Voice of the Faithful Focus, Sept. 8, 2023

Sept. 8, 2023


Pope Francis blasts reactionary American Catholics who oppose church reform
“Pope Francis blasted what he described as groups of ‘very strong, reactionary’ American Catholics, warning against becoming ‘backwardists’ who oppose change in the Catholic Church. ‘The situation in the United States is not easy: There is a very strong, reactionary attitude. It is organized and shapes the way people belong, even emotionally,’ said the pope. ‘I want to remind these people that backwardism is useless, and it is necessary to understand that there is a correct evolution in the understanding of questions of faith and morals.’” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter

How dark money is influencing the Catholic Church
Some conservative Catholics like to disparage social changes. They say these changes are the work of worldly and sinful forces antithetical to the church’s values … The irony is that elite donors (and the wealth they control) are enabling contemporary conservative causes in the United States. Mary Jo McConahay’s Playing God: American Catholic Bishops and the Far-Right (Melville House, 2023) examines the growing entanglement of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy with right-wing organizations that seek to weaken or overturn democratic institutions in the name of religious liberty. They want to remake the country into a nation of laissez-faire capitalism and conservative cultural ideals.” By Jessica Pegis, U.S. Catholic

Judge dismisses criminal abuse charges against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick
“The Massachusetts sex abuse case against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick fell apart Wednesday (Aug. 30) as all criminal charges were dismissed due to the disgraced former cleric being deemed no longer mentally competent. Dedham District Court Judge Michael Pomarole ruled McCarrick is unable to stand trial after receiving a medical report from prosecutors which agreed with the earlier defense report that McCarrick, 93, is suffering from dementia.” By Damien Fisher, OASV News.com

Pope Francis tamps down hopes for Synod of Bishops livestream: ‘Not a television program’
“Pope Francis on Sept. 4 said that next month’s hotly anticipated Synod of Bishops will be open to the Holy Spirit — but not so much the press or the public. ‘This is not a television program where we can talk about everything,’ said the pope. Francis’ remarks came during an inflight press conference back to Rome after a four-day stay in Mongolia, and exactly four weeks before he is set to officially open the high-stakes, monthlong Vatican meeting where a number of controversial issues facing the Catholic Church in the modern world will be discussed by Catholic bishops and lay representatives.” By Christopher White, National Catholic Reporter


With Catholic Church foot-dragging comes chance to evade justice
“After a judge declared him incompetent to stand trial on charges that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old boy in Wellesley in the 1970s, the Zoom image of Theodore McCarrick showed an old man with a blank face, hunched over a table in a room at the assisted living facility in Missouri that is now his home. Yet when the remote session ended, one could still imagine the defrocked and disgraced cardinal smiling in triumph — just like any other aging gangster who beat the system. The charges against McCarrick, 93, were dismissed last week after two medical experts found he suffered from dementia. That makes him a living symbol of the cost of the decades-long coverup of clergy sexual abuse by the Roman Catholic Church.” By Joan Vennochi, The Boston Globe


The synod’s priorities are communion, participation, mission – not who can be priests
“According to the media, the most important issues facing the Synod on Synodality are the possibility of married priests, women deacons and the blessing of gay couples. The first session of the synod will take place in Rome this October, with a second session in October 2024. I personally hope the synod deals with these issues, but making these topics the principal focus of the synod would be a big mistake. They certainly are not central in the mind of Pope Francis, nor are they central to the ‘Instrumentum laboris,’ or working paper, that will guide the initial meetings of the synod.” By Thomas Reese, Religion News Service

With this synod, Pope Francis draws on decades of Catholic experimentation in Latin America
“As the first gathering of Pope Francis’ highly anticipated Synod of Bishops is set to begin on Oct. 4, Latin American and U.S. Latino theologians are recognizing influences from the pope’s Latin American roots in the theology and methodology behind this first-of-its-kind two-part synod process. With this synod gathering, Francis has introduced groundbreaking changes to the synod format, most notably adding laypeople, including women, as full voting members of the assembly for the first.” By Aleja Hertzler-McCain, National Catholic Reporter

