Posts Tagged protection of children
Voice of the Faithful has published the first independent, online review of all U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses’ level of compliance with child protection and safe environment guidelines. The average overall score was 67%, with the most frequently achieved score 63.5%. Although some dioceses did well, no diocese achieved 100%, and three dioceses scored in the 20s.
The study is the first independent analysis of child protection and safe environment policies in all U.S. dioceses. VOTF operates independently of the Church’s institutional structure, and the study is not an audit like those conducted by the U.S. Bishop’s National Review Board. Called “2022 Report: Measuring Abuse Prevention and Safe Environment Programs as Reported Online in Diocesan Policies and Practices,” the report is being released in April because the month is designated in the United States as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The report’s conclusions include:
The breadth of clergy sexual abuse cases within the Church indicates that historical responses to accusations of abuse by the hierarchy were inadequate; those responses protected the reputation of the institution over supporting victims and preventing further child abuse within the Church. The hierarchical construct of privileged, secretive, unaccountable, male-only institution provides the backdrop that foments a culture of leaders who enabled the protection of the abusers and church leadership above the victims’ best interests and suffering of children. Unchanging defense of this already damaged institution ignores the need to remedy faulty structures, such as bishops’ deficient adherence to their own standards, as well as a lack of urgency and decisive actions that would demonstrate their professed resolve to protect and heal.2022 Report: Measuring Abuse Prevention and Safe Environment Programs as Reported Online in Diocesan Policies and Practices
A few recent examples illustrating the report’s conclusions include: former Albany Diocese leader Bishop Howard Hubbard’s admission the diocese regularly moved priests accused of sexually abusing minors among parishes without informing police, victims’ families or parishioners; Portugal’s investigation that received 290 church sex abuse claims within 90 days with many more expected; and similar recent investigations in Germany, Switzerland, France and Spain; the Pennsylvania grand jury report in 2018; and other investigations dating back to The Boston Globe’s report on clergy abuse in the Boston Archdiocese in 2002, which brought about VOTF.
“The Church most often claims such investigations reveal just historic abuse,” said Patricia T. Gomez, VOTF trustee and Protection of Children Working Group co-chair. “But our report, as an indication of commitment to child protection, does not show that widespread cultural change toward safer environments for children has taken place, and we won’t know the extent of present abuse for some time because victims typically don’t report it for decades.”
To conduct this study, VOTF reviewers studied 177 websites, those of 176 U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses and the Archdiocese for the Military, USA. Reviewers used a worksheet that included 33 questions in the following 10 categories: policy; code of conduct; reporting abuse; background checks; prevention, education, and training; contact information; annual audit reporting; diocesan review boards; list of accused clergy; and victim assistance. The study used diocesan websites because the internet is so widely used for information, and the extent to which a diocese’s website provides safe environment policies and procedures is an indication of the bishop’s commitment to protecting children and preventing further sexual abuse by clergy.
“This (report) will surely promote a constructive conversation about how to monitor and improve child safety in the church environment,” said David Finkelhor, Ph.D., who is professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center and co-director of the Family Research Laboratory. “The report is sensible, systematic and well-conceived.”
The five highest scoring dioceses were Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 95.5%; Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, 93.5%; Venice, Florida, 92.5%; Baltimore, Maryland, 92.5%; and Richmond, Virginia, 89.5%. The five lowest scoring dioceses were Shreveport, Louisiana, 22.5%; Lubbock, Texas, 23.5%; Corpus Christi, Texas, 27%; Military Services, 38.5%; and Colorado Springs, Colorado, 41.5%.
The VOTF report made the following points:
- Diocesan safe environment webpage content must align with dioceses’ child protection policies. Any lack of consistency calls into question the diligence afforded to safe environment and child protection efforts and diocesan commitment to transparency.
- Comprehensive abuse prevention efforts must include criminal background checks of all employees, clergy, and volunteers, as well as mandatory abuse prevention education and training for all groups.
- Dioceses must fully disclose credibly accused offenders’ information, such as name, current status, past assignments, etc.
- Diocesan review boards must ensure that Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People-related policies and procedures are current and clearly stated.
