National Catholic Reporter

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Accountability

British court: Church can be held liable for crimes of clergy

MANCHESTER, England -- A British court has ruled that the Catholic Church can be held legally liable for the crimes of abusive clergy.

The Nov. 8 ruling by the High Court in London for the first time defined in British law the relationship of a priest to his bishop as that of an employee to an employer, instead of seeing the priest as effectively self-employed.

This means that a bishop and a diocese can be punished for the crimes of a priest. Survivors' groups hope that it will also mean that many people who claim to have been abused by clergy will be able to claim compensation more easily.

The court granted the trustees of the Diocese of Portsmouth extra time to appeal the decision.

The case involves a 47-year-old mother of three, referred to only by the initials JGE, who claims she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Father Wilfred Baldwin as a 7-year-old girl in The Firs children's home in Waterlooville, in southern England, in the early 1970s.

She claims that she also was attacked in the dressing room of a church on the day she made her first Communion.

Former diocesan advocate criticizes failed KC system

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- "This diocese is in desperate need of healing, and I do not believe that can happen until Bishop [Robert] Finn is held accountable” for his mishandling of clergy sexual misconduct cases, a former victims' advocate for the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., said today.

Mercy Sr. Jeanne Christensen, who served as the diocesan victims' advocate from 2000-2004, spoke at a press conference hosted by the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests this afternoon.

Christensen is thought to be the first former diocesan advocate to publicly criticize her diocese over its response to allegations of abuse, according to SNAP members.

Vatican moved quickly to punish Gumbleton

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Updated with video

MILWAUKEE -- Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit, revealed for the first time yesterday details about his removal as a parish pastor in 2007. NCR published a report of the talk Gumbleton delivered at pre-conference meeting of Call to Action in Milwaukee.

See Retired bishop asked to leave Detroit parish for testimony for that story. More video here.

Following are more of the background that led up to Gumbleton's dismissal.

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Gumbleton had followed the sex abuse crisis in the press, especially the church's response. "I thought they were starting to move along."

The bishops had developed the Dallas Charter in 2002, outlining policies for dealing with sexual abuse cases.

Retired bishop asked to leave Detroit parish for testimony

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Updated with video

MILWAUKEE -- Because he violated "communio episcoporum" (the communion of bishops) and other canons by speaking in support of extending the statute of limitations for cases of sexual abuse by clergy, retired Detroit auxiliary bishop Thomas Gumbleton said he was forced to discontinue his role as pastor at a Detroit parish. It was the first time Gumbleton revealed details about his removal as a parish pastor in 2007.

Vatican official: Accountability critical for sex abuse prevention

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VATICAN CITY -- Child abuse prevention policies will never work without accountability and an unwavering commitment to children's welfare, said the Vatican's top investigator of clerical sex abuse.

"No strategy for the prevention of child abuse will ever work without commitment and accountability," especially from the world's bishops, said Msgr. Charles Scicluna, promoter of justice for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Poll: Irish Catholics have unfavorable view of church

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DUBLIN, IRELAND -- In yet another sign that the beleaguered Catholic Church in Ireland has a long and arduous road to a brighter future, almost half of Irish people polled say they now have an unfavorable view of the church.

Once famously described by Pope Paul VI as the "most Catholic country in the world," Ireland's church has taken a battering over the past two decades and lost credibility because of the cover-up of clerical sexual abuse.

Vatican investigates Benedictines over abuse cases

LONDON -- At the request of the Vatican, a bishop has conducted a review of child protection procedures at a Benedictine abbey following a number of high-profile child abuse cases.

Auxiliary Bishop John Arnold of Westminster and Abbot Richard Yeo, president of the English Benedictine Congregation, conducted the apostolic visitation at Ealing Abbey and the neighboring St, Benedict's School during September.

They have already made their report to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which ordered the visitation.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, confirmed to Catholic News Service Oct. 25 that Bishop Arnold was asked by the doctrinal congregation to conduct the apostolic visitation.

The congregation, he said, has competency for handling "questions regarding the sexual abuse of minors."

"When the final report of the visitation is ready, it will be given to the congregation, which will take the appropriate steps," Father Lombardi said.

Pavone continues to raise money for Priests for Life

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Fr. Frank Pavone, the high-profile, pro-life priest whose bishop has restricted his ministry because of questions about the finances of the group he runs, continues to raise money for the group while reaching out to supporters with Web videos, press releases and endorsements.

Pavone, head of Priests For Life, sent a fundraising letter to supporters Oct. 14 to tell them that "in obedience to my bishop, I am carrying on with our shared pro-life mission." He expresses worry that supporters might be misled by "all the misinformation and outright attacks on me and Priests for Life."

"All I can tell you is that just about everything you're reading or hearing is false. All of it," he wrote.

This is at least Pavone's second fundraising letter since his bishop, Patrick Zurek of Amarillo, Texas, recalled him to the diocese in the Texas panhandle last month because of "persistent questions and concerns" about how Pavone was handling millions of dollars in donations to his organization.

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