ABUSE TRACKER

A digest of links to media coverage of clergy abuse. For recent coverage listed in this blog, read the full article in the newspaper or other media source by clicking “Read original article.” For earlier coverage, click the title to read the original article.

June 3, 2019

Police: Pastor at Kentucky Elevate Church tried to set up sex with young girls

PRESTONSBURG (KY)
Associated Press

June 3, 2019

A Kentucky pastor is accused of trying to set up a threesome with two underage girls.

The Courier Journal reports that 26-year-old Bobby J. Blackburn, pastor of the Elevate Church in Prestonsburg, was arrested last week and charged with using an electronic communication system to get a minor to commit a sex act. WYMT said Blackburn also owns a local Giovanni’s pizza place, which plays Christian music and puts Bible verses on receipts.

An arrest citation says Blackburn’s business employs the girls, one of whom showed officers the sexual messages from Blackburn.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

Commission into clerical sex abuse in France opens

DUBLIN (IRELAND)
RTE

June 3, 2019

An independent commission set up by the French Catholic Church to look at allegations of sexual abuse by clerics began its work by launching an appeal for witness statements.

France’s Catholic bishops set up the commission last year in response to a number of scandals that shook the church in the country and also worldwide.

It now has the task to shed light on sexual abuse committed by French clerics on minors or vulnerable individuals going right back to the 1950s.

“For the first time in France, an independent institution is going to launch, over the course of a year, an appeal for witness statements about sexual abuse,” said commission president Jean-Marc Sauve.

He has promised that the commission, which is made up of 22 legal professionals, doctors, historians, sociologists and theologians, would deliver its conclusions by the end of 2020.

“It is an important action to be able to give victims psychological or legal help,” he said.

The commission opens after Pope Francis in May passed a landmark new measure to oblige those who know about sex abuse in the Catholic Church to report it to their superiors, a move that could bring countless new cases to light.

Mr Sauve expects thousands of telephone calls to a special hotline, as well as messages to an email address, with victims then offered face-to-face interviews in a later stage.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

Catholic bishop who knew about incidents of child sexual abuse but did not report them calls LGBTQ Pride Month ‘harmful for children’

NEW YORK (NY)
Daily News

June 2, 2019

By Ella Torres

A Roman Catholic bishop who admitted to knowing about incidents of child sexual abuse but did nothing deemed LGBTQ Pride Month “harmful for children.”

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Providence, R.I., tweeted Saturday that Catholics should not support or attend events held for Pride Month.

“They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals,” he wrote. “They are especially harmful for children.”

In 2018, Tobin acknowledged that he “became aware of incidents of sexual abuse when they were reported to the diocese” between 1992 and 1996 in Pittsburgh when he was the auxiliary bishop of that city, according to The Providence Journal.

He said, however, that reporting the allegations was not his responsibility.

“My responsibilities as Vicar General and General Secretary of the diocese did not include clergy assignments or clergy misconduct, but rather other administrative duties such as budgets, property, diocesan staff, working with consultative groups, etc. Even as an auxiliary bishop, I was not primarily responsible for clergy issues,” he said in an email statement to the Journal.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

Nessel blasts proposed cuts to her budget

SAULT STE. MARIE (MI)
Associated Press

June 3, 2019

By David Eggert

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Republican-backed cuts to her budget would have a “devastating” impact, limiting the office’s ability to protect consumers, prosecute sexually abusive clergy and look into wrongful convictions.

The general fund reductions proposed by the Senate and House range between 10% and 15%, or $4.2 million to $5.3 million, not including sizable cuts to what are known as restricted funds. They are seen as payback for some of the Democrat’s moves since taking office in January, like reaching a legal settlement to prohibit faith-based adoption agencies that contract with the state from discriminating against LGBT couples.

“The proposed cuts would be devastating to the residents of our state,” Nessel told The Associated Press in an interview this past week at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference. “It’s very short-sighted of the Legislature to think that cutting the budget of my office is in some way going to punish me personally for any of my views that I disagree with them on. The fact is it’s going to punish their constituents, and it’s going to be harmful to all our state residents.”

She listed a number of a ways that the funding reductions would hurt, and she said lawmakers may not know that for every $1 allocated to the department, it can generate $10 or more.

