Voice of the Faithful Focus, Dec. 15, 2023

Dec. 15, 2023


Catholic school, Augustinians settle sex abuse lawsuit for $2M; activists file complaint against Chicagoland dioceses
“Anti-abuse activists lodged a Vatican complaint Thursday (Nov. 30) in response to a $2 million lawsuit settled by a New Lenox Catholic school and the Augustinian religious order, alleging that the ‘actions and inaction’ by Chicagoland Catholic leaders in handling the accused priest is endangering kids. Former Providence Catholic High School student Robert Krankvich filed a lawsuit in April 2018 alleging the school’s longtime principal and president, the Rev. Richard McGrath, repeatedly raped and abused him. Krankvich was between 13 and 15 when he was abused in the school’s gym and wrestling room in the mid-1990s, the lawsuit alleged.” By Jake Sheridan, Chicago Tribune, on news.yahoo.com

‘The devil was in that building’: New Orleans church orphanages’ dark secrets: Survivors of institutions run by Catholic diocese recall litany of sexual abuse as bankruptcy process keeps documents hidden

This is the final installment of a three-part series exploring how the archdiocese of New Orleans’s bankruptcy stands apart from other cases of its kind. The first installment ran on Wednesday 29 November 2023, and the second installment ran on Friday 1 December.

“Call her Sheila. She doesn’t want her name used because of court testimony she has given as a state social worker which helped put men who abused their families in jail. She’s retired now, but still a rescuer by nature. On a recent afternoon she went back to Madonna Manor, the Catholic orphanage in a Spanish colonial revival building, now shuttered, several miles across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. ‘A reverent place,’ she sighed, ‘but it’s also a crime scene.’” By Jason Berry, The Guardian

Pope meets Council of Cardinals to discuss Church’s feminine dimension
“As the Pope announced on 30 November, during an audience with the International Theological Commission, the Council of Cardinals is focusing its reflections on the ‘feminine dimension of the Church.’ ‘The Church is woman,’ said Pope Francis on that occasion. ‘If we do not understand what woman is or what the theology of womanhood is, we will never understand what the Church is.’ He also described the ‘masculinizing’ of the Church as a ‘great sin,’ which has yet to be resolved. The Pope appealed to a distinction proposed by Jesuit theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, who described a ‘Petrine’ or ministerial principle, and a ‘Marian’ or mystical principle.” By Vatican News

Diocese of Sacramento filing for bankruptcy in new year amid hundreds of sexual abuse allegations, lawsuits
“The Diocese of Sacramento announced Saturday (Dec.9) that it will file Chapter 11 bankruptcy next year following hundreds of sexual abuse allegations and lawsuits. ‘It is now clear to me that this is the only way available to me to resolve these claims as fairly as possible,”’ said Bishop Jaime Soto in a statement. ‘There are many victim-survivors awaiting compensation for the reprehensible sins committed against them.’” By Jeannie Nguyen, ABC-TV10 News


When can a pope fire a bishop?
“Pope Francis’ recent moves against two prominent conservative American churchmen, Cardinal Raymond Burke and Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland, raise questions about the authority of the pope to fire or remove a bishop. Both men have made clear their disagreement with Francis’ policies. Most recently, Burke said in a panel discussion in Rome as the Synod on Synodality got underway that the global gathering of bishops and laypeople at the Vatican risked ‘confusion, error and division’ among the faithful. In May, Strickland went so far as to accuse the pope in a tweet of ‘undermining the Deposit of Faith’ — the body of scripture and tradition that make up Catholic belief.” By Thomas Reese, Religion News Service, The Salt Lake Star Tribune


Council to ask Pope to authorize studies on key synod topics
“The council of the Synod of Bishops will ask Pope Francis to authorize studies on the need to update canon law, revise the rules for priestly formation, deepen a theological reflection on the diaconate — including the possibility of ordaining women deacons — and consider revising a document that provides norms for the relationship of a bishop with members of religious orders in his diocese. “These are matters of great importance, some of which need to be considered at the level of the whole church and in collaboration with the dicasteries of the Roman Curia,” said a statement from the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod.” By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