- Mandatory participation in annual audits and a time-limited period for correction of deficiencies must be enforced.
The report concluded on the particularly important role of parishioners in child protection: “There is a key role for parishioners to ensure the protection of children in our parishes. Parishioners should work with diocesan and parish safe environment personnel to bolster safety 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.”
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.
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?
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.
New report on abuse shows ‘need for continued commitment and diligence’
“The 18th annual report on U.S. diocesan and eparchial compliance with the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People found a total of 4,250 clergy sex abuse allegations for the 2019-2020 audit year, about two-thirds of which stem from lawsuits, compensation programs and bankruptcies … ‘Though the Church’s efforts are admirable, constant vigilance is still required and the commitment of the clergy and lay faithful remains necessary(link is external),’ he (Deacon Bernie Nojadera, USCCB Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection executive director) wrote. ‘The efforts of the Church will hopefully change the culture, and this will only work if everyone follows the rules.’” By John Lavenburg, Cruxnow.com
- More than 4,200 allegations of clergy abuse reported, U.S. bishops annual audit shows(link is external), By Catholic News Service in America: The Jesuit Review and National Catholic Reporter
Portugal’s Catholic bishops announce independent child sexual abuse commission
“Portugal’s Roman Catholic Church said on Thursday (Nov. 11) it would create an independent commission to investigate historical child sexual abuse allegedly committed by members of the clergy(link is external) following pressure from prominent congregants to lift a veil of silence around the issue. Portugal’s Bishops’ Conference said in a statement that it decided to create the commission to improve the way cases are handled and to ‘carry out a study to clarify the history of this serious issue.’” By Catarina Demony and Sergio Goncalves, Reuters
French clerical abuse report puts spotlight on confession
“The absolute secrecy of confession is central to the Roman Catholic faith. What is said in confession is between a penitent and God, the priest a mediator. Any priest who breaks that seal can face excommunication under church laws that the Vatican places above all others. But what happens when what is confessed is a violation of the laws of the state?(link is external) It is an issue that has vexed attempts to address the sexual abuse cases that have roiled the church in any number of countries, but one that has emerged as especially charged in France, where the state long ago stripped the Catholic Church of its pre-eminence.” By Norimitsu Onishi and Aurelien Breeden, The New York Times
Nebraska AG finds 258 victims of Catholic church sex abuse
“A Nebraska attorney general’s office investigation identified 258 victims who made credible allegations of sexual abuse against 57 Catholic church officials(link is external) in the state going back decades, including many that high-ranking church leaders knew about and didn’t report to the authorities, according to a report released Thursday (No. 4). Prosecutors can’t charge against any current or former church officials with a crime because the statutes of limitations have expired in the vast majority of cases, Attorney General Doug Peterson said at a news conference announcing the findings.” By Grant Schulte, Associated Press, on Cruxnow.com
Sex abuse survivors urge bishops to denounce Church Militant’s agenda
“On the first of two days of public sessions during the U.S. bishops’ fall general assembly, a group of sex abuse survivors in a Nov. 16 news conference called on the prelates meeting in Baltimore to focus less on who can take Communion and instead do more to end sex abuse and other abuses by clergy(link is external). The survivors also demanded the bishops condemn a group that was holding a nearby protest claiming homosexuality is linked to pedophilia.” By Rhino Guidos, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter
Bishops agree to begin review of charter earlier than planned
“An update on the U.S. bishops’ ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People’ will take place sooner than originally planned. On Nov. 17, the second of two days of public sessions during their fall general assembly Nov. 15-18 in Baltimore, the bishops voted to begin the process of updating the charter in 2022 rather than in 2025(link is external). The vote was 230 bishops in favor of the plan and five bishops against it. Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, chairman of the Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, told the bishops that events in recent years made it necessary to start the review sooner than expected.” By Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service
French Church admits sexual abuse responsibility
