Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

Voice of the Faithful Focus, Jan. 8, 2015

Highlighting issues we face working together
                            to Keep the Faith, Change the Church

TOP STORIES

Francis exhorts Vatican prelates to be more mature, recognizes ‘smallness’ of work
Pope Francis has strongly urged the bishops and cardinals who head the various Vatican offices to act with more respect, honesty and maturity -- and has told them that reform of the church's central bureaucracy will go forward ‘with determination, clarity, and firm resolve.’” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
 -- Pope Francis declares list of ‘needed virtues’ for Catholic Church, By Stephanie Kirchgaessner, The Guardian

Archdiocese of St. Paul settles complaint on child abuse
“The Roman Catholic archdiocese here has reached an agreement with prosecutors in a civil case accusing church officials of failing to protect children from sexual abuse. The unusual settlement, announced Friday (Dec. 18) in a Ramsey County courtroom, calls for more transparency when claims of child sexual abuse are raised and would allow prosecutors and courts to monitor the church’s progress on such matters for three years.” By Todd Nelson and Monica Davey, The New York Times
 -- Settlement reached in St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese civil case, By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter

Financial misconduct in parishes is all too common
“Behind the sensational headlines about a New York priest accused of pilfering church coffers to pay for an extravagant lifestyle – ‘Priest paid his male ‘sex master’ from collection plate: lawsuit,’ as the New York Post put it — is the surprisingly common accusation of a trusted employee or volunteer stealing cash from a parish.” By Michael O’Loughlin, Cruxnow.com

Church now has zero tolerance to sex abuse
“The Catholic Church in India is aiming for a cleaner image this new year as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has decided to deal with priests accused of sexual abuse through severe punishments, including defrocking them.” By Cithara Paul, The New Indian Express

Philadelphia DA wants court to rehear monsignor’s case
“Despite losing on appeal twice, Philadelphia’s district attorney says he will continue to fight to keep a Roman Catholic church official who will soon be eligible for parole in prison over his handling of sex-abuse cases.” By Associated Press on Cruxnow.com
 -- Appeals court vacates Philadelphia monsignor’s conviction, orders new trial, By Ralph Cipriano, National Catholic Reporter

The top 10 stories of a busy Pope from 2015
“Pope Francis is the dictionary definition of an activist pontiff, constantly saying and doing things that stir hearts, raise eyebrows, and generally capture public interest. He’s so dynamic, in fact, that often there’s no time to absorb one bombshell before another goes off. Here’s a rundown of the 10 biggest papal headlines of 2015, all of which seemed hard to top at the time, and all of which now risk being overwhelmed by whatever happens in 2016.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com

ACCOUNTABILITY

Another Catholic scandal?
“New York City's faithful Catholics were disheartened yet again as they picked up their daily newspapers December 11th to read the front page headlines--replete with pictures--of a priest accused of involvement in a sex scandal.” By Dr. Anne Hendershott, Huffington Post

Philadelphia archdiocese removes priest – again
“An Archdiocese of Philadelphia priest who had been temporarily removed in the wake of the sweeping 2011 investigation into clergy sex abuse then reinstated has again been removed from active ministry. The Rev. Steven Harris, most recently the pastor of St. Bridget Church in East Falls, has been put on administrative leave by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.” By Laura McCrystal, Philadelphia Inquirer

BISHOPS

Cardinal Donald Wuerl: the Pope’s man in Washington
Cardinal Donald Wuerl is an eminently approachable Churchman, and unfailingly polite, yet the archbishop of Washington is hardly the type to wear his emotions on his sleeve. So it surprised even Wuerl at how moved he was when he hand-delivered his official letter of resignation to Pope Francis’ representative to the United States on Nov. 12. That was Wuerl’s 75th birthday, the date every bishop is required to submit his request for retirement to the pontiff.” By David Gibson, Religion News Service, on Cruxnow.com

SYNOD OF BISHOPS ON THE FAMILY

The countdown is on for Pope Francis’ big decision on the family
“Pope Francis celebrated a Mass for the Holy Family on Sunday (Dec. 27), designed as a reminder of the spiritual and pastoral importance of the family in the context of his Holy Year of Mercy … In terms of Church politics, however, Sunday’s Mass was also a reminder that we’re on a countdown to perhaps the biggest decision of Francis’ papacy, on a question that arises directly from his two recent Synods of Bishops on the family.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com

