Posts Tagged Catholic Church reform

Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

February 22, 2021

TOP STORIES

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

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

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

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

ACCOUNTABILITY

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

POPE FRANCIS

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

PRIESTS

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

WOMEN’S VOICES

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

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

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

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

VATICAN

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

CHURCH FINANCES

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

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

VOICES

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

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

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

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

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

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

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

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

CALIFORNIA

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

DELAWARE

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

FLORIDA

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

ILLINOIS

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

LOUISIANA

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

MASSACHUSETTS

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

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

MINNESOTA

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

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

MISSISSIPPI

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

NEW MEXICO

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

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

NEW YORK.

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

PENNSYLVANIA

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

TEXAS

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

AUSTRALIA

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

CANADA

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

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

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

GERMANY

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

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

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND, AND WALES

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

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

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

GUAM

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

MALTA

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

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

POLAND

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

SPAIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Sophie Vodvarka, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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New appointees to Francis’s financial powerhouse signal progress of women / Cruxnow.com

The appointment of six women to the Council of the Economy now marks one of the most significant moves Pope Francis has made in making good on his many affirmations of the importance of women and their input. (Cruxnow.com)

Pope Francis has long advocated for a more ‘incisive’ presence of women in positions of authority and leadership in the Vatican, and while some have complained about the pace at which changes are being made, the recent appointment of six women to the Vatican’s chief financial office has jolted things into warp drive.

“On Thursday (Aug. 6), the Vatican announced that Francis had named two women each from Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom to his 15-member Council for the Economy.

“He also named one Italian layman and replaced six of the original eight cardinals on the council, naming Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark as the only American, and leaving in place German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich as the body’s coordinator …

“The appointment of six women to the Council of the Economy now marks one of the most significant moves Pope Francis has made in making good on his many affirmations of the importance of women and their input.”

By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com — Read more …

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Australian bishops’ report advocates major changes to church governance / National Catholic Reporter

Revelations of clergy abuse and cover-up, the authors state, showed “the widespread failure of the Church’s authorities to respond with justice and compassion” and “give a particular focus to the need for reform in practices of governance within the Catholic Church.” (National Catholic Reporter)

 A new report commissioned by Australia’s bishops and religious orders recommends a series of radical changes to the way the Catholic Church operates across the country, tackling issues as far-ranging as women’s inclusion in decision-making roles and the Vatican’s opaque process for making episcopal appointments.

“The overarching theme for the report — written as part of the local church’s response to a five-year government inquiry into institutional child sexual abuse — is how governance in the church can be more ‘co-responsible,’ or better shared among bishops, clergy and laypeople.

“Revelations of clergy abuse and cover-up, the authors state, showed ‘the widespread failure of the Church’s authorities to respond with justice and compassion’ and ‘give a particular focus to the need for reform in practices of governance within the Catholic Church.’

“The report, which encompasses seven chapters, four indices and a bibliography over its 208 pages, had originally been delivered to the Australian bishops in early May and kept confidential to allow the prelates time to digest its contents.”

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

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New Australian report may help church find its way out of abuse crisis / National Catholic Reporter

The new phase in the abuse crisis has shown much complexity: It is not just a legal and ethical crisis, but also a theological one and a crisis of models of church governance. (Massimo Faggioli in National Catholic Reporter)

There are signs that the Catholic Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis is now getting at deeper, institutional questions. In particular, how local churches — parishes and dioceses — are governed.

“In the last few years, a unique example that could bring encouraging news has come from the Australian church.

“Since 2017-18, the abuse crisis has taken on a new dimension, thanks to the unveiling of cases (such as disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick) and of extensive cover-ups identified and published in the reports of nationwide and regional investigations (such as in Australia, Chile and Pennsylvania).

“The new phase of the crisis has focused on the direct involvement of bishops, cardinals and the Vatican. It has also identified that the crisis is not restricted to children and also involves women religious and other vulnerable persons — and has become a global crisis with huge repercussions on the relations between church and state in various countries.

“The new phase in the abuse crisis has also shown much complexity: It is not just a legal and ethical crisis, but also a theological one and a crisis of models of church governance.”

By Massimo Faggiolo, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Eighteen years later, concerned Catholics still addressing clergy abuse

BOSTON, Mass., Mar. 3, 2020 – Eighteen years after The Boston Globe brought to light widespread clergy abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston and after a Pennsylvania grand jury investigation found credibly accused priests throughout the state just two years ago, Voice of the Faithful, founded within weeks of the Globe’s revelations, continues to address the scandal. VOTF members and others will gather later this year to promote their visions of a just Church. The organization’s 2020 Conference: Visions of a Just Church will take place on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, at the Boston Marriott Newton Hotel in Newton, Mass.

Offering her own vision of a just Church, the conference’s featured speaker will be internationally acclaimed theologian and Catholic studies scholar Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D. Dr. Zagano has lectured widely in this country and abroad, and she is a member of the Papal Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women. She has published hundreds of articles and reviews in the popular press and peer-reviewed journals and is the author or editor of twenty books in religious studies, including groundbreaking work on women in the diaconate, several of which have received awards from the Catholic Press Association and College Theology Society. Dr. Zagano is a recipient of the Voice of the Faithful Distinguished Layperson Award, which recognizes exemplary lay leaders who enthusiastically use their gifts in the Church’s service. She also has received the Isaac Hecker Award for Social Justice from The Paulist Center Community in Boston for “her prolific body of work that has constantly echoed the cry of the poorest in our society for dignity and for justice, both inside and outside the Church.” She currently is adjunct professor of religion at Hofstra University.