The consumer protection division this year has received more than $15 million in settlements that went to the state or to defrauded victims, Nessel said. Her office has intervened to scale back utility rate increases, saving customers.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

Reframing Frank Stanford’s muses

NEW YORK (NY)
The Smart Set

June 3, 2019

By James McWilliams

The reasons to be enamored of the late poet Frank Stanford are endless. Stanford, who was born in Mississippi, lived in Memphis, and settled in western Arkansas (as much as he could ever “settle”), became a poet’s poet, a writer whose prolific output never penetrated beyond the small stable of writers and critics who wildly admired him. John Berryman, Alan Dugan, Allen Ginsberg, and Gordon Lish were fans.

Given up by his biological mother at birth (in 1948), adopted by the first single woman authorized to adopt a child in Mississippi (Dorothy Gildart), and a frequent denizen of the levee camps where his later adoptive father (Albert Franklin Stanford in 1952) worked as an engineer, Stanford merged memory and fantasy to develop an iconic style that, as he published routinely throughout the 1970s, is best grasped in his defining The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You. When his editor, Michael Cuddihy, first read this manuscript, he recalled, “It was endless, shot through with brilliant passages echoing Beowulf, Dante, the Troubadours, and others.” Stanford said he started writing it when he was 13.

Perhaps inevitably, though, admiration for Stanford often began with the body. His wife said his eyes were “soft to the point of bovine;” a lover called him “handsome as the sun” (before calling him the biggest liar she’d ever met); a male acquaintance noted “his boundless physical strength.” His friend and publisher Irv Broughton called him “dark and intense.” In photos, “Frankie,” as his niece, Carrie Prycock calls him, kind of smolders. People were naturally drawn to the handsome poet from Arkansas, eager to consume a man whose “hormonal literary excesses” — that’s from the editor of his works Michael Wiegers — always seemed on the verge of flash flooding the reality he transformed.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

Morris County brothers’ child sex abuse cases bear striking similarities

BERGEN (NJ)
North Jersey Record

June 3, 2019

By Steve Janoski

Two well-known brothers, living what looked like ordinary lives in their respective hometowns.

One was a proud father and Denville middle school principal who filled his Twitter feed with his students’ accomplishments. The other worked for the family’s long-running South Orange construction business by day and served on a handful of Florham Park municipal boards at night.

But Paul Iantosca, of Randolph, and Mark Iantosca, of Florham Park, apparently hid a black secret that torched their ambitions: An alleged sexual preference for underage boys. Mark, 55, is now serving a seven-year sentence in state prison for sexually abusing a teenage nephew, while Paul, 52, was charged two weeks ago with attempting to sexually abuse a former student in Denville after telling police he arranged on social media to meet the 16-year-old for sex.

Valleyview Middle School principal Paul Iantosca is accused of attempting to sexually assault a former student.
Valleyview Middle School principal Paul Iantosca is accused of attempting to sexually assault a former student. (Photo: Gene Myers/NorthJersey.com)

The arrests, separated by two years, stunned the communities in which they occurred. But experts are not surprised that two men with much to lose appeared so willing to risk it.

“We look at people who are public figures, or in positions of power or in positions of respect and say, ‘Well, how could someone with these issues get to that position?'” said Michael Donahue, a Lawrenceville attorney who represents sexual assault victims. “In reality, every person is different and there are people who have some incredibly dark sides to them.”

Professionals said that in general, childhood trauma contributes heavily to such behavior later in life, but there’s no scientific way to predict who might eventually commit a sex crime against a minor.

Paul Iantosca’s recent arrest comes at a pivotal point in New Jersey’s fight to hold accountable those accused of past sexual abuse. In February, the state’s five Catholic dioceses released the names of 188 priests and deacons credibly accused of sexually abusing childrenover decades, dating back to the 1940s. Three months later, the state passed a law giving child sex abuse victims until the age of 55 to decide whether to sue their abusers — a 35-year extension from the previous statute.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

Springfield Diocese speaks out after former bishop not listed as ‘credibly accused’

SPRINGFIELD (MA)
WWLP TV

June 3, 2019

By Jennifer Zarate

The Springfield Diocese has come out to clear the name of a former bishop named in a sexual abuse investigation.

Last September, a victim came forward about his molestation by two now deceased priests — Reverend Edward Authier and Reverend Clarence Forand.

