Posts Tagged sexual abuse scandal

Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

May 11, 2022

TOP STORIES

Pope mandates annual audit on protection of children from abuse
“Pope Francis on Friday (Apr. 29) asked for an annual audit evaluating how national Catholic Churches are implementing measures to protect children from clergy sexual abuse, saying that without more transparency the faithful will continue to lose trust. ‘Abuse in any form is unacceptable,’ Francis told members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was established in 2014 to promote best practices and a culture of safeguarding worldwide.” By Philip Pullella, Reuters

Women religious blaze new trails in roles of authority at the Vatican
“When Pope Francis met more than 850 religious sisters attending the International Union of Superiors General plenary meeting in Rome in 2019, the pope insisted that the chair for the body’s then-president, Sr. Carmen Sammut, be seated right next to him. At the time, both Sammut, a Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa, and those in the room were touched by the pope’s deeply symbolic gesture to level the playing field. Now, as delegates from around the globe prepare to travel again to Rome for this year’s May 2-6 plenary, a wave of new appointments of sisters inside the Vatican has made it clear that Francis is backing that symbolism up with substantive changes and making room for more women religious to have a permanent seat at the table.” By Christopher White, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

Vatican clears Polish Cardinal Dziwisz of abuse cover-up
“The Vatican has wrapped up its own investigation and dismissed allegations that Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz had covered up cases of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in his archdiocese. In a written statement released April 22, the Apostolic Nunciature in Poland said the Vatican found the cardinal had been ‘correct’ in his actions after it examined the findings of an investigation led by Italian Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, on CatholicPhilly.com

Expert says too many laity ignore abuse crisis because ‘it doesn’t affect them’
“When it comes to addressing the clerical sexual abuse, the role of the laity is central, according to experts. However, according to one of the Colombian lay women at the center of the country’s bishops’ response, too many people avoid addressing it, because they don’t think it is a problem that affects them. Ilva Myriam Hoyos, former Colombian attorney general for children, adolescents and family, is the head of the bishops’ working group for the protection of minors.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com

Pope warns of lost trust without more abuse accountability
Pope Francis gave a new mandate to his sex abuse advisory commission Friday (Apr. 29), telling its members to work with bishops around the world to establish special welcome centers for victims and to audit the church’s progress on fighting abuse from its new perch within the Vatican. Francis warned that without more transparency and accountability from the church, the faithful would continue to lose trust in the Catholic hierarchy after decades of revelations about priests who raped and molested children and bishops and religious superiors who covered up those crimes.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

ACCOUNTABILITY

Voice of the Faithful puts children first with new study of dioceses’ child protection efforts
“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. Click here to read the entire report. The study is the first independent analysis of child protection and safe environment policies in all U.S. dioceses.” By Voice of the Faithful on Religion News Service Press Service

Cologne paid a million euros for priest’s gambling
“After several reports in the German secular media during Holy Week that the archdiocese of Cologne had paid more than €1m to settle a priest’s debts, including his gambling debts, the archdiocese confirmed the reports on Maundy Thursday. The money … was taken out of the special ‘bishop’s chair’ fund which is also used to pay the damages of clerical sexual abuse victims and to finance Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki’s favourite project, the Cologne University for Catholic Theology (KHKT).” By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet

FOR A SYNODAL CHURCH: COMMUNION, PARTICIPATION AND MISSION

Synod on synodality to be ‘process of spiritual discernment,’ participants say
“The Vatican office organizing a major 2023 Vatican summit on synodality held a preparation meeting last week, saying the synod of bishops has already begun. ‘This synod was conceived not as an event that will take place in a moment, meaning October 2023: It has already begun, and this awareness has been assumed by all of us taking part in this assembly,’ said Colombian layman Oscar Elizalde, spokesman for CELAM, the Latin American bishops’ conference. ‘We are not preparing for the synod, it has already begun.’” By Inés San Martín, Cruxnow.com

Church seeks Synod insights from Anglican, Uniting events
“To help better understand the place of synodality in the Catholic Church, ecumenical leaders will attend national Uniting and Anglican gatherings this month to see how synodality works in those communities. The global Synod on Synodality has encouraged engagement with ecumenical and interfaith groups as part of the process leading towards the gathering in Rome in October 2023. The Australian Synod of Bishops committee reached out to the National Council of Churches Australia to see how the Catholic Church and other Christian communities could walk together in their synodal journeys.” By CathNews.com

POPE FRANCIS

Pope Francis vows new start in fight against clerical sex abuse
“Pope Francis said Friday (Apr. 29) changes to an advisory body on preventing sexual abuse represented a fresh start in the fight against pedophile priests, but conceded ‘much remains to be done.’ The pope in March moved the Commission for the Protection of Minors into the Vatican’s powerful doctrine office, which oversees the church’s investigations of abuse cases, in a bid to give it the institutional power critics said it was lacking. The reform ‘marks a new beginning,’ the 85-year-old told commission members at the conclusion of their plenary meeting Friday.” By Agence France-Presse on Phillipines.Lics.News

Pope Francis updates canon law on dismissal from religious institutes
“Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter on Tuesday (Apr. 26) bringing Church law up to date on the rules for dismissal from religious institutes, in light of the updated penal law on sanctions related to clerical sexual abuse and other crimes. The letter, known as Recognitum librum VI and issued motu proprio (on the pope’s ‘own impulse’) on April 26, modifies one sentence from canon 695 of the Code of Canon Law.” By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

