In Spirit and Truth News Roundup: April 15
Welcome to the latest summary of important news related to the twin crises of sexual abuse and leadership failures in the Catholic Church. Please read, watch, and stay informed.
I share these news roundups because I believe it's important to keep up with developments and understand the issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church on an intellectual level. But what has made the biggest impact on me has always been the voices of survivors. I truly believe a change of heart among all Catholics is what will really bring about transformation in our Church. So, I also encourage you to consider praying with Awake's recent Walking the Way of the Cross with Survivors service and allowing the reflections offered by survivors to soak into your heart. You can find the video recording of the prayer service, as well as the text of the prayer, here.
(As always: I strive to share only articles I find both thoughtful and helpful in understanding the twin crises in the Catholic Church. However, sharing a link does not mean I fully endorse every word in that article. I do believe that reading broadly, from many sources and perspectives, is a valuable way to become better informed and, thus, more able to respond with wisdom and prudence. The top reads below are a great place to start!)
** YOUR TOP FOUR READS **
This reckoning has been a long time coming, but I'm glad Michael Hoeppner is done - and that the statement from the diocese makes clear that Pope Francis asked for his resignation. (I still don't understand why the Vatican is not being more clear about the reason when a bishop is asked to resign, but I appreciate that the diocesan statement explains that as well.)
"Pope Francis on April 13 accepted the resignation of Crookston, Minn. Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who had been under investigation for more than a year over allegations of mishandling cases of clergy sexual abuse...
The statement from the Crookston diocese said the investigation into Hoeppner's behavior had been 'extensive' and regarded 'reports that he had at times failed to observe applicable norms when presented with allegations of sexual abuse involving clergy.' Hoeppner is the first U.S. bishop to effectively lose his job because of the Vos estis procedures."
Here's a more in-depth story on the news from Crookston, Minnesota, including an interview with Ron Vasek, whose courage and persistence made this possible.
"The man who says Hoeppner coerced him into recanting an abuse claim says the resignation is 'a victory for all those who have been unheard for all these years, and have had to put up with the abuse by the higher-ups when they told their stories and weren’t heard.'
'It’s a victory for all those who have been abused by sinful men in the Church — a victory for the faithful people of Christ’s Church, and a victory for truth.'"
This case is particularly awful. Lord, have mercy. (Note that this article contains details of abuse that may be triggering for trauma survivors. Proceed with caution.)
"It was the same every night. A list of names was posted on the Rev. Richard Daschbach’s bedroom door. The child at the top of the roster knew it was her turn to share the lower bunk with the elderly priest and another elementary school-aged girl.
Daschbach was idolized in the remote enclave of East Timor where he lived, largely for his role in helping save lives during the tiny nation’s bloody struggle for independence. So, the girls never spoke about the abuse they suffered. They said they were afraid they would be banished from the shelter the 84-year-old from Pennsylvania established decades ago for abused women, orphans, and other destitute children...
Accusers say they struggle to process how someone who appeared so kind and selfless could ask them to do things that felt so wrong. 'When I was getting abused, I was like, ‘Is this sort of like the payment?' one accuser said. 'That’s what I was computing in my head … ‘this must be the price that I have to pay to be a part of this.’ You know, like those shiny little dresses that these girls are wearing to church. That’s not free. This is the price tag.'"
I have a lot of friends who attended Steubenville, including during this time period. I'm sure this news is hard for them to hear, but I hope everyone who loves this university is paying attention to the series of scandals - and to all who have been harmed.
"A former campus minister at Franciscan University of Steubenville has been charged with rape and sexual battery against an individual with mental illness placed under his care for mental health treatment.
The charges against Third Order Franciscan Fr. David Morrier were filed on April 7 in Jefferson County, Ohio. Morrier, 59, is charged with one count of rape and two counts of sexual battery dating from November 2010 through the spring of 2013. According to the indictment, the alleged victim's ability 'to resist or consent was substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition.'
Morrier served as campus minister at Franciscan until 2014, which would include the time of the alleged sexual assault."
** THE REST OF THE NEWS **
A powerful reflection piece by a Steubenville alum on the terrible revelations about David Morrier - and the questions it raises about the culture on campus and among the Franciscan TOR friars who worked alongside Morrier.
"Over the past few days, I have racked my mind, trying to remember all the women who I knew went to him on a regular basis. They had all come to him broken, seeking refuge from dysfunctional families. God, I’d think, as another name came to me, someone I’d lost touch with. I hope she was okay.
As my alumni networks have been processing the indictment, something else has emerged: back then, we all said he was weird, but now women are admitting that they also found him creepy. You too? I never said anything. But I stayed away. I got a vibe. I never went back to confession with him. Why didn’t we say anything, we wonder? What if voicing discomfort back then meant a victim would have felt safe confiding in her sisters?
