National Catholic Reporter

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Accountability

Priest: 'Signs of grace' in abuse scandal

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -- A priest-psychologist said he sees "signs of grace" amid the darkness of the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, clinical associate professor of pastoral studies at The Catholic University of America, said one positive outcome of the abuse crisis has been the continued implementation of the U.S. bishops' 2002 document the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

He called it "a miracle of grace the charter is still strong and so insightful."

Msgr. Rossetti made his remarks May 2 in a keynote address at the National Safe Environment & Victim Assistance Coordinator's Leadership Conference in Burlington.

The priest, former president and CEO of St. Luke Institute, a treatment center in Maryland for priests and religious with addictions or psychological problems, was a consultant to the U.S. Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse that drafted the charter adopted by the bishops at their Dallas meeting in 2002 and revised three years later.

Vatican investigating bishop guilty of having child porn

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VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican will continue its process against a Canadian bishop who pleaded guilty in a civil court to possession of child pornography, the Vatican spokesman said.

Bishop Raymond Lahey of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, pleaded May 4 to the charge of possession "for the purposes of importation child pornography in the form of graphic computer images." However, he told the judge he was not guilty of possession with the intent to distribute.

His plea was in response to his arrest at the Ottawa, Ontario, airport Sept. 15, 2009. Court documents had stated that the bishop's evasive behavior, coupled with a passport stamped with exotic locations known for child pornography, prompted a Canadian Border Services agent to examine the contents of his laptop.

Jesuit Father Frederico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, issued a statement May 4 saying, "The Catholic Church condemns sexual exploitation in all its forms, especially when perpetrated against minors."

Bp Morris: 'Youíve got to stand in your truth.'

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The Advent Pastoral Letter of 2006, cited as the beginning of the controversy that resulted in the recent forced retirement of Australian Bishop William Morris, deals primarily with plans to provide diocesan leadership in a future with dwindling access to the Eucharist and priests.

In the letter, Morris informed local Catholics that, as things stood at the time, by 2014 his rural diocese of Toowoomba would have only six priests 65 years and younger in parish-based ministry, with three aged 61-65, and eight 66-70.

In diocesan ministry in 2014, Morris projected two priests 65 and younger; two priests 66-70 and a bishop in the 71-75 age range.

Oregon diocese named in sex assault lawsuit

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Fact-finding and behind-the-scenes legal wrangling continue in the Baker, Ore., diocese, where a lawsuit filed early this year claims the diocese’s largest parish is “vicariously liable” for a situation in which a 12-year-old boy sexually assaulted twin 5-year-old girls in the parish school’s music room during a young adult weekend retreat nearly two years ago.

In a response dated April 1, the diocese counters that St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Bend, Ore., and the Baker diocese have no legal liability in the case. It asked the complaint “be dismissed with prejudice” and that costs incurred be awarded to the diocese and parish.

The case, in which the attacker confessed guilt, “is not related to the parish or the diocese in any way,” attorney for the diocese Gregory Lynch told NCR.

Do lawsuit allegations touch diocese's noncompliance issues?

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Allegations in a lawsuit recently filed against the Baker, Ore., diocese might sharpen focus on the core reason the diocese is only one of two in the United States currently not in compliance with the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

According to the 2009 audit by the bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, the Baker diocese did not meet the requirements of the charter’s Article 12, which deals with safe-environment training. The diocese declined to be audited in 2010.

In its 2009 report, the secretariat said that Bishop Robert F. Vasa “feels it’s inappropriate to provide any type of sex education to any prepubescent child.”

Prelates defend John Paul II on abuse crisis

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ROME -- While victims of clerical abuse in the United States are blasting the beatification of Pope John Paul II for “rubbing more salt into the wounds” caused by the abuse crisis, two prelates who worked with the late pope, one a Slovakian and another an American, insisted that the crisis does not disqualify John Paul from sainthood.

A statement released today by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the main victims’ advocacy group in the United States, asserted that “in more than 25 years as the most powerful religious figure on the planet, John Paul II did almost nothing to safeguard kids across the world.”

In Rome, however, prelates who knew the pope argued that a tight focus on the sexual abuse crisis misses the big picture of what John Paul II was all about.

“If you take his personality as a whole, you’ll have the measure of the man,” said Cardinal Jozef Tomko, who worked in the Vatican under John Paul II in various capacities throughout his entire papacy.

“He was so clear, so transparent, and so honest,” Tomko said.

Clerics' critique brings something new to talk of abuse crisis

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ESSAY

MILWAUKEE -- It would be reasonable to wonder why, at this stage of the priest sex abuse crisis, a major Catholic law school would bother spending two days on the subject. It is reasonable to ask if the topic, by this point, had not been wrung dry of any new news, of any insights or rationales that have not already been chewed to insignificance in the endless conferences, books, documentaries and analyses produced over the past quarter century.

Disparity in definitions dogs 'credible accusation' standard

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Editor’s note: We recently received a phone call from a reader who asked, regarding the clergy sex abuse crisis, "When I see ‘credible accusation’ in newspapers, what does that mean?" We took a closer look at the term.

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The phrase “credible accusation” appears regularly in media accounts of clergy sexual abuse of minors. It generally indicates that those making an initial judgment believe the accusation against a cleric has some merit.

While experts interviewed for this story pointed out repeatedly that a credible accusation does not mean the accused is guilty, it does mean the accused is removed from ministry immediately and not allowed back unless the accusation cannot be substantiated, which can take years. Meanwhile, a clergyman’s reputation is damaged and, some would say, can never be fully restored.

Yet no precise definition or standard exists for what it means to be “credibly accused,” leaving each diocese to decide on its own what credible means.

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