CCA Response to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on Clergy Sexual Abuse

The Catholic Committee of Appalachia (CCA) released a Statement on Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church in November 2017 following the death of Barbara Blaine, founder of SNAP. The continued relevance of our 2017 statement could not be more clear as the People of God respond to new reports of clergy abuse over the past weeks. CCA reaffirms our November 2017 statement and the calls to action contained within it.

The recently released Pennsylvania grand jury report is in many ways a window into the innerworkings of the hierarchy with global relevance for the Catholic community. As most of the dioceses contained in report fall within the Appalachian region, the report is also, in many ways, an expression of the Appalachian church that implicates a number of our bishops, both past and present.

The Pennsylvania report provokes Catholics in our region to reflect on both the global and regional causes and implications of sexual abuse in the Church. CCA’s 2017 statement began some of that reflection, and we remain committed to efforts to protect the vulnerable in our region and to work for church reforms necessary to address the roots of the problem.

Specifically, CCA calls for the following immediate actions. Although some Appalachian bishops have been publicly resistant to doing so, CCA insists that all bishops of the region release a statement of priests and bishops accused of sexual abuse within their dioceses. We also insist that each diocese disclose the amount which has been paid in settlements and legal costs related to abuse and make all documents pertaining to sexual abuse by clergy and bishops available to the proper authorities.

Read CCA’s Statement on Child Sexual Abuse in the Church here.
Read the Pennsylvania grand jury report here.

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Catholics Conduct Prayerful Witness at Good Friday Liturgy

(Wheeling, WV) — Two Catholic activists associated with the West Virginia chapter of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia (CCA), the Catholic Worker movement, and the Women’s Ordination Conference took part in a prayerful witness action at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Wheeling, West Virginia before, during, and after Good Friday services, March 30th.

Before the service, they prayed a “Litany of Resistance” aloud in their pew as people took their seats. Using traditional Catholic prayer forms, the litany expresses sorrow and contrition for the social and ecological sins of the world and of the church, including racism, violence, misogyny, and ecological destruction. The litany encourages Catholics to resist “spiritualities that mask injustice” and the institutional silence and complicity of our churches.

Wearing shirts that read “SILENCE CRUCIFIES” and “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” the activists paused to pray at a side altar bearing the statue of St. Joseph, the patron saint of the diocese, during a traditional communal procession of the “Veneration of the Cross.”

After the service, the activists held a large banner outside the cathedral that read “SILENCE CRUCIFIES,” surrounded by the words racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, coal, and war. They again prayed the Litany of Resistance and made themselves available to speak with parishioners as they exited the church.

The activists released a statement of mourning, expressing concern about the silence of local church leaders in the face of social injustice. The statement names racism, xenophobia, gun violence, and the ecological effects of extractive industry as sins which “crucify” the region, and challenges church leaders to renounce their silent complicity with these crucifixions and speak prophetically for justice. The full statement follows:

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Statement on Strike of West Virginia State Employees

The Catholic Committee of Appalachia has released a statement on the strike of West Virginia state employees. The entire statement can be read here.

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CCA February Update

CCA’s February update has been sent out via email, and is also available here. Check it out for announcements regarding upcoming events like our Cherokee Retreat and day of reflection for priests, as well as updates on CCA’s relations with bishops, job announcements, an At Home in the Web of Life anniversary edition, and more.

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Happy 2nd Birthday to the People’s Pastoral!

Happy birthday to The Telling Takes Us Home which was published two years ago today! 2017 has been a year packed with continued conversations about the pastoral, and we are looking forward to sharing the document and its message in new ways in 2018.

As we mark this anniversary, we would like to remind you about our recently produced video about the pastoral, and we are also happy to announce that an abridged newspaper edition of the pastoral will be available just after Christmas. Both the video and the abridged version are perfect for use with students, parish discussion groups, activist groups, etc. Please inquire about bulk rates. Please let us know how we can help your community discuss the pastoral and work to put it into action!

The cover of the forthcoming abridged newsprint version of The Telling Takes Us Home.