“The French episcopate, shaken by a report’s estimates of widespread sexual abuse within the Church, has admitted its institutional responsibility for the scandal and called on the Vatican and outside experts asked to help it reform(link is external). The French bishops’ conference, at its autumn plenary session in Lourdes, said it will name nine lay-led working groups to formulate responses to the main proposals of the independent commission’s report. They will be staffed by lay people, clerics and victims.” By Tom Heneghan, The Tablet
French bishops agree to compensate sex abuse victims
“France’s Catholic Church announced on Monday (Nov. 8) that it would financially compensate sex abuse victims by selling property assets or taking out a loan if needed(link is external). French bishops said in a written statement they will set up an ‘independent, national body’ tasked with addressing compensation issues. They committed to allocating money to a specific fund ‘in order to compensate victims,’ notably by selling property or through a potential loan. They also called on Pope Francis to send ‘a team of visitors’ to assess the church’s response regarding child protection.” By Associated Press
FOR A SYNODAL CHURCH: COMMUNION, PARTICIPATION AND MISSION
Joint letter of Cardinals Koch and Grech to bishops responsible for ecumenism calls on bishops to listen to non-Catholic Christians during the synodal process
“In a joint letter of 28 October 2021, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Mario Grech, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, addressed the Bishops responsible for ecumenism in their Episcopal Conferences and Synods of the Oriental Catholic Churches. In the letter, the two Cardinals offer practical suggestions aimed at implementing the ecumenical dimension of the synodal process in Dioceses, Episcopal Conferences, and Synods(link is external). The Vademecum for the Synod affirms: ‘The dialogue between Christians of different confessions, united by one baptism, has a special place in the synodal journey’ (5.3.7).” By Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, on ChristianUnity.va
Francis appoints first female secretary-general
“Pope Francis has appointed the first female secretary-general of Vatican City State(link is external), choosing Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist Raffaela Petrini for the role. Sr Raffaella, 52, is the first woman to be appointed as the number two official at the Vatican City State administration, a position that has traditionally been held by a bishop. She becomes the highest-ranking woman official in the Vatican. Sr Rafaella’s role gives her a pivotal role in the governance of the city-state which includes the Vatican’s museums, police, department for health, post office and pharmacy.” By CathNews.com
- An Italian nun is now the highest-ranking woman at the Vatican(link is external), By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
Catholic bishops avoid confrontation with Biden over communion
“The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States backed away from a direct conflict with President Biden on Wednesday (Nov. 17), approving a new document on the sacrament of the Eucharist that does not mention the president or any politicians by name(link is external). At issue was the question of which Catholics, under which circumstances, are properly able to receive Communion, one of the most sacred rites within Christianity. For some conservative Catholics, the real question was more pointed: Should Catholic politicians who publicly support and advance abortion rights be denied the sacrament?” By Ruth Graham, The New York Times
- After year of divisive debate, U.S. bishops approve tepid document on Communion(link is external), By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter
Opening bishops’ meeting, Vatican ambassador urges prelates to tamp down divisons
“The Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S. urged the country’s Catholic bishops on Nov. 16 to try to tamp down divisions among themselves and to embrace Pope Francis’ vision for a listening church(link is external), open to change. In an energetic half-hour address opening the first general session of the bishops’ four-day assembly, Archbishop Christophe Pierre told the prelates gathered here that the church needs ‘attentive listening more than ever if she is to overcome the polarization facing this country.’ Although Pierre did not specifically mention the bishops’ plans to release a controversial document on Communion, he appeared to touch on the intense disagreements among the prelates in recent months about the text.” By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter
- Bishops’ fall general assembly, day one: synodality, evangelization, eucharist and sex abuse just a few issues of the day(link is external), By Catholic News Service, on TheDialog.org
- ‘Enough is enough’ rally challenges U.S. bishops to ‘see the light,(link is external)’ By George P. Matysek Jr., Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter
These five U.S. bishops may be in the spotlight for years to come
