Bishop Accountability
 
  ARCHDIOCESE OF SAN ANTONIO TX

Accused Priests: 20
Total Priests: 2,113 (archdiocesan and religious order priests)
Alleged Victims: 58
Cost: $5,221,114 ($5,110,114 in settlements and $111,000 for treatment)

See the Dallas Morning News database entry on Archbishop Patrick Flores. The June 2002 database examined the records of bishops and identified those who had allowed accused priests to continue working or had otherwise protected priests accused of sexual abuse. The database is relevant to the bishops' "Nature and Scope" study because the bishops who prepared the surveys for the study are in many cases responsible for the "scope" of the problem.

S.A. Archdiocese Cites Payments
From 1950 to 2002, $5.2 million was paid in sexual abuse cases

By J. Michael Parker jparker@express-news.net
San Antonio Express-News
February 28, 2004

Archdiocese of San Antonio officials said Friday that more than $5.2 million was paid from 1950 to 2002 in settlements and counseling connected with sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy.

But victims and an attorney who won a multimillion-dollar settlement from the archdiocese in 1998 disputed the figures.

The announcement came as officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a report on the extent of the sexual abuse crisis throughout the nation and a second report on the causes and effects of the crisis.

San Antonio's reported cases involved substantiated allegations against 20 priests made by 58 victims. During those years, 2,113 archdiocesan and religious-order priests ministered in the archdiocese.

"I cannot forget that these numbers count lives that have been broken and faith that has been shattered," Archbishop Patrick Flores said in a prepared statement. "I am deeply saddened and ask God and you for forgiveness for a past we cannot change."

The archdiocese said it paid $5,110,114 in settlements and $111,000 for treatment.

The dollar figures are misleading according to attorney Michele Petty, whose clients, five male parishioners in Von Ormy and Macdona who were abused by Xavier Ortiz-Dietz, reached a $4 million settlement in 1998.

Some perpetrators may not have been priests, she said.

As for the payouts for psychological treatment, Petty said that in her clients' experiences, the archdiocese often tried to avoid paying for counseling.

"They were extremely balky about it when victims came forward after the statute of limitations had expired."

Barbara Garcia Boehland, director of the San Antonio chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and mother of a victim who committed suicide, said bishops haven't done their job in protecting children from abusive priests.

"They claim 20 priests, but we have 24 victims in our chapter," she said. "The numbers don't add up. I can only pray that more will find the courage to make reports."

The San Antonio report included an unsubstantiated allegation against one priest; no funds were paid in that case.

No priests were named in the report, although eight of them already were publicly known. The national office that commissioned the study didn't call for names but only for statistics indicating the scope of the problem.

A request by one of the priests to be defrocked, or permanently removed from the clerical state, is still pending.

Vicar general Monsignor Lawrence Stuebben refused to name the priest but said it wasn't Dietz.

Archdiocese officials refuse to name six dead and six retired priests against whom allegations were made in 2002 for incidents dating back more than 20 years.

"If someone's dead or infirm and can't defend themselves, we see no good that would come from releasing their names, even though the allegations against them have been substantiated," said Deacon Pat Rodgers, director of communications or the archdiocese.

Some archdioceses have listed abusive priests, including the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which named 58 - including many dead ones - as a sign of its openness.

An area victim's mother said all should be named.

"How many other victims are out here in the city and don't know that they aren't alone?" asked Lois Heath of Von Ormy, whose son was victimized by a visiting priest.

"What can be done to force the archdiocese to reveal all those names? All we've heard about are the few who have hit the newspapers recently."

Rodgers said the policy is unlikely to change.

Stuebben called the San Antonio statistics "a microcosm of the whole country's experience," but noted the percentage of total priests involved in San Antonio - nine-tenths of 1 percent - is lower than the national figure of 4.3 percent.

"But even one is one too many," he said. "And we have a great deal of work to do at every level."

Tim Reznicek, a program coordinator for Child Protective Services, said the archdiocese's acknowledgement is progress.

"In the 1980s, we had a lot of similar allegations in day care centers, and we did a lot of education," he said. "It significantly reduced the problem."



Prayers of penitence offered for sexual abuse

By Bobby Ross Jr.
Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO — The Rev. David Garcia, rector of San Fernando Cathedral, put aside his usual homily Sunday as his historic downtown church sought God's forgiveness and reconciliation for sins of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

At the cathedral and parishes throughout the San Antonio Archdiocese, special prayers of penitence were offered on the first Sunday of Lent — two days after the release of a national study that tallied molestation claims against nearly 4,400 U.S. priests from 1950 to 2002.

"This past week, we had the report which outlined the terrible tragedy of sexual abuse of children in the church over the last 50 years by members of the clergy and others," Garcia told the 700 parishioners who attended a Mass conducted mostly in Spanish. "So, breaking from our traditional homily, we will be conducting our service of penitence and sorrow for sin."