Synod will have no place for ideology: Pope
“Pope Francis yesterday outlined his vision for the upcoming synodal assembly in October, which he said should be a prayerful exercise in dialogue free from ideology, not full of ‘political chatter’ like a television talk show. Pope Francis was peppered with multiple questions about the Synod on Synodality from journalists travelling with him on the 10-hour flight from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to Rome yesterday (Sept. 4). ‘In the Synod, there is no place for ideology,’ Pope Francis told journalists on the chartered ITA Airways plane.” By Catholic News Agency on CathNews.com

Archbishop urging collaboration between priests and faithful as he prepares for Synod in Rome
“As he prepares to travel to Rome for the Synod of Bishops in October, Archbishop J. Michael Miller has been speaking about the ‘co-responsibility’ pastors and laity have for the Church. At a Mass in July celebrating the 30th anniversary of St. James Parish in Abbotsford, the Archbishop said the synodal process emphasizes the importance of pastors working closely with their parishioners, ‘valuing them as co-responsible’ for the mission of the parish. ‘A renewed vitality throughout the whole Church is required, one that favors the rediscovery of the baptized as a disciple of Jesus Christ and a missionary of the Gospel,’ said the archbishop.” By The B.C. Catholic


Bishop Accountability group: dismissal of charges against McCarrick ‘hugely disappointing’
“A group known as BishopAccountability.org, which tracks sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, condemned a Massachusetts district judge’s Wednesday (Aug. 30) decision to dismiss criminal charges against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The criminal charges involving the sexual assault and abuse of a minor were dismissed Wednesday after a judge ruled McCarrick, 93, was not mentally competent to stand trial. Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the bishops accountability group, told CNA that ‘the dismissal of the case against McCarrick is hugely disappointing’ and that ‘our hearts go out to the courageous victim who brought this case and to all of McCarrick’s victims.’” By Peter Pinedo, Catholic News Agency, in National Catholic Register


Editorial: Bishop Olson’s actions against the Carmelite sisters are an abusive power play
“The scandal that has unfolded in recent months involving Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, and the Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, Texas, has much more behind it than only the purported transgressions by Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach or the sisters in the 10-member community who remain loyal to her. Instead, the tawdry soap opera drama orchestrated by Olson has everything to do with his heavy-handedness and his cruel treatment of a congregation of women religious whose real transgression, it appears, is to oppose him and his supposed authority.” By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff


St. Phoebe and women’s voices
“It is hard to imagine how different Christianity would have been without all the contributions women gave to the faith, especially when their contributions were respected and encouraged by various apostles like St. Paul. Yes, Jesus’ disciples showed confusion and misunderstanding concerning his relationship with women during his earthly ministry, but they seemed to have learned from it, and promoted the role of women in the church after Pentecost. This was one of the things which made Christianity quite different, as it was willing to challenge social status, and to affirm many of those who had otherwise been marginalized, like women; this is what it seems to have lost over time. By Henry Karlson, Patheos.com

Learning from the women of St. Paul
“At the Synod in October, there will be 70 non-bishop members with the right to vote, half of whom will be women. In any other context, this tiny gesture would be seen as tokenism. However, within the Church, it is revolutionary and (probably) irreversible. It does raise the question of the role of women within the institutional Church, already firmly on the Synod agenda. Once, we were forbidden to talk about the ordination of women and now we are obliged! Working as a biblical scholar, perhaps the following observations may shed a little light.” By Kieran O’Mahony, The Synodal Times

I am a woman who serves like a deacon. Will I ever share St. Phoebe’s title?
“As a young girl growing up in Haiti, I remember feeling like I lived in a paradise as I rested easy in my mother’s lap. She and our community made me feel safe, loved and seen. It was not hard for me to come to know God as a loving mother who cares for all his children. I sensed that God knew me and called me by name to go out and proclaim his word. By the age of 8, I was serving as a lector in our parish, and by the age of 18 was leading retreats for the Legion of Mary and speaking to groups of all ages. I felt welcomed to share who I was and bring forth my gifts.” By Marie Philomène Péan, National Catholic Reporter