And now, connecting the dots and seeing how many women recognized there was something off, we’re left with the question worth a towerful of straw-spun gold. What about his TOR brothers? If sophomore catechetics majors knew enough to avoid a friar for confession, what about the men who lived with him, prayed with him, took vows with him? As things stand, it doesn’t look good for Fr. Morrier’s religious order, the Third Order Regular Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which founded and still operates Franciscan University today."
What's been happening in the Polish church is astonishing, given the deeply-Catholic history of this country. Much of the change can be credited to the Sekielski Brothers, the makers of two shocking documentaries on sexual abuse and ongoing cover up in the Catholic Church in Poland.
"It was the film “Hide and Seek” that documented a dramatic case of abuse of power by Bishop Edward Janiak of Kalisz in central Poland. In 2016, when a family visited him to report the abuse of their son by their parish priest, Janiak threw them out of his office and didn’t report the case to the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, as Church law required.
The documentary was released on May 16, and on the same day Polak reported the case to the Holy See using the procedure outlined in Vos Estis Lux Mundi, making it the first time the law was used in Poland."
This is really frustrating. While it's better than Pope Francis's response to French cardinal Barbarin's resignation (he left him in place for a year!), I honestly can't understand why Pope Francis won't just immediately accept the resignation of bishops embroiled in scandal.
"Hesse said he was offering his resignation to the pope and asking him to relieve him of his duties immediately 'to prevent damage to the office of the archbishop and to the Hamburg archdiocese.'
On Monday, the archdiocese said Francis has now sent Hesse an 'initial reply.' It said in a brief statement that the Vatican says the pontiff 'has granted a time out' to the archbishop, but didn’t specify its length."
I doubt it's possible to completely change the culture of an order founded by an abusive predator, but I'm paying close attention to the Legionaries.
"The scandal-plagued Legionaries of Christ religious order published its latest report detailing what they have done and what they still need to do to repair the damage done and guarantee safe spaces for minors, from third-party investigations to mandatory formation seminars and revealing the names of priests found guilty of abuse.
The religious congregation continues to claim it is cleaning house, after a report released last year showed that the late Father Marcial Maciel Degolaldo, founder of the Legionaries, was far from being the only abusive priest in the movement.
This is a positive point on the report though: "It also addresses all survivors and their families, asking for their forgiveness and officially retracting the negative 'judgments' lodged against people 'who made legitimate and necessary accusations,' recognizing their voices as being 'prophetic' in favor of truth and justice."
Thank you to the reader who pointed me towards this important piece about the ongoing mess with the Legionaries of Christ.
I haven't seen this allegation verified in any other source, but I do trust this reporter, and if it's true, this is horrible: "The order claims it is reaching out to victims to offer support. However, sources have told NH Reporter the Legionaries are offering victims cash payments in change for their agreement not to cooperate with law enforcement."
I may have posted about this Australian project before, but it's such an interesting approach. Sad that it's necessary, but hopefully helpful in unveiling the truth. I'm sure there's plenty of mapping that could be done in regions of the US as well.
"A 'mafia-like' code of silence among 'dark networks' within the Catholic Church has begun to emerge from a world-first project mapping clerical paedophile networks, says an academic behind the project...
The Victorian project identified 99 clergy members as abusers linked to 16 paedophile networks in the Melbourne and Ballarat dioceses. It found there was a 'mafia-like' code of silence among clergy perpetrators who formed dark networks (DNs) within the Victorian Catholic Church."
This is an old news story about former priest Henry Foxhoven, who has been laicized and is in jail. I'm sharing because I found this commentary by SNAP leader Judy Jones about Bishop Monforton's statement very thought-provoking:
"'We must remain vigilant in assisting victims of sexual abuse,' the bishop said. But pay attention to what Monforton did not say, however.
He didn’t say 'We suspect others hurt by the Rev. Foxhoven are still suffering. Will you help us find and help them?' He didn’t say 'It’s your Catholic duty to call police if you know or suspect anything about Foxhoven’s crimes.' He didn’t say 'We’re using parish bulletins, church websites and pulpit announcements to beg others who were assaulted to come forward and start recovering.' Why not?"
As always, I close this blog post with an invitation to prayer. I encourage all of us to bring everything we just read to the merciful heart of God. If there is a specific story that you found moving, hopeful, painful, or unsettling, please place those thoughts and reactions into the hands of Jesus and ask Him what He is calling you to do in response.
God, please give all victims of sexual abuse your healing, justice, and peace.
Come Lord Jesus, come.