Voice of the Faithful Focus, Apr. 15, 2016

Highlighting issues we face working together
to Keep the Faith, Change the Church


Top ten takeaways from ‘Amoris Laetitia’
Pope Francis’s groundbreaking new document ‘Amoris Laetitia’ (‘The Joy of Love’) asks the church to meet people where they are, to consider the complexities of people’s lives and to respect people’s consciences when it comes to moral decisions. The apostolic exhortation is mainly a document that reflects on family life and encourages families. But it is also the pope’s reminder that the church should avoid simply judging people and imposing rules on them without considering their struggles.” By James Martin, S.J., America

(See links to additional media coverage of the Pope’s letter on the family under the Synod of Bishops on the Family heading in this issue of Focus.)

Sex-abuse bill lobbying in Catholic Churches is over the top
“‘We were dismayed to find this letter inserted in our church bulletin this past Sunday,’ wrote a local Catholic who contacted me last week about a letter from Allentown Diocese Bishop John Barres. Barres’ letter outlined the diocese’s child sex-abuse prevention efforts — and then lobbied against state legislation that would change the statutes of limitations for such cases, asking parishioners to contact their legislators about its ‘detrimental effects’” By Bill White, The Morning Call

Boston-area priest dismissed for abusing minor, archdiocese says
“The Vatican has defrocked a priest after a church investigation found he was guilty of abuse of a minor, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston said Thursday. Thomas H. Maguire, who was ordained nearly 40 years ago, had in the past bemoaned the personal and spiritual effect the church sexual abuse scandal had taken on his colleagues and the archdiocese. Maguire had been removed from public ministry since 2012, when he faced an allegation of inappropriate sexual conduct in the presence of minors.” By Andy Rosen, The Boston Globe

Feds may seek racketeering suit for clergy abuse in diocese
“A federal prosecutor may file a racketeering lawsuit against a Roman Catholic diocese where a state grand jury found two former bishops helped cover up the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by more than 50 clergy over a 40-year period. The ongoing investigation of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese grew out of the prosecution of the Rev. Joseph Maurizio Jr., U.S. Attorney David Hickton said Friday (Apr. 1).” By Associated Press

Pennsylvania: Bill extending deadlines in abuse cases advances
(Apr. 5, 2016) “The State Legislature, under pressure after the release of a grand jury report documenting an extensive cover-up of clergy sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, took action on Tuesday (Apr. 5) to give victims more time to seek justice.” By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times


Here are links to some of the extensive media coverage of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”


Accountability at the center of Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal
“Yesterday, Pope Francis released his Amoris Laetitia proclamation on family life … Earlier this month, another cover-up in western Pennsylvania’s Altoona Johnstown Diocese received attention. Jason Berry is an investigative journalist who has covered the church crisis. He joins us now. Mr. Berry, thanks so much for being with us.” By Scott Simon, National Public Radio

As Pennsylvania confronts clergy sex abuse, victims and lawmakers act
“By the age of 12, Maureen Powers, the daughter of a professor at the local Roman Catholic university, played the organ in the magnificent hilltop Catholic basilica here and volunteered in the parish office. But, she said, she was hiding a secret: Her priest sexually abused her for two years, telling her it was for the purpose of ‘research’ …” By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times


Vatican’s new anti-abuse expert says pope ‘not wavering’
“A former colonel in the Illinois state police and former official of the U.S. bishops’ conference, recently tapped by the Vatican to help develop anti-sex abuse policies around the Catholic world, says she has ‘no doubt at all’ that Pope Francis is personally committed to the cause.” By Ines San Martin, Cruxnow.com


Cardinal Schonborn criticizes clergy’s ‘hardening of the heart’ against mercy
“On the same day it was announced he will co-launch Pope Francis’ new widely anticipated document on Catholic family life next week, Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn spoke at a Rome conference against the hardening of the heart by clergy and political leaders. Schönborn, a Dominican friar who leads the Vienna archdiocese, said the way that mercy sometimes encounters a hardening of the heart is an “enigma” that was faced by Jesus, even amidst his closest followers.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter


Who will bring forth Pope Francis’ vision?
“Pope Francis, with the publication of Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), has offered a broad and deep reflection on the myriad (and often messy) issues concerning marriage, the family and human sexuality. And in doing so, the 79-year-old pope has also put forth a clear vision of Christian discipleship. It is one based more on personal responsibility and prayerful discernment than on the mere following of church rules.” By Robert Mickens, National Catholic Reporter

In meeting with Fellay, Pope Francis shows double standard in the ‘culture of encounter’
“Earlier this week (Apr. 4), NCR’s Joshua J. McElwee reported that, on April 1, Pope Francis met with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X. Founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Society widely rejects the teachings of the Second Vatican Council… If Francis can offer a forty-minute, private meeting to a formerly excommunicated bishop who has been performing the sacraments illicitly for decades and who believes that the Catholic church is laced with false teachings, why can’t the pope also extend the same invitation to Catholic theologians, ethicists, and lay ministers who challenge the church’s teaching on women’s ordination, the use of contraception, and the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons?” By Jamie Mason, National Catholic Reporter

A new Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal comes into the spotlight
“Like many longtime reporters, I celebrated the Oscar victory for ‘Spotlight’ and the fearless journalism that exposed the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal. I would soon see the story, and the scandal, from a very different perspective. Two days after the Oscar ceremony, news broke about another widespread church coverup. I found myself poring over a grand jury report outlining in sickening detail the abuse of hundreds of children by at least 50 priests and religious leaders in western Pennsylvania’s Altoona-Johnstown Diocese — in my hometown.” By Mary Kane, The Washington Post


Pope replaces Vigano, controversial U.S. ambassador
“Pope Francis on Tuesday (Apr. 12) named a new ambassador to the United States, tapping French Archbishop Christophe Pierre, formerly the Vatican’s envoy to Mexico, to take the place of Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. Viganò, who turned 75 in January, the usual retirement age for Catholic bishops, became engulfed in controversy last September when he helped arrange an unannounced meeting between the pontiff and Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who became a national cause célèbre for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.” By Cruxnow.com Staff


Vatican confirms investigation into financing of Cardinal Bertone’s apartment
“The Vatican has opened an investigation into the financing of the restoration of former Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s large apartment, targeting two former executives at a children’s hospital owned by the city-state for possible redirection of funds towards the project. Gregory Burke, the deputy director of the Vatican press office, told reporters in a short briefing Thursday (Mar. 31) that the cardinal himself was not under investigation but that two former officials of the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome are.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

A bookkeeper is accused of stealing nearly $200,000 from a Catholic church and school in Albert Lea
“A bookkeeper is accused of stealing nearly $200,000 from a Catholic church and school in Albert Lea. Thirty-seven-year-old Ryan McFarland is charged with nine counts of theft by swindle. McFarland was in charge of payroll and church contributions. A criminal complaint says McFarland transferred funds from St. Theodore Catholic Church and its school to her personal accounts in 2014 and 2015.” By Associated Press in Daily Journal


Nun seeks apology from Catholic Church for treatment of Women
“Her comments were made at the first diocesan synod to be held in Ireland in 50 years, which takes place in Limerick from Friday until Monday (Apr. 8-11), where delegates also called on the church to reach out to the LGBT community and to women who have had abortions. Speaking to UTV Ireland, Sr Eileen Lenihan said: ‘The apology that is being called for, perhaps it needs to come from the church, radically from the Pope down really because the Pope in a way stands for the entire church history.” By Paul Doyle, UTV Ireland


I got an early tip about a priest’s sexual abuse, and I sat on it
“I always knew that watching ‘Spotlight’ was going to be difficult for me, so I kept putting it off. Finally, with my wife out of town last week, I sprawled on the family-room floor with my two big dogs and steeled myself to view the Oscar-winning film about the investigation of sexual abuse in Boston’s Catholic Church … As the next two hours crawled by, I was consumed by three emotions: admiration for the Boston Globe’s investigative team, pride in the journalism profession I have labored in for more than four decades — and guilt.” By Bruce DeSilva, The Washington Post

Windows closing for clergy sex abuse victims to sue Catholic Church
“The courthouse doors will soon close on victims of clergy sex abuse in Minnesota and Hawaii when a brief window to bring charges against the Catholic church expires. Statute of limitations laws have made it nearly impossible for adults who were abused as children to put their claims before a court, even after revelations in 2002 about decades of widespread child sex abuse by Catholic priests.” By Amanda Holpuch, The Guardian

