Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

Voice of the Faithful Focus, July 29, 2016

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

TOP STORIES

Documents show Vatican official allegedly stopped Minnesota investigation
“A Vatican spokesman says the release of documents alleging its former ambassador to the U.S. stopped an investigation of a Minnesota archbishop ‘is a very complex issue’ that will require further study. ‘We need more information before we can make any comment,’ the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.” By Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service
 -- Minnesota priests’ memo says Vatican ambassador tried to stifle sex abuse inquiry, By Laurie Goodstein and Richard Perez-Pena, The New York Times

Criminal charges dropped against Twin Cities archdiocese after it admits wrongdoing in abuse case
“Criminal charges against the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese were dropped Wednesday (Jul. 20) after it agreed to a revision of its civil settlement that added ‘direct and public admission of wrongdoing’ for its role in the sexual abuse of three minors by a former priest. The charges, brought last summer by Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, alleged a ‘failure to protect children’ on the part of the archdiocese in relation to three minors sexually abused in 2010 by former priest Curtis Wehmeyer.” By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter
 -- Criminal charges against Minnesota archdiocese dropped, By Catholic News Service on Philly.com

Francis mandates changes for contemplative women religious, requests revision of constitutions
“Pope Francis has issued a new wide-ranging set of guidelines for how the tens of thousands of Catholic women religious living in contemplative communities around the world should regulate their lifestyles, calling on them to implement changes in 12 diverse areas from prayer life to work habits.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

A dicastery for the laity
“A new department of the Roman Curia will come into existence on Sept. 1, called the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life. The pontifical councils for the laity and for the family will cease to exist then, and the Pontifical Academy for Life will come under the umbrella of the new dicastery. There was some surprise, however, that in the statute signed by Pope Francis on June 4, this new body is called a dicastery.” By Gerard O’Connell, America: The National Catholic Review

Pennsylvania high court denies appeal, Msgr. Lynn set for second prison exit
“A decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Tuesday (Jul. 26) opened the door for Msgr. William Lynn to exit state prison as he awaits a new trial for his role in the supervision of a sexually abusive priest of the Philadelphia archdiocese. The state Supreme Court rejected a petition from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to review an appeal court’s overturning of Lynn’s 2012 conviction for endangering the welfare of a child. Lynn, the archdiocesan secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, was the first U.S. church official convicted for his handling of sexual abuse allegations.” By Brian Roewe, National Catholic Reporter

“AMORIS LAETITIA”

Signers of document critiquing ‘Amoris Laetitia’ revealed
“An until now unpublished list of names attached to a critique of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on family life shows the signatories to include professors at diocesan seminaries, a member of a pontifical academy, and the head of the church's ecclesiastical structure in Afghanistan. The signatories had sent a letter to the world's Catholic cardinals asking them to ‘respond to the dangers to Catholic faith and morals’ from Francis' Amoris Laetitia (‘The Joy of Love’).” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
 -- Vatican ratchets up defense of pope’s family document, By Associated Press on Cruxnow.com

CELIBACY

The Catholic Church must drop celibacy for its priests or lose school funding
“The scandal of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church will not be over until the lessons of this global tragedy are recognized and acted upon. From my own experience, I am convinced that to set things right the church (for which I retain respect) must abolish the requirement for priestly celibacy. The good news is that this change can be made.” Commentary by James Miller, The Sydney Morning Herald

VOICES OF THE FAITHFUL

The only way to restore public confidence in Catholic bishops
“The revelation that the apostolic nuncio in Washington quashed an investigation into the alleged misconduct of an American archbishop is another damaging blow to the wounded credibility of the Catholic hierarchy. Nearly fifteen years after the sex-abuse scandal destroyed public confidence in the bishops’ integrity, that confidence has still not been restored—precisely because stories like this one keep bursting into the headlines … The only way to eliminate the scandal entirely is by a thorough reform of the Catholic clergy. Unfortunately, as a group the clergy—bishops included—have not yet recognized the need for that reform.” By Phil Lawler, CatholicCulture.org

A Catholic Church Reformation
“As the Archdiocese of Chicago prepares to close or combine churches, even parishes like St. John of the Cross in affluent Western Springs will feel the pain. How so? Imagine multiple-couple weddings … By his own account, the Rev. David Dowdle has a great assignment … Dowdle is pastor of St. John of the Cross in Western Springs. It's one of the largest and most prosperous parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago, situated in a quiet suburb of $1 million homes, and families with kids who go on to Ivy League and Big Ten universities. ‘My worst day,’ he says, ‘is far better than most priests' best days.’” By Brigid Sweeney, Crain’s Chicago Business

POPE FRANCIS

Aussie bishop asks, ‘Are we missing the opportunity of Francis?
“Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Australia, currently recovering from a rare autoimmune disorder, discusses the Church's sexual abuse scandals, the impact of World Youth Day, the missionary opportunities being created under Pope Francis, and more.” By Christopher White, Cruxnow.com

