News Story of the Day

Native American survivors of alleged boarding school sex abuse want justice

Reuters- The Wider Image 

Photography by Callaghan O'Hare

Reporting by Brad Brooks

Filed July 26, 2022, 11:00 a.m. GMT


he United States in May acknowledged the damage inflicted on generations of children at federal Indian boarding schools, a system built to assimilate indigenous kids into white society by cutting them off from their parents and tribes.

Geraldine Charbonneau Dubourt, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, welcomed that admission, part of a report released by the Department of the Interior . But what she really wants is justice.

The septuagenarian has waged a so-far fruitless effort to seek restitution for the rapes and other abuses she says she, her eight sisters and scores of other Native American children endured for years at the former St. Paul's Indian Mission School in Marty, South Dakota.

A 2010 state law barred victims of alleged sexual abuse aged 40 or older from filing civil lawsuits against any institution that knew or should have known about it. That legislation, which amended an earlier state law on sexual abuse, effectively shortened the statute of limitations for victims to seek damages. It was aimed largely at protecting the Catholic Church, whose priests and nuns ran St. Paul's and at least four similar schools in South Dakota - a motive acknowledged by the attorney who crafted the amendment.

Dubourt and other Native Americans want the legislation overturned. They say it penalizes sexual abuse survivors for enduring trauma that often renders them unable to speak out until late in life. For more than a decade, they have held rallies in the capital of Pierre and purchased billboard ads aimed at shaming South Dakota lawmakers into action, to no avail.

At the center of the battle is the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls, whose jurisdiction includes the eastern half of South Dakota, where the old St. Paul's boarding school is located. The diocese has apologized publicly for child sexual abuses it said were committed by some of its priests decades ago. But it has been largely silent on allegations lodged by Native Americans who attended St. Paul's: At least 108 former students have sued the diocese since 2003.

The diocese for years has contended in court proceedings that it's not responsible for any alleged harm done there because it didn't operate the school or have direct oversight of the priests and nuns who staffed it.

It's an argument that has found favor with South Dakota's Supreme Court. Plaintiffs' attorneys and advocates, however, say it's a common legal tactic embraced by Catholic authorities to avoid accountability for allegedly criminal actions of its priests and nuns.

Julia Gonzalez, once a student at the former St. Paul’s Indian Mission School, sits at her dining room table near Lake Andes, South Dakota, U.S., September 12, 2021. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

"Bishops and archbishops have ultimate authority over who operates in their jurisdiction," said Zach Hiner, the executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which claims 25,000 members worldwide. "All this is a diffusion of responsibility to protect the diocese."

Time is running out for Dubourt and her elderly sisters, known across Indian Country as the 9 Little Girls. Three of the siblings have died in the past year. Those still living are in their 70s and 80s. Dubourt no longer lives in South Dakota full time, spending part of the year in Pennsylvania, where her daughters live.

South Dakota legislators are "waiting for the rest of us to die," Dubourt, 73, says matter-of-factly. She vows to keep fighting.


Dubourt last year traveled by car with a Reuters reporter to provide a glimpse of her past at St. Paul's, which she attended from 1955 to 1967.

She said the abuse began as inappropriate touching by priests and nuns shortly after she arrived as a six-year-old, then escalated. As the SUV descended into a verdant valley of corn and bean fields a towering white steeple came into view. Dubourt's face tightened.

"It's the first damn thing you can see - look at it!" she said.

Perry Little rides a horse near the Marty Indian School on the Yankton Indian Reservation in Marty, September 10, 2021. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

The steeple is part of the Church of St. Paul Apostle of the Nations, situated on the Yankton Indian Reservation. Local residents refer to it simply as St. Paul's Catholic Church. Services are still held there. But adjacent buildings belonging to what was once the Catholic boarding school, founded in the early 1920s, are weathered and rotting.