CARDINALS

Are lay cardinals next?
“Pope Francis is reorganizing the Vatican Curia — the church’s administrators and his senior staff — and may name new cardinals in June. Francis’ new apostolic constitution, ‘Praedicate Evangelium’ (‘Preach the Gospel’), issued last month, noted that the heads of dicasteries and other offices that manage the church need not be ordained. This highlighted Francis’ stated aim to give ‘more space’ to women in the church. Most of the important dicasteries are as a matter of fact headed by cardinals. But if any Catholic can head a curial office, the question becomes, does the title come with the job? More importantly, is the title needed to do the job?” By Phyllis Zagano, Religion News Service

BISHOPS

Spanish bishops say they won’t participate in national clerical abuse inquiry
“Spain’s bishops announced Friday (Apr. 29) that they will not take part in an independent commission into clerical sexual abuse created by the national legislature, alleging, among other things, that the commission won’t look into all sexual abuse of minors but only those committed by members of the Catholic Church. ‘We want to state that to carry out an investigation of abuses only in the church, when it is clear that out of 15,000 open cases in Spain, only 69 refer to the church, is a surprising decision,’ said Bishop Luis Argüello, spokesman of the Spanish bishops’ conference.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com

After tense year of debates, U.S. bishops to gather for retreat in June
“The U.S. Catholic bishops will gather for a retreatlike special assembly this summer in San Diego to focus on episcopal unity after a tense year and a half in which deep divisions surfaced among prelates over the issue of denying Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians — including President Joe Biden. There will be no public session for the June 2022 meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops because the normal assembly business of committee reports and presentations are being set aside for prayer, reflection and episcopal fraternity, a spokeswoman for the conference told NCR.” By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter

PRIESTS

Irish priest appointed to senior Vatican role investigating abuse
“An Irish priest, Msgr John Kennedy has been put in charge by Pope Francis of leading investigations into child abuse allegations against the Catholic clergy worldwide. The 53-year-old monsignor is the new secretary of the disciplinary section at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which has responsibility for dealing with credible allegations against clergy. He had been serving at the office since being appointed there by Pope Francis in 2017 and his appointment is part of a major shake-up of the Vatican curia being undertaken by Pope Francis.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times

WOMEN RELIGIOUS

Argentine nuns accuse archbishop, others of gender violence
“Several feminist groups are calling for protests May 3 in support of a community of cloistered nuns who have caused shockwaves by accusing the archbishop of a northern Argentine province and other church officials of gender-based psychological and physical violence. The pairing of feminists and Carmelite nuns is unusual in a country at the forefront of Latin America’s women’s movement where activists are often at odds with the Roman Catholic Church. The support illustrates how rare it is for this type of dispute to make it to the courts.” By Almudena Calatrava, The Associated Press, in Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

Editorial: Thanks to Network for 50 years of lobbying for the common good
“It is not an overstatement to say that some 17.5 million formerly uninsured Americans now have health insurance thanks, in large part, to a group of Catholic sisters. Network, a Catholic social justice lobby of religious women, was instrumental in the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, which dramatically reduced the number of uninsured Americans. That is just one of the group’s many accomplishments over the past five decades. Network, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month, has tirelessly worked for the common good, and the country is a better place for its having done so.” By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff

WOMEN’S VOICES

Should women be ordained Catholic deacons?
“In 2020, Pope Francis created a second Vatican commission to consider ordaining women as deacons—clergy who may read the gospel and preach at Mass, baptize, witness marriages, preside at funerals, and work with the needy. (A prior commission had ended two years earlier with no action taken by the Vatican.) One media report said the move signified that ‘women deacons in the Catholic Church are closer to reality than ever before.’ Correction: women deacons were reality in the early church.” By Rich Barlow, Bostonia, Boston University Alumni Magazine

VATICAN

Vatican backs Cardinal Woelki over abuse study contracts
“The Vatican has ruled that the German Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki did not breach canon law when awarding contracts connected to a landmark report on clerical abuse. The Archdiocese of Cologne announced the Vatican’s decision on May 3, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. During a seven-month ‘period of spiritual leave’ taken by the cardinal, the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese commissioned two independent canon lawyers to study the contracts awarded by Woelki and vicar general Msgr. Markus Hofmann.” By Catholic News Agency Staff

CHURCH REFORM

Rome on a Mission: Pope Francis’ reform of the Curia
“This, at last, is the reform ‘strongly wished for by most of the cardinals gathered in the pre-conclave general congregations’ in 2013, as Praedicate recalls at the end of its preamble. The date of the constitution’s release—March 19, the ninth anniversary of Pope Francis’s inaugural Mass—is a reminder of those days, when cardinals in the wake of Benedict’s resignation stood up, one after another, to urge the next pope to turn a dysfunctional, inward-looking court of self-aggrandizing cronies into an effective, outward-looking organism of service to the whole Church.” By Austen Ivereigh, Commmonweal

CHURCH FINANCES

Vatican trial places pope, top aides at center of London deal
“The former director of the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency testified Wednesday (Apr. 27) that Pope Francis asked him to help the Vatican secretariat of state get full control of a London property, once again putting the pope and his top deputies in the spotlight for their roles in the problematic deal. Tommaso Di Ruzza is one of 10 people accused in the Vatican’s sprawling financial trial, which is centered on the secretariat of state’s 350 million euro investment in a luxury London property. Vatican prosecutors have accused brokers and Vatican officials of fleecing the Holy See of millions of euros in fees, much of it donations from the faithful, and then extorting the Vatican of 15 million euros to get full control of the property.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