In a newspaper article published earlier this week, the headline read that former Bishop Chistopher Weldon was not listed as ‘credibly accused,’ despite “Diocesan Board’s finding.”

In a statement to 22News, Diocesan Review Board Chairman John Hale said the board would like to clarify “inaccurate” reporting in a May 29 article in the Berkshire Eagle.

Chairman Hale’s statement reads,

“Let me be clear, the Review Board has never found that the late Bishop Christopher Weldon, deceased since 1982, engaged in improper contact with anyone. The complaint reported on in the Eagle article involved sexual misconduct involving two now deceased priests that dates back to the early 1960s with the individual recalling it within the last few years and bringing the complaint to the Review Board in 2018.”

Mark Dupont of Catholic Communications responded, “There was never a claim from this victim of Bishop Welson sexually abusing him. As a matter of fact, the victim in this case specifically said otherwise. What the review board did find was the victim had made credible allegations against two deceased priests of the Diocese.”

Dupont told 22News, the process to determine who is named on the diocese’s online list of “credibly accused clergy” is currently under review. For example, naming those who are accused of sexually abusing a child after they are dead.

“With allegations that come 30, 40, 50 years after the fact we don’t list that clergy member’s name on the list with the understanding that they never had the opportunity to defend their good name,” Dupont explained, saying that’s why former Priest Authier was not listed as “credibly accused.”

Dupont told 22News, it was the victim who alleged that Bishop Weldon had actual knowledge of the abuse or that he should have known because he was present at a gathering where some of the abuse took place.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

June 2, 2019

‘Like I was being stabbed in the chest’ – Man abused by priest opens up in new book

AUKLAND (NEW ZEALAND)
One News Now

June 1, 2019

Chris Ledingham can still remember the first time he drove past an Auckland church where he was sexually abused as a seven-year-old Catholic schoolboy decades earlier.

“Quite a few years ago before any of this stuff came out, my younger brother wanted some help buying some carpets to take back to Taranaki,” Chris said.

“And he drove me down to Onehunga – I’d said I’d give him a hand – and we passed that presbytery, and it was like I was being stabbed in the chest with a brick with a knife on it. It really affected me.”

Yesterday, the 66-year-old returned to Our Lady of the Assumption Church for only the second time, to help launch his and his two brothers’ book telling the story of their abuse.

At least his older brother Mike will be there, too.

What Chris didn’t know for decades was that Mike had been abused too, by the same priest, and that Mike found out in the 1980s that the same thing had happened to their younger brother Gerry, all of it in the 1950s and 60s.

“It’s hard to talk about now, but we’ve got the words for it now – back then we didn’t even have the words,” Chris said.

“What do you call it? I didn’t know what the hell was going on.”

Mike said: “We didn’t know that people rooted kids, you know – I don’t know if you can put that on the radio.”

The previously-published Mike is the author of the book The Catholic Boys, helped by his sister Mary Ledingham, and put out by Rotorua’s boutique BMS Books.

The boys’ tormentor, the late Father Frank Green, used gymnastics as a way to get close to children; the New Zealand Herald has reported he was also chair of the New Zealand Gymnastic Council for several years.

Green died in the 1990s, before being held to account.

Their sister Mary Ledingham, one of the writers of the book, still hurts for her brothers.

“As a sister, I and their two other sisters and two other brothers are also angry that we did not protect them and to this day we still feel they have been cheated of their lives by those who should have known better,” she wrote.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

Dundas author Peter Rosser releases Crimes Against Children

STONEY CREEK (ONTARIO)
Dundas Star News

June 1, 2019

Dundas resident Peter Rosser has published his first book.

Rosser, who spent 37 years in youth ministry with the Catholic Youth Organization, has written “Crimes Against Children,” which he describes as a vision of God as the ultimate conveyor of restorative justice in a thought-provoking drama.

Subtitled “Discord in the After-Life: A Bishop and an Atheist Deny Their Culpability for Abuse and War,” Rosser uses his two central characters as vehicles of his own protests against the Catholic Church’s ongoing sexual abuse scandal and the collateralization of civilians, especially children, in today’s regional wars.

