Voice of the Faithful Focus, May 21, 2021


‘Vos Estis’ expires in one year. What works and what changes are needed in version 2.0?
“Two years ago this month, Pope Francis issued a sweeping new church law on bishop accountability, establishing a global system for investigation allegations against bishops of abuse or its cover-up. Known as Vos Estis Lux Mundi (‘You Are the Light of the World’), the norms encourage — but do not mandate — the involvement of lay experts in the process of investigating allegations against bishops. When it was signed into law, Vos Estis was adopted for a three-year period ‘ad experimentum. To date, there are at least six known authorized Vos Estis investigations into U.S. bishops by the Vatican.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Catholic church (in Canada) unveils new system for reporting sexual abuse committed or covered up by bishops
“Victims and advocates say a new system for reporting sexual abuse and cover-ups by Catholic bishops appears to be a case of ‘optics over substance’ and may not go far enough to protect those at risk of being abused. This week, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) announced the unveiling of a national and bilingual service for reporting situations of sexual abuse either committed or covered up by a bishop. ‘This service furthers their commitment to responsibility, accountability and transparency in matters of clergy sexual abuse and their commitment to facilitate healing and justice for victims-survivors,’ the national assembly said in a statement.” By CBC News

‘A possible disaster’: Catholic Church reckons with declining interest post-pandemic
“In a pastoral reflection on the future of the Catholic Church last month, one of the church’s newest and youngest bishops, Bishop of Clonfert Michael Duignan (50), pondered the challenges that lie ahead. ‘I fear that we might mistakenly think that once the current Covid restrictions are lifted and once we return to public worship, everything will be all right,’ said the bishop. Instead, he believes the future will be ‘very different.’ Some ‘fear a possible disaster,’ he said, with ‘fewer people practicing, financial difficulties, children and families further distanced from the sacraments and congregations permanently migrating to the comfort of online attendance.’” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times

Catholic religious orders must come clean about abusive clergy
“A clerical sex abuse scandal has rocked the Catholic Church for decades now, and to our way of thinking, full disclosure is the only way for the church to put the scandal completely to rest. Every independent religious order must follow the lead of the rest of the Church and come clean about abusive priests in their ranks. A number of those independent orders — among them the Jesuits and Carmelites — have made the only correct moral and ethical choice.” Chicago Sun Times Editorial Board

With new ministry of catechist, Pope Francis widens role for lay Catholics
“In a measure aimed at promoting the work of lay people in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis instituted a new ministry of catechists on Tuesday (May 11), open to lay Catholics, men and women to serve the church by transmitting the faith. While the role of catechist is already recognized in the Catholic Church, largely as teachers in missionary contexts, Tuesday’s document, known as a motu proprio, answers demands from lay Catholics for a bigger voice in the church in the wake of decades of scandals and increasing clerical control.” By Claire Giangravé, Religion News Service


Polish bishop resigns after probe into cover-up allegations
“Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a Polish bishop following a Vatican investigation into alleged negligence in addressing cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests under the bishop’s authority. The forced departure of Bishop Jan Tyrawa was the latest in a string of sanctions the pope has meted out since mid-2020 to Polish Catholic Church leaders over cases of cover-up of sexual abuse by other priests.” By Associated Press

Pope Francis’ process for investigating accused Catholic bishops clearly requires reform
“Pope Francis’ new system to evaluate allegations of sexual abuse or cover-up against individual Catholic bishops, which went into effect in June 2019, is admirable. For the first time in millennia — quite literally — there is an active process in place to hold prelates accountable should they fail in their duty to protect children or vulnerable adults from clerical predators. But after two years, it is clear that the process — which involves the Vatican empowering archbishops to conduct investigations as necessary in their local regions under the norms of the papal motu propio letter Vos Estis Lux Mundi — requires significant improvement.” By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Board

Wisconsin attorney general discusses clergy abuse review
“Attorney General Josh Kaul discusses a new statewide investigation of abuse by Catholic priests and other faith leaders. The probe follows investigations of the Catholic church by other states and calls by advocates for a similar review in Wisconsin.” By Keegan Kyle, Wisconsin Public Radio


