Voice of the Faithful Focus, Dec. 1, 2023

December 1, 2023


‘Excuse me, Your Eminence, she has not finished speaking
“Without doubt, the best line to emanate from the synod on synodality is ‘Excuse me, Your Eminence, she has not finished speaking.’ That sums up the synod and the state of the Catholic Church’s attitude toward change. In October, hundreds of bishops, joined by lay men and women, priests, deacons, religious sisters and brothers met for nearly a month in Rome for the synod on synodality. At its end, the synod released a synthesis report brimming with the hope and the promise that the church would be a more listening church. Some 54 women voted at the synod. Back home, women are still ignored.” By Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis intervenes in German Synodal Way, says it threatens Church unity
“Pope Francis has expressed deep reservations about the direction of the Catholic Church in Germany, warning that concrete steps currently being taken ‘threaten’ to undermine unity with the universal Church. The pope made his criticisms in a letter to four German Catholic laywomen that was published in the German newspaper Welt on Nov. 21. ‘There are indeed numerous steps being taken by significant segments of this local Church that threaten to steer it increasingly away from the universal Church’s common path,’ the pope wrote.” By Jonathan Liedl, Catholic News Agency

Pope Francis meets with French abuse victims
Pope Francis met Tuesday (Nov. 28) with a group of clerical sexual abuse victims from the French diocese of Nantes, a public appointment Francis kept despite a lingering bacterial infection that is causing inflammation of the lungs that has caused him to curtail his schedule significantly over the past few days and cancel a trip to Dubai for the COP-28 climate change summit, Dec. 1-3. Tuesday’s encounter between the pope and sex abuse survivors took place in the Casa Santa Marta guesthouse where Francis has lived throughout his pontificate. It followed a round of meetings the victims had with officials at the headquarters of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM).” By Cruxnow.com staff

In the U.S., Black survivors are nearly invisible in the Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis
“As Charles Richardson gradually lost his eyesight to complications from diabetes, certain childhood memories haunted him even more. The Catholic priest appeared vividly in his mind’s eye — the one who promised him a spot on a travel basketball team, took him out for burgers and helped him with homework. The one, Richardson alleges, who sexually assaulted him for more than a year. ‘I’ve been seeing him a lot lately,’ Richardson said during a recent interview, dabbing tears from behind dark glasses.” By Tiffany Stanley and Lea Skene, Associated Press


‘You’re only as sick as your secrets’: New Orleans clergy abuse bankruptcy is uniquely acrimonious

This is the first installment of a three-part series exploring how the archdiocese of New Orleans’s bankruptcy stands apart from other cases of its kind.

The church is using legal tactics to prevent testimony from survivors and spur expensive inquiries into its critics … Many secondary schools, notably eastern college preps like Exeter Academy and Horace Mann in Manhattan, have weathered long-ago abuse cases. As Trahant’s school ties eroded, he took on a steadily increasing number of Catholic clergy abuse clients. He also lost his faith. Yet he never imagined the blowback that would come after the New Orleans archdiocese, facing many abuse lawsuits, sought federal bankruptcy protection in 2020.” By Jason Berry and Roman Antonio Vargas, The Guardian


Peru’s Cardinal Barreto on what the Amazon synod and Latin America can teach the entire church
“Cardinal Pedro Barreto, 79, the archbishop of Huancayo in the Central Andes mountains of Peru, rejoiced when the synthesis document of the first session of the Synod on Synodality recognized the Ecclesial Conference of the Amazon as ‘an example of synodality,’ that is of ‘a mode of being church that integrates communion, mission and participation.’ In an exclusive interview with America’s Vatican correspondent on Oct. 30, Cardinal Barreto revealed that he had given a brief intervention at the synod on the synodal process that has developed in the church of the Amazon region over the past 10 years.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review

Franciscan bishop implements Jesuit pope’s synodal vision in Australia
“As more than 200 delegates participating in the first-ever synod for the Australian Diocese of Parramatta filed out of their opening Mass, they were discreetly given flyers by those questioning both the meeting and the bishop who had called it. Since his installation as the head of the diocese in the western suburbs of Sydney in 2016, Bishop Vincent Long has ruffled more than a few feathers for his support of LGBTQ Catholics, his advocacy in support of the country’s recent referendum on Indigenous representation, and his own personal testimony of being a victim of clergy sexual abuse.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

