In the Vineyard: May 22, 2023


In the Vineyard :: May 22, 2023 :: Volume 23, Issue 9

National News

Illinois Catholic Dioceses Report on Protocols for Handling Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors Against Clerics

This week, the Catholic dioceses in Illinois  issued a statement and summary of their common processes for handling allegations of sexual abuse of minors against any Catholic cleric who is ministering or has ministered within their respective boundaries. The six Catholic dioceses are the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the Dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford, and Springfield.

The complete statement and summary can be found here

The Illinois dioceses’ procedures include, among other things:

  • The diocesan website publication of the names of its clerics credibly accused of sexual abuse.
  • Policies for handling allegations of sexual abuse of minors against clerics incardinated in their dioceses.
  • Diocesan policies for handling such allegations against deceased, laicized, and religious order priests.
  • Processes for dealing with allegations that arise during criminal investigations.

Admitting that their past response had been lacking, Cardinal Cupich said, “At this time, working with the Office of the Attorney General of Illinois, the leaders of all six Illinois dioceses endeavored to make clear and update our approach, mindful of our lived experience and best practices in this field. Our common goals in doing so are to ensure we offer pastoral support to those affected by this tragedy and to work diligently to prevent it from occurring again.”

Below are some of the enhancements from the report:

  • Ongoing Enhancement: We continually enhance our programs to take into account developments in law and society and rely on leading experts to advise us on our policies and conduct audits to ensure they are being followed. The changes we have made include:
    • Prior to 2002, all legally mandated reports were made to civil authorities; since 2002, ALL allegations of child abuse have been reported to civil authorities regardless of credibility and regardless of whether there is any legal requirement. The number of allegations of abuse have declined significantly over time.
    • Since 2006, we have published the names of all diocesan priests with substantiated allegations of abuse on our website. We recently added the names of deceased diocesan priests and religious order priests who had diocesan ministries and were found to have substantiated allegations by their orders.
    • In 2014, we published more than 20,000 documents related to 70 priests with a substantiated allegation of abuse of a minor.

To access VOTF’s resources for abuse survivors, please click here.

For a commentary from Voice of the Faithful’s Protecting Our Children program, read below.

Upgrading Safe Environment Protocols

By Patricia Gomez, Ph.D., Co-Chair, VOTF Protecting Our Children Working Group

On May 18, 2023, The Illinois Catholic dioceses published a Summary of their common processes for handling allegations of clergy sexual abuse of minors. The six Illinois Dioceses–Chicago, Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford, and Springfield–had been investigated by the Illinois Attorney General (see December 19, 2018 press release of Preliminary Findings. In the statement that accompanied release of the Summary, Cardinal Blaise J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago and Metropolitan of the Chicago Province noted: “At this time, working with the Office of the Attorney General of Illinois, the leaders of all six Illinois dioceses endeavored to make clear and update our approach….” The Summary included website links to the policies and procedures for each diocese.

Other Catholic dioceses that have been investigated by state attorney general offices also have initiated subsequent measures to enhance their common processes for handling allegations of sexual abuse of minors against Catholic clerics within their respective boundaries. Examples are the Harrisburg, PA, Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and the Baltimore, MD, Report.

These dioceses were among those evaluated by Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic reform organization and lay apostolate, when we conducted a review of all 177 diocesan websites for information about their abuse prevention and safe environment programs during 2022. We use the online reports on diocesan policies and practices because those sites are the ones that Catholics in a diocese would use both to report and to monitor safe environment practices. 

The Review Instrument utilized in the VOTF 2022 Study contained 33 distinct questions in 10 categories for child protection, abuse prevention, and safe environment measures. Each question was assigned a score, and the maximum score achievable was set at 100. The average score of the 177 dioceses reviewed was 67 out of 100. For the six Illinois dioceses, the average score was 66.4.

The two dioceses who notably enhanced their website content after state investigations mentioned above, Harrisburg and Baltimore, obtained above average scores on the VOTF Protection of Children Report 2022:  Harrisburg scored 95.5, the top score in the Study. And Baltimore scored 92.5, the third highest score. Hopefully similar improvements will be seen in 2023 for the Illinois dioceses.

