France won’t extradite retired priest Johannes Rivoire, accused of sexually abusing Inuit children

Public Prosecution Service of Canada says there’s still a ‘reasonable’ chance Rivoire can be prosecuted

Johannes Rivoire in Arviat in 1979.

By Amy Tucker

France will not extradite a priest facing historical sexual assault charges in Nunavut, but there’s still a chance he could be prosecuted in Canada by other means.

A news release Wednesday from the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) says French authorities denied the extradition request for Johannes Rivoire on Oct. 14.

The extradition request was made by the federal Department of Justice on behalf of the PPSC.

French authorities said there are two reasons the request is being denied.

The first relates to French law — France can’t extradite its own citizens.

“France has determined that at the relevant time Mr. Rivoire was a citizen of France,” the release said.

The second reason, which also falls under French law, is because “too much time” passed between the events and the charges being laid.

That’s also the reason French authorities said they could not prosecute Rivoire in France.

Rivoire was charged this past February with one count of indecent assault on a female, who was child at the time of the alleged offence. It happened between January 1974 and December 1979.

Allegations against him date much further back, though — previous charges against him had been outstanding for years but were stayed in 2017.

People in Nunavut have spent nearly two decades pushing for Rivoire to be extradited.

An Inuit delegation travelled to France in September to implore French officials to grant Canada’s extradition request. They also confronted the retired priest while there.

Tanya Tungilik, who was part of the delegation and whose father Marius Tungilik had accused Rivoire of sexual abuse, said at the time it was “liberating” to finally tell Rivoire the things she has wanted to say for so long.

In an interview with CBC Wednesday, she called the denied extradition request “a gut punch” but not totally shocking.

“I wasn’t really surprised,” Tungilik said.

She’s still hoping that people in Nunavut who allege abuse by Rivoire, especially between 1990 and 1993, come forward. That way she said, it’s possible charges could be laid against him.

“Then that will still give us a chance to bring it to court in France within their statute of limitations,” Tungilik said. “I’m still hoping for that.”

Tungilik said she also wants to see a lawsuit against the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, “or those who aided and abetted the abusers.”

Three people sit on chairs with their hands in their laps.
Steve Mapsalak, left, Tanya Tungilik and Jesse Tungilik spoke to reporters in Lyon, France, in September about their meeting with Johannes Rivoire.

He’s accused of sexual abuse of several other people as well who were children at the time, carried out while he worked in Nunavut starting in the 1960s.

Prosecution in Canada could be possible if Rivoire leaves France

Rivoire has repeatedly said he has no intention of coming back to Canada, and has denied the charges of abusing Inuit children.

The news release from the PPSC said “all potential legal recourse” to obtain Rivoire’s extradition from France or to have him prosecuted in France have been exhausted.

However, the PPSC said it is working with the RCMP for Interpol to issue a red notice. That would allow for Rivoire to be arrested in any other country.

“Therefore, prosecution in Canada remains possible if Johannes Rivoire leaves France,” the release said.

Tungilik said she’s not overly confident on this plan, especially because she doubts Rivoire will leave the country willingly.

Both the prosecution file and a warrant for Rivoire’s arrest remain active.

Complete Article HERE!

Queer Reading

— Book by gay Catholic theologian finds new publisher

Miguel H. Díaz, Ph.D., holds a copy of his new book, “Queer God de Amor.”

By Brian Bromberger

It was a disturbing email notification that was received in June by Miguel H. Díaz, Ph.D., a gay man and former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and currently the John Courtney Murray, S.J. University Chair in Public Service at Loyola University Chicago.

Sent from the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America Inc. (aka Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers), the June 9 notification ended Díaz’s agreement with Orbis Books to publish his book “Queer God de Amor,” which had been scheduled to be released in June, having been sent to the printer in mid-February and heralded in the Orbis spring catalog.

Díaz wrote to the Bay Area Reporter, “No reasons were provided for this decision nor was any process identified for coming to this determination.”

The B.A.R. contacted Orbis publisher Robert Ellsberg, who replied, “On this subject I can only confirm the information that was conveyed to Miguel by the chief operating officer for Maryknoll, that the decision not to publish his book was made by the Maryknoll Society. I am sorry we were not able to publish Miguel’s book. He is a dear friend and author of many years. I’m afraid I can’t really make further comment on this.”