Pope’s desire for synodality will reshape church, Cardinal Tobin says
“Pope Francis’ repeated calls for mercy and for the church to hear voices from the peripheries is an invitation to accept that the Holy Spirit speaks not just to church leaders but to all the baptized, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, said in an online lecture. Those calls are the hallmark of the pope’s efforts to change the life of the church, the cardinal said May 4 in his talk, “Synodality and the Long Game of Pope Francis,” for the annual Cardinal Bernardin Common Cause Lecture at Loyola University Chicago’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage.” By Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service, in The Pilot


From princes to managers
“The report published by the Vatican last November on former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick can be viewed as a sign of our ecclesial times. In laying out the history of McCarrick’s behavior and shedding light on how it was countenanced, even enabled, by fellow hierarchs throughout the Church, it was another reminder of the danger of according unwarranted esteem to high-level clergy. For centuries, from Augustine to Vatican II, the official profiles of bishops and cardinals constituted something of a literary genre unto itself: the so-called speculum episcopi, portraits of the episcopal elite in which succeeding generations of prospective Church leaders could see themselves. They were presented as models to emulate, forebears to be guided and inspired by. Of course, that ‘mirror of a bishop’ is an idealization, but as a metaphor it plays better than the figurative mugshots within the pages of the McCarrick report.” By Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal

Former Newark Archbishop sexually abused 5-year-old in church rectory, lawsuit claims
“A former Newark resident went to the Archdiocese of Newark last year with an explosive claim. In 1976, Newark Archbishop Peter Leo Gerety befriended her family and sexually abused her on multiple times in his bedroom in the church rectory when she was 5 years old, she said. ‘Do not say anything about this because it will hurt your mother,’ she recalled Gerety, then the highest ranking church official in New Jersey, saying. ‘This is our secret.’” By Kelly Heyboer, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com


Pope institutes new ‘secular ministry’ of Catechist open to laymen and laywomen
“Pope Francis on Tuesday (May 11) instituted the ‘secular’ ministry of the catechist, meant for lay men and women who feel called to help in the Catholic Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel. With the formal recognition of the many ‘competent catechists,’ who already exercise an ‘irreplaceable mission in the transmission and deepening of the faith,’ Francis offers yet another ministry to the laity after extending the role of acolytes and readers to women in the beginning of January.” By Inés San Martín, Cruxnow.com

Francis is redesigning the church with new lay ministries
“When Pope Francis said he did not want to clericalize the laity, he meant it. Now, while too many bishops have their cinctures in a knot over who can approach Communion, the 266th successor of St. Peter is redesigning the church. It all began with the Second Vatican Council. Then, in 1972, Pope Paul VI suppressed the minor orders in response to the windstorm that was the council, instead creating two “installed” lay ministries: lector and acolyte. For men. Installed lectors and acolytes were to take up the duties once performed by the lectors, porters, exorcists and acolytes of the medieval church, who by modern times received minor orders on their way up the clerical ladder. While he was at it, Paul suppressed the major order of sub-deacon, now fondly remembered mainly by Tridentine Mass aficionados.” By Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter


Two very different parishes point to divisions in the church
“… The two parishes described previously illustrate a tension that is going on across the country between parishes that see themselves as living out the legacy of the Second Vatican Council and those that have become known as rad trads (shorthand for radical traditionalists), a movement that is quietly transforming parishes around the country. A prime example is St. Matthew Catholic Church, another parish in the Diocese of Charlotte, that once boasted a congregation of more than 30,000 and claimed to be the largest Catholic parish in the United States.” By Peter Feuerherd, U.S. Catholic

Editorial: More mergers for the Catholic Church
“Another difficult time has arrived for the Catholic faithful, as area parishes prepare for mergers brought on by the retirement of priests and the need for expensive building repairs … These changes will be painful for some parishioners, but the Archdiocese of Hartford is expected to lose 25 priests to retirement in the next five years, and there are not enough new priests coming up to replace them.” By My Record Journal Editorial Board


