Voice of the Faithful Focus, May 5, 2022

May 26, 2022


Federal bankruptcy judge rejects Catholic diocese’s bid to stop state litigation on child sex abuse, excoriates ‘heavy-handed threat’ to survivors
“On Monday (May23), a federal bankruptcy judge granted survivors to resume their previously paused actions against hundreds of independent Catholic corporations that did not seek bankruptcy protection. His scathing ruling slammed what the judge perceived as the Diocese’s hardball tactics. ‘Portraying itself as a victim, trying to do right by the Abuse Survivors, the Diocese predicts that if state court litigation is permitted to move forward against any of the Catholic Corporations, ‘the Diocese may be forced to pursue a non-consensual plan of reorganization,’’ U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul R. Warren wrote in a 16-page decision and order. ‘That is a pretty heavy-handed threat to be leveled at the people who are the real victims here—the Abuse Survivors.’” By Adam Klasfeld, LawandCrime.com

New Italian church head faces demands for abuse inquiry
“Pope Francis on Tuesday (May 24) named a bishop in his own image, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, as the new head of the Italian bishops conference, as the Italian Catholic Church comes under mounting pressure to confront its legacy of clerical sexual abuse with an independent inquiry. Zuppi, 66, is currently the archbishop of Bologna and has long been affiliated with the Sant’Egidio Community, a Catholic charity particularly close to Francis. The Italian Catholic Church is one of the few in western Europe that has not opened its archives to independent researchers to establish the scope of abuse and cover-up in recent decades.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter

New head of Italian bishops tasked with handling clergy sex abuse, By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com

Spanish Catholic Church’s internal child abuse investigation of little use, prosecutor says
“An internal investigation by the Spanish Catholic Church into alleged child sexual abuse by members of the clergy is ‘partial’ and ‘of little use,’ the office of Spain’s national prosecutor wrote in a letter to the country’s ombudsman that was made available to Reuters. The Spanish Catholic Church in January launched diocesan-level inquiries after Spanish newspaper El Pais reported in December more than 1,200 cases of alleged abuse between 1943 and 2018.  The revelations came years after sexual abuse scandals had rocked the Church in countries such as the United States, Ireland and France.” By Reuters

Francis’ clergy abuse law, ‘Vos Estis,’ isn’t working. Here’s how to fix it.
“Three years ago, as the Catholic Church faced an unprecedented reckoning with clergy sexual abuse, Pope Francis introduced a church law that promised to hold bishops and religious superiors accountable for abuse that they commit or cover up. Entitled Vos Estis Lux Mundi (‘You Are the Light of the World’), the law was touted by papal spokesmen as a turning point in the fight to end child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It’s ‘revolutionary,’ said Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich. ‘The silence, omertà and cover-ups can now become a thing of the past,’ said Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the pope’s trusted abuse investigator.” By Anne Barrett Doyle, National Catholic Reporter


Fordham conference on abuse highlights way the church can foster healthier culture of sexuality
“Last month, scholars from all over the world met to discuss projects related to the clergy sexual abuse as part of Fordham University’s ‘Taking Responsibility’ initiative. Some attendees disclosed their abuse by Jesuit priests, adding a palpable solemnity to the larger, systemic issues that make up the Catholic sexual abuse crisis. These stories also laid the backdrop for how important it was to research and answer exactly how Jesuit institutions can ‘take responsibility.’” By Mark A. Levand, National Catholic Reporter


Catholics with disabilities share their vision of a synodal church
“Catholics with disabilities can be and want to be active members of the church and missionary disciples, but that will require fighting discrimination, exclusion and paternalism, participants told an online listening session for the Synod of Bishops. The Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, in collaboration with the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, sponsored a two-hour session May 19 with representatives of bishops’ conferences and international Catholic associations to hear directly from Catholic with disabilities, ‘who are often on the margins of our churches,’ according to a media statement.” By Catholic News Service, on Cruxnow.com

