Voice of the Faithful Focus, Oct. 6, 2023

Oct. 6, 2023


Opening momentous Vatican summit, Pope Francis begs church to ‘not impose burdens’
Pope Francis on Oct. 4 officially opened a long-anticipated Vatican summit on the very future of Catholicism, encouraging its participants — bishops and lay people alike — to reject the temptations of doctrinal rigidity and to embrace a vision of the church that is open and welcoming to all. ‘The blessing and welcoming gaze of Jesus prevents us from falling into some dangerous temptations: of being a rigid church, which arms itself against the world and looks backward; of being a lukewarm church, which surrenders to the fashions of the world; of being a tired church, turned in on itself,” Francis said in a homily in St. Peter’s Square that marked the start of the monthlong Synod of Bishops’ synod on synodality.” By Christopher White and Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Pope’s own abuse commission blasts system that leaves victims ‘wounded and in the dark’
“In a bold new statement, the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, an advisory body created by Pope Francis in 2014, has condemned what they described as a failure on the part of church authorities in abuse prevention, saying they will push leaders to do more. ‘Every day seems to bring forth new evidence of abuse, as well as cover up and mishandling by Church leadership around the world,’ a Sept. 27 statement from the commission said, issued ahead of a Sept. 30 consistory for the creation of new cardinals and a Synod of Bishops beginning Oct. 4.” By Elise Ann Allen Cruxnow.com

Sex abuse allegations against a deceased cardinal add to the German church’s troubles
“A scandal centering on sexual abuse allegations against a long-deceased cardinal has created a ‘very difficult situation’ for the troubled Catholic Church in Germany, a top German bishop said Monday (Sept. 25), hours after a statue of the late cleric was removed from its perch outside Essen Cathedral. The accusations against Cardinal Franz Hengsbach, who died in 1991, added to a long-running scandal over abuse by clergy that has shaken the German church.” By Geir Moulson, Associated Press

Papal commission incorporates global feedback in safeguarding guidelines
“Four months after soliciting public input on the development of safeguarding guidelines, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said it had reviewed 300 responses and 700 suggestions that ‘largely confirmed the approach adopted’ for establishing rules and procedures to handle abuse in the Catholic Church. The commission, which held its plenary assembly in Rome Sept. 20-22, began working on the second phase of its ‘Universal Guideline Framework’ which will ‘provide clear criteria for local churches on how safeguarding policies and procedures can become effective,’ it said in a statement released Sept. 23.” By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service, in Our Sunday Visitor

Victims march to Rome to demand ‘zero tolerance’ on church abuse
“A group of Catholic Church abuse victims and their advocates on Wednesday (Sept. 27) called on Pope Francis to enforce ‘zero tolerance’ against clerical sex abuse, after completing a six-day pilgrimage to Rome carrying a large wooden cross. The 10 men and women walked 130 kilometres (81 miles) along the last stretch of the Via Francigena, a medieval trail that connects Canterbury, England, to Rome, ahead of a major Vatican summit on the future of the Church, starting next week.” By Reuters

Pope asks new cardinals to join Church ‘symphony’
“Coming from different parts of the world and having different experiences and talents, members of the College of Cardinals are called to create a ‘symphony,’ listening to one another and to the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said. Creating 21 new cardinals from 16 nations Sept. 30, the pope used the biblical story of Pentecost to remind the prelates of the roots of their faith, and he invoked the image of a symphony to emphasize their call to be both faithful and creative.” By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, in Our Sunday Visitor


Clergy abuse survivors propose new ‘zero tolerance’ law following outcry over Vatican appointment
“Clergy sexual abuse survivors on Monday (Oct. 2) unveiled a proposed new church law calling for the permanent removal of abusive priests and superiors who covered for them, as they stepped up their outrage over Pope Francis’ choice to head the Vatican office that investigates sex crimes. The global advocacy group End Clergy Abuse unveiled the draft law at a press conference following days of protests around the Vatican, and before taking their complaints to the U.N. in Geneva.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, on Independent.co.uk

A Belgian bishop says the Vatican has for years snubbed pleas to defrock a pedophile ex-colleague
“A prominent Belgian bishop on Wednesday (Sept. 27) criticized the Vatican for failing to defrock a former bishop who admitted sexually abusing children, saying it had led to massive frustration with the highest Roman Catholic authorities. Disgraced bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who was brought down by a sexual abuse scandal 13 years ago, became a symbol in Belgium of the Roman Catholic church’s hypocrisy in dealing with abuse in its own ranks.” By Raf Casert, Associated Press


