In the Vineyard :: June 22, 2018 :: Volume 18, Issue 12
News from National
Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse: Moving Toward Accountability?
Recent events revolving around Catholic clergy sexual abuse suggest the proverbial tide may be turning in the scandal from the Church’s knee-jerk closing of institutional ranks to action against perpetrators and abettors, both by the Church and civil authorities.
A marked example of how far the institutional response has progressed toward accountability is retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick stepping down from active ministry after the Vatican determined that allegations of sexual abuse were found “credible and substantiated.” The abuse occurred nearly 50 years ago when he was a priest in the Archdiocese of New York. Nothing additional was known about the incident at the time of this writing, but McCarrick is likely the first cardinal to step aside because of sexual abuse.
Another obvious evidence of a change in the Church’s attitude is the change in Pope Francis. Over just a few weeks he has shifted from calling Chilean abuse survivors’ allegations “calumny” to removing three bishops, after he met with Chilean abuse victims and Vatican investigator Archbishop Charles Scicluna turned in his report. Chilean police and prosecutors also raided Catholic Church offices in the Osorno Diocese of Bishop Juan Barros. Scicluna and his colleague, Father Jordi Bertomeu Farnos, have returned to Chile to help ensure “adequate responses to each case of sexual abuse of minors.”
The Archdiocese of Mexico City’s response has been a partnership with the Survivors of those Abused by Priests on programs to protect children. To date, SNAP has been so critical of the Church for its handling of the scandal that it has become anathema to most bishops, particularly in the United States.
Throughout the scandal’s history, many Catholics have taken a jaundiced view of survivor settlements. Yet, in St. Paul-Minneapolis, which rose out of bankruptcy only recently with a $210 million settlement with survivors, parishioners are actually contributing to the settlement. “It’s the right thing to do,” said Father Daniel Griffith at Our Lady of Lourdes. “We’re all part of the archdiocese, and we all need to be part of the solution.”
States’ attorneys general have long tried to pry open the scandal, with limited results, but momentum is building, most visibly in Pennsylvania. A report is due at the end of this month from a grand jury investigation covering six dioceses (Greensburg, Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Harrisburg, Pittsburg — As of this writing, the Pennsylvania Supreme court has tempoarily blocked release of the report). Those close to the report tout conclusions as the worst ever. Legislators there are hoping the report finally will prompt changes in the state’s statute of limitation for sexual assault, which devastating grand jury reports in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese and Philadelphia Archdiocese were unable to achieve; although the 2011 report in Philadelphia resulted in the convictions of two priests.
Where the law allows, national governments have investigated institutional abuse of minors. The Church has figured highly in these investigations, which, for example, have taken place in Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and The Netherlands, and a statutory inquiry in the United Kingdom and Wales is ongoing. At least in Australia, the inquiry has led to changes in the law that include attempting to force priests to break the seal of confession where clergy sexual abuse of a minor is involved.
Speaking of Australia, the scandal has ensnared two highly placed prelates there. Cardinal George Pell is now standing trial on multiple counts of historic sexual abuse, while on leave from his position as Vatican treasurer. Archbishop Philip Wilson’s trial for covering up clergy abuse recently resulted in his conviction, and he is to be sentenced next month.
Guam’s Archbishop Anthony Apuron is now appealing his Vatican conviction earlier this spring for “certain accusations” of sexual abuse of minors. He has been removed from office. The Church and lawyers there are attempting to settle more than 170 civil suits brought by abuse survivors (184 people in Guam have said they were abused by clergy or others associated with the Church).
Predicting where all this will lead is risky. These events, however, are not the same as the apologies and promises that too often in the past have not resulted in change. They are examples of the Church and civil authorities actually taking action.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of Australia’s bishop conference told Cruxnow.com that the atmosphere today in the Vatican is totally different than in 2002. Now, “there is a determination to work with all the local churches in really trying to, first of all, understand the phenomenon and the scale and the complexity, and then to tie action, not just wring the hands or have another discussion, but to actually take action … There is absolutely no room for complacency, but there is room for encouragement.”