Developing the voice of the laity: moving the synodal concept from ideal to reality
“The synodal listening sessions opened the door to hearing the voice of the laity in a new way, as parishes across the world were asked to share their stories, hopes, and disappointments about living within the Catholic Church in order to guide where it goes next. Yet, according to the 2023 U.S. National Synthesis Report, dioceses entered the process with ‘a combination of excitement, confusion, and skepticism.’ In fact, ‘several dioceses noted some apprehension and even opposition as they began their synodal listening’—due, in part, to a feeling the process would be futile. This sense of futility reflects a Church that is communal in nature but not yet communal in participation.” By Kayla August, Commonweal


Lawmakers eye renewing Child Victims Act lookback window
“Lawmakers say they will explore reopening a lookback window for survivors of childhood sexual assault to file civil suits when they return to Albany next session. Friday’s funeral services for Albany Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard, who admitted to covering up sex abuse allegations within the diocese and faced multiple allegations himself, spurred strong emotions from survivors and conversation about future legislative action. Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal sponsored both the Child Victims and Adult Survivors acts that waived the statute of limitations to allow survivors of sexual assault to file lawsuits against their abusers.” By Kate Lisa, SpectrumLocalNews.com


Sexual abuse survivor gfroup says Oakland Diocese filing for bankruptcy should sell real estate to pay victims
“Two weeks after the San Francisco Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church filed for bankruptcy amid hundreds of outstanding lawsuits from victims of sexual abuse, an organization representing survivors is demanding the Diocese of Oakland withdraw its Chapter 11 protections and pay victims with the proceeds. ‘According to our research, the Diocese of Oakland owns a real estate portfolio valued at about $3.3 billion,’ the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) wrote in an official statement shared with National Review on Tuesday (Sept. 5). ‘Of those properties, it appears to us that about $600 million are held in ‘non-core’ real estate. That is, those particular properties do not seem to be central to the Diocese’s mission.’ By Ari Blaff, National Review

San Francisco Catholic diocese bankruptcy filing leaves clergy abuse survivors in limbo
“Faced with more than 500 lawsuits stemming from clergy sexual abuse, the San Francisco Catholic diocese last week said it had no choice but to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone wrote, ‘the bankruptcy process is the best way to provide a compassionate and equitable solution’ for abuse survivors. But victims say the bankruptcy is just a ploy to deprive them of justice and their day in court … Across the country, more than 30 dioceses have sought bankruptcy protection.” By Alexis Madrigal, KQED National Public Radio


Lawsuit against former Aspen priest dismissed
“A civil trial scheduled in December for a priest accused of molesting an altar boy at St. Mary Catholic Church in Aspen was canceled last month after parties agreed to dismiss the case, according to court records. Father Michael O’Brien was set to stand a five-day jury trial in Denver County District Court beginning Dec. 4. District Court Judge David Goldberg approved the dismissal of the lawsuit on July 14. O’Brien, who was ordained in 2000, was the pastor at St. Mary from 2002-11.” By Rick Carroll, Aspen Daily News


Judge denies unsealing testimony of former priest who admitted to sexual abuse
“A federal judge on Monday (Aug. 28) denied a motion to unseal sworn testimony given by a retired Catholic priest who recently admitted on camera to WWL-TV that he sexually abused several teens in the 1960s and 1970s. U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo ruled that a deposition given in 2020 by Father Lawrence Hecker should remain under seal. She said attorneys did not follow the proper procedure to get the documents unsealed.” By David Hammer, WWL-TV4 News


Statement regarding conviction of Timothy Crowley
“The Diocese of Lansing today (Aug. 24) welcomed the conviction of former priest, Timothy Crowley, for sexual crimes against a minor. 74-year-old Crowley pleaded guilty to two counts of Second Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct at Washtenaw County Circuit Court, Wednesday, August 22. ‘Crowley’s crimes were a gross betrayal of the trust placed in him by the Catholic community within the Diocese of Lansing and, especially, of those families and young people entrusted to his pastoral care,’ said David Kerr, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Lansing, August 23.” By Diocese of Lansing