At the synod in Rome: waiting to find out where to go
The synod did not turn out exactly the way anyone expected. Thanks be to God. Due to some good luck in scheduling, I was in Rome for the conclusion of the first general assembly of the Synod on Synodality, at the end of October. We had just finished an America Media pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome, spending time reflecting on the spirituality of both St. Francis and St. Ignatius and how they have informed the ministry of Pope Francis.” By Sam Sawyer, S.J., America: The Jesuit Review


Acting to end abuse in the Church is ‘non-negotiable,’ pope says
“The Catholic Church and all its members must end silence about clerical sexual abuse and ensure cases are no longer covered up, Pope Francis said, adding it is ‘non-negotiable.’ Meeting Nov. 18 with Italian diocesan and regional representatives of safeguarding programs and listening centers, the pope said it also is essential to ‘pursue the ascertainment of the truth and the restoration of justice in the ecclesial community, including in those cases where certain behaviors are not considered crimes by the law of the state, but are under canon law.’” By Catholic News Service


Pope Francis to remove Cardinal Burke’s Vatican apartment and salary, sources say
“Pope Francis has punished one of his highest-ranking critics, Cardinal Raymond Burke, by yanking his right to a subsidized Vatican apartment and salary in the second such radical action against a conservative American prelate this month, according to two people briefed on the measures. Francis told a meeting of the heads of Vatican offices last week that he was moving against Burke, because he was a source of ‘disunity’ in the church, said one of the participants at the Nov. 20 meeting.” By Associated Press in National Catholic Reporter


U.S. bishops meeting shows united front on mission but no clear synod action plan
“For two days, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops met in plenary assembly in Baltimore advancing key issues related to liturgy, living out the faith, including in the public square, and retooling the conference to better serve the church’s mission. However, the bishops’ Nov. 13-16 meeting, which took place nearly three weeks following the conclusion of the global Synod on Synodality, also concluded without a common game plan for how bishops could get consultative feedback from their local parishes with respect to the synod’s ‘halftime’ report before it reconvenes in 11 months.” By Peter Jesserer Smith, Detroit Catholic

Bishop Flores to U.S. bishops: the synod offers us ‘Catholic way’ to grapple with real-world problems
“Some might say that contentious questions are raised. I can say that many difficult issues were raised, but they were not discussed in a contentious way. This in itself is remarkable. At its most basic, the term synodality describes a properly ecclesial style that prioritizes regular conversational interactions among the people of God as decisions are made for the sake of the mission the Lord gave to the church. The ‘Conversation in the Spirit’ method utilized during our local gatherings and at the Synod of Bishops this last October is one effective way to promote this aim.” By Daniel E. Flores, America: The Jesuit Review


A Catholic crisis: why priests in Ireland are fading into history and not being replaced
“In Ireland, where religion has played such a big place in its past, for better or for worse, fewer and fewer people are attending mass on Sunday, and even less are willing to commit themselves to the sanctified life of a priest. This, among other reasons, is leading these men of God to work well past retirement age while still trying to cover the work of churches all over the country. According to a survey conducted by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) last year, 15% of priests are over 75 and still working, over 25% are aged between 60–75, and just 2.5% of serving Catholic priests in Ireland, meanwhile, are under 40.” By Rory Elliot Armstrong, Euro News


Former president Mary McAleese criticizes Catholic bishops for ‘not listening’ to lay people
“Former president Mary McAleese has criticized the report published after the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican, saying many Catholic faithful are ‘disappointed and wounded.’ The retired professor of law is one of a number of academics and campaigners who have written to the Vatican criticizing Catholic bishops for ‘not listening,’ accusing them of a failure to ‘let go of their privileges’ and urging them to bring laity into the decision-making process.” By Sarah Mac Donald, Irish Independent


Maryland Child Victims Act gets legal challenge from Washington, D.C., church
“The Archdiocese of Washington D.C. is using an arcane legal maneuver to challenge the constitutionality of the Maryland Child Victims Act. The tactic uses a 2017 law that may have granted some immunity to churches for sexual abuse cases after victims turned 38. If the court accepts the statute, it could cause issues for future lawsuits brought by survivors. The Washington Archdiocese is facing a class action suit in Prince George’s County claiming that three boys were abused by clergy and employees.” By Scott Maucione, WYPR National Public Radio

