Voice of the Faithful Focus, July 24, 2015

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


Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle meets with members of pontifical commission on sex abuse
“One of the most severe critics of the church’s handling of the sex abuse scandal spent several days last month briefing members of the Vatican commission appointed to advise Pope Francis on the issue. In a phone interview Monday (July 20), Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle confirmed that he met with four members of the commission in London after he was approached to consult with the group by commission member Marie Collins of Ireland, who was raped by a priest as a youngster.” By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis dumps two more bishops as house cleaning continues
“Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a Mexican bishop who reportedly shielded a priest accused of sexually molesting an 11-year-old boy, and on Wednesday the Vatican announced that a Brazilian archbishop who spent $600,000 on renovations to his home and offices had been dismissed.” By David Gibson, Religion News Service

Let’s end clericalism in the church
“Finally, there appears an issue that our divided church can agree on. Catholics of all stripes—conservatives and liberals and in-betweens—are declaring a pox on clericalism. From Pope Francis to the back pew widow, from seminary rectors to lay ecclesial ministers, it’s agreed that clericalism is crippling the pastoral mission of the church.” Commentary by Fr. Donald Cozzens, a writer in residence and teacher at John Carroll University and recipient of a VOTF Priest of Integrity Award, in U.S. Catholic, along with an online survey

Milwaukee archdiocese asks Supreme Court to consider ruling on cemetery fund
“Lawyers for Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider a federal appellate court ruling that a $55 million-plus cemetery trust fund is not shielded in bankruptcy court by the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment.” By Marie Rohde, National Catholic Reporter

Sex abuse trial of ex-Vatican envoy is delayed
“The trial of a former Vatican ambassador accused of sexually abusing boys while stationed in the Dominican Republic and of possessing child pornography was adjourned indefinitely on Saturday (July 11) after he fell ill and was hospitalized. The defendant, Jozef Wesolowski, 66, was taken to an Italian hospital for an ‘unexpected illness’ on Friday, the Vatican said in a statement. The trial will resume when Mr. Wesolowski recovers, it said.” By Gaia Pianigiani, The New York Times
Former ambassador hospitalized ahead of child abuse trial, By Crispian Balmer, Reuters

Twelve years in, sex abuse charter faces ongoing challenges
“Because the ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People’ is a ‘living document’ open to differing interpretations, those in charge of implementing the charter at the diocesan level face a variety of challenges, according to the head of the bishops’ national office.” By Nancy Frazier O’Brien, Catholic News Service


Church faces need to ‘give an accounting,’ Archbishop Hebda says
Archbishop Bernard Hebda, in his first public interviews, said Friday (July 10) that his priority during his temporary stay in the Twin Cities is to tackle legal issues such as the bankruptcy and clergy abuse lawsuits confronting the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese. He also is considering the growing demands to release an internal investigation into reports of sexual misconduct by former Archbishop John Nienstedt. That investigation was conducted last year but never made public.” By Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune

A strong press is the Lafayette lesson
“NCR editor’s note: This story is part of a weeklong series dedicated to looking back on 30 years of the abuse crisis in the Catholic church. Read all parts of the series. “The reports I did on clergy child molesters in the Lafayette, La., diocese changed my life in ways that reverberate still. The June 7, 1985, NCR, with my long report on Fr. Gilbert Gauthe’s sex crimes, Arthur Jones’ piece on cases elsewhere, and NCR’s editorial calling for lay review boards, laid the issue before a national media that held back for years.” By Jason Berry, National Catholic Reporter
Editorial: It’s time to end pattern of deceit and denial on clergy sex abuse cases, By National Catholic Reporter


UK bishops call for ordination of married men
“Against the backdrop of an ageing clergy and falling vocations, three retired English bishops are calling for the prohibition on the ordination of married men to be reconsidered, writes Chris O’Donnell in The Tablet. By CathNews.com


Rediscovering the role of the Synod of Bishops
“Unlike the other synods held since the Second Vatican Council, the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to discuss the family, held in Rome last October, sparked widespread interest. It did so for two reasons. First, the open and lively debate in the synod contrasted starkly with the muted interventions characteristic of its predecessors, which tended to be little more than rubber stamps … Second, it was in this tell-us-what-you-think atmosphere that the synod addressed sensitive, controversial and real-life issues like divorce, annulments, same-sex unions and cohabitation before marriage. The world took notice.” By John W. O’Malley, America