To understand Rome’s Synod of Bishops, look to Australia
“Greeting the crowds in St. Peter’s Square after being elected as the first pontiff from the Global South, the Argentine-born Pope Francis joked that it seemed the cardinals had gone ‘almost to the ends of the earth’ to find him. It appears the Vatican’s office for the Synod of Bishops opted for a similar approach when looking to shape Francis’ high stakes summit on the future of the Catholic Church. While less than 20% of Australia is Catholic, its church played an outsized role in shaping the global synod process.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Essay raises important questions about Pope Francis’ synodal process
“Theologian John Cavadini, director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, penned an important article about the synthesis document that summed up the deliberations at the recently concluded Synod of Bishops in Rome. Unlike some of the recent commentaries I have seen, Cavadini’s raises important questions about the document and does so in a respectful and thoughtful way … Cavadini’s focus is on the ecclesiology of the document and, specifically, the way synodality constitutes an ongoing part of the reception of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council and its teaching, specifically in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter


Francis, Strickland & Burke: the pope’s response to U.S. Catholic conservatism
The year-long break between the first and second assemblies of the Synod on Synodality began with Pope Francis disciplining two of his most outspoken critics. First, he removed Bishop Joseph Strickland as head of the Tyler, Texas, diocese; days later, he reportedly ousted Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke from his Vatican-subsidized apartment and took away the salary Burke was receiving as a retired cardinal. As a procedural matter, the Strickland decision was a straightforward instance of following the measures the Church provides—in this case, an apostolic visitation—concerning the right of the people of God to be governed by the pastor of the diocese, and for ensuring the respect for all those, including clergy, under a diocesan bishop’s jurisdiction.” By Massimo Faggioli. Commonweal

Pope asks theologians to help ‘de-masculinize’ the church
“Asking pardon for speaking plainly, Pope Francis told members of the International Theological Commission that ‘one of the great sins we have had is ‘masculinizing’ the church,’ which also can be seen by the fact that only five of the commission members are women. The pope, who appoints the 28 members of the commission, said the church needs to make more progress in balancing such bodies because ‘women have a capacity for theological reflection that is different from what we men have.’” By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter


Cardinal Gregory discusses synodality, Latin Mass at the Catholic University of America
“At The Catholic University of America to discuss the need for a diverse and welcoming Church, Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory fielded a wide range of audience questions while also reflecting on his own faith journey from childhood. The Dec. 6 talk, ‘Celebrating Diversity,’ on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Cardinal Gregory’s ordination as an auxiliary bishop of Chicago, touted the work of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach and its Catholic Civil Dialogue Initiative.” By Kurt Jensen, Our Sunday Visitor

Ex-cardinal McCarrick’s sex assault case in Wisconsin appears to be dead
“A Wisconsin prosecutor has declined to challenge a doctor’s assessment that disgraced ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick is incompetent to stand trial, making it more likely the only remaining criminal charge against McCarrick will be dismissed. McCarrick, 93, was charged with sexual assault in the fourth degree, a misdemeanor, for allegedly fondling an 18-year-old family friend at a Wisconsin lake in the 1970s. If convicted, he would have faced up to nine months in prison and a $10,000 fine.” By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post


Pope Francis writes a letter to four German women – and surprises almost everyone
“It’s no secret that the German Catholic Church’s reform project, known as the ‘Synodal Path, is a thorn in Pope Francis’ side. He has criticized the process, which has brought forward ideas such as blessings for same-sex couples and the election of bishops, numerous times. But his latest comments on the project came as a surprise for just about everyone, except for four conservative German Catholic women … All of them are former members of the Synodal Path assemblies, who publicly announced their departure from the project last spring.” By Renardo Schlegelmilch, National Catholic Reporter

Exclusive: Synod felt ‘sorrow’ over church’s treatment of women, says Bishop Flores
“The bishops taking part in Pope Francis’ recent major Vatican summit on the future of the Catholic Church wanted to express ‘a certain amount of sorrow’ over how women have been treated by the global faith institution, said one of the American prelates who took part in the gathering … Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, said the delegates wanted to show recognition of ‘how the church has not, in her leadership or in the way it works … appreciated the sacrifice and [that] in so many parts of the world [what] continues to make the church viable is the work of women.’” By Joshua J. McElwee and Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter


Vatican trial, now ending, a remembrance of things we thought were past
“… All this comes to mind in light of an essay Melloni published Monday (Dec. 4), which echoes a point Magister first made last May: To wit, that a new fundamental law Pope Francis issued for the Vatican City State on May 13, 2023, contains an absolutely unprecedented claim about the pontiff’s temporal authority. The pope, the document asserts, is ‘called by virtue of the munus petrinum [Petrine ministry] to exercise sovereign powers over the Vatican City State.’” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com