A book launch party is planned for June 26, 1-3 p.m., at Dundas Museum and Archives, 139 Park St. W., Dundas. RSVP to sarahrosser@hotmail.com.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

WikiLeaks Helped Expose A Vatican Scandal

Open Tabernacle blog

June 1, 2019

By Betty Clermont

In February 2017, posters appeared around Rome denouncing Pope Francis’ “decapitation” of the Knights of Malta. At the heart of the pope’s sacking of the Grand Master is a multi-million dollar donation. WikiLeaks provided critical information about what Vatican officials knew and when they know it.

Of course, the sexual torture of hundreds of thousands of children is the Catholic Church’s worst scandal and, of all pontiffs, Pope Francis is the worst offender from the very first days of his pontificate when he appointed already well-known pedophile-priest-protectors Cardinals George Pell and Francisco Javier Errazuriz to his Council of Cardinals, to his leaving Archbishop Joseph Wesolowski and Fr. Nicola Corradi free men even after being informed of their crimes, to his present protection of Cardinals George Pell, Luis Ladaria Ferrer, Phillipe Barbarin and Ricardo Ezzati and most recently, his “toothless,” PR mandate that priests and nuns report clerical sex abuse to bishops and not the police.

However, the January 2019 release by Wikileaks of confidential documents regarding the Sovereign Order of Malta remind us that Pope Francis is not the moral authority he claims to be in finances either.

The first report that money might be the underlying issue in the pope’s dismissal of Grand Master Fra Matthew Festing, who was “elected for life,” was published on Jan. 7, 2017 by the well-connected Vatican reporter, Edward Pentin writing for the National Catholic Register. He stated that those opposed to Festing and favored by the Pope Francis “have been involved with a very large bequest to the order made by a benefactor resident in France, worth at least 120 million Swiss Francs ($118 million).”

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

These are the faces of some of the worst sex offenders Wales has ever seen

CARDIFF (WALES)
WalesOnLine.com

June 1, 2019

By Liz Day

“Depravity” is a word that has been used by many of the judges dealing with sexual predators for their horrendous crimes.

Figures released last year suggested the number of registered sex offenders living in Wales was rising rapidly.

The statistics from the Ministry of Justice, Prison and Probation Service showed there were just over 4,700 registered sex offenders living in Wales at the end of March, 2018.

That represents an increase of 60% compared to eight years ago and is the equivalent of one sex offender for every 844 people aged 10 and over.

Here are some of the most shocking sexual offence cases seen in Wales:

Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins was jailed for 29 years for sexually abusing children.

He pleaded guilty in November 2013 to 13 counts of sex abuse – including the attempted rape of a baby.

A judge told him he had “plumbed new depths of depravity”, before jailing him.

He was also given an extended licence of six years, meaning a total sentence of 35 years.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

Rhode Island Bishop Warns Catholics To Avoid Pride Events Because Of ‘Harm To Children’

NEW YORK (NY)
Huffington Post

June 1, 2019

By Mary Papenfuss

Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin admonished Catholics in an inflammatory tweet on Saturday not to support or attend any LGBTQ Pride Month commemorations in June, warning that such events promote a “culture” and “activities” that are “especially harmful for children.”

Joe Lazzerini, president of Rhode Island Pride, said in a statement to The Providence Journal that his organization “respectfully calls on Bishop Tobin to do some self-reflection, as the majority of Catholic Rhode Islanders in this state reject the idea that to be Catholic is to be complicit to intolerance, bigotry, and fear.” He pointed out that many Catholics are members of or strongly support the pride community.

Pride Month is particularly significant this year because it marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Manhattan, which fueled the gay — and soon LGBTQ — rights movement.

Tobin’s particularly harsh warning stunned many, given the many revelations in recent years of the Catholic Church’s history of child sexual abuse. The U.S. Catholic Church revealed Friday that allegations of child sex abuse by clerics more than doubled to 1,455 in its latest 12-month reporting period, and that spending on victim compensation and child protection efforts topped $300 million.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

Marty Baron visits Suffolk University

BOSTON (MA)
Suffolk Journal

June 1, 2019

By Haley Clegg

One of America’s most distinguished journalists came to Suffolk University to be presented with the Ford Hall Forum’s 2019 First Amendment Award. Martin, or ‘Marty,’ Baron was the former editor of the Boston Globe from 2001 to 2012, and is the current executive editor of the Washington Post.

“The Forum honors you for your powerful, dogged, determined and fearless defense of the First Amendment, one of the greatest constitutional rights in our country,” said Susan Spurlock, the Executive Director of the Form Hall Forum, as she presented Baron with the award.

