Posts Tagged Bill Casey

Storytelling for Healing / Boston College Church in the 21st Century

A lecture about Voice of the Faithful Restorative Justice Healing Circles, “Broken Vessels,” and how they can be a step toward healing for those who have been harmed by the Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal —

The power of deep listening and safe storytelling ensures a safe place for those telling his or her story. William Casey, former Voice of the Faithful board chair and Northern Virginia Mediation Service Restorative Justice Program director, explains the “Restorative Justice Healing Circle” approach as that safe place in this lecture.”

Posted to YouTube by Boston College Church in the 21st Century Center where this lecture took place on Dec. 3, 2015 — Click here to watch the lecture.

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Low-key Reformist Priest Fr. Helmut Schuller Talks of ‘Healing Our Deeply Wounded Church’

By Bill Casey, long-time Voice of the Faithful® affiliate leader, former board chair and trustee

Today (July 22), I attended a presentation by Fr. Helmut Schuller at the National Press Club in D.C. The venue was one of several stops in a multi-city tour, during which he is talking about a group of Austrian priests’ “Call to Disobedience.” Schuller is one of the founders of the group, which comprises about 15% of the priests in Austria but is supported by a large number of Austrian clergy and lay people.

Schuller is a low-key guy with some very insightful conclusions about the failed/failing state of parishes in Austria and throughout much of Europe. There are too few priests to properly serve too many parishes, and as a result, the faith communities suffer from a disengaged faith experience — those that still remain active, not to mention the droves of others, including the youth, who have no connection to parish life. In response, Schuller’s group calls for pastoral disobedience when responding on a personal level to those excluded from full faith experience, including the divorced and remarried who are precluded from Eucharist, gays and lesbians who are excluded officially or unofficially from parish life and sacraments, and women and married men who are excluded from ordination. His group calls for public prophetic disobedience in calling for reforms that are silenced or ignored by hierarchical positions.

Although we would expect any such priest in the U.S. to be silenced, banned, or excluded in some way if he did what Schuller has done, Schuller and the other priests are in good standing within their dioceses. Schuller himself writes a weekly commentary on the Sunday readings in the diocesan newspaper, and his bishop (Cardinal Schonborn) did not attempt to block his speaking tour on these topics. Of course, at the only Catholic parish which invited him to speak, Boston Cardinal O’Malley banned him. The President of Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, however, ignored objections from Archbishop Chaput and hosted a talk anyway.

Some key comments that I heard from Schuller today included the following (my wording):

  • The Austrian clergy experience deep sorrow over the minimalist life of parishes where priests can barely cover a weekly liturgy and little else. It is a scandal when parishioners receive so little from their clergy.
  • What have lay people received over the last 40-50 years as a result of their “obedience” to hierarchical decisions? There are far more victims of “obedience” than disobedience in our faith communities.
  • The Church should fulfill an initiative of Paul VI who wanted to develop a “Constitution” for the Church that would distribute authority and hold those with authority accountable for exercising it.
  • The handling of the sexual abuse scandal in our Church would have unfolded quite differently if such a Constitution were in place ten years ago.
  • If reform were to take place, it would need to come out of the full collaboration of clergy and laity alike. Reform by lower clergy meeting with higher clergy is not a model to seek. A new Council at this moment in time would favor the latter.

Schuller struck me as a priest deeply concerned about the full life of Catholics, not as a headline-grabber for priestly interests. I hope that his movement infects priests in other countries to take a prophetic stand as a group and receive the fullest support and collaboration of laity in healing our deeply wounded Church.

Also see “Reformist Priest Sees Potential Ally in Pope Francis” by Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service, which reports on Fr. Schuller’s National Press Club talk. 

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Milwaukee Archdiocese Did Not Suspend Priest Suspected of Child Sex Abuse in California

Archdiocesan officials in Milwaukee and leaders of a Milwaukee-based religious congregation try to explain away culpability for allowing a priest to remain in active ministry at two parishes and a school despite knowledge of prior sexual abuse of children.  Only when another allegation was reported to police did the archdiocese and congregation remove the priest from his assignments.  All of this transpired over the past year. What does this malfeasance say about how hierarchical leaders continue to place the interests of their institutions over the protection of children?

