Posts Tagged women in the church
By Svea Fraser, VOTF trustee and chair of Women’s Emerging Voices
Listen. Can you hear the sound of voices getting louder in support of women’s roles in the Church?
For 20 years VOTF has championed the change for women to be fully recognized as equals in the Church. We took advantage of every opportunity to raise awareness of the needs that would be better met when women have a place at the table. Resources on the website included articles, papers, videos, cards, templates for letter writing and books. One book in particular gave us a laser focus for our ongoing efforts.
The groundbreaking work of theologian Dr. Phyllis Zagano published in the book Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future (by Gary Macy, Phyllis Zagano and William T. Ditewig) was a wakeup call for many of us. A free study guide made it possible to hold group discussion groups across the country. We learned things we never knew about women deacons in our faith tradition. Two points were of great significance:
- Women ministered as deacons in the past.
- The permanent order of deacons is clearly distinct from priestly ordination.
With increasing awareness, we began discussing women deacons at webinars, at lectures, and among networking groups. Women began to ask the question, “What can we do?” Our VOTF Women’s Working Group invited others from across the continent to advocate for women and ultimately formed an “advocacy network.” Invested in our faith communities and ministering in diaconal ways, we were buoyed by others who shared our pains and hopes for inclusion. As we shared these stories, we changed the working group title from “Women’s Roles” to “Women’s Emerging Voices” to better reflect our work.
At the same time, other voices were rising in support of women and their status in the Church: at the meeting of the International Union of Superiors General, at the Amazonian Synod, and in a papal-appointed Commission to study the issue.
In Durham, N.C., another voice also attracted our attention. That was the voice of Casey Stanton, the mother of two young children and holder of a Master of Divinity degree with a certificate in prison studies. When Casey encountered incarcerated women in her prison ministry, she came face to face with the reality of abuse and violence leveled against women.
During Mass one day, Casey made a connection: Because only men preach and preside at Mass, could the implicit message that men are more important than women contribute to their treatment as “less than”? What does our Catholic Liturgy say about women?
Casey wondered if other women wrestled with the same issue, and if they shared her strong vocational desire to preach the Gospel. She initiated conversations to find out. Each individual encounter affirmed that she was not alone. Also affirmed was a feeling that women’s stories needed to be told. From this grew a desire for a liturgical service to engage others in praying and sharing and listening together.
Saint Phoebe’s Feast Day on September third provided an ideal opportunity for a Virtual Prayer Service. Phoebe is the only person named a deacon (in Greek) in the New Testament, yet she was unknown to many of us. Her name is unspoken because the passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans 16:1-2 is excluded from both Sunday and weekly lectionary cycles. Saint Phoebe also suffers the indignity of her Feast Day having been replaced by Pope Gregory I.
The first prayer service attracted 500 participants. Four women spoke of their heartfelt callings to minister as deacons, and their deeply felt emotions brought tears of recognition. The experience set hearts on fire.
Thus emerged a movement, a defined mission, and an informative website was created, under the name Discerning Deacons.
VOTF found common ground with Discerning Deacons: Our goals and mission statements harmonized. We joined in collaboration and mutual support. VOTF’s “advocacy network” began to call itself a “Deacon Circle.”
The success and spirited activity that followed is a testament to the power of prayer, the value of story-telling, the dedication of faithful disciples, and the overarching belief that the Holy Spirit will not deny what the Church needs.
The second Virtual St. Phoebe Prayer Service on September 3, 2021, registered 1,500 people from around the world.
From this side of the world, we sponsored an international delegation to Rome: five women from Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States. With the words of St. Paul in mind when he commended his sister Phoebe to be “welcomed in the Lord as is fitting for the saints,” we sent our group with our prayers and an image of St. Phoebe preaching to the faith community.
I believe that Saint Phoebe is interceding on behalf of women today. The Rome delegation was invited to a front row seat at Pope Francis’ weekly audience. When Ellie Hidalgo (a co-director of Discerning Deacons) presented the image of St. Phoebe to the Pope, he accepted it with a smile. And when Sr. Cira Mees told him about her ministry in the Amazon, he looked at her and said, “Firme! Adelante!” (“Keep going forward with inner strength.”). The women were truly welcomed and received “in the Lord.”
