Pope Sets New Rules for Investigating Sex Abuse

Pope Sets New Rules for Investigating Sex Abuse

Pope Francis is enacting new rules for investigating bishops over sexual abuse or its coverup, responding to mounting public pressure on the Catholic Church to improve accountability after a string of abuse scandals involving senior clergy.

The new church law, laid out on Thursday, requires all dioceses in the world to set up a “public, stable and easily accessible” process for reporting allegations of abuse, including by bishops and cardinals, that protects victims and whistleblowers. It says dioceses have to report allegations about bishops without delay to the Vatican, which must decide within a month whether to launch an investigation, take immediate disciplinary action or close the case.

The new rules seek to address complaints that the church lacked standard procedures for pursuing bishops and heads of religious orders accused of committing or covering up sex abuse. They don’t address the long-running divisions in the church over how strictly to punish wrongdoers in abuse cases. Bishops in most countries have rejected the U.S. church’s call for all abusers to be permanently removed from ministry.

The church’s troubles over sex abuse were reignited in 2018 by scandals involving cardinals and bishops in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Australia. Growing disillusionment among Catholics threatens to overshadow the pontificate of Pope Francis, who after taking office in 2013 inspired popular hopes of a church more in tune with modern society.

The pope’s credibility has suffered from criticism that he didn’t take seriously allegations of abuse, misconduct or coverup by bishops including former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Chilean Bishop Juan Barros, Australian Cardinal George Pell and French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin.

In November, the Vatican frustrated U.S. bishops by blocking them from voting on new measures aimed at holding bishops more accountable for abuse or failing to act against it.

On Thursday the head of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, welcomed the new law, saying in a statement that it “leaves latitude for national bishops’ conferences…to specify still more to account for their local circumstances.”

But the U.S. bishops’ leading lay adviser on child protection, Francesco Cesareo, said the new legislation could stifle one element of the U.S. bishops’ proposals: the establishment of a national commission of laypersons to oversee the investigation of bishops. The pope’s new law instead gives responsibility for investigations to local bishops acting under Vatican direction.

In February, Pope Francis presided over a four-day global summit of bishops at the Vatican to address the problem of clerical sex abuse. The pope called for an “all-out battle” against abuse, but the meeting produced few specific measures.

The new rules outlined on Thursday aim to address criticism of a lack of concrete reforms. They stipulate that reporting systems for abuse allegations, whether run by church officials or outsiders on behalf of the church, must ensure the privacy and protection of accusers and victims. Such systems are common in the U.S. and other wealthy countries but less so in the developing world, church officials say.

“If enforced, there’s no doubt the new law will improve the church’s internal processing of allegations,” said Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org, a Boston-based group that tracks abuse cases. “But it has three obvious weaknesses: it stipulates no penalties for ignoring the law, it mandates no transparency, and it doesn’t require that abusers be removed permanently from the priesthood.”

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, stressed that the new law covers not only sexual abuse of minors but “abuse of authority” that forces adults to perform sexual acts. He told the Vatican newspaper the new law thus applies to the “abuse of nuns by clerics or the abuse of seminarians or novices by their superiors.”

“This sends a signal that leadership is subject not only to civil law but canon law,” Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, adjunct secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said at the Vatican on Thursday. He said he would explain the law to congregants in Malta like this: “If I break the rules, you must tell the pope, ‘look, our bishop is a bad person.’”

When complaints are made against bishops, they must be referred to the Vatican right away, unless determined to be patently unfounded. The Vatican is required to decide within 30 days whether to order an investigation and, if so, which bishop or other church official will lead the probe.

The local metropolitan, or senior bishop in the region, would be the presumptive investigator, but the Vatican may choose another if the metropolitan is under investigation himself or is judged incapable for some other reason. He may draw on the expertise of laypersons in conducting the probe. The investigation must ordinarily be completed within 90 days.

The new legislation, which takes effect June 1, also states that all clergy and nuns are required to report any evidence of child sex abuse, possession of child pornography, sexual assault of adults or coverup to their superiors or to the Vatican’s local representative. This requirement doesn’t apply to information transmitted during the sacrament of confession, which priests are forbidden to divulge under pain of excommunication. The law doesn’t expressly require the church to report abuse allegations to secular authorities, but says priests and nuns should comply with local laws.

Fr. John Okoro Charges Men to be Good Ambassadors of Christ

Fr. John Okoro Charges Men to be Good Ambassadors of Christ

Parish priest of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Ojota, Lagos, Rev. Fr. John Okoro has charged members of the Lagos Archdiocesan Catholic Men Organization (LACMO) to be good ambassadors of Christ.

Fr.Okoro made this charge while welcoming members of the LACMO 2019 Convention Organizing Committee during their joint meeting with deanery coordinators and parish chairmen in the parish on Satursday.

“Be Good ambassadors of Christ, be good ambassadors of St Joseph your patron saint. Sometimes we tend to deviate from those values that promote the church, but I know that with little advice from one another we can make a head way. I want to thank you for doing a good job and I pray that God will continue to bless you,” he said.