“‘My impression continues to be that the most important prelates in the United States have more or less given up on the USCCB,’ said (Massimo) Faggioli (church historian and professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University), who suggested that the bishops’ conference today is ‘in the hands’ of prelates who are ‘out of sync’ with Francis … Among the nominees for election (to USCCB standing committees) in Baltimore are five bishops who appear to be among ‘rising stars’ of the national conference(link is external). Some are known for prioritizing similar issues as Francis, such as immigration, economic injustice, climate change and reaching out to those on the margins. Others have not been always known for emphasizing issues favored by the pope.” By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter
Sadly, the U.S. bishops’ conference is a ghost of its former self
“Now, the bishops’ conference is like a ghost of its former self(link is external). In 2012, they failed to pass(link is external) a document on poverty. In 2018, the Vatican had to intervene at the last minute and ban voting(link is external) on a series of action items related to clergy sex abuse, a public rebuke of the conference leadership without precedent. This week, if they vote to approve this document on the Eucharist it will not be because the text is good but because its mediocrity does not offend. How sad.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter
Bishops’ visits to Rome unable to quell crisis in Polish church
“For the first time in seven years, nearly all Poland’s Catholic bishops went to Rome last month for formal meetings with Pope Francis and Vatican officials. Although most of the prelates expressed satisfaction with the encounters, they also hinted that there had been some frank exchanges over the pope’s handling of the country’s sex abuse crisis. An unprecedented 10 Polish bishops, mostly retired, have been sanctioned in various ways in recent months for ignoring abuse complaints(link is external). ‘The pope knows how important the Polish church is,’ said Fr. Piotr Mazurkiewicz, a Polish theologian and former secretary-general of the Brussels-based Commission of European Union Bishops’ Conferences (COMECE).” By Jonathan Luxmoore, Catholic News Service, National Catholic Reporter
- Polish bishops, at Vatican, call punishment for abuse cover-up lopsided(link is external), By Jonathan Luzmoore, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter
Mexico bishops investigated over abuse cover-up allegations
“Twelve bishops in Mexico are being investigated for covering up the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults(link is external), although no conclusions have so far been reached, the Vatican ambassador to the South America nation has revealed. Archbishop Franco Coppola, the Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico, said that some of the investigations, carried out on the basis of new norms established by Pope Francis, have been referred to the Vatican itself.” By Madoc Cairns, The Tablet
Bishops’ visits to Rome unable to quell crisis of Polish church
“For the first time in seven years, nearly all Poland’s Catholic bishops went to Rome last month for formal meetings with Pope Francis and Vatican officials. Although most of the prelates expressed satisfaction with the encounters, they also hinted that there had been some frank exchanges over the pope’s handling of the country’s sex abuse crisis(link is external). An unprecedented 10 Polish bishops, mostly retired, have been sanctioned in various ways in recent months for ignoring abuse complaints.” By Jonathan Luxmore, National Catholic Reporter
Dear Bishops: We need to talk about the crisis of despair in Catholic priests
“The U.S. bishops are meeting this week (Nov. 15-18) in Washington. And amid all the stories about a document on the Eucharist and other matters that they will discuss, you would be forgiven if you didn’t catch word of the results of a survey of clergy released Nov. 2; it found that over half of U.S. priests are pessimistic about the state of the church(link is external). Fifty-one percent indicated the church is in ‘not so good’ shape, and another 13 percent described it as ‘poor.’” By Jim McDermott, America: The Jesuit Review
Parishioners at Catholic church in Louisville sue longtime priest, alleged wrongful use of money
“A civil lawsuit filed in Jefferson County alleges a Louisville priest, Rev. Anthony Ngo, wrongfully used church money by converting funds donated to the parish for his personal use(link is external) … Ngo has been the pastor at St. John Vianney’s for more than two decades. He denies he did anything wrong. Members of his former parish council and the parish’s former music director filed the lawsuit.” By Rachel Droze WHAS-TV11 News
Yes, honest to God, Vatican finance stories matter