Lent is a time of penance, asking forgiveness for sin and making a commitment to do better, Garcia said.

"So that was what it was all about, to publicly in front of everybody have the whole church together pray," he said.

Archbishop Patrick F. Flores, who has headed the Archdiocese of San Antonio for 25 years, attended the Mass and asked for personal forgiveness for not doing more in the past to protect children against sexual abuse in the church. Garcia said Flores has apologized many times.

"He's gone to parishes, for example, where a case happened ... and dialogued with people," Garcia said. "He's cried with people and he's asked for forgiveness. The archbishop is not one who's afraid of saying, 'I'm sorry.'"

Parishioners said after the Mass they were stunned by the abuse scandal but remained firm in their faith.

"It's hard for me to believe that it was such a huge number of priests involved in this thing," said Louis Gloria, 81, who was baptized as an infant at San Fernando Cathedral, which dates to the 1730s, when San Antonio was a tiny village called San Fernando.

"I still believe what I believe," Gloria said. "We're all human, and I think it's a reflection of our society. There's crime in every group."

Janie Valdez, 38, a mother of three girls, said she can't understand why so many abuse cases went unreported for so long. But she said she's confident the church has dealt with the problem and can move forward.

Officials in some other Texas dioceses, including Austin and Dallas, said they had no plans to address the issue Sunday.

"Honestly, I think there is some level of interest on this," Austin Bishop Gregory Aymond said. "But I think we have been talking about it for almost two years now."

The national survey found 10,667 abuse claims over the decades. About 4 percent of all American clerics who served during the time studied — 4,392 of the 109,694 priests and others under vows to the church — were accused of abuse.

The percentage of abusers in society at large is unknown.

The survey calculated abuse-related costs such as litigation and counseling at $572 million, and noted that the figure does not cover at least $85 million in settlements over the past year. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice conducted the survey at the request of the National Review Board — a panel of Catholic lay people charged by U.S. bishops with investigating the abuse crisis.

As the national figures were made public Friday, the Archdiocese of San Antonio announced that it paid more than $5.2 million during that 52-year period in settlements and counseling connected with sexual abuse of minors. The archdiocese said it had documented allegations made against 20 priests by 58 victims.

It's just one of at least five Texas dioceses that have paid millions in sexual abuse cases, according to figures obtained by The Associated Press.

Others include:

_ Dallas, which paid $39.1 million during the same period, much of it related to notorious ex-priest Rudy Kos. A jury in 1997 awarded a $119.6-million verdict to victims suing the Dallas Diocese for covering up years of abuse by Kos, though the case was later settled for about $31 million.

_ El Paso: $4.6 million. (Some of the abuse involved priests outside Texas, when the diocese included parts of New Mexico.)

_ Galveston-Houston: $3.6 million.

_ Corpus Christi: $1.3 million.

In some cases, insurance money, not diocese funds, covered a large percentage of the costs. The national report did not break down the figures by diocese, but many bishops have disclosed the information on their own.

 

Demonstrate Penitence in Two Important Ways
Naming accused priests and enforcing zero tolerance are necessary steps to restore the church's integrity

San Antonio Express-News
March 7, 2004

The numbers don't come close to telling the story. Nonetheless, they do not fail to shock.

A recent national report shows that between 1950 and 2002, 4,392 of 109,694 Catholic priests were accused of sexual abuse.

Locally, 58 reports of abuse were lodged against 20 priests.

Given that most sexual abuse victims are reluctant to speak out and, instead, suffer in private, the number of victims who did come forward during these years seems extraordinarily high.

The real story is in the details. Every case is different, and every case touched not only the victim and the priest but a complex network of families, friends and society's most trusted institutions - churches and the criminal justice system.

Where does the church, and its followers, go from here? How can children be protected from priests and pastors who have so much power over them?

How can parents be assured that the church, which in many cases knew about abuse but covered it up, will now reverse course and embrace new initiatives?

Locally, Archbishop Patrick Flores must take two actions.

First, he should release the names of all 20 priests who were accused. The archdiocese refuses to release the names of 12 of the priests because they are retired or dead. The failure to name names perpetuates the system of secrecy that has long held sway in these cases.

Second, he must move quickly to remove priests who are accused of sexual abuse. Zero-tolerance - the philosophy adopted by the U.S. bishops - demands that priests who have been accused be immediately removed from parish duties, pending an investigation.

Last August, the archdiocese received an allegation of abuse against Father Joe Aviles, pastor of St. Joseph's South San Parish. Flores left Aviles in place for six months before removing him last week. That's not good enough.

Last week, Flores requested that all parishes in the Archdiocese of San Antonio offer prayers of penitence on the first Sunday of Lent.

