Voice of the Faithful Focus, May 24, 2019

May 24, 2019


Why does Francis’ passion for justice and unity stop short of women?
“In June 2016, just after Pope Francis announced he would create a commission for the study of the history of women deacons in the Catholic Church, he joked to journalists, ‘When you want something not to be resolved, make a commission.’ Apparently, he wasn’t kidding after all. On May 7, while aboard the papal flight from Macedonia to Rome, Francis announced that, after three years of study, the papal commission was unable to find consensus and give a ‘definitive response’ on the role of women deacons in the first centuries of Christianity.” By Jamie Manson, National Catholic Reporter

Theology rooted in patriarchy delays restoration of female diaconate
“Overall I was more encouraged than discouraged by Pope Francis’s May 10 discussion about women deacons at the triennial meeting of the UISG. I was pleasantly surprised that the pope was considering a ‘sacramental decree’ about the issue. My worst fear was that church officials would establish an ahistorical hybrid ‘deaconette’ function for women that was neither fish nor fowl — neither ordained nor lay. Instead, it appears that Francis seeks a ‘solid theological, historical foundation’ to sacramentally ordain women deacons. This is where the discouraging part comes in. The solid historical foundation is already there. In spades.” By Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter

Victims of clergy abuse to sue Vatican, seek abusers’ names
“Five men who say they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests when they were minors are planning to sue the Vatican and are demanding the names of thousands of predator priests they claim have been kept secret by the Holy See. In a Monday news release announcing the lawsuit, Minnesota attorney Jeff Anderson said he wants to show that the Vatican tried to cover up actions by top church officials including former St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt. The lawsuit being filed Tuesday seeks the release of 3,400 names of priests who were referred to the Vatican for ‘credible cases of abuse.’ That number was released by the Vatican in 2014.” By Amy Forliti and Michael Rezendes, Associated Press, in America: The Jesuit Review

Police execute search warrant at Catholic Diocese of Dallas
“Police searched the offices of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas on Wednesday (May 15) after an investigation into child sexual abuse allegations against a former priest uncovered claims against others, a police commander said. Investigators searched the diocesan headquarters and also a storage unit it uses and the offices of a church, police Maj. Max Geron told reporters.” By Julie Asher, Catholic News Service, in America: The Jesuit Review

Poland back pedophilia law after Church documentary rattles ruling party
“Poland announced plans on Tuesday (May 14) to tighten sentences for child sex abuse, just days after the country’s politics were upended by a documentary on pedophilia in the Catholic Church, closely allied to the nationalist ruling Law and Justice party. In just three days since it was posted on YouTube, more than 11 million people have viewed the documentary ‘Just Don’t Tell Anyone.’ It shows Poles confronting priests they said abused them as children, and presents allegations that known pedophiles were shifted between parishes.” By Reuters, on News.Yahoo.com


Pope decrees first global rules for reporting abuse
“ Pope Francis on Thursday (May 9) introduced the Roman Catholic Church’s first worldwide law requiring officials to report and investigate clerical sex abuse and its cover-up, issues that have haunted his papacy and devastated the church he has sought to remake. The new norms, delivered in a Motu Proprio, or law decreed by the pope himself, come into force on June 1 and are experimental, in that they will be re-evaluated after a three-year trial period.” By Jason Horowitz, The New York Times

Francis follow through
“When the Vatican summit on clerical sex abuse concluded in February, the editors of this magazine argued that its effectiveness would be demonstrated by what happened after it was over. … Not all of these questions can be fully answered yet. But just three months after the summit’s conclusion, Francis has proved that at least his own words were not empty promises, handing down Vos estis lux mundi (“You Are the Light of the World”), a motu proprio that establishes universal laws for reporting and investigating sex abuse.” By Commonweal Editors

The success of Pope Francis’ new sex abuse reporting rules depends on enforcement
“Learning from what he calls ‘the bitter lessons of the past,’ Pope Francis has issued the most comprehensive response of his papacy to the sex abuse crisis. The new document requires bishops, priests and religious to report sexual abuse and cover-ups to church officials and sets up new procedures for investigating bishops. It also tells bishops to follow local laws governing reporting of abuse to civil authorities.” By Thomas Reese, Religion News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

