Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

Voice of the Faithful Focus, Jan. 8, 2021


TOP STORIES

Event series' proposals aim to raise women's voices in San Diego Diocese
“The 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sex abuse sent shock waves through the U.S. Catholic Church. For Bridget Gramme, the moment felt like a ‘call to women’ to improve the church. ‘I'm a cradle Catholic, it's my community and my identity and my kids go to Catholic schools,’ Gramme said. ‘It's something we really believe in and the community is so important to us. Maybe it's time we step it up and not just sit around and let these things happen.’ Gramme is an attorney and member of the advisory board of the Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture at the University of San Diego.” By Sophie Vodvarka, National Catholic Reporter

Podcast: How 2020 changed the Vatican
“The coronavirus pandemic upended everyone’s plans for 2020—including the Vatican’s. From the first weeks of the pandemic when Pope Francis prayed in the rain in St. Peter’s Square to the London finance scandal to the new standards of transparency ushered in by the McCarrick report, it has been an unprecedented year in every way. On ‘Inside the Vatican,’ host Colleen Dulle and Vatican correspondent Gerard O’Connell recap the biggest Vatican moments of 2020. The hosts focus on three areas of change in the Vatican: transparency, missionary work and solidarity with the poor.” By Colleen Dulle and Gerard O’Connell, Inside the Vatican, America: The Jesuit Review

Australia’s Catholic bishops seek answers about mystery billions linked to Vatican
“Australia’s Catholic bishops are considering raising questions with the country’s financial watchdog authority about whether any Catholic organizations were among the recipients of billions of Australian dollars in transfers reputedly from the Vatican. AUSTRAC, Australia’s financial intelligence agency, revealed in December that the equivalent of around US$1.8 billion had been sent to Australia from the Vatican or Vatican-related entities since 2014.” By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

Looking ahead to 2021 in the life of the church in the U.S.
What will the new year bring in the life of the church in the United States? As we learned last year, we never know what unforeseen events will enlighten or becloud all else. We can discern three major themes that will largely shape the year ahead: the relationship between the United States bishops and the Biden administration, the Year of the Family, the appointments of new bishops in some significant sees, and how the church will continue to cope with COVID-19. Then, just before the end of the year, a new major theme emerged, arguably the most explosive: significant upheaval at EWTN.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

Vatican reforms finances following London property scandal
“Pope Francis has stripped the Vatican’s powerful central administration office of an investment portfolio worth hundreds of millions of euros following a scandal linked to luxury London real estate development in Chelsea. The Vatican said that all of the financial assets of the Secretariat of State, the Holy See’s state bureaucracy, would be placed under the control of APSA, the Vatican’s existing centralized asset manager, from the start of the new year.” By Miles Johnson, Financial Times

ACCOUNTABILITY

Crisis Episode 10: Bishops’ Accountability
“This podcast series keeps coming back to the question of bishops’ accountability. Are the reforms of Vos estis lux mundi being applied in the US Church? This episode features Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York, reporters Harriet Ryan of the L.A. Times and Christopher Altieri of the UK Catholic Herlald, and canon lawyer Tom Doyle.” By The Catholic Project

McCarrick report shows a church infected with unchecked clericalism
“The Vatican's report on defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick revealed sexual abuse of adults and minors by a Catholic cleric and its cover-up by church officials — more of the same pattern we've seen so often in the church, reaching to the highest levels … What's the disease? Clericalism, sure, but other denominations have clericalism but don't seem to have the problem of recurrent and widespread abuses of power. Rather, unchecked clericalism is at the root of the Catholic Church's affliction. A tight-knit clerical culture defends itself, first by defining priests as uniquely Christ-like — different and better than the unanointed laity.” By Lisa Fullam, National Catholic Reporter

Germany: Catholic officials ask reporters for 'silence' on child abuse report
“With the Catholic Church shaken by the child abuse scandal in Germany, journalists walked out of a press event organized by church representatives on Tuesday (Jan. 5). The Archdiocese of Cologne had called for a press conference to discuss an unpublished child abuse report. Specifically, church officials were to explain issues regarding the report's methodology. These issues, at least according to Cologne Archbishop Reiner Maria Woelki, were the reason for withholding the document from the public in its current form.” By Deutsche Welle

WOMEN DEACONS

Next archbishop of Dublin would like to see women deacons in Church
Dublin’s Catholic archbishop-elect Dermot Farrell has said he would like to see women becoming deacons in the Church. He said the biggest barrier to female priests in the Catholic Church ‘is probably tradition, not the scriptures.’ ‘Women have almost preserved the faith in the church, certainly in this country and probably beyond,’ he said in an interview before he assumes the role on February 2nd. But he expressed concern that the introduction of female priests could split the church as it had the Church of England.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times

