Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

Voice of the Faithful Focus, Feb. 9, 2018


TOP STORIES

2015 letter belies pope’s claim of ignorance
“Pope Francis received a victim’s letter in 2015 that graphically detailed how a priest sexually abused him and how other Chilean clergy ignored it, contradicting the pope’s recent insistence that no victims had come forward to denounce the cover-up, the letter’s author and members of Francis’ own sex- abuse commission have told The Associated Press. The fact that Francis received the eight-page letter challenges his insistence that he has ‘zero tolerance’ for sex abuse and cover-ups. It also calls into question his stated empathy with abuse survivors, compounding the most serious crisis of his five-year papacy.” By Nicole Winfield and Eva Vergara

Pope Francis’ blind spot on sexual abuse
“The overwhelming consensus in the media is that Pope Francis has a blind spot when it comes to sexual abuse. He may be on the side of refugees, migrants, the sick, the poor, the indigenous and other marginalized peoples, but he just doesn't get it when it comes to victims of abuse. The evidence for this assertion is the pope's unwavering support for Juan Barros, whom he appointed bishop of Osorno, Chile, despite accusations from victims …” By Thomas Reese, Religion News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

Church defrocks former St. Peter-Marian headmaster named in sex-abuse case
“A Catholic priest named in one of the Worcester Diocese’s largest sex-abuse settlements has been laicized, or defrocked, the diocese announced Thursday (Jan. 24).Peter J. Inzerillo, at his own request, was ‘dispensed from the clerical state’ by Pope Francis, the diocese said. As a result, Mr. Inzerillo ‘may not function in any capacity as a priest or be referred to as a priest or as ‘Father.’” By Mark Sullivan, Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Are these 66 Catholic schools, parishes ignoring rules meant to stop sex abuse?
“More than six dozen parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of Newark may be out of compliance with a policy meant to protect children from sexual abuse, documents obtained by NJ Advance Media show … As part of that policy (2002 Dallas Charter) and in order to sustain accountability, parishes and schools were required to submit annual reports to the diocese.” By Erin Banco, New Jersey Advance Media for NJ.com

Millennial women disengage from Catholic Church: blame the barriers
“America magazine and Kerry Weber have provided us with an in-depth portrait of women in the church, both in the past and in the present … The America article and its survey show that women in the church have had enough. They are choosing to no longer be the mainstay of keeping the church afloat. The issue is not that women are actually leaving … Instead, they are disengaging …” By Pat Perriello, National Catholic Reporter

ACCOUNTABILITY

Marie Collins ‘mystified’ by Pope Francis response to Chilean abuse letter
“A respected advocate for sexual abuse victims has described herself as shocked, mystified and surprised by Pope Francis’ response to a Chilean bishop accused of turning a blind eye to offending. Marie Collins, an abuse survivor who has served on the Pope’s child protection commission, was speaking after it was reported that Francis had been presented with a letter from a victim of Fr Fernando Karadima detailing both abuse and the fact it had been witnessed by Juan Barros, who the Pope appointed Bishop of Osorno in 2015.” By Christopher Lamb, The Tablet

A time to judge
“From the moment Pope Francis first stepped out onto the balcony above St. Peter’s Square, he’s shown a gift for the seemingly impromptu gesture and unscripted comment. Referring to himself simply as the bishop of Rome, he looked out at the crowd and said, ‘I would like to give the blessing, but first—first I ask a favor of you: before the bishop blesses his people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me.’ It was an unexpected, even endearing beginning to his pontificate, a sign that he might conceive of the office in a way that was different from that of his predecessors.” By The Editors, Commonweal

Pope dispatches ex-top cop on sex abuse to hear case against Chilean bishop
“After protests over a bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse marred his Jan. 15-18 trip to Chile, Pope Francis has decided to send Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta to listen to those who’ve ‘manifested their will to make known elements they possess’ against Bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid, appointed by Francis in 2015 to the Diocese of Osorno.” By Ines San Martin, Cruxnow.com