VOICES

Stephen Mills: Don’t tell us it’s too late to get justice
“Take it from me, the aftershocks of child sexual abuse last a lifetime. I’m 66, and the sexual violence I experienced at age 13 — a near-death experience, really — can still grip my body and mind when I least expect it. I thought I’d be released when my abuser died. But that happened 30 years ago. Then I was sure I just needed to find the right meds, the right therapy, the right spiritual practice. No, no and no.” By Stephen Mills, Trib Live

What kind of Catholics are we?
What does it mean to be a vowed Dominican Sister, a member of the Order of Preachers within a church that largely rejects women preaching in liturgical settings? Lucky for me, I am blessed with a high tolerance for perceived contradictions. In fact, it was my penchant for incongruities that, after 25 years as a non-practicing Catholic, drew me back into the fold. For me, the endurance, scope and coherence of the Catholic tradition belie a profound underlying Truth that enables me to live with the inherent, sometimes painful, contradictions of the church.” By Quincy Howard, Globe Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

Troubling past: the Church’s role in America’s Indian boarding school era
“The doll is about 6 inches tall, handcrafted of red leather, with a tan belt and headband around its long black hair. It’s a male warrior, holding a bow. ‘This is actually me,’ D. Richard Wright said of the doll. The parishioner of Gichitwaa Kateri in south Minneapolis made it as part of an effort to process recent findings in Canada of what are believed to be hundreds of graves of children on the sites of former indigenous residential schools. Some Twin Cities American Indians — mostly women — gathered together to make ‘spirit dolls’ representing the children in some of those graves, resulting in an exhibit called ‘215+’ that was on view from November to January at Indigenous Roots in St. Paul.” By Maria Wiering, The Catholic Spirit

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

California Catholic dioceses ask Supreme Court to hear statute of limitations extension case
“California Catholic bishops are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a case challenging the state for permitting victims of childhood sexual abuse to file claims again, after the timeframe for them to pursue legal action has expired twice. Nine California Catholic dioceses and archdioceses filed a petition for writ of certiorari, or a petition to review a lower court’s decision, in the case — Roman Catholic Bishop of Oakland v. Superior Court of California for Los Angeles — on April 15.” By Katie Yoder, Catholic News Agency, on AngelusNews.com

Iowa’s dangerous safe base for abusers
“The game of tag is one of the most classic outdoor childhood games. Although it has many versions, traditionally speaking, one player is ‘it’ and must tag other players to eliminate them. Generally, players cannot be tagged out if they are on the ‘safe base.’ Kids often complain and holler that the safe base is unfair. They have a point. There is ‘safe base’ in Iowa, but it is a dangerous one. You see, Iowa law creates a safe zone for the absolute worst – sexual predators. A sexual predator may be out and held accountable in one jurisdiction but cross the state line into Iowa and they are safe. Why?” By Kathryn Robb and Kylie DeWees, The Gazette

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

A wounded healer speaks about the sexual abuse crisis
“In this new episode of Field Hospital, Jeannie Gaffigan and I had the privilege of speaking to Mark Joseph Williams, a survivor of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest who has undergone a long journey of healing and recovery. He now advocates for and accompanies other survivors as they seek the healing and justice they need after suffering the trauma and injustice they have endured. Professionally, Mark is a management consultant and a forensic social worker from New Jersey. He also serves as special advisor in the Archdiocese of Newark for Cardinal Joseph Tobin.” By Mark Lewis, The Field Hospital Podcate, on WherePeterIs.com

Navarre will recognize the victims of abuses in Church already prescribed
“Navarre will enact a law to recognize as such the victims of pederasty in the Catholic Church, clarify the crimes committed by the members of this institution in the community and ‘contribute to a collective, democratic and critical memory’ about the problem. The draft of the law, to which this newspaper has had access, contemplates the creation of a ‘recognition commission’ composed of experts who will assess, during six years of work, the requests of people who claim to have suffered abuses by the clergy and want to benefit from the law.” By Julio Núñez, El Pais

ILLINOIS

Archdiocese of Chicago settles sex abuse claim against the Rev. George Clements: lawyer
“The Archdiocese of Chicago has reached an $800,000 settlement over claims of sexual abuse by the late Rev. George Clements, the famed Holy Angels pastor, and four other Chicago-area religious figures, according to lawyers representing the alleged abuse victims. An attorney for Clements’ now 54-year-old alleged victim called Tuesday (Apr. 26) for Cardinal Blase Cupich to place Clements on the archdiocese’s public list of ‘credibly accused priests.’ ‘The hiding has to stop. The secrecy has to stop,’ Boston-based attorney Mitch Garabedian told reporters.” By Stefano Esposito, C

Chicago Sun-Times

INDIANA

Judge rejects sex abuse plea deal for suspended Indy priest
“A judge rejected a proposed plea agreement for a suspended Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy in 2016 and instead set a trial date for the cleric Thursday (Apr. 21). Hamilton County Superior Court Judge Michael Casati threw out the deal that would have allowed David Marcotte to plead guilty to one count of dissemination of matter harmful to minor in exchange for the state dismissing charges of child solicitation and vicarious sexual gratification. Casati scheduled a jury trial for Oct. 10 on the three felony counts, WRTV-TV reported.” By Associated Press in The Goshen News

KANSAS

Lawrence priest suspended after child sex abuse allegation
“A former pastor at Catholic parishes in Lawrence and Eudora and on the Haskell Indian Nations University campus has been suspended from ministry following an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. According to March 25 issue of The Leaven, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, the archdiocese learned on Feb. 28 that Father Michael Scully had been accused of sexual abuse. Upon notification, the archdiocese ‘relieved Father Scully from public exercise of priestly ministry’ until an investigation is complete.” By Andrea Albright, The Lawrence Times

