• Sara Larson

In Spirit and Truth News Roundup: June 15

Hello! Like many of you, I have spent much of the last two weeks listening and learning about racial injustice in our country, but I am still tracking the news related to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Here are some pieces I found worth reading.

(As always: I strive to share only articles I find both thoughtful and helpful in understanding the twin crises of sexual abuse and leadership failures in the Catholic Church. However, sharing a link does not mean I fully endorse of 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 three reads below are a great place to start!)


Catholic composer David Haas accused of 'sexual battery' and 'spiritual manipulation'

"'These individuals are in positions of professional and/or personal vulnerability that make it difficult for them to identify themselves publicly. They are almost all fearful of Haas’s retaliation, and based on what they have reported, we believe those fears to be well-founded.'

'The pattern that emerges from the reports we’ve received on Haas’s behavior constitutes a repeated, unethical abuse of the professional and spiritual power he has had in church music circles. Haas has allegedly targeted multiple women using techniques that abuse prevention experts identify as grooming, to create conditions in which women felt obligated to perform sexual favors in exchange for professional opportunities. His generosity, we are told, often came with a sexual price tag,' Into Account said.

'The allegations we’ve received also contain a disturbing component of spiritual manipulation. Haas reportedly focuses attention on women with past histories of abuse, then uses the vulnerabilities created by trauma to create intimacy. Multiple women have reported to us that Haas is skilled at making his targets feel spiritually affirmed, seen, and loved, with a keen understanding of how that spiritual intimacy can then be exploited sexually,' the letter added."

5 Lessons from the Struggle for Racial Justice

Some reflections about the intersection between the movement for racial justice and the struggle to address sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

"Do not underestimate what it means to change. Change is hard work, but it is possible. It seems appropriate that we call upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially wisdom, counsel, and fortitude, to accompany us on this difficult journey. At Awake, we will stay focused on our particular mission to awaken the community to the full reality of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. But we will not lose sight of our work being part of a broader call for Catholics to address injustice wherever it is found."

Wyoming bishop accused of abuse won’t be charged, prosecutors say

This is really disappointing. But it also highlights why church courts are still important, as broken as they are. Sometimes civil authorities are not going to pursue prosecution, for a variety of reasons, and a canonical case can be the last place to seek any accountability.

Bishop Biegler continues to be a source of hope for me:

"This decision not to pursue a criminal case does not mean that the victims are not credible,” [Biegler] said. “Once again, I commend the victims who have spoken courageously about their abuse. I also stand behind the determination made by the Diocese of Cheyenne that allegations of sexual abuse against former Bishop Hart are credible.”


21 Common Reactions to Trauma

Helpful information for all trauma survivors - and those who love them.

"While everyone's reaction to trauma is unique, there are common reactions, and knowing what they are can be helpful as we recover.

Part of what's helpful about knowing the common reactions is that after a trauma it can feel like we have 99 problems—I'm scared, I can't sleep, I'm on edge, I'm angry, etc.—and recognizing that all of these problems are tied to the trauma can make them feel more manageable: Maybe what I'm experiencing is one problem with many faces. It can also be useful to realize that as the recovery process unfolds, these experiences are likely to improve, which can instill hope...

If you've been through a trauma you may have had many or few of these experiences, or you may have had ones that aren't listed here. It's important to keep in mind that everyone's reaction is different, and to allow room for your own reaction to be exactly what it is."

Look what he's taken from me': the deadly toll of Catholic church sex abuse on Guam

The stories from Guam are truly horrific. I do feel hopeful about the leadership of the new Archbishop, Michael Byrnes. My observation is that the most comprehensive change often comes when a new bishop is brought into a diocese where things are so bad that there's no denying the problem.

"Quintanilla also wants an apology. But he has mixed feelings about speaking out. 'I’m having to talk about it over and over and over again,' he says. Sometimes he’ll find himself tearing up as he talks to strangers who recognise him and bring up the abuse. 'Although they’ve been very supportive, I am reminded that this is my life now.'

Still, he is glad to help spread awareness. He hopes people on Guam don’t ever forget. 'For the longest time, I thought it was just me,' he says."

(Trigger warning: Description of the rape of child.)

Brooklyn Bishop DiMarzio faces second allegation of sex abuse in Jersey City

"A second man has accused the Catholic bishop of Brooklyn of sexually abusing him while assigned to a parish in Jersey City in the 1970s.