Framing the bottom line on opposition to Pope Francis
“Anyone with eyes can see that there’s alarm and opposition to Pope Francis out there, but trying to get a handle on how widespread or serious it may be often proves surprisingly difficult. Certainly, signs of blowback are not hard to find.” By John L. Allen, Jr., Cruxnow.com

Liberal Catholicism’s unexpected crisis
“Even as Pope Francis wins the applause of the world for giving Catholicism a friendlier face, critics have started to grumble. On social media and in opinion columns, they have drawn up a list of grievances … No, these critics aren’t the conservatives whose complaints have become a familiar feature of the pontificate, but liberal Catholics whose initial enthusiasm is now curdling into concern, even alarm.’ By Matthew Schmitz, Catholic Herald

Pope picks U.S. consultant Kim Daniels for communications body
“More than a year after he established the Secretariat for Communications, Pope Francis named 16 new members to the body whose aim is to coordinate and streamline the Holy See's multiple communications outlets. While the majority of the six cardinals, seven bishops and three laypeople he appointed are from Europe, the new members include U.S. communications consultant Kim Daniels and Mexican-born psychologist Leticia Soberon. Irish Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin was also named a member.” By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, in National Catholic Reporter

FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Catholic prophets who dare to advocate change
“Old age often deepens a person’s perspective on life. The authors of these two books are now entering their twilight years and are well-known and respected figures – one as a theologian and author, the other as Bishop Emeritus of Killaloe – which gives their testimonies a distinct and somewhat wistful resonance. Both are unabashed fans of the spirit and documents of Vatican II …” By Eamon Maher, The Irish Times

In Germany, Mass-goers, priests and sacraments all in decline
“Figures released July 15 by the German bishops’ conference draw a bleak picture of the ongoing decline of Catholicism in Germany. However, the head of the conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, described the Church July 15 as a continuing ‘strong force, whose message is heard and accepted.’ With more than 23.7 million members in Germany, Catholicism is the largest single religious group in the country, comprising 29 percent of the population. Yet people are leaving the Church in droves: in 2015, a total of 181,925 people departed.” By Anian Christoph Wimmer, Catholic News Agency, on Cruxnow.com

CHURCH FINANCES

Key figures in pope’s financial reform carry some baggage
“Pope Francis was elected in March 2013 on a reform mandate, and quickly got to work trying to clean up Vatican finances. The effort has been beset with headaches and tensions, however, and two new key figures who've faced questions marks themselves are now set to play a more prominent role.” By Ines San Martin, Cruxnow.com

Catholic priest resentenced to prison time in charity theft
“A Detroit-area Catholic priest will spend three to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to run a criminal enterprise in connection with the theft of money from a charity that helps poor people.” By Associated Press on WNEM.com

Argentine nuns ‘helped hide cash and jewels hoard’
“The Roman Catholic Church in Argentina has launched an investigation into whether four nuns helped to hide a hoard of cash and jewels. The probe leader Reverend Tom O'Donnell, said they would try ‘to determine if there was a canonical crime.’ Last month, a former government minister was arrested outside their convent near Buenos Aires. He was allegedly trying to hide almost $9m (£6.8m) in cash and jewels.” By BBC News

CLERGY CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

Sen. Leyva’s bill would protect child victims of sex abuse
“The Justice for Victims Act, which has gained traction by passing the state Senate before the summer recess and is ready to be voted on by the Assembly, gives California the chance to take a strong stance against the Catholic Church’s ongoing cover-up of child sexual abuse. Minnesota has passed a similar bill, but California’s enactment would not only protect children here but send shock waves across the country.” Guest Commentary by Robert Weiner and Katie Schulze, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Celibacy is the greatest risk to child protection in the Catholic Church: survivor
He (James Miller) writes about being sexually abused in 1978 by the late St Pius X, Adamstown, principal and Catholic priest Tom Brennan, who went on to be Maitland-Newcastle diocese Vicar-General – the Bishop’s ‘right hand man.’” By Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle Herald

Putting the “Spotlight” on Boston clergy abuse: Q&A with Walter V. Robinson
“Mr. Robinson has earned a number of journalism awards and honorary degrees. He previously served the Globe as a city editor, metro editor, White House correspondent and foreign correspondent. On July 3, I interviewed him by email about his coverage of the clergy abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.” By Sean Salai, S.J., America: The National Catholic Review

MINNESOTA

Patty Wetterling brings clout to board working to prevent clergy abuse
“A board that reviews troubled Catholic priests in the Twin Cities archdiocese — once faulted for being insular and ineffective — has a new makeup and a high-profile member: Patty Wetterling, the state’s best-known advocate for child safety.” By Jenna Ross, Star Tribune

MISSOURI

Children’s interests are not served by outing clerical abuse victims
“‘God weeps,’ Pope Francis said during his visit to Philadelphia last September. The topic was the church’s sad response to the sexual abuse of children by priests. ‘I commit to the careful oversight to ensure that youth are protected.’ Some careful oversight should be directed to the U.S. District Court in St. Louis.” By the Editorial Board, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

