Voice of the Faithful Focus, Jan. 28, 2022


Report on sexual abuse in German diocese faults retired pope
“A long-awaited report on sexual abuse in Germany’s Munich diocese on Thursday (Jan. 20) faulted retired Pope Benedict XVI’s handling of four cases when he was archbishop in the 1970s and 1980s. The law firm that drew up the report said Benedict strongly denies any wrongdoing. The findings, though, were sure to reignite criticism of Benedict’s record more than a decade after the first, and until Thursday only, known case involving him was made public.” By Geir Moulson, Associated Press, on ABC-TV News

In first court testimony on abuse ever given by a German bishop, Hamburg archbishop admits to mistakes
“In the first testimony ever given by a German Catholic bishop in a court case on abuse, Hamburg Archbishop Stefan Hesse admitted having made mistakes in the case of an offending priest on trial in the Cologne regional court. The German Catholic news agency KNA reported that Archbishop Hesse, 55, the former head of personnel in the Archdiocese of Cologne, was called as a witness in the case against the priest, who has only been named as U. He said the mistakes included that the allegations against the priest that became known in 2010 should have been reported to the Vatican.” By Catholic News Service in America: The Jesuit Review

Vatican includes group backing women’s ordination on website
“The Vatican has included a group that advocates for women’s ordination on a website promoting a two-year consultation of rank-and-file Catholics, indicating that Pope Francis wants to hear from all Catholics during the process. The inclusion of the Women’s Ordination Conference on the website promoting the Vatican’s 2023 ‘synod,’ or meeting of bishops, is significant since the Vatican has long held the group at arm’s length. Catholic doctrine forbids the ordination of women as priests. In the run-up to the synod, the Vatican has asked dioceses, religious orders and other Catholic groups to embark on listening sessions so ordinary Catholics can talk about their needs and hopes for the church.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter

For first time, Pope Francis installs women in two church ministries
“Pope Francis installed women as well as men from all over the world as catechists and lectors on Sunday (Jan. 23), marking a break with what had been church law reserving those ministries to men, even if women have performed those functions in many parts of the Catholic world for decades without the formal designation. Francis conferred the ministries during a celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica of the Sunday of the Word of God, which he instituted in 2019, to encourage among all Catholics an interest in knowing the sacred Scriptures and their central role in the life of the church and the Christian faith.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com

20 years after clergy sex-abuse scandal erupted: Reparation and rectification continures
As we mark the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the toxic avalanche of revelations about decades of clergy sexual abuse of minors in Boston and beyond, two headlines are clear. The first is the unfathomable scope of what had happened and remained hidden prior to that apocalypse: tens of thousands of victims, thousands of clerical molesters, hundreds of bishops and senior chancery officials who had covered up the abuse and transferred the abusers, and the entrenched culture of corruption that enabled all of it.” Commentary by Father Roger Landry in National Catholic Register


Father Zollner: Retired pope should make a personal statement on abuse report
“Following the publication of an experts’ report on how sexual abuse was handled in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, the German Catholic news agency KNA spoke to Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors since its creation and president of the Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.” By Catholic News Service on Cruxnow.com

Pope Benedict XVI knew of abusive priests when he ran Munich archdiocese, investigators say
Pope Benedict XVI knew about priests who abused children but failed to act when he was archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982, an inquest found Thursday, rejecting Benedict’s long-standing denials in a damning judgment. “He was informed about the facts,” lawyer Martin Pusch said, as the Westpfahl Spilker Wastl law firm announced the findings of an investigation into historic sexual abuse at the Munich Archdiocese over several decades. The report was commissioned by the church itself.” By Rob Picheta, Claudia Otto and Nadine Schmidt, CNN

New Jersey is ‘impediment’ to McCarrick records release
“As New Jersey’s governor weighs the nomination of a new state attorney general, an ongoing investigation in the attorney general’s office has delayed the release of information about the activities of disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. But with appointment of a new attorney general, it is possible the investigation could come to a close, allowing New Jersey bishops to release diocesan records on McCarrick.” By The Pillar


Synodality and ecumenism require walking together, say cardinals
“All Christians are invited to pray for unity and continue to journey together, said Cardinals Mario Grech, general secretary of the Synod of the Bishops, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Toward that end, the two offices came together to offer a prayer, which could be added to the other intentions during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Jan. 18-25. Inspired by the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer, ‘We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him,’ the prayer ‘offers a propitious occasion to pray with all Christians that the synod will proceed in an ecumenical spirit,’ the two cardinals said in a joint news release Jan. 17.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

