National Catholic Reporter

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Accountability

In Philadelphia, a church at the crossroads

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First Person

In the tumult that followed last year’s second grand jury report to allege a staggering history of sex abuse and cover-up in the Philadelphia archdiocese, the most striking response I heard from a reeling faithful came not from any cleric, staffer or abuse survivor, but from my mother.

Over a late-night cup of coffee as the revelations were still sinking in, all Mom could bring herself to say was, “It just feels like there’s been a death in the family.”

What she was implying seemed clear, but I wanted to be sure. “You mean your trust in the wider church, outside the parish?”

“That’s exactly what I meant,” she shot back.

If that was how Mom, a South Philly Italian named for a nun, now a lay minister and caretaker for my ailing grandmother -- in other words, a pillar of the faith -- felt at the start of a year whose turns since have read like a surrealist novel, one could forget about finding credibility anywhere else.

Kansas City abuse case decision expected to center on 'mandated reporter' statute

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The first criminal case against a Catholic bishop in the decades-long clergy sex abuse scandal is expected to take a pivotal turn this week, as a county judge decides whether Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, can be tried on charges of failing to report suspected child abuse.

Central to the decision will be the question of whether Finn can be considered a "mandated reporter" in the case.

Sexual assault an intractable problem across the country

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The most recent issue of Notre Dame Magazine includes a long piece called “Anything but clear,” about sexual assault at the university, my alma mater. Yet its 3,936 words do not include these two: Lizzy Seeberg. She was the 19-year-old freshman at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., who committed suicide in the fall of 2010 after accusing a University of Notre Dame football player of sexual assaulting her.

“The number of sexual misconduct allegations in the 2010-11 academic year was consistent with past averages,” the alumni magazine story says near the top, “but a course of events drew widespread attention at Notre Dame and elsewhere.”

Reported sexual assault at Notre Dame campus leaves more questions than answers

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On her way back to St. Mary's College from the University of Notre Dame, just across the street in Notre Dame, Ind., freshman Lizzy Seeberg texted her therapist that she needed to talk ASAP. "Something bad happened," read her message, sent at 11:39 p.m. on Aug. 31, 2010. A sophomore in their dorm bolted from her study group after getting a similar message. When they talked a few minutes later, Lizzy was crying so hard she was having trouble breathing: "She looked really flushed and was breathing heavily and talking really fast; I couldn't understand her. I just heard her say 'boy,' 'Notre Dame,' 'football player.' She was crying and having the closest thing to a panic attack I've seen in my life. I told her to breathe and sit down and tell me everything."

Irish cardinal promises full cooperation with abuse investigation

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DUBLIN -- Cardinal Sean Brady said the Catholic church will cooperate fully with a government-led investigation into institutional abuse being launched in Northern Ireland.

A similar inquiry in Ireland -- the Ryan Commission -- reported in 2009 and found that physical abuse was widespread and sexual abuse was endemic in many institutions for boys run by members of religious congregations.

Brady, whose Armagh Archdiocese straddles the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, spoke after a meeting Monday with the group Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse in Northern Ireland. He was accompanied by representatives of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Sisters of St. Louis, Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Nazareth, all of whom managed institutions for children and vulnerable adults in the region.

"I wish to confirm that we believe the experiences the group shared with us and acknowledge its ongoing impact on their lives," Brady said after the meeting. "We apologize wholeheartedly and without reserve for the abuse that they suffered as children. We remain committed to fully cooperating with the inquiry."

SNAP leader's deposition made public

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The transcript of the court ordered deposition of the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests reveals that attorneys defending clergy accused of abuse cast a wide net in their inquiries, seeking information about how the group handles phone calls with clergy sex abuse victims to how it files its tax returns.

The transcript, which is a record of the Jan. 2 deposition of SNAP’s director David Clohessy, was made public by the victims’ advocacy group this morning (Friday).

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September 12-25, 2014

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