Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

Voice of the Faithful Focus, Dec. 18, 2015

Highlighting issues we face working together
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TOP STORIES

Experts say Vatican financial reform needs prosecutions and sanctions
“Europe’s key financial watchdog group has given a broad thumbs-up to legal reforms introduced in the Vatican to prevent future money-related scandals, but also warned that the real test will be to see those procedures working in practice through effective investigations and prosecutions. To date, evaluators found, there are ‘no real results’ in terms of significant prosecutions of financial crimes by Vatican law enforcement or the confiscation of assets.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com
 -- Europe calls on Vatican to take more action on financial crime, By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal

Storytelling for Healing
“The power of deep listening and safe storytelling ensures a safe place for those telling his or her story. William Casey, former Voice of the Faithful board chair and Northern Virginia Mediation Service Restorative Justice Program director, explains the “Restorative Justice Healing Circle” approach as that safe place in this lecture.” Posted to YouTube by Boston College Church in the 21st Century Center

‘Spotlight’ and its revelations
“Since seeing the movie ‘Spotlight,’ about the Boston Globe investigation of sexual abuse and coverups in the Catholic Church, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it and the questions it raises—about how far institutions will go to protect themselves, about who we listen to and protect, about who and what we ignore, about the power of disclosure and even conversation … In the movie, the revelations of the Spotlight investigation make (Globe Spotlight team member Sasha) Pfeiffer too uneasy to keep going to Mass with her grandmother … ‘She was shocked and saddened, but she stuck with the Church till the day she died,’ Pfeiffer said. ‘Some people left the Church; others tried to change it from within, like the group Voice of the Faithful; others loved their parish, they loved their pastor, and they sort of said, ‘Oh, that’s terrible,’ and they kept going to Mass.’” By Sarah Larson, The New Yorker

The Catholic Church’s performance at the royal commission is farcical
“The Catholic Church continues to harm sex abuse victims by its failure to acknowledge the extent to which it covered-up sex crimes against children. … The severe psychological and psychiatric harm caused by these crimes was evident not only with the primary victims giving evidence, but also the many family members of loved ones who had killed themselves because the pain and damage of the sex crimes were too great to bear.” By Judy Courtin, The Age

Healing rites held throughout Helena Diocese for sex abuse victims
“While its sexual abuse settlement and bankruptcy proceedings fade into history, the Helena, Mont., diocese's "road less traveled" to healing and outreach for victim survivors continues, most recently through seven "deeply moving" prayer services throughout the sprawling see. Helena Bishop George Thomas, who presided at each, described them as ‘one of the most difficult and challenging tasks in my 40 years of priesthood.’” By Dan Morris-Young, National Catholic Reporter

CELIBACY

English and Welsh bishops rejected married priests proposal
“English and Welsh bishops rejected a proposal to ordain married men as priests at their plenary meeting last month, according to the Northern Cross, the newspaper of the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. The paper said Bishop Seamus Cunningham of Hexham and Newcastle proposed the motion on behalf of the Council of Priests in his diocese. The proposal was rejected after a ‘thoughtful discussion,’ he told the paper.” By Catholic Herald

SYNOD OF BISHOPS ON THE FAMILY

Vatican releases official English translation of final Synod document
“The Vatican has released the English language translation of the final document from October’s much analyzed worldwide meeting of Catholic bishops on family life, making the translation available at the Synod of Bishops’ website. The final document was the fruit of three weeks of intense and sometimes heated deliberations among the global prelates, who were called to Rome by Pope Francis to consider a range of issues, including the church’s practice towards those who are divorced and remarried.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

‘SPOTLIGHT’ THE MOVIE

‘Spotlight’ named best picture by L.A. film critics
“‘Spotlight,’ Tom McCarthy's drama about the Boston Globe reporters who exposed sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, was named this year's best picture by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, edging out George Miller's ‘Mad Max: Fury Road,’ which was runner-up in the top category. ‘Spotlight,’ which was written by McCarthy and Josh Singer, also took home the award for best screenplay. By Ashley Lee, Ryan Parker, Hollywood Reporter

VOICES

Mercy, Vatican II comes alive!
If you thought Pope Francis had a master plan for reforming the Catholic Church, you might want to think again. According to one of the rising stars among Church historians, Francis is putting the emphasis elsewhere. ‘The Church that begins the Year of Mercy has been energized by a Jesuit pope who appears much more intent on effecting an ‘aggiornamento’ open to the future than someone who is setting out a long-range plan of ‘reforms,’” says Massimo Faggioli.” By Robert Mickens, National Catholic Reporter
 -- Where bishops and theologians still talk, By Massimo Faggioli in Commonweal