Synod Diary: taking the long view of the synod
“We’re off. Today (Oct. 4), Pope Francis opened the Synod on Synodality with a Mass in St. Peter’s Square with the synod delegates and new cardinals that he created over the weekend. I have been to papal events before, but this was my first time attending as an accredited journalist. This had me feeling a little bit of imposter syndrome but mostly excitement for a number of reasons, one of which is that I would be taking in the Mass from the Vatican press box.” By Zac Davis, America: The Jesuit Review

Nurturing authentic co-responsibility in the Church: a synodal challenge
“‘Co-responsibility,’ a theme proposed for discussion at the Synod of Bishops on synodality, raises questions about the nature of the hierarchy — clergy who serve in the most visible structures of the Church — and what Pope Benedict XVI called the plebs sancta — that is, the ‘holy people,’ who are members of the Body of Christ. Twin errors lead to misunderstanding the Church today. Those who make one error mistakenly identify the Church as consisting simply of the hierarchy.” By Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board

The secret synod
“On Sept. 30, 464 people will gather in Rome to pray at the start of an unusual undertaking, the Synod on Synodality. Then, for the three days leading up to the actual meeting, they will be in a spiritual retreat. After that, the talking will begin. What will they talk about? That is the big question. Catholics who have heard about the synod are wondering what is happening. It is not supposed to be that way.” By Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter

National Catholic Reporter’s guide to U.S. participants at the synod on synodality
“When Pope Francis opens the first of two meetings of the synod on synodality Oct. 4 in Rome, the 363 voting participants will come from all over the world. For the first time, lay people — including 54 women — will have voting rights. More than a quarter of the voting members are not bishops. NCR has compiled a reference guide to the 24 Americans (or people with U.S. connections) who will be participating in the Oct. 4-29 synod. All participants — including appointed and ex-officio members — except experts/facilitators will be able to vote.” By Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter

There should be voting at the synod.
“Almost anyone who has ever suggested forms of increased lay participation in the governance of the church, particularly in a public forum, has been challenged with a true, if perhaps misleading, slogan in response: ‘The church is not a democracy.’ This is true, in that the church’s governance is determined by its hierarchical, sacramental order, and so decision-making differs from the methods used in modern democratic entities. If anything, the church’s decision-making more often resembles that of a corporation or nonprofit organization and is increasingly in dialogue with and responsive to its membership and stakeholders.” By Brian P. Flanagan, America: The Jesuit Review

The Vatican Briefing podcast: Francis opens a synod that could change the Catholic Church
“‘The Vatican Briefing’ is a new podcast from the National Catholic Reporter, featuring two respected Vatican journalists and experts: Joshua J. McElwee and Christopher White. As Pope Francis is opening the hotly anticipated 2023 Synod of Bishops, they offer analysis and news updates, and interview some of the assembly’s key decision-makers. In their first episode, McElwee and White discuss the pope’s creation of 21 new cardinals of the Catholic Church, the Sept. 30 ecumenical prayer vigil for the synod in St. Peter’s Square, and some of the hot-button issues, such as women’s ordination and LGBTQ ministry, that the synod is expected to discuss.” By National Catholic Reporter Staff

What is a synod in the Catholic Church? And why does this one matter
“Even for a Roman Catholic Church rife with esoteric terminology that often defies comprehension by the uninitiated, this month’s Synod on Synodality at the Vatican — essentially a major workshop for church leaders and lay people on how to work together for the good of the church — has proved mystifyingly meta for many of the rank-and-file faithful. ‘I am well aware that speaking of a ‘Synod on Synodality’ may seem something abstruse, self-referential, excessively technical, and of little interest to the general public,’ Pope Francis said in August. But, he added, it “is something truly important for the church.’” By Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo

Vatican assembly puts the church’s most sensitive issues on the table
“This month, starting on Wednesday (Oct. 4), (Pope) Francis’ desire for the church to discuss the concerns of its faithful, even the most sensitive topics, will culminate at the Vatican in an assembly of bishops from around the world that will allow, for the first time, lay people, including women, to attend and vote. The issues under discussion will include priestly celibacy, married priests, the blessing of gay couples, the extension of sacraments to the divorced and the ordination of female deacons.” By Jason Horwitz, The New York Times