Bishop Robert Barron’s ‘beige’ version of Vatican II
“Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles since 2015, is the most popular and influential cyber-evangelist in American Catholicism. In 2000, he also founded Word on Fire, an interesting experiment of web-based Catholic apologetics and retrieval of the contribution of key thinkers relevant for theology and the church. One of the latest editorial initiatives of Word on Fire is the elegantly designed volume The Word on Fire Vatican II Collection, published in March … It’s from the introduction that Barron shows his intention: responding to traditionalists’ assault against the legitimacy of Vatican II, which has been rampant for a few years now in Catholic blogs and the internet.” By Massimo Faggioli, National Catholic Reporter

Taking a ‘wait and see’ stance on Pope’s latest blow for accountability
“In effect, the amendment – published in the form of a motu proprio, meaning a change to church law under the pope’s personal authority – allows the Vatican’s regular civil courts to try cases against cardinals and bishops. Previously, had a cardinal or a bishop been charged with a civil crime under the laws of the Vatican City State, the case would have had to be heard by the Vatican’s Supreme Court, presided over by a cardinal. The move eliminates a traditional privilege enjoyed by senior prelates of being judged only by their own, subjecting them to the same legal process as any other defendant, although the pontiff still has to approve any such trial in advance.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com


Bill giving some child sex abuse victims more time to sue passes Louisiana House
“The Louisiana House on Tuesday (May 11) unanimously passed a bill that would give victims of child molestation who are not yet 28 years old significantly more time to pursue civil court damages. House Bill 492, whose lead sponsor was Rep. Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans, now heads to the state Senate for a committee hearing and then — if approved there — for consideration by the full chamber. If eventually ratified in its current form, the bill would give child sex abuse survivors until their 53rd birthday to file lawsuits regarding their abuse.” By Ramon Antonio Vargas, NOLA.com

Child Sex Abuse Victims Say Legislation To Give Them Justice Is Stalled In Harrisburg
“They’re looking for justice and their day in court. but victims of child sex abuse say legislation to grant them that opportunity is stalled in the state legislature.” By Andy Sheehan, KDKA-TV2 News

Survivors speak out in advance of judiciary committee vote on Adult Survivors Act
“According to a group of women advocating for survivors of sexual abuse, an expose in Huffington Post published this week underscores the urgent need for passage of the Adult Survivors Act (A.648 Rosenthal/S.66 Hoylman). Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, Evelyn Wang, the wife of mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang and Marissa Hoechstetter are among the group of women who are fighting for their day in court.” By Susan Arbetter, New York State Spectrum News

Florida lawmaker to push again for ‘lookback window’ allowing sex abuse survivors to sue
“In 1976, 14-year-old Patrick Colville went on an overnight trip with a young priest to the fair in Tampa. That night at the hotel, he said, he was raped. ‘I was screaming stop,’ Colville said. ‘I hid in the shower, for the rest of the night.’ For roughly 40 years, Colville said, he told no one what happened. The priest, Fr. John Dux, stayed in his family’s life — even performing the marriage ceremony at his brother’s wedding several years later. In 2019, when Colville was ready to share what happened to him, the statute of limitations had expired on his case.” By Kelly Wiley, News4Jax


Former students testify at Vatican trial on abuse in minor seminary
“Four former students at the minor seminary located in the Vatican testified May 12 at the ongoing trial of Father Gabriele Martinelli, who is accused of sexually abusing a younger student at the St. Pius X Pre-Seminary. One of the former students asked the journalists present to refer to him only by his initials, M.B., because he soon will be ordained to the priesthood; Giuseppe Pignatone, president of the Vatican City State tribunal, supported the request. The four former students each had been questioned by Vatican investigators in 2018, and portions of their statements to the investigators were read at the trial.” By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Register

