sex abuse

Catholic Bishop Apologizes for Church's 'Betrayal' on Sex Abuse

Image via Sally Morrow / RNS

A single chime rang out after each abuse victim’s statement was read over the speakers at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Kansas City, a solemn echo to enduring pain.

It was a simple, symbolic gesture but one that had an almost inexpressible resonance for those who had been abused, and for many Catholics in a diocese so identified with clergy abuse that its last bishop was forced to resign.

Boston Cardinal O'Malley Praises Oscar Winner 'Spotlight'

Cardinal Sean O'Malley. Image via George Martell/Pilot New Media/Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston/flickr.com

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of the Archdiocese of Boston, whose record on clergy sex abuse was uncovered by The Boston Globe and portrayed in this year’s Oscar-winning film Spotlight, has praised the movie for forcing the Catholic Church to acknowledge its “crimes and sins.”

Spotlight is an important film for all impacted by the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse,” said O’Malley, who was named to the archdiocese after Cardinal Bernard Law was forced from office in 2002 following revelations that church officials protected abusive priests.

How 'Spotlight' Missed the Story

Image via Open Road Films/RNS

It is just a single line of dialogue from Spotlight, up for Best Picture and five other Academy Awards Feb. 28, but it could be a movie in itself. It’s an allusion to an entire unknown chapter in the history of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals: the role of National Catholic Reporter in first uncovering the clerical conspiracy to shield abusing priests.

“Have you read Jason Berry’s book? He wrote about the Gauthe case,” an abuse survivor asks the team of investigative reporters featured in the film.

Cardinal O'Malley: We Have a Moral and Ethical Responsibility to Report Abuse

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley. Image via Paul Haring/Catholic News Service/RNS

Catholic clergy have a “moral and ethical responsibility” to report sexual abuse, the cardinal tasked with reforming the Vatican’s approach to sexual crimes said after criticism of the Holy See. Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley sought to reaffirm the church’s position on reporting abuse in his role as head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which Pope Francis set up in 2014.

Vatican Commission on Sex Abuse Ends Turbulent Meeting

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The Vatican commission on clerical sexual abuse has wrapped up a turbulent week-long meeting during which one of two victims on the panel was effectively ousted and Chilean Catholics upset that Pope Francis has not sacked a controversial bishop delivered protest letters. But a statement released on Feb. 8 at the end of the biannual meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors made no mention of its decision on Feb. 6 that Peter Saunders, a clerical abuse victim from Britain, would take a “leave of absence.”

Catholic Diocese of Duluth Latest to File for Bankruptcy Over Sex Abuse Payouts

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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Duluth announced on Dec. 7 that it had filed for bankruptcy protection following a jury verdict last month that held the Minnesota diocese responsible for more than half of an $8.1 million judgment on behalf of a victim of sex abuse by a priest.

The Chapter 11 filing makes Duluth the 13th of nearly 200 U.S. Catholic dioceses to file for bankruptcy since 2004 because of the clergy sex abuse scandals. Regional organizations of two religious orders have also sought bankruptcy protection.

The Duluth award was one of the highest single monetary compensations for a survivor of clergy abuse, experts said. It was made possible thanks to a Minnesota law that lifted the statute of limitations on civil claims for sex abuse.

British Government Launches Sex Abuse Inquiry Focused on Churches and Politicians

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The British government is launching an independent five-year inquiry under the leadership of a prominent New Zealand-born jurist to examine whether private and public institutions, including churches, failed to protect children from sex abuse.

At a news conference in London on Nov. 27, Justice Lowell Goddard, who will head the inquiry, said the investigation would focus on high-profile allegations of child abuse involving current or former members of Parliament, senior civil servants, and government advisers.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby asked Goddard to investigate the Church of England first, saying that he would order his own inquiry if there was a lengthy delay, the Anglican Communion News Service reported.

Mennonites Apologize for History of Sex Abuse Following Theologian John Howard Yoder Scandal

WomanatChurchDoor
Image via /Shutterstock

Yoder became a superstar at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., where he taught for 24 years, respected and admired by fellow church members and Christians who were not Mennonite. Yet, at the same time, he was preying on women, many of them his students. A report has revealed a range of sexual offenses, starting in the mid-1970s, as well as the church’s efforts to keep them quiet.

New Report Reveals Poor Responses to Sexual Assault at Bob Jones University

Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. Photo via David Gibson / RNS.
Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. Photo via David Gibson / RNS.

An outside watchdog group hired to investigate sex abuse claims at Bob Jones University issued its 300-page report on Dec. 11, concluding that the conservative Christian school responded poorly to many students who were victims of sexual assault or abuse.

Bob Jones, with about 3,000 students at its campus in Greenville, S.C., tapped Lynchburg, Va.-based GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) in November 2012 to investigate claims about sexual assualt. During its two-year investigation, GRACE interviewed 50 individuals who self-identified as victims of sexual abuse.

Some of those students claimed they were victims on campus; others said they were dealing with child sexual abuse but received a poor reception from campus officials as they struggled with their past.

The school’s teachings on sin, forgiveness, discipline, and justice shaped how Bob Jones University responded to sexual assault, the report argues.

“As a result of the school’s poor responses, many of these students were deeply hurt and experienced further trauma,” a press release from GRACE states.

SNAP's Clergy Abuse Victims Mark 25 Years and Eye New Targets

Protesters in front of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis on June 11, 2014. Photo courtesy Barb Dorris, via SNAP.

When victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests first organized into a small band of volunteer activists in the late 1980s, reports of clergy molesting children were still new and relatively few. Most were minimized as anomalies or dismissed altogether — much the way the victims were.

But today, as the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, marks its 25th anniversary at a conference in Chicago, its members can take satisfaction in seeing that its claims have been validated, and a few (though hardly all) of its recommendations have been implemented by the church hierarchy.

And instead of facing constant verbal attacks and the occasional angry parishioner spitting on them at a protest, SNAP’s members today are far more likely to receive a handshake and a word of thanks, and maybe even a donation.

SNAP’s advocacy on the Catholic scandal also helped push the reality of sexual abuse into the public consciousness to the point that victims can regularly win in courts and get a hearing in the media, and they are much more likely to come forward to tell their stories, whether they were abused by clergy or by athletic coaches or Boy Scout leaders.

Yet that success is also presenting SNAP with a daunting new challenge as it looks to the future: how to respond to a flood of new inquiries from victims from other faiths and institutions, and how to push for changes beyond the familiar precincts of the Catholic Church.

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