The conservative Catholic ‘misinformation’ campaign against the Synod of Bishops
“In October 2022, viewers of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) were told by German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, formerly one of the Vatican’s highest-ranking officials, that Pope Francis’ plans for the Synod of Bishops represented a ‘hostile takeover’ of the Catholic Church … Sharp warnings, of the kind that have become more and more frequent in certain Catholic media circles in the months leading up to the Oct. 4 opening of the synod assembly, which will bring hundreds of bishops, priests, religious and lay persons to Rome to discuss a range of topics facing the church.” By Brian Fraga, National Catholic Reporter

5 suggestions to make the pope’s big Synod of Bishops actually mean something
“People ask me what I think is going to happen at the first assembly of the two-part Synod of Bishops in Rome this October. I have long had serious reservations about the whole process. My crystal ball is being repaired so I have no earthly idea … I offer a few friendly suggestions. If it is too late to implement some this year, there is always next October, and the October after that, and the one after that, which leads to my first suggestion …” By Mary E. Hunt, National Catholic Reporter

Vatican releases full list of synod participants: Chinese bishops in, Cardinal Ladaria out
“Two bishops from mainland China have been given permission by Beijing to participate in the Synod on Synodality, which opens at the Vatican on Oct. 4. The secretariat for the synod broke the news when it published the final list of the 464 participants at noon today, Sept. 21, along with a calendar of the main synod events … Today, it released that information, and more.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review

Culture warriors on the left and right can’t derail the synod
“The synod begins next week in Rome. In assessing its work, we need to identify and isolate the challenges to synodality coming from both the extreme right-wing and left-wing bleachers. The culture warrior mode — attack your opponent, never give in, seek victory at all costs — is the antithesis of synodality. That culture warrior approach may dominate some of the conversations outside the synod hall, but it will be deadly if it gets inside.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter


Pope signals openness to blessings for gay couples, study of women’s ordination
“Pope Francis has expressed openness to Catholic blessings for same-sex couples, under the condition they are not confused with marriage ceremonies for men and women, in what could be a watershed moment for the global Catholic Church. Francis has also suggested the question of women’s ordination to the priesthood, controversially prohibited by Pope John Paul II in 1994, could be open to further study.” By Joshua J. McElwee and Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis wants discernment to guide the synod, but it’s not easy – nor always successful
“Discernment of how the Spirit is leading the church is at the heart of Pope Francis’ plans for the Synod on Synodality, but anyone who thinks discernment is easy is bound to get into trouble. It is very easy for us to believe that our desires and opinions are inspired by the Spirit and that everyone else is wrong. Dialogue becomes that much more difficult when you feel that God is on your side.” By Thomas Reese, Religion News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

All society must address child sexual abuse: Pope
“The scourge of child sexual abuse must be addressed by society at large, Pope Francis said yesterday. ‘The abuses that have affected the Church are but a pale reflection of a sad reality that involves all of humanity and to which the necessary attention is not paid,’ said the Pope in his address on Monday (Sept. 25) to a Catholic Latin American interdisciplinary group involved in training priests and religious for the protection of minors. In his address, the Pope associated the suffering of abused children and of all vulnerable persons to that of the suffering Christ, recalling the ‘martyr child,’ St. Chistopher de La Guardia, celebrated by the Church in Spain yesterday.” By Vatican News on CathNews.com


Five cardinals challenge pope to affirm church teaching on gays, women ahead of synod
“Five conservative cardinals from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas have challenged Pope Francis to affirm current Catholic teaching on homosexuality and women’s ordination ahead of a big Vatican meeting where such hot-button issues are up for debate. The cardinals on Monday (Oct. 2) published five questions they submitted to Francis, known as ‘dubia,’ as well as an open letter to the Catholic faithful in which they outlined their concerns. The cardinals said they felt duty-bound to inform the faithful ‘so that you may not be subject to confusion, error, and discouragement.’” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, in National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis creates 21 new cardinals on the eve of the Synod on Synodality
“As Pope Francis created 21 new cardinals in St. Peter’s Square today, Sept. 30, he told the college of cardinals—which now has 242 members from 91 countries, of whom 137 are under the age of 80 with a right to vote in the next conclave—that it is called ‘to resemble a symphony orchestra, representing the harmony and synodality of the church.’ He said he included the word ‘synodality’ not only because the first session of the Synod on Synodality opens on Oct. 4, but also because he felt ‘the metaphor of the orchestra can well illuminate the synodal character of the church.’” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review