St. Catherine’s report sparks calls for accountability from survivors of alleged abuse by David Haas
“Some sexual assault survivors and advocates are still working to hold Catholic institutions accountable following an independent investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against composer David Haas by St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, Minnesota. They are pointing to a failure to interview Haas and the then-president of the university, as well as a lack of accountability for a former university employee whom they allege was aware of allegations against Haas. Although St. Catherine’s investigation found that the university never received any “official” complaints about Haas, it also revealed that a witness that investigators deemed credible brought concerns about Haas to a university employee … “ By Sophie Vodvarka, National Catholic Reporter


One of East Bay’s Longest-Serving Priests Accused of Raping Child Decades Ago
“An East Bay priest who died in 2012 – six years after retiring as the longest serving priest within the Diocese of Oakland – is accused in a new lawsuit of raping a young boy on multiple occasions between 1972 and 1974. The accusation comes as part of a wave of new lawsuits hitting Catholic dioceses across the state, made possible by a recent law opening a three-year window for new civil cases based on older allegations previously barred by the statute of limitations. Attorneys involved in those cases say more than 700 new accusers have come forward with allegations against Northern California dioceses alone since last year, and they expect more to follow.” By Candice Nguyen and Michael Bott, NBC-TV News Bay Area


Archdiocese of Hartford settles credible sexual allegation made against former priest, teacher at East Catholic High School in Manchester
“The Archdiocese of Hartford paid another six-figure settlement this spring to a Connecticut man who credibly accused former priest Kenneth P. Bonadies of sexually abusing him in the 1980s while he was a high school student in Manchester, attorney Mitchell Garabedian announced Wednesday (May 5) morning. The now 53-year-old man, whom Garabedian did not identify publicly, was sexually abused ‘relentlessly’ starting when he was 14 years old in 1981 until 1985, while he was a student and Bonadies a teacher at East Catholic High School in Manchester, Garabedian said.” By Zach Murcock, Hartford Courant


Lafayette Diocese: Allegations against former priest Michael Guidry credible, formally apologizes to victim and family
“The Diocese of Lafayette says they have determined that allegations made against former priest Michael Guidry are credible. The allegations they say are the ones made by Oliver Peyton. The Diocese of Lafayette released a statement on May 7, 2021, denouncing Guidry’s actions and formally apologizing to Peyton and his family.” By KATC-TV3 News

Gretna councilman says he’s victim of notorious clergy abuser at dramatic legislative hearing
“A Gretna City Council member revealed that he was sexually preyed on in grade school by one of the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ most notorious clergy abusers when he appeared before Louisiana lawmakers Monday and made an impassioned plea that they give child molestation victims significantly more time to pursue damages. The disclosure from Jackie Berthelot, 66, came during hours of testimony by abuse victims at a meeting of the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure.e a bill that would give child sex abuse survivors until their 53rd birthday to file lawsuits regarding their abuse.” By Ramon Antonio Vargas, NOLA.com

Treme priest suspended over child rape allegation sues his accuser for defamation
“The former pastor of St. Peter Claver Church in Treme, who was suspended in January following an allegation that he raped a boy, has filed a defamation lawsuit against his accuser in federal court. In the filing, The Rev. John Asare-Dankwah not only dismisses the rape claim made against him as “false,” but he argues that the accuser should pay him damages for unjustly harming his reputation, invading his privacy, and intentionally causing him emotional distress.” By Ramon Antonio Vargas, NOLA.com


Sexual misconduct allegations surface against Conventual Franciscan priest
“The Archdiocese of Baltimore has received an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor against Father Romuald Meogrossi, OFM Conv. The allegation was immediately reported to law enforcement. Fr. Meogrossi is an 81-year-old priest who had been in residence at St. Michael the Archangel Friary in Overlea. In accordance with policy, earlier this week the Archdiocese removed Fr. Meogrossi’s faculties to function as a priest, and his Franciscan superiors suspended him from public ministry, pending the results of an investigation. Fr. Meogrossi is no longer residing in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.” By Michelle Richardson, WMAR-TV2 News