Did Catholic Church abuses amount to ‘organized crime’?
“The Catholic Church has been trying desperately to suggest that the days of rampant sexual abuse of minors by priests and subsequent cover-ups by bishops are a thing of the past and that the church has moved into a new, more transparent future. But to paraphrase a classic mob movie, just when they think they’re out, they get pulled back in.” By Patricia Miller, Religion Dispatches

Another journey into the hell of sexual abuse by priests: two Altoona-Johnstown questions
“Trust me. I understand that it would be almost impossible to write a daily news report about the hellish subject of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy that would please all readers. However, someone has to do this work and do it well. It’s hard to talk about this story having ‘two sides,’ unless you get more specific about the actual topic of a given report. After decades of reading this coverage – some of it courageous, some of it rather shoddy – I think it’s crucial for reporters to make it clear that there are multiple issues being discussed linked to these horrible crimes against God and innocent children and teens.” By Terry Mattingly, GetReligion.org

Justice for clergy abuse victims remains a fight
“The Springfield Diocese took the unusual step last week of adding the name of a dead priest to a shameful list: Catholic clergy against whom ‘credible’ allegations of child sexual abuse have been made. The step came with word that the diocese just settled — for an undisclosed sum — a civil lawsuit brought in 2013 by a Chesterfield man. The suit alleged that this same priest, the late Rev. Paul Archambault, sexually abused the plaintiff for nearly four years, starting around 2006 when the victim was 13.” Editorial by Daily Hampshire Gazette


Catholic archdiocese vs. insurer in priest sex abuse cases
“The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford is taking its dispute with an insurance company to trial, seeking reimbursement of more than $1 million in payments made to settle sexual misconduct cases involving priests and minors. The case is one of many around the country in which insurance companies have balked at paying claims related to lawsuits against church officials seeking to hold them responsible for sexual assaults of minors by clergy — accusations that in many instances date back decades and involve priests who have since died.” By Dave Collins, Associated Press, on ABCNews.go.com


Victims want Atlanta’s Catholic leader to ID accused pedophiles
“A victims’ support group says Atlanta’s top Catholic cleric isn’t being transparent about child sexual abuse by priests, instead withholding records that could protect children and help survivors. For more than a year, the group has been pressing Archbishop Wilton Gregory to reveal the identities of any priests, deacons, brothers or nuns accused of molesting children who spent time working in the Atlanta area. The nationwide Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, wants a list of names posted on the archdiocese website, something more than 30 Roman Catholic bishops across the country have already done.” By Johnny Edwards, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Former Kentucky priest who viewed child porn going to prison
“A former Catholic priest accused of snapping hundreds of inappropriate pictures of students at his parish school is heading to federal prison for nearly three years. Stephen Pohl wasn’t charged with any crime for taking the photos, since the children in his pictures were clothed. But he was found guilty of a charge of looking at child pornography on his computer. The 57-year-old former pastor of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Louisville to 33 months.” By Dylan Lovan, Associated Press, on Cruxnow.com


Clergy sex victims group criticizes plan for forgiveness ritual
“A support group for victims of clergy sexual abuse has taken issue with Archbishop of New Orleans Gregory Aymond’s plan for a special ritual in which the Roman Catholic Church will seek forgiveness from people it has hurt. The group says tangible steps are needed more than ‘words, gestures and apologies.’” By Kim Chatelain, The Times-Picayune, on NOLA.com


Convicted K.C. priest featured among notable priests from St. Louis in Catholic magazine
“The latest issue of ‘Catholic St. Louis’ magazine carries a feature highlighting 12 local men who rose to powerful positions in the church. One of the men is Bishop Robert Finn—the former bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph who was convicted in 2012 of failing to report a priest suspected of sex abuse. The magazine feature makes no mention of his conviction.” By Joe Holleman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch


New Jersey diocese settles decades-old church sex abuse claim
“A Boston-based lawyer announced Monday (Mar. 28) that settlements have been reached with the the Diocese of Camden regarding two sexual assault claims dating back decades. Allegations against Rev. Joseph Brennan, who was assigned to the St. Maurice Church in Brooklawn, and Rev. Phillip Matthews, who served at the Mount Carmel Church in Berlin, were among the 16 men named Monday in lawyer Mitchell Garabedian’s updated list of the accused.” By Greg Adomaitis, NJ.com


