Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

Voice of the Faithful Focus, Apr. 24, 2020


TOP STORIES

Australian cardinal links corruption to child abuse charges
“Cardinal George Pell has linked his fight against corruption in the Vatican with his prosecution in Australia for alleged child sex abuse. Pell was regarded as the third highest-ranking Vatican official in 2018 when he became the world’s most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse. He served 13 months in prison before Australia’s High Court last week acquitted him for molesting two choirboys in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne while he was archbishop of Australia’s second-largest city in the 1990s.” By Rod McGuirk, Associated Press, on Cruxnow.com

Virginia priest with blog critical of Catholic Church’s sexual abuse handling removed
“A priest in Virginia was removed from his post after maintaining a blog critical of the Catholic Church’s handling of the sexual abuse scandal. Rev. Mark White, whose blog reaches more than 1 million readers, was removed on Monday (Apr. 13), news outlets reported. He served as the priest of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Martinsville and St. Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount … His removal as the head of these two churches follows a months-long dispute with Bishop Barry Knestout, the head of the Diocese of Richmond, and other church officials over the blog.” By Associated Press in Daily Press

The end of clericalism
“As the human race joins the rest of the planet in a struggle for survival, the church is also trying to find its footing. Why? Clericalism. For too long — say, 800 to 1,000 years — the sacramental life of the church has been under priestly lock and key. Around the 10th century, the custom of stipends for Masses arose. Suddenly, the spiritual value of men's prayers gained over the spiritual value of women's prayers and women's abbeys and monasteries failed one after another.” By Phyllis Zagano, Ph.D., National Catholic Reporter (Dr. Zagano will be a featured speaker at Voice of the Faithful’s 2020 Conference: Visions of a Just Church, Oct. 3, 2020, Boston Marriott Newton Hotel)

Clericalism and the pandemic
“As any diocesan director of worship knows, there has been much to navigate during this distorting period in human history. At the center of concerns lay the issue of how to deal with the celebration and administration of the sacraments. Yet, in my experience, the greatest difficulties lay not in the necessity of adapting to new norms and restrictions, but rather in the unanticipated reactions from clergy to the suggested adaptations. Little did I realize what sort of maelstrom would erupt as we put into place ideas and recommendations precipitated by the need for social distancing and stay-at-home orders.” By Fr. Jim Sabak, OFM, Pray Tell Blog

Cardinal Pell and the Victorian criminal justice system
“Cardinal George Pell has been acquitted of all charges of child sexual abuse by Australia’s highest court – the High Court of Australia. In criminal cases, they usually sit only a bench of five judges. In Pell’s case, the full bench of seven sat. They knew the world was watching. They often write separate opinions. But in the case of Cardinal Pell they all put their name to one judgment. They unanimously upheld his appeal and in almost record time … Readers need to understand that all is not well with the system of criminal justice in Victoria.” By Fr. Frank Brennan, The Catholic Weekly

ACCOUNTABILITY

A different kind of Catholic Church scandal at a Winchester (Mass.) parish
“Fistfuls of missing money. An FBI investigation. And a culture of secrecy that tore a suburban parish to shreds: What really happened at St. Mary’s in Winchester? By Mariya Manzhos, Boston Magazine

Pell faces Vatican inquiry into child abuse allegations
“Cardinal George Pell now faces a Church inquiry into allegations of sexually assaulting children, even though the High Court of Australia dramatically quashed his earlier convictions. Following the cardinal’s conviction by a jury, which became public in February 2019, the Vatican opened a case against the Australian prelate pending the final appeal.” By Christopher Lamb, The Tablet

POPE FRANCIS

Downloadable publication of Pope’s prayers and homilies now available
The Dicastery for Communication of the Holy See is making available a downloadable book entitled ‘Strong in the Face of Tribulation,’ containing prayers, supplications and the Pope’s homilies as ‘a sure support in time of trial.’ ‘A little help offered to all, so as to know how to discern and experience God’s closeness and tenderness in pain, in suffering, in solitude and in fear,’ writes Andrea Tornielli, the editorial director of Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, presenting Strong in the Face of Tribulation: The Church in Communion – a Sure Support in Time of Trial.” By Eugenio Bonanata and Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ

Is the Francis pontificate in crisis? A response to Faggioli
When Massimo Faggioli offers a critique of this pontificate, as he did last week at La Croix in a two-part essay, everyone should take notice. Not only is Faggioli one of the leading ecclesiologists in the universal church, but he has been strongly supportive of Pope Francis. The first thing to note is how Faggioli engages the topic: He is deeply respectful, expressing concern not scorn, his analysis does not lead him down a rabbit hole in which the conversation is suddenly devoid of the ecclesial set forth at Vatican II.” By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

CARDINAL PELL

Cardinal George Pell reportedly facing fresh criminal investigation
“Police have arrived at the NSW seminary where Cardinal George Pell is living amid reports he is facing fresh criminal investigations. Four Officers from the Auburn Police Area Command arrived at the premises on Abbotsford Road in Homebush about 2.30pm for what was a prearranged meeting to ‘discuss security protocols,’ a NSW Police spokesperson said. The meeting followed a story in the Herald Sun this morning (Apr. 15) claiming Cardinal Pell is being secretly investigated by police over new claims against him.” By News.com.au

It is not possible to divorce George Pell’s acquittal from the Catholic Church’s history of child abuse
“Cardinal George Pell’s acquittal was legally the correct decision. His relief and that of his family and many supporters will be palpable. He – not the Catholic church – was on trial and the high court has seen fit to ensure justice was served. But it is not possible to divorce the acquittal from the broader context of the Catholic church’s history of child sexual abuse.” By Francis Sullivan, The Guardian

George Pell says 'culture wars' contributed to him being wrongfully jailed for child sexual abuse
“Cardinal George Pell says he believes ‘culture wars’ and his conservative views on social issues contributed to him being prosecuted and jailed on child sexual abuse charges — convictions that were overturned by the nation's highest court. The High Court unanimously quashed Cardinal Pell's convictions and acquitted him of abusing two choirboys at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral in the 1990s, finding there was the significant possibility that an innocent person had been convicted on evidence that did not establish guilt ‘to the requisite standard of proof.’” By ABC News

McCARRICK INVESTIGATION

DC priest describes a culture of cover-up in wake of McCarrick scandal
“In early February, the second-highest-ranking prelate in the Vatican told news outlets that a long-awaited report into the ascent of disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick would be published in the ‘near future.’ In 2018, Pope Francis ordered that the Vatican investigate all of the documentation it had collected over the years regarding McCarrick, including data gathered in the dioceses of New York; Metuchen and Newark, New Jersey; and Washington, D.C., where he had served. Almost three months after the February announcement, the report has still not seen the light of day.” By Clare Giangravé, Religion News Service

BISHOPS

USCCB administrative committee cancels U.S. bishops’ June assembly
“The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has canceled the U.S. bishops’ spring general assembly that was planned for June 10-12 in Detroit. “Given the current situation with the coronavirus that has been classified by the World Health Organization as a pandemic, the Administrative Committee of the USCCB voted earlier this week to cancel the June assembly,” said a USCCB news release issued the afternoon of April 8. This marks the first cancellation of a plenary assembly in the conference’s history.” By Catholic New York

PRIESTS

Virginia priest in battle with bishop over blog blasting Church’s abuse response
“In Oct. 2008, Father Mark White started a blog under his name in the hopes that his preaching would reach those who don’t go to church … But he’s also been critical of the way some within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church addressed the clerical sex abuse crisis. The targets of his criticism have included Pope Francis and his own Diocese of Richmond in Virginia, which he’s called “opaque.” By Inés San Martin, Cruxnow.com

Pope Francis counsels world’s priests: ‘take risks for forgiveness’
“Pope Francis called on the more than 400,000 Catholic priests worldwide ‘to ask for forgiveness and to learn to forgive,’ as he celebrated Mass in an empty St. Peter’s Basilica on Holy Thursday, commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus before his passion and crucifixion. Because of the pandemic, liturgical celebrations with the pope have been pared down to the essential, eliminating or postponing optional rites and celebrations.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The Jesuit Review