The pattern of improving protocols “after the facts of abuse” has a history that predates the public scandals reported in The Boston Globe Spotlight report of 2002. Some Catholic Dioceses underwent a public scandal of clergy sexual abuse well. Many of the dioceses with an earlier public scandal ramped up their safe environment efforts afterwards. For example, in 1992 a Roman Catholic priest admitted to sexually abusing at least 100 children over a period of 20 years in the diocese of Fall River. The Fall River, MA, diocese responded to that public scandal by ramping up their abuse prevention efforts. On the 2022 VOTF Report, Fall River scored 82.5, a performance well above the mean score of 67. 

VOTF applauds all ongoing enhancements of safe environment efforts by dioceses. And VOTF encourages Catholics in all dioceses to review their diocesan website for child abuse prevention measures and safe environment efforts.

We suggest utilizing the 10 Categories from our 2022 Study while conducting a review. Those Categories are: 1. Policy; 2. Codes of Conduct; 3. Reporting Abuse; 4. Background Checks; 5. Prevention Education and Training; 6. Contact Information; 7. Audit Reporting; 8. Review Boards; 9. Publication of Names of Clergy Accused of Abuse; and 10. Victim Assistance. You can find details on the scoring for those categories and what they encompass from Appendix A of our 2022 study. We encourage you to read the entire VOTF 2022 Report on Diocesan Policies and Procedures for Abuse Prevention and Safe Environment Programs.  

The 2023 VOTF Study of diocesan website content for abuse prevention and safe environment measures is currently underway. The results will be published in the fall.

Here are the scores for Illinois dioceses obtained on the 2022 VOTF study: 

Category#Category PointsChicagoBellevilleJolietPeoriaRockfordSpringfield

The results of the 2022 VOTF study indicate the need to enhance diocesan child protection policies and safe environment measures. Actions by all are essential to keep children safe in our church communities. Clearly stated and publicly available diocesan guidelines for safe environments provide measurable standards that can be modeled in parishes and are essential to prevent further child abuse.

Parishioners have a key role to ensure the protection of children in our parishes. Parishioners should work with diocesan and parish safe environment personnel to bolster safety guidelines at the diocesan level to ensure that safety measures are carried out in local faith communities. 

Naming the Synod Delegates

Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR) has published a list of those they say will select the lay participants for the North American delegation to the October 2023 Synod for Synodality in Rome. Their list includes the addresses and emails of the committee, and they suggest writing the members to ask that lay appointees include the marginalized and those commonly excluded from such gatherings.

Top Stories

Philadelphia Archdiocese accused of transferring known abuser to Catholic college
“In 2013, then-Catholic priest and would-be artist Kevin Barry McGoldrick was transferred from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to the Diocese of Nashville, where he became chaplain of Aquinas College. In the lawsuit filed on April 18 in Philadelphia, it alleges that archdiocesan officials transferred the priest — and issued a letter of support on his behalf — knowing that he had a history of sexual abuse. The lawsuit accuses the archdiocese of enabling the priest’s abuse in 2017 of the lawsuit’s 27-year-old plaintiff, identified only as ‘Jane Doe.’” By Kathryn Post, Religion News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

Vatican to ask Stika for resignation
“The embattled Bishop Rick Stika will be asked by Vatican officials to resign as Bishop of Knoxville, after more than two years of scandal over the bishop’s leadership of his eastern Tennessee diocese. According to sources close to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops, Pope Francis decided last month to request Stika’s resignation, after reviewing the results of a Vatican-ordered investigation into the bishop’s management. Stika is accused of protecting Wojciech Sobczuk, a seminarian accused multiple times of sexual assault … The bishop is also accused of mishandling other sexual misconduct allegations in the diocese and has been accused by his presbyterate of bullying and harassment.” By The Pillar

