DUBLIN, Ireland -- Although the sexual abuse crisis has been devastating for the Catholic church everywhere it’s erupted, the meltdown in Ireland is fairly unique in scope and scale. Catholicism was effectively the state church, running the country’s schools, hospitals and orphanages. As a result, when the church served people well, it had a massively positive social impact – and when the church failed and abused people, the damage was correspondingly immense.
The U.S. bishops chose not to follow their own guidelines in handling disputes between bishops and theologians before issuing a critique last week of a 2007 book by a prominent U.S. theologian.
In a statement dated March 24 and released March 30, the bishops’ doctrine committee said that the book, Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God by Fordham University theology professor St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth A. Johnson, is marred by “misrepresentations, ambiguities and errors” and “completely undermines the Gospel and the faith of those who believe in the Gospel.”
The public finding, the committee determined, was necessary because the popular book is directed to a broad audience and is being used as a textbook for the study of God.
According to guidelines approved by the U.S. bishops in 1989, doctrinal disputes with theologians are to be kept as local as possible and are to follow carefully delineated steps involving dialogue with the theologian to clarify data, meaning and the relationship with Catholic tradition while identifying the implications for the life of the church.
MILWAUKEE -- In the early years of the priest sex abuse crisis, Catholics often expressed their frustration with how bishops handled the scandal by saying “they don’t get it.” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, may be a member of the hierarchy who begins to reverse that perception.
In a keynote address April 4 at the Marquette University Law School, Martin described the struggles he encountered in bringing to light the “disastrous situation” of abuse in the Dublin archdiocese, from assembling documentation to facing the resistance of priests and other bishops who opposed disclosing the history of abuse. “I tell these events,” he said, “not to re-open history, but to illustrate just how difficult it is to bring an institution around to the conviction that the truth must be told.”
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law on March 26 a bill that extends the statute of limitations for sexual abuse civil lawsuits to 20 years.
The bill passed the Virginia Senate on Feb. 3 (see article) and the Virginia House of Delegates passed the bill Feb. 24, sending it to the Republican governor for his signature.
The law goes into effect July 1.
Currently in Virginia, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse is two years from when the person is 18 years old, from the time of the abuse, or from the time of discovery.
With the passage of the new bill, Virginia joins a small number of states that have statutes of limitations of more than eight years. Forty states and Washington D.C. have a limit of eight years or less, according to Jeff Caruso, executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference.
The House bill was introduced by David B. Albo, R-Fairfax, and the Senate bill was introduced by Frederick M. Quayle, R-Chesapeake. Each bill originally proposed a 25-year cap.
The recent Philadelphia grand jury report, a scathing assessment of the archdiocese’s handling of sex abuse allegations against priests, has wider implications for the church, say several experts, because it exposes inherent weaknesses in the process that is employed nationally for dealing with allegations against Catholic clerics.
The evident failure in the Philadelphia archdiocese of the system set up by the U.S. bishops in 2002 raises the question of whether similar circumstances exist in other dioceses, most of which have not come under the scrutiny of a grand jury or other law enforcement agencies. The question that keeps surfacing is: Are there other Philadelphias out there?
America’s Catholic bishops are notoriously divided on many fronts, but there’s at least one new point where complete consensus reigns: that the recent scandal in Philadelphia, where a grand jury found that 37 priests remained in ministry despite "substantial" allegations of sexual abuse, couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Prior to becoming Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sympathized with the notion of a smaller, more orthodox Roman Catholic church. In his decade as bishop of the Baker diocese in Oregon, Robert F. Vasa in effect implemented Benedict's idea, generating deep reactions of support as well as dissent.
Many lament Vasa's exit from Baker as he traveled early this month to California to fill his recent appointment as coadjutor bishop of Santa Rosa, Calif. Many others express delight or relief at his departure and wonder out loud if temporary apostolic administrator, retired Bishop William Skylstad, can provide pathways to unity in a polarized diocese.
Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali’s move to place 21 priests on administrative leave from their clerical assignments Monday calls into question whether the system the U.S. bishops set in place in 2002 to look into allegations of clergy sex abuse has protected children, say victims' advocates.
Cardinal Justin Rigali of the Philadelphia Archdiocese placed 21 priests on administrative leave from their clerical assignments yesterday in response to the clergy sexual abuse scandal, Catholic News Service is reporting this morning.
Parishes where the priests had been assigned were to be informed of the action at Masses on Ash Wednesday, and again at Masses the following weekend.
BERLIN -- Germany’s Roman Catholic Church is offering cash payments of up to 5,000 euros ($6,925) to victims of child sexual abuse in a yet unknown number of cases, some dating back decades.
The German Bishops’ Conference made the announcement March 2 as a special commission continues months of work on abuse prevention and reimbursement. Church officials said they could wait no longer.
Noting that the commission’s work had no end in sight, the church “felt itself obligated to immediately offer quick and non-bureaucratic assistance.
“We understand the growing impatience of those affected,” the bishops’ conference said in a statement.
Many victims groups said the offer is insufficient, especially in light of an offer by Germany’s Jesuits last year to give 5,000 euros to each affected person.
“It’s shameful, how the richest church in the world is trying to get out of this affair,” Matthias Katsch, a spokesman for a victims group, told the Frankfurter Rundschau, a German newspaper.