Voice of the Faithful Focus, Jan. 26, 2018


Francis’ commitment to abuse survivors in question
“It is hard even to imagine the pain survivors of clergy sexual abuse have had to endure. After being raped or brutalized by people their communities had taught them to see as nearly infallible, many were left silent for decades, ashamed or just unable to speak. When they did come forward, their motives were questioned and their integrity impugned. They were savaged, re-victimized, in court proceedings and public announcements, as bishops, diocesan lawyers and church officers denied their charges … Within the space of four days, Pope Francis twice slandered abuse survivors. On the papal flight from Peru Jan. 21, he again called testimony against Chilean Bishop Juan Barros Madrid ‘calumny.’” By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff

Call for Pope Francis to meet with abuse survivor Marie Collins during visit to Ireland
“A meeting between Pope Francis and clerical abuse survivor, Marie Collins, must be on the papal agenda when the Pope visits Ireland next August, a Catholic lobby group has said. We Are Church Ireland (WACI), a lobby group seeking to liberalize some of Catholicism’s structures and sexual teachings, said a personal meeting with Collins would show the Pope’s appreciation of her ‘valuable work’ on the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.” By Sarah MacDonald, The Independent

Let laity lead parishes, priests’ resolution urges U.S. bishops
“Priests are graying, fewer in number, with little relief in sight. That reality was the impetus for a resolution endorsed by the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, calling upon Catholic bishops in the United States to enlist the aid of lay pastoral workers to administer parishes. Passed by the association at its convention in Atlanta last June, the resolution calls upon the church to allow ‘well prepared pastoral ministers who, working collaboratively with canonical pastors, can know, guide and accompany the faithful on their journey of faith via parish communities.’” By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter

Proud to be Catholic? A groundbreaking America survey asks women about their lives in the Church
“Catholic women may be part of a Democratic voting wave in 2018. They are ready to welcome women deacons. Many feel their parishes are inclusive of women and welcome divorced and remarried Catholics and non-heterosexual Catholics. But they think the church could do more to welcome unmarried parents, single mothers and people who have lost their spouses … These are just a handful of the findings of the America Survey, commissioned by America Media and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in partnership with GfK, a survey firm.” By Mark Gray and Mary Gautier, America: The Jesuit Review


Amid abuse allegations, Vatican names trustee to lead Sodalitium
“Saying Pope Francis is following the situation with concern, the Vatican named a Colombian bishop to be the trustee of the scandal-plagued SodalitiumChristianae Vitae, a Catholic movement based in Peru.The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life appointed Bishop Noel Londono Buitrago of Jerico, Colombia, trustee of the group, the Vatican press office announced Jan. 10.” By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter


Pope delivers mixed messages to clergy abuse survivors during Chile trip, casting doubt over his commitment to reform and healing
During his recent visit to Chile (Jan. 15-18), Pope Francis sent mixed signals to clergy abuse survivors. Early in his visit, he met with survivors, wept with them, admonished Chile’s clergy for abuse and betrayed trust, apologized for “irreparable damage” done by abuse and sought forgiveness from victims. Just before celebrating Mass at the end of his visit, however, the Pope changed course when confronted with questions concerning Bishop Juan Barros Madrid, who had been accused of covering up Fr. Fernando Karadima’s sexual abuse. The Pope said, “The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk. But there is not one single piece of evidence. It is all slander. Is that clear?” Here are links to some of the media coverage that resulted:

Pope Francis to face protests in Chile over bishop appointment
“Chileans protesting Pope Francis’s 2015 appointment of a Roman Catholic bishop accused of protecting an alleged pedophile threaten to cast a shadow over the pontiff’s visit to South America next week. Parishioners in Osorno, a small city 800 kilometers (497 miles) south of the Chilean capital, say Vatican representatives denied their requests to meet with Francis. They plan to protest every day of the Pope’s Jan. 15 – 18 stay in Chile.” By Dave Sherwood, Reuters


Serving isolated parishes may mean ordaining married men
“The idea of exceptionally ordaining older married men of proven virtue to celebrate the Eucharist in isolated Catholic communities is something that should be discussed, said Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy. ‘It is not about being in favor of or against something, but about attentively evaluating various possibilities without being closed or rigid,’ the cardinal said in a new book in Italian, Tutti gli Uomini di Francesco (‘All Francis’s Men’) released Jan. 22 by Edizioni San Paolo.” By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, on Cruxnow.com