Topeka man’s status as a priest now to be decided after DA opts not to file charges in abuse claim
“Now it knows a Topeka Roman Catholic priest accused last year of child sexual abuse won’t be charged criminally, his archdiocese says it will proceed with evaluating his status as a priest. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay has decided not to file charges against the Rev. John Pilcher after reviewing the results of an investigation conducted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, he told The Capital-Journal on Monday (Apr. 25).” By Tim Hrenchir, Topeka Capital-Journal

MISSOURI

Priests accused of sexual abuse living at Jefferson County treatment center
Catholic priests and clergy accused of sexually abusing children are living under the radar at a Missouri treatment center. Tucked behind trees in a quiet neighborhood off Eime Road in Dittmer, MO, is a Catholic community shrouded in secrecy. ‘There’s some sick people over there,’ said Michael Stenzhorn, who lives just across the street. Signs outside the Vianney Renewal Center don’t say who lives there. ‘I believe there are hundreds if not thousands sex offender clergy who have been through that place,’ said David Clohessy, the Missouri Volunteer Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).” Stenzhorn says for years his family was in the dark.” By KFVS-TV12 News

NEW YORK.

Abuse survivors and Catholic Diocese of Rochester face off in bankruptcy court
“The Rochester Catholic Diocese is being accused of acting in bad faith. Sex abuse survivors are frustrated the diocese bankruptcy case is still not settled. When they joined the case, their civil lawsuits against individual parishes and priests were frozen. After three years without a settlement, they now want to be able to proceed with those lawsuits. Brian Delafranier, a survivor of the abuse, said him and other victims deserve to be compensated for the abuse they suffered.” By Ginny Ryan, WHAM-TV13 News

Court: Albany diocese must release priest treatment files
“A recent court ruling has opened the door to the release of psychological treatment records of priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany accused of child sexual abuse. The Albany Times-Union reported the ruling came in a lawsuit by an alleged abuse victim from the 1980s who sought records detailing the treatment received by the Rev. Edward Pratt and other priests. The diocese had argued that the records were subject to patient-physician privilege, but the appeals court wrote last Thursday that the privilege was waived because the priests’ records had been shared with then-Bishop Howard J. Hubbard.” By Associated Press

NORTH CAROLINA

Archdiocesan priest accused of inappropriately touching minor in 2018
“A report to the Archdiocese of Denver states that an archdiocesan priest inappropriately touched a minor a single time back in 2018. The inappropriate touching occurred in a public space when the young girl was exiting church immediately after Mass had ended. According to the Archdiocese of Denver, the church followed its Code of Conduct and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and immediately reported the allegation to authorities.” By Morgan Whitley, FOX-TV31 News

OHIO

Diocese of Toledo Announces Final Decision Regarding Reverend Nelson Beaver
“The Diocese of Toledo is announcing the final decision regarding Rev. Nelson Beaver, who was placed on administrative leave in October 2018 having received an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor dating back over 25 years. Three other allegations of sexual abuse of a minor from a similar time period were subsequently made against Beaver … In October, 2019, the diocese announced that the investigation had been completed, the Diocesan Review Board found all four allegations to be substantiated and voted unanimously that Beaver is not suitable for priestly ministry. Bishop Daniel E. Thomas accepted the Review Board’s recommendation …” By Diocese of Toledo

TENNESSEE

Lawsuit: Knoxville diocese mishandled sex abuse claim
“A lawsuit says the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville mishandled a report about allegations that a priest sexually abused a parishioner. The lawsuit filed in Sevier County says Father Antony D. Punnackal locked an adult female plaintiff in a room on Feb. 17, 2020, and fondled her, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. Police allegedly informed the diocese about the allegations against Punnackal before he was indicted by a grand jury, but no action was taken until the indictment, the complaint states.” By Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Archdiocese of Seattle settles two sex abuse claims for $375,000
“The Archdiocese of Seattle said Thursday (Apr. 28) it will pay $375,000 to settle two separate claims of sexual abuse in the 1970s and 1980s. The Roman Catholic archdiocese said in a news release that it settled a case involving allegations of childhood sexual abuse in the early to mid-1970s by David Pearson, a volunteer at St. Joseph Parish in Issaquah. Pearson has died. The archdiocese also said it settled a case involving an allegation of sexual abuse by Father Paul Conn in about 1987 when he served at Queen of Angels Parish in Port Angeles.” By Associated Press

AUSTRALIA

New portal will assess, improve safeguarding
“A new portal launched today by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Limited will help Catholic organizations measure their progress in applying the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards. Marking the launch of the portal, ACSL CEO Ursula Stephens described it as a crucial resource for entities wanting to understand where their current safeguarding standards are in relation to best practice. ‘It is intuitive, easy to navigate and use and will be invaluable to safeguarding personnel everywhere. The portal we have developed will help Catholic entities to meet their own legislative safeguarding requirements in a timely way,’ Dr Stephens said.” By CathNews.com

CANADA

Sex abuse case sparks Ottawa to assert papal ambassador’s diplomatic immunity
“Three weeks after Pope Francis apologized for Catholic residential school abuses, Ottawa issued a diplomatic immunity certificate for the pope’s ambassador who faced a lawyer’s demand for records in other Catholic school sexual and physical abuse allegations. ‘Clearly, that consent is not forthcoming, because the certificate was issued,’ Sandra Kovacs, lawyer for complainant Mark O’Neill said. ‘This position is not surprising, particularly in light of the frustration also expressed by residential school survivors, who have asked Pope Francis for unfettered access to records with the Vatican’s missionary department, too,’ Kovacs said.” By Jeremy Hainsworth, Pique Newsmagazine

