‘I thought losing my virginity would be rape’: inside Christian purity guides

LONDON (ENGLAND)
The Guardian blog

July 31, 2019

By Sian Cain

Joshua Harris was just 22 in 1997 when he published I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a dating guidebook for young Christians that advised them to do anything but. Dating was a “training ground for divorce”, he argued in the book, which sold almost 1m copies worldwide. It also made Harris a superstar in the Christian purity movement, a pro-abstinence crusade that began in evangelical churches in the 1990s and became well-known in the purity ring-wearing hands of Jessica Simpson and the Jonas Brothers. Many authors came after Harris – John and Stasi Eldredge, Hayley DiMarco, Tim and Beverly LaHaye – all of them in the US, where religious publishing is worth $1.22bn (£1bn) a year.

Now 44, Harris made headlines this week when he revealed he no longer considers himself a Christian. He has been issuing apologies for his own books over the last decade, even making a documentary called I Survived Kissing Dating Goodbye. On his Instagram this week, he wrote: “I have lived in repentance for the past several years – repenting of my self-righteousness, my fear-based approach to life, the teaching of my books, my views of women in the church, and my approach to parenting to name a few.”

Dianna E Anderson, who left the purity movement in her 20s and is the author of Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity, says its relationship guides have inflicted lasting damage on young people desperate to preserve their holiness while battling hormones.

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The church of Larry Nassar

Patheos blog

July 31, 2019

By Fred Clark

I included this story in the “postcards” link round-up, but I’m still so gobsmacked by it that I’ve got to visit it again. It’s from this RNS report by Bob Smietana, “Video links Beth Moore, Russell Moore, James Merritt to ‘Trojan horse of social justice.’“

Owen Strachan, associate professor of theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and former president of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, also appears in the video, arguing that “liberal Christianity” is invading the evangelical church and a spiritual battle is underway.

“We are always having the principalities and powers exert pressure on us,” said Strachan.

An image that appears to be of Rachael Denhollander, an abuse activist who spoke at the SBC’s annual meeting, is intercut with [those] comments.

That angered Jacob Denhollander, Rachael’s husband.

He told Ascol and Founders Ministries on Twitter that their use of “my wife’s image in your video and the insinuation that she is part of the principalities and powers attacking the church is cowardly, grossly dishonest, and bearing false witness.”

These guys looked around the whole world for an iconic symbol of nefarious “powers and principalities” they regard as invading the church and attacking their faith in a spiritual battle, and the person whom they chose to represent all of that was Rachael Denhollander.

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The Vatican press office has turned over, again

Get Religion blog

July 31, 2019

By Clemente Lisi

The Vatican press office may be second only to the White House communications department when it comes to ranking the world’s busiest public relations operation.

Like President Donald Trump, Pope Francis and the Holy See are in some serious need of daily damage control. The resurfacing of the clergy sex abuse scandal — year after year for decades — and the allegations that led to the downfall of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick have been the Vatican’s biggest PR headaches over the past year.

Responsible for handling the Holy See’s messaging on the clergy scandal and a host of other issues will be a retooled press office. Much of the turmoil that has surrounded the pope and the Catholic church over the past year called for an overhaul of the Holy See’s press operation.

The past two weeks has seen a flurry of announcements, including the naming of a new press office director and vice director (more on this position further down), two of the biggest jobs at the Vatican held by lay people.

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Associated Press digs into hush-hush network that protects priests – on Catholic right only

Get Religion blog

July 31, 2019

By Terry Mattingly

If there was an omnipresent reader who had somehow managed to follow my 30-plus years of work linked to the Catholic clergy sex crisis, I think that she or he would have spotted at least one overarching theme.

The big idea: This is a scandal that cannot be divided according to liberal and conservative prejudices. Anyone who tried to do that would have to avoid too many case studies, too many tragedies, too many people — on the left and right — hiding too many crimes. I have argued that wise, patient reporters will listen to liberal and conservative activists and then search for issues and ideas that they share in common.