The humble, indispensable women leading the Catholic Church you’ve (probably) never heard of
“Coleen Heckner grew up immersed in Catholic culture. From her parents and her devout grandfather, who served as an usher in his parish, to the Daughters of Charity and the Sisters of Mercy, who educated her in grade school and high school, she was surrounded by examples of faith. A member of the Vatican II generation, she was influenced by St. John XXIII and became passionate about issues of social justice, in part because the peace activists Daniel Berrigan, S.J., and Phil Berrigan were among the speakers brought to her Baltimore classroom. ‘I grew up in a really neat time to have all these folks touch my life in some way,’ she said.” By Kerry Weber, America: The Jesuit Review


New study seeks to understand why young people leave the church
“More Catholics are leaving the faith than ever before — more so than in any other religion — and a new study out this week is trying to help make sense of why so many young adults are leaving the faith at such an early age. ‘Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics,’ released by Saint Mary’s Press of Minnesota, in collaboration with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, comes at a time when Pope Francis is seeking to focus the attention of the global Church on the needs of young people.” By Christopher White, Cruxnow.com


Pope aide says tensions around ‘Amoris’ reflect a ‘paradigm shift’
“According to the pope’s top aide, the sometimes-tumultuous debates unleashed in Catholicism by Pope Francis’s 2016 document on the family, Amoris Laetitia, aren’t primarily due to ‘certain aspects of its content,’ but rather the ‘paradigm shift’ for the Church the document represents. ‘At the end of the day, what resulted from Amoris Laetitia is a new paradigm that Pope Francis is carrying forward with wisdom, with prudence, and also with patience,’ said Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State and effectively the most senior figure in the Church after the pope himself.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com


Time to Heal
“There is no delicate way to say this about an institution that so many believe in so fervently, and put their faith in daily. It’s for that very reason — so many entrust their lives and their faith in an afterlife with the Catholic Church and its teachings — that we feel compelled to point out that the Brownsville Diocese has a serious image problem right now and church officials must address it quickly … And it has many in this heavily Catholic region questioning whether such an incident could be repeated today or whether the church — which was just beginning to recover from a sex abuse scandal 15 years ago emanating from revelations involving the powerful Boston diocese and involving dozens of priests who abused children — has truly reformed its ways. Such questions came to the fore as a nonprofit group called Voice of the Faithful, borne of the earlier sex scandals, rated the Diocese of Brownsville among the lowest in the country as it relates to openness regarding church finances.” Editorial in the Brownsville Texas Herald


Report shows operating surplus for 2017 in Archdiocese of Baltimore
“Improvements in the stock market and sound controls on expenses helped the Archdiocese of Baltimore achieve a positive result on the financial report for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2017 … In November, Voice of the Faithful, a movement of Catholics concerned with church accountability and transparency, reviewed the websites of all 177 dioceses and archdioceses in the country to gauge fiscal accountability practices. Using a 10-question scale, the group looked at whether diocesan financial information could be easily found and reviewed. The Archdiocese of Baltimore was one of the top six dioceses in the study, earning 55 out of 60 possible points. Baird noted that the only deduction the archdiocese received was for not having a list of the members of its finance council on the web. That has been rectified, with the addition of the roster of the Board of Financial Administration to the site.” By Christopher Gunty, Archdiocese of Baltimore Online Newspaper

Thief steals collection money from Montclair’s Immaculate Conception
“A thief made off with part of the collection money from a Sunday morning Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and township police are investigating the crime. The Roman Catholic house of worship informed parishioners of the robbery in an email Sunday (Jan. 21) night. ‘I write to advise you that today, during the 10:30 a.m. Mass at Immaculate Conception, the first collection was stolen from the sacristy with the second collection for heat being left behind,’ wrote the Rev. Amilcar Benito Prado, administrator of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish.” By Linda Moss Montclair Local

Two-thirds of Catholic dioceses do not publish accounts online
“Almost two-thirds of the 26 Catholic dioceses in Ireland do not publish any financial details on their websites, a new survey has found. The reverse is true in the US, where almost two-thirds of the 177 dioceses carry such details on their websites. The Irish survey was carried out by We Are Church Ireland, a lay Catholic lobby group, which has called for greater transparency in diocesan finances. A summary of the financial details of each diocese, and other relevant charities in each, are published on the Charities Regulatory Authority website. However, the level of detail made available to parishioners on diocesan websites varies significantly.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times

$319,000 possibly stolen from St. Luke Catholic School, audit shows
“An investigation into missing funds at St. Luke Catholic School yielded evidence of a possible embezzlement plot amounting to $319,000, according to a release from the Archdiocese of San Antonio. The archdiocese said it sought the risk audit after concerns regarding the school’s finances arose. The audit found ‘questionable financial transactions and irregularities at the school for a several-year period.’ https://www.ksat.com/news/-319-000-possibly-stolen-from-st-luke-catholic….” By Mariah Medina, KSAT-TV