As Holy Mother Church has always taught
“At times I have to pinch myself to be alert to what's going on right now in the Catholic Church and to fathom the depth of it. Throughout history, we have seen change come abruptly. It happened in Europe and Japan after WWII. And in Eastern Europe after the Berlin Wall came down when democracies emerged where only tyrannical regimes prevailed. But in the Catholic Church change comes in a different way.” By Fr. Michel Kelly, SJ, on UCANews.com

North Carolina parishioners clash with pastor, petition for his removal
“In the small Catholic world of the bucolic North Carolina mountains, this Advent is dawning with discord … Parishioners who value what they say was the post-Vatican II style of their parish have locked horns with Riehl, who came to Waynesville from the Knoxville, Tenn., diocese in July 2014 intent with what his critics describe as "restorationist" approaches to liturgy and church governance.” By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter

POPE FRANCIS

Pope Francis has just launched a ‘year of mercy.’ Here’s what to expect.
“While opening the holy doors at St. Peter’s Basilica on Tuesday (Dec. 8), Pope Francis launched a jubilee year of mercy, which begins today through Nov. 20, 2016— a year that puts forgiveness before judgment. For many, the details of the year of mercy can be difficult to parse: What makes this year an ‘extraordinary’ jubilee year? What is a ‘holy door?’ What exactly is supposed to happen during this time? And what does all this mean for me?” By Kerry Weber, The Washington Post
 -- Pope Francis calls for ‘God’s mercy’ at start of yearlong jubilee, By Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times

Five predictions for the unpredictable Pope Francis in 2016
“Last week I was in Youngstown and Akron, Ohio, where I’ve been speaking at First Friday clubs for several years … I did something that’s basically an act of madness: I delivered a set of predictions for 2016 regarding the almost metaphysically unpredictable Pope Francis. Spousal obedience, as it turns out, trumped professional caution. Herewith, those five forecasts for a pope of surprises in the New Year.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com

How Pope Francis is fulfilling a legacy of Vatican II
Attention to the poor was one of the greatest of the bishops' contributions during the Second Vatican Council – and is a legacy Pope Francis carries forward with impressive force, according to some. “A true legacy of the Second Vatican Council is being fulfilled in the person and pontificate of Pope Francis,” Father Paulo Anto Pulikkan told CNA Dec. 11.” By Catholic News Agency on Patheos.com

FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Vatican affirms religious brothers, says lay men and women exercise priesthood
“The Vatican has roundly affirmed the vocation of the lay religious brother in the Catholic church, saying that men -- and women -- who are not ordained as priests still exercise a daily priesthood in their work in the world by the fact of their baptism. In a long-awaited document dedicated to the vocation of men who serve in religious orders but not as priests, the Vatican says the first title Jesus assumed for himself and for his disciples was that of brother.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Council of Cardinals conclude twelfth meeting
Pope Francis met with the Council of Cardinals from 10-12 December for their twelfth meeting. A statement from the Holy See Press Office said the Holy Father was present for every session. The Statement said during the first morning, the Council heard from Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, who gave them an in-depth look at this ‘important Congregation,’ its activities, responsibilities, and its role in ecumenism.” By Vatican Radio
 -- Vatican: Council of Cardinals to focus next on ‘decentralization’ of Catholic Church, By Joshua McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

NUNS

More young women than you think consider becoming nuns
“An estimated 250,000 young women in the United States have given serious thought to joining religious communities, but if sisters and nuns hope to attract new members, they’ve got to do a better job explaining the benefits of such a counter-cultural lifestyle — and get Catholic parents, laypeople, and benefactors on board.” By Michael O’Loughlin, Cruxnow.com

New Study: Number of U.S. women religious about the same as a century ago
“A new study of Catholic sisters opens with information that will jolt some assumptions about the state of religious life: The number of vowed women religious in the United States today is approximately the same as it was a century ago — just under 50,000. A deeper look at those statistics exposes some significant differences between then and now, but it also shows that the church of the mid-20th century, often held up as the ideal to which the church today should aspire, was a short-lived bump on the demographic landscape.” By Tom Roberts, Global Sisters Report