Sex abuse survivors rarely disclose until adulthood. Kentucky law should reflect that.
“Twenty years ago, my partners and I achieved a historic settlement against the Archdiocese of Louisville on behalf of 243 men and women sexually abused during their childhood. In the months following the April 2002 filing of that lawsuit, these brave survivors stood tall before the cameras and shared their stories to an audience who initially refused to accept that these horrors were true … Because the Archdiocese of Louisville settled but did not admit liability, our community was left to see if our justice system could prevent further horrific abuses of children.” By Willam F. McMurry, Courier Journal


Court documents reveal Father James Jackson said he was sexually abused as a child
“New court documents reveal that Traditional Latin Mass priest Father James Jackson, who pleaded guilty to a federal child pornography charge in June, told authorities he was sexually abused as a child. Additionally, a statement from his sister filed with the court said that Jackson engaged in a life of drugs, alcohol, and ‘sexual wildness’ as a young person. Jackson signed a plea agreement in June admitting to a single charge of receipt of child pornography, while prosecutors moved to dismiss a second count of possession of child pornography.” By Joe Bukuras, Catholic News Agency


Bishop explains ‘difficult decision’ for Diocese of Sacramento to file for bankruptcy
“Amid hundreds of lawsuits accusing clergy of sexual abuse, the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento announced on Saturday (dec. it intends to file for bankruptcy. Bishop Jaime Soto said he believes it is the most transparent, fair and respectful way to address all the claims.” By Lysée Mitri, KCRA-TV3 News


Advocat4es for clergy sex abuse survivors want priest added to all Chicago-area dioceses’ predator clergy lists
“After being secretive for years, the Augustinian Catholic order has promised to publish early in 2024 a list of priests credibly accused of abuse. On Thursday (Nov. 30), an advocacy group called for the Rev. Richard J. McGrath, a priest accused of child sex abuse, to also be placed on predator priest lists kept by all Chicago-area dioceses where he worked. At a news conference outside the Hyde Park friary where McGrath once lived, clergy sex abuse survivor advocates demanded that his name also be added to the lists of the Chicago, Joliet and Rockford dioceses.” By David Struett, Chicago Sun-Times

He says a priest sexually abused him. When he told the diocese, he was traumatized again.
“The memories of what happened to him more than 60 years ago are somewhat hazy. But the shock, trauma and emotional scars are as clear today as they were then. He was 6 years old when he says he was sexually assaulted by a group of men that included Father Patrick Brennan, a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria. The abuse decades ago has shaped the rest of his life in grueling ways. Isolation from other children, alcoholism, suicide attempts, marital problems and emotional trauma embedded in his psyche.” By J.J. Bullock, Peoria Journal Star


Sexual predator was associate pastor at my Catholic school and parish
“A Louisville Courier-Journal Op Ed piece ran the other day about how Kentucky law does not really allow victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests to file lawsuits because of statute of limitations requirements. Many of the victims do not report the abuse until well into the 40’s or older. I noticed in the opinion piece that the Louisville Archdiocese settled a lawsuit over this very subject back in 2003. The Archdiocese admitted no liability, but a list of sexual predators who had served in Kentucky was published. I was shocked to find out that I knew one of those sexual predators — Father John Elder.” By DailyKOS.com


‘He controlled my life’: New Orleans archdiocese ignored woman’s claims before priest’s abrupt dismissal
“A Louisiana Catholic priest’s sudden dismissal from the church where he had been a popular pastor for the last several years has set off a fresh scandal in the embattled New Orleans archdiocese, the second-oldest in the US. As they tell it, local church leaders rescinded Anthony Odiong’s invitation to serve as a cleric in the region due to unspecified ‘concerns … about [his] ministry prior’ to his arrival in the archdiocese – ‘and quite possibly during his time’ there. As a result, the New Orleans archbishop, Gregory Aymond, told Odiong’s bishop in Nigeria to recall him to his home diocese ‘as soon as possible to address these concerns,’ officials said in a statement.” By Ramon Antonio Vargas, The Guardian

Trial date set for Lawrence Hecker, ex-New Orleans pries accused of raping teenager
“An Orleans Parish judge on Thursday (Dec. 8) set a March 25 trial date for Lawrence Hecker, the 92-year-old retired New Orleans priest accused of raping and kidnapping a teenager nearly 50 years ago. Hecker, who served in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, allegedly confessed in 1999 to church leaders that he had molested several teenagers over a span of 15 years, according to an investigation The Guardian published in June. The archdiocese allowed him to stay in the church.” By Jillian Kramer, Nola.com