Hold that thought, because I will end with that.

Every now and then, we see an important story produced by journalists (often in the mainstream press) who seem to think the scandal is all about the sins of conservatives or (often in some independent Catholic publication) all about the sins of liberals.

The Associated Press just produced a story of this kind, a report that raises important issues and was built on tons of journalism legwork to get solid sources. It’s a valid and important story. But it appears that these journalists only saw half of a larger tragedy. The headline: “Unmarked buildings, quiet legal help for accused priests.”

Yes, secrets were uncovered. But stop and think about that headline. Is the assumption that all Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse are, in fact, guilty? Is it possible to imagine that some Catholics might support efforts to research and clear the names of priests who they believe have been falsely accused and have valid reasons to do so? And are all these efforts on the right? Just asking.

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Full accounting provides hope for path forward

CRANSTON (RI)
Cranston Herald

July 31, 2019

Earlier this month, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence released a list of priests and clergy members found to have been “credibly accused” of sexually abusing children since 1950.

It represented an important step forward for survivors of abuse, as well as for the broader community. As Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said, acknowledging these cases through the recent disclosure represented a “difficult but necessary moment in the life of our diocesan church.”

In terms of both transparency and accountability, however, much more work remains to be done. Now, it is poised to proceed.

Attorney General Peter F. Neronha last week announced a memorandum of understanding has been reached with the Diocese granting his office and Rhode Island State Police with access to “all complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy dating back to 1950 – whether deemed credible by the Diocese or not.”

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Catholic priest in Aiken exchanged explicit photos with the underage boy on adult app, authorities say

AIKEN (SC)
WYFF TV

July 31, 2019

A Catholic priest in South Carolina has been accused of exchanging sexual photos with a minor on a social media app that church officials and authorities say is intended for adults.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston sent a statement to news outlets Tuesday saying 33-year-old Father Raymond Flores of the St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church has since been placed on leave and can’t perform his priestly duties. The diocese says the priest’s behavior did not involve physically touching a minor.

An Aiken County Sheriff’s Office report says Flores exchanged the explicit photos with the underage boy on an adult social media app. Authorities and officials didn’t immediately name the app.

No charges have been filed at this time. Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Abdullah says an investigation is ongoing.

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Revelations of 85-year-old woman sexually abused by priest signals crisis dates back centuries

HARRISBURG (PA)
Patriot Ledger

July 31, 2019

By Ivey DeJesus

The investigations into clergy sex abuse in this country have generally gone back several decades.

Last year’s grand jury report into widespread clergy sex abuse in Pennsylvania, for instance, went back as far as the late 1940s.

On Wednesday the revelations of an 85-year-old victim out of the Diocese of Scranton points to the sobering possibility that the crisis dates far back into other centuries.

The woman, who is being referred to as “Jane Doe,” was six years old in 1940 when the late Rev. Martin J. Fleming began to sexually molest her, according to her attorney, Mitchell Garabedian.

Fleming, who at the time was assigned to Holy Name Parish in Swoyerville, was ordained in 1898. Jane Doe was a parishioner at Holy Name Parish.

Jane Doe is not filing a lawsuit, but wanted to make public the priest’s name, said Garabedian, who has represented hundreds of victims in the Archdiocese of Boston.

“She wanted her perpetrator’s name out there,” he said. “He was ordained in 1898. There is no telling how many children he molested. It’s indicative of how far back the clergy sex abuse crisis goes back.”

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U.S. priest to receive reports of abuse, cover-up at Vatican City State

ROME (ITALY)
Catholic News Service

July 31, 2019

By Carol Glatz

Vatican City State will have its own reporting system in place before the end of the year for flagging suspected cases of the abuse of minors and vulnerable people and instances of cover-up or negligence in handling such cases, the Vatican said.

In the meantime, U.S. Msgr. Robert Oliver was appointed to be the contact person for people with information or concerns about potential cases of abuse and cover-up within the Vicariate of Vatican City State, the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reported July 30.