POPE FRANCIS

Pope Francis’ reputation on sex abuse ‘has gone from bad to worse’
“From his advocacy for migrants to opening up the Sistine Chapel to Rome’s homeless, Pope Francis has been an outspoken voice for people suffering on the margins. But the 81-year-old pontiff’s appeals on behalf of the downtrodden are being overshadowed by the way he is dealing with victims of clerical sexual abuse. ‘This is a situation which the pope has mishandled, and it’s gone from bad to worse,’ Marie Collins, a former member of a pontifical commission on clerical sex abuse, who herself was abused by a priest when she was 13 years old, told Religion News Service.” By Christopher Lamb, Religion News Service
-- Letter suggests Pope know about abuse complaints, despite denials, By Elisabetta Povoledo, The New York Times

Pope Francis’ failure to address abuse allegations jeopardizes his papacy
“This week (Feb. 6) it came to light that Pope Francis received an eight-page letter from a Chilean man in 2015that detailed how a priest sexually abused him, and how other priests ignored and concealed the crime, including then-Father Juan Barros, a man Francis had just months earlier appointed to be the bishop of Osorno, Chile … I can say with conviction that if Francis doesn’t transform his focus and practice on ending the systematic cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, his papacy will be a tragic failure. Sadly, his record on this issue is worse than his immediate predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who despite his many shortcomings on the issue, was the first pope to take the cover-up scandal seriously.” By Christopher Hale, Time
 -- Pope Francis is embroiled in a major pedophilia scandal, By Sarah Jones, New Republic

5 years of Francis: prominent pope watchers debate his legacy
“It’s been five years since the College of Cardinals plucked Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina and made him pope — a rock star of a pontiff to much of the world, but a disappointing leader of the Roman Catholic Church for many traditional Catholics. At Fordham, one of the country’s elite Catholic universities on Wednesday (Jan. 31), New York Times columnist Ross Douthat — a Francis critic — and Villanova University theology professor Massimo Faggioli — a Francis fan — sparred over the pope’s legacy before a crowd of more than 250.” By Jack Jenkins, Religion News Service

Pope Francis missteps
Revelation upon revelation of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, and cover ups by bishops, has crippled faith in the Catholic Church over the last two decades. Since the start of his tenure in 2013, Pope Francis has labored to address this great sin, this stain upon the Roman Catholic Church, and restore faith in the institution.” Editorial by The Toledo Blade

Pope Francis’ full measure
“One strike and you’re out — is that the new reality? On his recent trip to South America, Pope Francis shocked many Catholics, including, apparently, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, by refusing to condemn Bishop Juan Barros, who is widely assumed to have abetted clerical sex abuse in Chile. O’Malley, who is president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, chided Francis for a poor choice of words, but others reacted more bluntly. A Chilean newspaper called Francis’s visit ‘the worst of his pontificate.’” By Alex Beam, The Boston Globe

CHILD PROTECTION

Failures offer opportunity to improve protection efforts, experts say
“Failure and disappointment in the Catholic Church's response to abuse should be an impetus to reassess, refocus and rededicate oneself to improving and expanding efforts in healing and prevention, said a researcher at Rome's Center for Child Protection. For example, ‘Pope Francis' infelicitous words — experienced as a 'slap' by those who have suffered abuse — during his recent visit to Chile’ raises the question, ‘is there hope for real change in the church?’ wrote Sara Boehk, a member of the center's research team.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

CELIBACY& MARRIED PRIESTS

Meet the 71-year-old Catholic priest who wants his church to repeal the celibacy rule
(Jan. 27, 2018) “A controversial Catholic priest has claimed the vow of celibacy is one of the causes of clerical child abuse and called on the church to repeal the ancient law. Father Tony Flannery will deliver a lecture at the University of Edinburgh next month entitled ‘Celibacy, sexuality and the crisis in the priesthood’ when he will also demand the ordination of women.” By Peter Swindon, The Sunday Herald

