Voice of the Faithful Focus, Oct. 15, 2021


Probe: Catholic Church in France had 3,000 child abusers
“An independent commission examining sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in France believes 3,000 child abusers — two-thirds of them priests — have worked in the church over the past 70 years. The estimate was given by the commission president, Jean-Marc Sauvé, in an interview published Sunday (Oct. 3) in the newspaper Journal du Dimanche. The commission has been investigating for 2 1/2 years. Its full findings are scheduled to be released on Tuesday. In the interview, Sauvé did not give a figure on the number of sex abuse victims but said the report does include a new estimate.” By Associated Press in The Boston Globe

The Catholic Church’s prayers for victims of sexual abuse are beginning to ring hollow.
“Early Tuesday (Oct. 5) morning, I opened my laptop to work. But first, I meandered over to Twitter, expecting to read a few comments on Krysten Sinema before diving into my Persian presentation. Instead, I started crying. I don’t cry easily. And these were not tears borne of sadness but of frustration. On Tuesday morning, an independent commission reported that priests and church workers in France have abused over 330,000 children over the past seven decades. As usual, the church too often turned a blind eye to the molestation.” By Valerie Pavilonis, America: The Jesuit Review

Australia’s grand experiment in synodality opens amid hopes, challenges
“Long before ‘synodality’ became the buzzword of this pontificate, and long before a world-wide summit on the topic was called for by Pope Francis that’s being described as his legacy, the Catholic Church in Australia was getting ready to launch its own major synodal moment. Called a ‘Plenary Council,’ it’s the first such gathering in Australia since 1937, and it will be celebrated across nine months, bookended by assemblies from October 3-10 and in July 2022.” By Inés San Martín, Cruxnow.com

  • Australian dioceses prepare for synod launch, By CathNews.com

The Guardian view on sexual abuse and the Catholic church: contrition is not enough
“An investigation into pedophile priests in France reveals an institution in desperate need of reform – The findings of an inquiry into sexual abuse and pedophilia in the French Catholic church, published last week, are difficult to read and painful to contemplate. Over the past 70 years, the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church found that at least 216,000 children were subjected to abuse at the hands of Catholic priests and members of religious orders. Sexual exploitation within the church and associated institutions, the commission stated, had been a ‘massive phenomenon.’ Beyond immediate family and friends, the prevalence of sexual violence in the church outstripped that in any other social environment.” By The Guardian Editorial Board

Catholic priests in France ‘must report abuse allegations heard in confession
Catholic priests must report all child sexual abuse allegations to police, including if they hear about it in the secrecy of the confession box, the French interior minister has said after reprimanding France’s top bishop for claiming that the secrecy of the Catholic confessional was ‘above the laws of the Republic.’ France is reeling from the publication last week of a devastating independent report which found that at least 330,000 children were victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and lay members of church institutions over the past 70 years, and that the crimes were covered up in a ‘systemic way’ by the church.” By Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian


Philippine clerical child abusers must face civil courts
“The most important legislation needed worldwide is to cancel and revoke the legislation on the statute of limitations for crimes against children and actively pursue legal action to bring the abusers to justice. The accused abusers can then hear the testimony of their victims and confess, repent, atone and accept penance in jail for abusing children.” By Fr. Shay Cullen, CathNews.com

As Catholic order fought sex abuse claims, secret trusts devoted to it poured millions into American rental properties
“Leaked files reveal nearly $300 million stashed overseas for the Legion of Christ in wake of Vatican investigation. Millions were invested with a corporate landlord that evicted struggling U.S. tenants during pandemic. – Soon after the Vatican announced in 2010 that it would seize the operations of the troubled order and launch a new investigation, high-profile Legion of Christ operatives began quietly setting up one of a trio of New Zealand trusts designed to hold money for the Legion. … These two trusts would come to hold nearly $300 million in assets devoted to the Legion of Christ at a time when victims of sexual abuse by its priests were seeking financial compensation from the order through lawsuits and through a commission overseen by the Vatican.” By Spencer Woodman, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Judge: Newark Archdiocese can be held liable for McCarrick’s misconduct
“A New Jersey federal judge ruled this week that the Archdiocese of Newark can be held financially responsible for the abuse committed by Theodore McCarrick, a disgraced former cardinal. According to a report from the New York Post, District Court Judge Madeline Arleo found that the Newark archdiocese is ‘vicariously liable’ for McCarrick’s actions. According to the Legal Information Institute, ‘vicarious liability’ refers to liability that a supervisory party, such as an employer, bears for the actionable conduct of a subordinate or associate, such as an employee, based on the relationship between the two parties.” By Jonah McKeown, The Catholic Herald