Listening & Discernmnet
“Listening and discernment are perhaps the two words that have been most used in this first phase of the synod process. Those who were able to participate in listening sessions, in spiritual conversations, were able to rediscover the meaning of these words that have often lost the force of their meaning in our daily vocabulary. But how does one listen and discern correctly? Apparently, listening and discernment belong to two distinct moments: first listening and then discerning, but on closer inspection they are perhaps two sides of the same coin. In short, there can be no true listening without discernment, just as there can be no side of a coin without the back.” By SynodRources.org Editorial Staff

Towards Pentecost 2022
“The Scottish Laity Network has organized a program ‘Towards Pentecost 2022,’ focusing on listening and responding to the cry of the poor and the cry of the Earth. From 28 April to 2 June there will be six sessions with different speakers. In a world brutally divided between rich and poor, suffering wars and violence, and failing to take radical action to prevent climate devastation, they seek to discern how the Spirit is calling for a response.” By SynodResources.org

Justice and peace in the Synod process
“The Justice and Peace Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries and the Preparatory Commission of the Holy Land for Synod 2021-2023 encourage us, during the synod process, to be more aware of the lives of those in our ecclesial communities, neighborhoods, and society who are affected by the lack of justice, inequality and permanent violence in all its forms. That is why it is necessary to listen with these keys: to know people’s lives better, to promote community solidarity, to understand justice-inequality-peace as a right for all, and to promote integration and participation in society.” By SynodResources.org


New head of umbrella group for women’s religious sets sights on synodality
“Sister Nadia Coppa, the newly-elected president of one of the largest international conglomerates of women religious, is set on creating a global network of collaboration among congregations based on Pope Francis’s much-touted spirit of synodality. Speaking to Crux, Coppa said she believes synodality ‘is a horizon of the church, so it’s also a path for us.’ ‘We want to continue to promote the style of synodality,’ she said. ‘We want to be really open, to listen to one another, because listening is demanding, and it calls us to be really open, to make space for others. It also means letting go, letting go of my own desires, my own interests.’” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com


The Catholic Church lacks an imagination for lay agency
“Some two years ago, I attended the Called and Co-Responsible conference at the University of Notre Dame. It was a conference about the role of the laity in the Church. One of the speakers, Fr. Michael Sweeny, O.P. made two insightful statements in his talk that resonated deeply with my experience working with parishes all over the country. He said, ‘Formation in the Church has always been for the sake of a mission;’ and ‘as a Church, we have no imagination for lay agency.’” By Peter Andrastek, Church Life Journal

Cardinals, theologians discuss decision-making role of laity in church
“As the Catholic Church continues to reflect on synodality through a two-year process of listening and dialogue, a panel of six notable theologians and canonists discussed the nature of consultation and decision-making in a synodal church. The discussion took place May 20 at the Vatican’s Palazzo Pio during the presentation of a new book released by the Vatican publishing house and written by Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the office charged with interpreting canon law.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, in The Arlington Catholic Herald


The eerie parallels between the Southern Baptist and Catholic sexual abuse crises
“When news broke that Southern Baptist leaders had covered up sex abuse for decades I felt a numb sense of familiarity. I came of age as a Catholic against the backdrop of our own ongoing sex abuse crisis. It would be years before I would truly understand how sexual violence and the criminal conspiracies that perpetuated it had defined contemporary U.S. Catholicism. One thing was clear quite quickly, however. The sex abuse scandal cast doubt on the moral authority of the Roman Catholic Church itself. A similar crisis of moral authority is underway for arguably the most significant white evangelical institution in the country. I say this both as a U.S. religious historian and as a Catholic who grew up in Alabama surrounded by Southern Baptists.” By Matthew J. Cressier, National Catholic Reporter


Rome conference revisits ‘Amoris Laetitia’ and church’s call to welcome marginalized Catholics
“Although Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ landmark 2016 document on marriage and family life, has been widely praised for its call for greater integration of divorced, remarried and LGBTQ Catholics into church life, theologians have long said the text’s implementation on the ground has been mixed. A major May 11-15 conference at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, however, brought together nearly 200 bishops, priests, religious women and theologians from 25 countries in Africa, Asia, North America, South America and Europe with an aim of firmly cementing the pope’s magisterial teaching on these matters into pastoral practice around the world.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter


Vatican airs dirty laundry in trial over London property
“The Vatican’s sprawling financial trial may not have produced any convictions yet or any new smoking guns as prosecutors work through a first round of questioning of the 10 suspects accused of fleecing the Holy See of tens of millions of euros. But testimony so far has provided plenty of insights into how the Vatican operates, with a cast of characters worthy of a Dan Brown thriller or a Shakespearean tragicomedy. Recent hearings showed a church bureaucracy that used espionage, allowed outsiders with unverified qualifications to gain access to the Apostolic Palace and relied on a pervasive mantra of sparing the pope responsibility — until someone’s neck was on the line.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press


Adult Survivors Act for abuse victims on track to pass in New York
“A long-sought bill that would allow adult survivors of sexual abuse to hold their alleged abusers accountable is on track for approval. Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) announced Thursday (May 19) that there are enough votes in her chamber to pass the Adult Survivors Act before the end of the legislative session early next month. ‘Today is a watershed moment for survivors of sexual assault in New York and across the country,’ Rosenthal said. ‘Today, New York State recognizes that ensuring justice for survivors of sexual assault is more important than maintaining arbitrary statutes of limitations that have for years shielded predators from justice.’ By Denis Slattery, New York Daily News


Haaland seeks healing for Native American boarding school survivors
The Interior Department found that the U.S. operated or actively supported more than 400 American Indian boarding schools between 1819 and 1969 – a history that affects the agency’s own leader. Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary, tells NPR’s All Things Considered that she had grandparents who were taken from their homes and placed in these schools.” By Michel Martin, National Public Radio

Catholic Church to investigate abuse claims at children’s homes
“The Roman Catholic Church will investigate allegations of child abuse in the December 2021 Judith Jones Report on children’s homes. In a press release on Wednesday (May 18), Archbishop Jason Gordon said the investigative team would include independent and qualified experts in the fields of psychology, childcare/social work, law and human resource management. The investigation was launched in response to the 139-page report entitled Safeguarding Children in Community Residences and Child Support Centres in TT which was laid in Parliament on April 29 by Minister in the Office of the PM, Ayanna Webster-Roy.” By Janelle De Souza, Newsday


Sex abuse suits pouring in as state’s Catholic leaders seek relief from highest court
“Now, facing hundreds of lawsuits, a group of Catholic bishops is taking those challenges to the nation’s highest court. Saying they faced ‘potentially ruinous liability,’ the bishops last month asked the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the California lookback window unconstitutional.” By Nigel Duara, LostCoastOutpost.com


Catholic priest, once suspended for inappropriate conduct, resigns from central Iowa parish
“A Catholic priest who was suspended by the Diocese of Des Moines in 2020 after allegations of inappropriate conduct resigned from a parish he was recently assigned to in Elkhart. Rev. Jim Kirby resigned from the St. Mary/Holy Cross Parish in Elkhart, according to the parish newsletter. The dioceses hopes to fill the position, the newsletter said, but no other priests are available at this time.” By Philip Joens, Des Moines Register


Rochester diocese offers $147.75 million to abuse victims
“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester has put forward a $147.75 million offer to settle claims filed by 475 sexual-abuse survivors in the diocese’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Whether the nine-figure offer will bring a quick end to the long-stalled bankruptcy at this point seems far from certain. The offer was outlined in a filing posted with the Rochester Bankruptcy Court late Friday afternoon … Despite its size, the offer—tendered nearly two and a half years into a bankruptcy whose slow-moving pace survivors have seen as frustrating—is being met with disdain by the abuse survivors it is meant to placate.” By Will Astor, Rochester Beacon


Sex abuse suit filed against Oklahoma City Catholic school
“Ten current and former students of Mount St. Mary Catholic High School in Oklahoma City and six parents or guardians are suing the private school, alleging it fostered ‘a rape culture’ for more than 10 years. School officials have known since 2011 that female students have been victims of rape and sexual assault by students, teachers and coaches and done nothing to stop the attacks, according to the lawsuit filed Monday (May 16).” By Ken Miller, Associated Press