Albany, pass the Child Victims Act
“If the #MeToo movement of the last few months has taught us anything, it’s that it is extremely painful and risky for victims of sexual harassment or assault — even those with power, money and connections — to speak out against their abusers. Now consider how much harder it must be for a child … For these reasons, many states — including eight last year alone — have done the right thing and extended or eliminated statutes of limitations for the reporting of child sexual abuse. This has encouraged more victims to come forward and seek justice for abuse that was never properly addressed, if it was addressed at all. New York, which has had no shortage of child sex-abuse scandals, should be on that list.” By The New York Times Editorial Board


Sex abuse prevention to feature at Vatican’s family meeting
“The Vatican’s upcoming conference on families in Ireland will feature a seminar on child protection, after the church’s sex abuse scandal devastated the credibility of the Catholic Church in the country.” By Associated Press on FOXNews.com


Priest fights witness subpoena in child sex abuse trial
“Uncomfortable discussing a sensitive matter with her family, a teenage girl made an appointment with a priest to reveal a dark secret she had been carrying for years, according to prosecutors. While taking part in the Catholic Church’s Sacrament of Reconciliation, commonly known as confession, prosecutors claim the girl disclosed to Rev. Vincenzo Ronchi that a relative had sexually abused her on several occasions beginning when she was 7 years old.” By Mike DeForest, News6 Orlando


Former St. Cloud priest, teacher added to list of likely abusers
“A Catholic priest in the St. Cloud diocese who taught at Cathedral High School in the 1970s has been added to a list of clergy who likely abused children. In a news release Friday (Jan. 12), the Diocese of St. Cloud said the Rev. Antonio Marfori is the latest name added to the diocese’s list of credibly accused priests and monks.” By Kirsti Marohn, Minnesota Public Radio

Priest returns to limited ministry
“Father Jonathan Shelley, who has been out of ministry since June 2012, will return to limited ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Archbishop Bernard Hebda announced Jan. 11.’ By The Catholic Spirit


Religious education teacher in Troy, Mo., Catholic Church accused of videotaping bathrooms
“A 28-year-old Lincoln County man is accused of covertly installing video cameras in bathrooms at a Catholic church and in an amusement center where he worked. The surreptitious recordings were first discovered when an employee at Adrenaline Zone, a bumper cars and laser tag complex in St. Charles, called police Jan. 15 after a camera installed in the bathroom fell through the ceiling, according to Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Andy Binder.” By Erin Heffernan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St. Louis area priest charged with 16 counts of child porn and possession of meth
“A Catholic priest who was arrested Monday (Jan. 8) by Belleville police was charged with 16 counts of child pornography Tuesday (Jan. 9). (Rev. Gerald) Hechenberger, 54, also was charged with possession of methamphetamine … Belleville police issued a statement saying Hechenberger was identified as being in possession of multiple images of child pornography in which the photographed victims were under the age of 13.” By Kaley Johnson, The Kansas City Star


Child Victims Act would bring hidden predators to justice
“When I first heard the claims of child sexual abuse against Alabama’s disgraced former Senate candidate Roy Moore, I was sick to my stomach. But as a long-time advocate and abuse survivor, I was not surprised that such a predator was able to remain hidden in plain sight for so long.” By Kathryn Robb, Valley News


Three men sue Archdiocese of Portland alleging sex abuse in North Bend
“Three men filed a lawsuit Wednesday (Jan. 10) against the Archdiocese of Portland alleging they were sexually abused as children by a priest in North Bend during the early 1980s. The lawsuit, filed today (Jan. 11) in United States District Court for the District of Oregon, alleges that the three victims, who were not identified in the complaint, were each abused by the Rev. Pius Brazauskas who worked at the Holy Redeemer Church in North Bend from the late 1970s until as late as 1990.” By Tim Epperson, The World


Clergy abuse victims react to diocese creating child protection office
“The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown announced the creation of a new office dedicated to protecting children, but clergy abuse victims are worried about its leadership. The Diocese hired Cindy O’Connor, of Johnstown, to be the director of the new Office of Children and Youth Protection, according to a release … The office’s creation and the decision to have O’Connor as the director have victims including John Nesbella concerned. He thinks that her being both Catholic and a member of the same diocese might be a conflict of interest.” By Katie O’Toole, WJAC-TV


Lawsuit dismissed against late priest, former Notre Dame principal
“A lawsuit was dismissed by District Judge David Evans in Tarrant County related to charges of sexual abuse by a now-deceased priest and a former principal of Notre Dame Middle/High School. In March 2015, Jason Lloyd Montgomery filed the suit against the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth and Bishop Michael F. Olson, claiming he was sexually abused by the late Rev. John Sutton when he was a Notre Dame student in 1990-1992.” By Claire Kowalick, Times Record News


