In a historic shift

— Pope Francis allows women to vote at bishops’ meetings

Pope Francis leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, April 26, 2023.

By The Associated Press

Pope Francis has decided to give women the right to vote at an upcoming meeting of bishops, an historic reform that reflects his hopes to give women greater decision-making responsibilities and laypeople more say in the life of the Catholic Church.

Francis approved changes to the norms governing the Synod of Bishops, a Vatican body that gathers the world’s bishops together for periodic meetings, following years of demands by women to have the right to vote.

The Vatican on Wednesday published the modifications he approved, which emphasize his vision for the lay faithful taking on a greater role in church affairs that have long been left to clerics, bishops and cardinals.

Catholic women’s groups that have long criticized the Vatican for treating women as second-class citizens immediately praised the move as historic in the 2,000-year life of the church.

“This is a significant crack in the stained glass ceiling, and the result of sustained advocacy, activism and the witness” of a campaign of Catholic women’s groups demanding the right to vote, said Kate McElwee of the Women’s Ordination Conference, which advocates for women priests.

Ever since the Second Vatican Council, the 1960s meetings that modernized the church, popes have summoned the world’s bishops to Rome for a few weeks at a time to debate particular topics. At the end of the meetings, the bishops vote on specific proposals and put them to the pope, who then produces a document taking their views into account.

Until now, the only people who could vote were men. But under the new changes, five religious sisters will join five priests as voting representatives for religious orders. In addition, Francis has decided to appoint 70 non-bishop members of the synod and has asked that half of them be women. They too will have a vote.

The aim is also to include young people among these 70 non-bishop members, who will be proposed by regional blocs, with Francis making a final decision.

“It’s an important change, it’s not a revolution,” said Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, a top organizer of the synod.

The next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 4-29, is focused on the very topic of making the church more reflective of, and responsive to, the laity, a process known as “synodality” that Francis has championed for years.

The October meeting has been preceded by an unprecedented two-year canvassing of the lay Catholic faithful about their vision for the church and how it can better respond to the needs of Catholics today.

So far only one women is known to be a voting member of that October meeting, Sister Nathalie Becquart, a French nun who is undersecretary in the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops office. When she was appointed to the position in 2021, she called Francis “brave” for having pushed the envelope on women’s participation.

By the end of next month, seven regional blocs will propose 20 names apiece of non-bishop members to Francis, who will select 10 names apiece to bring the total to 70.

Cardinal Mario Grech, who is in charge of the synod, stressed that with the changes, some 21% of the gathered representatives at the October meeting will be non-bishops, with half of that group women.

Acknowledging the unease within the hierarchy of Francis’ vision of inclusivity, he stressed that the synod itself would continue to have a majority of bishops calling the shots.

“Change is normal in life and history,” Hollerich told reporters. “Sometimes there are revolutions in history, but revolutions have victims. We don’t want to have victims,” he said, chuckling.

Catholic Women’s Ordination, a British-based group that says it’s devoted to fighting misogyny in the church, welcomed the reform but asked for more.

“CWO would want transparency, and lay people elected from dioceses rather than chosen by the hierarchy, but it is a start!” said the CWO’s Pat Brown.

Hollerich declined to say how the female members of the meeting would be called, given that members have long been known as “synodal fathers.” Asked if they would be known as “synodal mothers,” he responded that it would be up to the women to decide.

Francis has upheld the Catholic Church’s ban on ordaining women as priests, but has done more than any pope in recent time to give women greater say in decision-making roles in the church.

He has appointed several women to high-ranking Vatican positions, though no women head any of the major Vatican offices or departments, known as dicasteries.

Complete Article HERE!

Philadelphia Archdiocese faces civil suit claiming then-priest preyed on adult woman at Nashville Catholic college

The gold cross and cupola of Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul are pictured in this 2011 file photo.