Explainer: So, what exactly is a synod?
“The global synodal process on ‘Communion, Participation, and Mission’ that the Catholic Church is undertaking over the next two years will formally kick off on Sunday, Oct. 10, with a Mass at the Vatican. It has been nicknamed the ‘synod on synodality’—a term that, despite Pope Francis’ efforts to popularize it, may still leave some scratching their heads. So what is ‘synodality,’ and why does the pope think it’s such a big deal?By Colleen Dulle, America: The Jesuit Review

Experts see synod as ‘biggest consultation exercise in human history’
“Though probably unbeknownst to most Catholics around the world, on Saturday (Oct. 9) Pope Francis officially opened a two-year global consultation process, all part of a Synod of Bishops on Synodality, which participants hope will help radically change the way the Catholic Church takes decisions. ‘My expectation is that a new way of doing things, which will allow us to see synodality being lived at every level of the Church, is now underway,’ Spaniard Carmen Peña Garcia, a synod participant, told Crux.” By Inés San Martín, Cruxnow.com

In union with Pope Francis, Rochester Diocese opens Synod
“In union with Pope Francis, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano opened the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops Oct. 10 during the regularly scheduled 11:15 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Pope Francis is convening the worldwide Synod under the theme ‘For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.’ At the beginning of his homily, Bishop Matano explained that the Synod, which has three phases — diocesan, continental and universal — will conclude with the assembly of the Synod Bishops in Rome in October 2023.” By Gina Capellazzi, Catholic Courier

Pope Francis opens synod, encouraging church to master the ‘art of encounter’
Pope Francis on Oct. 10 officially launched the Vatican’s high-stakes, two-year synod process in an opening Mass where he urged the global Catholic Church to master the ‘art of encounter’ … The Synod of Bishops, which emerged out of the Second Vatican Council, was designed in part to provide a mechanism for global church leaders to come to Rome to confront certain challenges in church life. Now its newly retooled model adds another component that begins with a listening stage with local churches at the diocesan level.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Utah Catholics ready to answer ‘revolutionary’ survey that will include church members on the fringes
Pope Francis wants to know what you think about the Catholic Church — what it’s doing well, how it’s falling down, and where it should go in the future. By ‘you,’ the pontiff means people in the pews, people not in the pews, Christmas and Easter Catholics, former Catholics, priests, nuns, the laity, younger members, older members, non-Catholics and outside observers. Starting next week, the Vatican is launching a three-year synod on ‘communion, participation and mission’ — a program of ‘listening and consultation of the People of God in the particular churches.’” By Peggy fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune

How do we prepare for a synodal process? Start with the documents of Vatican II
“Nine days from now, Pope Francis will officially open a synodal process. As my colleague Brian Fraga reported on Wednesday (Sept. 29), you wouldn’t know much about it if you relied on the U.S. bishops’ conference. They have sent no directives to the nation’s bishops, no historical or theological reflections, no guidance, nada, niente. They have not amended their strategic priorities to reflect the start of this synodal process. And their last meeting was dedicated to figuring out how to justify a document on eucharistic coherence that no one needs and that Rome has indicated it does not want.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter


Pope to begin synodal process with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica
“The Vatican announced that Pope Francis will formally launch the process of the Synod of Bishops with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Oct. 10 Mass, which officially open the synodal process, will be preceded by a day of reflection in the synod hall, the Vatican said in a statement published Oct. 1. The Oct. 9 day of reflection, the statement said, will include ‘representatives of the people God, including delegates of the bishops’ conferences and related bodies, members of the Roman Curia, fraternal delegates, delegates of consecrated life and ecclesial lay movements, the youth council, etc.’” By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter


Italian cardinal becomes first red hat to stand trial at Vatican
“When the Vatican’s megatrial for financial crimes begins next week, one of the star figures will be Italian Cardinal Angelo Becciu, a former power-player in the Holy See’s Secretariat of State who is the first cardinal to be indicted by the small city-state. Set to open Oct. 5 after being postponed during an initial hearing over the summer, the trial involves a list of 10 people facing a variety of charges ranging from abuse of office to embezzlement, fraud, and corruption, among other things.” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com


High hopes for Synod of Bishops
“Participants in the two-year global consultation process for the Synod of Bishops on synodality hope the process will help radically change the way the Church takes decisions. ‘My expectation is that a new way of doing things, which will allow us to see synodality being lived at every level of the Church, is now underway,’ Spaniard Carmen Peña Garcia, a synod participant, said. ‘The Synod should not be reduced to this moment, these two years, because synodality is a call for co-responsibility and co-participation of the entire people of God in the life and mission of the Church, with baptism being the entry card,’ she said.” By CathNews.com


Vatican: Theological Commission welcomes first-ever African woman
“Pope Francis has appointed 61-yesr-old Sister Dr. Josée Ngalula of the Democratic Republic of Congo as the first-ever African woman to be a member of the International Theological Commission. She is a member of the Sisters of Saint Andrew. Sister Ngalula will be part of a 28-member theological Commission that comprises theologians from all over the world.” By Muando Babualo and Vatican News English Africa Service

The Vatican still has a ‘patriarchal mindset’ — but women are challenging it.
“Women are rising to new heights in the Vatican, but there is still a long way to go before women’s voices and leadership are satisfactorily integrated in the Vatican. In this deep dive episode based on Colleen Dulle’s cover story in America Magazine’s October issue, Colleen and producer Maggi Van Dorn take a look inside the corporate culture of the Vatican to examine how things have been changing for women—and why it’s difficult to have conversations about women’s empowerment there.” By Colleen Dulle, Inside the Vatican, America: The Jesuit Review


Vatican-backed sex abuse research institute expands mandate
“The Catholic Church’s foremost research institute studying sexual abuse of minors is expanding its mandate to also include the sexual and spiritual abuse of adults, evidence of the Vatican’s increasing awareness that children aren’t the only victims of clergy who abuse their power and authority. The Rev. Hans Zollner, one of Pope Francis’ top advisers on abuse, said the institute’s broader scope reflects lessons from the #MeToo movement, the pope’s own recognition that nuns and seminarians can be abused by their superiors, and evidence that systemic and structural problems in the church have allowed abuse to fester.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, on Religion News Service

Europe court rejects case seeking to blame Vatican for abuse
“A European court agreed Tuesday (Oct. 12) that the Vatican couldn’t be sued in a local court for sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests, affirming that it enjoys sovereign immunity and that the misconduct of priests and their superiors can’t be attributed to the Holy See. The European Court of Human Rights dismissed a case brought by two dozen people who said they were victims of abusive priests in Belgium. The 24 had argued the Holy See was liable because of the ‘structurally deficient’ way the Catholic hierarchy had handled cases of priests who raped and molested children, covering up the crimes rather than reporting them.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Vatican Issues Acquittals in Sexual Abuse Case Involving Former Altar Boys
“A Vatican court on Wednesday (Oct. 6) acquitted a priest on sexual abuse charges dating to when he and his accuser were teenage altar boys at a seminary within the Vatican walls. A second priest, the rector of the seminary at the time, was cleared of charges that he covered up the alleged abuses. Prosecutors claimed that the abuse began when the priest, the Rev. Gabriele Martinelli, now 29, and his accuser, who was identified only by his initials, L.G., were young teenagers, less than a year apart, living at a seminary and that it continued for five years. Father Martinelli was not a priest at the time, but he was ordained years later.” By Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times