‘SPOTLIGHT’ THE MOVIE

Alaska can learn from new movie ‘Spotlight’ how to bring abuse out of the shadows
“The new Star Wars movie has grabbed everyone’s attention. However, there is another must-see movie – ‘Spotlight’ … While the church lays at the center of the scandal, the movie lays clear that the blame falls on all the members of the community who saw the signs and refused to acknowledge them. We won’t learn any specific strategies or solutions to prevent child abuse from this film, but it does teach one very important lesson about stopping it from happening: refusing to let it exist in the dark.” By Trevor Storrs, Alaska Dispatch News

Taking Responsibility

“‘Spotlight’ deserves the high praise of reviewer Maurice Timothy Reidy (America “Big Dig,” 11/16). He thoughtfully reflects that the film ‘in its own way calls on all Catholics to take responsibility for the church.’ A few Catholics tried hard to do just that, notably through the group Voice of the Faithful.” By David O’Brien, Worcester, Mass., in “Reply All” letters-to-the-editor section of Dec. 21-28, 2015, America magazine

POPE FRANCIS

Pope Francis to receive Germany’s Charlemagne Prize
“Pope Francis was selected to be the 2016 recipient of Germany’s Charlemagne Prize for his commitment in promoting European unity. The announcement was made Wednesday  (Dec. 23) in Aachen, Germany by the prize’s executive committee.” By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service, on Cruxnow.com

Pope Francis faces a real dilemma in ‘Vatileaks2.0’
“In a Christmas audience with Vatican employees and their families on Monday (Dec. 21), Pope Francis issued an unusually blunt mea culpa: ‘I want to apologize for the scandals that there were in the Vatican,’ he said, referring to 2015.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com

Pope Francis wraps up a big year, prepares for a ‘year of mercy’
Pope Francis had a very busy year. He traveled to Asia, South and North America and Africa. He issued a major environment document and chaired a contentious bishops' meeting on family issues. One of the world's most popular figures continued to champion the poor, reform the Vatican and spark debates within and outside the Church.” By Sylvia Poggioli, National Public Radio

Pope celebrates his 79th birthday as popular as ever—but with criticism
Pope Francis entered his 80th year on Thursday (Dec. 17) amid hopes among his critics that it will be his last — at least as pope. While Francis remains enormously popular among most rank-and-file Catholics, a small but vocal group of conservatives who have never much cared for his radical agenda have grown increasingly strident in criticizing the pope now that there is little doubt left about his priorities.” By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press, on Cruxnow.com

FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Bishop of Providence says number of priests declining
“The Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence says a declining number of priests could mean changes for some parishes next year.” By Associated Press on Cruxnow.com

Judge grants parishioners 90 days for hail Mary effort to save Scituate church
“Judge Raymond Brassard of Norfolk Superior Court granted parishioners of St. Frances X Cabrini Church in Scituate a chance to file their case with the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday (Dec. 21). The filing with the highest court in America will be the last battle in an 11-year fight to stop the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston from closing their church.” By Charlotte Wilder, Boston.com

Cardinals agree to focus on decentralization of Catholic Church at meeting of C9
“Pope Francis and his cardinal advisers are to focus their reforming efforts on Church decentralization. The Council of Cardinals - known as the C9 - concluded their twelfth meeting from 10-12 December and announced they will dedicate a special session to the topic at their next gathering on the 8-9 February. The group recognized the importance of a speech the Pope gave during the Synod on the Family on 17 October where he reflected on collegiality, the notion of all bishops sharing in the governance the Church, and ‘the need to proceed with a healthy decentralization.’” By Christopher Lamb, The Tablet

CHURCH FINANCES

Bronxville police investigating Catholic church collection robbery
“Bronxville police are asking for the public’s help as they continue investigating a pair of suspects that made off with thousands of dollars from a Catholic Church over the holidays. During the 5 p.m. mass on New Year’s Eve, shortly after the traditional collection, two “well-dressed” suspects snuck behind the alter at St. Joseph’s Church, into the sacristy room, stealing the bag of cash before it could be secured in a safe.” By Zak Failla, Bronxville Daily Voice

Journalist defends Vatican exposé
“Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of the book ‘Merchants in the Temple,’ discusses his Vatican exposé. The allegations include using charitable donations to plug financial holes and accepting money from Philip Morris International in exchange for promoting cigarette products. Nuzzi is now on trial for using illicit means to obtain the documents.” Interview of Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of “Merchants in the Temple,” on BBC World Service

