Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

Voice of the Faithful Focus, Mar. 13, 2014

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

TOP STORIES

Pope Hits Out at Criticism of Church over Sexual Abuse
Pope Francis has strongly defended the Roman Catholic Church's record on tackling sexual abuse by priests. In a rare interview with an Italian newspaper, the Pope said ‘no-one else has done more’ to root out pedophilia. He said the Church had acted with transparency and responsibility, yet it was the only institution to have been attacked. Last month, the UN strongly criticized the Vatican for failing to stamp out child abuse and for allowing cover-ups.” By BBC News Europe
 -- English Translation of Pope’s Interview, On Zenit.org
 -- Deeply Disappointed in Pope Francis’ Recent Comments on Clergy Child Sexual Abuse, By Voice of the Faithful
 -- Editorial: Francis, You Must Meet Victims of Clergy Abuse, By National Catholic Reporter
 -- Pope Francis on Abuse – A Disappointment, By Fr. Thomas Doyle, National Catholic Reporter
-- Pope’s First Year of Papacy Has Been a Failure on Child Abuse, By Keith Porteous Wood, Huffington Post
 -- Pope Francis vs. Critics on Sex Abuse: Both Sides Have a Point, By John L. Allen, Jr., The Boston Globe
 -- Pope Francis Dodges, Weaves and Wobbles on Child Sexual Abuse, By Patrick Wall
 -- Pope Francis Defends Church’s Response to Clergy Sexual Abuse, By Jason Breslow, PBS FRONTLINE
 -- Pope Francis and Clergy Sexual Abuse in Argentina, Including a Database of Publicly Accused Argentine Clerics, By BishopAccountability.org

What’s the State of the Church’s Child Abuse Crisis
“He (Bishop Robert Finn, convicted in 2012 of failing to inform police about a priest with child pornography on his computer) is still the bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, in good standing with the Catholic Church. That, say former priests and victims’ advocates, represents the state of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church today.” By Sarah Childress, PBS FRONTLINE

Francis Must Act Faster on Abuse Issue
“What it (the Catholic Church) has not yet done is take steps to tell the full truth and to address the impunity of high church officials … To demonstrate resolve at the highest levels that zero tolerance is a permanent part of the church culture, the mandate of this new commission must also include establishing disciplinary procedures for bishops and chancery officials who obstruct or ignore the enforcement of church law on clergy sex abuse.” Editorial in National Catholic Reporter

The Papal Anniversary
In this editorial, The New York Times briefly presents its view of the first year of Pope Francis’ papacy. The editorial board points out particularly Francis’ comments on women’s roles in the church, clergy sexual abuse, the need for greater provisions of pastoral care and world poverty.

SYNOD ON THE FAMILY

Irish Bishops Decide Not to Publish Responses to Synod Questionnaire
“Irish bishops have come in for sharp criticism after deciding they will not publish the results of the Vatican survey on the family. The key findings from Irish Catholics on issues like premarital sex, homosexuality, and Communion for the divorced and remarried will remain under wraps before a synod, a meeting of the world's bishops that Pope Francis has called for later this year.” By Michael Kelly, National Catholic Reporter

Some U.S. Dioceses Report Results of Questionnaire
“Lay Catholics who were given the chance to respond to a Vatican questionnaire on family-related issues greeted the opportunity with relish, but it may be that laypeople in just over a third of the nearly 200 Catholic dioceses in the U.S. were given that opportunity.” By Michael O’Loughlin, National Catholic Reporter

Fundamental Flaws in the Synod on the Family
“The Extraordinary Synod on the Family scheduled for October has captured the attention of the faithful like no other synod … One can only hope that in the run up to the synod, there will be more consultations that include representatives of families to provide inputs and insights.” By Dr. Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, ucanews.com

CLERICALISM

Newark Archbishop’s Pricey Retirement Home Spurs Backlash as Parishioners withhold Donations
“Two weeks after The Star-Ledger disclosed that Archbishop John J. Myers is building a 3,000-square-foot addition on the expansive home where he will spend his retirement, it appears the work will cost the archdiocese far more than the $500,000 allotted for construction. Parishioners, infuriated by what they call a tone-deaf show of excess at a time when Catholic schools are closing and when the pope has called on bishops to shed the trappings of luxury, say they’re cutting off contributions entirely or sharply curtailing them.” By Mark Mueller, The Star-Ledger

Some Catholic Leaders Need to Follow Pope Francis’ Lead

“Earlier this year, a Catholic middle school in Montana fired an unmarried teacher after she became pregnant. The superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese defended the decision with a cold legalism that would have made those letter-of-the-law Pharisees Jesus called to task proud.” By John Gehring, former USCCB assistant director of media relations, in National Catholic Reporter

FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Francis Has Changed American Catholics’ Attitudes, But Not Their Behavior, a Poll Finds
“One year into the era of Pope Francis, a new poll has found that a broad majority of American Catholics say he represents a major change in direction for the church, and a change for the better. But his popularity has not inspired more Americans to attend Mass, go to confession or identify as Catholic — a finding that suggests that so far, the much-vaunted ‘Francis effect’ is influencing attitudes, but not behavior.” By Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times

Vatican Office Calls Religious Sisters, Priests to Live Poorly, Reject Capitalism
“The Vatican office responsible for the approximately 900,000 priests and brothers and sisters in religious orders around the world called on them this weekend (Mar. 8-9) to re-evaluate their holdings of wealth and to issue critiques of the global market capitalist economy, calling it unjust to the world's neediest.” By Joshua McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

National Churches Should Stand Up to Almighty Vatican, Says Cardinal

“A senior German Cardinal has called on national churches to speak up more courageously in their dialogue with Rome, claiming that their lack of courage has made Rome ‘over-powerful.’” By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, National Catholic Reporter

What It Means to Be Catholic Now
“One year into his astonishingly popular papacy, Pope Francis has become the perfect divining rod for uncovering assumptions about the future of the Catholic Church.” By Peter Manseau, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times

NEW POPE: AT THE ONE-YEAR MARK

Many Points of Praise for Pope’s First Year
“One year ago Thursday (Mar. 13), a relatively obscure prelate from Argentina made his debut as the new leader of the world’s oldest Christian church, stepping out onto the fabled balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square and joking that his brother cardinals had gone to ‘the end of the earth’ to find a pope. For an institution legendary for taking itself rather seriously, that flash of humor alone communicated that this wasn’t going to be your grandfather’s kind of pontiff.” By John L. Allen, Jr., The Boston Globe
 -- A Year On, Pope Francis Faces Challenges Meeting Reform Hopes, By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor, Reuters
 -- U.S. Catholics More Hopeful Than Expectant of Changes to Church Teachings, By Michael Lipka, Pew Research Center
 -- A Year with Pope Francis, By The Editors at America magazine
 -- Francis Marks Anniversary with Interview on Sex Abuse, Women, Contraception, By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter
 -- Benedict XVI Is Not a Statue: Participates in the Life of The Church, Bergoglio and the First Year as Pope, By Corriere Della Sera

To Understand Pope Francis, Look to the Jesuits
“Figuring out why Pope Francis has upended so many expectations, how exactly he’s changed the Catholic Church in his first year and what he might be contemplating for the future has become a Catholic parlor game that is almost as popular as the pontiff himself. A single key can best answer all of these questions: Francis’ longstanding identity as a Jesuit priest.” By David Gibson, Religion News Service
 -- Pope Francis: Still a Jesuit, By James Martin, S.J., America magazine

In His Second Year, Pope Faces Expectations That Change Is Coming
“Pope Francis marks the first anniversary of his papacy on Thursday (Mar. 13) having become so globally celebrated that he recently felt compelled to deflate his own “superman” aura … Year 2, however, is likely to prove more challenging, if partly because of Francis’s own success.” By Jim Yardley, The New York Times

How to Really Measure the ‘Francis Effect’

“In some ways, the ‘Pope Francis effect’ doesn't seem very effective at all. Despite the immense popularity the aged Argentine has won since his election last year, not a jot of doctrine has changed, nor has the Catholic Church swelled with American converts. But there's more than one way to measure a pontiff's influence on his far-flung flock … ‘He's sent us an invitation,’ says Mark Mullaney, president of Voice of the Faithful, a Boston-based reform group born in the wake of the sex abuse scandal. ‘And now many of us are deciding whether to come to the party.’” By Daniel Burke, CNN

Pope Francis’ Plan for Reform: Convert the Church
“As Pope Francis approaches the one-year mark of his papacy, his global flock and a fascinated public are starting to measure the changes he is making against the sky-high hopes for transforming an institution many thought impervious to change.” By David Gibson, Religion News Service

Pope Francis Is Making More Catholics Excited about Faith, But Actions Slow to Follow
(Mar. 6, 2014) “In the year since he was elected, Pope Francis has become the most talked-about person on the Web … Still, he appears not to have had much impact on the number of Americans attending Mass, converting to Catholicism, giving to Catholic charities and other conventional measures, according to interviews with a wide range of U.S. church leaders, experts and other Catholics as well as early data released Thursday (Mar. 6) by the Pew Research Center.” By Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post