WOMEN IN THE CHURCH

Voices of Faith’s Vatican criticism signals shift from avoiding controversy
“The decision by organizers of an annual Vatican-hosted women's storytelling event (Voices of Faith) to acknowledge a struggle to gain hierarchical approval of their planned speakers for 2018 appears to represent a significant change of approach for how best to highlight issues of inequality in the church.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Laity lead parishes, priests’ resolution urges U.S. bishops
“Priests are graying, fewer in number, with little relief in sight. That reality was the impetus for a resolution endorsed by the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, calling upon Catholic bishops in the United States to enlist the aid of lay pastoral workers to administer parishes. Passed by the association at its convention in Atlanta last June, the resolution calls upon the church to allow ‘well prepared pastoral ministers who, working collaboratively with canonical pastors, can know, guide and accompany the faithful on their journey of faith via parish communities.’” By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter

Pope revises norms for theology, philosophy studies
“Catholic university programs in philosophy, theology and canon law — especially those designed for future priests — must be marked by fidelity to church tradition, academic rigor and an awareness of the challenges to belief in the modern world, Pope Francis said. In the apostolic constitution ‘Veritatis Gaudium’ (‘The Joy of Truth’), the pope issued revised norms for what are known as ‘ecclesiastical universities and faculties’ — those that grant Vatican-recognized degrees, which are necessary for teaching most philosophy, theology and canon law courses in seminaries and pontifical universities.” By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

VATICAN

Sex abuse prevention to feature at Vatican’s family meeting
(Jan. 27, 2018) “The Vatican’s upcoming conference on families in Ireland will feature a seminar on child protection, after the church’s sex abuse scandal devastated the credibility of the Catholic Church in the country. Pope Francis’ top adviser on protecting children from pedophiles, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, will head the seminar and survivors are expected to participate, said Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican’s laity and family office. He told a Vatican press conference that details would be announced later this month.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

VOICES

What about the church’s silence?
“The choirs of outcries from Hollywood over the Harvey Weinstein scandal and those echoing globe-wide over the atrocities of USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar against children drop a question of epic proportions into the lap of the church: Why are we who preach and teach ‘the truth will set you free’ largely bound by silence regarding sexual assault and abuse?By Beth Moore, Religion News Service

Let’s all agree to ‘live in tension’
“If I had to choose a quote from our latest print issue that could serve as a motto for the whole edition, I think I'd have to go with Pope Francis' words to the Vatican diplomatic corps advising them to ‘abandon the familiar rhetoric and start from the essential consideration that we are dealing, above all, with persons.’ I was struck by the number of examples in the Jan. 25-Feb. 8 issue of people doing just that, setting aside ‘the familiar rhetoric’ and talking with folks as people.” By Dennis Coday, National Catholic Reporter

CHURCH FINANCES

Two ex-managers of Vatican bank ordered to pay damages for mismanagement
“A Vatican court found two former top managers of the Vatican bank liable for mismanagement and ordered an injunction for them to pay damages. The sentence was announced Feb. 6 by the bank, formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion, or IOR in Italian. It did not specify the amount it is seeking in damages, but the Italian news agency ANSA said the damages the bank incurred totaled about 47 million euro (about $58 million).” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

Transparency is ‘key’ to diocesan viability
“In the continued practice of full transparency, the Diocese of Bridgeport has released its Consolidated Financial Statements for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2017. The consolidated audited report is posted online on the diocesan website … ‘Transparency is key as we continue to work toward long-term financial sustainability for the diocese and continue to be good stewards of resources entrusted to us,’ said Michael Hanlon, CPA, chief financial officer of the diocese.” By Fairfield County Catholic, Bridgeport Diocesan Newspaper