Following the presentation, Baron sat down for a discussion about journalism with NPR’s Meghna Chakrabarti.

Baron said his passion for journalism began in his childhood home in Tampa, Florida. His parents were both immigrants, which fueled an interest in what was happening both in this country and around the world. Their media habits included reading the local newspaper, receiving their weekly Time Magazine and watching network and local news channels every evening.

Newsrooms under Baron have won a plethora of awards, including 16 Pulitzer Prizes. Six of those were earned while he was the executive editor of the Boston Globe. The Globe was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003 for its investigation into clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church.

“The day before I was to start, on that Sunday there was a column by Eileen McNamara, a regular columnist at the Globe and she talked about the case of a particular priest John Geoghan who had been accused of abusing as many as 80 kids, and at the end of the column she pointed out that the lawyer for the plaintiffs had alleged that the Cardinal himself, Cardinal Law, was aware of this abuse and yet re-assigned this particular priest from parish to parish,” said Baron in an interview with The Suffolk Journal.

“At the end of the column she said, ‘the truth may never be known,’ which is like chum to journalists. If you say the truth may never be known, well the truth should be known and we should be going after it,” said Baron.

The story of the Globe’s Spotlight team investigation into the Catholic Church was later portrayed in the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight.” Baron has seen the film and believes it gave great insight into how journalism is actually practiced.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

3 California Priests Credibly Accused of Sexual Misconduct With Minors on First List Released by Franciscans

SAN FRANCISCO (CA)
KQED Radio

June 1, 2019

By Polly Stryker

An Oakland-based Catholic order for the first time on Friday released its own list of clergy with credible accusations of child sex abuse.

The Franciscans of the Province of St. Barbara’s list contains 50 names involving 122 victims. Some of the accused have been previously reported by advocates or are included in court documents, but at least one has never been reported.

The majority of the abuse occurred between the 1960s and 1980s. Father David Gaa, the order’s leader, said of the 50 names on the list, 27 men have died and 19 have left the Franciscans. Some of those may have died, but Gaa says he does not track brothers who leave the order.

Of the four living credibly accused priests, three are living in California, including Dennis Duffy, whose abuse Gaa says has never been reported until now. Gaa says Duffy, Stephen Kain and Josef Prochnow are living in an elder care facility in California. Gerald Chumik is in a similar facility in Missouri.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

After 2006 sex abuse lawsuit, priest served in Whiting for 7 years

CHICAGO (IL)
Chicago Tribune

June 1, 2019

Meredith Colias-Pete

Months after the Rev. Stephen Muth retired at St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in Whiting, superiors put him on administrative leave, removing him from the priesthood.

Church leaders had concluded Muth, 69, received a “recent credible accusation of sexual misconduct involving a vulnerable adult (considered a minor under canon law),” according to a statement dated Oct. 22.

The priest denied the allegation to the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, an Eastern rite sect based in Ohio that has churches in several Midwestern states. It is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Muth worked for both after he was ordained.

“Though Father Stephen Muth denies the accusation, Bishop Milan Lach, SJ, having heard from the priest, the Review Board, and the Promoter of Justice, has found the accusation to be credible,” according to the statement.

“A finding that the accusation is credible is not an accusation of guilt,” the church’s statement read. “While on administrative leave, Father Stephen Muth is unable to function in any capacity as a priest anywhere.”

Lach was installed as bishop in June 2018.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

Tell No One: Sex abuse victims confront Catholic priests in harrowing documentary

LONDON (ENGLAND)
The Independent

June 1, 2019

By Jacob Stolworthy

A documentary showing secret camera footage of sex abuse victims confronting the priests who molested them has sparked outrage against the Catholic Church in Poland.

Tell No One features several scenes of priests confessing to the abuse on tape and has since inspired the country to move ahead with plans to double jail terms for paedophiles.

As a consequence, those convicted could now face up to 30 years or life imprisonment.

The documentary, which is available to watch on YouTube, has been viewed more than 21 million times. It’s been hailed as “difficult” and “essential” viewing.

One harrowing scene sees a former priest seemingly attempting to justify his abusive behaviour by saying: “If there is no orgasm, there is no sin.”