This was a welcome step in acknowledging that the church failed to protect children from sexual abuse by priests. Such candor must be continued.

Abuse Report Just the Beginning
Archdiocese will face a range of thorny issues for months to come

By J. Michael Parker and Ron Wilson jparker@express-news.net
San Antonio Express-News
February 29, 2004

The Archdiocese of San Antonio's participation in a recent healing service with clergy sex-abuse victims was an uncommon gesture for a U.S. diocese.

The event, co-hosted by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, drew a mix of victims and clergy, and seemed to mark the archdiocese as a rare, progressive force in dealing with the scandal.

But one person was conspicuous by his absence: Archbishop Patrick Flores.

Local SNAP director Barbara Garcia Boehland said he was specifically disinvited.

"He's known about these abusive priests but has done nothing. The church has a lot of power, but it hasn't been very good to the people."

That friction, and the fallout amid Friday's release of reports on the national scope and costs of the scandal, indicate the healing here and across the country is far from over.

Concerns about bishops' roles in the scandal; how well new policies will protect minors; the issues of celibacy and homosexuality in the priesthood; and naming guilty priests will be discussed for months in the wake of Friday's reports.

The reports showed 10,667 claims of abuse between 1950 and 2002, with about 4 percent of all American clergy who served during that period - 4,392 of the 109,694 priests - accused.

Abuse costs such as litigation and counseling were $572 million. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' National Review Board had the study conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

In San Antonio, the numbers were 58 victims, 20 priests and more than $5.2 million in costs.

Although the percentage of known abusive priests in the San Antonio archdiocese was about one-quarter of the national percentage reported, nobody was rejoicing.

For one thing, the revelations do nothing to relieve the anger many victims feel personally toward Flores for not doing more to stop the abuse before it started or to reach out to victims when they made allegations.

Flores has apologized often and publicly for the damage abusive priests have done. He has shed many tears over what he has called "the heaviest burden I've ever carried as a bishop."

But victims say he has questioned their veracity, told them it's their word against the priests', and accused them of greedily seeking money.

Flores has denied the accusations repeatedly and has emphasized that he has followed and steadily improved the archdiocese's sexual misconduct policy.

He also says he has followed the recommendations of the crisis intervention committee.

"We are committed to do all we can to prevent this abuse and respond to allegations in a respectful, responsible and timely fashion," he said in a statement issued Friday. "We have implemented or improved many new strategies that will assure people that our churches, schools and other institutions are safe places for them and their children.

"We have reached out to victims' groups and individuals to let them know that we love them and want to walk their painful journey with them."

But he has angered victims by asking why many have waited 20 years or more to come forward. They said it's difficult even to tell their families of sexual abuse by a priest because they're embarrassed and fear they won't be believed.

'SERIOUS FAILINGS'

The animosity toward Flores is not unique. One of Friday's reports cited the "serious failings" of bishops, which added to the suffering of the victims.

Victims aren't the only ones upset with the bishops.

A pastor of a well-to-do North Side parish who's been a priest for more than 30 years said the scandal has made good priests easy targets of suspicion and has jeopardized the traditional father-son relationship between a priest and his bishop.

"If I ever abused anyone, I wouldn't expect to be helped by the bishop. But along with all the true allegations, the zero-tolerance policy (bishops) approved in Dallas (in 2002) makes it easy for anyone with a vendetta against a priest to make an allegation against him.

"Once an allegation is out there, it's out there for good and it's not going to go away. And if I'm accused, do you think I'm going to go to the bishop about it? No, because he's too busy trying to save himself."

EVERY CASE IS DIFFERENT

The Vatican also recently has said actions by U.S. bishops to remove offending priests were too harsh. Russell Shaw, a writer and former spokesman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, says one rule simply can't govern all cases of abuse, because the incidents are too different.

The San Antonio Archdiocese is acutely aware of that now. After receiving an allegation last August against Father Joe Aviles, pastor of St. Joseph's South San Parish, the archdiocese had trouble deciding how to proceed.

The alleged sexual abuse of a minor took place in 1985, before Aviles was a priest. So the archdiocese didn't know how church law would apply to him, and left him in place for more than six months while it figured things out, even while it reported him as one of 20 problem priests to the review board.

He was removed Friday, and the revelation during the weekend left parishioners and victim advocates angrily questioning the new safe environment policy.

Archdiocesan school Superintendent Dale Hoyt and safe environment coordinator Judy Perillo met with about 50 parents at St. Joseph's School on Thursday night.

"Whenever a police officer is accused of something, he's immediately put on administrative leave before any investigation begins," parent Thomas Voight said.

Perillo and Hoyt were sympathetic, especially because they didn't know about the allegation until the weekend, either.

"We need a crisis team to be prepared for things like this," Perillo told the parents.