It was in the church basement that Dubourt says she was raped multiple times at age 16 by a priest and forced to undergo an abortion, according to her deposition for a 2008 civil suit seeking damages. She and her sisters sued four priests, six nuns and two school workers - all now deceased - whom they alleged took part in the abuse. Also named as defendants were the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls and three religious groups whose nuns and priests staffed the school.

The diocese and the religious organizations - Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, the Oblate Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and Blue Cloud Abbey - all denied wrongdoing in court filings. Blue Cloud Abbey was a former Benedictine monastery in South Dakota that organized a nonprofit entity to take over operation of the boarding school from another Catholic group in the 1950s, court documents and state incorporation records show.

To establish that the diocese had some authority over the school, the sisters' lawyers filed hundreds of pages of internal documents from the 1940s to 1960s related to the institution. They included records showing that St. Paul's provided the diocese with an annual count of its students and teachers and information about its finances. There was also correspondence from the Oblate Sisters order to then-Bishop Lambert Hoch, now deceased, reporting on the comportment of nuns at the school and seeking his assistance with personnel matters.

Gabriel Byrne has 'not completely healed' from growing up in Dublin

Dublin Live

Alison O' Reilly
  • 06:00, 18 JUL 2022
  • UPDATED07:15, 18 JUL 2022


Actor Gabriel Byrne has said he has “not completely healed “ from growing up in Dublin despite leaving Ireland as a young man.

The Hollywood star, 72, added that he is still coming to terms with sexual abuse, a repressive Ireland and a tough working-class background.

The father-of-three said: “They [the Church] dealt in fear and humiliation. Some of that goes deep inside you and takes a long time to get rid of – the fear of the world, the uncertainty of life and your place with it.”

Read more: Gabriel Byrne's hands to be immortalised outside Gaiety Theatre among the greats

Born in 1950 in Walkinstown, Co Dublin, the performer is best known for his role in The Usual Suspects. In 2010, he revealed had been sexually abused by a Catholic priest as a child, and then by another cleric in the seminary he attended in Liverpool aged 11.

In an interview with the Observer newspaper yesterday, he said he still relives his trauma. Byrne added: “The priest’s breath was sour and hot as he moved towards me. Then there was blackness.”

He has previously spoken about his battle with alcoholism describing it as “a major national and cultural problem”.

The star, who found fame in Irish drama The Riordans, said: “It’s only lately that I have begun to reconcile myself to Ireland and to myself when I left there. That has not been completely healed.”

Read the Full Story here--

Vatican defrocks priest who scolded Oakland Diocese over sex abuse

PUBLISHED: July 9, 2022 at 5:45 a.m. | UPDATED: July 9, 2022 at 3:34 p.m.

Tim Stier figured it was only a matter of time. Since 2005 he’s refused parish assignments as an Oakland Diocese priest over its handling of clerical sex abuse claims and spent more than a decade outside its cathedral on Sundays calling for church accountability and justice for the victims.

He had no plans to end his self-imposed exile and resume work as a parish priest. But when the Vatican finally came for his collar a few months ago, removing him from the Roman Catholic priesthood, Stier said it still felt like a blow.

“It hit me harder than I’d expected,” said Stier, 73, whose removal was disclosed this week. “I felt sad and angry. If I’d been raping kids, I wouldn’t be thrown out of the club.”

The Diocese of Oakland said in a statement Friday only that “we wish Mr. Stier all the best in this new chapter of his life.”


Farewell letter from a whistleblower to former fellow priests

[Tim Stier served for decades as a priest in the diocese of Oakland CA. He sent this letter on May 31, 2022.]

Dear No-Longer-Fellow Priests,

This will likely be my farewell letter to most of you, which may be glad tidings to those of you who do not enjoy hearing from me.

Last week, I learned from David Staal, a canon lawyer for the Diocese of Oakland, that the Vatican had officially laicized me as of March 19th.  The grounds for my ouster from the priesthood was my persistent refusal of an assignment in 2005 after I told Allen Vigneron, then Oakland’s bishop, that I could not in good conscience accept another assignment until he was willing to open a public dialog throughout the diocese on three issues roiling the Church:  the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and its cover-up by bishops and their cronies, the refusal of the Church to recognize the full equality of women and to admit them to ordained ministry, and the cruel treatment of sexual minorities based on an outdated theory of human sexuality.  Vigneron refused such a dialog and I refused an assignment.