The National Public Prosecutor’s Office in Poland has confirmed it’s pulled together a team of prosecutors. They will now analyse the cases presented in the documentary.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

June 1, 2019

Unhappy Buffalo Catholics are giving less in wake of clergy sex abuse scandal

BUFFALO (NY)
Buffalo News

June 1, 2019

By Jay Tokasz

The clergy sex abuse scandal is costing the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo more than the $17.5 million paid to childhood victims of abuse through a special compensation program.

Giving at area Catholic parishes is down since last August and is likely to result in a budget shortfall at the diocese and cuts to ministries and services, according to the Rev. Peter J. Karalus, the diocese’s chief operating officer.

“The abuse scandal has had consequences on the financial condition of the diocese beyond the cost of settling claims,” said Karalus, vicar general and moderator of the curia, in a preface to the diocese’s 2018 financial report.

Karalus also warned of “significant financial challenges” facing the diocese, including clergy abuse lawsuits allowed under the Child Victims Act.

A spokeswoman for the diocese said Friday it was too soon for the diocese to discuss bankruptcy protection.

“It is impossible to determine the impact of the cases filed under the CVA until we actually review the filings,” Kathy Spangler, the spokeswoman, said in an email response to several questions from The Buffalo News. “A number of other dioceses have sought the protection of the bankruptcy statutes but it is too early for us to make that determination.”

Under the Child Victims Act, a one-year window opens Aug. 14 for childhood victims of alleged abuse to file lawsuits that previously were barred by time limitations.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

Official looks at meaning, role of ‘metropolitan archbishop’

WASHINGTON (DC)
Catholic News Service

June 1, 2019

By Cindy Wooden

Most Catholics have never heard of a “metropolitan archbishop,” even if their archbishop is one.

Designating an archdiocese as a “metropolitan see” is part of an organizational model, borrowed from the Romans, that goes back to the early days of Christianity, said Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

The term “metropolitan” comes from the Greek words for “mother city,” and, Arrieta said, “as evangelization extended into a certain area,” the original diocese – the “mother” diocese – “became bound to the new dioceses that arose around it.”

Pope Francis’s universal law on dealing with sexual abuse allegations, Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”) was released in early May and gives a prominent, investigative role to metropolitan bishops when one of the bishops in his province is accused of sexual abuse, possessing child pornography or covering up an abuse allegation.

At their June meeting, members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are scheduled to discuss specifics for implementing a “metropolitan model” of holding bishops accountable.

Francis’s new rules make such a model possible, Arrieta said, because the authority exercised by a metropolitan archbishop had faded over the centuries and had become mostly a vague, generic role of “keeping watch” over the suffragan dioceses surrounding his own.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

Pennsylvania Pastor Charged with Child Sex Abuse Faces Up to 170 Years

Patheos blog

June 1, 2019

By David Gdd

A 71-year-old pastor from Pennsylvania was just charged with multiple child exploitation offenses, including possession of child pornography, and he faces up to 170 years in prison if he’s convicted.

Jerry Zweitzig, the former pastor of Horsham Bible Church in Horsham, was charged with enticing a minor to engage in illicit sexual conduct and possession of child pornography. He faces a minimum term of 15 years if convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.

“Child exploitation is a pervasive problem – made more so by the accessibility of the internet and digital media – that demands an aggressive response,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “The allegations in this case are particularly disturbing due to the defendant’s history as a spiritual leader in a position of community trust. We stand ready with our federal and local partners to identify and prosecute those who would prey upon minor children.”

McSwain is right. These types of cases are especially interesting because of the nature of religion, and the support communities have for it. People usually trust religious leaders implicitly, and that trust is often abused by predator clergymen.

It’s nice to know that, in this case, the alleged offender has been taken down. It’s actually being taken seriously, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Philadelphia.

“Crimes against children are disgraceful and unacceptable,” said Marlon V. Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. “HSI will continue working with our partners to aggressively investigate cases in which child predators use the internet to further exploit children within our community, and around the world.”

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

USCCB Releases Annual Implementation Report, SNAP Responds

ST. LOUIS (MO)
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

May 31, 2019

America’s bishops have put out today yet another self-report on the church’s on-going abuse and cover up crisis. At this point, no one should trust internal church figures on this horror.

We do agree with Catholic officials on one point: abuse reports are increasing. Bishops claim that this is because a handful of dioceses are announcing victim pay out programs. We believe, however, that the reasons are more complex than one single cause.