“It’s only Tuesday (Nov. 9), but I’ve already got a candidate for the Vatican soundbite of the week. It came in a piece in the Financial Times, quoting an unidentified expert on the London real estate market on news that the Vatican is selling a property in the posh Chelsea neighborhood for $270 million, representing roughly a $130 million loss on its original investment of $400 million. ‘I couldn’t quite understand how they [the Vatican] had lost money on it(link is external),’ the expert said, referring to the well-known fact that losing money on real estate in London is hard to do – unless, it turns out, you’re the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.” By John L. Allen, Cruxnow.com
Vatican to lose £100m of charitable funds in London property sale
“The Vatican City will suffer a loss of £ 100 million in donations to the poor(link is external) when it completes the pending sale of its luxurious London office building, which is now the center of international criminal investigations. According to some people familiar with the process, the Vatican City is in the final stages of selling 60 Sloane Avenue, a building in London’s Knightsbridge district, to private equity group Bain Capital for about £ 200 million. Both Bain Capital and Savills, which manages the sale, declined to comment. The Vatican City states that between 2014 and 2018, senior Holy See officials invested a total of € 350 million in donations to the London building. In short, the sale is expected to confirm a loss of approximately £ 100 million in the Catholic Church.” By California News Times
Catholic leaders have to be defenders of children
“Shame, anguish and anger at child sexual abuse in the Church should lead to a devoted commitment to eradicate abuse everywhere. This active stance has to be the primary focus of society and of the Church and every individual member(link is external). Jesus of Nazareth said the child is the most important of all. If we continue to fail children, we fail Christ. The established institutional Church and many members — lay people and priests — have spectacularly failed to care, protect, help, support and compensate innocent vulnerable children for heinous crimes against them. Many of the bishops, priests and lay people have over the years, denied, covered up, transferred abusive priests, lied and forced child victims to shut up.” By Fr. Shay Cullen, The Manila Times
‘The Church must be political’: an interview with Bishop John Stowe
“Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., was ordained as the third bishop of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, in May 2015. The following interview was conducted by email. John Gehring: What would you like to see come out of the upcoming meeting of the U.S. bishops (Nov. 15-18)? Bishop John Stowe: My hopes for the USCCB meeting are probably unrealistic, but I would love to see us as a conference modeling the synodal path that the Church has embarked upon(link is external). I would like to see real discernment, serious discussion, and prayerful listening before publishing a letter as important as a teaching document on the Eucharist.” By John Gehring, Commonweal
CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE
Italian bishops mark first day of prayer for abuse victims
“As the Catholic Church in Italy still reels from several fresh scandals involving clergy, the country’s bishops on Thursday (Nov. 18) will be hold the first-ever Day of Prayer and Awareness for victims and survivors of sexual abuse(link is external). ‘We cannot forget the suffering experienced by minors and vulnerable people due to the abuses of power, conscience, and sexuality committed by a considerable number of clerics and consecrated persons,’ said Bishop Lorenzo Ghizzoni of Ravenna-Cervia in the introduction for one of the formal prayers prepared for Thursday.” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com
Church shores up ability to support survivors
“A capital injection from Catholic dioceses and religious orders has strengthened the ability of Catholic Church Insurance and the Church to make financial reparations for abuse carried out by priests, religious and lay people(link is external). Catholic Church Insurance (CCI), which has been supporting Catholic parishes, schools, community services and other ministries for more than 100 years, last year reported that recent and projected compensation claims for historical abuse had necessitated an increase in the company’s capital levels. Eighteen current CCI shareholders contributed to a capital injection earlier this year, which solidifies the broader insurance business, but especially the historical abuse claims that CCI covers.” By CathNews.com
Priest abuse victims oppose diocese actions in bankruptcy case
“The committee that represents people who say they have been sexually assaulted by priests and other members of the Diocese of Norwich have filed a motion in federal bankruptcy court opposing the Catholic diocese’s attempt to prohibit victims from filing claims(link is external) after Feb. 10, 2022. The claimants’ committee, which is being represented by the Bridgeport law firm of Zeisler and Zeisler, wants a 120-day window from the date that a plan advertising the deadline, otherwise known as the bar date, is approved by Judge James Tancredi, as opposed to the 90-day window being requested by the diocese.” By Joe Wojtas, The Day
Catholic order found California abuse complaint credible, then moved priest to Chicago