CHURCH FINANCES

Bronx Catholic priest stole $1 million from two city parishes
“A Catholic priest is accused of stealing over $1 million in donations for years of dirty sex with a muscled homosexual S&M master. Rev. Peter Miqueli, 53, who is currently a pastor at St. Frances de Chantal in Throggs Neck is accused of taking from the donation plate at leading churches on Roosevelt Island and in The Bronx where he led the congregations.” By Alexandra Klausner, Daily Mail
 -- Priest named in sex-slave prostitute suite, By USA TODAY on KCEN-TV.com

Rev. Robert Couture convicted of embezzling from church to fund Disney trips, fine dining
“A jury in Windsor has convicted a southern Ontario Catholic priest of embezzling more than $150,000 from his Tecumseh church to fund a lavish lifestyle that included fine food and Disney theme park trips. Assistant Crown attorney Tom Meehan said Thursday he will seek jail time for Rev. Robert Couture. Couture could face up to 10 years in jail, Meehan said outside the Ontario court of justice in Windsor.” By CBC News, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
 -- Ontario priest guilty of stealing up to $234,000 from his own church, By Trevor Wilhelm, Postmedia News

Embezzling priest gets 27 months: ‘It’s … my destiny’
“The Rev. Edward Belczak was sentenced Tuesday (Dec. 2) to 27 months in prison for stealing $573,000 from a Michigan church where he had served as pastor for decades.” By Patricia Montemurri, Religion News Service

Vatican continues steps to fight serious financial crime, agency says
“The Holy See and Vatican City State have continued to strengthen their institutional, legal, and operational frameworks for combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism, an international monitoring organization said. By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, on Cruxnow.com

Vatican admits ‘irregularities’ after $22,000 found in desk
“The Vatican has confirmed that some ‘irregularities’ were discovered in its doctrine office after a German newspaper reported that investigators found a wad of about 20,000 euros ($22,000) in cash in a desk drawer.” By Associated Press on Cruxnow.com

Vatican orders external audit of assets in Pope Francis’ transparency drive
“The Vatican said on Saturday (Dec. 5) it had ordered the first external audit of its assets as part of a drive by Pope Francis to bring transparency to its finances where millions of euros have gone unrecorded without any central oversight. Papal spokesman Federico Lombardi said auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers would start work immediately.” By Reuters in The Star
 -- Vatican orders external audit of assets in show of transparency, By Voice of America

Pope Francis is ordering the Vatican to open its financial books
Pope Francis has reportedly ordered a widespread audit of the Vatican as the city-state roils with scandal over its finances. The Pope plans to hire a top global accounting firm to look over the Church’s finances, and he’s set up a ‘Working-Party for the Economic Future,’ composed of some of the top Vatican bodies, in order to create a plan for the city-state to free up more money for helping the poor, according to Bloomberg.” By Claire Groden, Fortune

CLERGY CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

Priest linked to sex-abuse cover-up tapped as chief of California church’s sex-abuse hotline
“The Catholic diocese in San Diego, California is facing a backlash after it appointed a priest who once admitted to destroying documents that detailed sexual assaults to be in charge of the church's sex abuse hotline.” By Czarina Ong, Christian Today

Duluth Catholic diocese latest to file for bankruptcy over sex abuse payouts
“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Duluth announced on Monday (Dec. 7) that it had filed for bankruptcy protection following a jury verdict last month that held the Minnesota diocese responsible for more than half of an $8.1 million judgment on behalf of a victim of sex abuse by a priest. The Chapter 11 filing makes Duluth the 13th of nearly 200 U.S. Catholic dioceses to file for bankruptcy since 2004 because of the clergy sex abuse scandals. Regional organizations of two religious orders have also sought bankruptcy protection.” By David Gibson, Religion News Service

MASSACHUSETTS

Court upholds longer time for sex abuse victims to file suits
“Massachusetts’s highest court has upheld a law extending the length of time sexual abuse victims have to file lawsuits against their alleged perpetrators. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled Wednesday in the case of a woman who sued her uncle in 2012, alleging he sexually abused her repeatedly between 1968 and 1977, beginning when she was five years old.” By Associated Press on WBUR-FM

MICHIGAN

‘Credible’ abuse claim against priest who swerved in Troy
“An allegation of sex abuse of a minor by a Roman Catholic priest who served as an associate pastor at a Troy Catholic Church and in various positions in about 20 other southeast Michigan parishes has been ‘found to be credible,’ the Archdiocese of Detroit said more than a decade after the priest’s death.” By Beth Dalbey, Patch.com