Four Bay Area Priests Still on the Job Despite New Sex Abuse Allegations

A months-long NBC Bay Area investigation into a wave of new clergy abuse lawsuits has uncovered a series of allegations against dozens of Northern California priests and church employees accused for the first time of sexually abusing children. Some of them continue to work here.


The findings come amid an ongoing NBC Bay Area investigation into a flood of new child sex abuse claims hitting Catholic institutions across the state. The civil lawsuits are the result of a 2019 California law that opened a three-year “lookback” window allowing new child sex abuse lawsuits based on claims typically barred by the statute of limitations.

Click here to watch Part 1 of NBC Bay Area's investigation.

Among the hundreds of new Northern California legal filings are startling accusations against four Bay Area priests who still work in the region. The dioceses they serve told NBC Bay Area internal reviews did not substantiate the claims against the men, and it would be unjust to keep them out of ministry.

Dan McNevin, a local leader for the victim advocacy group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), said he's skeptical of such internal diocesan reviews.

“The bishops have an obligation to sideline these people,” McNevin said. “Not only for the victim, who is courageous, but because the bishop is on notice that this priest might be dangerous.”

Three of the accused priests – Fr. David Ghiorso, Msgr. Michael Harriman, and Fr. Michael Mahoney – work under the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Either directly or through their attorneys, all three priests refuted the allegations against them.

The other priest – Rev. James Pulskamp – is the pastor of Santa Rosa’s Star of the Valley Catholic Church. Pulskamp did not respond to NBC Bay Area’s request for comment, but Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa said in a statement he finds it difficult to give the allegation any credence given the priest’s stellar reputation over the past 50 years.

With one exception, the allegations against the priests are linked to two centers founded as homes for vulnerable children who were removed from troubled households: St. Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael and the Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma.

St. Vincent's School for Boys in San Rafael, where multiple new lawsuits allege children were abused there in past decades.

The claims relate to events occurring across nearly two decades, from the mid-1970s through the early 1990s. If true, the decades-old accusations expand what we know about Northern California’s clergy abuse scandal and suggest that internal lists of “credibly accused” priests released by most Bay Area dioceses in recent years are still incomplete.

The plaintiffs making the accusations have so-far declined to be interviewed, but the lawsuits, and in some cases, their attorneys, detail the allegations.

Rev. James Pulskamp & Hanna Boys Center

The oldest accusation targets Rev. Pulskamp during his time as a priest at the Hanna Boys Center. The school and residential treatment center for vulnerable children has been a hotspot for child sexual abuse accusations in recent years.

Pulskamp is accused in a new lawsuit of molesting a child there in the 1970s.

“Because [the children there] are more vulnerable, they become prey for priests and people who work there,” said Mary Alexander, a Bay Area attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of an unnamed plaintiff. “So, it is something that we see all the time.”

While Pulskamp now serves as the pastor of his Santa Rosa church, he’s listed as a Regent Emeritus on the Hanna Boys Center’s website.

Bishop Vasa said Pulskamp remains in ministry after an internal review board recommended no action be taken against the priest. However, the Bishop said the diocese will continue to investigate any new details that emerge.

Alexander said Pulskamp and any other priests facing new abuse accusations shouldn’t be working until more information comes out through the legal process.

“I think that any priest who is still active and is accused, that he should be put on administrative leave, that there should be no access to children,” Alexander said.

Dozens of Northern CA Priests Facing Child Sex Abuse Claims for the First Time

NBC Bay Area’s investigation mined a trove of new court filings, revealing startling child sexual abuse allegations against Catholic priests and institutions across Northern California. They show what the public previously knew about the scandal is potentially the tip of the iceberg.