“The Rev. Timothy Keppel was overseeing two parishes near San Bernardino, Calif., when a man told the diocese there that, while in his teens, he’d been repeatedly sexually abused by the priest(link is external). The abuse happened decades earlier, he said. And Keppel was never charged with a crime. But the Resurrectionist religious order of Catholic priests, brothers and deacons that Keppel belongs to determined the accusations were credible.” By Robert Herguth, Chicago Sun-Times
Former priest Robert Brennan, a Maryland resident, pleads guilty to lying to agents investigating clergy abuse
“ A defrocked priest pleaded guilty Wednesday (Nov. 10) to four counts of making false statements to FBI agents investigating clergy abuse(link is external). Former Philadelphia priest Robert Brennan, 83, changed his plea to guilty Wednesday in federal court, according to court documents. The charges stem from a federal investigation undertaken after Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released an explosive 2018 grand jury report on abuse in the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses that detailed decades of abuse by more than 300 priests against nearly 1,000 victims across the state.” By Associated Press in The Baltimore Sun
Boston Archdiocese settles two new lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests
“Two lawsuits filed this month alleging sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests(link is external), one of whom was based in Milton, were settled on Friday (Nov. 12) for undisclosed sums. Lawyer Mitchell Garabedian said the lawsuits each settled in the ‘high five figures.’ One of the lawsuits was filed against the Boston archdiocese and the Missionary Society of St. Columban in Milton, which hosted Irish priest Brian Gallagher, who died in 2014. The lawsuit also named the Rev. John K. Connell, who died in 2007.” By Wheeler Cowperthwaite, The Patriot Ledger
Attorney general gives update on clergy sex abuse cases
“A former priest in Oakland County has pleaded guilty to sex abuse(link is external), Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced today. Gary Berthiaume, 79, was sent to trial in July by Judge James Brady in Oakland County’s 47th District Court on two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, 15-year felonies. That development involved the original case against him, which was charged last year. In June, Berthiaume was charged with additional felonies in two new cases. Both cases were sent to trial by the end of September.” By Jack Hall, RadioResultsNetwork.com
Kansas City man encourages others who’ve been sexually assaulted to ‘tell their story’
“‘We need to hold each other up,’ says one Kansas City man who was assaulted by his priest. Others tell their stories in a new Netflix documentary shot in Kansas City. Brian Heydon was sexually assaulted as a kid. Now a licensed counselor in Kansas City, Heydon grew up in a Catholic family. In the 1960s and ’70s, he said, the religion was a place for child predators to thrive(link is external).” By KCUR-FM National Public Radio
Nebraska investigation: Catholic clergy sexually abused hundreds of victims
“Nebraska’s attorney general conducted an investigation that found that Catholic clergy in that state sexually abused hundreds of victims, but the offenders can’t be prosecuted(link is external). And Peterson says by no means did his office find every victim or abuser. In the three-year investigation released Thursday, the office found evidence of 57 abusers, few of whom are still alive. Investigators found evidence that the church knew about the assaults and didn’t properly report them to law enforcement. Peterson had this message for church leaders. Nebraska Public Media’s Will Bauer explains why that is.” By Will Bauer, National Public Radio
More than 850 sexual abuse lawsuits have been filed as deadline approaches for past claims
“Since it (24-month window on abuse suits) took effect, 880 cases involving individuals with claims that would have been time barred but for the new law have been filed(link is external) through Sept. 30, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts. Most of those cases, 62.2%, named a cleric and/or religious institution as a defendant. Schools accounted for 15.5% of the lawsuits and the Boy Scouts of America was named in 11.3% of the cases. State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, who championed the legislation despite years of pushback, said those numbers should be much higher, and said the window for filing civil lawsuits should stay open.” By Ted Sherman, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Elderly Buffalo priest accused of abuse denies claim, prays for accuser
“At age 87, Monsignor Ronald P. Sciera might not have much time left to clear his name of the child sexual abuse allegation lodged against him(link is external) in an August lawsuit. But the priest of 60 years said his reputation is not his main concern.’ I have to answer to God,’ he said. ‘I have a hope that justice will be served, and the truth will come to light.’ An unnamed plaintiff alleges Sciera molested him nearly five decades ago at St. Aloysius Gonzaga parish in Cheektowaga.” By Jay Tokasz, The Buffalo News