Pope Francis: The Church Needs Better Bishops; Go Find Them
“In another strongly worded message to the Catholic hierarchy, Pope Francis on Thursday (Feb. 27) told the Vatican body that vets nominees for bishops that they need to find him better candidates to send to dioceses around the world.” By David Gibson, Religion News Service

CHURCH FINANCES

Pope Francis’ Lay Finance Expert Vows ‘No More Scandals’
“A Maltese economist tapped by Pope Francis to help lead a new finance council says the pope’s reforms will ensure that the sort of scandal which erupted last summer, involving a Vatican accountant allegedly enmeshed in a John le Carré-esque plot to smuggle millions in cash, becomes a thing of the past.” By John L. Allen, Jr., The Boston Globe

Following the Money, Part 2
“Pope Francis seems to be doing everything he can to remind Catholics that they are buried holding rosary beads, not checkbooks. The spring cleanup has begun in Rome … Francis even recently called for a meeting of religious orders' money managers. Will any of this make any difference? And whose money is it anyhow?” By Phyllis Zagano, National Catholic Reporter

Priest Accused of Stealing Thousands of Dollars from Westmorland County Parish
“A Roman Catholic priest was arraigned today on charges he stole thousands of dollars across three years from a Westmoreland County church where he served as pastor.” By Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Francis Convenes Religious Institute Treasurers for Summit on Use of Money

“Pope Francis has asked the treasurers of the thousands of Catholic religious orders around the world to meet in Rome this weekend (Mar. 8-9) to discuss how they can use their orders' financial assets ‘for the service of humanity.’ The first-of-its-kind summit puts an unusual focus on the wealth of the orders.” By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter

Dutch Catholic Church Has Spent Three Million Euros on Compensating Abuse Victims
“The sexual abuse scandal has so far cost the Dutch Catholic church over eight million Euros in research costs and compensation payments to victims. Most of the money has gone on the massive research project led by Wim Deetman into the scale of the problem.” By DutchNews.nl

Priest Held over 500,000 Euro Theft from His Order

“A priest has been arrested by gardai investigating the theft of more than €500,000 from his religious order. It follows a six-month investigation by a team of detectives into complaints of theft, which allegedly took place over a 13-year period. The cash was allegedly taken from the order by making false claims for Mass stipends.” By Tom Brady, Irish Independent

Woman Facing Charges after Catholic Parish financial Audit
“A woman was in provincial court in St. John’s today to face charges of fraud, theft and forgery related to the Roman Catholic St. Patrick’s Parish in St. John’s.” By The Telegram

WOMEN IN THE CHURCH

Cardinal Kasper Proposes Appointing Women as Heads of Pontifical Councils
“In his interview with Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, Cardinal Walter Kasper suggests putting women at the helm of the pontifical councils. According to the cardinal who is against careerism in the Curia and believes in time limits for mandates, ‘there are too many bishops in the Curia.’” By Andrea Tornielli, Vatican Insider/La Stampa

Give Women More Influence in Church – McAleese

“Bishops and the laity, particularly women, must be given greater influence in the Catholic Church, the former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, has said. She was speaking at Cambridge University. Bishops should be encouraged not to be ‘yes men’ but ‘leaders who can speak freely,’ who consult with rank-and-file Catholics and then make decisions along with the pope, she said.” By Mark Hennessey, Irish Times

CLERGY CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

Ian Elliott May Sue Catholic Bishop over Child Protection Report
“The former head of a child protection watchdog may sue a Catholic bishop over a report that praised safeguarding practices within the bishop's diocese. Ian Elliott, who retired from the National Board of Safeguarding Children (NBSC) last July, is considering legal action against Bishop Noel Treanor.” By BBC News Northern Ireland

The Long, Sad Record
In this editorial, National Catholic Reporter editor Dennis Coday outlines the long, sad record of Roman Catholic clergy sexual abuse of children starting with 2014 and going back to 1957.

Vatican Says Sorry for Pedophilia, But Continues to Protect Its Own
“Victims’ organizations around the world have welcomed the UN’s initiative (regarding Catholic clergy sexual abuse of children), but most point out that individual pain cannot be cured with a report.” By Ines Santaeulalia, Walter Oppenheimer, Maria Sahuquillo and Evan Saiz, El Pais

Catholic Group Says Reformed after Abuse Scandals
“The Legionaries of Christ, a Catholic movement whose founder was a sexual predator, on Tuesday (Feb. 25) said they had managed to change with Vatican support, but one abuse victim told AFP the group was an ‘unreformable sect.’” By Agence-France Presse on au.news.yahoo.com

