Orders Have Let Abusers Remain
But Leader Predicts Ban on Public Ministry for Offenders
By Reese Dunklin and Brooks Egerton
August 8, 2002
Nearly a decade ago, after sexual-abuse allegations first surfaced at a Franciscan boarding school in California, leaders of that religious order bowed to demands for an outside investigation. Its conclusion: One-fourth of the priests and brothers who worked there over a 23-year period had molested students. Such clusters of clergy offenders have appeared repeatedly at schools, seminaries, orphanages and other Catholic institutions run by religious orders � dwarfing, in some cases, anything seen in the country's more scrutinized dioceses.
And some of the nation's largest religious orders have let members suspected of abuse continue to work in ministry even today.
Despite U.S. bishops' recent adoption of a one-strike-and-you're-out policy, many of these priests and brothers may keep their collars � because their bosses, who are meeting this week in Philadelphia, have not supported removing them from the priesthood. Some order leaders, whose priests account for a third of the nation's 45,000 clerics, are also continuing the secrecy that bishops pledged to end two months ago at their historic Dallas meeting.
For example, when The Dallas Morning News reported in the spring that a Jesuit priest stayed in parish jobs despite two criminal cases � and that he and five other men accused of abuse once worked at the same elite Dallas prep school � a spokesman for the Jesuit order repeatedly declined to answer most questions or provide a copy of the Jesuits' sexual-misconduct policy.
A spokesman for the Franciscans' California office reacted similarly this week to questions about whether the suspected offenders described in the boarding-school report were still on the job. "Their privacy has a right to be respected," said Brother John Kiesler. An independent review panel that was set up after the school's abuse crisis had approved the men's duties, he said. And, as other religious orders have suggested, the Franciscans can't "write people off like they're yesterday's news," he added. "It's not right to say these guys aren't our brothers anymore."
Ray Higgins, a retired businessman who helped investigate the Franciscans and whose son was among 34 ex-students who reported abuse, said that the 1993 inquiry achieved little. "I don't think they wanted to change," he said. "If everything was on the up and up, they would give you answers."
Several order leaders have acknowledged the sexual misconduct, eventually apologized and vowed to prevent further problems.
The Rev. Canice Connors, president of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men group meeting in Philadelphia, acknowledged that "obviously there wasn't" adequate supervision in some settings and that allowed clusters of sex abusers. But those problems spanned decades and were not unlike other incidents seen in the Catholic Church's U.S. dioceses, he said.
Most orders now have "strict, if not stringent" individual policies in place, said Father Connors, a Conventual Franciscan provincial in New York who spent years counseling abusive clergy at leading treatment centers. He added, "I don't know anyone who hasn't made reforms after this happened."
More than 160 order leaders are in Philadelphia. After they talked behind closed doors Wednesday, the conference's executive director, the Rev. Ted Keating, predicted that they would agree to remove abusive priests from the public ministry. "He will not be wearing a clerical collar anymore," he said.
Quietly going along
The clusters of clergy offenders at schools and other order-run institutions have grown out of a culture of inaction that perpetuated misconduct, said A.W. Richard Sipe, an ex-Benedictine monk and psychologist who has written books on clergy abuse and advised Catholic leaders on handling offenders. In some cases, supervision of order priests and brothers was lax. The Franciscans' 1993 investigation found that the friars had molested "without any apparent fear of repercussion" because superiors weren't enforcing conduct rules.
And the relatively small size of religious communities and their closed atmospheres, Mr. Sipe said, "can allow a core of corruption to fester."
Victims and critics of the church's response to the crisis say that despite expressions of reform, the structures that led to the clusters of abusers remain in place � at least to some extent. Many orders � religious communities of priests and brothers that are autonomous of dioceses and whose top leaders answer to the Vatican � have continued to limit the flow of information about accused priests and their whereabouts, victims and others say. That has made the roughly 160 orders in the country more difficult than dioceses to monitor, they say.
"You talk of a structure that's much more secretive � the orders are much harder to get at," said J. Peter Isely, a Milwaukee psychotherapist who has treated victims. He was among 14 students allegedly molested years ago at a Capuchin Franciscan boarding school in Wisconsin. A 1993 investigation done for the order found that at least six friars had engaged in misconduct from the 1960s to the 1980s.
The spokeswoman for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Marita Eddy, said orders aren't bound to the same level of openness as the U.S. bishops. "Catholics don't expect us to be open," she said. "They understand we're different from the bishops."
A key difference is the orders' large geographic reach, which usually includes provinces that cover several states and sometimes even the nation or globe. Victims say that broad network makes it easier for orders than for dioceses � which often encompass just a metropolitan area � to transfer offending priests and brothers.
In the case of the Rev. Norman Rogge, his Jesuit superiors continually transferred him after he pleaded guilty in 1967 to groping a boy. Father Rogge was placed in new schools and churches in Florida, Alabama, California and Louisiana � and continued working after pleading no contest in 1985 to masturbating in front of a child and giving him beer. Father Rogge is still working at the order's retirement home in New Orleans, though a Jesuit spokesman has said he isn't functioning as a priest.
"Because orders are so geographically mobile," said David Clohessy of St. Louis, the president of national Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, "it's much easier for them to get by with shuffling these guys to any assignment. The opportunity is very, very ripe for these men to [reoffend]."