Pope Francis has put his stamp on the cardinals. Or has he?
“When Pope Francis anoints 21 new princes of the Roman Catholic Church on Saturday (Sept. 30), he will seem to have consolidated his grip on the powerful College of Cardinals — and on the direction of the church, possibly for decades to come … As a result, many observers say Francis has shaped the college to elect a ‘new Bergoglio,’ to use the pope’s family name: a socially liberal Latin American cleric who would keep the leadership of roughly 1.3 billion Catholics on a path of inclusiveness, doctrinal openness and non-Western leadership. But that is a hazardous prediction.” By Massimo Franco, The New York Times

Cardinal Mario Grech: central figure in pope’s plan to change Catholic Church
“In 2019, the Vatican announced that Grech had been named as secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, effectively serving as Pope Francis’ point person to not just organize and oversee synod meetings that take place in Rome every couple years on a particular theme — but to put synodality at the heart of the reforms taking place in the Francis papacy. Synodality, the cardinal would later explain, was becoming more than just an event, but a process and a new way of being church that would allow the global institution to become more consultative and listen to all of the people of God.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter


Are bishops instrumentalizing the clerical abuse crisis?
“The bishops of Switzerland continue to battle the fallout of a sexual abuse crisis in their country. On Saturday (Sept. 23), the president of the bishops’ conference, Bishop Felix Gmür of Basle gave an interview to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, stressing the bishops’ commitment to institutional reform after an independent report found evidence of mishandling and covering up of clerical abuse cases across Swiss dioceses.’ By Ed Condon, The Pillar

I am a U.S. bishop attending Pope Francis’ synod. Here’s how I am preparing.
“I look forward to October this year! While it entails being absent from my beloved Archdiocese of Seattle for four weeks this fall, there is something inside me which says the next two Octobers will be significant in my life and in the life of the church I love and serve. I will be attending the first assembly of the synod on synodality in Rome, being held from Oct. 4-29. I’m too young to remember much about the Second Vatican Council, and I am too old not to be concerned about so much of its vision yet to be addressed by our church.” By Archbishop Paul Etienne, Archbishop of Seattle

Ideological rifts among U.S. bishops in spotlight
“Early next month, the Vatican will open an unprecedented gathering of Catholic clergy and laypeople from around the world. The synod is intended to be a collegial, collaborative event … If there’s Exhibit A for how elusive consensus might be, it’s the United States’ participation. In effect, there are two high-level U.S. delegations widely viewed as ideological rivals — six clerics appointed by Pope Francis who support his aspirations for a more inclusive, welcoming church; five clerics chosen by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who reflect a more conservative outlook and more skepticism of Francis’ priorities.” By David Crary, The Associated Press, in Telegraph Herald

Bishop Flores: Synod hopes to help Catholic Church listen more to lay people
“October’s general assembly in Rome for the Catholic Church’s Synod of Bishops on synodality aims to address human reality — not abstractions — in order to more effectively share Jesus Christ and his Gospel with others, said Bishop Daniel E. Flores, a U.S. member of the global assembly’s preparatory commission. ‘If we do this right … in our own local churches we can develop a style of listening and decision-making that involves more hearing from people ‘in the trenches,’ so to speak,’ he said, such as hearing from ‘people who are struggling and who are dealing with families that are in crisis, or families that are struggling, that are split, because of controversial realities that are affecting their lives.’” By Maria Wiering, OSV News


A daring hope for Catholic women
“Next month, Catholics from around the world will gather in Rome to discuss and discern the future of the Catholic Church. It is part of an ongoing church-wide conversation, known as the Global Synod on Synodality, about listening to the Holy Spirit and renewing the church as a healing presence in communities, particularly in places like Boston, shaken by the clergy sex abuse crisis. Catholics in the United States are invited to be part of that ongoing discernment process … Among the many questions that will be discussed at the synod is how we should rethink women’s participation in the church.” By Kelly Meraw, The Boston Globe

Women’s voices and votes loom large as pope is set to open a Vatican meeting on church’s future
“A few years ago, Pope Francis told the head of the main Vatican-backed Catholic women’s organization to be ‘brave’ in pushing for change for women in the Catholic Church. Maria Lia Zervino took his advice and in 2021 wrote Francis a letter, then made it public, saying flat out that the Catholic Church owed a big debt to half of humanity and that women deserved to be at the table where church decisions are made, not as mere ‘ornaments’ but as protagonists.” By Nicole Winfield and Trisha Thomas, Associated Press