The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is facing a civil lawsuit over claims it covered up for one of its former priests who allegedly sexually abused a student at a Nashville, Tennessee, Catholic college run by Dominican women religious.

The complaint highlights problems in the sharing of information among dioceses and institutions, as well as unaddressed challenges in the Catholic Church’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse involving adult victims.

Attorneys for “Jane Doe,” an undergraduate at Aquinas College in Nashville from 2014-2018, filed a 31-page complaint April 18 with the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Civil Trial Division, naming as defendants the archdiocese and Kevin Barry McGoldrick, a former priest of the Philadelphia archdiocese and currently a Nashville resident.

Doe, now a 28-year-old educator working in Virginia, claims McGoldrick groomed and then sexually assaulted her on at least two occasions in 2017 while she was a 22-year-old student at Aquinas College, during which time the priest — also a singer-songwriter who crowdfunded his own album — was her spiritual director.

Existing church protocols on abuse, such as the Dallas Charter, focus on the protection of minor children and those adults legally regarded as children due to a habitual incapacity of some kind.

But the vulnerability of adults generally to sexual exploitation by clergy or lay authority figures is only now receiving greater attention within the church. The 2018 McCarrick scandals and #ChurchToo movement exposed in the U.S. and globally how women and men in the church, particularly those in pastoral relationships, spiritual direction, employment, religious life or seminary, could be vulnerable to clergy abuse.

Underscoring the need to extend the church’s safe environment protection to adults, Pope Francis revised in March his 2019 legal reform “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the light of the world”), with the term “vulnerable adults” specifically defined as “any person in a state of infirmity, physical or mental deficiency, or deprivation of personal liberty that in fact, even occasionally, limits his or her ability to understand or will or otherwise resist the offense.”

Ordained in May 2003, McGoldrick — according to the complaint — had been sent in 2013 with a letter of suitability from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to serve as a chaplain at Aquinas College, located within the Diocese of Nashville and operated by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, known as the Nashville Dominicans.

According to the complaint, from about 2017 to 2020 McGoldrick also served as a chaplain at the Nashville Dominicans’ Overbrook Catholic School and St. Cecilia Academy, adjacent to the Aquinas campus, and together serving students from PreK to grade 12.

Doe, who is seeking more than $250,000 in total damages on five counts, alleges the archdiocese permitted McGoldrick’s relocation despite supposed prior reports of sexual abuse involving at least two other women in the Philadelphia area, which Doe said she discovered through online sources not specified in the complaint.

Requests placed by OSV News for comment from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Aquinas College and the Nashville Dominicans have been declined. OSV News has not yet received a response to requests for comment from the Overbrook Catholic School and St. Cecilia Academy.

Doe told OSV News in an April 19 call that she has suffered “two-fold” trauma as a result of the alleged abuse — the first from the sexual assaults, and the second from the “constant invalidation experienced from the church” as she has sought justice.

Learning of other alleged victims in the Philadelphia area was “another blow,” said Doe. “To know that everything I had experienced, the abuse at the hands of McGoldrick and the trauma the church had inflicted — all of that was avoidable if the Archdiocese of Philadelphia hadn’t sent a known sex predator to my college campus.”

Doe’s attorney, Stewart Ryan, advised OSV News by email that his client had been alerted to the alleged additional accusations against McGoldrick through the Facebook page of Catholics4Change, which describes itself as an “accountability blog” focusing on child protection issues in the Catholic Church.

The complaint details allegations of sexual abuse by McGoldrick against “M.W.” and “Victim #2” — neither of whom are parties to the lawsuit — said to have occurred prior to McGoldrick’s move to Nashville. Ryan told OSV News the information about M.W. and Victim #2 “was developed during (his) law firm’s investigation of the case.”

M.W. alleged in the complaint that McGoldrick had groomed her beginning in 2006, and abused her for several years, raping her at least once. Victim #2, a parish business manager, was also groomed and abused by McGoldrick beginning in 2012, according to the document, which asserts that both cases had been reported to and were under investigation by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

“McGoldrick made the women he abused, including Plaintiff, M.W., and Victim #2, believe that their sexual interactions were ‘special trials’ ordained by God,” the complaint states.