MINNESOTA

Fees for services in archdiocese bankruptcy top $5 million
“The cost of legal and professional services in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis bankruptcy case has topped $5 million. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kressel approved more than $3 million in fees on Thursday to cover services provided for the archdiocese's financial reorganization and clergy abuse claims.” By Associated Press in Star Tribune

NEW MEXICO

Several priests accused of abuse sent to facility in Jemez Springs
“The names of many of the former priests identified as alleged sexual abusers in recent New Mexico lawsuits have turned up frequently since the pedophile crisis erupted publicly in the early 1990s, here and in other states. Among the former priests are those who were expelled from dioceses across the U.S. after being accused of sexually abusing children and were then sent to a treatment facility for priests in Jemez Springs operated by a Catholic religious order, Servants of the Paraclete.” By Olivier Uyttebrouck, Albuquerque Journal

Priest sex abuse victim challenges ‘culture of secrecy’
“Brian Gutierrez, 46, said he filed a lawsuit last year against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to spare others the anguish he has endured for nearly 30 years and promote a ‘new era of openness’ in the Catholic Church. A key goal is to require the archdiocese to publicly disclose records that he says reveal the facts of his alleged rape by a priest in 1986, when Gutierrez was a 17-year-old freshman at the University of New Mexico. The Catholic Church still keeps too many secrets, he contends.” By Olivier Uyttebrouck, Albuquerque Journal

PENNSYLVANIA

One guilty count tossed for ex-pastor in child sex trial
“A federal judge has tossed out one of the five convictions against a Roman Catholic priest charged with traveling to Honduras to molest street children during missionary trips, but denied his request for a new trial.” By Associated Press on Cruxnow.com

AUSTRALIA

Catholic Church knew it had abuse ‘time bombs,’ child sex abuse inquiry says
“The Catholic church knew it had child abuse ‘time bombs’ ticking away in a number of Australian dioceses, an inquiry has heard. A special issues committee meeting at the Australian Catholic Bishops conference in 1992 noted: ‘It was agreed that there are serious time bombs ticking away in a number of dioceses at the present time.’ That was the case in a number of dioceses, former Melbourne archdiocese vicar-general Bishop Peter Connors, who chaired the committee, told the child abuse royal commission.” By Australian Associated Press in The Guardian

Catholic clergy element still in denial, child sex abuse inquiry hears
“There is still an element in the Catholic clergy who are in denial regarding paedophilia in the church, the child sex abuse royal commission has heard. Father Eric Bryant, a priest in the western Victorian town of Stawell, in the Diocese of Ballarat, said notorious paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale still had friends amongst the clergy who don’t see the ‘severity’ of what he did.” By Tessa Akerman, The Australian

Bishop accused of protecting church
“An Australian bishop has been accused of not being candid about his knowledge of pedophile priests in a bid to protect himself and the Catholic Church. Brisbane auxiliary bishop Brian Finnigan had not sought to help the child abuse royal commission's investigation into pedophile priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale's offending in the Diocese of Ballarat, the inquiry heard.” By Australian Associated Press, on 9news.com

Violent, sexual abuse rife at St. Pat’s
“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard from victim BWF on Tuesday (Dec. 8). He told the hearing how he attempted to seek help from the Catholic Church after his younger brother BWG was brutally bashed and molested by disgraced brother Edward Dowlan in 1973.” By Melissa Cunningham, The Courier

Ballarat diocese waited months before moving priest after complaint
“A Catholic priest escaped immediate censure for trying to take a bath with a young boy because church leaders in Victoria did not want to arouse suspicion about him, the child abuse inquiry has been told. In 1991 the archdiocese of Ballarat heard from a mother who complained that Paul David Ryan tried to have a bath with her youngest son when he was 12 or 13.”  By Melissa Davey, The Guardian
 -- Vatican refused to sack priest convicted of child sex abuse, documents show, By Australian Associated Press in The Guardian

Bishop Ronald Mulkearns ‘sought pedophile’s help with court fix’
“Former bishop of Ballarat ­Ronald Mulkearns attempted to contact a pedophile priest who he was told might have ideas on how to ‘quash’ another priest’s involvement in an upcoming court case, new evidence suggests. A letter from Bishop Mulkearns to Paul David Ryan in 1991, which was yesterday (Dec. 8) tendered to the child sex abuse royal commission, informs Ryan that he was named in statements to police and there was ‘potential for some scandal.’” By Tessa Akerman, The Australian