WOMEN DEACONS

U.S. Catholics wary of panel that will study the idea of women as deacons
“Some American Catholics are wary of Pope Francis’ call for a commission to study the idea of female deacons, saying the panel likely will be mostly conservative theologians. ‘The deck has really been stacked against [women deacons] with this commission,’ said Jamie L. Manson, a columnist with National Catholic Reporter. ‘I don’t think there’s any voice in this new crop of people who has argued that women deacons can be equal to male deacons.’ In a surprise announcement, Francis on Wednesday (Apr. 8) set up a 10-member commission to study whether women can serve as deacons — ordained ministers who can baptize, witness marriages and perform funerals.” By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times

Media reports shine light on emerging discussion of women deacons
“Recent declarations from the Vatican followed by assenting decrees from a number of bishops make it clear that Roman Catholic hierarchs will not entertain questions about ordaining women priests. They've underscored their decrees with excommunications, notably Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois and the women who have been ordained as part of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement. While priestly ordination is seemingly off the table and out of bounds, what is emerging is a fairly open discussion about ordaining women to the permanent diaconate.” By Porsia Tunzi, National Catholic Reporter

WOMEN IN THE CHURCH

Women demonstrate what priesthood of Jesus really means
“Virginia Saldanha's superb Holy Thursday homily on Catholic Women Preach spoke of Jesus' challenge to a servant leadership that involves ‘humility in service and sacrifice even to the extent of breaking one's body and shedding one's blood.’ Women, said Saldanha, are ‘living this model of priesthood.https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/simply-spirit/women-demonstrate-what-priesthood-jesus-truly-means?clickSource=email ... Where you may not find a sacramentally ordained priest, many women around the world are living the priesthood of Jesus.’ Women who serve economically poor indigenous people in India and Amazonia — sometimes even to the point of death — show the least and the last the loving and compassionate face of God. Women live their priesthood where they are planted, and demonstrate to the sacramentally ordained ministers what the priesthood of Jesus truly means.’” By Sister Christine Schenk, National Catholic Reporter

CHURCH FINANCES

Pope Francis appoints Carmelo Barbagallo to head AIF
“Pope Francis on Wednesday (Apr. 15) named Carmelo Barbagallo, of the Bank of Italy, as President of the Financial Information Authority (It: Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria, the AIF). He succeeds Rene Brülhart, whose term ended last week. ‘I am honored to have received this appointment, aware of the full weight of the moral and professional responsibility it carries, and I thank the Holy Father for the trust he has placed in me,’ the new President of the Financial Information Authority, Carmelo Barbagallo, said when speaking to Vatican News after publication of the news of his appointment.” By Vatican News

With collection plates drying up, parishes race to SBA loans to avert layoffs
“Days before Easter Sunday, the worries for Fr. James Olson ranged from the momentous to the mundane. At one end, he grappled with the spiritual loss of a Holy Week in isolation, with empty pews in the four churches he pastors in northeast Philadelphia. At the other, he regretted not getting his hair cut before barbershops and other businesses shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic. But just behind the spiritual loss was the state of the parish finances.” By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter

Empty pews, empty collection baskets: coronavirus hits U.S. church finances
“St. Anselm Roman Catholic Church in New York's Brooklyn borough is used to limping along, month after month, at a budget deficit of several thousand dollars a week. But the church that sits in the city that is the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic could always count on Easter. Last year, its Easter pew collection brought in $11,651. That was more than twice an average Sunday and, coupled with the church's online Easter donations of $2,500, enough to cover its weekly operating expenses of $13,000, according to church records.” By Reuters in The New York Times

Catholic ministries get advice on finances during coronavirus crisis
“Andrew Robison is the owner and president of Petrus Development, which helps Catholic ministries build sustainable development programs. Over the past 15 years, the company has worked with over 125 Catholic ministries and raised over $500 million for campus ministries, high schools, universities, pro-life causes and more. He spoke to Charles Camosy about how the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic lockdown is affecting Catholic organizations, and what can be done to help.” By Charles Camosy, Cruxnow.com