The complaint states Doe reported the alleged abuse she had experienced to both the Diocese of Nashville and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in March 2019, and was repeatedly advised by the latter that no additional victims had been identified.

A timeline of Doe’s efforts to report her claims and obtain further information from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Diocese of Nashville and Aquinas College was published July 18, 2020, by the U.K.-based Catholic Herald.

According to the article, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia stated that McGoldrick’s petition for laicization was “in process” as of July 2020.

OSV News is awaiting confirmation from the archdiocese of the date when McGoldrick, who is not listed as a priest on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s website, was officially laicized.

Along with the timeline of Doe’s reporting, the Catholic Herald posted a July 18, 2020, first-person reflection by Doe, writing under the pseudonym “Susanna.”

In that account, she described feeling “overwhelming confusion and guilt” over the alleged attacks by McGoldrick, and “regularly contemplated taking (her) own life.”

Speaking to OSV News, Doe said her spiritual life has been profoundly damaged by the abuse she claims to have suffered.

“I was a convert to Catholicism, and … Catholicism was everything to me. It was my whole life,” she said. “Even after leaving (Aquinas), I was a full-time missionary Catholic.”

However, the “experience of trying to seek justice while inside the church has been so damaging that I can no longer exist within the church,” she said. “Because to be surrounded by those who are actively putting others in harm’s way is not something I can live with. And my heart breaks for those who continue to trust in an organization that I know all too well is not keeping them safe.”

Ryan told OSV News that his client’s case against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia revolves around “two core issues.”

“First, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia never should have transferred this man,” he said. “Based on our information, we allege that they knew (about McGoldrick’s alleged abuse) as of at least 2013.”

In addition, “once our client came forward to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia … (it) should have been more fully open and transparent with what they did know,” said Ryan. “There was absolutely no reason for the archdiocese to withhold information it knows about credible accusations of clergy members, just because they haven’t abused a child.”

He said, “I think this case stands as an example of a severe lack of communication (among dioceses).”

In an April 19 statement emailed to OSV News, the Diocese of Nashville said it had received a March 2019 “report from an adult woman of inappropriate activity involving Kevin McGoldrick” regarding “an incident that happened a year and a half earlier.”

The diocese said the incident at the time “appeared to be neither a civil nor canonical crime,” noting that “the report made to us was significantly different from the description of sexual assault subsequently reported to others and contained in published media reports.”

The statement said the diocese had “immediately referred” the report to the Nashville Dominicans, who as McGoldrick’s then-employer “had the authority and purview to investigate and respond to this matter,” since “as a pontifical order … not under the control of the Bishop or Diocese of Nashville” the sisters are “solely responsible for the operation of the school and its employees.”

The Nashville diocese said McGoldrick had been granted priestly faculties in Nashville after his hiring by the Dominicans, following McGoldrick passing a criminal background check and presenting a letter of good standing from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The faculties “were withdrawn after the Dominican Sisters elected not to continue McGoldrick’s employment,” said the Nashville Diocese’s statement.

The diocese said it, along with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, had received “a much more detailed and serious report of abuse” from “the person who made the initial report” in the summer of 2019.

The diocese also said that it had “entered into settlement discussions” with the person reporting, out of pastoral concern for her healing, with both parties acknowledging the agreement was “not to be construed as an admission of validity of the merits of any claim or allegation” made by the person reporting, and “any and all liability was specifically denied.”

Ryan confirmed by email to OSV News that his client’s settlement with the Nashville diocese — an amount reported by the Catholic Herald as totaling $65,000 — “has been fully resolved.”

