Voice of the Faithful Focus, Nov. 6, 2020


Vatican court hears unprecedented sexual abuse criminal trial
“An unprecedented trial is underway this month at the Vatican, the result of a whistleblower going public. A young priest is charged with sexually abusing an altar boy over a five-year period inside Vatican City walls. An older priest is charged with covering up the abuse. It’s the first criminal trial for sexual abuse to take place in the Vatican court. The first hearing of the trial lasted just eight minutes — enough for the Vatican court to hear graphic descriptions of the charges. The alleged victim, identified by his initials, LG, was forced ‘to undergo carnal acts, acts of sodomy and masturbation at different times and in different places inside Vatican City,” according to charges read out by the court clerk.’” By Sylvia Poggioli, National Public Radio

The rise of Wilton Gregory, the first African-American cardinal
“Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., and a leader of the U.S. Roman Catholic Church’s response to its sexual abuse crisis, was among 13 new cardinals that Pope Francis announced on Sunday (Oct. 25). The move positions Archbishop Gregory, 72, to become the first African-American cardinal next month. He has been a national figure since 2002, when, as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he presided over the adoption of a zero-tolerance policy toward priests guilty of sexual abuse. He was elevated from his position as the bishop of Belleville, Ill., to lead the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 2005 before Francis installed him in Washington last year.” By Christina Morales, The New York Times

Are women involved in a toxic relationship with the church?
“It’s not what they say; it’s the way that they say it. Documents and Scripture translations annoyingly border on gaslighting women. Not the big-league, drive-her-crazy gaslighting, just the subtle cognitive dissonance that slips into relationships large and small. You know, ‘He loves me, he loves me not …’ Cognitive dissonance includes saying one thing and meaning another. It exists, painfully enough, in the church. We know what the church says, but we know what it does. You have to wonder, are women involved in a toxic relationship with the church?” By Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter

Australian state police rule out probe into Vatican money transfers during Pell trial
“Police in the Australian state of Victoria said Friday (Oct. 23) that they have no plans for a further investigation into reports of money transfers from the Vatican during the trial of Cardinal George Pell, while federal police have said the information they have received is under their review, and been shared with an anti-corruption commission. Victoria Police told journalists Oct. 23 that AUSTRAC, Australia’s financial intelligence agency, had shared information with the force regarding the transfers.” By Catholic News Agency


Pope names new cardinals, putting his stamp on Church’s future
“The nine new cardinal electors, whom the pope listed in a surprise announcement while addressing pilgrims from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, include Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington D.C. Gregory, who will become the first African-American to hold the rank, has become a national figure in recent months. He has called for dialogue to ease racial tensions in the United States following the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police in May. He has also indirectly clashed with U.S. President Donald Trump last June when he said he found it ‘baffling and reprehensible’ a Catholic Church in Washington allowed Trump to use the facility for a photo opportunity. Trump supporters later denounced Gregory.” By Philip Pullella, Reuters


Cardinal Woelki would step down if implicated in abuse cover-ups
“Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki would resign from his office if the sexual abuse study he commissioned implicated him in any cover-ups, according to the Cologne Archdiocese. The German Catholic news agency KNA said the archdiocese was confirming a report in the local Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper that Cardinal Woelki had expressed this intention before the diocesan pastoral council in November 2018. The aim of the study is to identify by name those who were involved in sexual abuse.” By Catholic News Service in The Pilot


Taking a broader view of Vatican ‘anti-corruption’ reforms
“When he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was infamous for rarely giving interviews. An Argentine reporter told me in 2013 that he once went out to a site where Bergoglio was saying Mass to cover the event, and then spotted him heading for the subway afterwards. From the window of his car, the reporter told Bergoglio he was heading back towards the center of town and asked if he wanted a ride, and Bergoglio reluctantly got in.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com


Cathedral treasurer stole £222,000 from church to feed gambling addiction
“A gambling addict took more than £220,000 from Norwich’s Catholic Cathedral while volunteering as its treasurer. Rene Mugenzi was jailed for more than two years at Norwich Crown Court on Friday (Oct. 23) afternoon for siphoning off the cash from the bank account at St John the Baptist Cathedral and into his own between March 2016 and May 2018. He admitted the fraud at Norwich Magistrates’ Court in July, but magistrates barred the public from knowing about the case because Mugenzi’s solicitor told them the fraudster’s life was under threat.” By Tom Bristow, Eastern Daily Press


To end sexual abuse in churches, dismantle purity culture
“With tears in her eyes, Shannon Dingle approached a female volunteer, the lone woman on an all-male staff at a friend’s church youth group. Dingle was 16 and had finally worked up the courage to disclose that she had been repeatedly raped as a child. ‘We had just heard a talk on purity and modesty, which was the only context in which sex was ever discussed in the church, so it felt like, Okay, at least we’re kind of in the right area,’ Dingle, now 38, recounts. ‘They were talking about the choices people make, and I kept thinking about how my experiences so far hadn’t been a choice.’” By Leslie Goldman, on MarieClaire.com

