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Press Release For Immediate release

Vatican report conciliatory towards nuns, but VOTF joins call for removal of LCWR mandate
December 16, 2014

Nuns in the United States can get on with their missions to those on the margins of society in keeping with the best traditions of their religious orders without undue Vatican interference—sort of. The Vatican issued today a report on its six-year apostolic visitation to religious women in the United States.

Roman Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful® joins in solidarity with its U.S. sisters first in being encouraged by the report’s conciliatory tone and second in decrying this investigation in the first place and the mandate against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. VOTF would like that mandate removed as soon as possible.

The Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life began the apostolic visitation that resulted in this report in 2008. The visitation included all U.S. nuns. The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith began its investigation of LCWR in 2009, and the group presently is under a Vatican mandate calling for their reform and placing LCWR under the guidance of several U.S. bishops.

LCWR leader Sister Susan Holland, however, said the apostolic visitation report was “affirmative and realistic.” And Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, who leads the smaller Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, said the visitation was “a wonderful one,” during which they spoke honestly and “with the knowledge that what they had to say would eventually reach the Holy Father.”

VOTF hopes that, in the coming weeks, the Vatican will encourage the optimistic view represented by these two women religious leaders so that these issues are resolved quickly.

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org. VOTF is a sponsor of the Nuns Justice Project, www.nunsjustice.org.

Contact: Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, nickingala@votf.org

Press Release For Immediate release

Bishop Murphy's comments on SOL reform are only latest Church salvo against abuse survivors
November 17, 2014

The Catholic Church has long sought to deny victims of clergy sexual abuse one of their only means of seeking justice—civil lawsuits. By fighting reform of state statute of limitations (SOL) laws, the Church helps prevent survivors from bringing suit against perpetrators and those who cover up the abuse.

Rockville Centre, N.Y., Diocese Bishop William Murphy’s comments in a letter to Long Island parishioners earlier this month are only the latest salvo by the Church against SOL reform.

In fact, the Catholic Church, “through its bishops and state Catholic conferences, is the most powerful institution opposing better child protection legislation in the country, bar none,” according to educator and reform advocate Sister Maureen Turlish.

Murphy’s letter, reprinted in many parish bulletins, sought to influence Catholic voters during midterm elections held Nov. 4. SOL reform was not on the New York ballot; nevertheless, Murphy took the opportunity to say The Child Victims Act, SOL reform legislation sponsored by New York State Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, “seeks to penalize only the Catholic Church for past crimes of child sex abuse.” He said the bill “must be recognized for what it is. Those who support that should be opposed by those of us who know how effectively and permanently the Church has remedied that horrific scourge of the last decade.”

SOL laws are essentially deadlines beyond which victims cannot bring civil suits and prosecutors cannot bring charges. But such suits usually are not brought for many years. Studies have shown that the memory of abuse can be suppressed even into adulthood, and as the crime is steeped in secrecy and shame, decades could pass before a victim seeks justice.

“A vast body of research indicates that the effects of childhood sexual abuse often span a lifetime. The opportunity to seek justice should last just as long,” attorney and writer Jon Wertheim concluded in a 2011 CNN column during the Penn State and Syracuse sports abuse scandals.

Actually, the Markey bill, like other SOL reform laws, does not single out the Catholic Church. The bill covers all private institutions and includes families, where most child sexual abuse occurs. The Catholic Church, however, has fought SOL reform in nearly every state where such laws have been proposed, including New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware, even hiring lobbyists and public relations firms in some states to bolster letters to parishioners and admonitions from the pulpit.

This opposition is especially scandalous considering the Church has shielded pedophile priests from prosecution and refused to discipline bishops involved in covering up crimes.

Murphy, who was accused of shielding pedophile priests while vicar general of the Archdiocese of Boston, has been fighting the Markey bill since 2009, and called it an “annual threat” in his letter. As for how “effectively and permanently” the Church has dealt with the “horrific scourge,” Murphy is still a bishop, even though the Massachusetts attorney general reported he “placed a higher priority on preventing scandal and providing support to alleged abusers than on protecting children from sexual abuse.” Revelations of clergy sexual abuse also continue to range from Ireland to Australia, and because of suppressed memory and other factors, we may not know for years whether the Church’s present child protection policies prevent child abuse.

Proponents of such reform, such as Yeshiva University law professor Marci Hamilton, have called SOL reform “the primary front for child sex abuse victims.” She has said that, “if the statute of limitations has expired, there won’t be any justice.”

Always on the moral high ground, the Catholic Church should be first to want justice for clergy sexual abuse survivors. Justice, according to the Church’s catechism is “the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor.” Fr. James Connell, a Wisconsin canon lawyer and a founder of Catholic Whistleblowers, which attempts to expose the cover-up of abuse by Catholic Church leadership, has applied this sentiment to the clergy sexual abuse scandal. He says, “Only by living in the truth, the complete truth, can human action and speech generate justice and healing. Without truth there can be no justice and without justice, no healing.” Connell first made these remarks during the 2012 national conference of the Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful®.

Contact: Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, nickingala@votf.org

Press Release For Immediate release

Vermont Catholics can use a web portal to propse candidates for their next bishop as search process passes one-year mark
November 7, 2014

As the search process for Burlington’s new bishop passes the one-year mark, Catholics in the Diocese of Burlington, which includes the entire state of Vermont, can recommend candidates for their new bishop via a computer link to the pope’s representative in Washington. 

Last year on Nov. 6, the Vatican announced that Burlington’s Bishop Salvatore Ronald Matano was appointed bishop of Rochester, N.Y. When Bishop Matano was re-assigned, the search for his successor began. The search process will continue until the Vatican appoints a new bishop. In the meantime, Apostolic Administrator Msgr. John J. McDermott has been administering the diocese. 

U.S. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo M. Viganò, who advises the Vatican on bishop selection for the American Catholic Church, conducts confidential searches for new bishops. He speaks primarily to other bishops and to select lay people, most of whom are identified by the bishops. 

Church law, however, encourages all Catholics to express their views on Church matters that concern them, and this includes who their new bishop may be. 

According to Plymouth couple Bill and Anne Cherico, who are members of Catholic Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful®: “We feel that laity input on the selection of a new bishop would ultimately give greater credibility to that appointment. Also, the time frame in the selection process has been far too long with no explanation to the parishioners of the diocese on the reason for the delay.” 

As the selection process for a new Burlington bishop continues, lay Catholic men and women can use an Internet link Voice of the Faithful® has developed, www.votf.org/bishop, to provide input directly to the apostolic nuncio via his email address. 

The VOTF web portal allows Catholics in a diocese to record their concerns and recommendations in three key areas: 1.) outstanding needs and opportunities in the diocese; 2.) candidates’ ideal qualities and qualifications; and 3.) priests who would be excellent candidates for their bishop. 

The portal brings into the 21st century a lay-consultative process as old as the Church itself. In the early Church, all members of a diocese, clergy and laity, elected their bishops, and only in 1917, did Church law reserve the appointment of bishops, with few exceptions, to the pope. 

Archbishop Viganò has assured VOTF that all input reaching him from individual Catholics via the web portal will be reviewed and that “serious observations may well be incorporated in the developed confidential process.” 

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org

Contact: Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, nickingala@votf.org

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