Edmundites to pay up in priest sex-abuse lawsuit
“A Colchester-based religious order is among several Roman Catholic institutions that recently settled a priest sex abuse lawsuit in Connecticut for nearly $1 million. The court case centered on misconduct claims involving defrocked priest Charles Many, a Vermont native and St. Michael’s College graduate who helped lead parishes in Essex Junction and in Groton, Connecticut, and was a member of the Society of St. Edmund.” By Adam Silverman, Burlington Free Press


Former public servant on board to help protect children
“A former West Australian public servant and administrator has been appointed to the Church’s independent child protection standards, auditing and reporting organization. Dr Ruth Shean, the former WA Commissioner for Public Sector Standards with responsibility for oversight of legislative and regulatory standards in the WA public sector, will join the board of Catholic Professional Standards Limited (CPSL) from February 1.” By CathNews.com

Child rapist priest spared deportation by AAT named
“Irish pedophile priest Finian Egan has been named as the child rapist the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is trying to save from deportation. AAT deputy president Janine Stevenson recently set aside former Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s decision to cancel Egan’s Australian citizenship. She also ordered that Egan not be identified and that evidence given in the case be suppressed.” By Keith Moor, Herald Sun

Ex-teacher charged with child sexual abuse
“A 71-year-old former teacher, counselor and school nurse at two Perth Catholic colleges has been charged with child sexual abuse offences dating back almost 40 years. Arthur Frank Mowle, 71, has been charged by detectives tipped off by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.” By CathNews.com


Carolyn Bennett asks Catholic groups to allow residential school survivors to have documents outlining abuse made public
“The federal government is urging Catholic groups that ran Indian residential schools to allow former students who settled their abuse cases before a compensation deal was signed with school survivors to file their court documents with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Justice Department lawyers say permission from both the government and the Catholic entities is required before abuse survivors who launched court cases before 2006, when the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) was struck, can house papers related to their cases at the center in Winnipeg that is chronicling the schools’ tragic legacy.” By Gloria Galloway, The Globe & Mail


Controversial bishops in Chile deny sex abuse coverup
“Well before Pope Francis arrived here Monday (Jan. 15) night, it was clear that his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile would be trying, in large part because of fallout from clerical sexual abuse scandals that have badly frayed both the Church’s public image and its internal morale. As Francis was making his way from Rome to the Chilean capital on Monday, I spent over an hour with the bishop at the center of that storm, Juan Barros Madrid, whom Francis appointed to head the diocese of Osorno in March 2015. We were joined by the bishop of Talca, Horacio Valenzuela, who, along with Barros, is accused by three victims of witnessing their abuse and covering it up.” By Austen Ivereigh, Cruxnow.com


Disgraced priest to give evidence at Scottish child abuse inquiry
“A disgraced priest who sexually abused young boys in care is to give evidence at the Scottish child abuse inquiry. Sex offender Bernard Traynor, 64, has been called to give his testimony after allegations about him were made to the inquiry by former residents at Smyllum Park in Lanark last month. Two former residents told Lady Smith, who leads the inquiry, they were sexually abused by Traynor after they were moved to another orphanage run by the same Catholic order in Newcastle.” By John Jeffay, The Scotsman


Guam archbishop denies allegations of rape, sexual abuse
“An embattled archbishop in Guam has denied an allegation that he raped his nephew nearly 20 years ago, when his accuser was a teen. Mark Apuron, nephew of Guam’s Archbishop Anthony Apuron, filed a lawsuit Jan. 10, claiming that his uncle raped him in a Church bathroom in 1989 or 1990. This is the fifth lawsuit to accuse the archbishop of sexual abuse of minors during his time as a pastor and bishop.” By Catholic News Agency on Cruxnow.com

Church sex abuse mediation could leave victims fighting over money
“At least one attorney in the Catholic church sex abuse scandal is raising concerns over the current settlement proposal by some of the parties—arguing it could leave 158 victims in a precarious situation in which they could end up ‘fighting over the money on their own.’ By Jolene Toves, Pacific News First


Irish bishop warns against thinking sexual abuse crisis is ‘behind us’
“A bishop in Ireland is warning that the greatest danger in the fight against abuse is to ‘relax and believe that the worst is in some way behind us.’ Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick said society sometimes wants ‘to simplify this issue and move on. To stay with an awareness of the pervasiveness of abuse and those dark parts of our human nature and the tendency to exploit weakness and vulnerability, may be almost too much,’ he said.” By Charles Collins, Cruxnow.com


New Zealand abuse inquiry will not include faith-based organizations
“The Catholic Church in New Zealand is disappointed a government inquiry into state abuse of children may not expand to include faith-based institutions, including itself. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the primary role of an inquiry would be to focus on the state’s responsibility.” By CathNews.com