French priest hides in confessional to catch collection box thief
“A French Catholic priest infuriated by years of thefts from his church’s collection box finally put an end to the plunder by hiding in a confessional just before Christmas and catching the culprit red-handed.” By Rory Mulholland, The Telegraph

Settlement pending in Gallup, N.M., bankruptcy
“After recently beginning its third year in bankruptcy court, racking up more than $3.2 million in bankruptcy costs and participating in three court-ordered mediations, the Gallup diocese is on the verge of brokering a settlement with clergy sex abuse claimants.” By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola, National Catholic Reporter

Vatican’s ex-number two seeks to make amends for hospital scandal
“An Italian cardinal whose penthouse apartment was reportedly renovated using funds from a Vatican-owned children's hospital is making a large donation for medical research in a bid to make amends, the hospital's president said Saturday (Dec. 19). Bambino Gesu Hospital President Mariella Enoc told reporters that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone is donating 150,000 euros ($165, 000) for research on orphan diseases.” By Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press

Migrant-saving bishop ‘embezzled €180k’
“A Sicilian bishop, renowned for his solidarity towards the migrants landing on the island's shores, is being probed for allegedly embezzling huge sums of Church money. Bishop Domenico Mogavero, who oversees the diocese of Mazara Del Vallo near Trapani, was questioned on Thursday (Dec. 17) as part of an investigation into the illegal use of diocese funds between 2010 and 2011, Corriere della Sera reported.” By The Local

CLERGY CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

Settlement brings court oversight
“The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office in Minnesota announced a landmark civil settlement with the Archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis related to a civil case that alleged grave breakdowns in the archdiocese’s child protection policies. According to County Attorney John Choi, the primary objective of the settlement is to transform the organizational culture of the archdiocese ‘into one that is vigilant about ensuring that no child will ever again become the victim of clergy sex abuse.’” By Catholic News Service staff and other sources in America

Catholic Church isn’t doing enough to stop child abuse
“The Catholic Church continues to struggle with the crisis originating from its widespread and at least decades long practice of allowing child molesters within its midst to escape justice for their crimes. In a number of cases the failure to take responsibility for the actions of their clergy went as far as allowing abusive priests to continue to work with young children vulnerable to attack. The severity of the public backlash with both Catholics and non-Catholics may have even contributed to the abrupt departure of Pope Benedict XVI, who left office with just 43% of Americans viewing him favorably.” By Roy Speckhardt, Huffington Post

CONNECTICUT

Priest who led New Haven orphanage cleared of sex abuse charge by Hartford archdiocese
“A Roman Catholic priest who was accused of child sexual abuse as director of the St. Francis Home for Children in New Haven in the 1990s has been cleared of the charge by the Archdiocese of Hartford. The Rev. Jeremiah N. Murasso has returned to his parishes of Blessed Sacrament Church and the Shrine of St. Anne in Waterbury. He was director of the St. Francis orphanage, also known as Highland Heights, from 1992 to 1995. The home closed in 2012 after 160 years.” By Ed Stannard, New Haven Register

KENTUCKY

Trial scheduled for Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing children
“An area Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing children goes before a judge. Father Joseph Hemmerle appeared before a Meade County judge Thursday morning, Dec. 17, during a pretrial conference.” By WHAS-TV, Meade Country, Kentucky

MAINE

Six men claim Maine Catholic diocese concealed report about abuse priest
“Six men who claim they were sexually abused between 1956 and 1977 by the Rev. James Vallely, who is now deceased, have sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland claiming the bishop at the time knew the priest was abusive and fraudulently concealed it. The complaints, dated Nov. 20, 2015, were filed in Cumberland County Superior Court, according to Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston attorney representing them.” By Judy Harrison, Bangor Daily News
 -- Lawsuit filed against Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland claiming abuse by clergy, By Chris Rose, WCSH-TV

MICHIGAN

New sexual abuse lawsuit filed against Diocese of Winona
“A new lawsuit has been filed against the Diocese of Winona on behalf of a man who said he was abused by a priest in 1962. The lawsuit says the victim, who was a parishioner and student at St. Mary’s Catholic Church and School, was abused by the Rev. Richard Hatch when the victim was 13-14 years old.” By Jennie Lissarrague, ABC-TV News