As climactic as that event was for us, the story gets better.
In an unprecedented moment in the history of the Church, Pope Francis in 2021 called for a Synod on Synodality. He wants to hear from all the people, both Catholics and non-Catholics, to discern the Holy Spirit’s will for the Church.
When was the last time a pope asked you for your thoughts?
As ancient as synods are in the Church’s tradition, it is a puzzling word for most of us. Pope Francis explains it as simply journeying together. He invites us to walk together, tell our stories, and listen to the Holy Spirit—just as VOTF and Discerning Deacons have been doing all along! Without naming it, we have been synodal in the process of sharing, listening, and discerning.
An inaugural Mass on October 10, 2021, opened the Synodal path. The window for the laity to tell our hurts and hopes for the Church is open right now. Pope Francis wants to hear from you.
Both VOTF and Discerning Deacons, along with other groups and individuals, are offering listening sessions to share your thoughts. Go to the VOTF webpage “Listening to the Faithful: Synod 2021-2023” to register for the opportunity.
It is time to tell your story.
The Pope is listening
An interview with scholar Phyllis Zagano on the new constitution and the roles of women in the church.U.S. Catholic
“On March 19 Pope Francis issued a new apostolic constitution for the Roman Curia, the offices that help him govern the Catholic Church. Praedicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel) has been in the works since the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate nine years ago. It is slated to go into effect on June 5, replacing the charter Pastor Bonus (The Good Shepherd) that was promulgated by St. Pope John Paul II in 1988. The completion of this constitution signifies an important milestone in Pope Francis’ ongoing work of making the church more pastoral, synodal, and inclusive.
“One significant change in the new constitution is that leadership of Vatican offices traditionally run by cardinals is now opened to all baptized laypersons. This includes women.
“According to internationally acclaimed scholar Phyllis Zagano, this move is less about making changes to women’s roles in ministry than it is about the pope’s determination to involve as many competent people as possible in the management structure of the church.
“Zagano is a senior research associate-in-residence and adjunct professor of religion at Hofstra University. She is the author of 23 books, including Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future (with Gary Macy and William T. Ditewig) (Paulist Press), Women in Ministry: Emerging Questions About the Diaconate (Paulist Press), Women Deacons? Essays with Answers (Liturgical Press), and Women: Icons of Christ (Paulist Press). She is a leading expert on the history of women in the church and an advocate for the ordination of women to the diaconate.”
U.S. Catholic interview with Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., — Read more …
Much of the change has been fueled at the top by Pope Francis, who in his nearly decadelong papacy has repeatedly elevated the work of religious women.By Christopher White, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter
“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.
“‘Change takes time,’ said Sr. Patricia Murray, executive secretary of the International Union of Superiors General, which represents 600,000 sisters from around the globe.”
By Christopher White, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter — Read more ...
“Yet Christian women did not keep silent or remain enclosed. They spoke up about important ecclesial issues, served the marginalized, taught both men and women, and witnessed freely about the Christ with whom they had thrown in their lot. They are great role models for the women and men of today.“National Catholic Reporter
Women’s History Month is a great time to celebrate the ‘mothers’ of our Christian church. Until recently, few realized that early female believers shaped our church’s future no less than their better-known brothers (aka the ‘fathers of the church’).
“On Feb. 14, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI made the rather remarkable statement that ‘without the generous contribution of many women, the history of Christianity would have developed very differently,’ and that the female presence was not ‘in any way secondary.’
“Some early church mothers are relatively well-known while others are all but forgotten. Early writings and funerary inscriptions testify that women served as prophets, evangelists, missionaries, teachers, deacons, presbyters, enrolled widows, and heads of house churches and monasteries.
“Marcella, Paula, Melania the Elder, Melania the Younger and Macrina exercised considerable authority in ancient Christianity. Marcella founded a sort of urban monastery and study group in in Rome that greatly benefited — and benefited from — Jerome’s biblical erudition. When Jerome left for Jerusalem in 385, Rome’s priests began to seek out Marcella for help in understanding the biblical texts.”
By Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …
Nun appointed to high-level Vatican post by Pope Francis says the ‘patriarchal mindset is changing’ / Associated Press in America: The Jesuit Review
“A French nun who has become the first woman to hold a voting position at the Vatican said Wednesday (Feb. 10) that her appointment is evidence the ‘patriarchal mindset is changing.'”Associated Press in America: The Jesuit Review
“A French nun who has become the first woman to hold a voting position at the Vatican said Wednesday that her appointment is evidence the “patriarchal mindset is changing” as more and more women assume high-level decision-making responsibilities in the Catholic hierarchy.
“Sister Nathalie Becquart said during a news conference that her appointment as an undersecretary in the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops office was a “brave signal and prophetic decision” by Pope Francis, who has repeatedly stressed the need for women to have a greater say in church governance.
“‘What I hope is that this will be seen also in the field, in the dioceses, in the parishes,” she said. “I hope this act will encourage other bishops, priests, religious authorities, and that all this will include women more and more.'”
By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in America: The Jesuit Review — Read more …
“It (motu proprio, Spiritus Domini) removes a major excuse that men have used to keep women at a distance from the altar of the Lord. But it doesn’t require them to give us anything we don’t already have. Changing canon law in this way doesn’t force ordained men to get used to working with women. At best, it nudges them toward recognizing that they should want to.”Commonweal (Also Voice of the Faithful webpage “Women’s Roles” — http://votf.org/node/1589)
“It must be difficult for a mainstream journalist covering the Vatican beat on days like January 11, when Pope Francis’s motu proprio, Spiritus Domini, was announced. How to convey the significance of a tweak to canon law that clarifies women’s eligibility to be lectors and acolytes at Mass? Aren’t they…already doing those things?
“Pity the reporter who must quickly explain the existence of ‘stable ministries’ in the Church, and the now-obscure practice of formally instituting lay men into those roles. Even the most committed American Catholics were perplexed when the news broke because, as Anthony Ruff, OSB, wrote at the Pray Tell blog, ‘Up until now, females couldn’t be installed in these ministries, but they could do these ministries anyway.’ It’s no wonder so many outlets framed the news in terms of what hadn’t happened: ‘Pope says women can read at Mass, but still can’t be priests’ ran a typical headline.
“‘The Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women,’ Pope John Paul II declared in 1994 in an attempt to shut down that debate. Francis quoted that pronouncement in a letter accompanying Spiritus Domini, but he also wrote that he hoped the change he was making to canon law would help men preparing for ordination ‘better understand they are participants in a ministry shared with other baptized men and women.’ Francis’s modification to one canon—changing ‘lay men’ to ‘lay persons’—eliminates a long-standing excuse for discrimination against women, although you won’t find him or any other Vatican official putting it in those terms.”
By Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, Commonweal — Read more …
Francis changes Catholic Church law: women explicitly allowed as lectors, altar servers / National Catholic Reporter
“Francis’ new letter, titled Spiritus Domini and issued motu proprio (on his own initiative), changes the Code of Canon Law to explicitly allow women to be installed in the Catholic Church as lectors and acolytes.”National Catholic Reporter
“Pope Francis has changed Catholic Church law to make explicit that laywomen can act as readers and altar servers in liturgical celebrations, effectively removing a previous option for individual bishops to restrict those ministries only to men.
“In an unexpected apostolic letter published Jan. 11, the pontiff says he is making the change to recognize a ‘doctrinal development’ that has occurred in recent years.
“That change, the pope says, ‘shines a light on how some ministries instituted by the church have as their foundation that common condition of baptism and the royal priesthood received in the Sacrament of Baptism.’
“Francis’ new letter, titled Spiritus Domini and issued motu proprio (on his own initiative), changes the Code of Canon Law to explicitly allow women to be installed in the Catholic Church as lectors and acolytes.
“Lectors are ministers who proclaim readings at Mass and other liturgical celebrations. Acolytes are ministers who typically assist priests in preparing the altar during the Mass or in distributing Communion. Acolytes are often known as altar servers or Eucharistic ministers in common parlance.
“Laypeople who serve in those ministries are not ordained but can be formally instituted into the roles during a church ceremony.
“Although women in many U.S. Catholic dioceses already serve as readers and altar servers, the church’s canon law had technically only allowed for their service on a temporary basis and according to the whim of the local bishop.”
