Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

Voice of the Faithful Focus, Aug. 9, 2012

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

NCAA Penalties Should Apply to Vatican, Too
Many were pleasantly surprised by the severity of the sanctions the NCAA placed on Penn State University following the school's release of the investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal by the law firm of former Attorney General Louis Freeh. The NCAA's measures evidenced an appropriately serious approach to unspeakable crimes. At the same time, the NCAA's aggressive sanctions contrasted sharply with the lack of appropriate response to much greater crimes on the part of Roman Catholic clergy.

LCWR 'Gathers Collective Wisdom' of Members to Discern Next Steps

ST. LOUIS -- The much-anticipated gathering of 900 U.S. Catholic sisters who make up the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) opened here Tuesday night with song, prayer, and references big, small, and in-between to the Vatican’s attempted take-over of the group. References to the Vatican’s critique of the group, which came in an April 18 announcement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, came early in the two-hour event, with LCWR president Franciscan Sr. Pat Farrell telling the assembled that “we don’t have to remind you that our gathering this week is an historic time in the life of this organization.”
 -- Keynote: LCWR 'Seed Bed' for 21st Century
 -- What LCWR Teaches Us about Church Leadership
 -- LCWR Past Presidents Reflect on Vatican Mandate
 -- LCWR to Determine Course at Next Week's Annual Meeting
 -- A Latina Nun Defends Her Sisters Accused of Straying from the Church
 -- Vatican II at Heart of Dispute between American Nuns and Catholic Church
 -- Vatican Battles with Catholic Women: Fight with Religious Group Will Help Catholicism

More Than a Hint of Hypocrisy
This is a must-read article!
The recent interview of Bishop Leonard Blair by Terry Gross, host of NPR's "Fresh Air," provided an interesting and revealing contrast to that of Sr. Pat Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, who was interviewed the week before. Listening to the two interviews was like listening to the ecclesial version of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Their language, what they view as important, what their lives are spent doing are so incredibly different that one has to wonder if any conversation, never mind dialogue, could be possible without an interpreter.

Women Will Create Change in the Catholic Church
If the Catholic Church is ever to fulfill the promise of Vatican II, it will be the women who make it happen, writes Ian Harris. If your conscience collides with authority, which will win? If you pledge loyalty to an organization, institution or country, are you bound to obey whatever the circumstances? The questions are those of the whistle-blower, the party politician, the conscientious objector - and in the United States today, the Catholic nun.

Sheboygan Priest Fr. James Connell Honored by Sex Abuse Survivors
Note: Fr. James Connell is a featured speaker and Mass celebrant at VOTF’s 10th Year Conference in Boston in September.
A Sheboygan priest and former vice chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, who has become a vocal advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse, is being honored in Chicago on Sunday at a national gathering of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Six Things Catholics Don't Know About the Church
See how many of these historical tidbits surprise you!
There are some things that everybody knows about the Catholic Church, even if you aren't a Christian. Read these six things Catholics don't know about their church and see how many surprise you. 

The Second Vatican Council Has Already Made Us Free
Over the weekend, an editor on the Internet observed that many events this year commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council "seem to be wakes, lamenting and grieving over the lost opportunity." Rather than wring our hands over what the church has become under back-to-back popes who have acted in an arrogant and authoritarian manner, we should celebrate what Vatican II has already done for us.


Are These Sisters Dangerous Women?

Our culture and the Vatican poke fun at nuns, but only because they find them threatening
It is as if the bishops, movie producers and many other opinion leaders have gone out of their way to misunderstand the work that sisters do, to willfully misunderstand them as people. It’s almost as if there is a conspiracy to belittle these women, to label them either as uppity or dotty, to laugh at them and slap them down. This is rooted in the status of nuns as outsiders.

In Praise of Older Sisters

Women Religious have done more for society than we realize
Some of the most beautiful though not often pretty people in the world are those who have spent a long life loving God and effectively serving their neighbors. And probably the best place to meet them is in a convent. There are, of course, women whose hard lives, illness, pains or other factors make them exceptions, but by and large a convent of elderly Sisters is one of the most joy-filled, lively, generous and humorous places on the planet.

Vatican Showdown the Latest Chapter in Sr. Pat Farrell's Life
Although she is at the center of one of the biggest crises in the Catholic church today, Sr. Pat Farrell is loath to talk about herself, and certainly not in any way that would make her a focus of the looming showdown between the Vatican and American nuns … But it is Farrell's own life -- a vocation that has taken her from the Iowa heartland to ministry in Pinochet's Chile and war-ravaged El Salvador and back again to Iowa -- that might be the best way to understand the root of Rome's clash with the nuns and why it might not be going away anytime soon, much as Farrell wishes it would.