Oliver, a canon lawyer who worked as the promoter of justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and in a number of dioceses in the United States, is the secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

He was appointed in June, the newspaper said, to be the contact person for anyone who “may have information or suspicions that a minor or a vulnerable person may be at risk of abuse or may have been subjected to it as part of pastoral activities of the vicariate as well as knowledge of any act of negligence by authorities,” it said.

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Mural depicting Cardinal Pell painted near Vatican

DENVER (CO)
Crux

July 31, 2019

By Claire Giangravè

A large mural depicting Australian Cardinal George Pell shadowed by a demonic figure while handcuffed and wearing a prison tracksuit appeared on Tuesday about 50 yards away from the Vatican.

The mural is the work of Australian artist Scott Marsh, well known in his country for his oversized and over-the-top murals of public figures. Marsh posted a video on Instagram showing the Pell mural with the hashtag #locationlocationlocation.

The goal of the mural, Marsh said in an interview with the Australian news outlet SBS News, “is to highlight the hypocrisy of the Church and combat its attempts to sweep under the rug its past abuses.”

The artist named his work “Prey Round Two” on Instagram.

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Chile: Jesuits publish inquiry results, confirm abuses by famed priest

ROME (ITALY)
Catholic News Service

July 31, 2019

By Junno Arocho Esteves

While deceased Jesuit Fr. Renato Poblete Barth was known publicly as a champion of the poor in Chile, an internal investigation funded by the Jesuits revealed that the famed clergyman abused more than a dozen women over a span of nearly 50 years.

The results of the six-month independent investigation, which were announced July 30 by Jesuit Fr. Cristian del Campo, provincial superior of Chile, concluded that “the abuses of power, of conscience, sexual and other crimes committed by Renato Poblete Barth were sustained by a sort of double life, protected by his public image of a good person.”

“The abuse, transversely, was carried out from a position of power that gave him that image, his enormous network of contacts, and the economic power that he had by autonomously handling important sums of money during many years,” the report said.

Born in 1924 in Antofagasta, on the northern Chilean coast, Poblete lived in Bolivia for most of his childhood until age 16. His family moved to Santiago in 1940, and toward the end of high school he met St. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, founder of Hogar de Cristo – one of the country’s largest charities – and the Jesuit who inspired him to join the Society of Jesus.

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Woman Burns Book By Priest, Says He Assaulted Her In 1977

DETROIT (MI)
CBS DETROIT/AP

July 31, 2019

A woman who says she was sexually assaulted by a priest in 1977 burned his book outside the archdiocese headquarters in downtown Detroit.

Jeanne Hunton says she’s starting a local chapter of SNAP, which stands for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Hunton says she was 14 years old when she was assaulted by a priest during a summer job at Assumption Grotto church in Detroit.

The 57-year-old Hunton said Tuesday it’s too late to pursue criminal charges. But she wants to get the word out in case there are other victims.

Hunton says the priest is in his 90s. She told state police that she confronted him in 2010 and he claimed to have no recollection. The Associated Press isn’t identifying the priest because he hasn’t been charged.

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New Hampshire Catholic Church website lists names of predator priests

MANCHESTER (NH)
Union Leader

July 31, 2019

By Mark Hayward

Catholic Church leaders in New Hampshire announced Wednesday that they have added to their website the names of dozens of priests accused of child sexual abuse going back to 1950.

The “Restoring Trust” website provides the year each priest was ordained, his parish assignments and his status, which ranges from convicted of crimes to “assigned to a life of prayer and penance.” Seventy-three names in total are listed.

The link to the list, however, is hard to find. It is at the bottom of the “Restoring Hope” page of the Church website.

“This is meant as an act of ownership and accountability. It is my hope that by making this information available, we are holding ourselves accountable to the evils of the past, and offering timely assistance, support and resources to those individuals and families who have been affected by the sexual abuse of a minor,” said Bishop Peter Libasci in a statement released Wednesday morning.