Several attempts were made to get in touch with Maryknoll COO Robert Ambrose to ask why it withdrew its offer to publish “Queer God de Amor,” but despite promises to call back, he never did.

Orbis had previously published “The Word Became Culture,” which Díaz edited.

Fortunately, less than two weeks later, Fordham University Press acquired the book and the Disruptive Cartographers: Doing Theology Latinamente Series from Orbis. The series is designed to “to re-map theology and push it in new directions from varying coordinates across a spectrum of latindad as lived in the U.S.A., publishing boundary-breaking scholarship and supporting underrepresented voices,” it stated.

Díaz’s new book focuses on the 16th-century Spanish theologian/poet/mystic St. Juan de la Cruz/St. John of the Cross (1542-1591).

“Juan’s spiritual teachings and theological arguments, especially in his poems all of them rich in homoerotic imagery, helped me see more clearly than I ever saw, how heterosexism and heteronormativity are indeed socially constructed idols that must be challenged and rejected,” he said.

Jorge Aquino, chair of the Theology and Religious Studies Department at the University of San Francisco, explained why Díaz’s latest book is significant.

“The publication of ‘Queer God de Amor’ will make an important mark on Roman Catholic debates on sexuality in the U.S.,” he said. “Díaz presents a significant theological argument in favor of a more open church teaching on sexuality. And Díaz’s own story as a sexual subject — a man who came out as gay later in life, having fathering children in a long-standing heterosexual marriage — presents fruitful pathways toward a new thinking in Catholic theology. The fact that Díaz is one of the most prominent public theologians in this country, having served as ambassador to the Holy See during the presidency of Barack Obama, will force more conversation about the need to rethink today’s unsustainable anathemas against non-heterosexual love and queer families.”

Tom Poundstone, Ph.D., associate professor of theology and religious studies at Saint Mary’s College of California, views Díaz’s work in terms of its pastoral implications. “Hearing Díaz read a passage from his book that mentioned shame and wrestling with angels, a student shared that, by virtue of being a lesbian, she couldn’t help but feel that in her very being she was disappointing God,” he said. “What should we say in response to that pervasive sense of shame and sadness? Does the good news of the gospel extend to her, to all of her? Like this student crying out from the depth of her heart, many in the LGBTQ communities feel the church has no good news message from them, and no sense that Christianity is an invitation to intimacy with God.”

As ambassador (2009-12), Díaz, 59, launched his Building Bridges initiative that brought together religious voices, political leaders, educators, and civil servants to tackle issues such as the climate crisis, human trafficking, immigration, religious freedom, and poverty. Díaz sees his book as continuing that bridge building initiative, only now between queer Catholics and the institutional church.

The B.A.R. interviewed Díaz, 59, when he visited San Francisco to give a September 29 lecture, “A Sanjuanista Queering of the Mystery of God,” based on his book at USF’s Lane Center.

Some controversy

He was asked what inspired him to write the controversial book.

“This book was birthed from numerous queer persons whom I have been privileged to meet and accompany since I started the process of coming out to myself, family, and friends,” he said. “Coming out is not always as liberating as it is oftentimes assumed to be, as anyone who has accompanied LGBTQ+ persons (in particular, Brown and Black queer bodies) knows. Cultural realities connected to my Cuban background and to my Catholic faith obstructed my journey of self-discovery and self-transparency.

“As is the case for many queer persons, coming out involves an ongoing wrestling with angels to reject powers and principalities that stand in the way of human flourishing and our ability to know and unite with God and neighbor,” he added. “Shame-based trauma, often related to ill-conceived religious ideas, theologies, and religious practices, keeps many of us from beginning and continuing this process.”

The book is scholarly and academic. Díaz tried to clarify his thesis for a lay, largely secular audience. “Consistent with other liberating religious perspectives, it outs God from heteronormative closets and restores human sexuality as a resource for theology. This outing of divine queerness — that is, the ineffability of divine life — helps to align reflections on the mystery of God with the faith experiences of queer Christians,” he said.

“My book highlights the sexual experiences of those that have been marginalized and oppressed. My central thesis is that God and queer sexuality belong together,” he said. “Sexuality, broadly understood, entails our God-given capacity to relate to others in consensual and life-giving acts. As sexual beings and in our sexual expressions, we give to and receive from others. Queer sexuality focuses on the specific ways that queer persons embody and express this act of sexual hospitality. Sadly, one is often hard pressed to find words like God, queer sexuality, and sex used in the same sentence, except in perspectives that often threaten queer lives. I draw from the writings of John of the Cross, particularly his poems, to offer an alternative interpretation.”