As VOTF was recently quoted in a PennLive.com article on the Pennsylvania scandal, perhaps “we’ve come to a point where the Church has realized this cannot go on.”
For many more examples of how the tide may be turning on the clergy abuse scandal see the “Focus” news roundup column in this issue of In the Vineyard.
Revising the Dallas Charter
By Patricia T. Gomez
Bishops attending their Annual Conference of U.S. Bishops this June voted overwhelmingly to accept revisions to their Charter for the Protection of Children. While the recently announced changes to the USCCB Charter, aka the “Dallas Charter,” are welcome, these are the first revisions to the Articles in seven years. Pat Gomez, who has worked since the earliest days of VOTF on child protection issues, provides this summary of the Charter and the revisions.
The Charter was created to address allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The genesis of the 2002 Charter was in reaction to the public exposure of abuses committed by deacons, priests, and bishops–revealed by investigative reporting published in US national news media, in particular by The Boston Globe. Revelations of escalating abuse crises instigated by Catholic clergy across the globe persist today, 16 years after the news media revelations first came our national attention.
The Articles in the USCCB Charter continue to be Guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and the prevention of future acts of such abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church. In 2005, various Articles had been revised, including Article 12 concerning Safe Environments for children. Likewise, the Charter was revised in 2011.
Recent amendments to the Charter include an amendment of Article 13 that now expands background checks to include everyone who has any contact with minors. Background checks in churches, schools and other organizations are important and they do keep predators away from children, acting as a deterrent because the checks uncover past actions that should ban an adult from working or volunteering with children.
Article 6 on Codes of Conduct has likewise been broadened to apply to all who have any contact with children, an expansion of the previous clause to encompass only those who have regular interactions with minors. Note that a Code of Conduct is simply a set of rules to be followed and is one important piece of a comprehensive Safe Environment Program. The power of these codes lies in their enforcement when any breach is uncovered.
Importantly, the Preamble to the Charter now contains language calling for support of victims in their recovery from the “crimes of abuse” and a call to “prevent these tragedies from happening again.” The current 2018 version of the Charter as well as a list of highlighted revisions can be found on the USCCB website: https://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/charter.cfm
The Charter review progress itself relies on data from Annual Audit reports of compliance with articles of the Charter, which should prompt an examination of the data collection process, the validity of the data, and the fraternal correction process.
Is waiting seven years between revisions of the Charter wise? Would it be prudent to continually analyze infractions against the Charter to ensure its effectiveness in addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy to the fullest extent? Is this extended timeframe necessary to appropriately analyze the effects of previous revisions?
Or does the lag between revisions contribute to the reported “sense of complacency” among a growing number of dioceses regarding child protection measures as suggested by the rise in boundary violations noted in the 2017 Audit Report?
Voice of the Faithful continues to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, by which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church though efforts to promote safe environments in our parishes for the prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.
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Did You Register Yet for the October Conference?
With a theme promoting Progress & Promise, Voice of the Faithful’s 2018 Conference will feature three speakers on topics such as lay leadership, recent developments in the papal commission on clergy sex abuse, and the progress of key VOTF initiatives: Broken Vessel Healing Circles, and diocesan financial transparency.
Register for the conference at this link to take advantage of the Early Bird Special reduced price of $85/person. Don’t delay! Full-price registration will be $125 per person.
Plus you can enjoy a glimpse of autumn colors and even take in downtown Providence’s premier event: WaterFire, a sight and sound extravaganzadifficult to capture in words but which has captured the imaginations of more than 10 million visitors since it began in 1994.
With more than 80 sparkling bonfires, the fragrant scent of aromatic wood smoke, the flickering firelight on the arched bridges, the silhouettes of the fire tenders passing by the flames, the torch-lit vessels traveling down the river, and enchanting music from around the world, WaterFire engages all the senses and emotions of those who stroll the paths of Waterplace Park.