Diocese lacks transparency in finances, report says
“A new study of the finances of America's Roman Catholic dioceses finds that, when it comes to openness, the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend lands in the bottom half of the ecclesiastical units. The ranking, the study's authors say, should be certainly cause for concern’ by people in the pews, according to ‘Measuring and Ranking Diocesan Online Financial Transparency’ done by Voice of the Faithful, a laity-led church reform group. ‘Absent clear and accessible financial reports ... the donated funds are more susceptible to fraudulent diversions,’ the study concludes. ‘Every Catholic shares in the responsibility to ensure that funds donated for church work actually go toward those purposes.’" By Rosa Salter Rodriguez, The Journal Gazette

First black money case against Catholic church, Cardinal George Alencherry under cloud
“A church panel probing land transactions in the archdiocese of Ernakulam has recommended action against Cardinal George Alencherry under Church and civil law for causing losses to the diocese. This is the first such recommendation — the case also involves black money — for a Catholic Church in India. Alencherry is among the Indian cardinals eligible to elect the Pope. The church panel report has been sent to Rome.” By Shaju Philip, The Indian Express

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS REFORM

Catholic Church group fights Colorado bill to reform system of reporting child abuse
“Legislation that would reform a mandatory system of reporting child abuse in Colorado is not getting support from the Catholic Church. Senate Bill 18-058 would extend the statute of limitations in cases where a person is required by law to report child abuse but fails to do so. Currently, the statute of limitations for failing to report child abuse or neglect in Colorado is 18 months, which could result in dropped charges in the recent indictment against three Cherry Creek school leaders accused of hiding allegations made by a specific student in 2013.” By Robert Garrison, TheDenverChannel.com

Lawmakers want to give sex abuse victims from decades past the chance to file suit
“Hawaii lawmakers want to give more abuse victims the chance to come forward and file civil lawsuits, no matter how much time has passed. Bills introduced in both the House and Senate failed last session, but a national movement to expose abusers and the high profile case against Kamehameha Schools could add momentum for the legislation.” By Lynn Kawano, HawaiiNewsNow.com

CLERGY CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

Sex abuse in Catholic Church blames on money, power dynamics
“In October 1992, Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O'Connor tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ sparking a huge public outcry and backlash against the artist. O'Connor said she did it to protest the widespread child abuse perpetrated by the Catholic Church. Since then, these claims against the church have been proven accurate, with numerous scandals coming to light — as well as chilling proof of coverups and payoffs.” By Diana Brown, HowStuffWorks.com

Clergy abuse plaintiffs need at least two more months to serve papers in Italy, Philippines, Guam
“Alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse have asked a federal judge to extend the time to serve legal documents to four defendants in their lawsuits, including the Capuchin Franciscans and the Congregation of Holy Cross, both in Italy.” By Haidee Eugenio, Pacific Daily News

CALIFORNIA

Encino Catholic priest under investigation for alleged ‘inappropriate contact’ with underage girl
“The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating an allegation of child annoyance involving an associate pastor at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Encino, authorities said Monday (Jan. 29). The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles removed the priest, Father Juan Cano, from ministry last week and placed him on administrative leave as a result of reports of ‘inappropriate contact’ by him involving ‘several females’ in the parish — including one who is currently a minor — according to a statement by the Archdiocese.” By Brenda Gazzar, Los Angeles Daily News

DELAWARE

Former Delaware Catholic priest charged in 25-year-old child rape case
“In a first for Delaware, prosecutors have brought criminal charges against a former Catholic priest for raping a child more than 25 years ago. John A. Sarro, 76, a former priest with the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, was indicted this week by a New Castle County grand jury on charges of first-degree unlawful sexual intercourse and second-degree unlawful sexual contact, according to court records.” By Xerxes Wilson, The News Journal

IDAHO

Retired priest arrested on charges of sexual exploitation of a child
“A retired Boise priest from St. Mary’s Catholic Church was arrested Friday (Feb. 2) on a charge of sexual exploitation of a child. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced in a press release that 72-year-old W. Thomas Faucher was transported to the Ada County Jail Friday, following an investigation and arrest by the Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children unit.” By Idaho Press-Tribune