Díaz acknowledged why some may find his book contentious.

“Traditional Christian teaching would hold that God is love and that God is ineffable, that is, incapable of being boxed and limited by any human experience, image, or concept,” he said. “It is in this sense that I use the term queer God of love. In particular, I turn to God’s queerness to disrupt heteronormative notions and images associated with the sacred and to let God come out of restrictive closets that stand in the way of God’s ability to speak to queer persons and their sexuality … and cause narrow-minded understandings of what it means to be human in the image of God.

“And all theologians, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, must contribute to the work of dismantling heterodox notions of God,” Díaz said. “God is not male, no more than God is female; God is not straight, no more than God is gay; God is not white no more than God is Black. We must keep in mind that no theological construction based on any human experience can ever speak the last word on God. The mystery of God cannot be confined to any human closet.”

Díaz talked about the implications of his book on Catholic teachings on sexuality and homosexuality.

“I wrote this book to open new possibilities of relating divine life and queer lives,” he said. “In this way, the book disrupts Christian theologies that exclude and invites the construction of ‘catholic’ that is inclusive understandings of God and humanity. I take very seriously the belief that we are spiritual beings who thirst for meaningful and life-giving personal encounters in our life. Religious faith matters to me and queering it for the sake of persons that often find themselves excluded has now become a quintessential task for me to undertake.”

Díaz uses bedroom imagery as a place of human encounter with God.

“In sexual intimacy, in lovemaking, lovers choreograph a dance that makes room for one another,” he said. “This making room for others is what I mean when I use the term ecstasis. What characterizes ecstasis, divine and human, is a dynamic movement to personally encounter others. God makes room for us, we make room for God, we make room for one another. An ecstatic person is one that gives to and receives from others.

“As the ecstatic being par excellence, I believe God reaches out to find us in the bedroom and in our human sexual expressions, just like God encounters us in other places and human experiences,” he added. “In this sense we can say that ‘In intimacy is found ecstasy; in ecstasy we find God; and in God, we find others in sexually and culturally embodied ways.'”


There are three things Díaz wants readers to take away after finishing his book.

“First, I want readers to consider the possibility that God is queer, and by queer, I mean, ineffable, disruptive, and beyond human definitions and categories,” he said. “I want them to embrace the notion that God’s love is ‘catholic.’ Divine love excludes no one and, thereby, also manifests itself in queer persons and in their queer sexual expressions.

Secondly, he wants readers to understand that “religious perspectives and theologies matter,” Díaz said.

“I want readers, and in particular queer readers, to take seriously the methodological premise of my book that relates faith and queer experiences,” he said. “I also would invite them to embrace the theological arguments I provide as a springboard for further theological explorations, questioning, and conversations around life-issues that affect queer persons and others who suffer marginalization on the basis of religion.

And, thirdly, Díaz said, he wants “queer persons of faith who experience rejection and religious isolation because of their gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual expressions, to seek the support they need to reject and detach themselves from beliefs that undermine their humanity. In solidarity with queer bodies, I pray that our ‘dark nights’ become the seeds of human flourishing so that we may grow in greater love of God, of ourselves, and of our neighbors.”

For Díaz, religion can be a force for good as well as undermining fundamental human rights.

“I dream of the day when all LGBTQ+ children of God will not be judged by the ‘color’ of their gender identity or sexual orientation, but by the content of their character, the faith they witness to in the God of life, and the valuable contributions they make to the church and society,” he said. “Our uncommon faithfulness stems from our firm belief that in spite of the sexism and heterosexism we have endured — all tied to the abuse of power — we remain proud, queer, and Catholic members of Christ’s body. As members of this universal body, we will continue to stand for the dignity of all LGBTQ+ persons worldwide.”

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

Vatican synod document acknowledges calls to welcome women, LGBTQ Catholics

— Launching the next phase of the Synod on Synodality, organizers stressed that everyone is invited in the church’s tent.


Launching the next phase of the Synod on Synodality, a global consultation with Catholics on the future of the church, Vatican prelates on Thursday (Oct. 27) acknowledged the clear call in the first round of reports from the faithful for inclusion of women, LGBTQ individuals and the poor.