Nuns of America Unite

American nuns dare challenge the Vatican. Sure, but that is not the story.
What intrigues us is the Vatican hierarchy's rationale for the fight … The rift has highlighted a deep division in how the church approaches a fundamental question: can church doctrine change in response to a changing world. The nuns clearly believe yes …


Low-Profile Seattle Archbishop Not Afraid of Controversies
Despite a glaring spotlight that's currently upon him, Seattle Roman Catholic Archbishop J. Peter Sartain remains somewhat of a mystery to many in Western Washington. But a portrait is emerging of a man who is warm, humble and kind, while at the same time a leader who can be out of touch with the lives and concerns of some in his flock … But that low profile abruptly ended this year — first with his decision to encourage parishes to gather signatures to undo the same-sex marriage law, and then, more resoundingly, with his appointment by the Vatican to oversee an overhaul of the nation's largest umbrella organization for nuns.

Bufka: Have The Pope and Bishops Abandoned The Gospel?
Many of us learned in our world history class that the Magna Carta (1215) was a monumental document that ushered in democracy. In reality it only granted nobles some special privileges. It took 500 years for the democratic movement to take place among the people. This came about for many reasons but one was the education, or shall I say enlightenment, of the ordinary people. A similar transition occurred in the Catholic Church when more than 2,000 bishops assembled at the Vatican to discuss the status of the Catholic Church in the modern world (1962-1965). The result was a number of very progressive documents which ushered in some democracy in the Catholic Church. The meeting and documents are commonly referred to as Vatican II.

Invincible Ignorance and the Bishops
Many years ago, Cardinal John O'Connor told me about "invincible ignorance" -- you can't be blamed for what you're not taught. He said point-blank that the bishops responsible for invincible ignorance are the guilty ones.  Now some of those same bishops and their successors are foundering in a sea of rhetoric, sinking by weights of their own making. They might want to talk about abortion and the rest, but nothing they say is heard.


Overflow Crowd Fills St. James Catholic Church in Lakewood to Celebrate Reopening

A shared emotion flowed through the crowd of over 1,400 worshipers Wednesday night in the reopening of St. James Catholic Church in Lakewood, Ohio. Overwhelming joy radiated from the faces of even those who had to stand outside the church for the celebration of the feast of St. James the Apostle. St. James, which was closed on June 26, 2010, by Bishop Richard Lennon as part of a diocese-wide downsizing, became the sixth of 11 area churches that successfully appealed to the Vatican to reverse their closures to reopen its doors.


Vatican's Decision Not To Remove Connecticut Priest May Play Role in Abuse Trial
The Vatican's refusal to let the Norwich diocese remove an accused pedophile from the priesthood is expected to play a role in the upcoming trial involving a New London woman who says the priest molested her when she was 12. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger received the Norwich request days before being elected pope in 2005. It's unclear, though, if Ratzinger himself decided against laicizing Father Thomas Shea, who was accused of molesting as many as 15 girls at 11 different parishes throughout the Diocese of Norwich in a career that started in 1953.


Pastor Charged with Molesting Girls
Alleged attacks date back as far as 1989, investigators say
A longtime Department of Transportation employee who also is a church pastor faces 46 felony charges after an investigation into allegations he had sexual contact decades ago with two girls who were then 8 and 10 years old.


More Men Allege Abuse by Christian Brothers
Five more men have filed claims in bankruptcy court alleging that they were sexually abused as boys while attending Southland Catholic schools operated by the Irish Christian Brothers, according to a Chicago law firm that’s representing the men. The firm — Hurley McKenna & Mertz — said it now represents 27 Chicago-area men alleging abuse by members of the order.


Call It What It Is: It's Not Adultery. It's Abuse.
A 54-year old pastor taking advantage, both sexually and emotionally, of a 16-year old girl goes far beyond the bounds of desecrating the marital bed and making immoral choices. This is a prime example of abusing the power and trust of an office. It was part of the problem at Penn State, and it is the problem in this situation.


Portland Diocese Cleared in Augusta Abuse Case
A Superior Court judge has cleared the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland in the final count of a civil lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a former city priest against a young boy. The ruling says the diocese did not fraudulently conceal information about prior acts committed by Raymond P. Melville that would have alerted the alleged victim or his family to any danger.