Clergy sex abuse lawsuit connected to deceased Rochester priest dismissed by federal judge
“A federal lawsuit accusing the Vatican of covering up clergy sex abuse was dismissed this week in U.S. District Court. The suit, filed in 2019, was filed on behalf of five men who claim they were victims of sexual abuse by priests within the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles between 1979 and 1984. One of the accusers alleged Thomas Adamson abused him in 1981 while Adamson was a priest in Apple Valley. In a 2014 deposition for a separate sex abuse lawsuit, Adamson admitted sexually abusing ten boys during his time in the priesthood between the 1960s and 1980s. He worked at churches and Catholic schools across Southeastern Minnesota and the Twin Cities including Rochester, Winona, Harmony, Caledonia, and Albert Lea.” By James Wilcon, KAAL-TV6 News

Lourdes High School, Rochester Catholic Schools settle lawsuit over sex abuse in the 1970s
“A partial settlement has been reached in a lawsuit claiming sex abuse at Lourdes High School in the 1970s. A plaintiff, identified only as Doe 222, claims Father Joseph Cashman had unpermitted sexual contact with him while Doe 222 attended Lourdes High School from 1972 to 1974. The sexual contact allegedly happened when the plaintiff was between 14 and 16 years old. Doe 222 filed a lawsuit against Lourdes High School, Rochester Catholic Schools, and the Diocese of Winona, claiming they should have known Cashman was a danger to children and did not provide a reasonable level of safety and care.” By Mike Bunge, KIMT-TV3 News


Judge rejects Camden Diocese’s $87.5M settlement to abuse survivors
“A federal judge rejected the Camden Diocese’s $87.5 million settlement to sexual-abuse survivors Tuesday (Sept. 5), saying it would leave insurance companies on the hook for invalid claims and inflated attorneys’ fees. The Catholic Diocese of Camden, bankrupted by sexual-abuse lawsuits, agreed last year to compensate more than 360 survivors as it navigates Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The plan called for some insurers to pay $30 million into a trust covering claims and expenses.” By Josh Bakan, Patch.com


Church and school officials ignored signs of sexual abuse by health aide
“A new lawsuit alleges local public school, private school and Catholic Church officials turned a blind eye for years to predatory behavior by former school health aide Robert Apodaca, who is accused in several child sex crimes cases and has pleaded guilty to three counts of molestation in one of them. The 70-page complaint filed Tuesday in state District Court seeks an unspecified amount of damages from multiple defendants, including Santa Fe Public Schools, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and Santo Niño Regional Catholic School.” By Phaedra Haywood, Santa Fe New Mexican


Diocese of Buffalo announces substantiated claim of abuse
“As a result of an investigation conducted through the Independent Review Board, Bishop Michael W. Fisher has accepted the board’s recommendation and has determined that a claim made against retired priest Father Joseph Vatter that he had abused a minor female has been substantiated. Bishop Fisher had placed Father Vatter on administrative leave in February 2023. As a result of the substantiated claim, Father Vatter will continue to be removed from ministry and be listed on Priests with Substantiated Claims of Abuse on the diocesan website. Prior to being placed on leave, Father Vatter had occasionally celebrated Masses at various churches within the Diocese of Buffalo.” By WhyCatholic.org

Cortland priest arrested for child sex abuse
“A priest ordained by the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse has been arrested for sexual abuse allegations. On August 31, the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of Reverend Nathan Brooks, 36, of Lafayette. Brooks allegedly subjected one individual to inappropriate sexual contact on multiple occasions from 2019 to 2021 in the Town of Homer and in the City of Cortland. Brooks was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, forcible touching, and sexual abuse in the third degree. According to a news release from the Diocese, Brooks has been suspended from all priestly ministry at this time. The investigation is ongoing.” By Samantha Rich, BinghamtonHomepage.com


Activists: Ohio needs to do more to stop child sexual abuse
“An abuse survivor and victim advocate spoke about her mission to help those who were sexually abused by officials of the Roman Catholic Church. Claudia Vercellotti, an activist with Toledo’s chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, appeared on ‘Between The Lines’ on Friday (Sept. 1). The nearly 45-minute interview is available on the Sandusky Register’s YouTube channel. She spoke about the group’s attempts to have Ohio hold child predators within the Church accountable for their abuses, and to break the cycle of abuse.” By Sandusky Register