Samier Tadros, now 46, alleges that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio repeatedly abused him, starting when he 6 years old, while DiMarzio was assigned to Holy Rosary Church in Jersey City...

The bishop has led the Brooklyn diocese since 2003 and has remained at his post, even after being accused of sex abuse by Mark Matzek in November."

Tim Lennon: My Story

When I compiled my list of blogs written by abuse survivors, I somehow missed this one, written by Tim Lennon, president of the Board of Directors of SNAP.

Here's a post telling his story.

(Trigger warning: Non-graphic mention of childhood abuse and rape.)

Former deacon's lawsuit against Texas diocese goes to state Supreme Court

This is really interesting, and highlights the problems created by not taking abuse of adults as seriously as we do abuse of children. Make sure you read carefully to understand the situation.

"According to the petition to the court, Guerrero, who was ordained as a deacon in 1997, had a sexual misconduct allegation made against him in 2003, regarding a woman 'known to have a history of mental and emotional problems.'

After an investigation, the bishop suspended Guerrero, who was reinstated in 2006. But according to the petition, the diocese received another sexual misconduct allegation in 2007 by the same woman. After a second investigation, the diocese permanently withdrew Guerrero's diaconal duties.

The former deacon claims his inclusion in the list is defamatory, because his accuser was over 18 at the time of the allegations."

A year later, most documents seized in Dallas police raid of diocese ordered returned as sexual assault investigation continues

"A year after police searched Dallas Catholic Diocese offices for records related to allegations of sexual abuse by priests, most of the documents seized in the raid were returned to the church as beyond the scope of the police investigation. And charges have been filed against only one of the five former priests, who are targets of the investigation."

Church orders French paedophile priest Preynat to compensate victims

"In a sentence handed down on Thursday but made public two days later, 21 people assaulted by Preynat between 1971 and 1991 are to receive an unspecified amount of compensation.

Quoting a spokesman for the diocese, the French press agency AFP said Preynat would be made to compensate his victims himself. If that is not possible, the process is to go via another compensation system."

My catholic priest uncle molested me when I was 11 – DJ Switch

Courage - from all parts of the world.

"Nigerian rapper and disc jockey, Obianuju Catherine Udeh, popularly known as DJ Switch, has opened up on how her uncle, who’s a catholic priest, molested her at the age of 11...

'I’ve never told this story outside only 2 people, my immediate elder brother Emma n my sis Lola! I was a child, about 11 years old when my uncle, as in real life relative uncle would forcefully touch me and threaten me on top that he would not bless me if I tell my parents, now here’s the shocker… He was a priest! His name is Basil. I’m sure some of my family members will be shocked when they see this.'"

SNAP requests Diocese of Charlotte add nine more names to sex abuse list

This part of SNAP's statement is well put:

"We contend it's not about protecting children from priests, it's about protecting children from sexual abusers."

Springfield Diocese temporarily removes 3 priests from public ministry after sexual abuse allegation

"Three priests from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield have been temporarily removed from public ministry as a result of an allegation of sexual abuse, according to Jeffrey J. Trant, director of the diocesan Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance.

The priests were not identified.

Trant, who was appointed to his position last June, said that 14 new alleged victims have come forward with claims of clerical sexual abuse since July 2019."

Nuns kick off new webinar series on fighting sex abuse

"Abuse by a priest causes 'double-damage,' [Sister Nuala Kenny] said, calling a 'soul-murderer,' because not only does the priest represent God, but because of that, the victim loses their 'sense of spiritual solace and healing.'

'Ongoing silence and denial' in the Church, 'where the truth should set us free, is compounding the damage,' she said, insisting that 'The sexual abuse of children and vulnerable in society is not just about a few bad priests, this is a much deeper, systemic issue.'"

Judge dismisses the charge accusing a Pewaukee priest of sexually assaulting a teenager in a confessional

News from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee (where I live).

Four new members named to National Review Board

I don't know enough about these appointments to comment on them, but the National Review Board can be a powerful tool for calling the USCCB to do better on matters of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

I hope they will be able to remain independent, point out what's right, and offer a strong challenge for improvement where needed.


As always, I will 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.

Come Holy Spirit, open my ears, my mind, and my heart.

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