VOICES

Editorial: In this forced retreat, are we asking big enough questions?
“A few weeks into this forced retreat and the agita level is ramping up, a growing wondering from all corners of the Catholic lot about what we might look like, how we might be changed, post-pandemic. But are we asking the right questions? No sidestepping here. We've been a full and willing participant, soliciting opinions from experts, for starters, on three questions: How will the church change as a community, in its understanding of what's most important, and in its understanding of social mission.” By National Catholic Reporter Editorial Staff

We must not accept any more self-serving bluster from the Catholic hierarchy
“On the day the High Court of Australia quashed the conviction of Cardinal George Pell for child sex abuse offences, the Pope asked for prayers for those who suffer unjust sentences because ‘someone had it in for them’ and compared them to Jesus who ‘was judged ferociously even though he was innocent.’ While not referring directly to Pell, the Pope's comments were either ill-advised and oblivious to the deep distress they would cause to hundreds of thousands of child abuse survivors across the world, or they were deliberately chosen to be inflammatory and offensive to those same survivors.” By Peter Gogarty, Liverpool Champion

The fight for justice for sexual abuse survivors must go on
“While (Cardinal George) Pell's acquittal may be seen as a setback, his accuser said he hoped the case would not ‘discourage’ other survivors from coming forward. He reassured them ‘that most people recognize the truth when they hear it,’ noting that he had felt supported by police and prosecutors. Undoubtedly, if survivors stopped coming forward, there would be no justice to pursue.” By Victor Sande-Andeiros, Al Jazeera

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

West Virginia Sexual Abuse Survivors Now Have More Time to Seek Justice
“In a growing national trend, West Virginia has become the latest state to pass legislation reducing barriers to justice for victims of sexual assault. West Virginia House Bill 4559 effectively gives those who have been sexually assaulted or abused more time to sue their abuser for damages in a civil lawsuit. The bill extends the civil statute of limitations (SOL) to sue a perpetrator from age 22 to age 36, or 4 years from discovery of the abuse, whichever is later. The bill also extends the civil SOL against other individuals or organizations who aided, abetted or concealed the abuse from age 20 to age 36.” By Joseph Saunders, The Legal Examiner

Advocates continue pushing legislation for sex abuse survivors
“Activists had hoped that the state Legislature would take up at least two bills supporting survivors of sexual abuse this legislative session, but with an uncertain schedule amid a pandemic, they worry the measures will be left on the backburner. Survivors of sexual abuse and members of the advocacy group Safe Horizon hosted a press call on Monday urging legislators to resume session and pass the Adult Survivors Act. The measure – like the Child Victims Act that went into effect in August – would open a one-year look-back period for adult victims to pursue previously time-barred lawsuits against their alleged abusers.” By Cayla Harris, Albany Times Union

CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE

Sexual abuse survivors react to Cardinal Pell’s acquittal
“On Monday (Apr. 6), justices on Australia’s highest court decided to overturn a unanimous guilty verdict and free a man convicted of sexually abusing two young boys. The news rocked the survivor community worldwide. There is no shying away from the fact that the decision to overturn the conviction of Cardinal George Pell was a gut punch for survivors of clergy sexual abuse. The Pell case saw testimony from twelve witnesses, including the lone surviving victim. More accusers came later forward in the press and provided excruciating details of how the Cardinal manipulated them.” By Zack Hiner, Ms. Magazine

CONNECTICUT

Danbury clergy sexual abuse case pushed to June
“The pre-trial hearing of the former local priest accused of sexually assaulting two boys has been rescheduled from April 24 to June 19. Jaime Marin-Cardona, 51, is charged with three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, three counts of risk of injury to child and three counts of illegal sexual contact. He pleaded not guilty to all nine charges. The warrant for Marin-Cardona’s arrest alleges that he groomed two boys over the course of four years, and sexually abused one of them over the same period of time.” By Kendra Baker, News Times