Father Rogge is one of six accused priests and brothers once stationed at Dallas' elite Jesuit College Preparatory School, one of the order's schools nationwide stung by recent revelations of widespread abuse. Another former Jesuit Prep worker is Brother Claude Ory. He was fired in 1994 because of repeated allegations of abuse and misconduct, but the order employs him at its residence house at Loyola College in Baltimore.
Breaking the silence
At the Franciscans' boarding school in California, St. Anthony's Seminary, 11 of the 44 friars had been involved in abuse, according to the investigation. The disclosure "appalled" order leaders, said Brother Kiesler, the Franciscan provincial spokesman in California.
"But it made us resolute in designing programs that would bring healing to victims and make sure this never happened again," he said.
Yet several of the friars accused in 1993 have continued work � a few of them in jobs near schools and children. Brother Kiesler said none of the other accused friars were currently in pastoral ministry but declined to discuss their assignments or any restrictions placed on them.
"It's not something we've done willy-nilly," he said, stressing that a review panel had cleared the assignments.
The investigative team's public report did not name the alleged abusers. But Mr. Higgins, one of the investigators, agreed to an interview with The News. He said he broke the silence because he feared that some of the men were still working and had access to children.
One of the friars, Brother Kevin Dunne, is on the job and living with several order members at St. Mary's Basilica, a major Phoenix church. Brother Dunne did not return calls for comment.
Dan Wolford, the parish's manager, said this week that Brother Dunne is a treasurer for order members and does some housework for them but does not work with church children. Mr. Wolford said the Franciscans had never advised him of the accusations against Brother Dunne. "They probably should have," he said.
Another Franciscan identified by the investigators was the Rev. Gus Krumm, who had been a pastor in Portland, Ore., until this spring despite the Franciscan province having paid an undisclosed amount to at least one accuser. Brother Kiesler said the allegations against Father Krumm were unsubstantiated and the Franciscans settled because it was cheaper than litigating � not because "there was any implication of guilt or wrongdoing."
Mr. Higgins, the member of the independent investigating team commissioned by the order, questioned that account. The report had concluded that Father Krumm had fondled boys under the guise of giving them health exams, Mr. Higgins said.
Father Krumm was removed from his pastor's job in May after disclosing for the first time "indiscretions which occurred in the early 1970s and mid-1980s," the Franciscans have said. Father Krumm could not be located for comment. Brother Kiesler would not comment further. Officials said they have had no complaints about his work in recent years.
Mr. Higgins said the Franciscans knew enough to keep Father Krumm away from boys long ago. "I worked for nine years to get him out of ministry," he said, "and I finally did."
'Best he can'
This year, Benedictine leaders at St. John's Abbey in Minnesota spoke for the first time publicly about the scope of the problems at the complex, which includes a prep school, a university and a monastery.
New Abbot John Klassen, saying he wanted to end years of secrecy, announced that several monks were living under restrictions because of past allegations � including former Abbot John Eidenschink, who was accused of molesting two other monks. A majority of the restricted men � the number of which eventually rose to 14 out of about 190 at the abbey � had also admitted to the misconduct, ranging from abuse to viewing Internet pornography, officials said. Although credited by some for his candor, Abbot Klassen soon drew the ire of victims who learned that he had let some of the restricted monks travel. Until last month, he had also had let the Rev. Fran Hoefgen and the Rev. Allen Tarlton work in public ministries despite restrictions.
"This is exactly what they think they can get away with because no one is holding them accountable," said Patrick Marker, a St. John's abuse victim who threatened to protest last month if the two monks weren't removed from their public posts. Mr. Marker was one of a few victims who sued the abbey in the early 1990s.
St. John's abbey spokesman, the Rev. William Skudlarek, said Abbot Klassen acted as "best he can" after taking over less than two years ago. One of the abbot's first tasks was to "review the whole mess" and reach out to victims, Father Skudlarek said. Since then, he has set up a Web page on the St. John's situation and announced that the abbey would follow the U.S. bishops' new charter.
Another order also recently revealed that a number of its members were under restrictions.
The Crosier Fathers and Brothers said 11 of that order's 87 members had limited duties because of past allegations that span the last several years. The order declined to comment on reports that at least four of the men were accused while working at a preparatory school the order ran until 1989, pending completion of an independent investigation that the Crosiers have commissioned.
At least one of the 11 members, the Rev. Neil Emon, had recently performed parish work despite misconduct complaints first levied in 1988. He served in a Michigan parish until 2000, then was sent to a Crosiers facility in Arizona, where he had an administrative position � but also celebrated Mass at parishes in the Phoenix area until two months ago, the order said.
Like Abbot Klassen, the provincial of the Crosiers Fathers and Brothers said his order would likely adopt the bishops' charter. The Crosiers' current sex-abuse policy does not require the removal of a credibly accused priest, though revisions are under way.
"As we look back, we recognize issues that were handled in a manner that would be dealt with much differently today," said the Rev. Thomas Carkhuff, who took office in the late 1990s. "We hope the public will judge us by what we are doing today to care for victims and ensure the safety of those we serve."
Staff writer Susan Hogan/Albach in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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