French commission wants to remove statute of limitations for sexual violence against children
“A French commission examining sexual violence against children called Friday (Nov. 17) for removing all time limits on the prosecution of people suspected of raping or sexually assaulting minors. The Independent Commission on Incest and Sexual Violence against Children, which is known by its French acronym CIIVISE, also recommended defining sexual abuse of children as a separate offense under the law when it happens within families.” By Associated Press in News Advocate

Statement from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland on Thursday’s Maine law court proceeding
“The diocese’s opposition to the 2021 retroactive change in the statute of limitations law, and the appeal to the Law Court, in no way reflects a desire to minimize the devastating effects of past sexual abuse by Church representatives. Before the law was changed, there were already no limitations on any claims after 1988. The diocese is committed to thoroughly investigating any report of abuse brought forth and to providing extensive support services to those who come forward with any allegation of abuse. It is our belief that this law is unconstitutional and will significantly impact the diocese’s ability to serve the Catholic community of Maine, including those most vulnerable.” By Diocese of Portland


Arizona judge rules church leaders are not responsible for reporting sexual abuse
“Should religious leaders be held responsible for disclosing to law enforcement knowledge that church members are committing acts of sexual abuse? On Friday (Nov. 17), Arizona Judge Timothy Dickerson answered no. Dickerson’s end-of-week ruling dismissed a high-profile child sexual abuse lawsuit against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the basis of the state’s clergy-penitent privilege. Clergy-penitent privilege is a legal privilege that protects information from being disclosed in criminal proceedings, such as in a deposition, if that information was obtained during a confidential conversation between clergy and penitent.” By Baptist News Global


Sex abuse survivors fear hundreds of claims filed could unravel
“Sex abuse survivors say they fear hundreds of claims filed could be at risk of unraveling. Although legislation was passed offering a window giving survivors more time to sue, they say the clock is ticking for the Louisiana Supreme Court to rule if the legislation is constitutional. ‘I was an altar boy,’ Mike B. said. ‘Deacon George Brignac abused me in many different ways in many different places, anywhere between 50 to 80 different instances. For years, I couldn’t walk into a church without having an anxiety attack.’” By Aubry Killion, WDSU-TV6 News


Western Mass. actor depicts clergy abuse survivor who rejects church settlement – like he did
“A play that opens Thursday (Nov. 30) at CitySpace in Easthampton, Massachusetts, tells the story of a man who was abused by a priest when he was a boy. ‘Unreconciled’ is based on the experience of western Massachusetts actor and playwright Jay Sefton, who co-wrote it with another survivor, Mark Basquill. James Barry directs the play. Sefton and others said the priest allegedly abused boys who played the part of Jesus in school plays.” By New England Public Media


Here’s where the Michigan AG’s sweeping Catholic clergy sex abuse investigation stands
“The Michigan Attorney General’s office announced earlier this month that after five years since the investigation into sexual abuse within the Catholic Church began, the office has wrapped up all active cases against clergy members with many incidents dating back decades. A total of 11 Catholic priests were charged in the statewide investigation. Back in 2018, the Department of Attorney General executed search warrants for all of Michigan’s dioceses, reporting that they seized 220 boxes of documents and more than 3.5 million digital documents.” By Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance, on gandernewsroom.com


A final wave of sex-abuse lawsuits as one-year window closes in New York
“In the year since a one-time window opened in New York State allowing people to file sex-abuse lawsuits even after the statute of limitations had expired, more than 3,000 civil suits have been filed. Before the deadline on Thanksgiving, a flurry of attention-grabbing suits were filed against politicians — like former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Eric Adams, the mayor of New York — and celebrities, like Sean Combs, the producer and music mogul, who had just settled a separate suit filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan accusing him of rape.” By Hurubie Meko, The New York Times

Cost to settle sex abuse claims will be ‘painful’ for diocesan community
“This is the first installment of a three-part series looking into the Diocese of Buffalo’s recent suggested contribution to settle hundreds of childhood sexual abuse cases, how some devout Catholics responded to the news, and what the future might look like once the bankruptcy case in completed … The Diocese of Buffalo sent shock waves through the Catholic community last month, when it suggested $100 million to settle hundreds of childhood sexual abuse cases. The suggested contribution, which is exclusive of any insurance proceeds, would ‘need to be funded by monetary contributions sourced from across our Catholic community, including from the Diocese, parishes, and other affiliated Catholic entities,’ the Diocese said in a brief announcement posted on its website.” By Daniel Telvock and Luke Moretti, WVIB-TV4

New lawsuits accuse nine priests, two religious brothers of sexual contact
“Lawsuits filed under New York State’s Adult Survivors Act allege sexual contact by nine Catholic priests and two religious brothers in Western New York.” By WKBW-TV7 News

7 News I-Team files brief in Buffalo Diocese sex abuse documents case
“The 7 News I-Team joined an amici curiae brief Tuesday (Nov. 14) in the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo’s lawsuit against the State Attorney General’s Office. The brief was filed in support of the AG’s office determination to release 25,000 pages of documents subpoenaed during its investigation into the diocese’s handling of child sexual abuse. It was filed jointly with The Buffalo News and its reporter Jay Tokasz.” By Sean Mickey, WKBW-TV7 News


Ohio Catholic priest sentenced to life for sex trafficking boys, manipulating opioid addictions
“An Ohio priest was sentenced to life in prison Friday (Nov. 17) after he was convicted of grooming three boys and taking advantage of their opioid addictions to force them into commercial sex, according to the U.S. Justice Department. In May, a federal jury in Toledo found the Rev. Michael Zacharias, a Roman Catholic clergy member, guilty of five counts of sex trafficking in allegations that spanned 15 years, from July 2005 to August 2020. Prosecutors said he abused his role as a teacher and priest at a Toledo parish school to groom the three boys into adulthood, force them into sex and enable their addictions to pain medications and heroin later in life.” By Eduardo Cuevas, USA Today


Jury acquits Catholic priest in Tennessee who was charged with sexual battery
“A jury has found a Catholic priest in Tennessee not guilty of sexual battery against a woman who was a church member. Jurors handed down the verdict late last week in the case against Father Antony Punnackal, who was suspended from his role as pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Gatlinburg after being indicted in January 2022 on two counts of sexual battery. The charges centered on allegations from February 2020 regarding Punnackal’s actions toward the parishioner. A lawsuit by the woman remains active.” By Associated Press


Edward English, notorious Mountr Cashel abuser, arrested by Vancouver police
“Edward English, who was once sentenced to 10 years in prison for abusing boys at the Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John’s, has been arrested once again. CBC News has learned English was arrested Wednesday (Nov. 22) at his home outside Moncton, N.B., by members of the Vancouver Police Department. English was arrested in connection with allegations of sexual abuse involving two students at Vancouver College — a Catholic boys’ private school — in the 1980s, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation. English was not in custody when reached by CBC News on Thursday morning.” By Ryan Cooke, CBC News

Cergy sex abuse survivor Irene Deschenes co-founds new group to help victims
“A London, Ont., woman who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic priest is now heading a new organization aimed at delivering speedier justice for victims. This month, Irene Deschenes helped found Outrage Canada, a national non-religious advocacy group with a mandate to hold the church accountable for sexual abuse by the clergy. The group proposes the federal government set up a national reporting center to gather and investigate reports of clergy abuse. Deschenes said the current system re-victimizes people who file abuse allegations with the church.” By CBC News


International warrant issued for arrest of Mexican priest: ‘after he abused me, he would get up to pray like nothing had happened’
“The more time passed, the harder it became temper the deep sorrow gnawing at his soul. For almost twenty years, José Leonardo Araujo Araque had kept silent about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child. At times, he could hardly put his own thoughts straight — he felt like a hook was stuck in his throat.” By Diana López Zuleta, El Pais


A French bishop is accused of attempted rape in latest scandal to hit Catholic Church in France
“AFrench bishop has been given a preliminary charge of attempting to rape an adult man a decade ago, the Paris prosecutor’s office said Nov. 20. It is the latest of a growing number of accusations of sexual abuse by clergy in France. The Bishops’ Conference of France said the accused bishop, Georges Colomb, contests the charge and deserves the presumption of innocence. He has asked the Vatican to step aside from his duties as bishop of La Rochelle and Saintes in western France to prepare his defense.” By Associated Press in National Catholic Reporter


How a Spanish newspaper tackled the taboo of Church abuse
“Five years ago, Soledad Gallego-Diaz challenged Spain’s last great taboo: sexual abuse inside the Roman Catholic Church. The newly appointed editor of the left-leaning daily El Pais launched an investigation into allegations of abuse by clergy and lay people against children. Unlike in the United States, Ireland and France, the Spanish Church had not sought to address this issue. Echoing The Boston Globe’s 2002 investigation of child abuse in the Catholic Church, El Pais’ probe sought justice for survivors of abuse.” By Graham Keeley, VOANews.com