Thoughts on populism, liability and unfinished business on abuse norms
“Now that the dust has settled a bit on Vos Estis Lux Mundi, a new set of papal norms governing both reporting and investigation into accusations of clerical sexual abuse and its cover-up released by the Vatican on Thursday May 9), the overall reaction seems reasonably clear. For most people, it can be expressed this way: So far as they go, these rules seem promising, but we need to see them applied in practice – because experience has shown that in the Catholic Church, as in virtually any other context, a law’s only as important as the will to enforce it. Since that’s an ‘only time will tell’ situation, here are three other quick thoughts …” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com


Pope to women Superiors General: mission is service, not servitude
“Pope Francis on Friday (May 3) received some 850 Superiors General of women religious who had just concluded their Plenary Assembly that takes place every three years. During the audience he conversed with them reflecting on a series of topics including the question of the abuse of religious women, women’s diaconate, the role of women in the Church and the possibility of an apostolic trip to South Sudan. But first, he thanked the religious for their courageous choice to evolve in sync with an evolving world, pointing out that their new path is full of risks, but he said, ‘it is even more risky to be afraid and not grow.’” By Linda Bordoni, Vatican News


Catholic women divided over pope’s remarks on female deacons
“Pope Francis’s cautionary words on the female diaconate made waves in early May, ruffling a few feathers in the Catholic world, especially among women. However, his remarks were welcomed by some female Catholics. ‘Francis’s comments make it clear that he holds to the classical understanding of doctrinal development,’ said Dawn Eden Goldstein, theologian and author of numerous books on sexual abuse, in a May 10 email to Crux.” By Claire Giangravè, Cruxnow.com

What, if anything, does the commission on women deacons agree on?
“This week on “Inside the Vatican,” Gerry and I talk about three stories from Pope Francis’ trip to Bulgaria and North Macedonia. We’ll talk about what he did on that trip, as well as two stories he commented on during a press conference aboard the papal plane … And finally, we speak about the breaking news on the question of women deacons. Why hasn’t the Study Commission on the Women’s Diaconate reached any conclusions? What, if anything, do they agree on? By Colleen Dulle, Inside the Vatican, America: The Jesuit Review


Abolish the priesthood
“What if multitudes of the faithful, appalled by what the sex-abuse crisis has shown the Church leadership to have become, were to detach themselves from—and renounce—the cassock-ridden power structure of the Church and reclaim Vatican II’s insistence that that power structure is not the Church? The Church is the people of God. The Church is a community that transcends space and time. Catholics should not yield to clerical despots the final authority over our personal relationship to the Church. I refuse to let a predator priest or a complicit bishop rip my faith from me.” By James Carroll, The Atlantic

Pope warns diocesan leaders against clericalism
“A diocese that cares more about being an organized workplace than announcing the good news can fall prey to clericalism and distance itself from Christ, Pope Francis said. In creating a ‘functionalist diocese,’ the Pope said, local churches are in danger of transmitting a ‘new ideological colonization that seeks to convince others that the Gospel is wisdom and doctrine but not an announcement, not a kerygma.’ Francis addressed more than 1000 diocesan leaders, both clergy and laity last week (May 3) at the Basilica of St John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome.” By CathNews.com


California confession debate pivots on how to keep children safe
“(Italian journalist Vittoria) Messori is an epigrammatic guy, and I remember him talking once about stories on the Church no journalist could ever report. Among them, he said, was the story of how many atrocities in human history have been prevented by the sacrament of confession – that unique moment when, in absolute privacy, a priest has the chance to speak heart-to-heart with someone, potentially turning their life around. The memory comes to mind in light of a bill currently being debated in the California Senate, SB 360, which would effectively shred the seal of the confessional by eliminating an exemption to the state’s mandatory reporting law for ‘penitential communication.’” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com

Pope Francis stops hiding from the Church’s sexual-abuse epidemic
“Before this week, the Roman Catholic Church had no global policy requiring priests and bishops to report and investigate allegations of sexual abuse. No formal measure held bishops accountable for misconduct and cover-ups, despite a number of high-profile, horrific cases of wrongdoing by the Church’s top leaders. With story after story exposing new abuses around the world, Catholics have grown cynical about the Vatican’s willingness to face the global sickness of sexual abuse, and many have abandoned the Church entirely. On Thursday (May 9), Pope Francis took a significant step toward changing that.” By Emma Green, The Atlantic