What ‘scandalous’ changes could be coming to the Catholic Church?
“But on issues of the family, the pontiff hinted that ‘scandalous’ changes could be on the Catholic Church’s horizon after bishops gather in Rome for a meeting on the topic later this year. The meeting is a continuation of a synod that began in fall of 2014 and which addressed contentious issues, such as allowing communion for divorced Catholics and extending a welcome to people in the LGBT community.” By Antonia Blumberg, The Huffington Post

It matters what Catholics think about sex. Just not enough to change their church
“Does it matter that the Roman Catholics of Europe and north America overwhelmingly reject some of the church’s sexual teaching? We learned last year that there are still men in the Vatican who don’t think it matters because they haven’t noticed that millions of Catholics disagree with them. The questionnaire sent out in advance of the synod on the family last year contained some questions that would never have occurred to anyone who had actually talked about these things to a heterosexual lay person at any time during the last 30 years. On the other hand it did contain enough realistic questions for the results to be suppressed by the bishops’ conferences in most countries.” By Andrew Brown, Commentary in The Guardian


The spiritual struggle of fighting the church
“As a Christian who also happens to be a child protection professional, I have a strained relationship with the church. It is a struggle borne by many who share my faith and my profession. In my personal life, the church is my friend, the center of my world … In my professional life, though, the church is often my adversary.” By Victor Vieth, in Boz Tchividjian Blog, Religion News Service

For abuse victims, mixed emotions on pope’s visit
“I ’ve been struggling for months with how to personally deal with this fall’s visit by Pope Francis for the World Meeting of Families. I would like to share in the excitement — but I am deeply conflicted.” By John Salveson, Commentary on Philly.com

Should we care about what happens to displaced parish communities?
“… Yet I don’t find sociological data points very helpful when it comes to evaluating whether current trends are helping or hindering Catholics in becoming deeply committed members of faith communities centered on the mission of Jesus. What is missing in the sociological analysis is the power and meaning of Christian community.” By Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter

When the Church prefers perpetrators
“Something is wrong when churches protect perpetrators and marginalize victims. In recent months, we’ve seen a bit of the underbelly of covering up sexual abuse, demanding victims forgive and forget instantly for the sake of the poor offenders whose lives might be ruined if they were found out. Cover up that exalts the ‘ministry’ or a ministry personality over the well-being of one who has been sinned against does not represent the Jesus I follow.” By Mary DeMuth, Religion News Service

Catholics defy Boston Archdiocese with 11-year vigil to keep church
“It was a bright Sunday morning at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church, and the building’s stained glass windows cast a jewel-colored glow over the service. An elegant 81-year-old woman led a few dozen congregants in Catholic prayer. A single flutist accompanied the hymns. But there was no priest. The parishioners were not, in fact, supposed to be there. And there is nothing the Archdiocese of Boston would like more than for them to get out.” By Jess Gidgood, The New York Times


217,716 leave German Catholic Church
“New data released last week (week of July 13) by the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference shows that 217,716 people left the Catholic Church in Germany last year, a 22 percent increase from the previous year. In the past five years, more than 820,000 German Catholics have renounced their membership, according to official church data. Compared to the withdrawal rate in 1990, last year’s exodus represented a 52 percent increase.” By Conor Gaffey, Newsweek


Pope Francis’ U.S. approval rates slump sharply, led by conservative dismay
“Growing conservative disaffection with Pope Francis appears to be taking a toll on his once Teflon-grade popularity in the U.S., with a new Gallup poll showing the pontiff’s favorability rating among all Americans dropping to 59 percent from a 76 percent peak early last year.” By David Gibson, Religion News Service

Eight ways Pope Francis is changing the direction of the Catholic Church
“The first Jesuit pope and the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years, Francis has differed significantly from his predecessors with his outspoken style and his approach to leading the church. His comments on poverty, church reform, climate change and divorce have made headlines around the world. Here is a look at some of them.” By The New York Times


Vatican finances still lack transparency
“The summaries of the two consolidated financial statements that Pell’s office put out on July 16 constituted nothing more than a press release. Obviously, he and his staff went into greater detail two days earlier, when they presented those same statements to the Council for the Economy, the 15-member board of cardinals and lay finance experts that German Cardinal Reinhard Marx heads. Why were these fuller reports not made public?” By Robert Mickens, National Catholic Reporter