Victims are coming forward now because of real progress by secular authorities, as lawmakers are increasingly getting rid of archaic, predator-friendly laws and at least 19 attorneys general have launched investigations. This progress has many survivors feeling hopeful.

We also believe that ongoing revelations about institutional sexual abuse cases – from the #MeToo movement in Hollywood to recent scandals at major universities like Michigan State and Ohio State – are leading more people to become informed about the realities of sexual violence, creating a more welcoming atmosphere for survivors of all kinds to come forward.

At the same time though, we also believe that victims are also speaking up because they’re dismayed by continuing recklessness and cover ups by church officials. Many are feeling disgusted.

Catholic officials continue to disingenuously stress that the offenses themselves happened years ago. But that is no indication that there is less abuse these days, it is just a reflection of a simple reality: very few have the maturity, strength and courage to promptly report being victimized by a trusted adult. Reaching that point takes decades. There always has been and will be many years between when a child is sexually violated and when they come forward later in life.

Everyone acknowledges that false child sex abuse reports are very, very rare, so we are alarmed that church officials have found only three of 26 new allegations involving current children “substantiated.” Sadly, that is eve

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.

Calling the Pope a Liar

NEW YORK (NY)
First Things

May 31, 2019

Phil Lawler

It is no small thing to call the pope a liar. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has done just that, in straightforward language. “What the Pope said about not knowing anything [about Theodore McCarrick’s misconduct] is a lie,” he told LifeSite News.

On the other hand, it is no small thing to claim that an archbishop, a veteran member of the Vatican diplomatic corps, had lied about the pope as part of a political conspiracy to undermine his authority. Such charges have been leveled against Viganò by the pope’s most stalwart public defenders and perhaps—depending on how one interprets some unusually convoluted papal utterances—by the pontiff himself.

Someone is not being forthright here. The unedifying charges and countercharges have aggravated a scandal that already plagues Catholicism, and the faithful have waited far too long for a restoration of confidence that Church leaders are telling the truth.

The conflict between Francis and Viganò became a public matter last summer, when the former papal envoy in Washington reported that the pope had been informed of, and decided to rescind, disciplinary restrictions placed on McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI. Viganò’s testimony was vigorously contested by the pope’s allies, who said that McCarrick’s ministry had not been restricted, and/or that Francis had not been informed of the restrictions. Francis himself had refused public comment on the matter, until this week.

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Complaint details allegations against priest

LANSING (MI)
Herald Paladium

May 31, 2019

By Julie Swidwa

A Catholic priest from India has been charged with raping a then 15-year-old parishioner when he was serving as a visiting priest in Benton Harbor more than 40 years ago.

According to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, the girl was a volunteer administrative assistant in the rectory at what was then St. John the Evangelist parish on Columbus Avenue, when the visiting priest allegedly began molesting her.

Fr. Jacob Vellian, 84, is charged with two counts of rape and faces any number of years, up to life in prison, if convicted. He is in Kerala, India, and will be extradited to Michigan to face charges in Berrien County Trial Court, according to the felony complaint.

Vellian is one of five priests who have been charged with a total of 21 counts of criminal sexual conduct following a long investigation by law enforcement from several counties in Michigan. The charges were announced last week by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel at a news conference in Lansing.

Vellian served as a visiting priest at St. John’s in 1973 and 1974. The church is overseen by the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo.

According to charging documents obtained this week from the attorney general’s office, about a month after a 15-year-old female parishioner began volunteering at the rectory, Vellian allegedly began to compliment her, provide gifts, and rub her neck and shoulders.

The girl told police the conduct escalated, and on one occasion, she said he touched her breasts and told her he was praying for her and “trying to fill (her) soul with the Holy Spirit.” The molestation continued and escalated into rape, the complaint alleges.

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George Pell appeals, the church gets tax breaks – while victims serve life

MELBOURNE (AUSTRALIA)
The New Daily

May 31, 2019

Victims of sexual abuse can never appeal their sentence. They have to live with the results of abuse for the rest of their lives.

Meanwhile the Catholic Church, with tens of billions of dollars in Australian assets, and tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in annual Australian tax breaks, still has not fairly compensated victims.