Attendees also will hear additional speakers on the conferences theme, who will be announced soon, and updates from VOTF leaders on the progress of the organization’s programs and initiatives.

Cost for the conference is $150 per person, and those interested in attending also can take advantage of a 2-for-$230 registration that will be offered through Labor Day, Sept. 7.

A continually updated webpage of conference information can be seen by clicking here …


Voice of the Faithful News Release, Mar. 9, 2020
Contact: Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, 781-559-3360

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful’s® 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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In surprise, Benedict openly defends clerical celibacy as Francis considers married priests / National Catholic Reporter

“Although the volume is yet to be seen in full, it appears to signify something as yet unexperienced in the two millennia history of the Catholic Church: a retired pope openly weighing in on something currently under consideration by his successor, the reigning pontiff.” (National Catholic Reporter)

Retired Pope Benedict XVI has coauthored a new book defending the Catholic Church’s practice of a celibate priesthood, in a shocking move that comes as Pope Francis is considering the possibility of allowing older, married men to be ordained as priests in the Amazon region.

“According to excerpts from the volume released Jan. 12 by the conservative French outlet Le Figaro, the ex-pontiff says he could not remain silent on the issue as Francis is contemplating the move, which was requested by the bishops from the nine-nation Amazon region at October’s Vatican synod gathering.

“The book is co-written with Cardinal Robert Sarah, the head of the Vatican’s liturgy office. It is to be released in France Jan. 15 and carries the title Des profondeurs de nos cœurs (‘From the Depths of Our Hearts’).

“Although the volume is yet to be seen in full, it appears to signify something as yet unexperienced in the two millennia history of the Catholic Church: a retired pope openly weighing in on something currently under consideration by his successor, the reigning pontiff.

“One noted theologian reached shortly after the release of the excerpts called Benedict’s decision to write on the issue a ‘serious breach.'”

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

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Pope jettisons pontifical secret; Voice of the Faithful applauds

BOSTON, Mass., Dec. 18, 2019 – Pope Francis yesterday changed the Catholic Church’s Canon Law to abrogate the “pontifical secret,” the Vatican’s equivalent of “top secret,” with regard to clergy sexual abuse cases. Voice of the Faithful joins clergy abuse victims and survivors and their advocates in considering this reform long-overdue.

Voice of the Faithful has always promoted full transparency of clergy abuse, understanding that the Church used secrecy in an attempt to protect itself against scandal, which resulted in particularly unjust treatment of victims. Because of the Pope’s action, no one may in the future claim that they cannot hand over documentation of abuse, or testify at trials, or be uncooperative with civil authorities by claiming clergy abuse information is considered top secret by the Vatican.

The Church’s leading clergy abuse investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, has called the Pope’s instruction “epochal.” Abuse survivor Marie Collins, a former member of the Papal Commission for the Protection of Minors who resigned in frustration at Vatican resistance, hailed the change, calling it “excellent” and a “real positive change.”

Will this reform usher in a new era of transparency and accountability in the Church? We can only hope.


Voice of the Faithful Statement, Dec. 18, 2019
Contact: Nick Ingala, nickingala@votf.org, 781-559-3360
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

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Pope removes shroud of secrecy from clergy sex abuse cases / Associated Press

While documentation from the church’s in-house legal proceedings will still not become public, (archbishop Charles) Scicluna (the Vatican’s leading sex crimes investigator) said, the reform now removes any excuse to not cooperate with legitimate legal requests from prosecutors, police or other civil authorities. (Associated Press)

Pope Francis abolished the use of the Vatican’s highest level of secrecy in clergy sexual abuse cases Tuesday (Dec. 17), responding to mounting criticism that the rule of “pontifical secrecy” has been used to protect pedophiles, silence victims and prevent police from investigating crimes.

”The carnival of obscurity is over,’ declared Juan Carlos Cruz, a prominent Chilean survivor of clergy abuse and advocate for victims.

“In a new law, Francis decreed that information in abuse cases must be protected by church leaders to ensure its ‘security, integrity and confidentiality.’ But he said the rule of ‘pontifical secrecy’ no longer applies to abuse-related accusations, trials and decisions under the Catholic Church’s canon law.

“The Vatican’s leading sex crimes investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, said the reform was an ‘epochal decision’ that will facilitate coordination with civil law enforcement and open up lines of communication with victims.

“While documentation from the church’s in-house legal proceedings will still not become public, Scicluna said, the reform now removes any excuse to not cooperate with legitimate legal requests from prosecutors, police or other civil authorities.”

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press — Read more …

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USCCB president disinvites Bishop Bransfield from fall assembly / Catholic News Service

“The people of this diocese would be very upset and angry to think he (Bishop Bransfield) would be participating in decisions that might well affect them,” Bishop Brennan explained. (Catholic News Service)

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in consultation with the members of the USCCB Administrative Committee, has taken the highly unusual step of disinviting a fellow bishop from the conference’s fall general assembly.

“The decision affects Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, retired bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, who left his position in September 2018 under a cloud of allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. Pope Francis accepted Bishop Bransfield’s resignation Sept. 13, 2018.

“The USCCB meets Nov. 11-13 in Baltimore.

“The action comes under one section of the recently adopted “Protocol Regarding Available Non-Penal Restrictions on Bishops.”

“Bishop Mark E. Brennan, who succeeded Bishop Bransfield, said he initiated the process under the protocol soon after he was installed Aug. 22 to head the West Virginia diocese.”

By Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service — Read more …

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