‘Cunning, calculating and extremely cruel’: Sentencing nears for disgraced priest
“A disgraced Catholic priest, convicted of sex trafficking in minors and various child pornography charges, will be sentenced(link is external) next Tuesday (Nov. 9) by a federal judge. Prosecutors said Robert McWilliams led a double life. While professing his belief in Christianity at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Strongsville and St. Helen’s Church in Newbury Township, Father McWilliams was using fake identifies and technology to hide his abuse of children and secret criminal lifestyle.” By Jack Shea, FOX-TV8 News
- Former Strongsville priest ‘violated the sacrament of confession’ to extort boys, federal prosecutors say in sentencing memo(link is external), By John Caniglia, on Cleveland.com
- Priest gets life term in child porn, exploitation case(link is external), By Associated Press
Priest who served in North Canton placed on leave
“A Catholic Diocese of Youngstown priest has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of allegations involving a minor(link is external). The Rev. Marian Babjak serves as pastor of Christ Our Savior Catholic Church in Struthers. He previously served at St. Paul Catholic Parish in North Canton. Babjak was parochial vicar and associate pastor at St. Paul starting in 2017, where he served until 2020 when he was appointed to Christ Our Savior parish in Struthers.” By Charita Ml Goshay, The Repository, on The-Review.com
- SNAP responds to Catholic Diocese abuse allegations(link is external), By Zach Mosca, WFMJ-TV21 News
Philly priest sexually abused a teen at Cardinal Dougherty High and on a shore trip decades ago
“A Philadelphia priest who was on the faculty at Cardinal Dougherty High School in the 1980s sexually abused a teen there and also took the boy on a trip to Margate, where he served him alcohol and assaulted him(link is external), according to a lawsuit filed in Atlantic County Superior Court.
The Rev. Peter Foley sexually assaulted the boy, then 16, on a trip to the Shore in 1981 and also at the school, where they worked together on student council, the suit says.” By Menasah M. Dean, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Former Rhode Island priest charged with sexual assaults going back to 1989
“A former Rhode Island Catholic priest has been indicted on sexual assault charges. James Silva, 81, is charged with two counts of first-degree child molestation sexual assault and nine counts of second-degree child molestation sexual assault(link is external). He was charged after an investigation by the state attorney general’s office and the Rhode Island State Police. The allegations stem from alleged assaults of a boy under the age of 14 between 1989 and 1990, while Silva was interim director and assistant director at the Office of Ministerial Formation within the Diocese of Providence, Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office said Tuesday (Nov. 9). The charges come as Neronha’s office continues its review of decades of diocesan records.” By Brian Amaral, The Boston Globe
Lawsuit claims sexual abuse from Myrtle Beach Catholic Church priest
“A lawsuit filed Wednesday (Nov. 3) claims a child was sexually abused by a priest at a Catholic church in Myrtle Beach(link is external) between 1990 and 1994. The lawsuit, filed anonymously by ‘John Doe,’ claims Father Robert Kelly at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church groomed and sexually assaulted the child while he was an altar boy in the early 1990s. Kelly died in 2004, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed against The Diocese of Charleston and The Bishop of the Diocese of Charleston.” By Kevin Accettulla, WBTW-TV13News
Wisconsin’s attorney general is investigating the handling of clergy abuse claims. Six months in, here is what we know.
“As allegations of abuse at the hands of Catholic priests continue to emerge, Wisconsin hasn’t been immune to the scandal … In early 2021, Josh Kaul, the Wisconsin attorney general, announced an investigation into claims of clergy abuse and systemic cover-up(link is external) over decades. Here is the background on the Department of Justice investigation and where it stands as it reaches its sixth month …” By Laure Schulte, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Trial of Lebanese priest accused of sexual abuse begins in France
“The trial of Lebanese priest Mansour Labaky started on Monday (Nov. 8) at the Criminal Court of the French city of Caen. The Maronite priest is formally accused of sexually abusing three children under his care(link is external), but there are dozens more alleged victims. Labaky, now 81, is prosecuted by three women who say they were sexually assaulted by the priest in the nineties while they were still teenagers. They were living in a French orphanage for Lebanese children founded by Labaky in the aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War.” By The New Arab (alaraby.co.uk)
IRELAND & NORTHERN IRELAND
A priest sits on a bed, trousers off, legs open. ‘What do you do when you think of girls?’ he asks.
