In the Vineyard :: September 28, 2020 :: Volume 20, Issue 18
News from National
Voice of the Faithful’s online Zoom 2020 Conference: Visions of a Just Church will take place Saturday, October 3. We hope you are all signed up and ready to go! The day begins with 8:30 a.m. "entrance": sign in early so there is time to get you through the waiting room and into the Conference room in time for the 9 a.m. start.
The conference link will be in your email box on Thursday or Friday; do not lose that link please. Additional instructions there will also help you. If you do not find the email, check your spam folder in case we landed there.
You also will receive an email on Wednesday with the link for the meet-and-greet sessions slated for Friday, Oct. 2, at 8 pm Eastern.
For other links to information pertinent to the conference (called collateral material, which would be exhibited and placed in folders at in-person conferences), pleace check the webpage VOTF 2020 Virtual Conference Information. The Thursday email will have additional links and information.
German Bishop: If Women Leave "the Existence of the Church Is in Danger"
The chairman of the German Bishops conference has said that the female diaconate is “very legitimate” and has warned that if women leave “the existence of the Church is in danger.” Bishop Bätzing said it was not first and foremost a matter of women’s ordination in itself, but instead a response to the fact that “we have too few women involved in decision-making processes and in key positions in the Church”, and that in the area of Catholic women’s leadership there is still “considerable” progress that can be made.
Read more here.
Abuse Allegations in Japan May Be a First
More than 40 years ago, a young woman named Harumi Suzuki was sexually assaulted by a priest in a church in Miyagi Prefecture. Earlier this week, she filed a suit to hopefully bring an end to “such serious humanitarian crimes." This may be among the first public allegations made in the Japanese Catholic Church.
In 2016, one year after a psychiatrist treating her post-traumatic stress disorder told her that she was not at fault, Suzuki filed a report to the Catholic Bishops’ conference of Japan. The review concluded that “there was a high possibility that the reported incident took place,” but the priest claimed that the incident was consensual. Due to the time that had passed, no criminal or civil charges could be brought, according to third-party lawyers hired by the diocese.
Suzuki says she hopes that her suit will bring comfort to other abuse survivors, stating, “You are innocent, and you are not alone.” Suzuki’s attorney explained that the odds were stacked against her case; Japan’s justice system makes it hard to receive damages in cases of sexual abuse unless promptly reported. Japan’s conformity-oriented culture makes it very difficult for women to speak out as well, but progress is being made.
The lawsuit claims \56.1 million yen ($534,000) in damages against the priest who assaulted Suzuki and the bishop who counseled her more recently, who she claims did not take her complaint seriously, leading to further emotional and psychological pain.
Suzuki’s lawyer does not know of any similar lawsuits alleging Catholic clergy of sexual abuse in Japan, but Suzuki believes her case will empower survivors and send a message. They hope that even if she is not awarded damages for the abuse she experienced and the psychological difficulties that she suffered as a result, “Japanese society will learn more about the problems in the church, its secrecy, its coverups, and how perpetrators are going unpunished.” The wave of abuse allegations is finally reaching Japan, and Harumi Suzuki hopes that some measure of justice will be reached.
For advocacy and support resources, please see here.
“Surreal” Embezzlement Claims Lead to Becciu’s Resignation
Vatican Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu gave up the “rights associated with being a cardinal,” including the right to vote in a conclave after the Pope asked for his resignation due to accusations of embezzlement. Although he was widely considered to be a close confidante of the Pope, Pope Francis informed Becciu earlier this week that the Vatican magistrates, after an investigation of the Italian Finance Guards, had concluded that Cardinal Becciu had committed “a crime of embezzlement.” The action in question was a €100,000 bank transfer from the Vatican’s funds to the Caritas organization that assists migrants and the poor. The organization is located in his home diocese of Ozieri in Sardinia and Becciu’s brother is the president.
The €100,000 is still in the bank account of the organization and has not yet been disbursed, according to his brother and the bishop of the diocese. Becciu claims that everything is documented, and does not understand how he has been accused of embezzlement and “favoring” his brother.