Q&A with Sr. Patricia McCann: ‘Be a thorn in the side of injustice
“Although Mercy Sr. Patricia McCann and her companions told the Birmingham, Alabama, police officers that they were participating in a ‘spring educational tour of the South,’ the four buses with Pennsylvania license plates told a different story. McCann, Mercy Sr. De Lellis Laboon and other faculty mentors were supervising the buses, which were full of students from Carlow University (then Mount Mercy College), the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University. They planned to participate in the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965. Skeptical but with no grounds to hold them, the officers begrudgingly waved them on.” By Carol K. Coburn, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter


French cases lead Focolare to promise investigation of handling abuse claims
“The president of Focolare has accepted the resignations of the lay movement’s top leaders in France and announced the group will ask an independent committee to investigate how allegations of the sexual abuse of minors have been handled. ‘The task of this body will be to listen to the presumed victims and to gather further testimonies, as well as investigating eventual omissions, cover-ups or silence on the part of those responsible for the movement,’ said a statement released Oct. 22 by the Focolare movement, which is headquartered outside of Rome.” By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter


Survivor group slams Fresno Catholic churches for withholding names of accused priests
“It remains unknown when the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno may release its list of credibly accused priests of sexual misconduct two years after it began to ponder what to release to the public. An advocacy organization says the diocese is stalling the release of names of accused priests because it doesn’t want to encourage more lawsuits from victims. The diocese would not comment on that claim.” By Yesenia Amaro, The Fresno Bee


Clinton County priest suspended for ‘inappropriate conduct’ with minor
“A priest at two rural Clinton County parishes has been suspended from ministry after he was accused of ‘inappropriate conduct’ with a minor. According to a letter to Clinton County parishioners from Bishop Michael McGovern of the Belleville Diocese, Rev. Anthony Onyango, who was pastor at both St. Bernard Parish in Albers and St. Damian parish in Damiansville, was removed from ministry last week.” By WMIX94 Radio News

Names of priests added to Rockford Catholic Diocese sexual abuse list
“Six more names have been added to the Catholic Diocese of Rockford’s sexual abuse list. The list, updated Oct. 21, now contains the names of 21 clergy members against whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been substantiated. The names of the six priests added to the list and their parish assignments are …” By Chris Green, Rockford Register Star

Catholic Diocese of Bellville removes priest to investigate allegation involving minor
“Bishop Michael McGovern of the Catholic Diocese of Belleville has removed a priest from ministry due to an allegation made last week of ‘inappropriate conduct involving a minor.’ McGovern made the announcement about the Rev. Anthony Onyango on Saturday (Oct. 24) in a letter to parishioners at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Albers and St. Damian Catholic Church in Damiansville, where he was serving as ‘administrator,’ according to the online diocesan directory.” By Teri Maddox, Belleville News-Democrat


New Orleans archdiocese seeks laicization for all clergy credibly accused of sex abuse
“While allegations against two New Orleans-area priests have again raised questions about the Church’s response to clergy misconduct, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has confirmed that for the past two years it has been seeking to laicize clergy who have been removed from ministry for credible reports of sexual abuse. ‘In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, very soon after the publication of the 2018 Clergy Abuse Report, conversations began in an effort to seek the laicization of those living clergy that had been removed from ministry for abuse of a minor and this is in process,’ Sarah McDonald, communications director at the New Orleans archdiocese, told CNA Oct. 26.” By Kevin Jones, Catholic News Agency

Rev. Pat Wattigny, Louisiana priest accused of sexual abuse, arrested in Georgia
“Police in Georgia have arrested Roman Catholic priest Patrick Wattigny on a St. Tammany Parish warrant accusing him of sexually abusing a minor while he was leading a Slidell church, authorities said Friday (Oct. 23). Wattigny’s arrest comes a little more than three weeks after he allegedly admitted to the Archdiocese of New Orleans that he had started sexually abusing a teenage boy in 2013. He faces four counts of molestation of a juvenile, all stemming from the same victim, the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office said.” By Ramon Antonio Vargas, The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate


New charges files against Catholic school teacher after two more victims come forward
“New sexual assault charges have been filed against a former Catholic school music teacher after her prosecutors last month accused the 67-year-old man of sexually assaulting two other minors while he was employed at St. John Catholic School in Jackson in the 1970s. Joseph – or Josef – Comperchio, of Fort Myers, Florida, is charged with five new counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving two individuals. Four of the counts occurred when the victims were under the age of 13, and the fifth was while the victim was physically helpless – second-degree criminal sexual conduct–injury to incapacitated victim. All charges are 15-year felonies.” By B. Thompson, MLive.com