“Everything in the bedroom is white, including a white crucifix on a white wall. A holy man sits on the corner of a bed, trousers off, legs open. ‘You need to confess everything(link is external),’ he says, gripping a young boy’s arm to pull him closer. ‘The Catholic church has been very good to you, to your mother, to your brother and sister. You don’t want that to all go away, do you? So tell me, what else have you done wrong.” By David Smith, The Irish Times
Prosecutors in Minnesota filed criminal charges Friday (June 5) against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accusing church leaders of mishandling repeated complaints of sexual misconduct against a priest and failing to follow through on pledges to protect children and root out pedophile clergymen.
“The charges and accompanying civil petition, announced by the Ramsey County prosecutor, John J. Choi, stem from accusations by three male victims who say that from 2008 to 2010, when they were underage, a local priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, gave them alcohol and drugs before sexually assaulting them.
“The criminal case amounts to a sweeping condemnation of the archdiocese and how its leaders have handled the abuse allegations — even after reforms were put in place by church leaders to increase accountability — and the charges are among the most severe actions taken by US authorities against a Catholic diocese.”
By Mitch Smith, The New York Times, in The Boston Globe — Click here to read the rest of this story.
Voice of the Faithful, a Roman Catholic Church reform movement focusing on issues surrounding the clergy sexual abuse scandal and the laity’s role in Church governance, will hold its 2015 National Assembly on Saturday, April 18, at the Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford.
The featured speaker will be Marie Collins, a Catholic clergy sexual abuse survivor from Ireland who pioneered child protection policies there and is on the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Organizers also have scheduled five interactive workshops to allow attendees to offer opinions and learn about VOTF activities surrounding several issues:
- Degrees of Transparency: The Good, the Bad, and the Confusing in Diocesan Financial Accountability
- Towards Healing the People of God
- Let’s Talk About It: Can Clergy & Laity Speak to Each Other as Equals
- Survivor Support: A Discussion with Fr. Tom Doyle
- Your Voice for the Synod on the Family
Collins was among the first in March 2014 whom Pope Francis appointed to his Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. She has spoken out for years on the Church’s need to provide better protection for children and justice for clergy sexual abuse survivors. She helped the Dublin Archdiocese set up its Child Protection Service in 2003 and was a member of the Lynott Committee drafting the Church’s all-Ireland child protection guidelines. She was among survivors who lobbied the Irish government for the Murphy Commission, which reported in 2009 extensive clergy child abuse and coverup in the Dublin Archdiocese. In 2012, she spoke about being a clergy abuse victim at the Vatican symposium on child sexual abuse “Toward Healing,” which was attended by Church leaders from around the world.
The documentary “A Matter of Conscience: Confronting Clergy Sexual Abuse” also will be screened at the Assembly. The film, produced by Boston College faculty members John and Susan Michalczyk, features several members of Catholic Whistleblowers, a group Catholic priests and religious formed in 2013 to support other whistleblowers and identify shortcomings in Church child protection policies.
Registration for the 2015 National Assembly is at the Voice of the Faithful website, votf.org.
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 votf.org.
It is time for Archbishop John Nienstedt to go.
Reading the affidavit of Jennifer Haselberger, the former chancellor of the Archdiocese of St. Paul, is grim. Caveat: A lawyer friend told me that a good defense attorney could drive several trucks through the document and that may be true. But, even if a quarter of what is asserted in that document is true, it is obvious that the Archdiocese of St. Paul has failed to live up to the bishops’ own requirements regarding the protection of children. Instances of suspected child abuse were not reported to the civil authorities. Clergy were not removed from active ministry as required by the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children. Almost every page of Haselberger’s affidavit illustrates a clerical culture that, when confronted with evidence of proven or potential sexual abuse of a minor, instinctively reacted with the thought, ‘poor Father.”’
By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this commentary.