bruce Rock where he was a parish priest.” By Cason Ho, ABC News

Victorian Catholic priest Gerald Ridsdale faces more child sex abuse charges
“Victorian police have charged Catholic priest Gerald Ridsdale with more child sexual abuse offences(link is external) as part of an investigation into a number of alleged historical assaults. On Tuesday (Mar. 8), detectives from the Sexual Crimes Squad charged the 87-year-old with 24 charges related to sexual offenses, including sexual penetration of a person aged 10-16 and indecent assault.” By ABC


Former B.C. seminary student suing estate of dead priest over alleged sexual abuse
“Vancouver’s Roman Catholic archbishop, a Mission Catholic seminary and a dead priest have been named as defendants in a lawsuit alleging sexual and physical abuse(link is external) dating to 1977. The complainant, known only by his initials, alleges Harold Vincent Sander, also known as Father Placidus, encouraged the 13-year-old seminary student to sketch his profile. It was in Sander’s private office that the boy’s pants and underwear were lowered to his ankles, according to a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on March 14.” By Jeremy Hainsworth, North Shore News

Papal meetings will address ‘legacy of suffering’ Indigenous face, Canadian bishop says
“Canada’s bishops have voiced hope that when delegations of Canadian Indigenous meet with Pope Francis next week (Mar. 28), the meetings will be an opportunity to reflect on the tragedies of the past and take steps toward further healing and reconciliation(link is external). Speaking to Crux, Johnathan Lesarge, a spokesman for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), expressed sorrow and remorse for the trauma experienced by Indigenous communities, and for the church’s role in the suffering they endured through the residential school system.” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com

Cemeteries will not be sold to help compensate Mount Cashel victims, says archdiocese
“Uncertainty about the fate of cemeteries in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John’s has been put to rest following an agreement in principle that excludes the sacred properties from a historic and ongoing liquidation process(link is external). Evelyn Grondin-Bailey, a member of the St. Patrick’s cemetery committee in Burin, said Monday (Mar.14) she was ‘absolutely elated’ that the restored cemetery in her community will not be sold. ‘We were extremely happy to get that news,’ she said.” By Terry Roberts, CBC News


Chile’s new leader puts bishops on notice over legacy of abuse scandals
“Gabriel Boric, the charismatic former student activist who swept to the presidency in Chile last December and is now the second-youngest head of state in the world, marked the end of his first week in charge on Friday (Mar. 18). There’s at least one group in Chile clearly put on notice there’s a new sheriff in town – the country’s Catholic bishops, who presided over the most massive clerical abuse crisis anywhere in Latin America(link is external).” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com


Archbishop: ‘Many of our assets must be contributed’ to settle abuse cases
“Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes on Friday (Mar. 18) issued a much stronger call for the Catholic community to pull together more existing assets to help pay nearly 300 survivors of Guam clergy sexual assault(link is external) because it’s the ‘right thing’ to do, and it would end the Archdiocese of Agana’s three-year bankruptcy. Many of these assets must be contributed, he said. The archdiocese is under a March 25 deadline to offer a revised settlement offer to the creditors’ committee that represents mostly abuse survivors. Otherwise, the clergy sex abuse cases could go to trial.” By Haidee Eugenio Gilbert, The Guam Daily Post, in Kilgore News Herald


Retired Catholic priest, 89, jailed after admitting historical sexual offenses
“A retired Catholic priest has been jailed after admitting to historical sexual offences carried out in the 1960s. Anthony Barker, 89, pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault(link is external) at Durham Crown Court on December 22, 2021. On Friday (Mar.11), Barker, of Queensway, Hexham, Northumberland, was sentenced to a 28-month custodial sentence and placed on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years. The court heard how Barker abused a child in his care on the grounds of the former Ushaw College, a former Catholic seminary in Durham, north-east England.” By Gerard Donaghy, The Irish Post


Victims of sexual abuse continue to come forward
“Eleven people contacted the archdiocese in 2021 to report that they experienced sexual violence within the structures of the church(link is external). Specifically, the reports were made by three women and eight men. One of these individuals was over 18 years of age at the time the incident occurred. This means that ten people were minors when they were sexually assaulted. The incidents reportedly took place between 1940 and 2009.” By Roy Grotz, RTL.lu