CHURCH FINANCES

Former comptroller of Catholic Diocese of Steubenville sentenced to prison for tax crimes, embezzlement
“The former comptroller of the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville was sentenced in federal court in Columbus this month for failing to pay payroll taxes withheld from the paychecks of diocesan employees, filing false tax returns and embezzling $299,500 in diocesan funds between 2008 and 2017. David A. Franklin, 67, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in July 2020 to one count of willful failure to account for and pay over employment tax, one count of making a false income tax return and one count of wire fraud. Franklin was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and two years of supervised release and was also ordered to pay $1,332,885.04 in restitution.” By Highland County Press

Vatican denies knowledge of $1.8 billion transferred to Australia
“The Vatican and the Australian Catholic Church have both denied knowledge of transfers worth US$1.8 billion which Australia’s financial watchdog says have been sent from Rome to Australia in the past seven years. ‘That amount of money and that number of transfers did not leave the Vatican City,’ a senior Vatican official with knowledge of the city-state’s finances said on Wednesday (Dec. 30). The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Vatican would be seeking details from Australian authorities on the specific origin and destination of the money.” By Philip Pullella, Reuters

FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Archdiocese considers mergers, closures of Niles, Morton Grove, Skokie Catholic churches
“Five north suburban Catholic parishes are waiting to hear on Jan. 21 if they will merge with another parish, close, or stay as they are. Those parishes are St. Lambert and St. Peter in Skokie; St. Isaac Jogues and St. John Brebeuf in Niles, and St. Martha in Morton Grove. The possible consolidation is part of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s ‘Renew My Church’ initiative, which the archdiocese defines on its website as a way to ‘address the challenges of our time.’” By Myrna Petlick, Pioneer Press, Chicago Tribune

VOICES

Our Views: New Orleans archdiocese owes Catholics acknowledgment, promise not to fail again
“We knew things had been bad with the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ handling of the case of George Brignac some time ago. But new reporting by Ramon Antonio Vargas of The Times-Picayune and The Advocate and David Hammer of WWL-TV shows that the diocese has — for more than a generation — been negligent at least and intentionally evasive at worst.” By The Advocate Editorial Board

Our hearts go out to victims of sexual abuse who are suffering in silence
“A teen's allegations that she was raped and subjected to other forms of sexual abuse by someone known to her will no longer proceed in the court system. And somewhere on Guam, a 25-year-old man, Austin Joseph Palacios Quitugua, who is known to the girl, is a free man. He once stood accused of sexually assaulting the girl – who was 12 at the time – on multiple occasions, between Christmas break 2018 to July the next year, according to court documents.” By The Guam Daily Post Editorial Board

Head of German bishops, self-described conservative, calls for change
“In a wide-ranging interview, the head of the German bishops’ conference called for far-reaching changes to the Catholic Church and criticized the Vatican’s treatment of the church in his country. ‘I would describe myself as conservative because I love this church and enjoy devoting my life and my strength to it. But I want it to change,’ Limburg Bishop Georg Bätzing told the magazine Herder Korrespondenz. His remarks were reported by the German Catholic news agency KNA.’” By Catholic News Service on CatholicPhilly.com

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

Reporters storm out of press conference after Catholic officials ask for silence on child abuse report
“Journalists have stormed out of a press conference in Germany after Catholic Church officials asked for their ‘absolute silence’ on a long-awaited report into child sex abuse. A vast and comprehensive report investigating decades of alleged sexual abuse of young people at the hands of clerics and the resulting institutional cover-up in the Archdiocese of Cologne – the world’s wealthiest Catholic diocese, and Germany’s largest – had been pledged back in 2018 by Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki.” By Andy Gregory, The Independent

ARIZONA

As deadline nears, adults flood Arizona courts with lawsuits alleging childhood sex abuse
“Hundreds of civil lawsuits by people who allege they suffered abuse as children are being filed in Arizona's courts as a year-end deadline looms for them to seek justice. Many of those filing are listed in court documents simply as ‘John Doe’ or ‘Jane Doe.’” By Lauren Castle, Arizona Republic

FLORIDA

Diocese of St. Augustine investigating abuse allegations against retired priest
“The Diocese of St. Augustine is investigating abuse allegations against retired priest Father David Terrence Morgan, according to a bulletin by the diocese to parishioners. The diocese said the Church reached out to law enforcement to investigate the allegations, in addition to conducting its own investigation, which the bulletin states found ‘the allegations have a semblance of truth based on an initial review, but guilt has not been determined.’” By Matthew Copeland and Haley Harrison, WTLV-TV News