Clergy abuse in New Mexico isn’t going away, but neither are advocates for justice (Pt. 1)
“Catholic dioceses in the United States have a problem with sexual abuse. It’s no secret anymore: Spotlight, a film documenting the work of a team of Boston Globe reporters investigating clergy abuse, took this year’s Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. But in New Mexico, where Roman Catholic traditions weave through the lives of even the most secular residents, the issue is harder to talk about, and justice seems harder to come by.” By Kate Powell, KSFR-FM


Victim raped by upstate priest wants N.Y. to fix sex abuse statute
“Kevin Braney went through hell in the basement of a church rectory. Braney says he was a devout 15-year-old altar boy when Msgr. Charles Eckermann first raped him in a rectory storage room at St. Ann’s Church in Manlius, a suburb of Syracuse. Braney says Eckermann assaulted him at least a dozen times in 1988 and 1989 on a mattress the priest had stashed in the storage room.” By Michael O’Keeffe, New York Daily News

Cardinal Dolan slammed for ‘secrecy’ in priest porn case
“The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests accused Cardinal Timothy Dolan of ‘secrecy’ in the way the archbishop of New York has handled the case of a former pastor from Staten Island who was allegedly found in possession of ‘child pornography.’” By Maura Grunlund, SILive.com

New York’s outdated statute of limitations robbing child sex abuse victims of justice
“The story that a Long Island foster parent allegedly got away with abusing children for two decades should make our blood boil. The question remains: Is Albany going to do anything about it? Tragically, reports of child sexual abuse are familiar New York headlines. At the Horace Mann School in the Bronx, a recent report identified more than 60 former students abused by more than 22 employees since the 1960s. At Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, famed football coach Philip Foglietta was accused of abusing more than 10 students during his 40-year tenure.” By Bard Hoylman, New York Daily News


Diocese seeks to defrock priest after sex-abuse allegations
“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus is seeking to defrock a priest in the wake of an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in the 1970s when he served at a Catholic high school and two churches. The Rev. Ronald Atwood was placed on administrative leave by Bishop Frederick Campbell in July 2013, a day after the diocese received a complaint that he had abused someone while assigned to Bishop Ready High School on the West Side, St. Stephen the Martyr Church on the Southwest Side and St. Peter Church on the Northwest Side from 1976 to 1979.” By JoAnne Viviano, The Columbus Dispatch


PA House votes to extend statute of limitations in criminal and civil cases of child sex abuse
“Last-minute attempts to postpone and stop a bill that would extend the statute of limitations for child sex-abuse cases failed Tuesday (Mar. 12) in the House. And they failed by wide margins as a majority of Republican and Democratic lawmakers united behind a belief they had the power and duty to atone for the past and make a better future for victims of child sex abuse. The bill would eliminate a legal time limit on when child abusers can be prosecuted for future crimes, and would give victims of past abuse more time to file civil lawsuits against their abusers and any employers who might have enabled the abuse. The measure now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to face intense opposition from Catholic-based and insurance-related lobbying groups.” By Steve Esack, The Morning Call

Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing child in Wayne County
“A Catholic priest is off the job after church officials say allegations arose that he sexually abused a child in Wayne County. The district attorney says the accusations against Father Martin Boylan are under investigation after the Diocese of Scranton made prosecutors aware of the allegations.” By Bill Michowski, WNEP-TV


Royal Commission to hold hearing into new witness material
“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will today (Apr. 13) hold a public hearing to decide how to deal with new material in witness statements from four former Melbourne Catholic Education Office staff.” By CathNews.com

Catholic Church protected pedophile priest Farrell, victims say
“The victims of a paedophile Catholic priest, who initially denied the allegations made against him and “betrayed” those he attacked, have told a court he was protected by the church. John Joseph Farrell, also known as ‘Father F’ appeared in Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court this morning, after being found guilty of 62 offences involving sexual assaults on 12 victims during the early 1980s.” By Dan Box The Australian