By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …
The appointment of six women to the Council of the Economy now marks one of the most significant moves Pope Francis has made in making good on his many affirmations of the importance of women and their input. (Cruxnow.com)
Pope Francis has long advocated for a more ‘incisive’ presence of women in positions of authority and leadership in the Vatican, and while some have complained about the pace at which changes are being made, the recent appointment of six women to the Vatican’s chief financial office has jolted things into warp drive.
“On Thursday (Aug. 6), the Vatican announced that Francis had named two women each from Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom to his 15-member Council for the Economy.
“He also named one Italian layman and replaced six of the original eight cardinals on the council, naming Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark as the only American, and leaving in place German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich as the body’s coordinator …
“The appointment of six women to the Council of the Economy now marks one of the most significant moves Pope Francis has made in making good on his many affirmations of the importance of women and their input.”
By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com — Read more …
George Pell freed after Australian court overturns sex abuse conviction
“Australia’s highest court on Tuesday (Apr. 7) overturned the sexual abuse conviction of Cardinal George Pell(link is external), the highest-ranking Roman Catholic leader ever found guilty in the church’s clergy pedophilia crisis. Cardinal Pell, 78, who was the Vatican’s chief financial officer and an adviser to Pope Francis, was sentenced to six years in prison last March for molesting two 13-year-old boys after Sunday Mass in 1996.” By Livia Albeck-Ripka and Damien Cave, The New York Times
- Vatican responds with measure to Cardinal Pell’s acquittal and release from prison(link is external), By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review
- Cardinal Pell’s acquittal was as opaque as his sexual abuse trial(link is external), By Damien Cave and Livia Albeck-Ripka, The New York Times
Francis creates new women deacons commission, naming entirely different membership
“Pope Francis has created a new commission to study the ordaining of women as deacons(link is external) in the Catholic Church, the Vatican announced April 8. The new group, composed of 12 members, appears to replace the earlier study commission on the issue, which the pontiff had instituted in 2016. None of the members of the earlier group have been appointed to the new commission.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
- Pope Francis has set up a new commission to study women deacons(link is external), By Gerard O’Connell and Colleen Dulle, America: The Jesuit Review
The Church after coronavirus: how our communities are changing (Part 1 of a survey series)
“Catholic parishes across the world are closed. Millions of Catholics have been unable to physically take part in the celebration of the Mass for weeks, and they may not be able to again for months. Simply put, the coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally changing how we do and be church(link is external). What could these changes mean for us in the long-term?” By Heidi Schlumpf, Michael Sean Winters and Joshua McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
- The Church after coronavirus: crisis exposes what is essential (Part 2 of a survey series(link is external)), By Heidi Schlumpf, Michael Sean Winters and Joshua McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
- The Church after coronavirus: new understandings of social mission (Part 3 of a survey series),(link is external) By Heidi Schlumpf, Michael Sean Winters and Joshua McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
The American Parish, Part 2
“In this second special episode on the American parish today, we talk with three writers about their concrete proposals for creating more vibrant, hope-filled parish communities(link is external). Their suggestions are simple: let more people, including women, preach; reach out to LGBTQ Catholics, and learn from their journeys; and finally, help young families, help parents with restless young children in tow make it through Mass by shortening homilies—no more than five minutes please. Plus, the Commonweal staff share thoughts about what our readers most want in parishes: robust social justice ministries, prayerful liturgies, and a sense of home.” By The Editors, Commonweal
- The American Parish, Part 1(link is external), “hope in how all of us, lay people and pastors, can meet today’s transformations in parish life,” By The Editors, Commonweal
Pell ruling prompts mixed reaction from church leaders, victims’ groups
“The Australian High Court’s decision to dismiss charges against Cardinal George Pell has been praised as a successful rendering of justice by some and emphatically denounced by others(link is external). While an immediate reaction from a number of clergy and others associated with the institutional church was largely positive, organizations that support survivors of clergy sexual abuse varied in their reactions, with some harshly criticizing the Australian judicial system and others holding firm that Pell’s case still represents progress.” By Jesse Remidios, National Catholic Reporter