Vatican had more than a billion euros off books before financial clean-up
“Vatican departments had more than a billion euros that were not declared on an overall balance sheet before new accounting standards kicked in last year, a financial statement showed on Thursday (July 15). The man appointed to clean up Vatican finances said last December that departments had ‘tucked away’ millions of euros and followed ‘long-established patterns’ in jealously managing their affairs without reporting to any central accounting office.” By Philip Pullella, Reuters


Canadian bioethicist, Aquinas fan among women to advise Holy See
“Moira McQueen, a theology professor and a fan of St. Thomas Aquinas, views her appointment into a prestigious Catholic commission as cumulative of her faith and decisions made throughout her life. ‘I find that it is only possible to be humble before his incredible gifts of reasoning, insight and faith,’ said McQueen of the 13th-century theologian and philosopher. A theologian herself, she started out in law but, after desiring to delve more into her faith, she pursued a master’s in theology and eventually a doctorate. Pursuing theology allowed her to learn more about her faith and also led to her being appointed to the International Theological Commission.” By Maria Montemayor, GlobalSistersReport.org


Thousands of child abuse victims to be invited to testify in truth project
“Thousands of victims of child sexual abuse are being invited to testify across the country in a truth project set up as part of the biggest public inquiry into criminality and corruption by public and private institutions in England and Wales. Justice Lowell Goddard, the New Zealand judge appointed to run the long-awaited independent inquiry into child abuse within state and non-state institutions, vowed that no individual or institution however powerful would be able to obstruct her investigations.” By Sandra Laville and Owen Bowcott, The Guardian

Perth archbishop sets world first in preventing abuse
“Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, the Catholic Archbishop of Perth, will launch a Safeguarding Project at the 11 a.m. Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth today, Sunday, July 5, as a bold response to protect children and prevent further abuse. This is the first diocesan project of its kind to be established in the 28 dioceses of Australia’s Catholic Church. ‘Child sexual abuse is a terrible problem,’ said Archbishop Costelloe, ‘and it simply has to be dealt with.” By Catholic Archdiocese of Perth

Twin Cities parishes not required to play sex abuse video
“A federal bankruptcy judge on Thursday (July 9) rejected efforts to have a video about clergy sex abuse played in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Victim advocates and attorneys argued that playing the video would help alert abuse survivors of an Aug. 3 deadline for filing claims against the archdiocese.” By Martin Moylan, Minnesota Public Radio


Priest abuse case resurfaces
“Allegations of a priest’s ‘inappropriate conduct with a minor’ have resurfaced almost 15 years after the case was first brought to the attention of the Diocese of Stockton and authorities, according to the diocese. On Friday (July 10), the Diocese of Stockton released a statement that it received information alleging Father Editho Mascardo’s misconduct. The diocese said it had alerted authorities and had placed Mascardo on administrative leave.” By Almendra Carpizo, RecordNet.com

Modesto priest placed on leave over sexual misconduct allegations
“A priest in residence at Modesto’s Holy Family Catholic Church has been placed on administrative leave due to allegations of inappropriate conduct with a minor occurring years ago. In a statement released Friday (July 10), the Most Rev. Stephen Blaire, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Stockton, said the allegations against the Rev. Editho Mascardo have been reported to the Stockton Police Department.” By The Modesto Bee


SNAP calls on church to seek out victims of priest who worked in Milo, Council Bluffs and Logan
“An Iowa spokesman for a group that helps survivors of abused by priests says a Catholic priest who was publicly identified in Minnesota as a ‘credibly accused’ child molester also worked in three Iowa towns. Father Paul Kabat worked in Milo from 1995 to 1998, Council Bluffs from 1992 to 1995 and Logan from 1985 to 1992.” By Dar Danielson, Radio Iowa

Archdiocese of Dubuque clears priest accused of sex abuse; advocacy group unconvinced
“A former Dubuque priest accused of sexual abuse has been cleared by the Archdiocesan Review Board, but an advocacy group for clerical-abuse victims doubts the veracity of the investigation.” By THOnline.com


Child sexual abuse case heads to circuit court
“The case of a former employee at a local catholic high school is heading to Macomb County Circuit Court. Joseph Sturza, a former director of admissions at Austin Catholic High School in Ray Township and a former youth minister at St. Isidore Catholic Church in Macomb Township, is charged with four felony counts: child sexual abuse activity, accosting a child for immoral purposes, and two counts of using a computer to communicate with a minor in order to commit a crime.” By Thomas Franz, C&G Newspapers