Investigation: Florida was dumping ground for priests accused of sex abuse
“Investigators in the Florida Attorney General’s office have completed a two-year investigation into sexual abuse inside Florida Catholic churches. Using 267 tips to a tip line, investigators found 97 Florida priests accused of sexual abuse in Florida. The investigation did not uncover current, ongoing or unreported sexual abuse by Florida priests. Investigators found 81 priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse in other states, then transferred, relocated or retired to Florida, sometimes without the knowledge of the Florida churches they were being moved to.” By Jeff Butera, ABC-TV7 News

ILLINOIS

Chicago’s activist priest Rev. Michael Pfleger steps aside amid past child abuse allegation
“The Rev. Michael Pfleger has temporarily stepped down from his ministry leading the Roman Catholic Faith Community of St. Sabina amid allegations of sexual abuse of a minor more than 40 years ago. Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, shared the news in a letter Tuesday (Jan. 5) to members of the Faith Community of St. Sabina and St. Sabina Academy, a predominantly Black parish on the city’s South Side.” By Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service

LOUISIANA

Archdiocese of New Orleans, SNAP meet for first time in attempts to unify for abuse victims
“For the first time, two organizations who have been at odds amid a growing list of victims of sexual assault at the hands of Catholic clergy have come together. The Archdiocese of New Orleans and New Orleans-area advocate SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) have had a strained relationship ever since the list of accused priests started. Both organizations issued the following statement saying that first steps were taken to work together for victims …” By WDSU-TV6 News

MASSACHUSETTS

Former Cape pastor indicted on rape, assault and battery charges
“A grand jury returned indictments against a former Cape pastor on Friday, with multiple counts of rape and assault and battery. The Rev. Mark Hession was indicted out of Barnstable Superior Court on two counts of rape, one count of indecent assault and battery on a child less than 14 and one count of intimidation of a witness, a superior court official confirmed Monday.” By Jessica Hill, Cape Cod Times

NEW JERSEY

Priest accused of sexually assaulting parishioner denies claims but admits to having affair
“A New Jersey priest has acknowledged he had an affair with a woman who recently filed a lawsuit alleging he sexually assaulted her. The Rev. Robert L. Sinatra, of St. Padre Pio Parish in Vineland, admitted the affair in a Jan. 2 letter to parishioners, but denied that he assaulted the woman. ‘With a deep sense of embarrassment and shame, I write to let you know that in late 2018 I had a two-month affair with an unmarried woman,’ Sinatra wrote.” By Matt Gray, NJ Advance Media, on NJ.com

NEW YORK.

Diocese to hire another law firm in defending against AG's lawsuit
“The Buffalo Diocese, which already is paying six law firms for work in bankruptcy proceedings, is looking to hire another firm to defend against a lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Letitia James in November. The diocese wants to retain the Jones Day firm as ‘special counsel’ for the lawsuit, which alleges that diocese leaders protected more than two dozen priests accused of child sexual abuse by not referring their cases to the Vatican for potential removal from the priesthood.” By Jay Tokasz, The Buffalo News

Child abuse allegations against Troy church divide family, friends, community
“‘No matter what people say negatively, it’s painful, it’s hurtful, it’s discouraging, it’s angering and it can defame the Lord’s bride, the church, most of all,’ Pastor Phil Smith, of Victorious Life Christian Church, said. His message — only God is the source of ultimate judgment and forgiveness — was typical for a sermon. But the apparent inspiration for the message on that Sunday was atypical, and it was not the enemy harming the church’s reputation, but a young woman suing them for allegedly abetting and harboring a Sunday school teacher who she says sexually abused her as a girl.” By Edward McKinley, Albany Times-Union

New sex abuse and ‘grooming’ allegations target former Staten Island priest
“Former priest Ralph LaBelle has again been accused of sexually abusing a young male parishioner on Staten Island. According to a civil complaint filed last week in Richmond County state Supreme Court, St. George, the victim was “groomed” and sexually abused between the ages of 13 and 16-years-old. At the time, LaBelle was assigned to St. Clare’s R.C. Church in Great Kills. He was there from 1979 to 1985.” By Kyle Lawson, SILive.com