Four more sex abuse suits filed against Delbarton School Catholic order, 16 cases now pending
“The Catholic order that runs the Delbarton School in Morris Township now faces 16 sexual abuse lawsuits in state court after four more were filed Thursday (Oct.22) naming Timothy Brennan, a priest and former teacher who died late last year and who has been the focus of at least 20 complaints since the 1980s. St. Mary’s Abbey and the Order of St. Benedict New Jersey, which runs Delbarton, has settled at least 10 complaints involving Brennan over the years. Brennan is also named in 10 of the pending lawsuits.” By Abbott Koloff, NorthJersey.com

Findlay priest, Zacharias, indicted for sex trafficking
“U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman announced today (Oct. 26) that a federal grand jury sitting in Cleveland has returned a 10-count indictment charging Michael J. Zacharias, age 53, with sex trafficking of a minor and sex trafficking of an adult and minor by force, fraud, or coercion. The defendant was arrested on August 18, 2020, and has remained in federal custody since that time. ‘This defendant is accused of using his status and position as a religious and community leader to seek out troubled minors and exploit their personal challenges for his own satisfaction,’ said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman.” By Shore New Network


Deadline to file childhood sex abuse claims against diocese of Syracuse set
“Chief Judge Margaret Cangilos-Ruiz of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Northern District of New York stated that survivors of child sexual abuse within the Diocese of Syracuse will have until April 15, 2021 to file claims against the Diocese. The Diocese of Syracuse filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2020 after dozens of abuse survivors filed abuse lawsuits against the Diocese. The bankruptcy filings show the diocese has assets of more than $10 million but less than $50 million. Lawyers for the diocese from Syracuse firm Bond, Schoeneck & King estimated the diocese has between 100 and 200 creditors and up to $100 million in liabilities.” By Legal Examiner


Former priest files defamation suit
“Former priest William B. Smaltz of Youngstown and his wife, Noreen, filed suit against the Diocese of Youngstown on Tuesday (Oct. 27) alleging defamation after the Diocese included Smaltz’s name on a list of priests it called ‘credibly accused of sexually abusing minors.’ The Diocese released the list to the public Oct. 30, 2018, and various news outlets published articles on it. In May, however, the Diocese said it was removing Smaltz’s name from the list after further investigation and additional information indicated that the earlier allegations against Smaltz are “no longer deemed to be credible,” according to Vindicator files.” By Ed Runyan, The Vindicator

Ohio priest accused of sex trafficking played father figure to victims, enabled drug addiction
“Michael Zacharias, 53, former Ohio priest who was arrested in August 2020, is facing a 10-count indictment with charges that include sex trafficking of minor, sex trafficking of an adult by fraud, and coercion. He has also been accused of sexually exploiting the minors by enabling their drug addiction. A Federal Grand Jury in Cleveland on Friday handed down Michael, a 10- count indictment. Michael was arrested on Aug. 18, 2020 and has remained in Federal Custody since then. Michael has been accused of engaging in sexual acts and grooming of minors since late 1990s when he was enrolled as a seminarian.” By Suneeta Sunny, International Business Times


Former Marist High student sues, alleging school knew of sexual abuse by administrator
“A former student is suing Marist Catholic High School in Eugene and the Marist Brothers of the Schools in New York for $3.25 million, alleging an administrator in the 1970s sexually abused him for years. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Multnomah Circuit Court in Portland, states that Brother Robert Ryan worked at the private Catholic high school in Eugene as vice principal in the 1970s and used his role to groom and isolate students, sexually abusing them at school and on school trips.” By Jordyn Brown, Register-Guard


Diocese of Scranton: eight more accused of sexual abuse
“More than two years later, the fallout from Pennsylvania’s scathing Grand Jury report on clergy sex abuse continues in Scranton. Another well-known priest joins the dozens of members of the Diocese of Scranton who have been accused of sexually abusing a minor. 80-year-old Monsignor Joseph Kelly served as the head of Catholic Social Services for a decade and was heavily involved with St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen in the city. He is now retired.” By Elizabeth Worthington, WNEP-TV16 News

Patton priest placed on leave after accusation
“The Rev. Ananias Buccicone, OSB, pastor of Queen of Peace Parish in Patton, has been placed on leave from public ministry after an accusation of recent inappropriate conduct involving minors. The allegation was reported to authorities, and law enforcement is investigating, according to Tony DeGol, director of communications for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. Father Buccicone, 58, was ordained a priest in the Benedictine Community of St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe in 1993.” By Altoona Mirror