The quiet revolution of German Catholics
“Marcus Wolf is the pastor St. Gangolf Parish in the small, northern Bavarian city of Bamberg. The priest takes out the parish registry and turns to the section marked ‘Kirchenaustritt,’ a procedure to have one’s name struck from the baptismal rolls. It indicates that 32 parishioners left the Church in 2019. And it shows that 21 others have already done so this year. ‘I myself thought of leaving the Church,’ Wolf says, nonchalantly. ‘But I stayed. Partly to look after my parishioners.’” By Youna Rivallain, La Croix International, in National Catholic Reporter


First Australian Catholic Church plenary council opens
“The first Australian Catholic Church Plenary Council since 1937 opened on Sunday (Oct. 3), with COVID-19 restrictions forcing the original Adelaide meeting – delayed by 12 months – largely online. The national meeting, involving 278 members across the country – including bishops, members of religious congregations and laypeople – is discussing a range of issues, including matters relating to the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse, euthanasia laws and women’s roles within the church.” By Peta McCartney, Sight Magazine

‘Change is difficult’: Cincinnati Archdiocese launches shakeup that reaches almost every parish
“The Archdiocese of Cincinnati on Friday launched one of the most ambitious reorganizations in its 200-year history, potentially changing when and where almost a half-million Catholics attend Mass, school and other activities connected to their faith. Known as Beacons of Light, the restructuring process will combine the archdiocese’s 208 parishes into 60 ‘families of parishes,’ which will begin sharing priests and resources as early as next year.” By Dan Horn, Cincinnati Enquirer


The hard truth of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is demoralizing. But we must confront it
“When Pope Francis met with the Archbishop of Paris and other French bishops at the end of September, he observed on the matter of the then-forthcoming report on sex abuse in the church of France: ‘Look the truth in the face.’ It is not only the hierarchy that is now doing so, but all of France, Catholic and otherwise. Indeed, the world has taken shocked notice. The Sauvé Report, an investigation commissioned by the French bishops in 2018 in the wake of a series of clerical sex abuse scandals, was issued on Oct. 5. The tremors of disbelief, outrage and horror continue to reverberate.” By Michael W. Higgins, The Globe and Mail


How does NC’s lookback window for child sex abuse compare to measures in other states?
“In 2019, North Carolina legislators unanimously passed the SAFE Child Act. The law included provisions intended to prevent child sexual abuse and to increase consequences for perpetrators and the institutions that shield them when children are harmed. One element of the legislation was a ‘lookback window,’ a two-year period where time-related restrictions on civil lawsuits brought by child sex abuse survivors would be lifted.” By Carli Brosseau, The News & Observer



Diocese reveals more accusations of sexual abuse by former Northstate Catholic priests
“The Sacramento Diocese has revealed new allegations of sexual abuse by priests. The list includes six new allegations against five former priests, some of whom were assigned to churches in the Northstate in the past. These latest claims name five priests who had been previously accused of sexual misconduct against minors. Since the diocese revealed a list of accused priests in 2019, new victims have come forward alleging six additional instances of abuse involving five former priests.” By Kelli Saam, KRCR-TV7 News


Former Aspen priest accused of sexual abuse; archdiocese, local police open investigation
“Parishioners at St. Mary Catholic Church were notified Saturday (Sept. 25) that a former priest has been accused of sexually abusing a minor between 2004 and 2008, according to the Archdiocese of Denver. Rev. Michael O’Brien — who left St. Mary in mid-2011 — was immediately placed on administrative leave from his duties as pastor in the eastern Colorado towns of Julesburg and Crook, according to a letter to St. Mary’s parishioners dated Saturday, and an archdiocese spokesman said Wednesday (Sept. 29).” By Jason Auslander, The Aspen Times