The ‘new evangelization’ has problems, but a synodal approach can help
“… The 2021-23 synod on synodality has asked us to create an intentional time to reflect together on becoming a more dialogical, loving and listening church. This is a true evangelical initiative, and possibly the answer to a lifetime of silent prayers spoken by all those who feel they need to turn their back on our church to find a deeper relationship with God. The synod is still scandalously on the backburner in many U.S. dioceses, but the parishes and dioceses that are thriving right now are those that are welcoming, loving and listening. In short, they are synodal: laity and clergy walking together, growing ever closer in friendship with one another and with Christ as they reach out to those on the margins and serve.” By Michael J. Sanem, National Catholic Reporter


Pope vows justice for abuse victims after Ratzinger faulted
“Pope Francis vowed Friday (Jan. 21) to provide justice to victims of clergy sexual abuse and German authorities called for further investigation after an independent audit faulted retired Pope Benedict XVI for having botched four cases of abuse when he was archbishop of Munich, Germany. The fallout from the report continued to reverberate Friday as church officials digested the findings that a pope credited with having turned the Vatican around on the abuse issue had in fact mishandled cases earlier in his career.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in Religion News Service


Spanish bishops meet with pope, vow to investigate sex abuse cases
“In the wake of a newspaper report revealing hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse in Spain, the country’s bishops assured Pope Francis that every diocese has established a commission that will investigate allegations of abuse. Speaking with journalists Jan. 14, Spanish Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona, president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, said there are no plans to establish a single independent commission, as in Germany, France or neighboring Portugal, to conduct a nationwide investigation of the handling of cases past and present.” By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter


New plans to improve treatment of clergy
“The Association of Catholic Priests has said it is hoping to work with the four archdioceses in the Irish Church to set up a structure to deal with priests’ complaints about bishops’ treatment of clergy. Spokesman for the ACP, Fr Tim Hazelwood, told the Tablet that what the association was asking for and working towards was establishing a system for engaging with the problems highlighted to the group by priests.” By Sarah Mac Donald, The Tablet


Women at the altar
“On January 23, 2022, Pope Francis installed several men and women to the lay ministries of lector and catechist. This might seem like a routine matter of Catholic practice, but in fact it represented an important change for the church: Francis altered canon law to state that ‘lay people’ rather than just ‘lay men’ can serve as lectors, or readers, at Mass, and as altar servers one year ago. In May, 2021, he created the entirely new ministry of catechist. Women had often been serving as lectors and catechists, but with this change in canon law, and with the papal installation at St. Peter’s Basilica, women are now officially recognized. That is an important development.” But does this mean women will soon be ordained?” By Phyllis Zagano, Sapientia

Women’s voices key to addressing clergy sexual abuse
“The final panel at a Jan. 20 webinar on clergy sex abuse brought together noted women leaders in the Catholic Church to share their perspectives on what might have been different in the church’s response to the abuse crisis if women had ‘been given a seat at the table earlier in this process.’ The webinar, ‘Listening to the Voices of Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse,’ brought together investigators of past abuse, relatives of victims and those who counsel survivors. It was sponsored in part by Georgetown University.” By Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service, on UCANews.com


Vatican child protection expert says prelates should apologize for abuse cover-up
“Those responsible for covering up abuse cases should be upfront and apologize, says a top Catholic expert on child protection and accountability. His comments come on the heels of a scathing report on sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich, once headed by emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. ‘Everybody who is in a position of responsibility makes mistakes, nobody’s perfect, but people would understand if you apologize to them,’ said Jesuit Fr. Hans Zollner, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, created by Pope Francis in 2014 to combat abuse in the church.” By Claire Giangravé, Religion News Service


Vatican defends Benedict after report faults abuse record
“The Vatican on Wednesday (Jan. 26) strongly defended Pope Benedict XVI’s record in fighting clergy sexual abuse and cautioned against looking for ‘easy scapegoats and summary judgments,’ after an independent report faulted his handling of four cases of abuse when he was archbishop of Munich, Germany. The Holy See’s editorial director, Andrea Tornielli, provided the Vatican’s first substantial response to the report in an editorial that appeared in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and its media portal, Vatican News. In it, Tornielli recalled that Benedict was the first pope to meet with victims of abuse, that he had issued strong norms to punish priests who raped children and had directed the church to pursue a path of humility in seeking forgiveness for the crimes of its clerics.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press