Handling of abuse allegations divides AG candidates
“Heather Heidelbaugh, Republican candidate for Attorney General, said current attorney general Josh Shapiro should not have publicized the names of priests who weren’t charged but were accused of molesting children in a grand jury report detailing the abuse of at least 1,000 children across the state over decades. Hardly any of the priests named in the report were charged because the crimes occurred so long ago that the state’s statute of limitations had expired. Efforts to open a window to allow survivors of child sex crimes to sue despite the statute of limitations have stalled, though the General Assembly could vote next year to put a Constitutional amendment question about opening a window for lawsuits on the ballot.” By The Sharon Herald


Catholic Diocese of Richmond to pay $6.2 million to sexual abuse victims
“The Catholic Diocese of Richmond announced last week that it is paying $6.3 million to 51 people who experienced sexual abuse as minors by clergy. The diocese released details on Oct. 15 in a report on its website, richmonddiocese.org. In February, Bishop Barry Knestout directed the formation of a program to offer assistance to those who experienced abuse. ‘Recognizing that no amount of money will ever be able to fully compensate for the injury inflicted by abusive clergy, Bishop Knestout announced the Independent Reconciliation Program as one of many means to offer individuals a tangible sign of the Church’s effort to repair the injury and overcome the estrangement caused by clergy sexual abuse of minors,’ the report stated.” By Richmond Free Press


Man sues Catholic Church in Vancouver alleging he was drugged and sexually abused by priest
“A man is suing the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver over allegations that a former priest and a former teacher sexually abused him in the mid-1970s. The man, who is only identified as John Doe in the lawsuit, says that Father John Kilty, an ordained priest of the Vancouver Archdiocese who served as pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in North Vancouver from 1956-1982, targeted him while he was a six-year-old student at Holy Trinity Elementary around 1974 and ’75.” By Keith Fraser, Vancouver Sun

Montreal archdiocese says priest found guilty of sexual assault has been defrocked
“A priest sentenced in 2019 for abusing two boys has been formally stripped of his priesthood, Montreal’s archdiocese said Friday (Oct. 23). Archbishop Christian Lepine had defrocked Brian Boucher in March 2019, following the conclusion of a church judicial process, but that decision had been subject to appeal. The archdiocese said in statement that no appeal had been filed. ‘Therefore, the decision stands. Mr. Boucher is no longer a priest of the Roman Catholic Church.’” By Canadian Press on TimminsToday.com


Row over unpublished report on Cologne clerical sex abuse cover-up
“Germany’s most influential Catholic diocese stands accused of protecting senior bishops after refusing to publish a report outlining their cover-up of clerical sexual abuse. Last February Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, archbishop of Cologne and one of Germany’s most senior Catholic figures, promised to publish within a month a report by a Munich law firm granted access to diocesan archives. The report, he promised, would name figures who ‘as a result of their decisions and their behavior could have contributed to abuse: structurally, institutionally or even in a concrete way.’” By Derek Scally, The Irish Times


Derry man who says priest abused him hits out at church probe
“A man who alleges he was abused by a priest in Londonderry 28 years ago has criticized the Catholic Church’s investigation. Denis Cairns was just 13 years old when he claims he was abused by a priest attached to the Nottingham diocese. He has now received a letter from the Bishop of Nottingham, Patrick McKinney, in which the Bishop said he was ‘unable to reach the required moral certainty’ demanded of him after considering the evidence from Mr. Cairns and the priest at the center of his allegation.” By Donna Deeney, Belfast Telegraph

Former priest who downloaded child abuse imagery jailed
“Defrocked priest Oliver O’Grady was sentenced to 22 months in prison at Waterford Circuit Court on Tuesday (Oct. 27) after being found guilty by a jury earlier this month of possessing child abuse imagery. O’Grady had been accused of using a computer that had been loaned to him by a housemate at 21 Otteran Place, South Parade, Waterford, to download a video showing an underage girl being abused. O’Grady denied the charge, but admitted that the computer was used to search for images and videos of ‘young boys in underwear.’” By Darren Skelton, The Irish


Rosmini College sex abuse: Brother William Jackson groped boys during music lessons
“An Auckland lawyer and former politician has come out in support of a Rosmini College sex abuse victim, saying he too was groped by brother William Jackson. And the school itself has been contacted by another former student who said they had a similar experience with Jackson, a music teacher at the Catholic school in Auckland during the late 1960s and early 1970s.” By Elizabeth Binning, New Zealand Herald


Poland’s Cardinal Dziwisz denies knowledge of abuse complaint, Maciel’s crimes
“Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the influential former long-time personal secretary of Pope John Paul II, is denying a priest’s accusation that he covered up a case of clerical abuse in 2012. In an extraordinary Oct. 20 interview for the largest private TV station in Poland, TVN24, the cardinal also denied that John Paul had any knowledge of the crimes committed by Marcial Maciel Degollado, a serial child abuser and founder of the once-powerful Legionaries of Christ.” By Szymon Piegza, National Catholic Reporter