OSV News has attempted to reach McGoldrick directly for comment. According to his LinkedIn page, McGoldrick — who lists his clerical experience but does not state he is currently a member of the clergy — states on the site he has been a chaplain at Avalon Hospice (now Gentiva Hospice) in Nashville. On calling the hospice April 20, OSV News was advised McCormick is no longer employed at the facility. A message sent to McGoldrick’s Facebook account has not yet received a response.

Complete Article HERE!

I was a nun for 2 decades before leaving the convent to be with a woman.

— I stood up to the church for our right to marry.

Monica Hingston was a nun for over two decades.

By Gary Nunn

  • Monica Hingston became a nun at 21 but left the convent when she fell in love with another nun.
  • They moved to a seaside town to live as soulmates — but never got the chance to be spouses.
  • This is Hingston’s story, as told to Gary Nunn.

At 21, I walked down the aisle on my “wedding” day wearing a traditional white dress and a huge train. After I spoke my vows, I walked into a room next to the cathedral. Two women presented me with an austere black gown and asked me to remove my wedding dress. Then they hacked off my hair.

Those two women were nuns. My groom was an unlikely man — Jesus Christ himself.

In 1962, this was known as “the reception” into the convent, and I had just become a nun.

I was an unlikely nun

I’d been a chain-smoking teenager with a motorbike-riding boyfriend, but I came from a religious family. My cousin Cardinal George Pell became one of the most powerful Catholics and the pope’s treasurer.

My mother didn’t want me to join the convent at all; she thought I was limiting my options in life. My dad, meanwhile, thought it was an honor from God. He had a brother who was a priest.

But I admired the nuns who taught me: They were nonmaterialistic people. They were intelligent, caring, and compassionate women doing good without expecting anything in return. I saw that their lives had value and they aspired to be the best human beings they could be — by helping others.

But being a nun tested my rebellious streak. Once, my cousin observed me teaching girls how to empower themselves. He dismissively accused me of teaching them “nothing but fairy floss.” When I was discovered reading a banned philosophy book, a superior said, “Careful. You can read your way out of the church.”

Other times, I questioned why we’d have to follow strange instructions, like moving furniture just to demonstrate blind obedience.

After over 2 decades in the convent, I considered leaving the church for good

I took a yearlong sabbatical and hitchhiked around South America. I was later posted in Chile, where I, along with two American nuns, established a center for struggling Chilean women.

One of the other nuns was named Peg. She’d been a nun for 25 years, and I had reached my 21st. We shared a passion for empowering oppressed women. We’d talk for hours. I hated leaving her at the end of each day.

One day, she confessed: “I don’t want you to leave, but I’m afraid to ask you to stay.”

My entire life changed at that point. Every road had led me to her. I realized I was falling deeply in love, and she felt the same.

We wrote to the pope requesting to be released from our vows, and he swiftly approved

We moved to Torquay, Australia, to live happily as a lesbian couple. There, Peg and I connected on every level. We hugged five or six times a day. We shared our fears and hopes. I’d never known happiness like it.

We wanted to get married — not in a church; by this point, I was firmly an atheist, and Peg was more agnostic. But in 2003, the church instructed Catholic politicians to actively oppose laws recognizing gay unions, calling those seeking them “depraved.” My cousin Pell aggressively backed these sentiments.

I wrote him a private letter challenging his homophobia by describing my relationship with my beautiful Peg.

“It is a rare and precious gift. A partnership of sensitivity and selflessness, of warmth and humor, of wonder and beauty,” I wrote, adding: “It daily enriches me, it empowers me to work for the wellbeing of others.”

A friend persuaded me to make the letter public after Pell ignored me. I reluctantly agreed, hoping it’d help others.

The next day, a man called. He said he’d felt isolated as a gay Catholic and wept at my letter in a newspaper, which made him feel less alone. I was shocked and couldn’t wait to tell Peg. I was just so happy to know we’d made a difference.

I received almost 200 similar calls and emails.

