Why all the people of God must take some responsibility for clericalism

Clergy who share and reinforce people’s denial by insisting families are automatically love-filled places are setting up obstacles to God’s healing.

Pope Francis leads an audience with young people participating in a summer camp program sponsored by Alpha International, at the Vatican Aug. 5, 2022.

by Hatty Calbus

When in August 2018 the Pope wrote a “Letter to the People of God” that appeared to widen responsibility for abuse to the whole Church, there was outrage.

Pope Francis has described paedophile priests as “tools of Satan” and has often said that the cause of the clergy abuse crisis is “clericalism”.

But when in August 2018 he wrote a “Letter to the People of God” that appeared to widen responsibility for the abuse to the whole Church, there was outrage. “With shame and repentance,” he wrote, “we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that … we did not act in a timely manner, realising the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.” The Pope concluded, “I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting”.

And when a few weeks later the Archbishop of Strasbourg, Luc Ravel, echoed the Pope, he met similar indignation. But in his pastoral letter, Ravel identified an inconvenient truth about clericalism that is too often overlooked: “Authority is a game of two players: the one who exploits it and the one who lets that happen. Clericalism would never have borne the fruits of death if it had not been accepted, consented to, or even promoted by Christian communities.”

In other words, those priests who lord it over the laity are enabled by an attitude of: “Yes, Father, No, Father, three bags full, Father.” Ravel went on to say: “The relationship between priests and communities must evolve into an appropriate attitude that does not deny the authority of the priest but does not sanctify it in a form of idolatry.”

How many of us who still go to Mass have kept, along with our Catholic faith, something of an idolatrous attitude to the clergy? How many of us hand our spiritual lives over to a parish priest with as little thought as if we were children needing to rely on their parents for everything?

Clericalism is a distortion of true priesthood – and it is an abuse of authority found in every institution, not just in the Catholic Church. It is certainly a major factor in the misuse of power that is at the root of the sexual abuse of children by priests.

But all the people of God – bishops, clergy and lay people – have to take some responsibility for clericalism in the Church. Even though it is well-established that the great majority of cases of sexual abuse take place within families, and even after all that’s now known about the incidence of child sexual abuse in every organisation and institution where adults are in positions of power over children, it’s still often said that abuse is mostly carried out by celibate Catholic priests.

If celibate priests are kept as the focus, abuse can be kept at a convenient remove.

Unfortunately, it isn’t at a remove. The abuse prevention organisation Stop It Now! points out: “Some [paedophiles], but not all, have been abused themselves; others come from violent or unhappy family backgrounds.” Priests aren’t a separate species of church-creature: they have families.

Of course, a child who is abused doesn’t automatically become an abuser as an adult. But paedophile priests have often come from dysfunctional families where they have been abused physically and very often sexually. Although it’s taken time for the truth to come out, clergy abuse has proved hard to keep secret. If those men had married, then abused their own children, in most cases it would still be hidden.

To use the word “scapegoating” suggests an innocence blatantly lacking. The problem with focusing exclusively on paedophile priests is that it can allow us to neglect a wider evil. Stop It Now! says: “Many people have experienced someone close to them abusing a child. When something is so difficult to think about, it is only human to find ways of denying it to ourselves.”

Pretending it isn’t happening at home carries on at church. Archbishop Ravel said that as well as bishops covering up abuse – which lay people are of course right to be outraged by – there have also been lay people who have kept silent: “In the 30 or so cases I have had to deal with in my diocese, and when I speak with victims, I’ve realised people knew and didn’t say anything.”

How often has a priest’s inappropriate behaviour around children been an open secret? Those primarily responsible are the paedophile priests, followed by the bishops who’ve colluded with their crimes. But the laity can’t claim it’s nothing to do with them. As someone in the film Spotlight says: “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” It also takes a village to cover it up.

Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen in New Jersey said: “Abuse gets power from silence and avoidance.” Large numbers of laypeople have seen or heard something that needed reporting and chosen silence and avoidance. Jesus said: “I am the truth” and “The truth will set you free.” Pope Francis wants the laity to “feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need” and advocates fasting and prayer as a way to “impel us to walk in the truth”.

He has repeatedly quoted St Paul: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.” His appeal is to solidarity. Unfortunately, solidarity with abuse survivors is uncomfortable. There is something in all of us that prefers to stay undisturbed. But the price of our quiet life is sometimes that others are left to live very disturbed lives.

Most bishops haven’t covered up abuse and most priests haven’t abused. What they have done, though, is reinforced the laity’s denial about their part by idealising the family and ignoring what goes on in far more homes than everyone wants to think. The psychiatrist and family therapist Robin Skynner said about the family: “It has enormous creative potential including that of life itself and it is not surprising that, when it becomes disordered, it possesses an equal potential for terrible destruction.” Family systems expert John Bradshaw cites research suggesting 96 per cent of families are dysfunctional.

This includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse, of partners as well as children. It means addictions, with their distortion or neglect of relationship – not just alcohol and drugs, but any unhealthy/sinful dependence – food, work, sex, exercise, social media, phones, one’s own children and more. It means common personality disorders like narcissism. Parents have vast power over their children, even determining how their brains develop. Dysfunctional families are where paedophile priests first learnt about the abuse of power. Warped Church structures might have facilitated their abusing, but they were formed in families. Bishops could recommend, seminaries could teach, priests could look at John Bradshaw and Robin Skynner and other experts on dysfunctional families such as Alice Miller and Gabor Maté.

Clergy who share and reinforce people’s denial by insisting families are automatically love-filled places are setting up obstacles to God’s healing. Honest, concerted efforts not to do this would give children more protection and open up paths for the healing he is waiting to bring.

Complete Article HERE!

‘No turning point in sight’

— Archbishop warns Church is in a ‘dramatic’ decline

Francis Duffy Archbishop of Tuam

By Sean ODriscoll

The Catholic Church is heading ‘dramatically downwards’ with no turning point in sight, the archbishop of Ireland’s biggest archdiocese has said.

Francis Duffy, the Archbishop of Tuam, told parishioners in Westport to look at their priests because they are likely the last generation of priests to be resident in a parish.

He said all figures, from men entering the priesthood to the attendance at Mass, all point to a dramatic decline in the Church.

Francis Duffy, the Archbishop of Tuam, with his predecessor Archbishop Michael Neary.

‘All trends are dramatically downwards with no turning point in sight,’ said Archbishop Duffy.

‘I suggest you look at your priest.

He may be the last in a long line of resident pastors and may not be replaced. I suggest you look at your church. You may be lucky to have a Sunday Mass or several, but for how much longer?

‘I suggest you look at your fellow parishioners at Mass. Who among your neighbours will continue to be the new leaders and carry on pastoral work in your parish, alongside a much smaller number of clergy? Who among them will lead prayer services and keep faith alive and active?’ he asked.

He said the one certainty ‘is the ongoing and sustained decline both in the numbers who practise and in the numbers of those who answer the Lord’s call to priesthood and religious life. ‘Some may think I have painted a somewhat dismal picture. It is the current reality as I see it, and as I know many of you see it too.’

Just nine men entered the seminary last year, and a fifth of all priests and brothers have died in the past three years, according to the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

In 2004, there were 3,141 priests in Ireland but this has steadily declined in the past ten years, with 2,627 priests in 2014. The ACP said on Monday that an updated figure is not yet available. It’s believed the current number of priests is about 1,900.

The number of men interested in becoming priests is dwindling year on year, with 13 starting on the path to priesthood in 2020, 15 in 2019 and 17 in 2018.

Just nine men entered the seminary last year, and a fifth of all priests and brothers have died in the past three years, according to the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).

However, Archbishop Duffy urged people not to lose hope.