Lawsuit accuses Providence Diocese of ‘victim blaming’ in clergy sex-abuse complaints
“A newly filed lawsuit by one of the alleged child molestation victims of recently suspended Smithfield priest Francis C. Santilli accuses the leaders of the Rhode Island Catholic Church of ‘victim blaming’ while disregarding multiple accounts of sexual misconduct by ‘Father Frank.’ The lawsuit was filed Thursday (May 19) against current and former Bishops Thomas Tobin and Louis Gelineau of the Catholic Diocese of Providence, and the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes on Atwells Avenue in Providence.” By Katherine Gregg, The Providence Journal


Insurers suddenly raise stakes on German churches’ sex abuse response
“Germany’s Catholic and Protestant churches have been criticized for their handling of clergy sexual abuse for years now by victims, believers and the media. Now they face new pressure from an unexpected corner: the insurance industry. VBG, a national association of accident insurance providers, recently complained to the two predominant church bodies in the country that they had not been notified of the thousands of sexual abuse cases that have been found in the church groups’ ranks.” By Tom Heneghan, Religion News Service


Vatican uses NY decision to seek dismissal of a Guam abuse case
“The Vatican is using a New York court’s recent decision to bolster its push for the dismissal of a Guam case that seeks to hold the Holy See responsible for former Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron’s alleged sexual assault of a child. California-based attorney Jeffrey Lena said the New York court ‘supports dismissal with prejudice of all claims against the Holy See.’” By Haidee Eugenio Gilbert, The Guam Daily Post


Survivors, advocates push Italian bishops for national abuse inquiry
“A collective of abuse survivors and advocacy groups have published an open letter to the Italian bishops, who are meeting to elect new leadership, calling for the adoption of several measures aimed at acknowledging the problem and prevention. ‘Abuses perpetrated within the Church affects people in their bodies, in their lives, in their conscience: they are violations of human rights. If the Church does not respect human rights, it cannot preach the Gospel,’ the letter said.” By Elise Ann Allen, Cruxnow.com


Catholic diocese in Poland to pay compensation to victim of child sex abuse by priest
“The Catholic diocese of Kalisz has been ordered by a court to pay 300,000 zloty (€65,000) to a man who was abused as a child by one of its priests. The case is one of a number relating to sexual abuse in Poland’s Catholic church that have come to light in recent years. It has drawn particular attention because the victim, Bartłomiej Pankowiak, and his brother Jakub, who was also abused, confronted the priest in a documentary film broadcast in 2020.” By NotesFromPoland.com


Portugal’s clergy abuse commission wants more help from church officials
“After four months of activity, an independent commission created by the Portuguese bishops to investigate child abuse has received at least 326 allegations of abuse. The fact that 214 of them were collected within the first month of operation demonstrates that there has been a significant decline in the rhythm of testimonies over the past few months. Some of the group’s members are now calling on the country’s bishops to better publicize their work and encourage abuse victims to come forward. It was the initiative of the Portuguese bishops’ conference to create the commission, a decision taken in November 2021 after the release of a report on abuse and cover-up in the French church shocked many across Europe.” By Eduardo Campos Lima, National Catholic Reporter


Carmelite fathers show strong commitment to child safety
“A safeguarding audit report of the Carmelite Fathers Australia and Timor-Leste published today by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd has found a strong commitment to child safety across the religious institute’s operations. The audit assessed the Carmelite Fathers’ progress in implementing the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, a framework for the safety and protection of children in Catholic organizations. The Carmelite Fathers’ work in Australia serves communities across a variety of operations, including administering three parishes in partnership with local dioceses, working as chaplains in hospitals and schools, and running a spirituality and retreat centre. Since 2001, the Carmelite Fathers have also provided ministries in Timor-Leste focused on forming young men as seminarians.” By CathNews.com