Hundreds held after New Zealand-led investigation into images of child abuse
“A two-year investigation led by the authorities in New Zealand has resulted in the arrests of hundreds of people around the globe on charges of possessing and sharing child sexual abuse material(link is external), officials said on Wednesday (Mar. 2). Dozens of children were moved out of harm’s way as a result, the authorities said. The investigation, the largest of its kind led out of New Zealand, found a secret global networks that shared child sexual abuse images on a wide scale.” By Natasha Frost, The New York Times

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Pope Francis is drawing on Vatican II to radically change how the Catholic Church is governed / America: The Jesuit Review

… Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J., explained the changes, saying that the ‘power of governance in the church does not come from the sacrament of [Holy] Orders’ but from one’s mission. The is a huge step for an institution that has for centuries relegated governance and administration to the ordained and only gradually opened both to lay people …

America: The Jesuit Review

Pope Francis’ long-awaited reform of the Roman Curia takes a head-on approach to the crises facing the church, using the Second Vatican Council as a road map for reclaiming the church’s credibility.

One could argue Francis was elected to carry out this reform, given that it was a main subject of the cardinals’ pre-election conversations in 2013. It is only the fifth such effort to remake the Curia in the last 500 years. The last three followed Vatican II, with efforts by Paul VI in 1967 and John Paul II in 1988 preceding Pope Francis’ reform. Since then, the church has lost credibility and hemorrhaged members in wealthy Western nations where its hold was once the strongest and is now experiencing a severe shortage of priests, leaving some Catholics without access to the sacraments for up to a year at a time …

The new constitution for the Roman Curia, “Praedicate Evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”), which was finally released March 19 after nine years of work, recognizes that in the face of the crises of abuse, vocations and credibility, the way forward is not a “smaller but purer” church but rather a broad evangelization, the road map for which is Vatican II.

By Colleen Dulle, America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …

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Pope releases Vatican reform, gives weight to fighting abuse

In one of the major changes, it (the new reform, Praedicate Evanglium) brings the pope’s advisory commission on preventing sexual abuse into the Vatican’s powerful doctrine office which oversees the canonical investigations into abuse cases. Previously, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors existed as an ad hoc commission that reported to the pope but had no real institutional weight or power.

Associated Press

“Pope Francis released his long-awaited reform program of the Holy See bureaucracy on Saturday (Mar. 19) that envisages greater decision-making roles for the laity and gives new institutional weight to efforts to fight clerical sex abuse.

“The 54-page text, titled “Praedicate Evanglium,” or “Proclaiming the Gospel,” replaces the founding constitution “Pastor Bonus” that was penned by St. John Paul II in 1988.

“Francis was elected pope in 2013 in large part on his promise to reform the bulky and inefficient Vatican bureaucracy, which acts as the organ of central governance for the 1.3-billion strong Catholic Church. He named a Cabinet of cardinal advisers who have met periodically since his election to help him draft the changes.

“Much of the reform work has been rolled out piecemeal over the years, with offices consolidated and financial reforms issued. But the publication of the new document, for now only in Italian, finalizes the process and puts it into effect in June.”

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press — Read more …

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

March 14, 2022


Cardinal archbishop offers resignation on return from timeout
“A prominent Roman Catholic archbishop who faced strong criticism for his handling of the church’s sexual abuse scandal in Germany said Wednesday (Mar. 2) that he has offered his resignation to Pope Francis following a ‘spiritual timeout’ granted by the pontiff(link is external). Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, the archbishop of Cologne, marked his return to work with a lengthy letter to the faithful in which said he was ‘not returning unchanged, as if nothing had happened in this time.’” By Greg Moulson, Associated Press

Bishop barred from public ministry in former diocese
“The former bishop of the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, Bishop Michael Hoeppner, will not return to do any ministry in the diocese and will have his retirement compensation cut(link is external), the diocese’s new shepherd announced on March 7. Hoeppner resigned on April 13, 2021 at the request of Pope Francis following a 20-month-long investigation into claims that he mishandled allegations of clergy sex abuse. He was 71 at the time – four years shy of the normal retirement age for bishops.” By John Levenburg, Cruxnow.com

Young Catholics say they need church leaders to listen, engage them more
“Catholic young people in the U.S. are leaving behind traditional models of learning about and living out their faith, and clergy, youth ministers and others will have to make some drastic changes(link is external) to their ministry style if they want to keep them engaged. That’s the bottom line of ‘The State of Religion & Young People 2021 — Catholic Edition,’ a report released Feb. 23 by Springtide Research Institute, a Minnesota-based nonprofit sociological research institute dedicated to exploring the spiritual lives of young people. Its current research focuses on the demographic ages 13-25, also known as Generation Z.” By Christina Lee Knauss, Catholic News Service, on Cruxnow.com