NEW MEXICO

Threat halted release of priests’ files in abuse cases
“The Diocese of Gallup threatened to withdraw a monetary settlement that included $21 million for victims of clerical sexual abuse if claimants insisted that the church publicly release the personnel files of accused priests, attorneys for the claimants said. Public disclosure of priest files became a ‘significant issue’ during the final months of the diocese’s 31-month bankruptcy case, said James Stang, a Los Angeles attorney who represented the 57 people who filed claims against the diocese.” By Olivier Uyttebrouck, Albuquerque Journal

PENNSYLVANIA

Former employee of Bishop Carroll Catholic High School charged with institutional sexual assault
“Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane's office today announced criminal charges have been filed against a former employee of Bishop Carroll Catholic High School accused of the sexual assault of an international exchange student. John Bowman Thornberry, 28, is also charged with the attempted sexual assault of a second international exchange student.” By Pennsylvania Attorney General on AttorneyGeneral.gov

Lawmaker, a clergy abuse victim, protests legislative inaction from cathedral steps
Standing with others who had been abused by Catholic clergy, State Rep. Mark Rozzi hurled stacks of grand jury reports onto the steps of the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul on Monday, and loudly vowed to continue trying to change Pennsylvania law so victims like himself can file suit in decades-old cases.” By Maria Panaritis, Philly.com

Editorial: Rep. Rozzi, HB 1947 not going away
“The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is learning that while a key aspect of House Bill 1947 might be going away, its biggest booster is not. State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-126, of Berks County, the man who authored the controversial language in the bill that would have retroactively extended the window for victims of child sexual abuse that occurred decades ago to sue the molesters and those that employed them, took his case to the church this week (Jul. 20).” Editorial in Delaware County Times

Archdiocese canceled my meeting with Chaput
“The meeting is off. On Tuesday (Jul. 12) morning, Philly Voice reported that John-Michael Delaney – an outspoken clergy-sex abuse victim – would meet with Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput after years of not taking the archdiocese up on its offer. Well, Delaney said that by lunchtime the same day, he’d gotten a message from archdiocesan officials asking him to return their call. After leaving six messages, he said he finally got in touch with someone.” By Brian Hickey, PhillyVoice.com
 -- Abuse victim: Chaput canceled face-to-face meeting after media attention, By Maria Panaritis, Philly.com

TEXAS

Sexual abuse investigation underway at North Richland Hills church
“An investigation into sexual abuse of youths at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church is underway, police and church officials said Sunday (Jul. 24). A letter concerning the investigation was read at a Saturday Mass and Sunday morning services at the church.” By Domingo Ramirez, Jr., Star-Telegram

CANADA

Full parole for former priest, 4 years into 11-year sentence
“A former Roman Catholic priest on Newfoundland's west coast who pleaded guilty to abusing more than a dozen boys between the ages of eight and 13 has been granted full parole after serving just over one-third of his sentence. George Ansel Smith was sentenced in March 2013 to 11 years in jail, with credit for a year spent in custody, after pleading guilty to 23 counts of indecent assault, seven counts of sexual assault and eight counts of assault with intent.” By Jeremy Eaton, CBC News Canada

IRELAND

Irish Catholic Church ‘trying to dump’ sex abuse priests on state
“Two of America’s leading Catholic child protection advocates have strongly opposed suggestions by the church that care of laicized priests convicted of child abuse ought, in certain circumstances, to be a State responsibility.” By Patsy McGarry, The Irish Times

Who watches the watchmen?
“Last month saw the publication of the final tranche of reports from the first phase of reviews by the Irish Church’s safeguarding board, and the overall picture, according to board head Teresa Devlin, is one of steady progress … An important factor in things being handled so well and so swiftly, she adds, is the decline of a culture of deference both towards and between clergy. ‘From my perspective this is good that that’s gone or going – it’s still around in some places – but it’s definitely good because priests are human beings like the rest of us, and they feel and they have to be challenged,’ she says.” By Greg Daly, The Irish Catholic

Orders should cut ties with abusive clergy, safeguarding chief says
“Religious bodies should cease financial and other support for members who have been found guilty of child sexual abuse, the head of the Church’s child protection board has said. Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Teresa Devlin, CEO of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, said ‘at some stage, once you know [a priest or brother] is guilty, then you do have to cut the ties, you cannot continue to pay for someone and at some stage the State has to take over with pensions.’” By Greg Daly, The Irish News

ITALY

Abuse victim ‘appalled at intimidation’ by church
“A British man who travelled to Verona in an attempt to forgive the Catholic missionary who sexually abused him at Mirfield seminary in Yorkshire almost 50 years ago is being prosecuted in the Italian courts on three counts of ‘trespassing, stalking and interference in private life.’ Mark Murray, 60, who filmed his encounter with Father Romano Nardo at the Verona headquarters of the Comboni missionaries in April last year, said he was ‘appalled and disgusted’ when a letter summoning him for criminal proceedings in Verona on 14 September arrived at his home in Wales last week (Jul. 17).” By Catherine Deveney, The Guardian