ILLINOIS

Sister posts bond for priest accused of having child porn after judge reduces bail
“The sister of a Mascoutah priest accused of possessing child pornography posted his $25,000 bond Friday (Jan. 26) after a judge significantly reduced the man’s $2 million bail last week. The Rev. Gerald Hechenberger, associate pastor of Holy Childhood Church in Mascoutah, was booked into jail Jan. 9 on 16 charges of child pornography and one charge of possession of methamphetamine. Jail personnel confirmed Monday (Jan. 29) morning the 54-year-old priest was no longer in custody as of Friday and a bail bond receipt shows a woman named Nancy E. Rueter posted the $25,000 bond.” By Dana Rieck, Bellville News-Democrat

MASSACHUSETTS

Some lessons still to learn for the church
“For 25 years, Peter Inzerillo has been quietly directing a community chorale of ‘high-quality music’ in Leominster. In the mid-’90s, however, he was singing a different tune. Back then, as the Rev. Peter, he was busy denying claims that he sexually abused a 19-year-old teen who had turned to him for help after being abused by another priest. Those denials would ring false, however, when in 1999 the diocese paid Inzerillo’s accuser $300,000, one of the largest settlements reached by the Diocese of Worcester, which then promptly reassigned the disgraced priest to another parish.” By Dianne Williamson, Worcester Telegram & Gazette

MONTANA

Diocese has more assets for sex abuse settlements
“Attorneys representing victims of sex abuse by priests and other employees of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Great Falls-Billings argue parish money being held by the diocese should be available to pay a settlement to victims.” By Associated Press

NEW YORK

New report details abuse in Diocese of Rockville Centre
“A report released on Monday (Feb.5) by a group of attorneys seeks to compile all of the allegations of sexual abuse made against priests in the Diocese of Rockville Centre into one place so residents can more easily find out if priests in their parishes have had abuse allegations made against them, and if those allegations were credible.” By Alex Costello, Rockville Centre Patch

TEXAS

Investigation reveals secret life of pedophile priest James Brzyski
“A former Catholic priest suspected of sexually abusing as many as 100 boys in the late 70s and 80s, spent his last seven years in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where he used an alias on social media to meet young men. CBS DFW reports that James Brzyski, considered one of the worst abusers in the history of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was found dead in September in a Fort Worth motel room.” By CBS News

VIRGINIA

Catholic Sunday school teacher pleads guilty to child porn, sexual battery charges
“William L. Kerr is facing years in prison after he pleaded guilty to seven charges involving possession of child pornography and aggravated sexual battery. Kerr, 75, appeared in Staunton Circuit Court on Tuesday (Feb. 6) afternoon.” By Laura Peters, Staunton News Leader

AUSTRALIA

Australian prime minister to issue national apology for child sexual abuse
“Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he will offer a national apology to victims of institutional child sexual abuse before the end of the year. It comes after a five-year investigation by a government commission found that 7 percent of Catholic priests allegedly sexually abused children between 1950 and 2010. ‘We owe it to the survivors not to waste this moment and we must continue to be guided by their wishes,’ Turnbull told Australia's House of Representatives Thursday (Feb. 8). He said a ‘survivor-focused reference group’ would help to write the apology.” By James Doubek, National Public Radio

Former Catholic priest Vincent Gerard Ryan to face trial
“A former Hunter Catholic priest accused of sexually and indecently assaulting three young boys while he was the parish priest at St Joseph’s at The Junction and Cessnock between 1973 and 1991 will face a trial in Newcastle District Court. Vincent Gerard Ryan 79, of Ryde, appeared in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday via audio visual link from a suite in the Sydney Downing Centre court complex where he was committed to face a trial on six charges, including three counts of indecent assault, two counts of sexual assault and attempted sexual intercourse of a child.” By Sam Rigney, The New Castle Herald

Sacred Heart Mission’s Father Ernie Smith stood down over sexual abuse claims
“Shockwaves are reverberating across Melbourne’s charity sector after Sacred Heart Mission founder Ernie Smith was stood down from all priesthood duties over sexual abuse allegations. Volunteers were notified last week that the Archdiocese of Melbourne had investigated what is understood to be historical sexual abuse accusations relating to three women, one who was 17 years old at the time of the alleged offence, when Father Smith was a priest.” By Farrah Tomazin and Tammy Mills, The Age