Don’t miss VOTF’s 2018 Conference and make WaterFire part of your plans. A lighting is presently planned for sunset on Oct. 6. Click here for more information about this spectacular event …
Join us to discuss how we will continue to raise Spirit-led voices for our Church.
Highlighting issues we face working together to Keep the Faith, Change the Church
Retired Washington cardinal out of ministry after credible abuse accusation
“In a shocking announcement, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who served as the archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., before retiring in 2006, has announced that he is stepping down from active ministry after allegations of sexual abusewere found ‘credible and substantiated.’ The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, at the direction of Pope Francis, has instructed Cardinal McCarrick that he is no longer to exercise publicly his priestly ministry.” By Heidi Schlumpf, National Catholic Reporter
- Cardinal McCarrick suspended from public ministry after abuse allegation,
By Catholic News Service in America: The Jesuit Review
- American cardinal accused of sexually abusing minor is removed from ministry,
By Laurie Goodstein and Sharon Otterman, The New York Times
Pope removes Chile bishop accused of abuse cover up
“Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a controversial Chilean bishopaccused of covering up clerical sexual abuse, making it the first such accepted resignation since all the country’s bishops offered to step down in May … The Vatican announced Francis’s decision on Monday (Jun. 11), and said Bishop Jorge Enrique Concha Cayuqueo, an auxiliary bishop from the capital Santiago, would serve as apostolic administrator of the diocese. Two other bishops also had their resignations accepted: Archbishop Cristián Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt and Bishop Gonzalo Duarte García de Cortázar of Valparaíso.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com
Bishops’ prosecutions may point to new phase in church’s sex abuse crisis
“Pope Francis has been dealing over recent months with what has seemed like an unending saga of the Catholic clergy sexual abusecrisis in Chile. After being criticized for saying abuse victims had committed ‘calumny’ during his January visit to the country, the pope has since admitted making ‘serious mistakes,’ met with Chilean victims in Rome, and received offers of resignation from most of the country’s bishops … But if Francis’ response to clergy abuse in Chile has appeared unending, recent developments across the world indicate that an examination into how the global Catholic Church has handled, or mishandled, sexual abuse is just beginning to ramp up.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
Expanded background checks among changes to child protection charter
“Incremental changes to the U.S. bishops’ guiding documenton addressing sexual abuse of minors by clergy were approved Thursday (Jun. 13) during the prelates’ annual spring assembly, marking the first modifications since 2011. In the first of six votes set for day two of the gathering, the bishops voted 185-5, with one abstention, to approve a series of revisions to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, also known as the Dallas Charter.” By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter
Australian prelate: laity could have prevented ‘catastrophic’ abuse crisis
“Arguably, few people in Australia can say they are more on the front lines in picking up the pieces after the recently concluded Royal Commission into Institutional Sexual Abuse that was highly critical of the Catholic Church than Archbishop Mark Coleridge, elected as president of the country’s bishops’ conference last month. Despite the challenges, which also include trials of two of Australia’s most renowned clerics … Coleridge is convinced that when it comes to fighting clerical sexual abuse, a ‘change in culture’ is needed and is already in motion.” By Inés San Martin, John L. Allen, and Christopher White, Cruxnow.com
- Australian bishop to be sentenced next month for cover-up, By Associated Press, on Cruxnow.com
Pope Francis Speaks on the Role of Women in the Church
In a recent interview given to a reporter from Reuters, Pope Francis spoke on a wide range of topics, including a possible deal with China on the appointment of bishops, clerical abuse and the ongoing scandal in Chile, the reform of the Roman Curia, and criticism he’s faced.
On the topic of women, although he refused to revisit the possibility of women priests, he said that in his experience, things are usually done better when there is a mixed group working on a task, rather than just men.“Women have an ability to understand things, it’s another vision,” he said, noting that whenever he has visited prisons run by women, they “seemed to do better,” because women know how to be “mothers” and care for inmates and their needs in a unique way.
“Women know how to manage conflicts better. In these things, women are braver,” he said, adding, “I think it would be so also in the Curia if there were more women.”
To read more of the interview with Reuters, click here.
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