PHILIPPINES

Brooklyn diocese settles sex abuse lawsuit vs. Filipino bishop
“The Diocese of Brooklyn has settled a lawsuit against the late Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, accused of sexual abuse of a minor when he was a visiting clergy in St. Francis de Sales Church in Belle Harbor in New York in the early 1970s. According to Road to Recovery, Inc., a non-profit in New Jersey that assists victims of sexual abuse, Father Gutierrez sexually abused a minor child parishioner of St. Francis de Sales Parish on approximately six occasions from around 1970 until 1971 when the boy was about 11 to 12 years old.” By Cristina D.C. Pastor, The FilAm Magazine

SINGAPORE

Member of Catholic order in Singapore who committed sex acts on two teenage boys jailed 5 years
“A man who was part of a Catholic religious order that established a school in Singapore, was sentenced to five years’ jail on Thursday (May 5) for committing unlawful sexual acts with two teenage boys. The Singaporean, who The Straits Times understands is not a priest, pleaded guilty to one charge of voluntarily having carnal intercourse against the order of nature and one charge under the Children and Young Persons Act. Two other charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.” By Samuel Devaraj, Straits Times

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Pope mandates annual audit on protection of children from abuse / Reuters

Francis said he wanted a yearly “reliable account on what is presently being done and what needs to change” to protect children and vulnerable adults from predator clergy.

By Philip Pullella, Reuters

“Pope Francis on Friday asked for an annual audit evaluating how national Catholic Churches are implementing measures to protect children from clergy sexual abuse, saying that without more transparency the faithful will continue to lose trust.

“‘Abuse in any form is unacceptable,’ Francis told members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was established in 2014 to promote best practices and a culture of safeguarding worldwide.

“The commission had a rocky start, with several members resigning in frustration, complaining that it had no teeth and that they had met internal resistance.

“It was given a new lease on life in March, when the Vatican’s updated constitution placed it in the doctrinal department, which rules on abuse cases.

“Francis said he wanted a yearly “reliable account on what is presently being done and what needs to change” to protect children and vulnerable adults from predator clergy.”

By Philip Pullella, Reuters — Read more …


Click hear to read Voice of the Faithfuls recently released “2022 Report: Measuring Abuse Prevention and Safe Environment Programs as Reported Online in Diocesan Policies and Practices,” which studied the level of diocesan compliance with child protection guidelines.

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Voice of the Faithful puts children first with new study of dioceses’ child protection efforts

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.

Click here to read the entire report

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.

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

April 25, 2022

TOP STORIES

N.J. Catholic diocese agrees to $87.5M deal to settle clergy sex abuse suits
“A New Jersey Catholic diocese has agreed to pay $87.5 million to settle claims involving clergy sex abuse with some 300 alleged victims in one of the largest cash settlements involving the Catholic church in the United States(link is external). The agreement between the Diocese of Camden, which encompasses six counties in southern New Jersey on the outskirts of Philadelphia, and plaintiffs was filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Camden on Tuesday (Apr. 19).” By Mike Catalini, Associated Press

Spanish bishops brief pope on abuse commission
“Pope Francis met with the leaders of the Spanish bishops’ conference and was briefed on the independent commission established by the bishops to investigate clerical sexual abuse in the country(link is external). Speaking with journalists outside the Vatican press office April 7, Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona, president of the conference, said the pope encouraged the bishops to continue supporting survivors of abuse. Pope Francis ‘encouraged us to walk along that path of accompanying victims because they are at the center of everything, to collaborate in everything and, above all, to prevent these things from happening again,’ Omella said.” By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

Portugal probe: 290 church sex abuse claims in 90 days work
“A lay committee looking into historic child sex abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church said Tuesday (Apr. 12) it received witness statements from 290 alleged victims in its first three months of work, with cases involving children as young as two years old(link is external). More than half the reported cases suggest many more victims were involved, said Pedro Strecht, a psychiatrist who heads the Independent Committee for the Study of Child Abuse in the Church. The six-person committee, which includes psychiatrists, a former Supreme Court judge and a social worker, began its work in January at the behest of the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference.” By Barry Hatton, Associated Press

Is Pope Francis prepping for doomsday in the church? I hope so.
“If you’re not a Vaticanista, the announcement of the proposed reform of the Roman Curia on March 17 might have seemed like some pretty standard Catholic gobbledygook … But in the midst of the release of the reform document, Vatican experts recognized something that actually could change things for you and me in a potentially massive way(link is external). As one theological expert who worked on the constitution put it, the Vatican seems to be saying that the ‘power of governance in the church does not come from the sacrament of [Holy] Orders’ but from one’s mission in the church. That is, being in positions of leadership in the church should not require a collar, ordination or being a man.” By Jim McDermott, America: The Jesuit Review

74 bishops sign open letter warning of German Synodal Path’s potential for schism
“In an open letter, 74 bishops from North America, Africa, Italy and Australia have expressed their ‘growing concern’ about the German Synodal Path process and content(link is external), warning about its ‘potential for schism.’ Joining recent letters of concern by the Nordic and Polish bishops, the ‘fraternal open letter to our brother bishops in Germany’ said ‘the Synodal Path’s actions undermine the credibility of church authority, including that of Pope Francis.’” By Greg Erlandson, Catholic News Service, in America: The Jesuit Review