“Let us just look to each person as a person loved by God and called into being by God,” said Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, relator generator of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, on Thursday. “Christ died for this person on the cross. If I am not able to give the space to the table to this person than I am against Christ.”

The cardinal’s remarks were made remotely at a news conference presenting the “Document for the Continental Phase,” which contains summaries of the discussions from dioceses and parishes all over the world that made up the synod’s first phase, which began in 2018.

The “synthesis of syntheses” presented at the event has the Bible-inspired title “Grow your tent.”

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich at the Vatican, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich at the Vatican, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019.

“Who is invited to the tent? All the people, created and loved by God,” Hollerich said. “Our behavior is sometimes a bit more fragmented, and our love is not as big as the love of God,” he continued, before adding that the church must “establish new balances, otherwise the tent will collapse.”

The talk of inclusion echoes a remark Hollerich made in a recent interview with Vatican media outlets in which he said blessings of same-sex couples by priests are still under study. In March 2021, the Vatican’s doctrinal office shut down proposals for the blessing of same-sex couples, stating that the church “cannot bless sin”, but the cardinal questioned in the interview whether “God could ever curse two people who love each other.”

In a statement, the Catholic LGBTQ advocacy network New Ways Ministry praised the openness of the “Document for the Continental Phase,” lauding it as “evidence that we are in a new moment of conversation about LGBTQ issues in the Catholic Church.”

Conservative factions in the church, however, fear that the document may be stretching the Catholic tent too far. In early October, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, a czar of Catholic doctrine at the Vatican, described the synod in an interview with EWTN as part of a “hostile takeover of the church” more intent on transforming it into a political party than about spreading the gospel.

But Cardinal Mario Grech, general secretary of the Vatican’s Synod office, said the “Document for the Continental Phase” does not represent any decisions made by church leaders, but a channel for the many points of view that emerged at the parish level as they were summarized by national bishops’ conferences.

Cardinal Mario Grech. Photo courtesy of Diocese of Gozo/Wikipedia/Creative Commons
Cardinal Mario Grech.

“I hope that this first phase will help everyone in the church, without exclusions, because the Holy Spirit can communicate something to the church through anyone,” said Grech at the news conference, adding: “There are some resistances, but it’s OK. Come forward! Let us walk together.”

More than 40 lay and religious experts gathered in Frascati, southeast of Rome, in September to draft the final document. Participants said they took care to preserve the diversity of opinions and backgrounds in the bishops’ conferences’ summaries. Their document’s first chapter offers an overview of the main findings, the second provides a spiritual background, the third focuses on the principal themes that emerged, and the fourth and final chapter addressed the next steps in the synodal journey.

The experts who appeared at the news conference said they were struck by recurring themes of welcoming and inclusion, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. Participants in the local discussions see a need to reform church structures in a “synodal spirit,” they said, and focus on priest formation and liturgy.

“The question of the diaconate for women came up repeatedly in many summaries,” said Anna Rowlands, associate professor of Catholic social thought and practice at the University of Durham who participated in drafting the document in Frascati.

Calls for female inclusion in the church have grown stronger in recent years, especially appealing for women to become deacons, who can preach and minister but cannot celebrate Mass. While Francis has created two commissions to discuss the female deaconate, it remains a controversial topic, with critics fearing it will open the door to women becoming priests.

“We are not pushing for any agenda,” said the Rev. Giacomo Costa, a consultant on the synod, at the news conference, adding that the question of female leadership and involvement in the church “could alone have constituted a theme for a synodal assembly.”

Synod organizers admitted that the poor, including migrants and refugees, were less represented in the summaries, noting the challenges they faced in taking part in the synodal discussions. “A process of reaching out is absolutely what we need to happen in the next phase,” Rowlands said.

The document will be sent to seven continental assemblies where bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay people will discuss it and present a final document to the Vatican by March 31. The Vatican’s synod office will then put together a new summary that will become the working document for two summits of bishops at the Vatican, in October 2023 and the following year.

The synod will be a key to the Catholic Church’s ability to engage and evangelize in the modern world, synod organizers said. “For me, synodality and mission are the two faces of the same medal,” Grech said. “Unless we become a synodal church we will fail to proclaim the joy of the gospel to humanity today.”

Complete Article HERE!

Role of women must be tackled ‘urgently’ in Catholic Church

— Women out of the picture: cardinals and bishops attend the closing Mass of a recent Synod of Bishops.