Carlson Sexually Abused Several Children, Victims Tell State Police
The Rev. Robert Carlson sexually abused several children over the last four decades and groomed them to be his victims, according to people interviewed by the Maine State Police during a now concluded investigation into allegations leveled against the late community leader. “There clearly were victims of sexual abuse that indicated that Bob Carlson was their abuser,” Lt. Christopher Coleman, commander of the Maine State Police’s Major Crimes Unit.

MASSACHUSETTS (Ten years later and the struggle still goes on in Boston.)

Boston Priest Faces Child Pornography Charges
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has suspended the pastor of a Boston church charged with having child pornography involving images of preteen girls on a rectory computer. The Rev. Andrzej Urbaniak, 39, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in South Boston District Court to one count each of possession of child pornography and distributing images of a child in the nude.
 -- Parishioners Shocked by Child Porn Charges against Priest
 -- South Boston Priest Downloading Child Porn When He Was Arrested

Legislature Postpones Extending Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse
A bill that would extend the period of time during which child victims of sexual abuse could file claims against their abusers stalled Tuesday night, when the formal legislative session ended with unresolved differences between House and Senate versions and concerns about the bill’s constitutionality. But advocates say they remain optimistic that a compromise can be forged in a conference committee in the coming weeks.

Court Should Have Ordered Prison for Abusive Rabbi
The sentence given to Rabbi Stanley Z. Levitt, the former religious instructor who pleaded guilty to four counts of indecent assault and battery on children, harks back to the long-discredited view that shame alone is enough to punish a prominent person who violates his position of authority. The 66-year-old Levitt was given 10 years of probation and ordered to stay away from children, register as a sex offender, and wear a GPS bracelet. It’s not enough. He should have been put behind bars.
 -- Rabbi Admits Molesting Schoolboys


Priest List Still Secret after Ruling in Minn. Sex Case
The Minnesota Supreme Court Wednesday tossed out a lawsuit by a man who claimed he was molested by a Catholic priest in the 1980s, a ruling that means a list of 46 priests in the state credibly accused of molesting children will remain secret. The 4-2 ruling reversed a Court of Appeals ruling and dismisses a lawsuit brought six years ago by Jim Keenan, 45, against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.


Sex Abuse Victims to Protest outside Nuns’ Conference
As hundreds of American Catholic nuns meeting this week in St. Louis, clergy sex abuse victims will protest outside urging them to address the under-reported issue of clergy sex crimes and cover ups by nuns. A nationwide self-help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is upset with the main organization of nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). SNAP says the LCWR “refuses to take any real steps to heal the wounded or protect the vulnerable.”

US Priest Pleads Guilty to Child Porn Charges
A Roman Catholic priest has pleaded guilty to producing child pornography in a federal case that also led to charges against the diocese bishop for failing to report suspected child abuse. Prosecutors said they would recommend that he be sentenced to life in prison.
 -- Priest Pleads Guilty to Five Child Pornography Charges

Kansas City Diocese Supports Victims in Wake of Priest's Guilty Plea
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph voiced deep sympathy for victims harmed by a diocesan priest who plead guilty in federal court Aug. 2 to child pornography charges. “The diocese expresses its profound concern for anyone who may have been harmed by Shawn Ratigan and urges prayer for all affected by his actions,” the diocese said in a statement Monday.

Prosecutors Side with SNAP in Mo. Records Case
Several prosecutors are siding with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in urging the Missouri Supreme Court to block an order requiring the group to release certain records. The issue stems from lawsuits against a Catholic priest by accusers who say they repressed memories of begin abused decades ago.


Clergy Sex Abuse Suit Has 280 Plaintiffs
New claims of sexual abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic clergy are coming from the Blackfeet Indian reservation, bringing to at least 280 the total number of plaintiffs in two lawsuits seeking damages from the diocese that oversees western Montana. One lawsuit alone has 200 plaintiffs after eight more were added Monday. Many are Native Americans who claim they were abused as children at schools, in orphanages, in church or in their homes. They say the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena knew or should have known about the abuse, but covered it up instead of stopping it. The lawsuit says 26 clergy members were involved in the abuse that stretches back to the 1940s.
 -- MT - SNAP Applauds the 200+ Victims Who Just Came Forward in MT


Comeuppance for the Church Hierarchy
The sentence should be a clear warning to church officials that criminal law, not church evasion, is the law of the land when it comes to protecting innocent children. As the scandal emerged, more than 700 rogue priests had to be dismissed in a three-year period — yet ranking diocesan clergy were never called to justice for their own obvious misdeeds in engineering systematic cover-ups.