ACCOUNTABILITY

An island retreat: sin, secrecy, and the offshoring of sexually abuse priests
“[This is] an historical account that encourages scholars and activists alike to rethink the geography of clerical sexual abuse: though there is a generally agreed upon history that bishops throughout the United States transferred priests between parishes to evade suspicion and at times prosecution, this provides a previously untold account of how the U.S. Church leveraged developments in moral theology, pastoral psychology, and free market capitalism to secure transnational lines of flight for some of its most incorrigible abusers(link is external).” By Kevin Lewis O’Neill, John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics

FOR A SYNODAL CHURCH: COMMUNION, PARTICIPATION AND MISSION

Frustration with German Synodal Path should not derail path of synodality
“Last week, 74 bishops signed a letter to the German bishops expressing concern about that country’s ‘Synodal Path,’ which voted on a series of reforms in February. The letter warns the German synodal consultations hold the ‘potential for schism’(link is external) and identifies seven specific criticisms, such as the charge the German process relied more on ‘sociological analysis and contemporary political, and gender, ideologies’ … The German Synodal Path is part of a universal process. The German bishops have made clear that they understand certain doctrinal matters can only be developed by the universal church.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

PRIESTS

Grace of priesthood is given for service, not priests’ glory, pope says
“In the life of every Christian, but especially of priests, God’s love and forgiveness are the greatest rewards, and any attempt to seek one’s own glory plays into the hands of the devil(link is external), Pope Francis said. With some 1,800 priests concelebrating and renewing the promises made at their ordinations, Pope Francis celebrated the chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica April 14. ‘There is no recompense greater than friendship with Jesus,’ the pope told them. ‘There is no peace greater than his forgiveness. There is no greater price than his precious blood, and we must not allow it to be devalued by unworthy conduct.’” By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

Vatican approves norms to reshape U.S. priestly formation
“The Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy has approved new norms for the formation of seminarians(link is external), which were drafted by the U.S. bishops’ conference in 2019, and have been under discussion between Rome and the USCCB since that time. The sixth edition of the Program for Priestly Formation, which governs seminary education for priests, will require seminaries and dioceses to reshape their formation programs, in order to accommodate new stages of formation at both the start and conclusion of seminary studies.” By The Pillar

VOICES

On the power of Resurrection and healing from abuse
“Early on in my healing work, a friend suggested that I think back to who I was before I was sexually abused(link is external). They wondered if I might find power in remembering characteristics or aspects of myself before the abuse that are still a part of me today. When I first attempted to recall who I was before the abuse, I could not remember specific traits or memories. I was so young when the abuse started, no older than 5, and it felt like trying to recall the memories of someone who wasn’t yet a person. The abuse occurred during my formative years, when a child’s brain develops into who they will become later in life, from our social lives to our emotions to how we show up relationally.” By Meredith McKay, National Catholic Reporter

 ‘Good Policy’
“Since 2002, numerous bills have been introduced in the New York State Legislature to add clergy to the list of mandated reporters for child sexual abuse. The bills — which have respected the sanctity of the confessional — long have been supported by the New York State Catholic Conference (NYSCC), which represents the state’s bishops in matters of public policy, and by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany, who has been a national leader in responding to the clergy abuse crisis. But 20 years since the first bills were introduced — which were spurred on by the sexual abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston that was exposed by the Boston Globe — clergy still are not included in the expansive state list of mandated reporters(link is external) that includes doctors, social workers, police officers, social service workers and most school officials.” By Mike Matvey, The Evangelist, The Official Publication of the Diocese of Albany

Reclaiming the Catholic moral and intellectual tradition form the culture wars
“When Michael Murphy, director of Loyola’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, first invited me to join this conversation, he asked me to give a few remarks as part of a panel on how the culture wars have distorted Catholic bioethics. But then I was relocated to a keynote address on the topic ‘Reclaiming the Catholic Moral and Intellectual Tradition from the Culture Wars(link is external).’ If the first topic was big, the second is, colossal. So I am going to take the original starting point that he gave me — the culture wars and bioethics — as a way into the larger question.” By M. Therese Lysaught, National Catholic Reporter

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

If Pennsylvania senators don’t extend time limits for sexual abuse cases, Wolf will call special session
“Gov. Tom Wolf says if state lawmakers don’t temporarily extend the statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse this year, he’ll call a special session on the matter(link is external). A 2018 grand jury recommended the state temporarily lift legal time limits for survivors with decades-old cases to allow them to sue their alleged abusers. Pennsylvania now lets anyone who says they were abused as a child come to court with a civil lawsuit before age 55, but some survivors missed their opportunity when the time window was smaller. Research shows social and psychological pressures can keep survivors from coming forward for far longer.” By Sam Dynkjlau, WESA-FM Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

Legionaries’ updated abuse report reveals four new allegations
“The Legionaries of Christ received four new allegations of sexual abuse against members of the congregation between March 2021 and March 2022(link is external), and new allegations also have been made against priests already undergoing canonical procedures after being named in previous reports. The Legionaries’ 2021 ‘Annual Report: Truth, Justice and Healing’ was released April 6 with updates to their ongoing effort to ‘give an account of their commitments to the victims of sexual abuse since the publication three years ago (December 2019) of all cases from their history.’ Since releasing its previous annual report in March 2021, the congregation received four new allegations, it said.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Agency