Photo: Rev. Fr. John Okoro (standing), and a cross section of LACMO executives during the occasion

“Be good ambassadors in loving your wives, as St Joseph loved his wife,and also his foster son Jesus. You should be good ambassadors in loving your children also. I pray that the lord will bless you in your works, your businesses and in all your endeavours, through Christ our lord,” he went further to say. President of LACMO, Mr. John Aigbokhaode had earlier inaugurated the committee.

LACMO Selects Theme, Releases Timetable for 2019 Convention

LACMO Selects Theme, Releases Timetable for 2019 Convention

Lagos Archdiocesan Catholic Men Organization (LACMO) has selected “Let’s Continue with Christ: The way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 21:3-7; Jn. 14:6)as theme for this year’s Annual Convention and Induction. This is as the organization has also released the programme for week-long activity.

Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the 2019 Lagos Archdiocesan Catholic Men Organization (LACMO) Convention and Induction, NnamdiIkemunveiled the theme and programme for the convention at a meeting of members of the LACMO 2019 Convention Organizing Committee, deanery  coordinators and parish chairmen at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Ojota, Lagos, over the weekend.

The convention holds Friday, July 27 – Sunday, July 29, 2019 at St Gregory’s College, Southwest Ikoyi, Lagos. 

Explaining the choice of the theme of the convention,”Let’s Continue with Christ: The way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 21:3-7; Jn. 14:6)Mr NnamdiIkem said, “Professional fisherman know how and where to throw their nets. Peter and his fellow apostles tried that all night but caught nothing. But when Jesus the author of life said they should cast back their net to the “right side of the boat” they became successful. Most times right handed fishermen cast their nets to the left, but notwithstanding that, Peter obeyed the Lord and apart from ripping the benefits his eyes were opened to the presence of the Lord.”

Photo: Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the 2019 Lagos Archdiocesan Catholic Men Organization (LACMO) Convention and Induction, Nnamdi Ikem addressing members at the meeting.

“Today, we are facing a difficult terrain that is putting stress on our ability to be good family men; good leaders of our communities; etc.,” the organizing committee chairman stated, calling on men to continue again with Jesus: The  Way, The Truthand the Life; rather than struggling alone.

The convention has two other sub-themes: “The Catholic Man as the good family shepherd” Jn.10:11; 1 Tim. 5:8; Mal. 3:13-16; and “The Catholic Man the Leader of the Family and the Community.” Jud. 6:14-16.

Other features of the convention include seminars and workshops with “Harnessing the Political Potentials of an Organization like CMO,” and “Starting and Running a Business in an Unstable Environment,” as major topics. The convention which will start with the CMO Week in the various parishes across the Archdiocese from Monday, July 22 – Thursday, 25, 2019 July will feature charity work, Holy Mass and seminars in the parishes. Meanwhile, all parishes have been enjoined to form liturgical committees to ensure adequate mobilization for the parish activities.

Gunmen kill priest, five others during mass

Gunmen kill priest, five others during mass

Gunmen killed a priest and five churchgoers during mass Sunday in an attack on a Catholic church in Dablo, northern Burkina Faso, security sources and local official said.

“Towards 9.00 am, during mass, armed individuals burst into the Catholic church,” the mayor of Dablo, OusmaneZongo, told AFP. “They started firing as the congregation tried to flee.”

The gunmen managed to trap some of the worshippers, he added. “They killed five of them. The priest, who was celebrating mass, was also killed, bringing the number of dead to six.”

The attackers set fire to the church, several shops and a small cafe before heading to the local health centre, which they looted and burnt the chief nurse’s vehicle, said Zongo.

A security source said between 20 and 30 gunmen carried out the attack.

Sunday’s attack was the latest of a series carried out against Christian churches in Burkina Faso.

Last Sunday, gunmen killed five people in an attack on a Protestant church in the small northern town of Silgadji.

Lagos Catholic Archdiocese To Mark Archbishop Martin’s 60th Birthday In Style

Lagos Catholic Archdiocese To Mark Archbishop Martin’s 60th Birthday In Style

The Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos has unveiled activities to celebrate the 60th birthday of Most. Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, the Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos.

Four days of celebration have been earmarked to commemorate the event, beginning Monday, May 27, and running through Saturday, June 1, the D-day of His Grace’s birthday.

According to Mr. Peter Nwanze, Chairman, All Purpose Committee, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, organisers of the event, the activities included Children’s Day with the Archbishop on May 27; Visitations of the Archbishop to Mother Theresa’s Home in Ketu on May 28 and other charity establishments; Celebration with the elderly residents at Regina Mundi Home and Choral Competition by the Music Commission on May 29 as well as the grand finale on June 1.

Speaking further, Nwanze stated that the grand finale would commence with the Holy Mass at Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos at 10 am.

Two books titled ‘Grace to Live’ and ‘Voice of the Shepherd’ would be presented during the reception.

These events had been packaged to further highlight Most. Rev. (Dr.) Martins’ Episcopal motto ‘Called to Serve in Love.’

The Archbishop, who was born on June 1, 1959, in Abeokuta, Ogun State, and was ordained a priest on September 18, 1983, had over the years continued to demonstrate his passion for service through compassion and love.