Sex abuse lawsuit against Diocese of Lafayette goes to Louisiana Supreme Court
“The case of alleged sexual abuse against the Diocese of Lafayette and Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church will be heard by the Louisiana Supreme Court. The court announced it would take the case and ordered the District Court and the Court of Appeal to send up the records of the case, in a release Tuesday (Dec.5) … The lawsuit originally filed in 2018 alleges the Rev. Kenneth Morvant abused Doug Bienvenu and other altar boys by giving them alcohol and using the ‘Power of God’ to prey upon them. Bienvenu, the only plaintiff named in the suit, said he was nine years old when the alleged abuse started.’ By Scott Yoshonis, KLFY-TV10 News


Will a new day dawn for adult victims of clergy abuse?
“Early this year, a retired phys ed teacher left her ranch house in Easthampton and drove down the interstate to tell her story of clergy abuse. It wasn’t Nancy A. Dunn’s first time before the Springfield Diocese’s review board, which meets in the red-brick Maguire Pastoral Center to hear allegations of clergy misconduct. But it was her last. The board later informed Dunn she needn’t have come back. Why? The diocese had already written her a six-figure check, she says she was told, to compensate her for a priest’s misconduct in the 1990s.” By Larry Parnass, MassLive.com


Hundreds of CVA cases in limbo due to flaw in Child Victims Act
“A potential flaw in the legislation that created New York’s Child Victims Act has led to legal turmoil in hundreds of cases filed by alleged sexual abuse victims in the Court of Claims, where the state attorney general’s office has waged a fierce effort to have many of the lawsuits that were filed against New York agencies dismissed. A central focus of the state’s litigation strategy has been to assert that in the Court of Claims — where litigation targeting state-affiliated individuals or entities is adjudicated — the rules require a claimant to provide the date and location of when and where an incident is alleged to have taken place.” By Brendan J. Lyons, Albany Times Union

Rockville Centre Diocese offers ‘best, final proposal, for sexual abuse survivors
“The Diocese of Rockville Centre has made its ‘best and final proposal’ for victims of sexual abuse. The offer announced on Tuesday (Dec. 5) totals $200 million in compensation, Diocese spokesperson Sean Dolan said, adding that the amended plan is the ‘most efficient and most effective means to immediately begin compensating all eligible survivors.’” By Jerry Barmash, Rockville Centre Patch

New lawsuit shows church has work to do in protecting adults from clergy abuse
Legal action filed against a New York state diocese shows the Catholic Church in the U.S. has significant work to do in safeguarding adults from clerical abuse. The Diocese of Rochester, New York, announced on its news website, the Catholic Courier, that it had been served Nov. 16 with a civil lawsuit involving an adult and Father Matthew Jones. The action alleges that the 41-year-old Father Jones, then pastor of All Saints Parish in Corning, New York had sexually abused male parishioner in his 20s who had sought pastoral counseling.” By Gina Christian, OSV News, on angelusnews.com


‘Accept responsibility’: survivor behind lawsuit against Washington Archdiocese wants closure
“A Maryland man behind a class action lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Washington said the assault he endured as a child by a priest caused decades of substance abuse, shame and depression. ‘From age 15 until I was 40 … I used alcohol to cope with the pain, but all that did was turn me into an alcoholic,’ said the man identified in court filings under the pseudonym ‘Richard Roe.’ Roe is one of three men named in the filing, which asserts the archdiocese did little to prevent and protect them from abuse when they were children in the church.” By Tracee Wilkins, NBC-TV4 News


Milwaukee response to clergy complaint raises questions
“While Pope Francis has urged diocesan bishops to take more seriously the canonical discipline of clerics, the outgoing chairman of the U.S. bishops’ canonical affairs committee has not taken steps to address canonically reports of public cohabitation by a senior-ranking official in his archdiocese. A spokesperson for Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee told The Pillar that the archdiocese has ‘spoken with’ judicial vicar Fr. Mark Payne, who hired as a parish schoolteacher last year a layperson with whom he had maintained a public romantic relationship, and with whom he has shared a condo for decades.” By The Pillar


Father David Lancini to appear in court on child sex abuse charges
“A Catholic priest with decades of service to church communities is facing allegations he abused a boy in historical sex crimes going back decades. Queensland Police allege Father David Lancini, a priest from Townsville in the state’s north, abused a boy under the age of 14 between 1969 and 1971. Fr Lancini now faces eight counts of indecent treatment of a boy under 14 and he will appear in Townsville Magistrates Court for the first time on December 5.” By Duncan Evans, news.com.au

‘It represents difficult stories’: survivors of clergy abuse ahead of George Pell’s funeral
Victim-survivors of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy gathered outside St Mary’s Cathedral as the coffin of Cardinal George Pell returned to the Sydney church on Wednesday (Dec. 6) ahead of his funeral on Thursday. Since Monday, survivors and their supporters have been tying ribbons to the fence of the cathedral in memory of those victims who could not be there in person. Clergy abuse survivor Paul Auchettl has been leading a group tying ribbons to the church gates to represent the voices of those ‘who are gone, who are suffering, who have been harmed’ by child sexual abuse, he said.” By The Guardian on news.yahoo.com


In Belgium, sexual abuse in Catholic Church sparks debate over state funding
“In Belgium, a recent documentary on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has caused shock and soul-searching, reigniting a debate about the way religion is funded in the country. Unlike in neighboring France, the Belgian state finances officially recognized religions, with representatives of the Catholic Church receiving the best pay. But the abuse scandal has seen many people demand a change in the rules. The justice ministry has asked the Church to remove members of the clergy guilty of sexual abuse from the list of those paid by the state, and a parliamentary inquiry is underway.” Our correspondent reports. By France24.com

Belgian priest seeking justice for sex abuse victims
“Since the broadcast of a shocking documentary about abuse in the Belgian Catholic Church awakened buried traumas, former priest Rik Deville has been overwhelmed by heart-breaking stories. One victim, an 86-year-old man, called Deville from his car where he had locked himself, in floods of tears. He finally told someone of the horrific abuse he suffered that even his nearest and dearest didn’t know. Deville devotes his life to providing support to victims of sexual abuse in the Church, carefully reading each victim’s story and taking their many phone calls.” By Matthieu Demeestere, Barron’s


Avondale priest charged with sexual assault against an adult
“A Roman Catholic priest in Avondale has been charged with sexual assault against an adult. Thomas Offong, 49, was charged following an investigation by the RCMP in Holyrood, according to a press release issued by the police Friday (Dec. 1). He is scheduled to appear at provincial court in St. John’s on Feb. 6. Police provided no other information about Offong, the circumstances or the alleged victim, and told CBC News they wouldn’t comment further as the matter is now before the courts.” By Alex Kennedy, CBC News

P.E.I. priest sentenced to five years after pleading guilty to sexual exploitation
“A retired Roman Catholic priest on P.E.I. has been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to four counts of sexual exploitation of a teenage boy in the 1990s. Maurice Joseph Praught, 70, entered the plea in a Charlottetown courtroom Tuesday morning. He was arrested in 2022 following a joint investigation by Summerside police and the RCMP after the Diocese of Charlottetown reported the allegations. He was initially charged with six counts of sexual exploitation and four counts of sexual assault, but the remainder of those charges have been stayed or withdrawn.” By CBC News

369 people come forward with abuse claims against Archdiocese of St. John’s in bankruptcy case
“The final tally is in — 369 people have come forward claiming they were abused physically or sexually by people under the watch of the Archdiocese of St. John’s, including the Christian Brothers at Mount Cashel. Archbishop Peter Hundt delivered the message to parishioners during Roman Catholic masses on Sunday, saying each of those claims are now being evaluated by an independent claims officer to ‘provide both a determination of liability and a value for each claim.’ It’s the latest update in the archdiocese’s insolvency proceedings, which began when the organization filed for creditor protection on Dec. 22, 2021.” By Ryan Cooke and Alex Kennedy, CBC News


English priest sentenced after conviction for sexual abuse of a child
“Father Reginald Dunkling, a priest of the Diocese of Westminster in England, was sentenced Dec. 1 for a non-recent sexual abuse of a child. The Wood Green Crown Court imposed a 12-month community order, with additional requirements. The diocese said Dunkling, now 61, withdrew from ministry in May 2020, and since that time has had no role in public ministry. The church issued a statement saying that following his conviction, the priest does not, and will not, have any role in public ministry.” By Charles Collins, Cruxnow.com


Former priest, 72, pleads guilty to raft of sex abuse charges against young boy as he appears in court
“A former priest has pleaded guilty to a raft of sex abuse charges against a young boy. Eamonn Crossan appeared at Donegal Circuit Court facing a total of 96 sex-related charges. The 72-year-old was due to stand trial before a judge and jury. However, just moments before a jury was due to be sworn in for his trial, Crossan’s legal team informed Judge John Aylmer there could be progress in the case. After a short adjournment, it was indicated that Crossan was pleading guilty to a total of nine sample charges ranging from indecent assault to sexual assault.” By Stephen Maguire, The Irish Sun