Judge dismisses sex abuse lawsuit against Mount St. Mary Catholic High School
“A federal judge has dismissed an explosive lawsuit filed by several young women who accused a prominent private high school in Oklahoma City of fostering a culture of sexual abuse and harassment. In Oklahoma City federal court, U.S. District Judge David L. Russell threw out the case against Mount St. Mary High School, which was brought by more than a dozen Jane Does who claimed breach of contract, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, public nuisance and violations of Title IX.” By Josh Dulaney, the Oklahoman, on YahooNews.com


Bishops’ conference and CRA publish royal commission update

“The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia have published a report updating the Church’s progress in implementing the relevant recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. On the five-year anniversary of the initial response, the report is part of the Church’s ongoing efforts to be publicly accountable for how it is working to create, maintain and enhance safe environments for children and all people who are at risk.” By CathNews.com

Catholic Church loses bid to have abuse lawsuit thrown out in Australia
“The Catholic Church on Friday suffered a loss in an Australian appeals court after a panel of judges said an abuse case brought by the father of an alleged victim of Cardinal George Pell could proceed. The cardinal allegedly abused the boy in the 1990s; his father brought suit against the Catholic Church and Pell in 2022, shortly before Pell’s death in January of this year. The alleged victim himself died of a heroin overdose in 2014.” By Daniel Payne, Catholic News Agency


Decades after reporting Rivoire, whistleblower learns she wasn’t the only one
“One of the first people to inform the Roman Catholic Church of allegations of sexual abuse by Rev. Johannes Rivoire has spoken to a safeguarding commission looking into the church’s handling of those complaints. Karen Bergman spoke to retired Quebec Superior Court judge André Denis in Winnipeg on Aug. 24. Denis was appointed by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to lead the commission. Rivoire worked as a parish priest in Rankin Inlet, Igloolik and Arviat as a member of the Oblates, a religious order in the Roman Catholic Church. He remains a member today.” By Jorge Antunes, Nunatsiaq News


Irish priest’s horrific abuse of more than 60 students detailed in new report
“The newly published report ‘A Restorative Response to the Abuse of Children Perpetrated by Joseph Marmion SJ’ interviewed 62 past pupils of the Irish priest who was a teacher in three schools in Ireland throughout the 1960s and 1970s … In March 2021, Jesuits in Ireland named Marmion as someone who had abused boys sexually, emotionally, and physically during his time at Dublin’s Belvedere College.” By IrishCentral.com

‘Priests were angry at me for speaking out over abuse’ – Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
“The former Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has revealed how he invoked the ire of other priests after speaking out over child sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Speaking to Joe Duffy for RTÉ’s ‘The Meaning of Life’ program on Sunday night (Sept. 3), the 78-year-old retired cleric recalled the reaction to his public condemnations following the publication of the Ryan and Murphy reports in 2009.” By The Irish News

‘Others looked the other way but my dad did something about it’
“The son of an Irish teacher who blew the whistle on pedophile Jesuit priest Joseph Marmion said his father should be recognized for his role in helping to end the reign of the predator who sexually abused at least 60 boys. Riocard Mór Ó Tiarnaigh reported Marmion to the then principal of Belvedere College in September 1977, prompted by his son’s disclosures about a school trip to Vienna. His son, also Riocard, said the teacher’s actions helped ‘light the fuse’ that led the Jesuits to remove Marmion from teaching duties at the end of that school year.” By Maeve Sheehan, Irish Independent

Victims’ group slams decision to invite US cardinal to Armagh Cathedral
“A group representing victims of clerical abuse has criticized the decision to invite a prominent US cardinal to Northern Ireland. Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, is visiting Armagh on Sunday (Sept. 3). He will celebrate Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral to mark 150 years since its dedication in August 1873. However, abuse victims have expressed dismay at the invite.” By Belfast Telegraph


Catholic Church ‘two-faced’ for refusing to help abuse survivor’s bid share experiences in Rome
“A Christchurch man who suffered sexual abuse as a child at the hands of the Brothers of St John of God has criticized the Catholic Church for publicly offering help to survivors and then turning down his request for financial aid. Darryl Smith was one of dozens of boys who suffered ‘extreme abuse and neglect’ at Marylands School in Halswell between 1955 and the late 1980s. On his first night at the school, in 1971, he was woken from his sleep, taken to an office and raped. He was 6 years old.” By Shannon Redstall, The Press