Writer of blunt ’02 memo on abuse: Gregory can handle the truth
“David Spotanski wrote the kind of candid memo to his boss in February 2002 that some underlings compose, think better of, and then delete. It was no ordinary missive from a chancery bureaucrat. The then-vice chancellor for the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, felt the memo was so important that he went to then-Bishop Wilton Gregory’s house and personally read it aloud. The memo reflected rage, frustration and disgust about sex abuse in the church. In shockingly undiplomatic language, it didn’t mince words.” By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter


45% of Catholic Charities donors don’t want money shared with Buffalo Diocese
“In this year’s Catholic Charities of Buffalo fundraising appeal, held amid the tumult of the ongoing sexual abuse scandal, organizers gave donors a choice of where they wanted their funds to go. Nearly half of the donors, 44.5%, opted to have their money go exclusively to Catholic Charities, and not be split with the Diocese of Buffalo, Catholic Charities CEO Dennis Walczyk said Thursday while announcing the appeal has raised $7.2 million so far, about 65% of its $11 million goal.” By Keith McShea, The Buffalo News


More victims of child sex abuse show support for bill blocked by Capitol leaders
“As children, Tim Lennon and Mary O’Day were sexually abused by members of the Roman Catholic Church. Now they are lending their voices to a fight at the Arizona Legislature over a childhood sexual assault bill. Written by Sen. Paul Boyer, the proposal grants victims more time to sue their abusers in civil court. The current law bars survivors from suing after they turn 20 years old.” By Dennis Welch, CBS-TV5 on AZfamily.com

Texas lawmakers consider extending statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases
“A Dallas-based attorney who represents survivors of sexual abuse believes the investigation of alleged sex abuse by clergy shows why statewide, the statute of limitations needs to be extended for child victims. One piece of legislation could make that happen. “I represent a number of survivors of clergy abuse in the Catholic Church,” attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel said. She said most of these clients are in their 50s and 60s, waiting decades to talk about what happened to them and seek justice.” By Erin Jones, CBS-TV11

New Jersey extends statute of limitations, allows sex abuse victims much more time to sue
“New Jersey victims of sexual abuse will now have sweeping new abilities to sue their attackers, and it will be easier for them to seek damages from institutions such as churches that shielded the abuse … After years of fighting, that changed Monday (May 13), when Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law that offers victims of child sexual abuse the ability to sue their abusers up until they turn 55, or within seven years of their realization that the abuse caused them harm. In addition, victims previously barred by the narrow statute of limitations from suing their abusers and the institutions that protected them now have two years to file lawsuits seeking damages.” By Deena Yellin, North Jersey Record


Lawyer releases searchable database of accused predator priests
“(Lawyer Jeff) Herman, who has been pursuing sexual-abuse cases since 1997 and has offices in both New York and Florida, recently released a searchable list entitled the ‘Predator Priest Index.’ which contains information about clergy members and individuals associated with the Catholic Church who have been accused of sexually abusing children. In addition to providing an overview of the allegations, the list provides details about the alleged abusers, along with the churches and parishes where they worked.” By Joseph Ostapiuk, SILive.com

Vatican’s sex-crimes specialist weeps as victims share horror stories
“His missions begin with a phone call from the Pope. ‘Do me a favor,’ Pope Francis tends to say, and then Archbishop Charles Scicluna steels himself, packs his bags and books a flight to another country where something terrible has happened. Within a church besieged by clerical abuse cases, Scicluna, 59, has become the Vatican’s emergency investigator – a priest-and-lawyer-turned-sex-crimes specialist who is dispatched to scandal zones. He is sent to places where cardinals or bishops are accused of committing abuse; where officials are suspected of burying evidence or systematically ignoring victims; where the church has profoundly failed and squandered trust.” By Chico Harlan, Brisbane Times


Money and transparency: Are the Diocese of Savramento’s efforts of atonement actually working
“The Sacramento Diocese announced on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 the creation of a new victim compensation fund for people who have been abused by members of the clergy. Sacramento is one of five dioceses across the state launching the fund in an effort “to own and atone for the Church’s failure to protect children and young people abused by Catholic priests,” according to Bishop Jaime Soto’s statement.” By Lilla Luciano, ABC-TV10 News