Ex-bishop appointed by pope sentenced for sex abuse
“A retired Argentine bishop seen as close to Pope Francis was sentenced on Friday (Saturday, Mar. 5, in Manila) to four-and-a-half years in prison for sexually abusing two seminarians(link is external). A court in the northwestern town of Oran, where Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta was bishop from 2013 to 2017, ordered his immediate detention. The 57-year-old Zanchetta, who had traveled from the Vatican for the trial, was convicted of ‘simple, continued and aggravated sexual abuse,’ with his offense aggravated by his role as a clergyman.” By Agence France-Press in The Manila Times


A personal reflection on synodal listening session
Our pastoral care area, or PCA, for the synodal listening session consists of five parishes grouped together, based on proximity(link is external). The first session was Dec. 15. As I was going to the meeting, I ran into a young person near the church and struck up a conversation. He asked, ‘What is going on this evening?’ I threw the question back to him: ‘What do you think is happening?’ He replied, ‘I don’t know. I hear that there is going to be a big complaining meeting!’ ‘Complaining about what?’ I enquired. ‘I don’t know. I guess the church!’” By Teresia Mutiso, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

Catholic college leaders urged to listen up in synod sessions
“Although next year’s world Synod of Bishops on synodality may seem like it would be something far removed from U.S. Catholic college students, many are hoping that’s not the case. ‘Synodality is the chance to be creative in imagining the future of the church. Use this chance. … Catholic colleges and universities can make a contribution(link is external),’ a theologian told a group of Catholic college leaders in February. Massimo Faggioli, professor of historical theology at Villanova University, outside of Philadelphia, urged Catholic leaders … to be invested in the synod not only because Catholic colleges are a big part of the church but also because there is currently a ‘crisis of trust in institutions’ and Catholic colleges are not immune to it.” By Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service

Where German Catholics & Pope Francis diverge: Germany’s ‘synodal way’ charts its own course to reform.
“Germany’s Synodale Weg (‘synodal way’), led by the German conference of bishops and the national committee of lay German Catholics (ZdK), assembled for the third time in February; it was likely a watershed moment in the German Church’s synodal process(link is external). Some 230 delegates, lay and clergy, debated and voted on over a dozen documents produced by working groups in four areas: power in the Church; the model of priesthood; women and ministries; and sexual morality in Church teaching.” By Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal


Argentine bishops renew commitment to eradicating sex abuse after Bishop Zanchetta’s sentencing
“The Argentine Bishops’ Conference expressed Friday (Mar. 4) its closeness to the victims of Bishop Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta, sentenced to prison for sexually abusing seminarians(link is external), and renewed their commitment to eradicate these abusive behaviors. ‘Having learned of the court ruling in which Gustavo Zanchetta, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of San Ramón de la Nueva Orán, has been convicted, we want to express our closeness to the victims and express a strong and sincere request for forgiveness on behalf of the entire Church,’ the bishops said in a March 4 statement.” By Walter Sanchez Silva, Catholic News Agency, in The Catholic World Report

When we got a new bishop, he didn’t know about our archdiocese’s history of abuse. Then he listened to me and other victims.
“Shortly after Archbishop Donald Bolen was installed to serve as Archbishop of Regina, I and other victims reached out and requested to meet with him. We learned he was unaware of the area’s deep legacy of clergy sexual abuse(link is external). At the initial and subsequent meetings, he learned of the deep legacy of abuse and the painful, retraumatizing and broken process that myself and other victims were subjected to when they came to the church to report abuse. Those initial conversations resulted in an understanding and willingness on his part to walk with and work with victims.” By Pamela Walsh, America: The Jesuit Review

Warning to bishops: Please make sure the Eucharistic Congress isn’t a very expensive boondoggle
“In a report published last week, my colleague Brian Fraga surveyed a variety of opinions about the U.S. bishops’ planned eucharistic revival that begins in June and is set to culminate with a $28 million Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in 2024. Fraga’s reporting brought to mind a famous moment in the history of the Catholic Church in this country(link is external). On June 24, 1926, some 600,000 Catholics made their way by car or train to the campus of Mundelein Seminary for the great eucharistic procession that was the final act in the 28th International Eucharistic Congress in Chicago, the first to be held in the United States. Earlier that week, a Mass had been celebrated at Soldier’s Field and a variety of programs, Masses and confessions were held at Chicago’s many churches.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter


Religious Sister tells Mexican symposium: Women have an essential role in the Church
“Despite her short stature, Sister María Grazia Caputo, Representative of the Salesian International Institute Mary Help of Christians of the United Nations in Geneva and New York, has plenty of reasons to stand tall. And she’s had many opportunities to do so, when both men and women within the church tried to set her aside. ‘I have had the negative experience of men and women who tried to squash me or move me to the side(link is external),’ Caputo told Crux. ‘Each one of us is called to rediscover themselves as a gift from God, who has a project for us to carry out, and for which he has given us an identity. We do not need to be someone else to achieve what God has planned for us.’” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com


The nun reshaping the role of women inside the Vatican
“Sister Nathalie Becquart, 53, a French Roman Catholic nun, was named to serve as under secretary of the Synod of Bishops, a summit of 250 bishops from around the world that will meet in Rome in 2023. She will become the first woman with a right to vote at such a high-level Vatican gathering(link is external).” By Celestine Bohlen, The New York Times


Vatican judge tosses defense motions as fraud trial advances
“The Vatican’s criminal tribunal on Tuesday (Mar. 1) resoundingly rejected defense motions to dismiss a landmark financial fraud case and ruled the trial will go ahead(link is external) with the questioning of a cardinal scheduled for later this month. Judge Giuseppe Pignatone read aloud his rejection of two-dozen defense arguments from the past seven months that sought to have the charges dropped against the 10 defendants. The case involves the Holy See’s bungled 350 million-euro (US$390 million) investment in a London property, though it has grown to involve other unrelated financial charges.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter

Sentencing due for Torrance nun who embezzled Catholic school funds
“The retired principal of a Catholic elementary school in Torrance, who as a nun took a vow of poverty, faces sentencing today (Mar. 8) for embezzling more than $835,000 in school funds to support a gambling habit and other personal expenses(link is external). Mary Margaret Kreuper, 80, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty in July to federal wire fraud and money laundering charges. Prosecutors recommend a 24-month prison sentence, three years of supervised release, and restitution. Kreuper’s sentencing position was sealed.” By City News Service on kfiam640.iheart.com


Midlands voices: All victims of sexual abuse deserve chance at justice
“All victims of child sexual abuse deserve the chance to seek justice. Who could disagree? Two high-profile Nebraska public officials, that’s who. On Feb. 9, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson sent a representative to a Judiciary Committee hearing to publicly testify against LB 1200. That legislation would allow victims of child sexual abuse to sue public institutions(link is external) — like public schools and juvenile detention facilities — for their careless supervision of employees who sexually abuse children.” By Matt Heffron, Omaha World-Herald

Diocese of Albany fights release of records as former bishop contends he wants to help survivors
“When former Bishop Howard Hubbard penned an Op-ed in the Times Union just as the Child Victims’ Act was about to expire, his former diocese was facing more than 300 lawsuits from survivors of childhood sexual abuse. His words offered regret for mistakes made in the past and hope for reconciliation and healing, in spite of the fact that Hubbard himself was the target of some of the abuse allegations. Currently, the Diocese of Albany is fighting the release of internal documents that would surely shed light on how sexual predators were allowed to continue preying on innocent children.” By Joseph Saunders, LosAngeles.legalexaminer.com

The Whistleblower
“It’s near the end of Lent 2021, the Church busy season, and Father Boniface Ramsey, 75, bounds around St. Joseph of Yorkville Parish in New York City amid a hectic schedule. On this warm, early spring day as the city seemingly emerges, slowly and cautiously, from a yearlong pandemic, students at the parish school are playing on the street … For decades, Father Ramsey knew much about McCarrick’s sexual misconduct but found few willing to listen(link is external) and fewer still willing to do anything about it. ‘It would come up on occasion,’ Father Ramsey recalls, particularly when McCarrick was up for an ecclesial promotion or was the subject of a laudatory story. ‘Something would irritate me on all this. I would feel frustrated and not listened to.’” By Peter Feuerherd, FranciscanMedia.org