196 priests in Germany sexually abused 610 children, dossier reveals

Correio Braziliense

Rodrigo Craveiro
posted on 06/14/2022 06:00

For seven and a half decades, at least 196 priests sexually abused 610 children in the diocese of Münster, 470km west of Berlin. However, the actual number of victims could reach 6,000. The conclusions are part of an independent report, prepared by five experts from the University of Münster and released on Monday (13/6). Experts evaluated pedophilia allegations between 1945 and 2020. The number of clergy identified as abusers represents 4% of the total in the diocese — 90% of them have never been prosecuted. 

McDonnell is skeptical of legal developments following the release of the report. "I am not confident about any criminal prosecution. I am sure that ecclesiastical authorities will suspend and remove some priests, if they are still active in the ministry, just to portray the bishop as a 'tough guy' when it comes to abuse," he added. 

Also according to the dossier, on average, two acts of pedophilia occurred each week in the diocese of Münster between 1960 and 1970. Historian at the University of Münster and one of the authors of the report, Klauss Grosse Kracht admitted that the document "reflects an astonishing ". During a press conference, he explained that the abusers "kept silent, kept silent and only intervened superficially when necessary, in order to avoid a scandal". For Kracht, the Catholic Church engaged in a systematic cover-up of abuses.

For her part, also author of the report Natalie Powroznik considers that the real number of victims should be eight to ten times higher. "Between 5,000 and 6,000 boys and girls were sexually abused," she estimated, according to the France-Presse news agency. The pedophilia scandal within the German Catholic Church extends to other regions and seriously implicates Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, during the period in which he served as Archbishop of Bavaria between 1950 and 1977.

(credit: Personal archive)
credit: personal archive

"The cover-up of pedophile priests is a pattern globally. Church authorities protect each other, including predecessors, dead or alive. They live in a sort of echo chamber and ignore anyone not using the clergy (white collar). cassock). The brotherhood protects itself."

Mike McDonnell, Communications Manager for the Survivors of Abuse by Priests Network (SNAP)

What the McElroy Appointment Says About the Church’s Commitment to Sex Abuse Victims

Crisis Magazine [Manchester NH]

June 13, 2022

By Janet E. Smith


It wasn’t long into my study of the sex abuse crisis in the Church that I realized that many or even most bishops customarily respond to a report about abuse 1) by feeling sorry for themselves that they have another mess on their hands; 2) by feeling sorry for the priest whose priesthood may be ruined; and 3) by trying to figure out how to get the victim to remain silent and go away. There is rarely, if ever, any true concern shown for the victim; sometimes counseling is offered but more often as a way to appease than to help the victim.

It can take decades for a victim even to begin to seek justice for the abuser. And most often it is done out of a concern to prevent the abuser from continuing to abuse. Victims long to put the abuse “behind them” (as much as that might be possible) and get on with their lives. They also need to face being triggered by reports of abuse similar to theirs and sometimes need to deal with reemergence in the news of their own case.

One such victim is Rachel Mastrogiacomo, who suffered devastating life consequences because of Satanic Ritual Sexual Abuse by former priest Jacob Bertrand of the Diocese of San Diego. Bertrand ultimately confessed to abusing Mastrogiacomo and was convicted of ritual rape. The judge was very hesitant to consent to the “no jail time” agreement, but because Rachel became aware that some false narratives of the abuse would be introduced into trial she consented to extended probation for Bertrand. Bertrand’s admission of guilt became her priority.  

Recently, Rachel learned that Bertrand, despite being a registered predatory offender, is a part of a Bible study in an evangelical church where he has contact with vulnerable individuals. That, of course, has terribly shaken her and has led her to consider what more she must do to protect the vulnerable. Clearly, the Diocese of San Diego is not monitoring Bertrand for who knows what reason—indifference to abuse? Fear that Bertrand could expose more of the corruption in the diocese if he is reined in? I don’t know the reason, but can there be any good reason? Sadly, the least objectionable explanation would be neglect; but it would be criminal neglect.