California dioceses announce new compensation program for abuse victims
“Catholic bishops in California announced today (May 14) the establishment of a new compensation program that will be available to any person who has been sexually abused as a minor by diocesan priests. Six California dioceses including the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and the Dioceses of Fresno, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernardino, and San Diego, serving 80% of state’s Catholic population, have committed to the new program, which is independent of Church control.” By KBAK-TVFOX58 News

New legal woes for Catholic dioceses
“The California attorney general’s recent inquiry into how the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses complied with laws requiring them to report child sex abuse threatens new legal woes for a church still struggling to confront its sex abuse scandal. But experts warn that if Pennsylvania’s groundbreaking grand jury report on church abuse is any guide, new revelations from the California probe may be too old to bring criminal charges.” By Joe Woolfolk, Bay Area News Group, on DailyDemocrat.com

Will new revelations in Catholic church scandal be too old to prosecute”
“The California Attorney General’s recent inquiry into how the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses complied with laws requiring them to report child sex abuse threatens new legal woes for a church still struggling to confront its sex abuse scandal. But experts warn, if Pennsylvania’s groundbreaking grand jury report on church abuse is any guide, new revelations from the California probe may be too old to bring criminal charges.” By John Woolfolk, The Mercury News


Alleged victims told authorities Lafayette Diocese priest abused them; priest not on list of accused
“A Lafayette Diocese priest was accused of molesting minors during a months long State Police investigation in 2015 and 2016. Two alleged victims told authorities that former Rev. Albert Nunez had either sexually abused or attempted to abuse them in the 1970s, but the investigation was closed because the alleged victims did not press charges, according to a State Police report.” By Ben Myers, The Acadiana Advocate


St. Paul victims, attorney suing Vatican for thousands of names of abusive priests
“Five men who say they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests when they were minors are planning to sue the Vatican and are demanding the names of thousands of predator priests they claim have been kept secret by the Holy See. In a Monday (May 13) news release announcing the lawsuit, St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson said he wants to show that the Vatican tried to cover up actions by top church officials, including former St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt. The lawsuit being filed Tuesday seeks the release of 3,400 names of priests who were referred to the Vatican for ‘credible cases of abuse.’ That number was released by the Vatican in 2014.” By Amy Forliti and Michael Rezendes, Associated Press, on TwinCities.com


New Jersey diocese allowed ‘serial molester’ priest to prey on kids, former altar boy says in lawsuit
“When Justin Hoffmann was 9 years old, his best friend was a priest in his late 60s. They spent time together almost every day. But reflecting on that relationship Tuesday (May 14), a day after filing a lawsuit alleging the late Rev. Brendan Sullivan sexually abused him over the course of five years, Hoffmann said it wasn’t until 2017 that he realized, ‘it wasn’t a friendship.’” By Rebecca Everett, NJ.com

Clergy sex-abuse lawsuit: Camden Diocese priest was a ‘serial molester’
“A Catholic priest, previously accused of sexually abusing a child at a parish in Atco, now is alleged to have molested an altar boy at a Ventnor church, according to a lawsuit filed Monday (May 13) against the Diocese of Camden. The suit claims a Philadelphia man, Justin Hoffman, was among multiple victims of the late Rev. Brendan Sullivan, who served at 10 parishes and two Catholic high schools between 1960 and 2004.” By Jim Walsh, Cherry Hill Courier-Post


Diocese of Charlotte to release list of publicly accused priests by the end of the year
“The bishop of the Diocese of Charlotte announced Monday May 13) that the Diocese plans to release a list of publicly accused priests by the end of this year. The diocese said they will release that list as soon as their investigation is over, saying they believe finally making the list public is important for the victims’ healing. Recently pressure on the church though has been higher than ever, with unyielding demands by victims, the public, parishioners and government officials for full transparency.” By WCNC-TV


Victims may face inconsistent rules, opportunities across different dioceses
“Politics, religion, law and finances were all linked in the process that led to the creation of compensation funds for victims of clergy sexual abuse in seven of Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses. For years, when priests, parishes and dioceses faced allegations of abuse, the matters were often handled in secret – with victims being required to accept non-disclosure agreements as part of settlements … Seeking compensation can be both straightforward and nuanced, according to individuals who have dealt with the process.” By Dave Sutor, Tribune Democrat