Cardinals and bishops attend the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this Oct. 28, 2018, file photo. On Oct. 2, 2022, Pope Francis heard syntheses from the listening phase of the 2023 Synod of Bishops.

by Christopher Lamb

Catholics want the role and vocation of women to be tackled urgently, according to a new report that has come out of the synodal listening process.

The landmark synod report says that Catholics repeatedly express the desire for a more welcoming, inclusive Church that eradicates the misuse of power.

The findings are contained in a 45-page document released by the Holy See’s synod office that summarises the results of the unprecedented listening and dialogue process as part of the global synod.

“Women remain the majority of those who attend liturgy and participate in activities, men a minority; yet most decision-making and governance roles are held by men,” the report states.

“From all continents comes an appeal for Catholic women to be valued first and foremost as baptised and equal members of the People of God. There is almost unanimous affirmation that women love the Church deeply, but many feel sadness because their lives are often not well understood, and their contributions and charisms not always valued,” the document states.

The role and vocation of women are described as a “critical and urgent area”, with the document calling for further discernment is needed on how to include women in governance roles, the possibility of preaching and the female diaconate.

On the ordination of women to the priesthood, which Francis, following John Paul II, has ruled out, the report says a diversity of opinion was expressed, with some in favour and others considering it closed. Where there is a consensus, however, on the need to value the contribution of women to the Church.

The report cites a submission from the International Union of Superiors General, the body representing female religious sisters, which said “sexism in decision-making and Church language is prevalent in the Church” and that women religious were sometimes undervalued or viewed as “cheap labour”.

Just over twelve months ago, Pope Francis launched the first part of the synod for “a synodal Church” that took place in Catholic communities worldwide and was the largest consultation exercise to have been conducted in human history. The document, published on Thursday, 27 October, offers a snapshot into the views of ordinary Catholics and provides a framework for the next phase of the synod process. It reflects back what has been said so far while the text will be discussed in forthcoming “continental assemblies” in early 2023.

Titled the “Working Document for the Continental Stage” of the synod, it is an unusual text as it does not offer any rulings on contested topics inside the Church, nor does it have teaching authority. Instead, it is a theological document aimed at furthering the synod process as it expresses a “listening to the voice of the Spirit” through the People of God. It was drawn up by a group of around 30 theologians, lay workers and bishops who met for several days in Frascati, near Rome, in September to synthesise reports from 112 bishops’ conferences, different religious orders and around 150 lay groups.  In the United States, 700,000 Catholics participated in the local synod listening exercises; in Spain, it was around 200,000; in France, 150,000; in England and Wales, 30,000. The numbers are without any obvious precedent in a Catholic context.

Taking a passage from Isaiah, “Enlarge the Space of your Tent”, the new document uses the biblical image of a tent for the Church as the guiding image for its core reflections.

“This is how many reports envision the Church: an expansive, but not homogeneous dwelling, capable of sheltering all, but open, letting in and out,” the report says.

The tent is held together by its pegs, “the fundamentals of faith that do not change but can be moved and planted in ever new ground,” while the tent’s structure “must keep in balance the different forces and tensions to which it is subjected.” Finally, “enlarging the tent requires welcoming others into it, making room for their diversity,” and is about “moving toward embracing the Father and all of humanity.” This “big tent” approach includes everyone and is prepared to change its attitudes and structures. The report references a range of groups that feel excluded, such as “remarried divorcees, single parents, people living in a polygamous marriage, LGBTQ people.”

One of the barriers to a more synodal Church is clericalism, a phenomenon which sees power concentrated in the hands of an elite group – lay or ordained. Catholics, the synod document says, “signal the importance of ridding the Church of clericalism so that all its members, including priests and laity, can fulfil a common mission.” As a remedy to clericalism, the reports “express a deep and energetic desire for renewed forms of leadership – priestly, episcopal, religious and lay – that are relational and collaborative, and forms of authority capable of generating solidarity and co-responsibility.”

The report also suggests the synod faces a major hurdle in getting members of the church hierarchy to engage in the process. The “fears and resistance” of the clergy to the synod were frequently cited by the reports sent to Rome, while some of the “least evident voices” in the synod process were bishops and priests. The synod has faced no shortage of challenges, including a failure to organise gatherings in some places, a “meagre presence of the voice of young people”, and those who rejected the process altogether.