What triggers Rachel now and provokes revictimization is the promotion of Bishop McElroy from San Diego to the cardinalate, for he failed to act when she reported Bertrand to the diocese and is failing to protect the vulnerable from Bertrand.

Retelling Rachel’s full story would require a book. A rather full accounting of the abuse she experienced (although some of the most disturbing details are omitted) is available in an article on Crux. It is a must read.

Here, I am interviewing Rachel about the absurdly difficult steps she needed to take to get some modicum of justice regarding her abuse, about the ongoing trauma she experiences from the mishandling of her case, and about the failure of the diocese to monitor convicted ex-priest Jacob Bertrand.  

The story makes quite inexplicable the appointment of McElroy to the cardinalate for a Church that claims to care about victims.

Survivors praised for 20 years of exposing Catholic abuse scandals

National Catholic Reporter

QUINCY, MASSACHUSETTS — More than 20 years since the Boston Globe's Spotlight investigative team exposed the scope of Catholic clergy sexual abuse and institutional cover-up in the Archdiocese of Boston, attorney Mitchell Garabedian said abuse survivors are still teaching the church "how to be moral."

"None of this could be done without your strength," Garabedian said during a June 4 conference in Quincy, sponsored by several nonprofits that advocate for abuse survivors and accountability in the church.

Titled "Pivot to the Future: Marking 20 Years of Confronting Clergy Sex Abuse," the conference attracted dozens of survivors, their loved ones, advocates and others who gathered in person and via Zoom to listen to keynote talks, presentations and panel discussions that reflected on two decades of scandals and what the future may hold for the crisis and potential reforms.

David Clohessy, the former longtime director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, spoke of his experiences of organizing and amplifying the voices of survivors. Bill Mitchell, publisher of National Catholic Reporter, which began covering clergy sex abuse cases in the 1980s, emphasized the importance of journalists continuing to report on the story.

Francis’ clergy abuse law, ‘Vos Estis,’ isn’t working. Here’s how to fix it.

National Catholic Reporter [Kansas City MO]

May 25, 2022

By Anne Barrett Doyle

Read original article

Entitled Vos Estis Lux Mundi (“You Are the Light of the World”), the law was touted by papal spokesmen as a turning point in the fight to end child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

It’s “revolutionary,” said Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich.

“The silence, omertà and cover-ups can now become a thing of the past,” said Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the pope’s trusted abuse investigator.

Vos Estis, a motu proprio that was signed on May 9, 2019, was originally enacted for a three-year trial period that ends this June 1. As we wait to see if Francis will now make the law permanent, it is a good time to assess what will likely be this pope’s most significant response to the Catholic abuse crisis.

So far, the Vatican has released no information about the number or names of bishops investigated under Vos Estis. has been able to identify 28 cases where it has been used to process allegations of cover-up or abuse by bishops. We hope it is being used more widely than this — there are 5,600 living Catholic bishops! — but we can’t be sure.

At least 11 of the Vos Estis or Vos Estis-like cases have been in the United States. Two of these bishops have been sanctioned, three have been “cleared,” and six face ongoing probes.

But the largest concentration of cases, interestingly, has been in Poland, where Vos Estis procedures have been applied against 16 of the country’s 209 active or retired bishops. Eleven appear to have been found guilty by the Vatican of negligence, with sanctions announced in eight of these cases; one archbishop “self-punished”; two others have been cleared; and two other cases are ongoing.

Why the focus on Poland? It’s likely Vatican officials saw an opportunity to do damage control in this most Catholic of countries, which has become a flashpoint in the church’s global crisis. Since 2019, due to media investigations and two searing documentaries, Poland has been rocked by revelations of widespread complicity by its bishops. Half of all Poles surveyed last fall said that the entire episcopacy should resign.

And despite the spate of sanctions, a cadre of alleged enablers remains in power in the Polish church.

Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, the archbishop of Warsaw, is accused of allowing two different priests to minister following their convictions for child sex crimes. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop emeritus of Krakow, was recently pronounced not guilty of negligence in a clergy abuse case in Poland, despite a whistleblower priest’s insistence that he had notified Dziwisz of the abuse in person. The Vatican’s verdict concerned only the one Polish case; it did not consider allegations that as secretary to Pope John Paul II, Dziwisz had dismissed abuse reports against both Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the disgraced founder of Legion of Christ, and ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

Our assessment so far of Vos Estis, based on the cases we’ve tracked in Poland, the United States, and elsewhere: Too few bishops have been found guilty, they’ve been punished too lightly, and next to no information about their misdeeds has been disclosed.

To be sure, under Vos Estis, a dozen or more complicit or abusive bishops have been removed from office — and that’s not nothing.

But it’s a drop in the bucket.

The collective complicity of the Catholic hierarchy, ranging from negligence to willful ignorance to wily deceit, has facilitated the rapes and sexual assaults of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of children. A remorseful church committed to ending its culture and system of cover-up would have demoted and defrocked hundreds of complicit supervisors — not one or two dozen.

Moreover, the majority of Vos Estis cases were necessary for PR reasons. In all but two of the U.S. cases, for instance, the bishop’s ability to lead was already impaired by public allegations. Similarly, nearly all of the Polish bishops penalized under Vos Estis had already been tarred by public scandal.

The weakness of Vos Estis lies mainly in its design: It is self-policing packaged as accountability.

In crafting Vos Estis, the pope prioritized insularity and containment, keeping the hierarchy in total control of the reporting and investigative process. He chose not to require notifying civil authorities. He chose to omit any obligation to notify the public. He limited lay involvement to roles that are fragmented, powerless and (almost certainly) bound by confidentiality.

To be the transformative tool that’s needed, Vos Estis must be revamped. Here are five (admittedly major) changes that would make it effective.

  1. Require reporting to civil authorities.

Under Vos Estis, most of the world’s bishops are allowed not to tell civil authorities that a priest is raping a child. That’s because in most civil jurisdictions, clergy are not mandated reporters, and Vos Estis at most requires reporting only when civil law requires it.

Delete Article 19Vos Estis’ minimal nod to cooperation with civil law. Replace it with mandatory reporting to civil authorities whether or not local law requires it. That is, instruct every priest and religious to notify civil authorities of suspected or known sexual offenses, as well as suspected cover-up by church officials.

Exempt clergy from this requirement in those few jurisdictions worldwide where there is good reason to fear that such reporting would imperil the safety of accusers and/or suspected offenders. Reputable human rights organizations such as Amnesty International could be called on to generate the list of exempted countries.

2. Loosen the Vatican’s grip.

Vos Estis was a doubling down of the pope’s and the Vatican’s control over matters of episcopal discipline — an ironic move by a pope who decries clericalism.

Under Vos Estis, the Vatican controls every key decision. Only it has the power to authorize an investigation, to render a verdict, and to determine penalties.

The problem? Almost invariably, the pope and Vatican officials are lenient towards accused bishops.

Consider Francis’ 2020 decision to reinstate Argentine Bishop Gustavo Zanchetta to a Vatican post, even though the bishop was still under investigation in his native country for alleged sexual abuse. (Zanchetta eventually had to return to Argentina for trial and was recently sentenced to four years in prison.)

Or consider the Vatican’s shocking verdict last year in the canonical case of Bishop Joseph Hart, who ran the Cheyenne, Wyoming, Diocese from 1978 to 2001. Despite allegations that Hart had sexually assaulted more than 15 children, and despite the current Cheyenne bishop’s unwavering insistence that the victims are credible, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith cleared Hart on every count. (Note: Hart’s was not a Vos Estis case, presumably because the Vatican began its inquiry before Vos Estis was enacted, but the canonical process was similar.)

3. Scrap the “metropolitan model.” Archbishops can’t objectively investigate their neighbors.

Vos Estis tasks metropolitans — residential archbishops who symbolically lead their ecclesiastical provinces around the world — with initially assessing and overseeing investigations of accusations against bishops in their provinces.