Bill Casey, Voice of the Faithful member and former trustee

See the news story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — Milwaukee Catholic Officials Knew of California Sex Abuse Allegations Against Priest

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Abuser-Clergy Loose in the Community

By Bill Casey, member of Voice of the Faithful® Survivor Support and Child Protection working group and former board chair

The reprehensible behavior by hierarchical officials to assign known abuser-clergy to new parishes and schools, without alerting their communities of the risk to children (and even adults), is a well-documented pattern of the Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal. Less well-documented are equally insidious hierarchical decisions to move abuser-clergy from one diocese to another, again without disclosure of risk to communities where they next serve.

A victim/survivor in Vancouver, British Columbia, recently shed light on this latter behavior by filing a civil lawsuit against the Vancouver Archdiocese and the priest they removed from active ministry after she reported that he sexually abused her as a minor. However, less than a year after her report, the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island re-activated this same priest’s ministry and assigned him to parish work for the next six years—that is, until it too had to remove him a second time for “problems of a similar nature”. Although the Vancouver Archdiocese claims that it fully informed the Rockville Center Diocese of the priest’s history, Rockville Centre has been silent on this matter.

The abuser-priest, Fr. Damian Cooper, also known as Lawrence Cooper, began grooming Kathleen Taylor at age 16 while providing counseling to her at a youth leadership camp, and four months later began a sexually abusive sexual relationship. The abuse lasted for five years until Taylor broke his hold over her and reported his abuse to Vancouver Archdiocesan officials. The Archdiocese removed Cooper from active ministry when it learned of what it offensively referred to as Cooper’s “affair”.

When the Archdiocese denied Cooper’s request to be reinstated after six months of counseling, he moved to New York for additional professional help. Two months later, the Diocese of Rockville Centre returned Cooper to ministry and assigned him to at least two parishes for the next six years—until, as noted, it removed him from active ministry for “problems of a similar nature.”

After the Vancouver Archdiocese learned of his second removal, it recommended to Cooper that he seek laicization from the Vatican.

A recommendation, seriously? That is the extent of their responsibility for the priest they trained and ordained? Whether Cooper is laicized or not, Cooper is a risk if he has access to girls or women in a pastoral relationship. Yet he appears on no sex registry where adults have an opportunity to take preventive measures. Further, the communities in which he served in the Vancouver and Rockville Centre dioceses likely have no information about him. Neither Vancouver nor Rockville Centre seemed to take any responsibility for their “charge” once they no longer permitted his active service.

By bringing a civil action against the Vancouver Archdiocese and Cooper, Kathleen Taylor has taken on responsibility to bring Cooper’s sexual abuse into the public domain. As a survivor, she is trying to alert the public to the risk of Cooper remaining as an ordained priest and working in a position of trust in future without the Church providing any indication of the risk to girls or women. She also wishes to inform and reach out to other possible victims of Cooper’s abuse, so they know they are not solitary victims.

The Vancouver Archdiocese stated that the abuse victim was not a minor in the abuse that led to Cooper’s second removal. However, adult women who are sexually exploited by priests in pastoral relationships often find it even more difficult to come forward and ask for support after being abused, because they are made to feel that the abuse was somehow their choice, or their fault. In this context, was the second woman informed by the Church that she was not Cooper’s first victim, or did the Church once again try to pass off the abuse as an “affair”? Taylor feels that this second, unnamed victim, along with any other adult victims of pastoral sexual abuse, deserves to know the truth and be supported in taking whatever actions will support her healing.

As admirable as Taylor’s motives are in this regard, I wonder why the Catholic hierarchy wash their hands of the needs of actual or potential victims in their communities where abuser-priests served, or currently reside?

Kathleen Taylor has stood tall and is actively trying to do what Church officials are not. VOTF leaders at the national office and on Long Island are supporting her efforts.

More information about this story is available at the following two links:

Vancouver Archdiocese Says It Informed N.Y. Diocese of Priest’s History of Sex Abuse Allegations

Father Damian Lawrence Cooper

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