We also look forward to the summer 2018 release of the Salt + Light Media documentary The Francis Impact which celebrates the five year anniversary of the election of Pope Francis by taking a look at grassroots movements and individuals who have been inspired by his papacy. The documentary will feature stories from Appalachia, including the story CCA and the People’s Pastoral. For information about the documentary, and some behind the scenes photos of the film crew’s time in West Virginia and Kentucky, click here.

The best way to celebrate the pastoral is to introduce someone you know to the document, and to CCA, today! You might also point them to this collection of endorsements to see the exciting things people have been saying about the pastoral, or invite them to check out some of the coverage the document has received.

CCA wishes all of our members, collaborators, allies, and supporters a blessed Christmas and a joyful new year.

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New Video on the People’s Pastoral

We are happy to share this new short video reflection on CCA’s “people’s pastoral” letter, The Telling Takes Us Home. Immersion and service groups coming to the Appalachian region may find this video particularly helpful. Please let us know how you are using it! A higher quality version is available to stream and/or download here.

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CCA, Bishop Stowe, Among Supporters of RECLAIM Act of 2017

Last week, religious communities sent a letter to the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives expressing support for a bipartisan bill that could jump start economies in coal communities: the RECLAIM Act of 2017.

The RECLAIM Act brings hope for real help for Appalachian communities most in need of economic revitalization. According to the Appalachian Regional Commission 2010-2014 poverty rate report, the combined Appalachian regions of Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia have a poverty rate that is 4 percent higher than the national average.

Co-Coordinator of Catholic Committee of Appalachia Michael Iafrate said of the legislation, “People in Appalachia have been working to change the dominant story we tell about the region in an effort of reimagining their communities and forging new paths forward beyond coal. The RECLAIM Act is a reasonable first step in assisting these communities to bring these efforts to life as we continue to have difficult conversations about our region and its place in this nation’s history.”

Signed by 40 religious denominations and faith-based organizations, the letter provides faith communities’ reason for supporting the RECLAIM Act:

…we are deeply invested in ensuring every person has the opportunity to reach his or her God-given potential. We also believe in our moral responsibility to ensure God’s creation continues to help future generations thrive. For these reasons, we urge you to look towards real solutions for a just transition for coal communities.

West Virginia Council of Churches Executive Director Rev. Jeff Allen said, “In West Virginia alone, the RECLAIM Act could help us work on an estimated $1.5 billion worth of abandoned mine clean-up work. The people and the lands of Appalachia have made sacrifices to provide energy for this country. It is a moral responsibility for our country to re-invest in our region for new economic opportunities and to heal God’s creation.”

Likewise, Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington, KY, who serves also as CCA’s Bishop Liaison, wrote in support of the RECLAIM Act in an editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader. Stowe said,

As a community of faith, we look for these kinds of opportunities which protect and restore the wonders of creation and offer possibilities for meaningful employment. The time is short for the passage of the RECLAIM Act. Let’s make sure our representatives are in support and ready to act.

The letter called on House leadership to bring the RECLAIM Act of 2017 to the House floor for a vote as soon as possible.

The letter of support from religious leaders was spearheaded by Creation Justice Ministries, who represents the creation care policies of 38 Christian communions, including Baptists, mainline Protestants, Historically Black Churches, Peace Churches, and Orthodox communions. Learn more at

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CCA Statement on Child Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church

The Catholic Committee of Appalachia has released a statement on Child Sexual Abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. The entire statement, which was approved by the CCA Board of Directors, can be read here.

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‘Faith, Hope, Love: Our Common Home’ Social Ministries Conference to be Held in South Charleston

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va.—“Faith, Hope, Love: Our Common Home” Social Ministries Conference will be held at Blessed Sacrament Church in South Charleston, W.Va., Nov. 4 from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

The conference is free and is being sponsored by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Catholic Charities West Virginia (CCWVa), Solar United Neighbors of West Virginia and Catholic Committee of Appalachia.

“Our major goal is to hear stories from community members, and to be inspired to go out and continue the good work that has already begun,” said Kate Kosydar, Parish Social Ministry coordinator for CCWVa, who is helping to organize the conference. “We all have a role to play.”