Not surprisingly, the result has been conflicts of interest, actual and perceived. Archbishops are investigating neighboring bishops who are their colleagues, their collaborators, and, sometimes, their friends.

Consider the Vos Estis case of retired Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. After he was accused of child sexual abuse in late 2019, the Vatican tagged his metropolitan, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the New York Archdiocese, to oversee the investigation.

In his podcast a few weeks later, Dolan made no effort to appear impartial. “I love the guy, he’s a good friend,” he said of his colleague. (In September 2021, Dolan announced that the Vatican had found DiMarzio innocent.)

In another Vos Estis case, the metropolitan is implicated in an alleged act of cover-up along with the bishop he’s investigating. Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville, Tennessee, is being investigated for cover-up by retired Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, who preceded Stika as Knoxville bishop.

Stika is facing a slew of allegations, including one that surfaced in a lawsuit he settled last July. A woman accused the diocese of negligence in its response to her alleged sexual abuse and exploitation by a longtime diocesan priest, Fr. Michael Sweeney. In 2005, Sweeney had admitted to his then-bishop — none other than Kurtz — that he had started having sex with the woman after converting her to Catholicism and serving as her spiritual director.

Kurtz kept the priest in ministry despite his admitted misconduct, and when Stika succeeded Kurtz, he kept the priest in ministry, too.

4. Authorize laypeople to judge Vos Estis cases.

If the Vatican’s control is loosened, and the metropolitan model scrapped, who will judge allegations against bishops?

How about non-clerics? Many have observed that Vos Estis doesn’t mandate lay involvement. Few have pointed out that it effectively prohibits the possibility of lay boards anywhere being allowed to review allegations against prelates. It allows only the enlisting of individual lay experts on an ad hoc basis (Article 13). These persons must be deemed “suitable,” and they are required to take an oath.

This must change — external oversight is crucial. For each episcopal conference, there should be a permanent lay commission dedicated to evaluating bishops. This would be similar to the model promoted in the fall of 2018 by Archbishop Allen Vigneron and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo — but it must be more independent and powerful than what those bishops proposed. It should include no clergy, its members should include outspoken critics of the church’s handling of abuse, and it must be empowered to report to civil authorities.

5. Require disclosure to the public.

Vos Estis enables secrecy. Under Vos Estis, it is permissible to keep the public in the dark from start to finish. It includes no requirements to inform the faithful.

Change this. Mandate disclosure. To quote Scicluna, “Information is of the essence if we really want to work for justice.” It’s also crucial to deter crimes and cover-ups.

Begin by requiring that the public be notified of all plausible allegations against clergy and bishops. Require public notification of outcomes too. Adopt the sensible recommendation of Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to “publish decisions in disciplinary matters relating to child sexual abuse, and provide written reasons for [the church’s] decisions.”

Most importantly, honor a complainant’s right to information. Require church authorities to regularly update victims and other reporters on the status of investigations. Upon request, release to the victim the files about her case, redacting the names of other victims.

Trust at issue

In April, Francis asked the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to produce written reports tracking the church’s anti-abuse initiatives. He hopes the reports will show progress.

“Without that progress,” he warned, “the faithful will continue to lose trust in their pastors.”

It’s baffling that this pope still has not enacted the bold reforms that would make the hierarchy more lawful, responsible and honest in preventing abuse and cover-up.

The problem is that the pope wants trust restored on his own impossible terms. Vos Estis reflects his refusal to accept the irrefutable lesson of this catastrophic crisis: The Catholic hierarchy cannot self-police.

It’s possible that Vos Estis, along with the removal of the pontifical secret in abuse cases, will be the final major abuse legislation of Francis’ papacy. Let’s hope it can be revised. In its present form, it will not achieve the transformation that children and Catholics so desperately need and deserve.

Anne Barrett Doyle is co-director of, an independent nonprofit and online library based in Waltham, Massachusetts. Founded in 2003, it researches child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and the management of those cases by the Holy See.

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