NORTH DAKOTA

Investigation into clergy sex abuse in Catholic Church concludes in North Dakota
“Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Monday (Dec. 5) that the investigation by his office into allegations of child sexual abuse by members of the two catholic dioceses in the state has concluded. The 18-month criminal investigation began around the time the two North Dakota Catholic Dioceses, in Fargo and Bismarck, released a list of 53 people for whom they felt allegations of child sexual abuse had been substantiated.” By Paul Jurgens, KFGO-AM 790 News

OHIO

Trial of former St. Helen's seminarian now scheduled for May
“The trial of a Strongsville priest with Geauga County ties is now scheduled for late May, federal court records show. The priest, Robert McWilliams, 40, is facing charges of two counts of sex trafficking of a minor, three counts of sexual exploitation of children, one count of transportation of child pornography, one count of receipt and distribution of visual depictions of real minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and one count of possession of child pornography.” By Andrew Cass, News-Herald

PENNSYLVANIA

After abuse, addiction, and recovery, Mike McDonnell works to help others
Mike McDonnell understands how victims can lose their way. He was abused by two Catholic priests, one of whom was later convicted, a dark secret that traumatized him so much he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, two of his three marriages failed, and he stole about $100,000 from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia — a crime for which he served nearly a year in jail. But through recovery, and maintaining his Catholic faith, McDonnell, 52, has rebuilt himself as a victims advocate as he tries to help others. He’s now a local leader for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).” By Isabella Simonetti, Philadelphia Inquirer

Lawmakers could let voters decide whether to allow lawsuits for abuse survivors in 2021
“The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee says that moving a bill to amend the Constitution to create a window of time for lawsuits by adult survivors of child abuse will be a top priority when lawmakers return to the Capitol next month. The bill has already passed once, but because it’s a proposed constitutional amendment, it must pass unchanged a second time before it goes on the ballot for voters statewide.” By John Finnerty, The Tribune-Democrat

SOUTH CAROLINA

Catholic Diocese of Charleston facing new lawsuit
“The Catholic Diocese of Charleston is facing a new lawsuit. Court documents filed late Monday (Jan. 4) afternoon accuse a member of the church of sexual abuse and a systematic cover up of that abuse. The charges were filed by a woman referred to as Mary Roe 1818. She alleges one of the priests, Frederick Austin McLean, repeatedly abused her and her sister when they were kids. According to the suit, the abuse took place during the victim’s formative years as a child between 1961 and 1966. Roe was part of the St. John Catholic Church and School where McLean was a priest and teacher with regular contact with children.” By Nick Reagan, WCSC-TV5 News

TEXAS

Texas Diocese Asks Court to Toss Libel Suit Over List of Accused Abusers
“The Catholic Diocese of Lubbock urged the Texas Supreme Court on Wednesday (Jan. 6) to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought by a former deacon who claims it falsely outed him as a child molester. Texas Catholic bishops say the case threatens to uproot tenets of church autonomy enshrined in the First Amendment and open churches up to crippling liability simply for following their principles. Jesus Guerrero said he was ‘shocked, confused, hurt and I knew that it wasn’t true’ when the diocese published a list of clergy it said had been ‘credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor’ in January 2019 and his name was on it, according to his brief with the state high court.” By Cameron Langford, Courthouse News

VERMONT

St. Joseph’s Orphanage abuse survivors disappointed in task force report conclusions
“Abuse survivors with the group Voices of St. Joseph’s Orphanage, shared stories Wednesday (Dec. 16) of what they experienced at the orphanage decades ago. Some of the group of more than 30 is sticking to their claims that children were murdered while they were being cared for. In a nearly 300 page report released on Monday (Dec. 14), Attorney General T.J. Donovan says evidence of abuse exists, but there isn’t enough evidence to substantiate murder. Donovan also says law enforcement and the state should have investigated when the claims were first made.” By Dom Amato, WCAX-TV3 News

WASHINGTON

Seattle archbishop is stonewalling push for more transparency of church sex-abuse cases, group contends
“Their ranks include ex-federal prosecutors, a retired judge, a one-time assistant police chief, even a former priest. But a group of prominent Catholics say they still can’t get an audience with Seattle’s new archbishop in their push to address the fallout of a lingering scandal. Members of Heal Our Church, a Seattle-based alliance of practicing Catholics who seek a public review of how the Roman Catholic Church’s worldwide sexual abuse scandal secretly festered within the parishes of Western Washington, contend they’re being stonewalled by Archbishop Paul Etienne.” By Lewis Kamb, Seattle Times