HAWAII

Fr. Bart O’Leary named in new Hawaii sexual abuse case, Bishop Ferrario’s legacy of abuse continues
“Today (Apr. 14) Hawaii attorney Mark Gallagher and attorneys from the law firm of Jeff Anderson & Associates filed a complaint under Hawaii’s ‘window’ law (closing April 24, 2020) against the Diocese of Honolulu on behalf of clergy sexual abuse survivor Craig Christiansen. Christiansen courageously allowed his name to appear on the lawsuit even though survivors may bring claims confidentially. The lawsuit publicly identifies for the first time Father Bartholomew ‘Bart’ O’Leary, a globally-celebrated figure in Catholic seminary administration, as a child sexual abuser. The case also names the notorious former Diocese of Honolulu Bishop and child abuser, Bishop Joseph Ferrario.” By Jeff Anderson & Associates PC

ILLINOIS

Archdiocese of Chicago reaches $2.1 million settlement in lawsuit claiming 7-year-old girl abused at church camp
“The Archdiocese of Chicago has agreed to pay a $2.1 million settlement in a lawsuit that alleged a 7-year-old girl was sexually assaulted at a Catholic church camp in 2015, according to a news release from the law firm representing the girl. The law firm, Romanucci & Blandin, did not name the camp where the abuse occurred, but a spokesman said it happened at a church in suburban Cook County.” By Javonte Anderson, Chicago Tribune

MISSOURI

Notice of credible allegation of abuse
“Bishop Johnston and diocesan leaders recognize how difficult it can be for a survivor of clergy sexual abuse to come forward and appreciate the great courage it takes in making a report to the Church. The diocese has received and deemed credible an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by deceased Father Peter Clement Vatter. This allegation was deemed credible following the diocesan Policy for Response to Allegations, by the Ombudsman, Independent Review Board and Bishop Johnston. The abuse occurred in the late 1940’s when Vatter was assigned as Pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish, Moberly, Missouri. In 1955, the parish was renamed St. Pius X Parish.” By BishopAccountability.org

NEW YORK

Buffalo Diocese legal bill in sex abuse scandal: $2 million and counting
“The Buffalo Diocese is spending a lot of money defending itself. Hundreds of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits. A landmark bankruptcy case. The result is a legal bill totaling more than $2 million the past year alone. And the meter is running. More than half of the money paid out by the diocese – $1.4 million – went to Connors LLP, the Buffalo law firm handling more than 260 Child Victims Act lawsuits against the diocese.” By Phil Fairbanks, The Buffalo News

Hundreds of claims against Rochester-area Catholic parishes blocked, but at what cost?
“The parishes that make up the Diocese of Rochester, some of them already hobbled by declining attendance and flagging finances, are facing a new threat. A wave of litigation. The diocese’s parishes, as well as charitable affiliates like the Catholic Youth Organization and Camp Stella Maris, are facing more than 400 legal claims that allege sexual abuse of young people by priests and nuns connected to those organizations.” By Steve Orr, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

Delays expected in sex abuse lawsuits
“Even without a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding by the Diocese of Buffalo, plaintiffs alleging sexual abuse by priests would be facing at least a two-year wait for courts to hear their cases. A state Supreme Court Justice in Erie County has ruled that an unnamed man who attended the Holy Apostles Parish should receive a default judgement against Mark M. Friel, the priest who abused the plaintiff as a child. Damages can’t be decided in the case, though, until cases proceed against the Diocese of Buffalo and Holy Apostles Parish because they hired, retained and supervised Friel.” By John Wittaker, Post-Journal

NORTH CAROLINA

2 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse filed against Diocese of Charlotte
“Two people who say priests sexually abused them when they were children are now suing the Charlotte Catholic Diocese. The civil lawsuits filed in Mecklenburg County claim the Catholic church concealed misconduct and sheltered abusers. The cases were filed against Fathers Richard Farwell and Joseph Kelleher. The plaintiffs’ attorney said their accusations are on the list of credible allegations that were released late last year, but their cases were previously dismissed based upon the statue of limitations.” By WSOC-TV9 News