Taizé, a musical monastic community, formed in response to a global crisis. Today, it faced new once: climate change and sex abuse
“This is Taizé, the ecumenical monastic community founded by Brother Roger Schütz in the 1940s as a parable of communion, a hope that if Christians from different countries and backgrounds could gather on a hill in rural France and pray together, then this might serve as a sign that reconciliation is possible among churches and in the world. Brother Roger believed in the radical idea that little acts, like young people singing together in a church, really matter in history. That is what a parable does, after all—it points to a meaning larger than itself.” By Stephanie Saldaña, America: The Jesuit Review

Bishop says Amazon Synod did little to tackle sacramental crisis in region
“The sacramental situation was not resolved in the (Amazon) synod,” he said. ‘The pope didn’t want to assume the risk of fracturing the Church with openings that could have risked its unity. He was more concerned with the unity of the Church than the sacramentality of an answer.’ However, the bishop argued, ‘every theological study tells us that there is no Church without the Eucharist. The fact that it is not available makes us become a Protestant Catholic Church, because we lack the Eucharist and the other sacraments.’” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com


The root of Catholic priest abuse in Louisiana
“Catholicism, in what is now the 18th state of the Union, predates Louisiana’s statehood by nearly two centuries. Its culture, religion, and economy have all been deeply influenced by the Catholic Church which were first embedded in this multi-cultural state by Catholic France and Spain … In terms of understanding the history of Catholic priest abuse in the state, these factors must be taken into account.” By Los Angeles Injury Law News

Editorial: In penance for mishandled abuse cases, Benedict needs to give up ‘pope emeritus’
“In some ways, last week’s news was not particularly new: another independent report about sex abuse in the Catholic Church. We’ve had them from Pennsylvania, from France, and now from Germany’s Archdiocese of Munich-Freising, the latest with details of nearly 500 victims over 74 years. But this one is different, because among the bishops implicated in moving around offenders and covering up their abuse was a man who went on to become pope: then-archbishop, later Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The 1,900-page report, released Jan. 20 by a Munich law office after a two-year investigation, accuses Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI of mishandling at least four cases of sexual abuse by priests when he was archbishop in Munich.” By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff

The Irish Times view on clerical abuse: Benedict has questions to answer
“The evidence that the institutional culture of church cover-up, so vividly recorded in Ireland’s own inquiries into clerical abuse, goes right to the top is shocking but perhaps not surprising. The attitude of many church leaders that “scandal” brought about by revelations of abuse is a more pressing concern, than the abuse itself, reflects a very traditional, unacceptable placing of the church above society and its common rules.” By Editorial Staff at The Irish Times


Sen. Lauren Arthur files legislation to help catch predators and achieve justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse
“State Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, filed two pieces of legislation to help survivors of childhood sexual abuse seek justice through civil action, while strengthening the attorney general’s ability to investigate cases of sex trafficking and abuse. ‘In Missouri, no one should be above the law,’ Sen. Arthur said. ‘When an organization knowingly ignores or hides child sex abuse, they must be held accountable. Together, these bills will help survivors seek justice while also strengthening the criminal prosecution of abusers. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address the scourge of child sexual abuse in Missouri, and to help heal wounds that have been ignored for too long.’” By Senate.mo.gov

Church victims push to expand lawsuit window in Nebraska
“Victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests urged Nebraska lawmakers on Friday (Jan. 21) to pass a law that would let people who were abused decades ago file lawsuits against the church or other organizations that were negligent. The proposal comes on the heels of a Nebraska attorney general report that identified 258 victims who made credible abuse allegations against church officials, dating back decades. None of those cases, however, are expected to result in prosecutions or legal judgments because the statutes of limitation for both criminal charges and civil lawsuits have expired.” By Grant Schulte, Associated Press

Louisiana becomes the latest of 22 states to open a ‘Lookback Window’ for childhood sex abuse
“‘The scars of childhood sexual abuse may stay with survivors long-term and they deserve more time to report these devastating crimes,’ stated Christina Step, spokeswoman for Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. This came in August, 2021 at the signing of Louisiana House Bill 492 when lawmakers unanimously approved the current bill that removes deadlines for child sex abuse victims to pursue damages in civil court. The bill also created a three-year window where all unresolved child molestation claims — no matter how old — can be pursued in civil court.” By LosAngelesLegalExaminer.com

New Colorado law gives sex abuse survivors new option in court
“The first civil case has been filed under a Colorado law that took effect on the Jan. 1, 2022 allowing survivors can sue alleged perpetrators for cases going back to 1960. It was 1977, before and during a river rafting trip in which a then-teenage girl says she was sexually assaulted by a teacher from a private school. ‘I immediately buried it. It was too overwhelming for me to handle at my age, and I didn’t tell anyone except a Catholic priest who I confessed it to,’ Kate McPhee, now living in Vermont, told CBS4.” By CBS-TV4 News