Judge must reconsider effort to block Catholic diocese libel suit, appellate court rules
“A trial court must reconsider its denial of a motion to block a libel suit stemming from an email allegedly containing a false insinuation that Diocese of Orange Bishop Kevin Vann used Orange Catholic Foundation funds to cover legal expenses for clergy accused of child sex abuse, a state appellate court has ruled. Suzanne Nunn, former interim executive director of the foundation, sent the email to 47 Catholic leaders throughout the country after Vann unilaterally terminated her and the organization’s board of directors in June 2020.” By Scott Schwebke, The Orange County Register

A ’toxic nucleus’ within the Church
“A little over three years ago, L’Arche International published its preliminary findings on allegations of sexual abuse and other transgressions against Thomas Philippe, OP, and Jean Vanier, the principal figures in the L’Arche movement. The organization noted at the time that ‘the stakes are high for L’Arche, following the death of its founder and revelations which mark a break in its history, there is a need to reread the past … An in-depth study is to be carried out to gain a better understanding of the personality and input of Jean Vanier and the relationship dynamics at work between the founder and those who knew him.’” By Michael W. Higgins, LaCroix International (email sign-in required to read entire article)

Cardinal O’Malley: Papal abuse commission shifting to ‘impact-focused’ direction
“The new projects and developments at the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors represent ‘a major shift toward a more impact-focused direction,’ said its president, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston. ‘The Holy Father has asked a lot from us, and we are all committed to making this work,’ the cardinal said, according to a press release from the commission May 8.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

Click here to read the rest of this issue of Focus …

Looking for Something to Read This Summer?

Playing God: American Catholic Bishops and The Far Right

Mary Jo McConahay (288 pages; Melville House, $29.99)

In a review of As Mary Jo McConahay’s book, Tom Roberts, former editor of the National Catholic Reporter, notes a “disturbing symbiosis” between the far right in U.S. politics and an equally far-right force now prominent within the U.S. Catholic hierarchy. While the political development has been well documented, the religious element has been less so. Now, Roberts says, “McConahay has provided an ecclesial and episcopal version of that same history, showing the development of a brand of Catholic conservatism gone extreme. It is a corner of the U.S. Catholic community deeply aligned with and influenced by wealth. As such, it is willing to sideline the bulk of the Catholic social justice tradition in favor of a few ‘hot-button’ issues that have distorted our national political discourse for decades.”

It’s an important and detailed history, one that U.S. Catholics should know.  

Read the rest of Tom Roberts’ review here. You can purchase the book at a number of online sites: Penguin Random House, Amazon, and Melville House Books, for example.

Also, the New York Times has published a review of the book.

The Changing Role of Women in the Catholic Church

For women, pope’s changes for upcoming Vatican summit open doors ‘that will be hard to shut’
“It’s been nearly 14 centuries since the monastery founded by St. Hild of Whitby, a prominent abbess in 7th century Anglo-Saxon England, hosted the Northumbrian kingdom’s assembly to discuss the date on which its Christian church would celebrate Easter. That assembly, or synod, would bring the kingdom’s church in line with the Catholic Church in Rome. ‘Scholars have long thought that Hild was a member of that synod,’ said Katie Bugyis, an associate professor and trained medievalist in the program of liberal studies at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.” By Marc Ramirez, USA TODAY

Can women preach in churches?  Some Christian churches allow for women to be ordained. In others, women are barred from any kind of teaching or leadership position at all. Many women working in faith-based ministries have likely heard such statements as “it’s unBiblical for women to preach,” “women should be silent in the churches,” or “women are to be subservient to men, as the church is to Christ.”

But what should Catholics make of the different, sometimes seemingly contradictory scripture passages about women preaching? What is the actual history of women preaching, from the early church on? And is there an official Catholic teaching on whether women can preach in churches or not?

On this episode of the podcast, hosts Emily Sanna and Rebecca Bratten Weiss talk to Rhonda Miska about the scriptures, history, and teachings associated with women preaching. 

Listen here.

To access VOTF’s resources on women in the Catholic Church, click here.


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