‘The landscape of the Catholic Church in Ireland, as you know, has been changing for some time and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future,’ he said.

‘Each diocese has its own story of this reality. Every parish will be affected by this in terms of the number of clergy available and the number and frequency of Masses.

‘While we must face it and work with it, we must not lose hope. We have the Lord with us and He will lead us through this time of transition and restructuring,’ he said.

He recalled that, when he became archbishop in January, he referenced a report on the future of the Church that was being prepared for the Vatican.

Archbishop Dermot Farrell
Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell acknowledged earlier this year that the ‘shortage of vocations… could be discerned as God calling for change in the Church’.

That report, due to be sent by August 15, includes views from Catholics across the country on celibacy, attitudes to the gay and lesbian community, women priests and cohabiting couples.

Father Brendan Hoban of the ACP said more emphasis will have to be placed on lay people.

‘There was a time when a priest had less work to do as he reached retirement age, but not any more. You have priests covering two or three parishes and up to five churches. Their workload is going up and up as the number of priests declines,’ he said.

Fr Hoban said he doesn’t think vocations can be revived and most priests now accept that greater lay participation is required.

Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell acknowledged earlier this year that the ‘shortage of vocations… could be discerned as God calling for change in the Church’.

The Catholic Communications Office said the nine new seminarians bring to 64 the total number studying for the priesthood.

Complete Article HERE!

The complicated extradition to Canada of a French priest accused of pedophilia

A man protests during a meeting with Pope Francis at Nakasuk Elementary School Square in Iqaluit, Canada, Friday, July 29, 2022. Pope Francis travels to chilly Iqaluit, capital of northern Nunavut, to meet with Inuit Indigenous people, including school children and survivors of residential schools, in his final day in Canada. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

by Lance Vaughn

Canada has asked France to extradite Joannes Rivoire, a priest accused of committing various sexual crimes against minors in Nunavut, an area in northern Canada populated almost exclusively by Inuit. The case of this priest has been public for some time and also known to high ecclesiastical hierarchies, but he has come back to talk about it because the extradition was requested during the recent visit to Canada by Pope Francis, who apologized on behalf of the Catholic Church. for the oppression, violence and abuses committed by the clergy between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries against indigenous peoples.

Beyond the formal apology, for decades the representatives of indigenous peoples have been demanding that the case of Rivoire be addressed: it has become, for them and for Canada, the symbol of the impunity of sexual assaults against children committed by members of the Church .

On Thursday 4 August, the Canadian Minister of Justice, David Lametti, confirmed the news of Rivoire’s extradition request, also saying that “collaboration and cooperation are essential to address the shameful legacy of residential schools”, that is, the boarding schools for indigenous people established by Canadian government and managed largely by the Catholic Church in which, within a system of forced assimilation, children suffered numerous physical and psychological violence, often living in conditions on the verge of survival. “It is important for Canada and its international partners that serious crimes are investigated and prosecuted,” Lametti said.

The French Foreign Ministry in turn confirmed that it had received the extradition request and made it known that it is currently “being processed by the Ministry of Justice”. Rivoire has dual nationality, but his extradition from France, a source close to the case explained to Agence France-Presse, could represent “a problem” because it is “very complicated” to extradite French citizens.

Today Joannes Rivoire is 91 years old. He lived in Canada from the early 1960s until 1993, when he returned to live in France, near Lyon, in a residence for priests of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate missionaries, a male religious institute of pontifical right. His sudden departure from Canada actually coincided with the filing of two lawsuits against him for sexual assault and obscene acts. The facts were committed between 1968 and 1970, on those who at the time were Inuit children. The police, on that occasion, did not even manage to question the priest, who had already escaped.

Last March, two journalists from Le Monde, Marie-Béatrice Baudet and Hélène Jouan, published an investigation into Rivoire and managed to meet and talk to him. In their article they told how one of the two abused people who had reported Rivoire in 1993 was called Marius Tungilik: he had died in 2012 at the age of 55 “from alcohol abuse”. According to his testimony, the priest had sexually assaulted him in 1970, in Naujaat, in the Nunavut region, when he was 12 years old.