Shocking statistics
“An extraordinary claim appeared in a column by Matthew Syed in the Sunday Times yesterday (Fe. 27), namely that up to a million Italian children have been abused by Italian priests since 1950(link is external). No-one can fail to have been shocked by such a figure, but from where does it originate? The answer is that it comes from a member of ‘The Abuse Network’ which is calling on the Church in Italy to investigate clerical sex abuse as has happened recently in France and Germany.” By David Quinn, Catholic Herald

‘I felt like I had to be there,’ says photographer Lisa Kessler, who documented aftermath of clergy sexual abuse crisis in Boston
“Twenty years ago, as the Globe’s Spotlight Team broke explosive stories about clergy sexual abuse of children, protests erupted outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, blocks away from photographer Lisa Kessler’s studio(link is external). She picked up her camera and went to the demonstrations. ‘I felt like I had to be there. I was the only person, certainly the only photographer, with access to all the different players,’ said Kessler, who is not Catholic. She had spent most of the 1990s as a photographer of record for the Archdiocese of Boston, traveling with church hierarchy and shooting for the Boston Pilot, the archdiocese’s official newspaper.” By Cate McQuaid, The Boston Globe


Woman accuses former Bridgeport priest of sexual abuse
“A woman is coming forward with sexual abuse allegations against a former Bridgeport priest. ‘Jane Doe’ said Fr. George Maslar sexually abused her twice in his car in 1971 when she was around 15 years old(link is external). ‘I never envisioned myself doing this,’ the woman said during a press conference Wednesday (Feb. 16). ‘I was too afraid. I felt ashamed as if it was my fault. Thinking about it made me physically sick.’ She said she met Maslar when both attended prayer meetings at the Cathedral of Saint Augustine in Bridgeport.” By Jenn Brink WTNH-TV8 News


Priest gets prison term for sexually abusing altar boy
“A western Pennsylvania Roman Catholic priest who sexually assaulted an altar boy for several years has been sentenced to 2½ to five years in state prison(link is external). The Rev. Andrew Mark Kawecki, of Greensburg will also have to register as a sex offender for 10 years once he’s freed from custody under the sentence imposed Thursday. He had pleaded no contest last October to indecent assault.” By The Associated Press

Suspended Indianapolis priest pleads guilty in minor sex abuse case
“An Indianapolis Catholic priest suspended amid allegations of sexual abuse involving a minor on Tuesday (Mar.8) agreed to plead guilty to one charge filed against him(link is external). According to the Hamilton Superior Court plea agreement, Fr. David Marcotte, 32, pleaded guilty to one count of dissemination of matter harmful to minors, a level 6 felony.” By Lucas Gonzalex, WRTV-TV News


New allegation of abuse deemed credible against former Pittsfield priest
“A review board run by the Diocese of Springfield has upheld a new allegation of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest who served parishioners of a Pittsfield(link is external) church in the mid-1980s. The diocese said Wednesday it updated its roster of credibly accused priests to now reflect multiple allegations that Charles J. Sullivan sexually abused minors. Sullivan, who served the diocese from 1965 to 1992, died in 2014. He was assigned to St. Mary the Morning Star Parish in Pittsfield from 1984 to 1986.” By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle

Lawsuit alleges sexual abuse of student at Holbrook Catholic school in the 1980s
“An Auburn man has filed a negligence lawsuit accusing two now deceased priests of sexually abusing him while he was a student at a Catholic school in Holbrook(link is external) during the 1980s. The suit, filed Tuesday in Worcester Superior Court, alleges the abuse occurred at St. Joseph School when Gerry Nee, now 46, was 6 to 12 years old. The alleged abuse took place in confessionals and a vacant rectory, where one sexual assault left Nee in need of medical attention, according to the nine-page lawsuit.” By Tonya Alanez, The Boston Globe


Bishop Cozzens offers clarity regarding statuses of Msgr. Grundhaus and Bishop Hoeppner
“In a Mar. 7 letter to diocesan faithful, Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens offered clarity regarding the statuses of Msgr. Roger Grundhaus and Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner(link is external). According to the letter, Msgr. Grundhaus does not have faculties for public ministry in the Diocese of Crookston. The declaration is in effect for one year and will be reviewed at that time to determine if it should continue.” By Janelle C. Gerge, Crookston Diocese