But taking the steps to a more synodal church is still in its infancy. Francis, who will be 86 in December, recently extended the process to ensure it continues until October 2024 so as not to rush the exercise. The latest document strongly focuses on the process of becoming synodal, where listening and collective discernment become part of church culture and structures. The report says the key challenge is finding ways for bishops, priests and laity to jointly take responsibility for the mission of the Church but in their own distinct ways. Many local churches call for decision-making in the Church to be taken based on “processes of communal discernment” which include the lay and ordained working together. The report describes pastoral councils as “indispensable” while greater transparency, particularly in light of the abuse crisis, is seen as a pre-requisite for a more synodal Church.

“Careful and painful reflection on the legacy of abuse has led many synod groups to call for a cultural change in the Church with a view to greater transparency, accountability and co-responsibility,” it states.

“All Church institutions, as fully participatory bodies, are called to consider how they might integrate the call to synodality into the ways in which they exercise their functions and their mission, renewing their structures and procedures.”

Furthermore, there are calls for a stronger emphasis in the Church on ecumenical and inter-faith engagement with a “more united witness among Christians and between faith communities” described as “an ardent desire.” It is all part of the call for a more outward-looking, missionary Church.

The synod experience is described as “novelty and freshness”, with many in the Church saying that this was the first time they had been asked for an opinion. At the same time, theologians have repeatedly pointed out that synodal processes are rooted in scripture and tradition and are an attempt to rediscover something from Catholic tradition. The document explains that moving towards a synodal church is likened to family members reuniting after a period apart.

“One could say that the synodal journey marked the first steps of the return from an experience of collective exile, the consequences of which affect the entire People of God: if the Church is not synodal, no one can really feel fully at home,” the report says.

The liturgy is also cited as a key concern. Many Catholics want a more participatory form of worship while “a particular source of suffering are those situations in which access to the Eucharist and to the other Sacraments is hindered or prevented.” The quality of homilies during Mass is “is almost unanimously reported as a problem”, while the way celebrations take place risks making the congregation passive observers in what is taking place. A desire is expressed for greater “diversity in forms of prayer and celebration”, which makes worship more accessible.

When it comes to the Old Rite of the Mass, the document cites “knots of conflict” which need to be “addressed in a synodal manner” and that a number in the Church still feel ill at ease “following the liturgical developments” which came after the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council. Last year, the Pope restricted the use of the pre-Vatican II liturgy in a move that upset liturgical traditionalists. The synod document quotes the report from the United States, which says the restrictions on the Old Rite were “lamented” and that “people on each side of the issue reported feeling judged by those who differ from them.”

The next stage of the synod process will take place in a series of assemblies in various continents from January to March 2023, which must include representatives from the whole Church. The European assembly will take place in the Czech Republic on 5-12 February 2023, while the African gathering will occur in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 1-7 March 2023. The Central and Latin American Church is planning five different events in El Salvador (13-17 February 2023), the Dominican Republic (20-24 February 2023), Ecuador (27 February – 3 March 2023) and Brazil (6-10 March 2023).

But before these take place, every diocesan bishop is to “arrange an ecclesial process of discernment” on the new document, which will then be submitted to individual bishops’ conferences. The conferences will then submit a report to each continental assembly, which needs to draft a document of “a maximum of about twenty pages.” These documents must be sent to the Holy See’s synod office and form the working document for a summit of bishops from 4-29 October 2023.

Complete Article HERE!

Survivor seeks clarity about abusive priest’s future

The Christ Church Newman Center is located on the north edge of campus along the Mississippi River at St. Cloud State University.

By Kirsti Marohn

After a St. Cloud priest was recently released from prison after serving more than two years for sexual misconduct with an adult, one of his victims says the Catholic Diocese of St. Cloud needs to do more to ensure that he will never again serve in the priesthood.

The Rev. Anthony Oelrich was released from the state prison in Lino Lakes on Oct. 17 after serving two-thirds of a 41-month sentence.

Oelrich pleaded guilty in 2019 to one felony count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct for being a member of the clergy and having ongoing sexual contact with a woman who’d come to him for spiritual advice. That’s prohibited under Minnesota law, and consent is not a defense.

A mug shot of a white man
St. Cloud priest Anthony Oelrich was released from prison last week after serving more than two years for criminal sexual misconduct with an adult.

The 56-year-old Oelrich remains a Catholic priest, although his priestly faculties have been suspended since his 2018 arrest. That means he can’t present himself as a priest, celebrate Mass publicly or wear the Roman collar.