PENNSYLVANIA

Man files lawsuit claiming he was sexually abused as a child by three Pittsburgh Catholic priests
“ By A man is suing the Catholic Pittsburgh Diocese, claiming he was abused by three priests as a child — two of them who he knew only as ‘father.’ A 62-year-old man who lives in New Hampshire filed the suit in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. It alleges that the abuse began when he was 7 or 8 and was a student at St. Coleman’s Catholic School in Turtle Creek. He claims the abuse continued through the age of 15 as he was living at the New Castle Youth Development Center.” By KDKA-TV2 News

VIRGINIA

Diocesan Review Board Concludes Investigation of Rev. Msgr. Raymond A. Barton
“Following a lengthy investigation by the Diocesan Review Board, Bishop Barry C. Knestout of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond has determined that Msgr. Raymond A. Barton, a retired priest of the diocese, will not have his name added to the diocesan list of clergy with a credible and substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse. On Feb. 14, 2020, the Catholic Diocese of Richmond announced it had received a report of allegations of child sexual abuse against the retired priest.” By Diocese of Richmond

AUSTRALIA

Vatican requires bishops 'to cover up child sex abuse' in absence of reporting laws, expert says
“A confidential instruction from the pope in 1922 directed bishops to treat canonical crimes such as ‘obscene acts with animals,’ ‘solicitation of sex during confession,’ and ‘gravely sinful offences perpetrated against children’ with the utmost secrecy. ‘And that secrecy has been confirmed, continued by every pope since, including the current one, Pope Francis,’ said Kieran Tapsell, an expert witness on a 2017 royal commission panel on canon law.” By Charlotte King, ABC News Ballarat

Cardinal Pell’s acquittal stirs abuse survivor memories in Ballarat hometown
“A thick line of black tape obscures Cardinal George Pell’s name on a board lauding ordained alumni of St Patrick’s College in the Australian town of Ballarat as colored ribbons flutter on doors and mailboxes. The high school in Pell’s home town has no immediate plans to remove the tape despite the former Vatican treasurer’s acquittal this week of the sexual assault of two choirboys in Melbourne in the 1990s. The High Court’s decision to overturn a lower court’s ruling and clear 78-year-old Pell, releasing him from jail after serving just over a year of a six-year sentence, has stirred painful memories for child sex abuse survivors in Ballarat.” By Sonali Paul and Jonathan Barrett, Reuters

CANADA

Sign up to sex abuse redress scheme or lose funding, government warns
“Victorian private schools, religious entities and other organizations who don't sign up to a redress scheme for child sex abuse survivors may lose funding, the state government will announce on Sunday. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended a national redress scheme to provide survivors with support such as compensation. Victoria's Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said 49 non-government organizations operating in the state had not signed up to the scheme, which has a June 30 deadline.” By Goya Dmytryshchak, The Sydney Morning Herald

80-year-old Hearst priest accused of additional historic sex offences
“An 80-year-old priest from Hearst faces additional charges stemming from allegations of a historical sexual assaulthttps://www.thesudburystar.com/news/local-news/80-year-old-hearst-priest-accused-of-additional-historical-sex-offenses/wcm/de6ac01a-ded7-4807-a432-83b01ba27904. The Ontario Provincial Police say the offenses are alleged to have occurred in Hearst over a period between 1976 and 1985. As a result of the investigation launched Feb. 26, Fernand Villeneuve was charged with one count of sexual assault, one count of acting with gross indecency and one count of indecent assault on a female.” By The Daily Press

JAPAN

Sexual abuse of minors in dioceses ‘just the tip of iceberg’
“A new internal report by a Catholic bishops organization found that 16 sexual abuse cases against minors since the 1950s in Japan have been reported from the dioceses. Of these cases spanning seven decades, only four of the clergy have admitted to the abuse and five remain as priests. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan on April 7 released its investigative report on its website after surveying all 16 diocesan bishops in Japan.” By Maki Okubo, The Asahi Shimbun