A childhood friend, Piita Irnik, now 75 years old and also an Inuit, described to the two journalists the moment when Marius Tungilik had told him everything: “We had known each other since childhood, but it was only in 1989, during a joke about hunting, who had the courage to tell me about it for the first time. It was a very difficult conversation, ”said Piita, himself sexually abused in a boarding school for indigenous people. “Joannes Rivoire destroyed the life of my best friend and that of other Inuit children. I will not have rest until he is brought to justice ».

On September 29, 2021, Irnik took advantage of a ceremony honoring the survivors of residential boarding schools to ask Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, “where the Rivoire file had gone.” “We’re working on it,” Trudeau replied.

Joannes Rivoire has always denied any accusation against him saying he is innocent. Or rather saying that “we are all sinners”, that his life “is almost over” and that he is “preparing to pass over to the other side: I am at peace with God who, I hope, will give me paradise”. The two journalists from Le Monde asked Rivoire if he was aware of the complaints filed against him in 1993: “I have nothing to do with it,” she said. And when they asked him if he remembered Marius Tungilik he replied: “Yes, but I don’t know where I met him. Do you know he was an alcoholic? Make no mistake, though: he didn’t start drinking because he was abused, he said he was abused because he was ashamed of drinking. “

Canada had requested a second arrest warrant against Rivoire last February after the filing, in September 2021, of a new complaint for sexual assault in the 1970s and presented by Louisa Uttak, a 53-year-old Inuit woman.

“I have met Father Rivoire twice in my life, in Arviat and Rankin Inlet”, two Inuit settlements in the Kivalliq region, in Nunavut: “The first time, in 1974, I was 6 years old,” he told Le Monde. He said that the priest had waited for the end of the mass and then took her aside and abused her: «he touched Me and masturbated. And while he did this to me, he showed me an image of the devil, threatening me: “If you say something, you will go to hell.” I was scared, so scared… I was just a little girl ». Louisa Uttak said she found the courage to speak out as she watched her grandchildren grow up: “Now I only want one thing, to have Father Rivoire in front of me to ask him: ‘Why? Why did you do this to me? “”

At the end of March, the Inuit representatives of Canada met the Pope in private, explicitly asking him to intervene in the Rivoire case: “We would like those victims to have a semblance of justice and that the families of the deceased victims also witness the recognition of a certain level of responsibility “. However, their demands have been going on for decades.

When the Vatican was informed of the accusations against Rivoire, it gave the Oblate missionaries of Mary Immaculate of France three instructions: prevent the priest from any contact with minors, put him in a residence and withdraw him from active ministry. Father Ken Thorson, leader of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Canada, said that Rivoire should not shy away from justice: “We encourage Johannes Rivoire to do what he should have done a long time ago: cooperate with the police and make himself available for a trial, if not in Canada, in France ”. Thorson also added that the Oblates are available to share documents and information with the competent authorities.

During the Pope’s visit to Canada, the representatives of the indigenous people renewed their request for intervention: “We would like Rivoire to be extradited to Canada to face the charges in court and we asked the Pope to intervene to ask him directly to return to Canada” .

However, there is a precedent, concerning the former priest Eric Dejaeger, who after being accused of pedophilia crimes was expelled from his country of origin, Belgium, sentenced in Canada in 2015 to nineteen years in prison for sexually assaulting 23 Inuit children. Last May he was granted probation.

Complete Article HERE!

Sexual abuse survivors call for answers amid probe into Catholic Church in Baltimore

Some survivors were featured in the Netflix docuseries, “The Keepers.”

Teresa Lancaster and Jean Wehner speak at a rally outside Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office in Baltimore on Aug. 2, 2022.