Former Columbia City pastor charged
“A criminal investigation into charges of sexual misconduct with a minor by Father David Huneck, pastor of St. Paul of the Cross Parish in Columbia City, has resulted in the following charges being filed by the Whitley County Prosecuting Attorney Friday, Oct. 8 … Father Huneck, a priest of the diocese for three years, resigned from his position at the parish and from his role as co-chaplain of Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne after the allegation of misconduct received Sept. 19.” By Todays Catholic, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend


Catholic Clergy Task Force continues investigation into Topeka priest child sexual abuse allegations
“A task force created in 2019 to fight reports of alleged abuse in the Kansas Catholic Clergy is continuing the investigation into a Topeka priest for allegations of the sexual abuse of a child. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says its Catholic Clergy Task Force is currently investigating the allegations against the Topeka priest. Father John Pilcher, of Topeka’s Mater Dei Parish, has been accused of sexual abuse against a minor. The KBI said it formed the task force in 2019 after Attorney General Derek Schmidt asked it to investigate reports of abuse in the Kansas Catholic Clergy.” By Sarah Motter, WIBW-TV13 News


Louisville priest convicted of child abuse released from prison
“A Louisville priest convicted of abusing children has been released from prison. Father Joseph Hemmerle was sentenced to nine years in prison for sexual abuse that happened in the 1970s. The Louisville priest was denied parole several times but Friday (Oct. 1), became eligible to be released into mandatory re-entry supervision. He will be monitored by a parole officer but he isn’t required to register as a sex offender. Hemmerle remains a priest.” By WDRB.com


Victim of alleged sexual abuse by a priest speaks out
“Three Acadiana men are speaking publicly for the first time about being repeatedly sexually abused, allegedly, by a local priest when they were only 10 and 11 years old. And now in their 50’s, the men are coming forward with the allegations, hoping to find closure through a new law that went into effect earlier this summer, allowing adults who were victims as minors up to three years to file suit against accused offenders.” By Darla Montgomery, KLFY-TV10 News


Camden diocese plan would offer $26 million for clergy sex abuse survivors
“The Diocese of Camden wants a federal bankruptcy judge to approve a plan that offers at least $26 million to about 300 victims of alleged clergy sex abuse. But attorneys for sex-abuse survivors say they’ll fight the proposal, arguing the diocese and a committee representing sex-abuse claimants remain far apart on financial and other issues.” By Jim Walsh, Cherry Hill Courier-Post


Lawsuit Alleges Catholic Diocese Of Nashville Missed Signs Of Sexual Abuse At Murfreesboro Church
“A lawsuit filed this week alleges the Catholic Diocese of Nashville and St. Rose of Lima Church failed to protect a child from a staff member’s sexual abuse. The suit claims that concerns about sexual misconduct were raised to the bishop of the diocese, the pastor of St. Rose and other officials for years, but no meaningful action was taken. The alleged perpetrator, Michael D. Lewis, was indicted in June 2020 on felony sex crime charges. He will be facing trial for those charges in February. Lewis had been the church’s director of religions education.” By Juliana Kim, WPLN-FM Nashville National Public Radio News


Sask. court file reveals new details of Catholic Church compensation for residential school survivors
“A Saskatchewan judge has released files detailing the Roman Catholic Church’s controversial $79-million compensation deal for residential school survivors following a successful court application by CBC News and the Globe and Mail. This cache of documents, along with other internal papers obtained by CBC News in recent weeks, illustrates how Catholic officials, aided by a team of veteran lawyers, successfully fought years of federal government efforts to make them pay the full amounts promised in the landmark 2005 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.” By Jason Warick, CBC News