- Survivors won’t be ignored, expert says after Pell acquittal(link is external), By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com
Civil claims expected against Cardinal George Pell and Catholic Church despite acquittal
“The high court acquittal of George Pell is likely to be followed by a string of civil claims against the cardinal and the Catholic Church(link is external) from alleged abuse survivors and their families, lawyers say. Pell was freed from Victoria’s Barwon prison on Tuesday (Apr. 7) after the high court allowed his appeal and quashed a conviction for charges related to the alleged sexual assault of two choirboys in 1996. He strenuously denies all allegations. The father of one of the boys, who has since died, is suing the Catholic church and has said his case will continue despite the high court’s decision to overturn the jury verdict.” By Ben Smee, The Guardian
George Pell’s accuser issues rallying cry to sexual abuse survivors in wake of verdict
“The man at the heart of the failed case against Cardinal George Pell has issued a rallying cry to sexual abuse survivors(link is external). He said he would hate to think that anyone might not report to the police because of his outcome. Witness J said he was glad the tumultuous legal process was over and that while darkness was never far away, the legal saga would not define him. The man said he respected the decision and accepted the outcome. But he called on survivors not to be discouraged about going to the authorities.” By Australian Associated Press in The Guardian
If Francis really wants women deacons, this seems an odd way to go about it
“’Synodality’ is the shibboleth of the Pope Francis era, and so it should be no surprise that the pontiff acted Tuesday (Apr. 7) on one of the recommendations of the recent Synod of Bishops for the Amazon by creating – for the second time in four years – a commission to study whether women might be ordained as deacons(link is external). During last October’s synod, the idea of female deacons surfaced as part of a broader discussion about finding new ways to recognize and institutionalize the contributions of women, especially in isolated rural areas where they’re often the Church’s primary catechists, prayer organizers and even leaders of communities.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com
FUTURE OF THE CHURCH
Vatican statistics show decline in number of consecrated men, women between 2013-2018
“The decrease in the number of religious brothers and of women in religious orders is ‘worrying(link is external),’ according to the Vatican statistics office. While the number of religious brothers in Africa and Asia continues to increase, the number of religious brothers worldwide experienced an 8 percent drop between 2013 and 2018, while the number of women religious fell 7.5 percent globally in the same period, the Vatican Central Office for Church Statistics reported.” By Junno Arocho Esteves, Cruxnow.com
Point counterpoint: the New York Child Victims Act
“As children, we were both abused by family members, people close to us, people we trusted. We both eventually spoke out as part of our own healing process and, more importantly, to protect other people, but it took us decades to disclose our abuse even to those closest to us. The science of trauma is clear: It takes time for survivors to come forward(link is external) and by the time we’re ready, many of us have lost the chance to pursue justice in the courts. That’s why the one year look-back window of the Child Victims Act is so important. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic just hit pause for thousands of survivors who thought they still had time to file a civil lawsuit.” By Teri Hatcher and Tom Andriola
For the love of God (literally), stay home, be safe and pray
“Over the last two weeks, I have read a lot of disturbing articles and social media comments(link is external) decrying the widespread decisions of bishops to suspend the public celebration of liturgies and, in many cases, to close church buildings. That choice, painful as it has been for both the ecclesial leaders who had to make it and those who have felt the consequences, arose from the universal consensus of the best medical and public health experts. And yet, some Catholic media commentators and even a cardinal have proposed that churches should remain open …” By Daniel P. Horan, National Catholic Reporter
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
Perhaps the craziest claim by anti-SOL zealots
“The momentum has shifted from the selfish wrongdoers to the selfless innocent, from the secret-keepers to the openness advocates, from those who ignore common sense and psychology to those who understand common sense and psychology and from those who want to protect institutions and companies to those who want to protect kids and vulnerable adults … And in response to this long-overdue trend toward justice, self-serving lobbyists who are pro-arbitrary deadline, pro-secrecy and anti-victim are becoming ever-more-creative in dreaming up outlandish ‘the sky will fall!’ claims(link is external).” By Horowitz Law
CLERGY CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