By Deena Zaru

Survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic Church leaders rallied in front of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office, calling for the release of preliminary findings of an investigation into the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Teresa Lancaster said she was interviewed four years ago upon the launch of the investigation. She told investigators she was abused at Archbishop Keough High School, but she has yet to be given any answers.

“It’s hard not to see any action,” she said, according to the Baltimore Sun. “I would like to hear something, please.”

Jean Wehner, who says she was also abused while a student at Archbishop Keough High School, said that without any updates over the past four years, survivors who spoke with investigators are finding themselves “in an old familiar place where the silence turns to fear.”

“The fear is that we told the secret and that the disclosure will bring harm to us and our loved ones, or that we are not believed, or that we’ve been duped,” she told the Baltimore Sun.

The school, which merged with Seton High School and was renamed Seton Keough in 1988, closed its doors in June 2017.

Lancaster and Wehner were both featured in “The Keepers,” a popular Netflix docuseries released in 2017 that explored the 1969 murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik and its suspected link to her knowledge of sexual abuse of minors within the church.

Frosh, who is not running for re-election, is set to leave office in January 2023 and survivors are urging him to share the findings before his term comes to a close.

A spokesperson for Frosh’s office told ABC News in a statement on Wednesday that while the AG’s office cannot comment on ongoing investigations, they can confirm that they have conducted hundreds of interviews and reviewed thousands of documents.

“We have made significant progress in the investigation and expect to make an announcement in the coming months,” the spokesperson said.

The investigation into the abuse of children in Baltimore became public in 2018 after Archbishop William E. Lori informed priests and deacons that the archdiocese has been cooperating with the AG’s office in an “investigation of records related to the sexual abuse of children,” according to a statement released by Lori in September of that year.

Lori added, “Based on my conversations with people throughout the Archdiocese…it is clear that we are a Church in crisis and that crisis is one of trust. It is my hope and prayer that this independent review and other acts of transparency by the Archdiocese will bring about greater trust in the Church among those who are understandably skeptical about the Church’s handling of allegations of abuse.”

PHOTO: David Lorenz, Director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in Maryland, speaks at a rally outside Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh's office in Baltimore on Aug. 2, 2022.
David Lorenz, Director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in Maryland, speaks at a rally outside Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office in Baltimore on Aug. 2, 2022.


The Maryland investigation became public after a two-year probe in Pennsylvania ended with a bombshell grand jury report released in August 2018, accusing hundreds of Roman Catholic priests of assaulting children.

So far, no indictments have been announced in Maryland.

Members of “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” (SNAP), who joined Lancaster and Wehner at the rally on Tuesday, called on the AG to hold abusers accountable, while Maryland SNAP director David Lorenz questioned why the Maryland investigation has taken so long.

“We have perpetrators walking the streets of Maryland, preying on children in Maryland, and the [Office of the Attorney General] is sitting on this information. Why is that?” said Lorenz, according to ABC affiliate station in Baltimore, WMAR.

Complete Article HERE!

Detroit Catholic bishop halts public ministry after accusation he sexually assaulted boy

By Niraj Warikoo

A lawsuit filed this week alleges a Catholic bishop in Detroit who previously was a Vatican ambassador sexually assaulted a 12-year-old boy 25 times decades ago in Massachusetts.

According to the suit filed Monday in Boston, Archbishop Paul Fitzpatrick Russell, 63, currently one of five auxiliary bishops in the Archdiocese of Detroit, raped the boy while Russell was a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston from 1989 to 1990. Pope Francis appointed Russell, formerly the Vatican’s ambassador to Turkey and Taiwan, to be a Detroit bishop in May and he assumed office last month.

Tuesday evening, the Archdiocese of Detroit announced that Russell would be refraining from all public ministry.

The alleged victim, who is now in his mid-40s and not named in the lawsuit, was a member of Saint Mary of the Sacred Heart Parish in Lynn, Massachusetts, the complaint said.