Outgoing Sullivan has blunt message to Church leaders
“Truth, Justice and Healing Council chief Francis Sullivan has a blunt, final message to Church leaders following the completion of the royal commission into child sexual abuse. ‘There needs to be reform, renewal and refreshment in the Church,’ Mr Sullivan said. As chief executive officer of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council since 2013, Mr Sullivan is compiling a final report to be handed to the Australian bishops by the end of March.” By CathNews.com

Pedophiles abused as children ‘deserve compensation’
Pedophiles who were abused as children should still be eligible for compensation, says South Australian Commissioner for Victims' Rights Michael O'Connell. Under a proposed federal government redress scheme, victims who have been convicted of certain crimes including sex offences would not be entitled to payments, which would be capped at $150,000.” By CathNews.com

INDIA

One woman’s crusade to address India’s child sexual abuse epidemic
“One Indian woman who was abused as a child, and her inability to forget what happened 47 years ago, has forced the Indian government rethink the law on sexual abuse. Under the law as it stands, an adult survivor of sex abuse cannot report a crime. But after meeting Purnima Govindarajulu, a 53 year old conservation biologist who grew up in India but lives in Victoria, Canada, the minister of Women and Child Welfare, Maneka Gandhi, said last week that the law needs to be changed.” By Amrit Dhillon, The Age

IRELAND & NORTHERN IRELAND

Fr. Malachy Finnegan was ‘accused of 12 abuse cases’
“A Catholic diocese has settled a claim for sex abuse by a priest accused of abusing pupils at a County Down school, it has emerged. The late Fr Malachy Finnegan, a former teacher, worked in St Colman's College in Newry from 1967 to 1976. Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey, said the abuse was ‘abhorrent’ and admitted he made an ‘error’ by officiating at Fr Finnegan's funeral in 2002.” By BBC Northern Ireland

Priest accused of abuse in Ireland was sent by church to Malawi
“The Catholic Church’s St John of God order moved an Irish school principal accused of child abuse to Malawi, where he continued working with vulnerable children for almost 20 years, an investigation by the Centre for Investigative Journalism Malawi (CIJM) and Irish newspaper the Mail on Sunday (Feb. 4) has revealed. The investigation also suggests that amid mounting allegations in Ireland, the order covered up Brother Aidan Clohessy’s continued involvement with children in Malawi, where he worked between 1993 and 2012.” By Michael O’Farrell and Collins Mtika, DailyMaverick.co.za

Stormont stalemate means abuse victims dying without justice
“The largest Catholic diocese in Northern Ireland has described it as ‘deeply regrettable’ that stalemate at Stormont has prevented implementation of recommendations by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI). Following an investigation into the sexual, physical and emotional abuse, neglect and unacceptable practices imposed on children in 22 Catholic, Protestant and state run homes and institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995, a 2,300-page 12-volume report was published a year ago this month.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times

NEW ZEALAND

Abuse inquiry: ‘the government has got it right’
“The announcement that there will be a Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse suffered by wards of the state is a massive step in the right direction. It comes after years - nay - decades of denial, obfuscation, and outright vicious treatment of survivors who have summoned the courage to confront the state. This approach, sustained by successive governments and generations of bureaucrats, has added further layers of victimization on people who have already been subjected to abuse that warrants comparison with Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.” By Aaron Smale, RadioNZ.co.nz

SICILY

As Sicily abuse trial nears, it’s a case of whom to believe
“Pope Francis faced no small amount of blowback in Chile last week over a sexual abuse controversy that boils down to whom you chose to believe - victims of a pedophile priest accusing a bishop of knowing about the abuse and covering it up, or the bishop himself, who’s vigorously denied those charges.” By Claire Giangrave, Cruxnow.com