We help child sex abuse survivors break their silence when we show them support
“This month, communities across the country are gathering at local ‘Take Back the Night’ events in observance and support of those impacted by sexual violence(link is external). In the last year—as news broke about Baptist church leaders abusing children and the Pope acknowledged nuns were being abused by church leaders—sexual violence facing children proved to be an international crisis. Investigations of both found the majority of the crimes had been long standing and some even continued for decades, but little is said about support for the victims.” By Ashley Garling, Ms. Magazine
Fr. Peter Gori cleared of abuse allegation, reinstated
“The Archdiocese of Boston announced March 30 that Augustinian Father Peter Gori has been cleared of an allegation of abuse(link is external) and that Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, has returned him to active ministry. Father Gori has also been reinstated as pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Andover and will return to the parish by Palm Sunday.” By The Pilot
- Pastor cleared of sexual abuse charge returns to church(link is external), By Paul Tennant, Berkshire Eagle Tribune
KC diocese adds priest who died in 1950 to list of those credibly accused of sex abuse
“A priest who served in the Diocese of St. Joseph in the 1940s is the latest addition to a list of clergy deemed to have credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor(link is external) made against them. The Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese said the allegation against the Rev. Peter Clement Vatter was substantiated by the diocesan ombudsman, the diocese’s independent review board and Bishop James V. Johnston Jr.” By Judy L. Thomas, The Kansas City Star
Missouri child abuse and neglect line sees 50% drop in calls
“The Department of Social Services (DSS) has seen a 50 percent drop in Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline calls(link is external) since March 11, 2020, roughly the same time schools began going on spring break and students have not returned due to COVID-19 shutdowns. This drop, representatives believe, is due to the lack of reports from teachers as students are out of school … Educators and child care providers make the largest number of hotline calls during the year.” By Elizabeth Orosco, Northeast News
Erie Diocese suspends compensation payments due to COVID-19
“The COVID-19 pandemic has gone far beyond keeping parishioners out of church and absent from Mass in the Catholic Diocese of Erie. The diocese said the crisis has so affected its finances that the diocese has suspended payments from its special fund for victims of clergy sexual abuse(link is external). The 13-county diocese, which on March 17 suspended public Masses due to the coronavirus, has halted operation of the compensation fund for at least 90 days because of the sharp decline in the stock market related the coronavirus outbreak, the fund’s administrators and the diocese said on Tuesday (Mar. 31).” By Ed Palattella, GoErie.com
Priest steps down at Laflin parish amid abuse accusations
“The pastor of a Catholic church in Luzerne County has stepped down from his post amid sexual abuse allegations(link is external). A statement released by the Diocese of Scranton outlined multiple accusations against the Rev. James J. Walsh, pastor at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Laflin. Walsh, while denying the accusations leveled at him, resigned as pastor in lieu of being removed by Bishop Joseph Bambera.” By Kevin Carroll, Times Leader
Diocese Suspends Abuse Victims’ Compensation Program, Citing ‘Economic Turmoil’
“Among the people affected by the downturn on Wall Street are some alleged victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. The Diocese of Erie in northwestern Pennsylvania, identified in 2018 by the state attorney general as one of the places where clergy abuse had been especially egregious, has announced that it is suspending the processing of victim claims(link is external) in response to what it calls the “economic turmoil” brought about by the coronavirus.” By Tom Gjelten, National Public Radio
Two new accusers say George Pell abused them when they were boys in the 1970s
“For decades, 53-year-old Bernie kept the secrets of his childhood deeply buried. As a boy growing up in a Ballarat orphanage in the 1970s, Bernie told the ABC’s Revelation program that he was abused on multiple occasions by George Pell(link is external), then a priest in the diocese of Ballarat. For years Bernie was convinced that, if he reported the abuse, he would be believed.” By Sarah Ferguson, ABC News
Redress a ‘jail free’ card for churches
“A Christian minister has labelled the national redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse as a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’ for churches(link is external). Pastor Bob Cotton has called for churches to be stripped of their tax-free status if they are not willing to accommodate their abuse victims. The senior pastor at Maitland Christian Church in NSW says the redress scheme’s compensation cap of $150,000 is far too low and ‘everything is weighted far too heavily in the favor of the church.’” By Heather McNab, 7News.com.au
Catholic priests in suspended in Colombia over abuse claim