The Catholic Committee of Appalachia, Grow Ohio Valley, Manna Meal, Christians for the Mountains and Try This WV will have speakers at the conference. Breakout sessions will cover an array of topics. Participants may choose one from each session—Session A: Home in the Web of Life and Social Justice & Local Food; Session B: Faith and Environment and Caring for our Bodies.

“‘Faith Hope Love: Our Common Home’ will be part reflection/retreat, and part planning session,” Kosydar said. “We’re really hopeful for a good turnout so that we can put Pope Francis’ encouragement from his encyclical into concrete action here in West Virginia.”

The conference is based on Pope Francis’s encyclical, On Care of Our Common Home. “Pope Francis’ document is not only concerned with the environment, but also with our relationships to one another,” Kosydar said. “We’re being encouraged to live out the Gospel in a concrete way by caring for the earth, as well as our brothers and sisters near and far.”

Donations are appreciated. To register or for more information, visit and click Special Events and then All Events.

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CCA Co-Coordinators to Share Social Justice Message at Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Jeannie Kirkhope and Michael Iafrate, co-coordinators of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, are among the presenters sharing a message of social justice at the 20th annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. The annual gathering, held this year from November 4-6 with an anticipated attendance of nearly 2,000 individuals, addresses timely social justice issues in the context of Catholic faith tradition—this year with a primary focus on racism and immigration.

Kirkhope will present a breakout session entitled Feedback from Appalachia: The Honeymoon is Over, exploring a “culture of encounter” in the context of volunteer groups visiting Appalachia. Iafrate, as an Ignatian Network Speaker, will, from the conference mainstage, speak on Taking our Place in the New Appalachian Story, sharing the message of The Telling Takes Us Home as it relates to Laudato Si’ and the Jesuit mission, presenting a Catholic approach of caring for our common home by thinking globally and acting locally.

Known as the largest annual Catholic social justice gathering in the U.S., the Teach-In attracts many young people ages 16-22, representing over 120 Jesuit and other Catholic universities, high schools, and parishes in the U.S., as well as Canada, Mexico, and El Salvador.

The 2017 theme, Rowing Into the Deep: Magis Meets Justice, calls attendees to explore a more deeply authentic, courageous, generous, and compassionate response to the changing realities of our world.

Initiated in 1997 in Columbus, Georgia, the Teach-In commences yearly in mid-November to commemorate the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador. The six Jesuit priests and their two companions were murdered on November 16, 1989 for speaking out against the country’s tumultuous civil war. The Teach-In relocated from Georgia to Washington, D.C. in 2010 in response to the growing interest in legislative advocacy and accompanying educational opportunities.

On the morning of Monday, November 6, attendees will gather at Columbus Circle for a public witness, gathering with signs, banners, and voices to pray, listen to active advocates, and recommit to work for justice. The Teach-In then culminates with what is estimated to be the largest Catholic advocacy day of the year. Nearly 1,400 individuals will proceed to legislative advocacy meetings with members of Congress and their staffs on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to enact immigration and criminal justice reform.

Keynote speakers include Rev. Bryan Massingale, racial justice scholar and theology faculty at Fordham University, Maria Stephan, a senior advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace, and Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, executive director of Pax Christi USA.

The Teach-In also offers more than 50 breakout sessions, presented by national and international speakers, including Fr. James Martin, S.J., bestselling author and editor-at-large at America Magazine; Joanna Williams, director of education and advocacy for Kino Border Initiative; and Maureen O’Connell, Ph.D., racial justice scholar, theology faculty at La Salle University, along with prominent student activists for immigration reform and racial justice.

The celebrant for the Teach-In liturgy on Sunday, November 5 is Rev. Mark Ravizza, S.J., a delegate from the California Province of the Society of Jesus’ General Congregation 36 and director of Jesuit Mission and Ministry at Casa Bayanihan at Ateneo de Manila in the Phillipines.

“For twenty years, the Teach-In has invited the Jesuit network and broader Catholic Church to reflect on the realities of injustice facing our country and global community,” says Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network. “This year’s Teach-In theme invites us to ‘row deeper’ into the realities of racial injustice, inhumane migration policies, and other challenges of our times.”

Livestream coverage of the Teach-In is available at:

Kelly Swan, Director of Communications, Ignatian Solidarity Network

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