Church Officials Blame Minnesota Mom for Not Protecting Sons from Priest Who Abused Them
“A Minnesota mother says Catholic Church officials are blaming her for not protecting her two sons from the priest who abused them. The Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, the former pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in St. Paul, pleaded guilty in 2012 to abusing the boys, ages 12 and 14, and possessing child pornography.” By Travis Gettys, RawStory.com

Child Protection Should Be Pope’s Top Priority
“As Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput prepares to take his delegation of corporate executives to the Vatican March 24 to prepare for the World Meeting of Families in September 2015 in the City of Brotherly Love, there is a crucial item that should be included on his agenda. He should ensure that the issue of children’s safety is a high priority when planning this international event with Pope Francis.” Editorial by Philadelphia Daily Times

ILLINOIS

An ‘Open Secret’: Catholic Sexual Abuse in the Black Community
“Files released by the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese show decades of systematic secrecy and protection of pedophile priests, however, for some victims of abuse, the nightmare continues and justice remains elusive.” By Frost Illustrated

Appeals Court: Archbishop Must Testify in Clergy Abuse Lawsuit

(Mar. 5, 2014) “Archbishop John Nienstedt must testify under oath about the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ response to child sex abuse charges against local priests, the state Appeals Court affirmed Wednesday (Mar. 5).” By Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune
-- Archbishop Will Not Face Charges, By The New York Times

Priest Abuse Cases ‘Just the Beginning,’ Ramsey County Prosecutor Says

“As part of its coverage of child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and elsewhere, the Pioneer Press talked with Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.” By Emily Gurnon, Pioneer Press

MISSOURI

KC Diocese Settles Two Lawsuits for $1.2 Million

“Lawsuits stemming from the actions of a priest who took pornographic photographs of young parishioners have resulted in nearly $4 million in settlements by the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, after Jackson County judges approved the latest two deals this week (Feb. 22).” By Associated Press in Daily Mail & Herald-Tribune

MONTANA

Catholic Church Will Publicly Name 50 or More Former Priests Who Abused Western Montana Kids
“Most of the 362 sex-abuse victims who sued the Catholic church of western Montana, saying they were abused years ago by priests and nuns, will get monetary damages from a settlement with the church. But they’ll see something else they consider vitally important, their lawyers say: Public identification of their abusers.” By Mike Dennison, Independent Record

PENNSYLVANIA


Judge Declares Mistrial in Case Against Philly Priest

“A Philadelphia judge Wednesday (Mar. 12) declared a mistrial in the sexual-assault case against the Rev. Andrew McCormick after a tired and despondent-looking jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked.” By Joseph A. Slobodzian, Philadelphia Inquirer

Archdiocese to End Tuition Aid to Children of Abuse Victims
“The Archdiocese of Philadelphia will end its eight-year practice of providing parochial school tuition to children of clergy sex-abuse victims at the end of this school year, citing low participation and a desire to refocus its spending on efforts that directly aid the abused.” By Jeremy Roebuck, Philadelphia Inquirer

Former Altar Boy Reveals Grim Details of Philadelphia Priest’s Alleged Sex Abuse
“The accuser was a 10-year-old altar boy at St. John Cantius Catholic Church in Bridesburg when he says Rev. Andrew McCormick tried to force him into a sex act. Now 26, the man says he struggled with addiction and feared going to hell after the alleged attack.” By Carol Kuruvilla, New York Daily News
 -- Priest Tells Jury He’s No Child Molester, By Mensah M. Dean, Philadelphia Daily News
 -- Philly Priest Awaits Verdict on Child-Sex Charges, By Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press
 -- Prosecutor: Priest Failed Polygraph Tests, By Mensah Dean, Philadelphia Daly News

Philly Priest Accuser: Feared Hell for Being Gay

“A former altar boy testified Thursday that he thought he was molested by a Roman Catholic priest as punishment for being gay. He said he tried to hang himself at age 11 as he struggled with guilt over the alleged 1997 encounter.” By Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press

TENNESSEE


Sex Abuse Allegations Surface

“There are new worries that a Catholic priest may have sexually abused children during his time in Nashville. The allegations against Father Kenneth Gansmann have just been exposed. St. Vincent De Paul is a small Catholic church in North Nashville, and during the 1960s it was led by Father Kenneth Gansmann.” By FOX 17

TEXAS

Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese Reaches Settlement
“The Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese has reached another settlement involving sexual abuse claims against a former priest who died in 1999. The leader of the diocese, Bishop Michael Olson, said in a written statement Friday (Mar. 7) that he was deeply sorry for any sexual abuse and that such actions are ‘a sin and a crime.’” By Associated Press in Daily Journal