CARA study shows positive signs Catholic belief in Eucharist, but underscores need for revival
“Almost two-thirds of Catholics believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but only 17% of adult Catholics physically attend Mass at least once per week, according to a newly published survey from Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The survey also revealed a high correlation between belief in the Eucharist and weekly or even monthly Mass attendance.” By Maria Wiering, Our Sunday Visitor

Spiritus Christi Church offers all the sacraments to all categories of people (Part 3)
“According to a 2008 Pew Research study, one of 10 U.S. adults is a former Catholic. Some have moved on to other denominations, others have no church affiliation at all, still others have formed their own communities of former Catholics. In the final three parts of his five-part series, former NCR editor Tom Roberts looks at three different independent Catholic communities — how they came to be, and how they sustain themselves apart from the institutional church.” By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter (Part 1: The Catholic diaspora: independent communities as the church’s ‘research lab’; Part 2: Demographic forces beyond hierarchical control are changing U.S. Church; Part 4: Community of St. Peter; Part 5: Spirit Catholic Community)


Joliet bishop tight-lipped on priest sex abuse scandal’s financial impact as plans to close Catholic parishes move ahead
“In a report earlier this year by the Illinois attorney general, the Diocese of Joliet was criticized for continued secrecy over the extent of child sex abuse by priests and religious brothers who served in the ecclesiastical jurisdiction. ‘The diocese has demonstrated slavish adherence to off-the-books, unwritten policies that derail justice for abuse survivors and much-needed institutional transparency,’ Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in the May report, adding that the diocese’s ‘current approach to abuse allegations against a religious order priest who ministered in the diocese are particularly opaque and ill formed.’” By Robert Herguth, Chicago Sun Times

Archdiocesan Chapter 11 filing both ‘a death and a resurrection,’ says archbishop
“The Archdiocese of Baltimore announced Sept. 29 that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, ahead of Maryland’s Child Victims Act, which effective Oct. 1 repeals the statute of limitations for certain civil claims regarding sexual abuse. In a statement released Sept. 29, Archbishop William E. Lori said the decision, made ‘after consulting with numerous lay leaders and clergy,’ will ‘best allow the Archdiocese both to equitably compensate victim-survivors of child sexual abuse and ensure the local Church can continue its mission and ministries.’” By Gina Christian, Our Sunday Visitor

Lawyer in ‘trial of the century’ claims defendants treated Vatican bank ‘like a cash machine’
“A panel of Vatican judges overseeing the trial of ten defendants for extortion and other financial crimes, dubbed the Vatican’s ‘trial of the century,’ heard Wednesday (Sept. 27) from a lawyer representing the Vatican bank who complained that the accused had treated the bank ‘like a cash machine, which always had to respond positively to their requests.” By Cruxnow.com


Celibacy is not a direct cause of sexual abuse, expert says
“Father Hans Zollner, a German priest and an expert in the fight against sexual abuse in the Church, said in a Sept. 26 interview with Infovaticana that celibacy is not a direct cause of this evil. The psychologist, who also holds a doctorate in theology, said that ‘celibacy is not a direct cause of abuse; what can become a risk factor is a ministry poorly lived and not fully accepted.’ ‘All scientific reports, including those commissioned by non-Church institutions, conclude that celibacy in itself does not lead to abuse,” he emphasized.” By Walter Sanchez Silva, Catholic News Agency, on AngelusNews.com

‘It’s time to abolish celibacy,’ says president of Swiss Bishops’ Conference
“The president of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference admits mistakes in dealing with abuse cases in the Catholic Church and advocates for the abolition of celibacy and the admission of women to the priesthood. In an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) am SonntagExternal link, Bishop Felix Gmür also said that the Catholic Church has been active in the topic of abuse cases for a long time. The prevailing conditions must be questioned, the Swiss Bishops’ Conference president explains. In his view, the time is ripe to abolish celibacy and to allow women access to the priesthood.” By SwissInfo.ch


Synodality & Catholic Amnesia: the conciliarist tradition gets a new name
“Discussions of synodality are about the future—about charting a path forward for Catholicism, from the individual Catholic to the parish community to the universal Church. But these discussions inevitably appeal to the past: to the testimony of Scripture, the practice of the early Church, medieval triumphs and tragedies, and, most of all, to Vatican II and its contested reception. When the conversation turns to history, however, it is rarely acknowledged that the Catholic Church’s own tradition of synodal governance endured into the early modern era and functioned as a powerful counter-narrative to the centralized ultramontane model we live with today.” By Shaun Blanchard, Commonweal