An inquiry exposed sexual abuse within French Catholic Church — now what?
“‘The father took me to his tent and closed it,’ said the victim. ‘He kissed me on the lips, with his tongue. It was disgusting. He caressed me. I was petrified,’ the victim continued. ‘He taught me words I didn’t know — like masturbation and fellatio. I thought I need to respect him, he’s a priest. Plus, my parents really appreciate him.’ This was just one experience of many shared in a recent report that revealed the scale of abuse within the French Catholic Church. At least 216,000 children were abused by Catholic clerics in France since the 1950s, according to the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (CIASE).” By Deutsche Welle


German Catholic Bishop Suggests ‘Synodal Way’ is Using Abuse Crisis to Reshape Church
“A German Catholic bishop suggested this week that the country’s ‘Synodal Way’ is using the abuse crisis to reshape the Church on Protestant lines. Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg questioned why the German Catholic Church’s progress in tackling abuse was seldom acknowledged, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. He said: ‘The fact that interested parties now continue to pretend that nothing has actually happened so far … the peculiarities of the Catholic Church are systemically blamed for it, feeds my suspicion that the sexual abuse is being instrumentalized here in an attempt to reshape the Catholic Church along the lines of Protestant church orders, where ‘synod’ means something different than in the Catholic Church, namely a kind of church parliament.’” By Catholic News Agency Staff


Sheffield bishop Ralph Heskett ‘failed to report priest who sexually abused altar boys’
“Bishop of Hallam Ralph Heskett is claimed to have known about a priest who preyed on altar boys in Liverpool but failed to report him to the police, with the culprit instead sent away to Scotland. It is alleged that Bishop Heskett, formerly parish priest at Bishop Eton in Childwall, Liverpool, was told about sex abuse by a priest at a Liverpool monastery but did not report him to the police.” By Neil Docking, The Star

Catholic Church in Scotland sets up abuse watchdog
“The Catholic Church in Scotland is setting up an independent watchdog to deal with abuse complaints against members of the clergy. The move follows a number of sex scandals where the church was accused of failing to respond to concerns. The church said the Scottish Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (SCSSA) would produce ‘consistency, transparency and accountability.’ It will operate as an independent private company.” By BBC News

Scots priest abused boys in Liverpool but was sent home after parent spoke out
“A Scots priest abused young altar boys in Liverpool – but was simply sent back home to Scotland after a parent made a complaint about him. Father Thomas MacCarte allowed the boys to smoke cannabis and drink alcohol so he could sexually abuse them. One of MaCarte’s victims thought the priest was ‘cool’ for letting them hang out in his room, reports Liverpool Echo. However, there was ‘another side’ to MacCarte, from Glasgow, who preyed on children at Bishop Eton Monastery in Woolton Road, Liverpool. Liverpool Crown Court heard how the pervert made one teenage boy watch gay porn, before performing a sex act on him twice.” By Neil Docking and Chloe Burrell, Daily Record


Northern Irish diocese’s plan to redress abuse criticized for payment caps
“Clerical abuse survivors and their advocates are criticizing a new redress scheme in a Northern Irish diocese that has placed a cap on payments for victims. They say that while the scheme offers to pay about $106,000 to individual survivors, from a total purse of some $3.4 million, limiting the compensation was insensitive and unjust. Some suggest the scheme from the Dromore Diocese would likely suit victims of potential grooming, but are advising other survivors to avoid using it.” By Sahm Venter, National Catholic Reporter


Catholic Church knew of previous complaint against teen-grooming priest
“A priest convicted of grooming a teenage girl to send him nude photos was the subject of a previous complaint that was covered up by the Tongan Catholic Church. The victim’s aunt and an abuse survivors’ group said it showed the church should have prevented Sosefo Sateki Raass’ offending. The Tongan church gave Raass a good character reference before he moved to Auckland, where he was convicted in 2019 of indecent communication with a person under 16 and subsequently quit the priesthood.” By Steve Kilgallon, Stuff.co.nz


No more impunity for child rapists in the Philippines
“The historic bill providing for a life sentence for a convicted child abuser will serve as a powerful deterrent. The Philippine Senate has finally approved the final draft of a law that is vital to the protection of children and the prosecution of child rapists who were committing the crime with impunity.” By UCANews.com