Priest, 70, gets 12 years for child porn, sex assault
“A Catholic priest who worked at a Detroit high school was sentenced to 12 years in prison Tuesday (July 14) after he pleaded guilty to transporting child porn to Chicago and admitted to sexually assaulting a former student. Richard James Kurtz, 70, was a chemistry teacher years ago at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School in Detroit.” By Katrease Stafford, USA Today, in National Catholic Reporter


Abusive priests outed – time running out to bring more claims
“Law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates has released the names of seven priests and brothers whom a Catholic religious order agreed had been ‘credibly accused’ of child sexual abuse … The first Native childhood-sexual-abuse claim under the new Minnesota law was filed in November 2013 for abuse that took place on White Earth. On that occasion, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribal member and Anderson consultant Lonna Hunter said, ‘This has been going on so long across Indian country. But we can stop it today.’” By Stephanie Woodward, Indian Country Today Media Network


Lawsuit alleging sex abuse against priest goes forward
“A lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh over an allegation of child sexual abuse against a priest can move toward a trial, a three-judge panel ruled Tuesday (July 7). The North Carolina Court of Appeals rejected arguments made by lawyers representing Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and the Raleigh diocese that allowing the lawsuit to advance would violate the constitutional separation of church and state.” By The Robesonian


Catholic Church insurance group given week to produce 2,000 documents
“The Catholic Church’s insurance company has been given a week to produce almost 2,000 files to the royal commission into child sexual abuse. In February, Catholic Church Insurance (CCI) was issued with a subpoena to hand over documents about the Church’s response to child sexual abuse allegations.” By Angela Lavoipierre, ABC News Australia

New South Wales priest, refused bail over alleged 1980s child sex offenses, was working at school before arrest
“A NSW Catholic priest and police chaplain denied bail over alleged child sex offences from 30 years ago was working at a primary school until his arrest yesterday (July 9). John Patrick Casey faced the Port Macquarie Court this morning (July 10) on nine offences.” By ABC News Australia

What a six-year-old girl was told by a nun
“A woman who allegedly suffered horrific sexual abuse by a Catholic priest when she was just six years old has finally broken her silence after almost 50 years. Gina Swannell claims she was abused several times over a six month period by Father Charles Holdsworth when she was a student at St Francis Xavier’s boarding school at Urana, in south-west NSW, in 1966.” By Emily Crane, Daily Mail Australia

Catholic priest who also works as a police chaplain charged with child sex offences in Kempsey in 1980s
A Catholic priest and part-time police chaplain has been charged with historical child sex offences in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales. In February, police began an investigation into allegations against the Catholic priest, who is also a part-time police chaplain. It is alleged the offences took place in the Lismore Diocese in the 1980s. Police said the investigation was referenced at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.” By ABC News Australia

Catholic brother a brazen offender who grossly abused his child victims, Melbourne court hears
“Brother Bernard Hartman, who has pleaded guilty to abusing children while teaching at a Melbourne school, was a brazen offender who grossly abused the trust of his victims, the Victorian County Court has heard. Brother Hartman, an American who taught at St Paul’s College in Altona North more than 30 years ago, is now 75 years old. He was extradited to Australia to face trial over the sexual assault of two girls in their homes and the molestation of a male student at the all boy’s college.” By ABC News Australia


Former Winnipeg priest pleads guilty to sexual assault
“An elderly, defrocked Catholic priest is facing a lengthy prison sentence after admitting to years of sexual abuse against three young Winnipeg boys he took under his care. Father Ronald Léger, 77, the former pastor of Holy Family Parish on Archibald Street, pleaded guilty Monday (July 13) to sexual assault and sexual interference.” By Mike Mcintyre, Winnipeg Free Press


Alexis Jay on child sex abuse: ‘Politicians wanted to keep a lid on it’
“Alexis Jay officially retired two years ago – not that you’d notice. In 2013 she stepped down from her role as Scotland’s chief social work adviser, shortly after being awarded an OBE … But last week (week of July 6) the 66-year-old began her biggest task yet, when she joined the panel of what has been described as Britain’s most complicated and wide-reaching statutory inquiry ever. The independent inquiry into child sex abuse (IICSA) is expected to take five years investigating claims of abuse in faith and religious organizations, the criminal justice system, local authorities and national institutions such as the BBC, NHS and Ministry of Defense.” By Helen Pidd, The Guardian