WASHINGTON

Trial Starts in Yakima Clergy Sex Abuse Case

“For the first time, the Catholic Diocese of Yakima is going to trial over a case of alleged clergy sexual abuse. A man, referred to as John Doe in court documents, is suing for more than $3 million, alleging that when he was 17 he was repeatedly raped one night in 1999 by a man studying to become a priest in the Yakima Diocese.” By Jane Gargas, Yakima Herald-Republic

AUSTRALIA

Cardinal Pell Says Child Abuse Victims Should Be Able to Sue Catholic Church
“For the first time Cardinal George Pell has acknowledged that the Catholic Church should be able to be sued over abuse by a priest. The turnaround in the church's approach to litigation by victims was revealed by senior counsel assisting the royal commission into institutional child sex abuse, Gail Furness, as it heard from witness John Ellis about his treatment by the Diocese of Sydney.” By Catherine Armitage, The Sydney Morning Herald

Warrnambool Church Lets in the Light on Sex Abuse Issue
Child sex abuse is like an iceberg, with most of it hidden. But that could be about to thaw, with Warrnambool’s Catholic Church community opening a door to tackle the issue. Tears, anger and frustration about past cover-ups were vented at two public forums at St Joseph’s Church, where participants vowed it should never happen again.” By Peter Collins, The Standard

Jesuit Priest at Adelaide St. Ignatius’ College Admits to Child Pornography Offences
“A Jesuit priest and teacher at Saint Ignatius' College in Adelaide has admitted to child pornography offences. Father Stan Hogan, 69, has pleaded guilty to accessing child pornography and an aggravated count of possessing child pornography.” By James Hancock, ABC News

New South Wales Priest Charged over Abuse
“A Catholic priest has been charged with child abuse allegedly committed at a church-run Bathurst high school in the 1970s and 1980s.” By 9 News National

Apology Appears after Two Decades

“It has taken more than 20 years, but a woman who lost a court case in the 1990s against Hunter predator priest Denis McAlinden has received a formal apology from a Catholic Church official.” By Joanne McCarthy, Newcastle Herald

Notorious Catholic Priest to Be Sentenced
“A sentencing hearing begins today for a notorious Hunter Valley Catholic priest who has admitted to sexually abusing 18 boys. It is his second conviction for multiple child sex offences.” By ABC News

CANADA

Catholic Priest in Northern Alberta Charged with Sex Assault of Minor

“A Catholic priest in Manning, Alta. has been charged with sexual assault of a minor. The 59-year-old man has also been charged with sexual interference. Abraham Azhakathu was arrested after a minor reported the alleged incident in 2013 to the local RCMP. By CBC News

IRELAND

Forgive ‘Mistakes’ of Abuser Priests, Urges Church Group
Priests who abused children should be forgiven for past ‘mistakes’ and allowed return to ministries where they have authority over minors, a Catholic Church group has claimed. The stance, which has sparked a backlash from abuse survivors who said nothing has been learned from recent scandals, was made by the Association of Catholic Priests after child protection watchdog talks. Speaking after meeting with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) on Wednesday (Mar. 5), the association said it is wrong to block priests who have ‘made a mistake or mistakes in their earlier life’ from returning to the altar. By Irish Examiner

Three Victims of Pedophile Priest Brendan Smyth Can’t Bring Fresh Claims Against Church

“A Catholic Bishop has won a High Court halting three actions for damages brought against him in a representative capacity by a man, his sister and another woman who previously settled Northern Ireland court actions for Stg £25,000 each over being sexually abused over years as children by pedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth.” By Irish Independent

PUERTO RICO

Clergy Sexual Abuse Scandal Hits Heavily Catholic Puerto Rico
“U.S. authorities acknowledge that they, too, are looking into abuse allegations by priests on this devoutly Catholic island, many are reeling from revelations of abuse involving some of the U.S. territory's most beloved clerics.” By Danica Coto, Associated Press on Federal News Radio

Catholic Church and Puerto Rico Officials at Odds in Widening Sex Abuse Investigation

“First, the Catholic Church announced it had defrocked six priests accused of sex abuse in the Puerto Rican town of Arecibo. Then, local prosecutors disclosed that at least 11 other priests on the island were under investigation for similar accusations.” By Associated Press on FoxNews.com

VOTF 2014 ASSEMBLY

Voice of the Faithful Will Have 2014 Assembly in Hartford April 5
Roman Catholics seeking reform in the church will gather in Hartford on April 5 for an assembly of Voice of the Faithful, a movement that began in 2002 in response to the clergy sexual-abuse crisis.” By Bernie Davidow, The Hartford Courant