Msgr. Lynn's Lawyers Seek Bail on Appeal
When defense lawyers go before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina on Monday to ask for bail pending appeal for Msgr. William J. Lynn, the guest of honor will not be present. The 61-year-old cleric, sentenced July 24 to 3 to 6 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of child endangerment in the landmark clergy sex abuse trial involving the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is already more than 100 miles away in the state prison at Camp Hill near Harrisburg.
 -- Judge Denies Bail for Monsignor While Archdiocese Battles Its Own Lawyers over Money for Appeal
 -- Church Official Denied Bail during Appeal; another Philadelphia Priest-Abuse Trial Scheduled


Judge Denies Catholic Diocese of Green Bay's Request to Dismiss Merryfield Case
A judge has denied another request by the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Todd and Troy Merryfield. Todd and Troy Merryfield were molested by former priest John Feeney in 1978. In May, a jury made the award saying the diocese committed fraud by not telling the Merryfields about Feeney's past history of sexual abuse. But, a judge overturned the verdict, saying a juror was not truthful during the selection process, and a new trial was ordered. No new trial date has been set.


Senior Catholic Cleric ‘Pledged Silence' on Child Abuse
One of Australia's most senior Catholic clerics allegedly told a priest facing claims he was a pedophile that any confession to child abuse would be kept between himself, the priest and the bishop.

Controversy over Clergy Abuse Takes Its Toll
The Catholic Bishop of the Ballarat diocese for the past 15 years Bishop Peter Connors has retired a year early due in part to the ongoing controversy over abuse by some members of the Catholic clergy.

Catholic Priest Goes to Police over Teacher Sex Claims
Father Kevin Lee, who caused a storm in May when he revealed that despite having been a Catholic priest for 20 years he was secretly married, told The Weekend Australian that a victim of the teacher's crimes had come to him with information and he had "taken it to police this time because I'm tired of keeping secrets for the Catholic Church".  "In the past, I've taken information about priests to the church and they've ignored it, so this time, with the teacher, I've gone to police and I'm co-operating with police."

Call to Bring Catholic Church to Account
In a car on the side of the road a man wept yesterday for the mates he has lost from St Pius X, Adamstown. Phil Crosbie, 48, of Jewells, was also angry – at the church that protected a paedophile priest, and at governments that have a responsibility to bring the Catholic church to account. ‘‘I’d like to see every one of these bastards brought to account. Even if they’re dead, I’d like to see it acknowledged what they did, or who they protected,’’ Mr. Crosbie said. ‘‘I’d like governments to act. They have a responsibility, but they don’t have the courage because it’s the Catholic church. They don’t have the ticker.’’

Calls Multiply for Inquiry into Handling of Sex Abuse
Precisely six months after the paedophile priest Denis McAlinden was reprimanded but not reported by the church over allegations of child sex abuse, Father Brian Lucas told the Wood Royal Commission that ''to engage in a cover-up … is the very worst way of approaching it''. Now Father Lucas, the general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, is one of three senior Catholic officials being investigated by police detectives over the concealment of McAlinden's offences in the 1990s.


Suits Claim N.B. Diocese Covered Priest's Sex Abuse
Lawyers representing sexual abuse victims of former New Brunswick priest Levi Noel have filed 11 lawsuits alleging that members of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bathurst covered up his crimes. A statement of claim filed Friday in the province's Court of Queen's Bench alleges clergy failed to properly respond to Noel's conduct and promoted "a culture of secrecy with respect to the sexual misconduct of clergy which was intended to benefit the diocese rather than stop the misconduct or assist the victims."


Priest Puts Case for Female Cardinals
Women who have made a proven contribution to society, such as former president Mary McAleese or advocate for the homeless Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy, should be considered as future cardinals, according to a leading Catholic priest. In his new book, Fr. Brendan Hoban, one of the founding fathers of the Association of Catholic Priests, says that the Church hierarchy has to start addressing the consequences of the lack of vocations in the Church.

Catholic Church Facing 'Eucharistic Famine' Due to Shortage of Priests
The Irish Catholic Church is facing “a Eucharistic famine” unless it addresses seriously the shortage of priests, Fr. Brendan Hoban has warned. A member of the leadership of the Association of Catholic Priests, he said yesterday “there is a danger that in 20 years’ time there will be no priests at all in Ireland,” which would mean no Mass and no Eucharist.