Missoula Catholic schools president on leave following diocese investigation
“Missoula Catholic Schools President Luis Hayes has been placed on immediate paid administrative leave following an investigation(link is external), the Diocese of Helena announced. Former Loyola Sacred Heart High School Principal Kathy Schneider and former Athletic Director Jacob Alford will also remain on paid administrative leave for the remainder of the year. None of the three administrators on leave will be offered contracts to return in the fall, according to Bishop Austin Vetter.” By Skylar Rispens, Missoulian


Catholic child sex abuse trial moved to February 2023
“The civil tort case referencing alleged abuse by the late Fr. David Holley against a John Doe while Holley was in Alamogordo in the 1970s will now be heard in February 2023(link is external). The case was originally set to begin in July 2022. According to court filings, more time was needed for discovery between the parties. Discovery, in the legal senses, means to exchange legal information and facts of the case between opposing attorneys so that all sides can know the facts of a case.” By Nicole Maxwell, Alamogordo Daily News

Archdiocese sues insurance companies over sexual abuse coverage
“The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, in the throes of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, sued four insurance companies this week, claiming they haven’t fulfilled their contracts to provide liability coverage for sexual abuse complaints(link is external). The archdiocese hopes to raise enough money, including through insurance payouts, to settle the bankruptcy case involving more than 400 people who allege they were victims of clergy sexual abuse, with some claims dating back decades.” By Rick Ruggles, Santa Fe New Mexican


Nassau priest under investigation for child pornography
“The pastor of a Levittown church has been barred from services while Nassau County District Attorney’s office investigates him for possible possession of child pornography(link is external). According to News12, Father Joseph Nohs, a priest at St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown, is not allowed to present himself as a priest while the investigation is ongoing, the Diocese of Rockville Centre said.” By Alex Costello, Levittown Patch

Pre-trial battles form as Albany diocese fights release of records
“Last August, former Bishop Howard J. Hubbard reflected on his handling of decades of child abuse allegations in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, noting that his ‘most fervent prayer each day is that victims’ … But for many victims, according to their attorneys, the ‘healing’ they seek may rely on a full disclosure of why the diocese(link is external), as Hubbard has acknowledged, covered up the chronic sexual abuse for decades by secretly shuffling priests in and out of treatment, or moving them from parish to parish without warning congregations about their criminal behavior.” By Brendan J. Lyons, Albany Time Union


Two more Mount St. Mary administrators out following sexual assault allegations
“Months after sexual assault allegations surfaced, two additional Mount St. Mary administrators have resigned. The school’s vice principal and a counselor have resigned. The announcement was sent to parents and students. Last year, Mount St. Mary conducted an independent investigation into sexual assault claims from current and former students(link is external). ‘At first I was really scared because, honestly, it’s just really traumatizing to have to deal with it again, it’s been a long time and I don’t like to even think about what happened,’ one woman said.” By Shelby Montgomery, KOCO-TV5 News


Pa priest gets prison term for sexually abusing altar boy
“A western Pennsylvania Roman Catholic priest who sexually assaulted an altar boy for several years has been sentenced to 2 1/2 to five years in state prison(link is external). The Rev. Andrew Mark Kawecki, of Greensburg will also have to register as a sex offender for 10 years once he’s freed from custody under the sentence imposed Thursday. He had pleaded no contest last October to indecent assault.” By Associated Press


Knoxville Catholic diocese accused of improper sexual abuse investigation, lawsuit alleges
“An unnamed plaintiff is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville and its bishop, alleging the diocese did not properly investigate sexual abuse allegations against a former employee(link is external).

The complaint, filed Tuesday in Knox County Circuit Court, outlines in vivid detail several instances of sexual harassment and abuse the plaintiff said he suffered. It also makes several allegations about the bishop overreaching in an investigation of abuse claims, using information reported last year by a news agency.” By Liam Adams, Knoxville News Sentinel


‘Move Forward with Love’: Exhibit traces healing journey of abuse survivors
“The newest exhibit at the Vermont History Museum documents a painful legacy, but it’s one survivors of childhood abuse and trauma say needs to be heard(link is external) as part of their healing process. ‘This cannot be allowed to happen again,’ said Katelin Hoffman, referring to the abuse she experienced at the now-defunct St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Burlington when she was in her early teens. Hoffman and others have reported they were routinely harmed at the facility that closed in 1974. Some said, as a particularly shocking example, they were even forced by staff to eat their own vomit when they were sick.” By Jack Thurston, NECN-TV


Abuse survivor takes Archdiocese of Melbourne to trial over historical sexual abuse
“Oliver will never forget the day his life changed forever. It was the day a Catholic priest — a man he saw as God — abused his trust and allegedly set him on a path towards ‘shame, substance abuse and profound mental illness(link is external),’ the Supreme Court of Melbourne heard. ‘I was dead. He murdered me,’ Oliver told the court. ‘He murdered that boy, that little boy, that I used to be.’

