Voice of the Faithful Focus, Jan. 13, 2012
Highlighting issues we face working together
to Keep the Faith, Change the Church
Spotlight Shone on Clergy Sexual Abuse 10 Years Ago This Month
On Jan. 6, 2002, The Boston Globe reported how Roman Catholic priest Fr. John Geoghan had sexually abused at least 130 children. VOTF started only a short time later. Subsequent stories that year implicated Cardinal Bernard Law, then archbishop of Boston, in keeping Geoghan’s crimes secret and approving his transfer from one unsuspecting parish to another. Over the following 10 years, came revelations that thousands of Catholic priests had abused tens of thousands of children, and high churchmen had covered up the abuse. A decade later, the Church clings to the clericalism VOTF and others have identified as a root cause of the scandal, and we still seek accountability, which mandates that VOTF’s work continue. The Boston Globe, Associated Press and New England Cable News were among many media outlets offering Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s views on the abuse scandal at the 10-year mark. Also interesting are the 10-year retrospectives of Bishop John D’Arcy, who was an auxiliary bishop of Boston at the time the scandal broke, and Deacon Bernard Nojadera, executive director of USCCB’s Secretariat for the Protection of Children and Young People.
SNAP Documents Subpoenaed
VOTF is on record as party to an amicus curiae brief supporting SNAP in its fight of subpoenas requesting records on clergy sexual abuse victims dating back 25 years. Release of these confidential records could jeopardize victims’ privacy, among other effects, and make abuse victims reluctant to tell their stories. The organization is facing two subpoenas and a third may be on the way. SNAP, of course, will continue to work with survivors.
Priests Come Out in Support Abuse Survivors
The Rev. James Connell, vice chancellor of the Milwaukee archdiocese and pastor of two Wisconsin parishes, diocesan priest Rev. Richard Cerpich and several other Catholic priests have made the bold move publically to work with and help victims of clergy sexual abuse gives, recognizing that the Catholic Church needs to do more to reach out to abuse victims.
Statutes of Limitations Reform Pushed, Opposed
Stories of child sexual abuse continued to dominate headlines in 2011, but because alleged crimes happened so long ago, few victims were able to sue their abusers. Now, lawmakers around the country are pushing to reform their states’ child sexual abuse statute of limitations, and opponents, including the Catholic Church, argue reform could unleash a torrent of lawsuits.
Disgraced Bishop Lahey May Face Vatican Discipline
Top Roman Catholic church officials are expected to discipline Raymond Lahey, a Canadian bishop who was sentenced recently after being convicted of importing child pornography.
Bishop Finn Supported as He Begins Prosecutor-Mandated MeetingsAs Kansas City’s Bishop Robert Finn began visiting parishes last week as part of an agreement to avoid criminal charges for failing to report suspected child abuse, about 60 area Catholics rallied in his support.
Bishops Disconnected from Other Catholics
The U.S. Catholic bishops have produced a new introduction to their 2007 document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” which reminds Catholics some moral issues “involve the clear obligation to oppose intrinsic evils which can never be justified,” while others “require action to pursue justice and promote the common good.” Can your conscience decide which?
Irish Journalist Mary Raftery Dies
Journalist Mary Raftery who was instrumental in challenging the Irish state and Catholic Church on clerical child abuse has died. She was best known for her 1999 ground-breaking “States of Fear” documentaries revealing the extent of abuse suffered by children in Irish industrial schools and institutions managed by religious orders. To some, she was the ‘most influential and finest journalist of last 25 years.’
Two Americans Are among New Cardinals
Pope Benedict XVI named 22 new cardinals last week who will be installed next month, including Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Archbishop Edwin O’Brien, formerly of Baltimore. Most of the appointments, however, were from the Roman curia and will have varying effects on the Church.
People Still Ask Whether Celibacy Is Relevant in the Church
Is celibacy a discipline or a doctrine? Should celibacy be abolished? Critics of the practice point to the clergy sexual abuse scandal and suggest that enforced celibacy is a contributing factor.
Bishop Wonders Why Americans Leave Catholic Church
Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., may be the only U.S. bishop who has explicitly taken into account the report of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that appeared more than two years ago and found that one in 10 Americans has left the Catholic Church.
Evidence of a Gathering Consensus for Reform in 2011
Extraordinarily in 2011, Catholic priests in an increasing number of countries have issued statements urging radical Church reform. In Germany, Austria, Ireland and Belgium, they quickly attracted endorsements from other clergy and laity. However, in every case they also aroused questions, doubts and strong disagreement, invoking blasphemy, heresy, an affront to legitimate authority and excommunication.
Dutch Abuse Crisis Provokes Suspensions and Political Pressure
Two Dutch priests have been suspended on suspicion of child sex abuse in the 1970s and 1980s, following a report earlier this month of as many as 20,000 cases of abuse by Catholic clergy in the Netherlands between 1945 and 1985. And Two leading politicians in the Netherlands, both from conservative parties, have called for the resignations of Catholic bishops in the wake of the damning report.