WISCONSIN

A Notre Dame Academy graduate alleged abuse by priests, then died by suicide. Over 400 alumni demand answers.
“Graduates of four Catholic high schools are demanding action from St. Norbert Abbey after its leader disputed allegations of sexual abuse lodged by a fellow alumnus who died by suicide in March. The call for change came after the Green Bay Press-Gazette published an investigation detailing the story of Nate Lindstrom, who said three Norbertine priests abused him as a teenager in Green Bay in the late 1980s. Lindstrom received $420,000 in secret payments from the Catholic order over 10 years until the abbey stopped sending checks in 2019.” By Haley BeMiller, Green Bay Press-Gazette

AUSTRALIA

Report documents steady, meaningful progress on safeguarding
“The presidents of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia say their annual report to the National Office for Child Safety outlines comprehensive and sustained work across Church settings. The provision of an annual report on progress in child protection and safeguarding was one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Bishops Conference and CRA adopted that recommendation. They have published the Church’s third such report today (Dec. 17).” By CathNews.com

BRAZIL

Brazil archbishop investigated for sex abuse
“Police in Brazil said on Monday (Dec. 4) they were investigating the archbishop of the city of Belem for alleged sexual abuse against underage seminary students. Confirmation of the investigation came after four alleged victims of Archbishop Alberto Taveira Correa accused him of years of abuse in a sweeping investigative report aired Sunday night on Brazil’s biggest broadcaster, TV Globo. The alleged victims, who spoke on condition of anonymity, accused the 70-year-old archbishop of abusing them from 2014 to 2018, when they were between 15 and 18 years old.” By Agence France-Presse, Rio de Janeiro

Father Marcelo Rossi and Fabio de Mela defend archbishop accused of sexual assault
“In Fantasy this Sunday (Jan. 3), it was revealed that four former seminarians were accusing the House of Albert Taveira Correa, Archbishop of Belen do Par, of sexual violence. The archbishop was defended by the religious. Among them are Father Marcello Rossi and Fabio de Mello. ‘At this hour of battle we are together in prayer,’ Father Marcelo Rossi said. ‘Don Alberta has supported me many times. I would like my prayers and my commitment to do the same for him right now,’ Melo said.” By VarietyInfo.com

CANADA

Edmonton Catholic priest removed under allegations of historic sexual abuse of minor
“An Edmonton Catholic priest has been removed from public ministry in the region after an allegation of historic sexual abuse of a minor surfaced. The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton said in a statement Christmas Eve it removed Rev. Sylvio Lacar after he was identified by the archdiocese of Los Angeles. It says Lacar was the subject of a credible accusation of sexual assault of a minor in the Los Angeles area during the 1980s.” By Lauren Boothby, The Edmonton Journal

Vancouver Catholic Church names another three priests who abused minors
“The Archdiocese of Vancouver has named another three priests who sexually abused minors. All three men — John Edward Kilty, Johannes Holzapfel and Armand Frechette — served in at least one parish in the Archdiocese of Vancouver between the mid-1940s and early 1980s, and all three are now dead. The men were identified in a follow-up report about historical cases of clergy sexual abuse in the archdiocese, published this week.” By Glenda Luymes, Vancouver Sun

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND & WALES

Catholic priest facing sex abuse charges against boys dating back 40 years
“Father Patrick Smythe entered not guilty pleas to four charges of indecent assault when he appeared before Leeds Magistrates' Court this week. The 77-year-old is alleged to have committed the offences against four different boys aged under the age of 16 between 1978 and 1983. Smythe, a priest with the Diocese of Leeds, appeared in court for a brief hearing and spoke to confirm his name, date of birth and address.” By Tony Gardner, Wakefield Express

NEW ZEALAND

Abuse survivors speak at redress hearing
“As the first phase of the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care’s hearing into the redress processes of faith-based institutions was about to begin on November 30 in Auckland, Catholic Church leaders made statements that they would take the opportunity to listen, learn and reflect on the experience of survivors. The first week of the two-week public hearing saw 10 survivors of abuse in the Catholic Church in New Zealand or their family members speak at the royal commission. There was one closed session in the first week. The second week was scheduled to see 14 survivors of abuse in the Anglican Church or Salvation Army institutions give their testimony. Many of the testimonies were live-streamed.” By New Zealand Catholic

PHILIPPINES

Philippines: Pedophilia and the Church
“The Philippines, despite being one of the most Catholic countries in the world, has never convicted a member of the clergy for sex abuse. And yet there are survivors who say that the abuse has been going on for years. At the end of 2018, an American priest who had officiated for forty years was arrested for pedophilia by the Philippine police and the American federal authorities." By Arte.tv