Peg and I were soulmates, but we never achieved our dream of marrying

In 2011, Peg was diagnosed with gallbladder cancer. She died three months later at 74. I was 70.

In her final letter to me, Peg wrote, “Owls symbolize intelligence, brilliance, perspective, intuition, quick wit, independence, wisdom, protection, mystery, and power. You are all of these, dearest Mon.”

Grief enveloped me. I stopped playing golf, listening to music, and dressing fancy — everything we loved together. I started living in a fog.

One morning, a year after her death, I heard crows attacking something in a small tree outside my house. I slowly raised my window blinds and froze in shock. It was an owl — a big, beautiful white barn owl with a heart-shaped face. It held my gaze for 15 minutes before flying away.

I finally felt the fog lift. I felt alive — and no longer alone.

Complete Article HERE!

Vatican statistics show decline in clergy, religious women

— The number of seminarians, priests, and men and women in religious orders declined worldwide in 2021

Pope Francis meets with priests during the weekly general audience on March 23, 2022, at Paul-VI hall in The Vatican.

By Carol Glatz

The number of Catholics and permanent deacons in the world rose in 2021, while the number of seminarians, priests, and men and women in religious orders declined, according to Vatican statistics.

At the end of 2021, the number of Catholics in the world reached 1.378 billion, up 1.3 percent from 1.36 billion Catholics at the end of 2020, according to the Vatican’s Central Office of Church Statistics. By contrast, the world’s population increased by 1.6 percent over the same period.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published a brief overview of the global numbers March 3.

While Catholics remained about 17.67 percent of the global population, their numbers grew in Africa by about 3.1 percent and in the Americas and Asia by about 1 percent each, said the summary, which was based on numbers reported Dec. 31, 2021.

The Americas have 48 percent of the world’s Catholics and Brazil is the country with the greatest number of Catholics in the world with almost 180 million people.

While the Americas have 48 percent of the world’s Catholics, it only has 29 percent of the world’s priests. Just a little over 20 percent of the world’s Catholics live in Europe, yet 39.3 percent of the world’s priests minister there.

The Vatican reported that 19.3 percent of the world’s Catholics live in Africa and are served by more than 12 percent of the world’s priests; 11 percent of Catholics live in Asia and are served by more than 17 percent of the world’s priests; and just 0.8 percent of the global Catholic population lives in Oceania where 1 percent of the world’s priests live.

The Catholic Church also had 5,340 bishops at the end of 2021, a slight decrease from 5,363 at the end of 2020. Globally, the average is 76 priests per bishop, it added.

The total number of diocesan and religious order priests decreased globally by 0.57 percent to 407,872, the Vatican office said. The specific decreases were 0.32 percent for diocesan priests and 1.1 percent for religious-order priests.

The statistical office noted a “serious” imbalance in the ratio of Catholics per priest in the Americas and Africa. Globally there is one priest for every 3,373 Catholics in the world. But the ratio is one priest for every 5,534 Catholics in the Americas and one priest for every 5,101 Catholics in Africa. There are 1,784 Catholics per priest in Europe, 2,137 Catholics per priest in Asia, and 2,437 Catholics per priest in Oceania.

The number of religious brothers decreased in 2021 to 49,774 — a drop of about 1.6 percent from 50,569 the previous year, the office said. The numbers went down in every region except Africa where it increased by 2.2 percent.

The total number of religious women, it said, was 608,958 at the end of 2021 — a decrease of 1.7 percent from 619,546 at the end of 2020.

The number of permanent deacons — 49,176 — saw a 1.1 percent increase over the previous year, with the majority of them serving in the Americas.

The number of seminarians decreased globally by 1.8 percent to 109,895. About 61 percent of them are seminarians for a diocese and 39 percent of them for a religious order.

The number of seminarians has been declining each year since 2013, the Vatican office said. The only increase by region for 2021 was in Africa with 0.6 percent and the sharpest decline in the number of seminarians was in North America and Europe with a 5.8 percent decrease each in 2021.