Infographic: Annual audit tracks increase in allegations of historic abuse incidents
“The latest annual audit of children protection sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, released the same day Father McWilliams was sentenced (Nov. 9, 2021), reported that more than 4,200 allegations of sexual abuse by clergy were made between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020. The annual audit tracks not only new charges of abuse but also how well U.S. dioceses and eparchies are observing child protection protocols established in 2002 by the U.S.C.C.B. in accordance with its “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” By Staff at America: The Jesuit Review


Retired Chicago-area priest facing allegations of sexually abusing a minor four decades ago
“ A retired Chicago-area priest is accused of sexually abusing a minor. The Archdiocese of Chicago has ordered Father James McIlhone to step aside from ministry and leave St. Edward Parish, where he lives in retirement. The allegations date back 40 years to when McIlhone served as associate pastor at Santa Maria Del Popolo Parish in Mundelein. The Archdioceses says the accusations have been reported to the Lake County State’s Attorney, and there will be a full investigation.” By CBS-TV2 News


Wichita priest won’t be charged with child sexual abuse
“A Roman Catholic priest who was accused of sexual exploitation of a child will not be charged because the statute of limitations has ended, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said Wednesday (Jan. 26). The Catholic Diocese of Wichita placed Rev. Michael Schemm on administrative leave last November after it received an allegation against him.” By Associated Press in U.S. News & World Report


Former priest from Oakland, Wayne sentenced for sexual abuse of teenagers
“A former priest from Oakland and Wayne counties has been sentenced to prison for sexually abusing teenagers. Gary Berthiaume, 79, was sent to trial in July on two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He pleaded guilty to those counts in November but pleaded no contest to a third charge of gross indecency, according to authorities. He was also charged in two new cases in June. The charges stem from allegations of abuse in the 1970s, while Berthiaume was a priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Wyandotte and later Our Lady of Sorrows in Farmington, officials said.” By Derick Hutchinson, ClickonDetroit.com


Omaha priest, linked to sex abuse cases, facing more jail time for suspected thefts
“More potential jail time for a once high-ranking Omaha priest charged in two separate theft cases and also linked to several other priests named in a recent state investigation of widespread sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. Already facing up to 24 years in prison for allegedly stealing thousands in Douglas County, Father Michael Gutgsell now faces another 20 years for a second suspected theft case, this one in Sarpy County. The 73-year-old former Chancellor in the Omaha Archdiocese is accused of stealing $96,000 from Saint Joseph Church in Springfield, Gutgsell’s last church assignment.” By Joe Jordan, Nebraska News Channel


Alamogordo clergy sex abuse case moves forward, trial set for July 11
“A motion to drop racketeering charges was denied in a lawsuit filed by a man alleging he was sexually assaulted by a Catholic priest in Alamogordo in the 1970s. The suit was filed by a clergy sexual abuse survivor listed as John Doe who alleged Father David Holley sexually assaulted him while Holley lived in Alamogordo, and sued Servants of the Paraclete’s, the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Las Cruces, El Paso and Worcester, Massachusetts and Alamogordo parishes Immaculate Conception Parish and St. Jude Parish.” By Nicole Maxwell, Alamogordo Daily News


‘We were all children.’ What we know about allegations of sexual abuse of students at Mount St. Mary
“Multiple former students at Mount St. Mary Catholic High School in Oklahoma City have accused top administrators, including former principal Talita DeNegri, of dismissing their reports of sexual abuse by other students. The story was detailed in an exclusive report by The Oklahoman. In the wake of the allegations DeNegri resigned and the school is bolstering its policies and procedures related to mandatory reporting of abuse. However, alumni are demanding more answers from the school’s Board of Trustees.” By Josh Dulaney, The Oklahoman


‘This is criminal evidence’: Advocates deliver boxes of documents regarding clergy abuse to attorney general
“An advocacy group has turned over thousands of pages of documents from the five Wisconsin Catholic dioceses it says demonstrate a systemic coverup of sexual abuse by clergy members. Nate’s Mission, an advocacy group aimed at ending clergy abuse in Wisconsin, handed the documents over to Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul on Tuesday (Jan. 18), in a move to further the investigation launched last year into abusive clergy and the coverup of abuse by Catholic dioceses.” By Laura Schulte, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