Catholic priest not guilty of molesting Wollongong student in 1980s
“A Catholic Priest has been found not-guilty of an alleged historical indecent assault at a Wollongong school in the 1980s. 58-year-old Father Patrick Kervin served as a school counsellor, chaplain and teacher at Holy Spirit in Bellambi where it was alleged the assault occurred on the then 15-year-old boy.” By Nick McLaren, ABC News Australia

Child abuse royal commission: Victoria police admits ‘Catholic mafia covered up allegations of abuse
“More than four decades after former Mildura police officer Denis Ryan was stopped from investigating allegations of child sexual abuse by a Catholic priest, Victoria Police has admitted a conspiracy to cover up the crimes went right to the top. Mr Ryan detailed to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse how his attempt to investigate allegations against Monsignor John Day in the 1970s was thwarted by what he describes as a "Catholic mafia" within the force.” By Sarah Farnsworth, ABC News Australia
 -- Royal Commission / Police hid sex abuse, By Melissa Cunningham, The Courier

Priest warned police officer to drop investigation or lose job
“A Victorian priest warned a police officer to drop his investigation into a colleague over child abuse allegations, an inquiry has heard. Father Peter Taffe told the police officer he would be out of a job if he pursued an investigation into the Mildura parish priest Monsignor John Day, the child abuse royal commission was told.” By Australian Associated Press in The Guardian

Royal commission returns to Ballarat child abuse and George Pell’s response
“The second part of public hearings into child sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy within Ballarat institutions begins in Melbourne on Monday (Dec. 7), culminating in evidence from Australia’s most senior Catholic and the Vatican’s secretary for the economy in Rome, George Pell.” By Melissa Davey, The Guardian
 -- Cardinal George Pell backs out of giving evidence at royal Commission into clergy abuse, By 9News.com
 -- Documents plunge Cardinal Georg Pell into further controversy over child abuse response, By 9News.com.au
 -- Third survivor says George Pell rejected them after clergy abuse claims, By Jane Lee, The Sydney Morning Herald
 -- Program allegedly saved Catholic Church $62 million in sexual abuse claims by capping compensation, By 9News.com.au
 -- If Catholic Church is serious about its response to child sex abuse it must remove George Pell, By Susie O’Brien, Melbourne Herald Sun

CANADA

Sex assault victim sues Catholic organizations and former priest for $3 million
“A victim of a notorious pedophile who worked at a Catholic Church in Edmonton in the 1970s is suing the former priest, the Archdiocese of Edmonton, and the Oblate Fathers of Assumption Province for $3-million. In a statement of claim filed in court last week, the plaintiff — a resident of Edmonton who is not identified — said she was a five-year-old girl when Eric Dejaeger befriended her and started spending time with her under the guise of spiritual guidance. Dejaeger has since been convicted of sexually assaulting numerous children while working in Canada, including the woman who filed the lawsuit.” By Alexandra Zabjek, Edmonton Journal

GREAT BRITAIN, SCOTLAND & WALES

Former Catholic priest and psychiatric nurse jailed for historical sex offenses in Essex
“A former Catholic priest and psychiatric nurse has been jailed for more than 14 years for a number of historical sexual offences committed against men in Essex and north-west London. Christopher Bosworth was arrested at his home in Wales by detectives from Essex Police in September 2012 following allegations of sexual assault dating back to the 1980s.” By Harlow Star

INDIA

Indian church to deal with ‘benchmark’ clergy abuse case
“A Catholic priest has been arrested for allegedly sodomizing a 13-year old boy in India's Mumbai Archdiocese. Mumbai police arrested Father Lawrence Johnson, 51, accused of abusing the boy on Nov. 27 at Christ the King Church parish, archdiocesan spokesman Father Nigel Barret told ucanews.com Dec. 7.” By Christoph Joseph, UCANews.com

Kerala police arrest Catholic priest for allegedly raping minor girl
“Kerala Police on Tuesday (Dec. 8) arrested a Catholic priest on charges of raping a minor girl. The accused, Father Edwin Figarez, 41, has been absconding since April this year after the victim’s family complained to the police.” By Shaju Philip, The Indian Express

IRELAND

Allegations of sexual abuse being reported promptly, says audit
“An audit of 20 religious congregations by the Catholic Church child protection watchdog has found allegations of sexual abuse are now being reported promptly in almost all cases to the relevant authorities. The latest traunch of reviews, published on Wednesday (Dec. 2), looked at congregations including The Legionaries of Christ, The Oblates of Mary Immaculate and The Mercy Sisters, which continue to have substantial public ministry with children.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times