Complete Article HERE!

‘A long way to go’

— Catholic women call for wide-ranging church reforms in new international survey

By and

Catholic women across the world are calling for a wide range of reforms to the church, according to the results of our survey of more than 17,000 Catholic women from over 100 countries published this month.

A substantial majority were concerned about the prevalence of abuse, racism, and sexism in church contexts, and many raised issues relating to transparency and accountability in church leadership and governance.

The International Survey of Catholic Women is one of the most extensive surveys of Catholic women ever undertaken, and its findings should inform lasting and genuine change in the Catholic Church.

Why we did this survey

The survey was initiated by Catholic Women Speak in response to the invitation of Pope Francis for the Catholic Church to engage in a process of “synodality” for the 2021-2023 Synod of Bishops. The Synod will examine how the church comes together and is considered to be of great importance to major issues facing the church.

The aim of the survey was to gather feedback on the experiences of Catholic women. It provides insights into the complex realities of Catholic women’s lives, the ways in which they express their faith, and their relationships with the institutional church. We devised and managed the survey along with Professor Tina Beattie from the University of Roehampton, London.

The large number of responses clearly indicates a desire by Catholic women to share their aspirations and frustrations, and to make their views on the situation of women in the Catholic Church known to the Synod.

Respondents identified themselves as women from all walks of life – single, married, divorced, LGBTIQ, and religious. While the findings cannot claim to be representative of all Catholic women, they articulate the diverse hopes and struggles of women in the worldwide church.

The views of Catholic women reflect the cultural and communal contexts within which their faith is experienced and practised. This diversity is rarely represented in church documents or theology, and many women struggle to see the relevance of church teachings to the complex realities of their lives.

Many women ‘conflicted’ with the Catholic Church

The survey found that even when women have considerable struggles with Catholic institutions, nearly 90% said their Catholic identity is important to them. Many continue to practise their faith despite ongoing difficulties with the institutional church.

Several respondents used words like “frustrated”, “hurt”, “angry”, and “conflicted” when describing their relationship with the church.

Most respondents said they would welcome reform in the Catholic Church, especially – but not exclusively – regarding the role and representation of women.

One woman from Australia observed “we walk the line of being valuable members of society but voiceless in many elements of the church”. Another, from Nicaragua said, “stop making women invisible”.

Respondents raised issues related to:

A minority of respondents expressed a preference for church reform based on a pre-Vatican II model of authority, priesthood, and liturgy. Vatican II was an important meeting of all Catholic bishops held in Rome between 1962-1965 who made progressive decisions about the future of the worldwide church.

Abuse remains a central problem

Respondents consistently identified the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse of women, children, and other vulnerable people as a central problem for the church.

Some respondents disclosed experiences of abuse and harassment, while others expressed disappointment at the lack of effective action to address the crisis of sexual abuse.

One woman from Canada wrote:

they have a long way to go in dealing with the scandal and cover up. I know this firsthand. I feel as betrayed by the institutional betrayal as I do by my abuser […] This is coming from a committed lifelong Catholic who has never left the church.

Many respondents were deeply concerned about transparency and accountability in church leadership and governance. There was agreement that a less hierarchical and authoritarian model of the church was urgently needed, with greater collaboration and sharing of authority between clergy and laity (lay people).

A substantial majority of respondents identified clericalism as having a negative impact on church life. Clericalism is the idealisation of male clerics and subsequent abuses of power.

A respondent from Panama remarked, “I wish that women had more voice and that we were not abused by clericalism that excludes us and takes away our dignity”.

Most respondents linked their Catholic identity with social justice, and wanted church leaders to address poverty and marginalisation. Several raised the issue of economic justice in church affairs, including the lack of adequate pay for female church workers, both lay and religious.

The challenge for the Synod is to demonstrate that the many concerns raised by respondents in the survey are carefully listened to and addressed.

Complete Article HERE!