Scranton diocese pays $2.2 million to clergy sex abuse survivor; Harrisburg to settle by June 28
“The Diocese of Scranton has announced that it has paid 17 victims of clergy child sexual abuse almost $2.2 million during the first 90 days of a special initiative to compensate survivors, according to a report by the Standard-Speaker of Hazleton. The diocese launched its program Jan. 22. In all, more than 100 individuals, including 54 people who had not previously reported abuse to the diocese, submitted claims to the Independent Survivors Compensation Program during the period, the diocese said.” By LancasterOnline.com

Compensation window for clergy abuse victims closes in Harrisburg
“Clergy abuse victims had one final day Monday (May 13) to apply for compensation from a fund created by the Harrisburg Catholic Diocese. Church officials couldn’t immediately say Monday how many claims had been filed, because the process is being handled by a third-party administrator, said Rachel Bryson, a spokeswoman for the Harrisburg diocese. The compensation fund in Harrisburg is being overseen by Commonwealth Mediation Inc., a Boston-based firm that is also overseeing the fund for Greensburg Diocese.” By John Finnerty, The Daily Item


Liberia: Catholic Church scrambles to cover up sex abuse scandal
“Five days after this paper first reported allegations of sex-based assault and power abuse inside the Catholic Church, the church hierarchy, including the Pope’s representative in Liberia, have remained silent but there are signs the church is racing to find ways to tamp down a furor created by the story. Archbishop Lewis Zeigler, one of two church leaders accused of making sexual passes at Fr. Gabriel Sawyer and then hounding him out of the church when he rebuffed them, did not answer two visits by FrontPage Africa/New Narratives to his office.” By Tecee Boley, Front Page Africa


Chile bishop says pope’s criticism created ‘painful,’ ‘unfair’ image
“When the entire Chilean bishops’ conference presented their resignations to Pope Francis in Rome last year amid a massive scandal involving clerical sexual abuse and cover-up, Celestino Aos Braco had been a bishop of a small diocese for just four years. As it turns out, it was scant preparation for the job the pope gave him in March: Apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Santiago, the capital of Chile and the eye of the local church’s storm … Among other things, Aos said that comments from Francis last year about a ‘culture of cover-up’ among the Chilean bishops led to impressions that all prelates in the country were equally guilty, an image he called ‘painful’ and ‘unfair.’” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com


Colombia’s Catholic Church promises action against child abuse, but plays down extent
“Colombia’s Catholic Church is facing around 100 criminal investigations involving sexual abuse, the religious institution’s leader admitted Wednesday (May 15). Cardinal Ruben Salazar admitted to the ongoing criminal investigations in an interview with El Tiempo, but downplayed the gravity of the sexual abuse claims, saying that sexual abuse by priests is ‘not an epidemic.’ By Adam Veitch, Colombia Report


Poland’s church sex abuse scandal becomes political
“A documentary exposing child sex abuse in Poland’s Roman Catholic Church has turned religion into a key issue ahead of the European election. The film, ‘Tell No One,’ showing how abusive priests destroyed the lives of their victims and faced no consequences, has shocked the overwhelmingly Catholic country in which the church is a key political player; released on Saturday evening, it had been viewed more than 8.1 million times on YouTube as of Monday afternoon. The unflinching look at abuse in the church adds Poland to the list of countries — from the U.S. to Canada, Ireland, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, Chile and more — that have been forced to deal with clergy child sex abuse scandals.” By Jan Cienski, Politico

Documentary aims to be Polish ‘Spotlight,’ compel bishops to act
“When a 39-year-old Polish woman confronted the Catholic priest who she said sexually abused her, using a hidden camera, her first question was: ‘You destroyed my life … do you know that?’ That moment is also the opening scene of ‘Just Don’t Tell Anyone,’ a 2-hour Polish documentary just released online … Stirring people up is precisely what the director wants.” By Paulina Guzik, Cruxnow.com

Poland’s Walesa urges Catholic church action on abuse after his priest accused
“Polish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa has urged the Catholic Church to prevent further sexual abuse of children by members of its clergy after a new documentary film showed his priest to be one of the accused. The film ‘Just don’t tell anyone,’ which shows people confronting priests with accusations that they abused them as children, has attracted nearly 7 million views since it was posted on YouTube on Saturday (May 11). It presents allegations that known pedophiles were shifted between parishes.” By Reuters