Analysis: The synod is not Vatican III. It’s Pope Francis’ implementation of Vatican II.
“As I watched the procession at the opening of the Synod on Synodality start from the bronze doors of the apostolic palace this morning, Oct. 4, and weave its way through the crowd of 18,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to the altar in front of the basilica, my mind went back to the images of a similar procession for the opening of the Second Vatican Council on Oct. 11, 1962. Those images connected that watershed moment in modern church history with today’s ecclesial event.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review

Editorial: May new life emerge out of the messiness of this synod process
“The synod on synodality is awkwardly named, expressive of a reality that is lightly modeled in the past while in the present described as a journey, a process in formation even as it is being used. The process itself is massive, global in scope and exhaustive in its attempt to hear voices from all quarters, at least at the start, without judgment or filters. No surprise, then, that it is messy and promises only to get messier before clarity emerges. It is understandably jarring to those educated to believe the church is immutable, that certain “moral teachings” defined in the catechism are beyond change, that tradition means stasis and that unity translates as uniformity.” By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff

Can Catholics be progressive? Absolutely!
“That is the answer I would give to the above question. It was posed by the facilitator of a focus group to eight Republicans. Each of them answered the question about whether a Christian or a person of deep faith could be politically progressive, and they each answered “No.” This segment on the PBS NewsHour featuring the work that Judy Woodruff is doing on the situation in our country disturbed me greatly. The reason it was disturbing is that I have just completed a project with Network, a national Catholic social justice lobby, where I served as executive director from 1982-1992.” By Nancy Sylvester, National Catholic Reporter

Why Pope Francis’ big Vatican meeting next month is so important
“In just over a week, nearly 450 people from around the world will gather in Rome for a month-long assembly, a Synod of Bishops on synodality, which is expected to discuss a range of important issues including women’s ordination, LGBTQ inclusion and ministry, and priestly celibacy … As we prepare for this momentous and historic gathering, NCR commissioned this video explainer — so that you are informed as deliberations begin. The video was produced by Chaz Muth.” By John Grosso, National Catholic Reporter

Bishops should get regular performance reviews.
“As we prepare for the next phase of the Synod on Synodality, we have heard much talk from the information-gathering process about greater inclusion and diversity in church governance. However, there has been little discussion about the shape of the church hierarchy, particularly with respect to accountability for performance. We often think of the accountability of the parish priest to the diocesan bishop or local ordinary … While the variety of these titles give the impression of a hierarchical structure, there really is none. At the level of diocesan leadership, the hierarchy flattens out.” By Paul D. McNelis, S.J., America: The Jesuit Review


Maryland’s Child Victims Act take effect: what to expect in the days ahead
For the first time in Maryland, survivors of childhood sexual abuse can now sue perpetrators and the institutions that protected them without concern for how long ago the abuse happened. Maryland’s Child Victims Act, which eliminated the statute of limitations for civil sexual abuse claims, officially goes into effect Sunday, Oct. 1, though courthouses are closed until Monday. The victory for survivors was dampened, however, when the Archdiocese of Baltimore filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday afternoon. Though the Roman Catholic Archdiocese was expected to face a flood of lawsuits over clergy sexual abuse, the bankruptcy will put all litigation on hold and force survivors to pursue compensation in bankruptcy court, rather than through a lawsuit.” By Rachel Konieczny and Madeleine O’Neill, The Daily Record


Sanctuary of Sin: How a religious order became a haven for pedophile priests
“John Bellocchio tells a gut-wrenching story. Growing up in New Jersey, the Catholic Church played a major role in his community and family life. ‘The church was a central aspect, physically, as well as spiritually,’ he said. The compound in rural Missouri, Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete, has alarmed residents over the years. Even lawmakers have struggled to get answers about what goes on inside. The order does not disclose the name of the residents on the property.” By Larry Potash, NewsNationNow.com


Victim-centered approach helps build trust
Walking alongside those who have been abused by a Catholic Church representative is a collaborative effort for the archdiocesan office for protection and care (OPC). This summer, the office added two new team members to the mix. Jessica Crocker was hired as a victim care advocate in August, just a few weeks after Kristi Lam became the office’s new investigator/auditor. ‘These positions are critical to the ministry of the OPC,’ said director Jenifer Valenti.” By Moira Cullings, The Leaven