Pope Francis dismisses retired Grand Haven priest from the Clerical State due to sexual abuse allegations
“A retired Catholic priest who served a lakeshore parish has been dismissed by Pope Francis from the clerical state due to sexual abuse. Retired priest Fr. William Langlois’ dismissal includes a dispensation from all obligations of the clerical state, including celibacy. According to the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Langlois may no longer minister as a priest, celebrate the sacraments, wear clerical dress, or present himself as a priest.” By ABC-TV13 News


Archdiocese ordered to provide details in Westchester teacher sex abuse lawsuit
“A judge has ordered the Archdiocese of New York and three of its Catholic schools to turn over a trove of documents related to one of its former teachers who has been accused of molesting more than 20 students decades ago. Edwin ‘Ted’ Gaynor worked as a teacher and coach at a few Catholic schools in Westchester County between the 1950s and 1980s, including Immaculate Heart of Mary in Scarsdale, St. Bernard in White Plains and Holy Rosary in Hawthorne.” By Isabel Keane, Rockland/Westchester Journal News

Diocese of Buffalo announces plans to move forward, survivors say more needs to be done
“‘I have zero tolerance for any abusive behavior criminal act by any of the clergy, and certainly towards a minor and towards an adult,’ Bishop of Buffalo Michael William Fisher announced, in conjunction with the Movement to Restore Trust, how the diocese will be looking to help move the clergy forward following years of sexual abuse cases. Those cases lead to the declaration of bankruptcy last February.” By Jeff Slawson, WKBW-TV7 News

Buffalo bishop open to releasing more files related to clergy abuse
“The new bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo says he wants to be as transparent as possible when considering the release of new documents related to clergy abuse. During a Saturday (May 8) Zoom meeting organized by the Movement to Restore Trust, a local group focused on restoring faith in the church, Bishop Michael Fisher had this to say: ‘We will provide more extensive details that relate to priests who have been removed from ministry due to credible or substantial allegations, but we also need to do this with respect for those inherent privacy situations that are governed by the law,’ Bishop Fisher said.” By WGRZ-TV2 News

Reckoning with history, Long Island diocese names 101 clergy accused of sex abuse
“The Diocese of Rockvillle Centre has released a list of 101 diocesan clergy it believes to be credibly accused of sex abuse of minors. The list is not meant to be complete, and most allegations date back decades. The list comes amid lawsuits from alleged clergy sex abuse victims and other compensation efforts in the New York diocese, which is one of the largest in the U.S. … The list also names the clergy assignments and locations where they have been accused of abuse. Some clergy on the list have been in active ministry recently, but many have not been in ministry for decades.” By Kevin J. Jones, Catholic News Agency


Former Virginia Beach priest charged with sexual assault of minor
“A former Virginia Beach Catholic priest has been charged with sexual assault of a minor in Virginia after an investigation into abuse in the church by Virginia authorities. Paul David Ryan was indicted by a Rockingham County jury on two felony counts of carnal knowledge by force of a minor under the age of 18, according to a release from Attorney General Mark Herring’s office. Authorities say the assault happened between 1979 and 1980 when he was an ordained Catholic priest assigned at Star of the Sea Parish and its affiliated Star of the Sea School.” By WAVY-TV10 News


Nuns on trial in Argentina over abuse of deaf children
“Two nuns and seven other female employees of an Argentine institute for deaf children went on trial Monday (May 3) in a sexual abuse case that has shocked the home country of Pope Francis. Two priests in charge of children at the center were jailed for more than 40 years each in November 2019 for sexual abuse, including rape, of some 20 minors. This is the second trial in the case for crimes committed between 2004 and 2016 at the Provolo Institute in Mendoza, some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) west of Buenos Aires.” By France24.com


Former Victorian priest could be extradited to U.S. on fresh sexual assault charges
“A former Victorian catholic priest jailed for sexually assaulting three boys could soon be extradited to the US on fresh sexual assault charges. The Attorney-General of the US state of Virginia has announced two charges against defrocked priest Paul David Ryan for allegedly sexually assaulting a minor in that state in 1979 and 1980. Ryan, who’s in his 70s, was jailed in Victoria in 2019 for a minimum of 17 months after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting three boys across Ararat, Warrnambool and Lower Plenty between 1981 and 1992.” By Jackson Peck, ABC Ballarat


Montreal archdiocese names independent ombudswoman to investigate abuse complaints
“The Montreal archdiocese has named an independent ombudswoman to handle complaints regarding abuse and other inappropriate behavior connected to the Catholic Church. Montreal lawyer Marie Christine Kirouack will fill the new role, which was created following the release of a report last November about how church officials mishandled the case of a convicted pedophile priest.” By Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press, on GlobalNews.ca

Preliminary hearing set for Catholic priest accused of sexual assault
“A preliminary hearing has been set for a Roman Catholic priest from the Saskatoon Diocese who is charged with sexual assault. The hearing for Fr. Anthony Atter from Lake Lenore is scheduled for August in Humboldt Circuit Court, but the hearing may be held at Saskatoon Provincial Court due to COVID-19 restrictions. Humboldt RCMP arrested the 45-year-old priest in December 2020 after receiving multiple reports of incidents of a sexual nature.’ By Lisa Joy, Battlefords News-Optimist


Costa Rica orders ex priest held on sex abuse charges
“A Costa Rican court on Friday (May 7) ordered a priest facing sexual abuse charges held in custody for six months while awaiting trial. Mauricio Víquez was extradited back from Mexico after he fled Costa Rica, where the statute of limitations was running out on abuse charges facing him. Viquez allegedly abused two teenagers in 2003. At the time in Costa Rica, such charges generally couldn’t be pursued 10 years after a complainant’s 18th birthday.” By Associated Press


Plea hearing of Catholic priest accused of historic sex offences against boys in Leeds adjourned for a further two months
“Father Patrick Smythe is accused of four counts of indecent assault against four different boys under the age of 16 between 1978 and 1983. The 77-year-old, a priest with the Diocese of Leeds, was due to enter pleas to the charges when he appeared before the court today (May 10). The case was adjourned for a further two months following an application by the prosecution. A hearing was previously adjourned in February this year. A provisional trial date has already been fixed for February 28, 2022.” By Tony Gardner, Yorkshire Evening Post

Woman’s life ruined by disgraced Preston priest who embedded himself into victim’s family
“A woman has spoken of how her life was ruined by a disgraced Preston priest who told her she would get ‘a good breakfast’ after he sexually assaulted her. Edmond Cotter was the priest at St Anthony’s Church in Fulwood in the 1970s and 1980s when he took advantage of youngsters who attended for Mass and Holy Communion. Cotter embedded ‘himself into the families of his victims’ and abused them over more than a decade. Cotter, now 74, was jailed for more than five years in 2007 after sexually assaulting 10 girls and one boy between 1972 and 1984. The children were aged between eight and 11 at the time.” By Amy Fenton, Lancs.Live


Vatican hires attorneys in child sex abuse case against former archbishop
“The Vatican now has a team of Guam and California attorneys to represent it as one of the defendants in a case alleging rape and molestation of a minor by then-Archbishop Anthony Apuron, in school year 1994-1995. This particular case caught the Holy See’s attention after the plaintiff and his counsel asked the District Court of Guam to seek the U.S. Department of State’s help on service of process on the Holy See. The Holy See, or State of Vatican City, tapped Guam-based attorney John Unpingco to be its counsel.” By Haidee Eugenio Gilbert, The Guam Daily Post


Man abused in state care alleges children from Wellington boys’ home were prostituted out to Catholic Church officials
“A survivor of abuse in state care has alleged children were taken from a Wellington boys’ home and prostituted out to Catholic Church officials. Keith Wiffin made the claims at a hearing for the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care on Tuesday (May 11) and alleged the Church is currently investigating the allegations. Wiffin claimed boys were taken from Epuni boys’ home in Lower Hutt in a van by a housemaster, Alan Moncrief-Wright, to a Church site, where clergymen would walk around the van looking at the boys, selecting the ones they wanted to sexually abuse.” By Sophie Cornish, Stuff.co.nz