“The Catholic Church in Colombia has suspended 15 priests accused of sexual abuse(link is external), the archdiocese of the city of Villavicencio said on Friday. The suspension was ‘a precautionary measure … because there is an ongoing investigation,’ priest Carlos Villabon told AFP. On February 14 a man, whose name has been withheld, accused the priests of ‘actions against sexual morality,’ according to the statement by the Villavicencio archdiocese. The archdiocese said it had informed the public prosecutor and had made itself ‘available to collaborate with investigators.’” By Agence France-Press in OutlookIndia.com
Justice checks suspected abuse in Catholic children’s home
“The judiciary is investigating allegations of abuse against a former Catholic children’s and youth home(link is external) in the municipality of Baiern near Munich. The public prosecutor’s office in Munich II, according to its own statements, initiated preliminary investigations against a former educator of the youth village Piusheim as well as a priest at the time.” By Steffen Heinemann, Web24News.com
GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND & WALES
Catholic priest from the Fens steps down following historic child sex abuse claims
“A statement released by Bishop Alan Hopes and the Diocese of East Anglia on Friday (March 20) explains Father Michael Ryan had recently been accused of the non-recent sexual abuse of children(link is external). It says he voluntarily stepped down from his responsibilities while the investigation is ongoing and that the accusations have been reported to the relevant authorities, including police.” By Louise Hepburn, Cambridge Times
IRELAND & NORTHERN IRELAND
Compensation scheme for abuse survivors ‘must be launched’ despite lockdown
“A compensation scheme for survivors of historical abuse must be launched as scheduled next week despite the coronavirus lockdown, a campaigner has said. Jon McCourt, of the group Survivors North West, said a virtual launch could deliver progress for victims without compromising safety with a public gathering. Victims have already endured long delays in their campaign for recognition and compensation.” By Rebecca Black, Belfast Telegraph
Catholic bishops’ forum finds 16 cases of child sexual abuse in Japan
“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan has found 16 cases of sexual abuse against minors(link is external) spanning from the 1950s to the 2010s in its internal probe of churches in the country, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday. The Tokyo-based organization has been investigating all its 16 dioceses and other convents in Japan since last May, calling for people to come forward with reports of sexual abuse regardless of when it occurred.” By Kyodo News
St. Joseph Home sex abuse victims lose appeal for damages from church
“More disappointment for the victims of the St Joseph Home clerical sex abuse(link is external), as the Court of Appeal confirmed that their case was time-barred. Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi, Mr Justice Tonio Mallia and Madam Justice Miriam Hayman, in a decision handed down on Friday(Mar. 27), upheld a judgment of the First Hall Civil Court, ruling the claim to be time-barred.” By Malta Today
Polish Catholic Church liable for sex abuse compensation claims
“Poland’s Catholic Church is facing a tidal wave of compensation bills(link is external) after the country’s highest court ruled it is liable for damages for people abused by its priests and religious. The supreme court dismissed a challenge by a religious order, the Society of Christ Fathers, to a lower court ruling that it carried ultimate responsibility for compensating a woman abused by one of its priests.” By Dereck Scally, The Irish Times
More information about Voice of the Faithful is available at www.votf.org.
In ‘Querida Amazonia,’ Francis’ sacramental imagination stops short of women / National Catholic Reporter
“How much disappointment and outrage would have erupted if the pope had moved forward with ordaining married men, but his retrograde words about women remained the same?” (National Catholic Reporter)
Perhaps no one was less surprised last week than I was when Pope Francis’ Querida Amazonia showed no openness to a female diaconate, and instead was laden with the language of gender complementarity in its discussion of women.
“For years I have used this column to document Francis’ beliefs about women and to plead with readers to be honest about how his thinking would seriously limit the possibilities of real change for women in the church. Beginning with his description of feminism as “chauvinism with skirts” early in his papacy in 2013 through his 2019 dithering on women deacons, I wrote on this topic at least 20 times in the last seven years.
“I did this not to sound like a broken record — though I most certainly did — but rather to spare myself and my fellow churchwomen from the heartbreak that I knew would come. Unless Francis moved beyond the theology of complementarity, women would never receive the justice they deserve from their church, an institution that they serve, sacrifice for, and very often sustain singlehandedly. The pope, unfortunately, never showed any signs of budging.
By Jamie Manson, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …