Voice of the Faithful Focus, May 6, 2022


Pope mandates annual audit on protection of children from abuse
“Pope Francis on Friday (Apr. 29) asked for an annual audit evaluating how national Catholic Churches are implementing measures to protect children from clergy sexual abuse, saying that without more transparency the faithful will continue to lose trust. ‘Abuse in any form is unacceptable,’ Francis told members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was established in 2014 to promote best practices and a culture of safeguarding worldwide.” By Philip Pullella, Reuters

Women religious blaze new trails in roles of authority at the Vatican
“When Pope Francis met more than 850 religious sisters attending the International Union of Superiors General plenary meeting in Rome in 2019, the pope insisted that the chair for the body’s then-president, Sr. Carmen Sammut, be seated right next to him. At the time, both Sammut, a Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa, and those in the room were touched by the pope’s deeply symbolic gesture to level the playing field. Now, as delegates from around the globe prepare to travel again to Rome for this year’s May 2-6 plenary, a wave of new appointments of sisters inside the Vatican has made it clear that Francis is backing that symbolism up with substantive changes and making room for more women religious to have a permanent seat at the table.” By Christopher White, Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

Vatican clears Polish Cardinal Dziwisz of abuse cover-up
“The Vatican has wrapped up its own investigation and dismissed allegations that Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz had covered up cases of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in his archdiocese. In a written statement released April 22, the Apostolic Nunciature in Poland said the Vatican found the cardinal had been ‘correct’ in his actions after it examined the findings of an investigation led by Italian Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, on CatholicPhilly.com

Expert says too many laity ignore abuse crisis because ‘it doesn’t affect them’
“When it comes to addressing the clerical sexual abuse, the role of the laity is central, according to experts. However, according to one of the Colombian lay women at the center of the country’s bishops’ response, too many people avoid addressing it, because they don’t think it is a problem that affects them. Ilva Myriam Hoyos, former Colombian attorney general for children, adolescents and family, is the head of the bishops’ working group for the protection of minors.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com

Pope warns of lost trust without more abuse accountability
Pope Francis gave a new mandate to his sex abuse advisory commission Friday (Apr. 29), telling its members to work with bishops around the world to establish special welcome centers for victims and to audit the church’s progress on fighting abuse from its new perch within the Vatican. Francis warned that without more transparency and accountability from the church, the faithful would continue to lose trust in the Catholic hierarchy after decades of revelations about priests who raped and molested children and bishops and religious superiors who covered up those crimes.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press


Voice of the Faithful puts children first with new study of dioceses’ child protection efforts
“Voice of the Faithful has published the first independent, online review of all U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses’ level of compliance with child protection and safe environment guidelines. The average overall score was 67%, with the most frequently achieved score 63.5%. Although some dioceses did well, no diocese achieved 100%, and three dioceses scored in the 20s. Click here to read the entire report. The study is the first independent analysis of child protection and safe environment policies in all U.S. dioceses.” By Voice of the Faithful on Religion News Service Press Service

Cologne paid a million euros for priest’s gambling
“After several reports in the German secular media during Holy Week that the archdiocese of Cologne had paid more than €1m to settle a priest’s debts, including his gambling debts, the archdiocese confirmed the reports on Maundy Thursday. The money … was taken out of the special ‘bishop’s chair’ fund which is also used to pay the damages of clerical sexual abuse victims and to finance Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki’s favourite project, the Cologne University for Catholic Theology (KHKT).” By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, The Tablet


Synod on synodality to be ‘process of spiritual discernment,’ participants say
“The Vatican office organizing a major 2023 Vatican summit on synodality held a preparation meeting last week, saying the synod of bishops has already begun. ‘This synod was conceived not as an event that will take place in a moment, meaning October 2023: It has already begun, and this awareness has been assumed by all of us taking part in this assembly,’ said Colombian layman Oscar Elizalde, spokesman for CELAM, the Latin American bishops’ conference. ‘We are not preparing for the synod, it has already begun.’” By Inés San Martín, Cruxnow.com

Church seeks Synod insights from Anglican, Uniting events
“To help better understand the place of synodality in the Catholic Church, ecumenical leaders will attend national Uniting and Anglican gatherings this month to see how synodality works in those communities. The global Synod on Synodality has encouraged engagement with ecumenical and interfaith groups as part of the process leading towards the gathering in Rome in October 2023. The Australian Synod of Bishops committee reached out to the National Council of Churches Australia to see how the Catholic Church and other Christian communities could walk together in their synodal journeys.” By CathNews.com


Pope Francis vows new start in fight against clerical sex abuse
“Pope Francis said Friday (Apr. 29) changes to an advisory body on preventing sexual abuse represented a fresh start in the fight against pedophile priests, but conceded ‘much remains to be done.’ The pope in March moved the Commission for the Protection of Minors into the Vatican’s powerful doctrine office, which oversees the church’s investigations of abuse cases, in a bid to give it the institutional power critics said it was lacking. The reform ‘marks a new beginning,’ the 85-year-old told commission members at the conclusion of their plenary meeting Friday.” By Agence France-Presse on Phillipines.Lics.News

Pope Francis updates canon law on dismissal from religious institutes
“Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter on Tuesday (Apr. 26) bringing Church law up to date on the rules for dismissal from religious institutes, in light of the updated penal law on sanctions related to clerical sexual abuse and other crimes. The letter, known as Recognitum librum VI and issued motu proprio (on the pope’s ‘own impulse’) on April 26, modifies one sentence from canon 695 of the Code of Canon Law.” By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency


Are lay cardinals next?
“Pope Francis is reorganizing the Vatican Curia — the church’s administrators and his senior staff — and may name new cardinals in June. Francis’ new apostolic constitution, ‘Praedicate Evangelium’ (‘Preach the Gospel’), issued last month, noted that the heads of dicasteries and other offices that manage the church need not be ordained. This highlighted Francis’ stated aim to give ‘more space’ to women in the church. Most of the important dicasteries are as a matter of fact headed by cardinals. But if any Catholic can head a curial office, the question becomes, does the title come with the job? More importantly, is the title needed to do the job?By Phyllis Zagano, Religion News Service


Spanish bishops say they won’t participate in national clerical abuse inquiry
“Spain’s bishops announced Friday (Apr. 29) that they will not take part in an independent commission into clerical sexual abuse created by the national legislature, alleging, among other things, that the commission won’t look into all sexual abuse of minors but only those committed by members of the Catholic Church. ‘We want to state that to carry out an investigation of abuses only in the church, when it is clear that out of 15,000 open cases in Spain, only 69 refer to the church, is a surprising decision,’ said Bishop Luis Argüello, spokesman of the Spanish bishops’ conference.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com

After tense year of debates, U.S. bishops to gather for retreat in June
“The U.S. Catholic bishops will gather for a retreatlike special assembly this summer in San Diego to focus on episcopal unity after a tense year and a half in which deep divisions surfaced among prelates over the issue of denying Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians — including President Joe Biden. There will be no public session for the June 2022 meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops because the normal assembly business of committee reports and presentations are being set aside for prayer, reflection and episcopal fraternity, a spokeswoman for the conference told NCR.” By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter


Irish priest appointed to senior Vatican role investigating abuse
“An Irish priest, Msgr John Kennedy has been put in charge by Pope Francis of leading investigations into child abuse allegations against the Catholic clergy worldwide. The 53-year-old monsignor is the new secretary of the disciplinary section at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which has responsibility for dealing with credible allegations against clergy. He had been serving at the office since being appointed there by Pope Francis in 2017 and his appointment is part of a major shake-up of the Vatican curia being undertaken by Pope Francis.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times


Argentine nuns accuse archbishop, others of gender violence
“Several feminist groups are calling for protests May 3 in support of a community of cloistered nuns who have caused shockwaves by accusing the archbishop of a northern Argentine province and other church officials of gender-based psychological and physical violence. The pairing of feminists and Carmelite nuns is unusual in a country at the forefront of Latin America’s women’s movement where activists are often at odds with the Roman Catholic Church. The support illustrates how rare it is for this type of dispute to make it to the courts.” By Almudena Calatrava, The Associated Press, in Global Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

Editorial: Thanks to Network for 50 years of lobbying for the common good
“It is not an overstatement to say that some 17.5 million formerly uninsured Americans now have health insurance thanks, in large part, to a group of Catholic sisters. Network, a Catholic social justice lobby of religious women, was instrumental in the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, which dramatically reduced the number of uninsured Americans. That is just one of the group’s many accomplishments over the past five decades. Network, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month, has tirelessly worked for the common good, and the country is a better place for its having done so.” By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff


Should women be ordained Catholic deacons?
“In 2020, Pope Francis created a second Vatican commission to consider ordaining women as deacons—clergy who may read the gospel and preach at Mass, baptize, witness marriages, preside at funerals, and work with the needy. (A prior commission had ended two years earlier with no action taken by the Vatican.) One media report said the move signified that ‘women deacons in the Catholic Church are closer to reality than ever before.’ Correction: women deacons were reality in the early church.” By Rich Barlow, Bostonia, Boston University Alumni Magazine


Vatican backs Cardinal Woelki over abuse study contracts
“The Vatican has ruled that the German Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki did not breach canon law when awarding contracts connected to a landmark report on clerical abuse. The Archdiocese of Cologne announced the Vatican’s decision on May 3, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. During a seven-month ‘period of spiritual leave’ taken by the cardinal, the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese commissioned two independent canon lawyers to study the contracts awarded by Woelki and vicar general Msgr. Markus Hofmann.” By Catholic News Agency Staff


Rome on a Mission: Pope Francis’ reform of the Curia
“This, at last, is the reform ‘strongly wished for by most of the cardinals gathered in the pre-conclave general congregations’ in 2013, as Praedicate recalls at the end of its preamble. The date of the constitution’s release—March 19, the ninth anniversary of Pope Francis’s inaugural Mass—is a reminder of those days, when cardinals in the wake of Benedict’s resignation stood up, one after another, to urge the next pope to turn a dysfunctional, inward-looking court of self-aggrandizing cronies into an effective, outward-looking organism of service to the whole Church.” By Austen Ivereigh, Commmonweal


Vatican trial places pope, top aides at center of London deal
“The former director of the Vatican’s financial watchdog agency testified Wednesday (Apr. 27) that Pope Francis asked him to help the Vatican secretariat of state get full control of a London property, once again putting the pope and his top deputies in the spotlight for their roles in the problematic deal. Tommaso Di Ruzza is one of 10 people accused in the Vatican’s sprawling financial trial, which is centered on the secretariat of state’s 350 million euro investment in a luxury London property. Vatican prosecutors have accused brokers and Vatican officials of fleecing the Holy See of millions of euros in fees, much of it donations from the faithful, and then extorting the Vatican of 15 million euros to get full control of the property.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press


Stephen Mills: Don’t tell us it’s too late to get justice
“Take it from me, the aftershocks of child sexual abuse last a lifetime. I’m 66, and the sexual violence I experienced at age 13 — a near-death experience, really — can still grip my body and mind when I least expect it. I thought I’d be released when my abuser died. But that happened 30 years ago. Then I was sure I just needed to find the right meds, the right therapy, the right spiritual practice. No, no and no.” By Stephen Mills, Trib Live

What kind of Catholics are we?
What does it mean to be a vowed Dominican Sister, a member of the Order of Preachers within a church that largely rejects women preaching in liturgical settings? Lucky for me, I am blessed with a high tolerance for perceived contradictions. In fact, it was my penchant for incongruities that, after 25 years as a non-practicing Catholic, drew me back into the fold. For me, the endurance, scope and coherence of the Catholic tradition belie a profound underlying Truth that enables me to live with the inherent, sometimes painful, contradictions of the church.” By Quincy Howard, Globe Sisters Report, National Catholic Reporter

Troubling past: the Church’s role in America’s Indian boarding school era
“The doll is about 6 inches tall, handcrafted of red leather, with a tan belt and headband around its long black hair. It’s a male warrior, holding a bow. ‘This is actually me,’ D. Richard Wright said of the doll. The parishioner of Gichitwaa Kateri in south Minneapolis made it as part of an effort to process recent findings in Canada of what are believed to be hundreds of graves of children on the sites of former indigenous residential schools. Some Twin Cities American Indians — mostly women — gathered together to make ‘spirit dolls’ representing the children in some of those graves, resulting in an exhibit called ‘215+’ that was on view from November to January at Indigenous Roots in St. Paul.” By Maria Wiering, The Catholic Spirit


California Catholic dioceses ask Supreme Court to hear statute of limitations extension case
“California Catholic bishops are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a case challenging the state for permitting victims of childhood sexual abuse to file claims again, after the timeframe for them to pursue legal action has expired twice. Nine California Catholic dioceses and archdioceses filed a petition for writ of certiorari, or a petition to review a lower court’s decision, in the case — Roman Catholic Bishop of Oakland v. Superior Court of California for Los Angeles — on April 15.” By Katie Yoder, Catholic News Agency, on AngelusNews.com

Iowa’s dangerous safe base for abusers
“The game of tag is one of the most classic outdoor childhood games. Although it has many versions, traditionally speaking, one player is ‘it’ and must tag other players to eliminate them. Generally, players cannot be tagged out if they are on the ‘safe base.’ Kids often complain and holler that the safe base is unfair. They have a point. There is ‘safe base’ in Iowa, but it is a dangerous one. You see, Iowa law creates a safe zone for the absolute worst – sexual predators. A sexual predator may be out and held accountable in one jurisdiction but cross the state line into Iowa and they are safe. Why?” By Kathryn Robb and Kylie DeWees, The Gazette


A wounded healer speaks about the sexual abuse crisis
“In this new episode of Field Hospital, Jeannie Gaffigan and I had the privilege of speaking to Mark Joseph Williams, a survivor of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest who has undergone a long journey of healing and recovery. He now advocates for and accompanies other survivors as they seek the healing and justice they need after suffering the trauma and injustice they have endured. Professionally, Mark is a management consultant and a forensic social worker from New Jersey. He also serves as special advisor in the Archdiocese of Newark for Cardinal Joseph Tobin.” By Mark Lewis, The Field Hospital Podcate, on WherePeterIs.com

Navarre will recognize the victims of abuses in Church already prescribed
“Navarre will enact a law to recognize as such the victims of pederasty in the Catholic Church, clarify the crimes committed by the members of this institution in the community and ‘contribute to a collective, democratic and critical memory’ about the problem. The draft of the law, to which this newspaper has had access, contemplates the creation of a ‘recognition commission’ composed of experts who will assess, during six years of work, the requests of people who claim to have suffered abuses by the clergy and want to benefit from the law.” By Julio Núñez, El Pais


Archdiocese of Chicago settles sex abuse claim against the Rev. George Clements: lawyer
“The Archdiocese of Chicago has reached an $800,000 settlement over claims of sexual abuse by the late Rev. George Clements, the famed Holy Angels pastor, and four other Chicago-area religious figures, according to lawyers representing the alleged abuse victims. An attorney for Clements’ now 54-year-old alleged victim called Tuesday (Apr. 26) for Cardinal Blase Cupich to place Clements on the archdiocese’s public list of ‘credibly accused priests.’ ‘The hiding has to stop. The secrecy has to stop,’ Boston-based attorney Mitch Garabedian told reporters.” By Stefano Esposito, C

Chicago Sun-Times


Judge rejects sex abuse plea deal for suspended Indy priest
“A judge rejected a proposed plea agreement for a suspended Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy in 2016 and instead set a trial date for the cleric Thursday (Apr. 21). Hamilton County Superior Court Judge Michael Casati threw out the deal that would have allowed David Marcotte to plead guilty to one count of dissemination of matter harmful to minor in exchange for the state dismissing charges of child solicitation and vicarious sexual gratification. Casati scheduled a jury trial for Oct. 10 on the three felony counts, WRTV-TV reported.” By Associated Press in The Goshen News


Lawrence priest suspended after child sex abuse allegation
“A former pastor at Catholic parishes in Lawrence and Eudora and on the Haskell Indian Nations University campus has been suspended from ministry following an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. According to March 25 issue of The Leaven, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, the archdiocese learned on Feb. 28 that Father Michael Scully had been accused of sexual abuse. Upon notification, the archdiocese ‘relieved Father Scully from public exercise of priestly ministry’ until an investigation is complete.” By Andrea Albright, The Lawrence Times

Topeka man’s status as a priest now to be decided after DA opts not to file charges in abuse claim
“Now it knows a Topeka Roman Catholic priest accused last year of child sexual abuse won’t be charged criminally, his archdiocese says it will proceed with evaluating his status as a priest. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay has decided not to file charges against the Rev. John Pilcher after reviewing the results of an investigation conducted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, he told The Capital-Journal on Monday (Apr. 25).” By Tim Hrenchir, Topeka Capital-Journal


Priests accused of sexual abuse living at Jefferson County treatment center
Catholic priests and clergy accused of sexually abusing children are living under the radar at a Missouri treatment center. Tucked behind trees in a quiet neighborhood off Eime Road in Dittmer, MO, is a Catholic community shrouded in secrecy. ‘There’s some sick people over there,’ said Michael Stenzhorn, who lives just across the street. Signs outside the Vianney Renewal Center don’t say who lives there. ‘I believe there are hundreds if not thousands sex offender clergy who have been through that place,’ said David Clohessy, the Missouri Volunteer Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).” Stenzhorn says for years his family was in the dark.” By KFVS-TV12 News


Abuse survivors and Catholic Diocese of Rochester face off in bankruptcy court
“The Rochester Catholic Diocese is being accused of acting in bad faith. Sex abuse survivors are frustrated the diocese bankruptcy case is still not settled. When they joined the case, their civil lawsuits against individual parishes and priests were frozen. After three years without a settlement, they now want to be able to proceed with those lawsuits. Brian Delafranier, a survivor of the abuse, said him and other victims deserve to be compensated for the abuse they suffered.” By Ginny Ryan, WHAM-TV13 News

Court: Albany diocese must release priest treatment files
“A recent court ruling has opened the door to the release of psychological treatment records of priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany accused of child sexual abuse. The Albany Times-Union reported the ruling came in a lawsuit by an alleged abuse victim from the 1980s who sought records detailing the treatment received by the Rev. Edward Pratt and other priests. The diocese had argued that the records were subject to patient-physician privilege, but the appeals court wrote last Thursday that the privilege was waived because the priests’ records had been shared with then-Bishop Howard J. Hubbard.” By Associated Press


Archdiocesan priest accused of inappropriately touching minor in 2018
“A report to the Archdiocese of Denver states that an archdiocesan priest inappropriately touched a minor a single time back in 2018. The inappropriate touching occurred in a public space when the young girl was exiting church immediately after Mass had ended. According to the Archdiocese of Denver, the church followed its Code of Conduct and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and immediately reported the allegation to authorities.” By Morgan Whitley, FOX-TV31 News


Diocese of Toledo Announces Final Decision Regarding Reverend Nelson Beaver
“The Diocese of Toledo is announcing the final decision regarding Rev. Nelson Beaver, who was placed on administrative leave in October 2018 having received an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor dating back over 25 years. Three other allegations of sexual abuse of a minor from a similar time period were subsequently made against Beaver … In October, 2019, the diocese announced that the investigation had been completed, the Diocesan Review Board found all four allegations to be substantiated and voted unanimously that Beaver is not suitable for priestly ministry. Bishop Daniel E. Thomas accepted the Review Board’s recommendation …” By Diocese of Toledo


Lawsuit: Knoxville diocese mishandled sex abuse claim
“A lawsuit says the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville mishandled a report about allegations that a priest sexually abused a parishioner. The lawsuit filed in Sevier County says Father Antony D. Punnackal locked an adult female plaintiff in a room on Feb. 17, 2020, and fondled her, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. Police allegedly informed the diocese about the allegations against Punnackal before he was indicted by a grand jury, but no action was taken until the indictment, the complaint states.” By Associated Press


Archdiocese of Seattle settles two sex abuse claims for $375,000
“The Archdiocese of Seattle said Thursday (Apr. 28) it will pay $375,000 to settle two separate claims of sexual abuse in the 1970s and 1980s. The Roman Catholic archdiocese said in a news release that it settled a case involving allegations of childhood sexual abuse in the early to mid-1970s by David Pearson, a volunteer at St. Joseph Parish in Issaquah. Pearson has died. The archdiocese also said it settled a case involving an allegation of sexual abuse by Father Paul Conn in about 1987 when he served at Queen of Angels Parish in Port Angeles.” By Associated Press


New portal will assess, improve safeguarding
“A new portal launched today by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Limited will help Catholic organizations measure their progress in applying the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards. Marking the launch of the portal, ACSL CEO Ursula Stephens described it as a crucial resource for entities wanting to understand where their current safeguarding standards are in relation to best practice. ‘It is intuitive, easy to navigate and use and will be invaluable to safeguarding personnel everywhere. The portal we have developed will help Catholic entities to meet their own legislative safeguarding requirements in a timely way,’ Dr Stephens said.” By CathNews.com


Sex abuse case sparks Ottawa to assert papal ambassador’s diplomatic immunity
“Three weeks after Pope Francis apologized for Catholic residential school abuses, Ottawa issued a diplomatic immunity certificate for the pope’s ambassador who faced a lawyer’s demand for records in other Catholic school sexual and physical abuse allegations. ‘Clearly, that consent is not forthcoming, because the certificate was issued,’ Sandra Kovacs, lawyer for complainant Mark O’Neill said. ‘This position is not surprising, particularly in light of the frustration also expressed by residential school survivors, who have asked Pope Francis for unfettered access to records with the Vatican’s missionary department, too,’ Kovacs said.” By Jeremy Hainsworth, Pique Newsmagazine


Brooklyn diocese settles sex abuse lawsuit vs. Filipino bishop
“The Diocese of Brooklyn has settled a lawsuit against the late Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, accused of sexual abuse of a minor when he was a visiting clergy in St. Francis de Sales Church in Belle Harbor in New York in the early 1970s. According to Road to Recovery, Inc., a non-profit in New Jersey that assists victims of sexual abuse, Father Gutierrez sexually abused a minor child parishioner of St. Francis de Sales Parish on approximately six occasions from around 1970 until 1971 when the boy was about 11 to 12 years old.” By Cristina D.C. Pastor, The FilAm Magazine


Member of Catholic order in Singapore who committed sex acts on two teenage boys jailed 5 years
“A man who was part of a Catholic religious order that established a school in Singapore, was sentenced to five years’ jail on Thursday (May 5) for committing unlawful sexual acts with two teenage boys. The Singaporean, who The Straits Times understands is not a priest, pleaded guilty to one charge of voluntarily having carnal intercourse against the order of nature and one charge under the Children and Young Persons Act. Two other charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.” By Samuel Devaraj, Straits Times