‘We can win’: New Orleans clergy abuse survivor secures settlement
“The estate of a wealthy Catholic deacon who admitted molesting a child and then died earlier this year has now paid his victim after he had previously tried to back out of a $1m agreement to settle a contentious lawsuit between them. It is believed to be one of the largest individual sexual abuse settlements ever paid in a case involving a cleric who served in the archdiocese of New Orleans during the organization’s decades-old sexual molestation crisis, though the crime to which the deacon pleaded guilty occurred before his ordination.” By Ramon Antonio Vargas, The Guardian

Aymond: Catholic parishes, schools must help shoulder cost of archdiocese sex abuse claims
“More than three years after the Archdiocese of New Orleans filed for bankruptcy court protection amid mounting allegations of child sex abuse by local clergy, the financial cost to the country’s second-oldest archdiocese is coming into focus. In a letter Friday to the clergy, religious and laity, Archbishop Gregory Aymond said for the first time that individual parishes, schools and charities will be asked to help cover the rising costs of abuse claims, which total nearly 500 to date. That number has grown dramatically over the course of the church’s bankruptcy.” By Stephanie Riegel, NOLA.com


Clergy sex victims appeal to bankruptcy judge: seek transparency in the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s filing

“Attorneys for the Archdiocese of Baltimore characterized its history of abuse to a federal bankruptcy judge as the work of a few bad apples—-angering survivors who have battled for decades to break the Catholic Church’s silence. ‘It is not just a few bad apples,’ said Robert Schindler of the Maryland Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, “’hese are not a couple of bad actors.’” By Jeff Hagar, WMAR-TV2 News

Names of Maryland priests accused of sexual abuse revealed for first time after redacted report
“The identities of alleged abusers within the Archdiocese of Baltimore were revealed on Tuesday (Sept. 26) after the Maryland Office of the Attorney General issued a new version of a previously released report with fewer names redacted. The initial report was issued on April 15 but concealed the names of 10 church officials accused of abuse, as well as the identities of five archdiocese officials who were accused of failing to appropriately respond to abuse accusations. Additionally, the names of 31 people who played smaller roles in the situation, including the priests’ doctors, were also concealed, according to the Baltimore Banner.” By Madeline Fitzgerald, The Messenger

Compensating all claims of abuse: archdiocese considers Chapter 11 reorganization
“In a Sept. 5 message to members of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop William E. Lori said that in light of the Oct. 1 implementation of a new law in Maryland that removed any statute of limitations for civil suits involving child sexual abuse approaches, the archdiocese was weighing its options to respond to potential lawsuits … Archbishop Lori said the archdiocese has several options to address the number of cases expected to be filed in October, including: challenging the constitutionality of the law, litigating each case separately, settling cases or reorganizing under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code.” By Christopher Gunty, Catholic Review


DA drops charged against Msgr. Francis Strahan, Church investigation continues
“The Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office has dropped the charges of rape and sexual assault against Msgr. Francis Strahan, but the Archdiocese of Boston plans to continue its own investigation into Msgr. Strahan’s alleged misconduct with a minor. The District Attorney’s Office’s filing, dated Sept. 20 and received by The Pilot on Sept. 27, states that the charges of forcible child rape and indecent assault and battery were dropped because the alleged victim declined to testify in court.” By Wes Cipolla, The Pilot


Former Marquette Diocese priest convicted of child sexually abusive activity
“A former Catholic priest was convicted by a Chippewa County jury Thursday of child sexually abusive activity. Aaron Nowicki, 49, of Cheboygan was arrested in an August 2021 child trafficking sting. He and two others were netted in the operation conducted by the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office, Sault Ste. Marie Police Department, and Soo Tribal Police.” By Nicole Walson, WNMU-FM National Public Radio


3 years later, few signs of life in state’s child sex abuse probe
“More than three years ago, the state attorney general’s office announced it was launching an investigation into the handling of child sexual abuse by New York’s Catholic dioceses. Since then, no cases have been pursued by the district attorneys who were encouraged at that time to pursue any related criminal allegations that were uncovered and fell within applicable statutes of limitations.” By Brendan J. Lyons, Albany Times Union