MISSOURI

Man files sexual abuse lawsuit against former Roeland Park priest
“A Missouri man has filed a sexual abuse lawsuit against a priest who formerly worked at a Roeland Park church. The suit, filed earlier this week, says that in the mid-1980s, a St. Agnes Catholic Parish priest abused the victim, who was then between 15 and 17 years old. The suit says the cleric held parties at a Table Rock lake house, where he provided liquor to minors and sexually abused them, at times taking the victim on trips to California, Hawaii and the Cayman Islands.” By Ian Cummings, The Kansas City Star

NEW HAMPSHIRE

After months of digging, investigators uncover church abuse, then turn up the heat
“When Will Delker and Jim Rosenberg of the attorney general’s office began (in 2002) sifting through pages from what they called the Secret Archives – two filing cabinet drawers filled with evidence of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the state’s Catholic church – they knew what they had to. They had to find victims named in the documents and persuade them to come forward. Many had not uttered a word about their ordeal for decades, not to a sibling, a spouse, anyone.” By Ray Duckler, Concord Monitor

NEW YORK

Rockland priest abuse: Dolan sends rep to Mass
“Parishioners at St. Margaret of Antioch Church will notice something missing at Mass Sunday morning: their pastor. Rockland County authorities are prepared to probe Msgr. John O'Keefe, who has been accused of sexually abusing a child more than 30 years ago.” By Jane Lerner and Michael O’D’Onofrio, The Journal News

PENNSYLVANIA

Retrial date set for ex-priest accused of trying to rape teen
“A former Roman Catholic priest from Philadelphia has a new retrial date on accusations that he tried to rape a 14-year-old boy about two decades ago. James Brennan was one of five people originally charged following a grand jury investigation into how the Archdiocese of Philadelphia dealt with child sex-abuse complaints.” By Associated Press on Cruxnow.com

Catholic priest removed from priesthood over child pornography
“The Vatican has defrocked a Pittsburgh-area Roman Catholic priest who was removed from public ministry in 2009 after being accused of child sex abuse.” By Associated Press on Cruxnow.com

Former Catholic priest pleads guilty to viewing child porn
“A former Catholic priest accused of taking inappropriate pictures of students at his school is facing nearly three years in federal prison for viewing child pornography on a computer.” By CBS-TV News, Louisville

AUSTRALIA

Catholic Church’s ‘ticking time bombs’ set to detonate
“The Catholic Church knew it had pedophile 'time bombs' in its midst. It not only let them keep ticking away but also covered up the pedophiles’ evil deeds to protect its reputation. The extent of the cover-up is still being dissected by the child abuse royal commission but victims advocacy group Broken Rites spokesman Dr Wayne Chamley expects its report will be absolutely scathing of the Catholic Church.” By Megan Neil, Adelaide Independent News

Abuse hearing dates revealed
“Dates for the next public hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Ballarat have been announced. The third part of public hearings into child sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy within Ballarat institutions will be held at the Ballarat Magistrates Court from February 22 to 26.” By Melissa Cunningham, The Courier

15-year sex abuse battle settled with Catholic Church
“A family that has been battling for 15 years for compensation after their disabled son was abused by a South Australian Catholic school volunteer in the 1980s has settled its claim with the church.” By Michael Owen, The Australian

Get Pell: the facts behind the Royal Commission headlines
“In this past week, we heard news that Cardinal George Pell’s testimony before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse would be delayed after his treating cardiologist deemed it unsafe for him to take the long-haul flight back to Australia. The news prompted the expected reaction from mainstream and social media, with skepticism, scorn and derision being the most popular responses.” By Monica Doumit, Australian Catholic Weekly

Truth must rise above all
“A survivor likened the Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse to peeling back the layers on an onion. Each time you peel back a layer, there is another underneath but slowly and steadily you move closer to the core of it. To the truth. With each layer another survivors emerges from out of the darkness with their own story to tell.” By Melissa Cunningham, The Courier

IRELAND

Catholic priest cleared of abuse allegations returns to duties
“A Catholic priest cleared of abuse allegations more than three years ago has returned to his duties in Northern Ireland. Fr John McManus stepped aside from his Co Down parish in March 2011 during a police investigation. The following year, the Public Prosecution Service concluded he had no case to answer.” By Belfast Telegraph

Archbishop criticized for ‘vilifying’ clergy in abuse inquire
“The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, ‘vilified’ members of the clergy who were criticized by the Commission of Investigation into the handling of child abuse allegations by the Dublin archdiocese, a leading priest has said. The criticism by Fr Tony Flannery comes just days after a bishop and a priest defended the reputation of Auxiliary Bishop Dermot O’Mahony – a figure who was severely criticized by the inquiry – at his funeral.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times