French Catholic Church raises 20mn euros for sex abuse victims
“Catholic dioceses in France have raised 20 million euros ($22.6 million) to compensate thousands of victims of historical child sexual abuse by clergy, the fund in charge of raising the money said Tuesday (Jan. 25). Church officials have been under intense pressure to recognize and compensate victims after a landmark French inquiry confirmed widespread abuse of minors by priests, deacons and lay members of the Church dating from the 1950s. ‘It’s a first step. The Church has followed through on its commitment,’ the president of the Selam fund, Gilles Vermot-Desroches, told AFP after its board met on Monday (Jun. 24).” By Agence France-Press on DeccanHerald.com


Child abuse scandal: Germany’s Catholic Church fights for its future
“A perfect blue sky hangs over Aachen Cathedral. The crisp winter sunlight illuminates more than 12 centuries of church history, constructed on Charlemagne’s orders and the site of coronations of dozens of Germany’s kings and queens. But all is far from well behind the ornate facade here in the city on Germany’s western border with Belgium and the Netherlands. In his Sunday sermon, Aachen Bishop Helmut Dieser spoke of wrath and disappointment, outrage and dismay, suffering and doubt.” By Deutsche Welle


Mumbai priest’s conviction for child abuse sparks debate on church procedures for victim protection
“On December 29, a special judge of a court set up under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act convicted Roman Catholic priest Lawrence Johnson for sexually assaulting a minor boy. The case highlights how church authorities failed to follow both the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and rules set by the state and church Canon Law for victim protection. Human rights activists and women’s rights organizations within the Catholic community have criticized the manner in which the rights of victims are routinely negated and abusers are shielded or supported on the pretext of “maintaining neutrality” or that the matter is sub judice.” By Flavia Agnes, Scroll.in

Bishop’s acquittal: Kerala court questions nun’s ‘conduct,’ ignores change in law on rape
“From notions of how an ideal victim must behave to theories of possible enemies within the system plotting against the accused; speculation that the complainant could have had an affair with a married man to an earlier, narrower definition of rape. These are some of the key factors behind the Kerala court’s acquittal of Franco Mulakkal, the former Jalandhar Bishop of the Catholic Church, of all charges in the alleged rape of a nun.” By Apurva Vishwanath, The Indian Express


Indonesia jails ‘Catholic brother’ for molesting boys
“An Indonesian court has sentenced a ‘Catholic brother’ to 14 years in jail for sexually assaulting boys at an orphanage near capital Jakarta. Lukas ‘Lucky’ Ngalngola, also known as Brother Angelo, was convicted by Depok District Court on Jan. 20 for threatening violence and committing lewd acts on at least three children. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 100 million rupiah (US$6,990). Ngalngola claimed to be a member of the Blessed Sacrament Missionaries of Charity (BSMC), an obscure order based in the Philippines.’ By Katharina R. Lestari, UCANews.com

Indonesia sees spike in sexual abuse of children
“Sexual violence committed against children in Indonesia almost tripled in 2021, but true figures remain elusive because of a tendency not to report such crimes and cover them up, according to an agency dedicated to protecting victims. The Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPKS) said it recorded 288 complaints last year, a sharp increase on the 107 recorded in 2020. ‘At least 65.7 percent of these 288 incidents took place in schools,’ Edwin Partogi Pasaribu, an agency spokesman, said on Jan. 16.” By Konradus Epa, UCANews.com


Polish diocese apologizes for asking if abuse victim is gay
“A Catholic diocese in Poland apologized on Thursday (Jan. 13) for having asked a court to determine whether a man who was sexually abused as a child by a priest is gay, and whether the sexual contact may have consequently been pleasurable for him. Following wide criticism, the Bielsko-Zywiec diocese said that its letter to the court should not have included questions about the victim’s sexuality or have suggested that he drew pleasure from contact with the priest. The diocese dispatched the letter in response to a lawsuit by the victim, Janusz Szymik.” By Vanessa Gera, Associated Press, in U.S. News & World Report


Portuguese abuse commission begins work investigating ‘deep pain and suffering’
“A week into the year-long independent anti-abuse commission convened by the Catholic Church in Portugal, 102 allegations had been made. In a statement released to the Lusa Portuguese news agency, child psychiatrist Pedro Strecht, the coordinator of the independent abuse commission, said that the 102 testimonies received thus far, contain ‘moments of deep pain and suffering.’ The testimonies were received either online or via phone call. The Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church is collecting complaints from victims of cases that have occurred since 1950, which may be referred to the police.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com