In a statement, St. Cloud Bishop Donald Kettler said he continues to consider Oelrich’s future ministry status. Under church law, only the pope can decide whether he should be laicized, or dismissed from the priesthood.

In the meantime, Oelrich continues to receive his priest’s salary. He must pay for his own housing and other expenses. The church did not pay his legal fees during his criminal case, a diocese spokesperson said.

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One person who’s been pushing the diocese for a clearer answer about Oelrich’s future in the church is one of his victims, a woman named Deborah. MPR News agreed to use only use her first name because she is a survivor of sexual abuse.

In an interview at her Twin Cities home last week, Deborah said the weeks leading up to Oelrich’s release have taken a toll on her health. She said she’s had trouble sleeping and suffered from migraine headaches because of the uncertainty about what the church is going to do about Oelrich.

Deborah said she was a young stay-at-home mom with five children trapped in an abusive marriage in 1993, when Oelrich manipulated her into a sexual relationship that lasted nearly a decade. She said he preyed on women like her in vulnerable situations.

“That’s one of the things so I had to read a lot and understand — how it is never consensual in that situation,” she said.

According to court documents filed in Deborah’s civil lawsuit against Oelrich and the St. Cloud diocese, her first husband complained to the diocese about Oelrich’s inappropriate behavior toward Deborah in 1994. The complaint says church officials did not support Deborah, but sided with Oelrich and blamed her.

“I was asked questions about if I had been fantasizing about him, if I knew the meaning of seduction, if I don’t know how to say no to people,” she said. “Everything was implied that I had seduced him. And yet, they never admitted any wrongdoing on his part.”

Deborah said the abuse by Oelrich continued, even after she divorced, remarried and moved to the Twin Cities. Eventually she sought support from the organization Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

She filed a police report in 2016, but the statute of limitations for criminal charges had expired. Deborah did provide testimony in the criminal case against Oelrich for abusing a different woman, which led to his guilty plea.

MPR News also contacted the victim at the center of the criminal case, who declined to comment for this story.

A brick office building is framed by trees in afternoon light
The St Cloud Diocese office is seen along Third Avenue South, located just blocks away from St. Cloud State University on Monday.

Deborah said she met with Bishop Kettler in early June, and asked how the church would handle Oelrich once he was released from prison.

“We also told him in that meeting we’re concerned about the ongoing financial support that he would be given, because that comes out of the pockets of parishioners,” she said.

Deborah said the bishop told her he’d forwarded the investigation of Oelrich to Rome for a decision on whether the priest should be laicized.

It does bring her some comfort that Oelrich will remain under the supervision of the Minnesota Department of Corrections for 10 years.

Department spokesperson Nick Kimball said Oelrich must register as a predatory offender and follow special conditions, including refraining from employment as a clergy or minister without approval.

Deborah says she still thinks the diocese should provide more assurance that Oelrich will never again serve as a priest anywhere, in any capacity.

“Only because the law is going to be watching him and holding him accountable,” she said. “That is the only reason that the people are safe from him. The church is not providing any safety.”

Oelrich’s attorney, Paul Engh, provided a statement to MPR News saying his client served his time “with dignity and remorse.”

“He is being dismissed from the priesthood, and will not be contacting any witness from his case,” Engh stated.

Attorney Michael Bryant has represented many survivors of clergy abuse, including Deborah, in civil lawsuits against the Catholic church. He said internationally, the church has made progress on preventing clergy abuse, but there are still cases where it protects predatory priests.

Bryant said even though this case didn’t involve children, Oelrich still took advantage of his authority.

“It still goes back to preying upon vulnerable individuals,” Bryant said. “And so actions by the church that don’t protect vulnerable individuals seem contrary to all of their teachings.”

A silhouette of a building against a purple and orange sunset
The Cathedral of Saint Mary, a prominent landmark in downtown St. Cloud, Minn., is seen at sunset on Monday.

Deborah said she wants the St. Cloud bishop to be more transparent and address parishioners directly about Oelrich, as well as start a support group for abuse survivors.

“It’s very anxiety-producing that my church does not handle this well, that they’re not transparent, that we haven’t learned with everything that’s gone on,” she said.

In his statement about Oelrich’s release, Kettler apologized to the victims and all those who’ve been hurt by his actions.

“I am committed to fostering healing for those who have been wounded and doing all I can to end clergy abuse,” Kettler stated.

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