In 1968, Oliver was sexually assaulted by Desmond Gannon — now known to be a notorious pedophile priest.” By Lucy MacDonald, ABC News


Deal will see Mount Cashel abuse survivors and St. John’s parish get share of Chase the Ace cash
“A settlement has been reached involving millions of dollars raised in a Chase the Ace fundraiser for a St. John’s-area parish nearly five years ago(link is external). The cash got tangled up in ongoing insolvency proceedings involving the Roman Catholic church in eastern Newfoundland and efforts to compensate victims of historic abuse at the Mount Cashel orphanage. An out-of-court settlement was reached Sunday (Feb. 27) night. The matter had been due to go before a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court judge Monday morning.” By Tony Roberts and Rob Antle, CBC News


German court convicts Catholic priest of abusing girls
“A German court on Friday (Feb. 25) convicted a Catholic priest of sexual abuse of children in cases that spanned many years(link is external) and sentenced him to 12 years in prison. The Cologne state court also ordered the 70-year-old to pay three co-plaintiffs in the cases damages totaling 50,000 euros ($56,000), news agency DPA reported. The priest was identified by local media only as Hans U. According to the indictment, the case against the priest covered 118 counts and the youngest victim was a 9-year-old girl.” By Associated Press


Archbishop: Child abuse scandal shames us
“The new Archbishop of Glasgow yesterday (Feb. 27) said the Catholic Church should feel ashamed over the child abuse scandal while praising survivors for speaking out(link is external). William Nolan also insisted the Church must ‘change our ways to ensure what happened in the past does not happen again.’ His comments came as he was installed as the new leader of Scotland’s largest Catholic community at a mass in the city’s St Andrew’s Cathedral.” By Katrine Busey, The Sunday Post


Judge’s ruling paves way for use of Catholic parish, school assets to help pay clergy sex abuse survivors
“U.S. District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood on Saturday (Feb. 26) afternoon issued a ruling that paves the way for the use of the assets of Catholic schools and parishes to help pay nearly 300 survivors of Guam clergy sexual assaults(link is external). The judge found in favor of the committee representing mainly abuse survivors. The creditors committee, represented by attorneys Edwin Caldie and Andrew Glasnovich, asked the court to allow the inclusion of school and parish assets into the Archdiocese of Agana’s bankruptcy estate, so they could be used to compensate abuse survivors.” By Haidee Eugenio Gilbert, The Guam Daily Post


50-year-old priest arrested for uploading child pornography
“A 50-year-old priest has been arrested for allegedly uploading child pornography on social media in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruppur district(link is external). The accused has been arrested under sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POSCO) 2012 and the Information Technology (IT) Act 2000. The complaint came from a US-based NGO. The police said that the complaint was made by the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) which is a US-based NGO. NCMEC found the content and informed the Indian authorities.” By TimesNewNews.com


Timor-Leste acquits priest over false abuse case report
“A Timor-Leste court has acquitted a priest and several of his staff over writing a report in favor of a defrocked priest jailed for sexually abusing young girls(link is external). Father Herminio Fatima Goncalves, former chairman of the Justice and Peace Commission of Dili Archdiocese, and three of his staff were on trial after being accused of authoring the controversial report that made wild and false allegations against police prosecutors, journalists and NGOs involved in the prosecution of Richard Daschbach.” By Ryan Dagur, UCANews.com


Bishops in Japan set March 18 as day of prayer for victims of sexual abuse
“Catholic bishops in Japan have dedicated the second Friday of Lent as a Day of Prayer and Penance for Victims and Survivors of Sexual Abuse(link is external). Archbishop Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, has requested Catholics to join in prayers for the victims and survivors of sex abuse on March 18, ucanews.com reported. Archbishop Kikuchi said that in recent years cases of sexual abuse by clergy have been reported in churches around the world, and investigations reveal that many similar cases existed way back in the past.” By Catholic News Service

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

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

March 1, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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