Monsignor Lawrence Stuebben, in charge of administration at the archdiocese, acknowledged Friday that mistakes had been made and the process needs to be improved.

"We missed some things, and we're going to learn from this," he said. "When the first case of sexual abuse of a minor came up in 1985, we knew nothing about the scope of the problem or how to deal with it. We've been learning all along, and we're going to learn from the Aviles case, too."

OTHER PROBLEMS

The procedures in place have other problems. Friday's reports say church law "made it too difficult to remove a predator priest from ministry."

And the North Side pastor said bishops, who allowed the sins of troubled priests to turn into a national scandal by failing to remove the priests from ministry, still have no accountability process to assure they do the right thing.

One policy Friday's reports did not fault was celibacy for priests. Even though Pope John Paul II is an ardent advocate of celibacy among priests, some observers have made efforts to link the scandal with that policy.

Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Baptists acknowledge their problems with sexual misconduct, but Protestants never will have the problem with child abuse that Catholics are having.

"You want to know why?" he asked rhetorically. "Because in Protestant churches, people in decision-making positions are parents. Parents are not going to allow a child abuser to have access to children.

"Can you imagine parents doing what Cardinal Law (in Boston) did, sending a child abuser to another church? Parents would never do that," Land said, adding he applauded recommendations to give the laity a greater voice on the diocesan level.

A report earlier this month by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights cites research by various groups showing abuse is not uncommon in professions where adults are in a power role over others.

It shows most churches hit with sexual abuse charges are Protestant, and most of the alleged abusers are not clergy but church volunteers.

"Celibacy did not cause the crisis," according to Friday's reports.

Instead, the church has failed to weed out "many sexually dysfunctional and immature" priests and seminarians.

The reports also refused to point fingers at homosexuality among priests, which falls in line with recent studies that show homosexuality and pedophilia are not related.

The report did say, though, that "the overwhelming majority" of abuse victims are young boys.

"We do not place the blame for the sexual abuse crisis on the presence of homosexual individuals in the priesthood as there are many chaste and holy homosexual priests," the report said.

In some places, though, "the large number of homosexual priests or candidates had the effect of discouraging heterosexual men from seeking to enter the priesthood."

Sexuality was at the center of another cause cited Friday.

SEXUAL REVOLUTION

In San Antonio, the number of priests involved in sexual abuse of minors peaked in the 1970s. Catholics have pointed out that statistics indicate sexual abuse of children peaked nationally in the 1980s.

According to published reports, Monsignor Richard S. Sniezyk, acting bishop in Springfield, Mass., said Feb. 22 that most abusive priests took seminary training in the mid-1960s to the early '80s.

"It was that era of the '60s - most of it took place from the mid-'60s to the early '80s - and the whole atmosphere out there was, it was OK, it was OK to do. Certainly that atmosphere is not present in the church today," he was quoted as saying.

The next day, Sniezyk withdrew his remarks, saying he "did not mean to suggest ... that sexual misconduct in any context is ever acceptable."

Friday's report also mentioned problems in Catholic seminaries during the sexual revolution of the '70s and '80s.

During that time, according to the report, some seminaries yielded to a culture of sexual permissiveness and moral relativism.

Shaw said problems like those put the seminaries in turmoil. The situation was worsened, he added, by the inability of the bishops to deal effectively with them.

The current generation of bishops is answering for what their predecessors failed to do, he said.

Some of those bishops, the reports said, "placed the interests of the accused priests above those of the victims."

Proof of that, some victims' advocates claim, is a refusal to release the names of guilty priests.

The San Antonio archdiocese refuses to release the names of 12 of its 20 problem priests because they are retired or dead.

"We need to change the law, get the names out and become transparent," Houston SNAP member Madeleine Manning said.

In fact, Manning said, now is the time to take the abuse issue out of the church and into state legislatures.

"We have to eliminate the statute of limitations (on clergy child abuse)," said Manning, who said she was abused by a priest when she was between the ages of 5 and 10.

"We have to create an atmosphere where victims are not afraid to speak out," regardless of how long ago the abuse took place.

At their June conference in Denver, bishops will review in closed session several new initiatives, Shaw said.

Though no one knows just what the new initiatives are, most likely they will include discussion of some of the problems facing the church.

"The sexual abuse crisis has metastasized through the church," Shaw said.

"It is part of the wider crisis ... bigger than the sex abuse by priests and failures of bishops. It deals with sexual behavior, credibility of bishops and priests, the authority of the bishops, the role of the laity, decisions made in closed session, secrecy."

In November, the bishops will meet in Washington and may adopt specific plans with profound effects, he said.

Manning, an artist and writer and a leader in her Lutheran church, said the full story about abuse must come out in public.

"I don't think all the numbers are out," she said, referring to Friday's report.

"What Catholics want to know is, was there abuse in my church or in my school? We still don't know that."


 


 

 
 

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