Martin Needs to Offer Hope and Solutions
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is without doubt the most impressive and respected prelate in the country. This is so chiefly because he has said what the public wants to hear, and needs to hear, on the issue of clerical abuse. But he has not only said what needs to be said, he has also done what needs to be done.

Lay Organization for Catholics to Promote 'Spirit of Vatican II'
A new lay organization for Irish Catholics has been set up to promote “the letter and spirit of Vatican II”. Its interim title is to be the Association of Catholics in Ireland. A draft statement of objectives says it is committed to “the renewal of the Catholic faith in the changed and changing circumstances of the 21st century and to the reform of the institutional church which, at this time, is experiencing conflict, crisis and lack of credibility.”


Vatican and LCWR, a Fired Archbishop and Getting Boko Haram Right
The summer lull affords a chance to catch up on recent stories that haven't gotten quite the attention they deserve. They include a break-out interview with the Vatican's new doctrinal czar, the curious case of a fired Slovakian archbishop and a counterintuitive view on the militant Islamic Boko Haram movement in Nigeria from one of Africa's brightest Catholic stars. Here's a teaser: One of these stories raises the provocative question of whether sweatpants on a bishop are a sign of trouble.

The Vatican's Real Communication Problem
“Smart move.” That’s how many loyal Catholics reacted to the announcement that the Vatican had hired a veteran American newsman as a consultant to grapple with its communication problems. In many respects, the reaction was correct. As an experienced professional with Fox News and Time, and a serious Catholic, Greg Burke is an excellent choice for a tough assignment. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
 -- There's No Business Like the PR Business


Seminarian Screening Aims to Prevent Abuse
Psychological screening can't provide a 100 percent guarantee that once ordained, a man won't subsequently abuse children, said [psychologist Thomas] Plante, who has screened nearly 700 seminarians. But it goes a long way toward ensuring that only men who are emotionally healthy and least likely to engage in aberrant sexual behavior are admitted to the priesthood.

Open the Windows Again
A half-century after Vatican II, the Catholic Church could use some fresh ideas. The polio vaccine was not my idea. Nor was the Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church. The first idea protected my physical health. The second idea continues to protect and preserve my Catholic faith. Perhaps the documents generated by the Second Vatican Council and the direction it charted for the Catholic Church may not have held all the answers to the grave questions that now confront the institution. One fact, however, is indisputable. A steady flow of fresh air through the windows of the Church couldn't hurt.

Boy Scout Files Reveal Repeat Child Abuse by Sexual Predators
For nearly a century, the Boy Scouts of America has relied on a confidential blacklist known as the "perversion files" as a crucial line of defense against sexual predators. Scouting officials say they've used the files to prevent hundreds of men who had been expelled for alleged sexual abuse from returning to the ranks. They've fought hard in court to keep the records from public view, saying confidentiality was needed to protect victims, witnesses and anyone falsely accused.

Penn State Case Bad, But Church Sex Abuse Worse
I didn't have much sympathy for people who complained about the punishment the NCAA doled out to Penn State, until I discovered how an even larger institution in the Keystone State has escaped punishment for shielding dozens of pedophiles in its midst.

The Church Boom That Never Happened
This month commemorates the twentieth anniversary of a grim turning point in American religious history. Since the mid-1980s, sporadic court cases had drawn attention to the problem of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests, but the general public had no real sense that the problem was widespread or systematic. In 1992, though, the victims of former Massachusetts priest James Porter went public with their allegations, which became the focus of a sensational exposé that July on ABC's Primetime Live.


Michelle Martin, Belgium Pedophile Marc Dutroux's Ex-Wife, To Be Released From Prison
It may be hard to find a darker story of abuse than this one
The ex-wife of a notorious pedophile who aided her husband's horrific abuse and murder of young girls – and who let two children starve to death while her husband was in jail – was approved Tuesday in Brussels for early release from prison, infuriating the victims' parents and reopening a dark chapter in Belgian history.

Curl-Burke Founder Rick Curl Faces Hearing on Former Swimmer’s Account of Underage Sexual Relationship in 1980s
Prominent Washington area swimming coach Rick Curl took a leave of absence from the club he founded Wednesday in the wake of accusations that he engaged in a sexual relationship with a teen swimmer and then paid her and her parents to keep quiet as part of a settlement.