Catholic priest in San Antonio arrested on allegations of sexually assaulting woman in her 70s
“A priest who was reassigned to several different churches in the San Antonio Archdiocese was arrested Tuesday (Sept. 26) for an alleged sex crime involving a woman in her 70s, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said. The Rev. George Mbugua Ndungu, 42, also known as Father Wanjiru, is charged with aggravated sexual assault after a church employee and parishioner came forward to the archdiocese, which began an investigation before BCSO made the arrest, Salazar said.’ By KSAT.com

No charges filed against two Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse in Converse, Honey Creek
“No criminal charges have been filed against two Catholic priests in the San Antonio Archdiocese accused of sexual abuse against minors. Both priests were removed from their church duties last month by the archdiocese. According to San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, Father Alejandro Ortega, a priest at St. Monica’s Church in Converse, was accused of sexually inappropriate physical contact with a minor.” By Patty Santos, KSAT.com


Patricia Jones was brutally abused as a child – but her trauma isn’t acknowledged by law
“Almost seven decades on, Patricia Jones still has nightmares about the cohort of brutal nuns who physically abused her as a child. In the dead of night, the long-dead Sisters of St John of God grabbed at her, dragging her from slumber and depriving her of peace. Nightmares are common for the 73-year-old, who requires medication to help cope with the lifelong trauma resulting from the eight painful years she spent at Holy Child Orphanage in Broome, Western Australia.” By Shannon Molloy, News.com.au

Australian bishop Christopher Saunders has ‘gone rogue’ in midst of sex abuse allegations. Here’s what might happen next.
“The slow-burn saga of Broome bishop Christopher Saunders has again hit national headlines with an independent report commissioned by the Vatican this week describing him as a sexual predator. Bishop Saunders strenuously denies any wrongdoing and has never been charged with an offence. But the Vatican will soon have to decide whether he remains an honored emeritus Bishop or is defrocked in disgrace.” By Erin Parke, ABC News Canada


Documentary series highlights sexual abuse of children by clergy in Belgium
“Residents in the Flemish region of Belgium are trying to break ties with the Catholic Church on Friday (Sept. 30) after public broadcaster, VRT, aired a documentary series that had confessions of children and their relatives who are victims of sexual abuse by the clergy. The documentary has politicians demanding the scandal and the finances of the church to be thoroughly investigated and discussed. The documentary created a ‘shock effect,’ and many have lined up to have their names deleted from baptismal records to sever their ties with the Church.” By Selen Temizer, and Mehmet Solmaz, Anadolu Network, on aa.com.tr


Catholic bishops say $30-million reconciliation fund on track to meet new deadling
“Canadian Catholic leaders say they are almost halfway to their fundraising goals for a reconciliation fund formed after the church failed to meet previous financial obligations. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops held its annual meeting in Toronto this week, where church leaders were told the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund has raised $11.5 million so far, nearly 40 per cent of its goal.” By Kelly Malone and Alessia Passafiume, The Canadian Press


Paris prosecutors drop investigation of resigned archbishop
“Paris prosecutors have closed a sexual abuse investigation against the former Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit, concluding that charges brought against him by a female parishioner had no foundation. The accusations, which Archbishop Aupetit has always denied, led to avid speculation about his private life and led Pope Francis unexpectedly to accept his perfunctory offer to resign.” By Tom Henneghan, The Tablet


Abuse survivor continues his ‘quest for justice’
“A sexual abuse survivor ‘relentless in his quest for justice’ has embarked on his second journey to Rome. Dunedin man Darryl Smith was sexually abused as a child at institutions in both New Zealand and Australia, including Marylands School in Christchurch.” By Tim Scott, Star News


Confession of child abuse by Catholic Church, 2
“In the Philippines, the powerful ruling elites that controlled the passing of laws in the Congress blocked the efforts of child rights advocates for years to raise the age of consent for a child to have sexual relations from 12 years old to 16. When powerful congresswomen were elected in recent years, that changed. Only in March 2022, the age when a child could give consent was raised to 16 years of age. Any sexual act against a 16-year-old and younger is statutory sex abuse, according to Republic Act (RA) No. 11648.” By Father Shay Cullen, Panay News


Church scandal: deputy bishop of Lausanne under investigation
“Bernard Sonney, the deputy bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg, has temporarily vacated his office after two weeks in the job following allegations of abuse. An investigation is underway against him. Sonney had decided to take this step ‘following a report,’ journalists were told at a media conference in Fribourg on Friday (Sept. 29). The report was taken from a letter sent to the bishop, Charles Morerod, by an alleged victim.” By SwissInfo.ch