Becciu has also been embroiled in a controversial real estate deal involving the purchase of an “investment” luxury building in London with Church money. The investigation into this matter is still ongoing, but has led to five suspensions and two resignations. Becciu has defended his actions and claims that it was a sound investment and was made with appropriate funds. This, however, has not been mentioned as a reason for his resignation.
Cardinal Becciu retains his title and has been permitted to stay in his apartment in the Vatican, and maintains his innocence. He claims he was shocked by the allegations that came “like a bolt out of the blue.”
A cardinal’s resignation is rare; the last cardinal to resign and lose his right to vote for the new Pope resigned due to a sex scandal in 2013. Becciu has announced that, if permitted, he will defend himself because he has committed no wrongdoing. Other allegations concern the lack of transparency in what funds were used for what purposes: Some reports indicate that funds collected for the poor, called Peter’s Pence, had been used for other objectives.
Cardinal George Pell, who was acquitted earlier this year on charges of sexual abuse in Australia, thanked Pope Francis for his actions. Cardinal Pell and Cardinal Becciu have had disagreements on Vatican financial reform in the past. Pell said “The Holy Father was elected to clean up Vatican finances. He plays a long game and is to be thanked and congratulated on recent developments.” While Pell was the former leader of the Prefecture for the Economy, he detected Becciu’s attempts to disguise loans on Vatican balance sheets, and Becciu also interfered in an external audit of all Vatican departments’ finances.
Becciu has since held a press conference at which he repeated his claim of innocence of any financial misconduct.
For VOTF’s statement on financial accountability, please see here.
Highlighting issues we face working together to Keep the Faith, Change the Church
Investigation: Abuse allegations against Catholic bishop ‘credible’
“An independent investigation found that allegations of child sexual abuse by a former Roman Catholic bishop in Massachusetts were ‘unequivocally credible,’ according to an executive summary of the report released Wednesday (sept. 16). Retired Superior Court Judge Peter Velis’s report of abuse allegations against late Diocese of Springfield Bishop Christopher Weldon also criticized the way the diocesan review board handled the allegations. Velis found that there was a ‘reluctance to fervently pursue an evaluation of allegations against (Weldon) due to his prominence and revered legacy in the religious community.’” By Associated Press in The Boston Globe
Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis Isn't Over
“The Catholic University of America and The Catholic Project present Crisis: Clergy Abuse in the Catholic Church, a podcast on clergy sex abuse. Hosted by the University spokesperson Karna Lozoya, the 10-part audio documentary explores how the Catholic Church continues to struggle with the issue of sex abuse, despite the many reforms it has adopted. Episode one revisits 2018, the Catholic Church's ‘summer of shame.’ High-ranking American cleric, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, was credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor. More accusations followed, including from former seminarians.” By The Catholic University of America
Clergy abuse survivors face a lifetime of PTSD recurrence
“New job in hand, Jim Richter was adjusting well to life in Minneapolis several months after leaving his hometown of Chicago. He was enjoying his fellowship at the University of Minnesota Medical Center despite the long hours and he was coming to realize his move was a good one. Sexually abused as a teenager by a South Side Chicago Catholic priest who had similarly assaulted other young men, Richter wasn't expecting to hear more about the clergy abuse scandal in Minnesota.” By Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service
Catholic Groups Seek Apology From Brennan and Removal of His Enablers
“A letter addressed to the Most Rev. Mark Brennan, bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, from two groups representing lay Catholics seeks further action taken in the wake of disgraced former bishop Michael Bransfield’s ignoble resignation.The letter, which was sent Sept. 3 to Brennan, comes from Morgantown-based Lay Catholic Voices for Change, and ACT: A Church Together, which lists a Wheeling address, which represent lay, or non-clergy, members of the Roman Catholic Church.” By Alan Olson, The Wheeling Intelligencer
Diocesan Synod calls for reforms
“The call for reform of diocesan and parish governance at the first session of the Maitland-Newcastle Diocesan Synod will strongly influence planning for future sessions. A Governance Focus Group is evaluating diocesan governance structures and processes and will prepare documents and recommendations for the next Synod session in 2021 … Lawrie Hallinan, chair of the Synod’s Governance Focus Group said the group had embraced the recently released national report on diocesan and parish governance, The Light from the Southern Cross: Promoting Co-Responsible Governance in the Catholic Church in Australia.” By CathNews.com
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