CONNECTICUT

New Haven priest accused of sexual abuse in 1990s
“The Rev. Joseph M. Elko, administrator of St. Martin de Porres Roman Catholic Church, has been placed on administrative leave because of a claim of sexual abuse that allegedly occurred in the 1990s(link is external). In an email Monday (Apr. 11), David Elliott, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Hartford, said the news was announced at Masses this weekend. The church is located at 136 Dixwell Ave. ‘As a result of the receipt of that claim, pursuant to the Archdiocese’s protocol, Fr. Elko has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation of the claim,’ Elliott said in the statement.” By Ed Stannard, New Haven Register

ILLINOIS

Trial set for priest charged in 2017 sexual assault case
“The trial of a Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting a Shapiro Developmental Center resident(link is external) in 2017 is set to begin Monday (Apr. 18) in Kankakee County Circuit Court. Formerly a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Goodrich and longtime assistant at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Kankakee, Richard E. Jacklin, 70, is facing three felony charges that could carry a prison term of 12 to 50 years. He is charged with aggravated sexual assault, six to 30 years; criminal sexual assault, four to 15 years; and sexual misconduct, two to five years.” By Jeff Bonty, Daily Journal

INDIANA

Carmel priest files lawsuit in response to allegations of inappropriate conduct
“A Carmel priest filed a lawsuit in response to allegations of inappropriate conduct(link is external). In March, the Diocese of Lafayette suspended Father James DeOreo after receiving allegations of inappropriate conduct with a minor. DeOreo was suspended from public ministry. The diocese said at the time that the allegation violates the Diocesan Code of Conduct for Clergy. The diocese said the allegation was reported to Indiana Child Protective Services.” By WTHR-TV13 News

Evansville priest on leave after allegations of sexual misconduct
“A Evansville priest has been removed from the public ministry after an allegation of sexual misconduct from 20 years ago(link is external) was reported to the Diocese of Evansville. According to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Father Bernie Etienne served at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church and is currently placed on administrative leave. The Diocese did not clarify the nature of the allegations against Father Etienne, regarding the age, gender of the victim and where the sexual misconduct took place.” By Shwetha Sundarrajan, WANE-TV15 News

MASSACHUSETTS

Diocese asks state’s top court to halt suit by Bishop Weldon sexual abuse survivor
“A lawyer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield asked the state’s top court Monday (Apr. 4) to halt a civil lawsuit brought by the former Chicopee altar boy who suffered sexual assaults decades ago at the hands of former Bishop Christopher J. Weldon(link is external). The high-profile case was elevated from the Appeals Court to the Supreme Judicial Court in December because the high court wanted to consider issues it raises. They include whether the diocese, which includes all of Berkshire County, is protected by what’s known as charitable immunity, a legal protection that existed under certain circumstances at the time of the assaults in the 1960s.” By Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle

MISSISSIPPI

Ex-friar found guilty of sexual abuse of former student at Catholic school
“A former Franciscan friar has been found guilty of sexually abusing a student(link is external) during the 1990s at a Greenwood Catholic school. A Leflore County jury deliberated less than an hour Wednesday (Apr. 13) before finding Paul West guilty of one count of sexual battery and one count of gratification of lust. West, 62, was sentenced by Circuit Judge Ashley Hines to 30 years on the first count and 15 years on the second, to be served consecutively.” By Kevin Edwards, McComb Enterprise-Journal

NEW YORK.

Diocese moves to reinstate freeze on cases
“In a bid to keep parishes and officials, including Bishop Salvatore Matano, from answering scores of sexual-abuse allegations against church officials in state court(link is external), the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester has asked for a Bankruptcy Court trial. Known as adversarial proceedings or APs for short, such trials look to have a bankruptcy judge resolve differences between parties in a case. Parties not satisfied with a bankruptcy judge’s ruling can appeal the ruling to a federal district court.” By Will Astor, Rochester Beacon

Two accused priests sue Buffalo Diocese after their pensions are cut
“Two retired Buffalo priests accused of sexually abusing minors(link is external) are suing the Buffalo Diocese to restore their pensions, which were reduced or eliminated after the priests refused to submit to a monitoring program pushed by the State Attorney General’s Office. The Rev. Arthur J. Smith and the Rev. Pascal D. Ipolito maintain that they are not child molesters and haven’t had a fair hearing to defend themselves against the accusations. They also said they earned the pensions that were promised to them when they became priests decades ago and when they retired a few years ago.” By Jay Tokasz, The Buffalo News

PENNSYLVANIA

Sexual assault survivor shares story, what he is doing to help victims
“In 2016, a Pennsylvania grand jury report revealed widespread sexual assault by Catholic priests in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. One of the accounts in that report came from Shaun Dougherty who is from Johnstown, PA and survived sexual abuse by his priest when he was 10 years old(link is external). ‘I’m here to share my story so it is not repeated again,’ Dougherty said to an small audience in the HUB’s Ohio Room. Dougherty came to IUP as part of the University’s Six O’clock Series which are a series of guest lectures open to the public. He does not want his story to be ‘heavy.’ Instead, he wants his story to be an inspiration for others to speak up and act.” By Samuel Bigham, ThePenn.org

Preventing child abuse – ‘Fight for that kid’: Law enforcement, court professionals work to seek justice
“Chris Swartz is a tall, barrel-chested police officer. He’s not exactly the kind of guy who, at first appearance, would be envisioned spending countless hours comforting children in their times of most desperate need. But as a member of the Johnstown Police Department, he has been providing compassion and justice for young victims of sexual and physical abuse for years(link is external). ‘With me, I took this position as a juvenile detective because I care about kids,’ Swartz said during an interview on April 1, just hours after a 14-month-old Johnstown girl died at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, the victim of a homicide.” By Dave Sutor, Tribune-Democrat