The boy was volunteering at the parish food bank when he met Russell, a priest at the parish who worked at the food bank, the lawsuit said. Filed in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, the complaint alleges Russell groomed him, leading to hugging, kissing, then genital fondling, mutual masturbation, forced oral sex and anal intercourse. Russell would have been around age 30 at the time of the alleged assaults.

In a statement to the Free Press, the director of public affairs at the Archdiocese of Detroit, Ned McGrath, said: Archbishop “Russell is shocked and saddened by the claims that have been made, and states that his conscience is perfectly clear. He holds in prayer all those who have ever been victimized by a member of the clergy.”

About 6 p.m. Monday, the Archdiocese of Detroit issued a statement on its website that said it was not aware of the allegations against Russell when he was appointed in May by Pope Francis to be a bishop in Detroit.

“Archbishop Russell was appointed by Pope Francis as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit on May 23, 2022,” the statement said. “The Archdiocese of Detroit was not aware of any allegation of misconduct against Archbishop Russell until it was contacted by media Monday, August 1. Effective immediately, Archbishop Russell is refraining from all public ministry, and will continue until further directed by the Holy See. The canonical (Church law) guidelines, as provided by the Holy See, are being followed.”

The Holy See refers to Vatican leaders, McGrath said.

The Archdiocese added that it “offers its prayers for all victims of clerical abuse and their families.”

The lawsuit was filed by attorney Carmen Durso against the Archdiocese of Boston; Russell, and Russell’s supervisor at the time, Ronald Gariboldi, pastor at the church that the plaintiff attended.

The lawsuit says the Archdiocese and Gariboldi either knew of, or should have known about the alleged sexual assaults.

They “should have known that defendant Russell was not fit to be retained in a position in which he would have access to young children,” the complaint reads.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Gariboldi referred questions to the Archdiocese of Boston.

Terrence Donilon, secretary for communications in the Archdiocese of Boston, told the Free Press: “We have just learned of the lawsuit. Given it is a pending legal matter, we will withhold comment at this time.”

Durso has represented many victims of sexual abuse over the decades, including in legal cases 20 years ago on behalf of victims of Boston Catholic clergy abuse. In 2002, the Boston Globe published articles that drew national attention to the issue of abuse of children by Catholic priests, resulting in a number of civil and criminal cases.

The lawsuit filed this week claims that the Archdiocese of Boston and Gariboldi “knew multiple acts of sexual abuse by priests of the Archdiocese were occurring but conspired to keep this from becoming public knowledge,” which “made it possible” for Russell to carry out the alleged assaults.

The plaintiff “has been seriously and permanently injured, and, at the present, continues to suffer from a psychological disease that impairs and affects all aspects of his life,” the complaint said.

Born in Massachusetts, Auxiliary Bishop Russell moved in the third grade with his mother to her hometown of Alpena, Michigan, after she divorced, according to the Archdiocese of Detroit.

He attended Alpena High School before entering St. John’s Seminary in Boston and was ordained as a priest in 1987. Russell served five years in parish ministry and one year as a personal secretary to then Cardinal Archbishop Bernard Law.

Law was the archbishop at the time of the alleged assaults. He resigned in 2002 after reports he was covering up the sexual abuse of children in other cases.

Russell has served as a diplomat representing the Catholic Church in Turkey, Taiwan, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Switzerland, Turkmenistan and Nigeria, according to the Archdiocese of Detroit and news media reports.

In 2008, Pope Benedict named Russell as chargé d’affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in Taiwan, a role he served for eight years. In 2016, Pope Francis appointed Russell as apostolic nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan, and gave him that same year the title of archbishop. In 2018, Russell also became ambassador to Azerbaijan.

“I am so happy with Pope Francis’ decision to send me home and look forward to serving as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Detroit and immersing myself in the mission and ministry of the local Church in southeast Michigan,” Russell said in May after being named a bishop in Detroit.

Complete Article HERE!