Bishop accused of child abuse cover-up dies in Australia
“A bishop in charge during one of Australia’s darkest periods of child abuse by Catholic clergy died Monday (Apr. 4), depriving an inquiry of further evidence from a man once closely linked to Vatican finance chief George Pell. Ronald Mulkearns, the bishop of Ballarat in the state of Victoria between 1971 and 1997, died from cancer aged 85, the church said.” By Agence France-Presse in Daily Mail


Former altar boy in Sudbury suing priest, church
“A now retired Roman Catholic priest preyed on him when he served as his altar boy, a Sudbury man alleges in a $3-million lawsuit that goes to trial on Monday (Apr. 4). The plaintiff, known only as ‘P.J.J.,’ is seeking damages for pain and suffering, emotional and/or mental distress and aggravation from Rev. John Edward Sullivan and the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie.” By Harold Carmichael, The Sudbury Star

Former Ottawa priest convicted of molesting altar boys in 1969-74
“They were altar boys mostly aged nine to 11, given a gold star each time they attended mass, and sometimes invited to see Rev. Jacques Faucher in private. Let’s practice a prayer, he’d say to one. Let’s watch a hockey game, he said to another. To a third: Let’s look at my stamp collection. Then he would sit them on his knee and start touching them.” By Tom Spears, Ottawa Sun


France’s Catholic Church to toughen fight against pedophile priests
“The Catholic Church in France was to unveil steps against pedophilia Tuesday (Apr. 12) following a scandal over an archbishop accused of covering up for a priest who has admitted abusing boys. The episcopate is to announce the measures after a meeting of its executive body with a source close to the case telling AFP that there would be ‘concrete announcements, measures that are aimed at improving the consideration’ of pedophile cases.” By Agence France-Presse in The Daily Star

French cardinal reiterates promise to cooperate with police on abuse
“A French cardinal reiterated his promise to cooperate with law enforcement officials after his offices were raided in connection with charges of failing to discipline a priest now charged with abuse. Police raided the offices of Lyon Cardinal Philippe Barbarin on March 30 to search for information related to the case of Fr Bernard Preynat, charged with “sexual aggression and rape of minors” between 1986 and 1991 at Lyon’s Saint-Luc parish, where he ran a large Catholic Scout group over two decades.” By Jonathan Luxmoore, Catholic Herald


Priest pleads not guilty to sex offenses
“A Catholic priest accused of historical sex abuse at a former Wigan seminary appeared in the dock today (Apr. 12). Father Michael Higginbottom pleaded not guilty at Liverpool Crown Court to six sex offences allegedly involving two young boys in the late 1970s.” By WiganToday.com


Priest accused of sexual contact with minor to host retreat for youth this month
“Another member of the Catholic Church is calling for the resignation of Archbishop Anthony Apuron, but not over recent concerns over the Redemptoris Mater Seminary. Teri Untalan says a priest who was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor last year is now once again in active ministry involving youth. Teri Untalan is a member of the Santa Barbara Catholic parish but is not part of any formal group. She wrote to Archbishop Anthony Apuron yesterday calling for his resignation.” By Janela Carrera, PacificNewsCenter.com


‘Child sex abuse by Catholic priests not rampant in India’
Cases of child sex abuse are not rampant among Roman Catholic priests in India as appears to be the case abroad, senior Catholic priests who arrived in Goa for a high-level conference said on Monday (Apr. 4). They said the Vatican, the global seat of Catholicism, has approved guidelines for India as far as handling cases of priests found accused of child sex abuse is concerned. ‘In India, it (child sex abuse) is not very rampant, maybe in foreign countries (it is),’ Fr. Philemon Doss, president of the Conference of Diocesan Priests of India, told IANS ahead of the three-day conference of Diocesan priests which gets underway in Goa on Tuesday (Apr. 5).” By FirstPost.com


Catholic society says founder guilty of sex abuse in Peru
“The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (SCV) apostolic society has declared its founder, Luis Fernando Figari, guilty of sexual abuse against minors. Five months after Pedro Salinas’s book “Half Monks, Half Soldiers” published allegations of widespread psychological and sexual abuse from former members in the conservative society, SCV superior general Alessandro Moroni released a video statement saying his organization had initiated Figari’s removal.” By Colin Post, Peru Reports