WISCONSIN

Details lacking in Kaul clergy sex probe
“Wisconsin’s attorney general said his investigation into clergy sex abuse across the state has resulted in 1,000 calls to his tipline, 204 reports, and one criminal case. But there are some questions the AG is not answering. Kaul launched his investigation into the Catholic Church in Wisconsin one year ago. On Tuesday (Apr. 19), he provided an update on his progress. ‘As of April 18, the Wisconsin Department of Justice Clergy and Faith Leader Initiative has received a total of 204 completed reports to the toll-free tip line and the online reporting tool accusing more than 150 individuals of abuse …’ Kaul said in a statement.” By Benjamin Yount, The Center Square, on apg-wi.com

AFRICA

Priest urges Rmaphosa to establish inquiry into historical sexual abuse
“Activist and Anglican priest, Reverend June Major, has taken her fight for justice for sexual assault victims to the president’s office(link is external). On Wednesday (Apr. 12), Major handed a memorandum to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office in Tuynhuys, Cape Town, calling for a commission of inquiry into historic child sexual offences within churches and other faith-based institutions.” By Bulelwa Payl, iol.co.za

CANADA

Montreal Catholic Church ombudswoman details delays, resistance to complaint process
“An independent ombudswoman hired by the Catholic Church of Montreal said Tuesday (Apr. 19) she’s encountering delays and resistance to her efforts to address complaints, warning that the process to tackle abuse and misconduct risks becoming a ‘smokescreen(link is external).’ The third quarterly report published Tuesday by Marie Christine Kirouack said that in recent months she’s faced a number of problems, including non-compliance with deadlines, delays and a failure by church officials to follow up with people who are subject to complaints.” By Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press, in Toronto Star

EAST TIMOR

Convicted UK pedophile priest visited Timor-Leste
“A Catholic priest convicted in the UK last week of sexually abusing boys in his care also came into contact with children in Timor-Leste and took them to his hotel room(link is external) during visits to the country that spanned a decade, it has emerged. Father Patrick Smythe, 79, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison by Leeds Crown Court on April 7, told police during an interview that he had visited Timor-Leste over a period of 10 years ‘sponsoring people of the country.’ He is also said to have been in contact with children of a similar age to the victims he has been convicted of abusing.” By UCANews.com

FRANCE

French Catholic Church in crisis: Trainee priests grapple with aftermath of abuse scandal
“Six months after the publication of the Sauvé report, which revealed the scale of sexual abuse over decades in the French Catholic Church, what effect has the crisis had on aspiring priests? Despite the atmosphere of mistrust currently enveloping the Church, some forty students at the diocese in Orléans are training to join the priesthood while attempting to learn from the errors of those before them(link is external). Our France 2 colleagues report, with FRANCE 24’s Emerald Maxwell.” By Emerald Maxwell, France24.com

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND, AND WALES

Catholic priest who preyed on schoolboys branded a ‘beast’ as he is jailed for historic sex offenses in Leeds
“Father Patrick Smythe was locked up for seven and a half years after a jury reached unanimous guilty verdicts after a trial at Leeds Crown Court(link is external). Jurors heard how Smythe, 79, preyed on three of his victims during swimming trips to the former Leeds International Pool. Smythe also targeted boys in his care while on a retreat at a hostel in North Yorkshire. A judge who sentenced Smythe told the pensioner he had told a ‘pack of lies’ to the court during the trial. Judge Simon Batiste said: ‘The offenses involved six different complainants who were at the time of the offences aged between 12 and 16.” By Tony Gardner, Yorkshire Evening Post

SWITZERLAND

Swiss Catholic Church to open secret files to sexual abuse investigators
“In late 2021, the Catholic Church in Switzerland instructed two historians to investigate sexual abuse within the organization. The move followed evidence of sexual abuse on a staggering scale within the organization in France(link is external). On 4 April 2022, a date was announced for the opening of the secret episcopal archives, reported RTS. Work will start on 1 May 2022. The researchers running the investigation are from the University of Zurich. The organizations requesting the investigation include the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, KOVOS and RKZ, three Catholic associations in Switzerland.” By LeNews.ch

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

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

Kevin Clarke, America: The Jesuit Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Associated Press

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

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

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

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

By Associated Press — Read more …

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

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

March 28, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ongoing Child Protection Efforts

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

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

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

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

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Voice of the Faithful Focus News Roundup

March 28, 2022

TOP STORIES

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

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

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

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

ACCOUNTABILITY

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

FOR A SYNODAL CHURCH: COMMUNION, PARTICIPATION AND MISSION

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

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

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

POPE FRANCIS

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

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

BISHOPS

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

PRIESTS

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

WOMEN’S VOICES

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

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

CHURCH FINANCES

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

CLERICALISM

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

VOICES

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

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

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

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

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

INDIANA

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

KANSAS

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

LOUISIANA

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

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

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

MASSACHUSETTS

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

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

MICHIGAN

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

NEW HAMPSHIRE

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

NEW JERSEY

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

NEW YORK.

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

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

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

OHIO

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

SOUTH CAROLINA

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

SOUTH DAKOTA

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

TENNESSEE

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

ARGENTINA

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

AUSTRALIA

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

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

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

CANADA

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

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

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

CHILE

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

GUIANA

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

IRELAND & NORTHERN IRELAND

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

LUXEMBOURG

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

NEW ZEALAND

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

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

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

America: The Jesuit Review

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

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

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

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

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Pope releases Vatican reform, gives weight to fighting abuse

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

Associated Press

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

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

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

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

By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press — Read more …

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