This week convicted child abuser and former head of one of the largest and most wealthy banks in the world, the Vatican Bank, George Pell will appeal his sentence.

Here is a thought: In this week of Pell’s appeal, why not redirect those tax breaks to victims?

Pell has every right to be heard and justice must ensure that his conviction for abusing the two children is fair. Love or hate Pell, justice demands that he not serve time in this case for any other issue of with which he stands accused, but was not before the courts in this case.

This case is not about the larger sins of the Catholic Church, which for years turned its backs on victims and allowed abusing priests to continue their vile crimes.

This case is not about the 7 percent of clergy who, according to the Child Abuse Inquiry, engaged in sexual abuse.

This case is not about the appalling ‘Melbourne Response’ Pell set up which has seen victims under Pell’s control get about 30 percent less than victims in the rest of the country. Even then, the national average was a pitiful $49,000 under the ‘Towards Healing’ program.

This case is not about the $30 billion in assets that the Church has been estimated to own throughout the country.

This case is not about the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars the Church gets in tax breaks on land tax, shops, businesses and other activities.

This case is not about the $39 million that the Melbourne archdiocese paid for its new headquarters, right when it said paying more compensation would threaten the Church’s social programs. I didn’t realise ‘social program’ was a euphemism for ‘buying our new headquarters’.

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Is Pell a Martyr?

NEW YORK (NY)
Commonweal

May 31, 2019

By Austen Ivereigh

Because he has a weak heart and must build strength in his chest muscles, the seventy-seven-year-old Australian cardinal asks for a broom he can push around the jail’s exercise yard each day. The remaining twenty-three hours of his solitary confinement in Melbourne Assessment Prison George Pell reads and writes, when not sleeping and praying. He is not allowed to say Mass.

He tells some that his prison sentence is a retreat; to others he describes it as a martyrdom. Never exactly the contemplative sort—as archbishop of Melbourne, Pell used to tell his priests he liked to get his prayers over and done with in the morning, to leave more time for the day—the second rings more true, especially for his supporters. They say that Pell, who tells it how it is, has always been a lightning rod, and is now a scapegoat, the victim of a monstrous injustice.

The former Vatican finance chief will next week learn whether he is to serve the remainder of a non-parole minimum sentence of three years and eight months for the rape of two choirboys in Melbourne Cathedral in 1996. These are charges that he has always vigorously denied and that many find frankly incredible. They strained the credulity of the first jury at his trial last year, which was reliably rumored to be deadlocked ten to two in his favor.

But then a second jury last December went unanimously the other way, shocking a respected Jesuit human-rights lawyer who sat in on the hearing. Because he is so obviously not part of “Team Pell,” the article Fr. Frank Brennan, SJ, later wrote has colored many people’s view of the trial. His amazement that the jury could have convicted on the basis of a single complainant’s “improbable if not impossible” evidence has persuaded many that a major injustice has been committed.

That was a common view among dozens of knowledgeable Catholics I spoke with during a week of talks and lectures in Sydney and Melbourne in March. Among them was Fr. Brennan. When we shared a panel at Melbourne’s Newman College he had just emerged from his spiritual exercises to learn that, because of his article on Pell’s conviction, the city’s university had decided not to award him an honorary doctorate in divinity.

But I also met Catholics who took a different view. They weren’t concerned so much with the details of the case as with the wider principle: Hadn’t the church learned, after all this time, that victims are almost always telling the truth, that abusers brazenly lie? Some drew my attention to a cogent riposte to Brennan by a Dominican friar in Melbourne who warned against assuming that the jury had got it wrong.

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AP Interview: Nessel blasts GOP-proposed cuts to her budget

MACKINAC ISLAND (MI)
Associated Press

June 1, 2019

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says Republican-backed cuts to her budget would have a “devastating” impact, limiting the office’s ability to protect consumers, prosecute sexually abusive clergy and look into wrongful convictions.

The general fund reductions proposed by the Senate and House range between 10% and 15%. They are seen as payback for some of the Democrat’s moves since taking office in January, like reaching a legal settlement to prohibit faith-based adoption agencies that contract with the state from discriminating against LGBT couples.

Nessel tells The Associated Press that the proposed cuts are “short-sighted” and would hurt residents. She also is concerned that the Legislature has not allocated money to an investigation of clergy abuse.

Budget work is expected to heat up this month.

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