He also said “On behalf of my predecessors and the Church in New Hampshire, I am sorry. I seek your forgiveness for the grave sins of abuse and betrayal of trust that representatives of the Church committed.”

That contrasts with the words of his predecessor — retired Bishop John McCormack — who famously said “mistakes were made” when it came to the priest-sex abuse crisis, which unfolded in New Hampshire in the early 2000s under his watch.

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Former Winnipeg priest, convicted sex offender facing additional charges dies

WINNIPEG (CANADA)
The Canadian Press

July 31, 2019

A former Winnipeg priest who was convicted of sexual abuse and was facing more charges has died.

Saul Simmonds, a lawyer for Ronald Leger, says the 82-year-old had been in palliative care and died Tuesday.

Leger was accused of abusing four boys who were between 10 and 12-years old when the alleged crimes began in 1981.

Simmonds says the case was to go to trial in September.

He expects a stay will now be entered in the case.

Simmonds says his client had maintained his innocence on the charges from the outset.

“Based upon our investigation, many witnesses had come forward who would support his recollections of the event and he was vigorously intending to defend himself,” said Simmonds.

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Church leaders deny being silent on clergy sex abuse

KINGSTON (JAMAICA)
RJR News

July 31, 2019

Some church leaders are disputing claims that they have not been vocal enough in speaking out against members of the clergy who have been proven to be involved in sexual abuse.

The Jamaica Council of Churches and the Jamaica Evangelical Alliance are asserting that the church has been vocal, but the public may not have been paying enough attention to their efforts.

This issue took on greater prominence this week following the entering of a guilty plea by Kenneth Blake, pastor of Harvest Temple Apostolic Church in Kingston.

Blake was charged in 2017 with rape, forcible abduction, grievous sexual assault, having sex with a person under 16 years old, and sexual touching.

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HOLY AND HEALTHY PRIESTS

PHOENIX (AZ)
The Catholic Sun

July 30, 2019

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

We come now to the sixth and final column of this series addressing the recent scandals that have so hurt the Church. The title of this series comes from the words of the Second Vatican Council which eloquently explained that “the Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal” (“Lumen Gentium” 8). These prophetic words issued in a time of relative calm and stability more than 50 years ago speak truth that can stabilize and encourage us today.

Having looked squarely at the scandals and underlying causes, then at current questions regarding the priesthood, signs of renewal as well as the work being done to ensure the safety of youth and vulnerable adults, I would now like to look toward the renewal of the priesthood in light of one underlying virtue that will be important for its healing: the virtue of reverence.

While the word “reverence” may recall ideas about attire or behavior at church, it includes much more. In a broad sense, reverence is the virtue by which we acknowledge mystery in creation, ourselves, our neighbors and, most especially, in God. Reverence is a fundamental disposition of anyone who is seeking life’s deepest meaning. It is the humble recognition that there is more to life than we can see and feel and control.

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Traumatized Willow Creek Megachurch Turns Corner, Asks Ex-Pastor Bill Hybels to ‘Repent’ of Sexual Misconduct

CHICAGO (IL)
Christian Broadcasting Network

July 31, 2019

By Emily Jones

Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago is calling on their founding pastor Bill Hybels to “repent” after repeated allegations of sexual misconduct forced him to resign from decades of ministry.

“God has blessed Willow Creek Community Church to have a profound impact for His kingdom. Bill Hybels served and contributed to Willow for more than 40 years. Simultaneously, unchecked sin and intimidating behavior resulted in harm that is still felt in this present day. Christ died to free us from the power of sin. It is in that spirit that we appeal to Bill to reflect on his years in ministry, repent where necessary, and seek to live out the ministry of reconciliation,” Willow Creek’s new elder board said in a recent statement. https://www.willowcreek.org/en/blogs/south-barrington/elder-update-july-…

An Independent Advisory Group investigated the claims of “sexually inappropriate words and actions” brought against Hybels and found them to be credible in a 17-page report released in March.

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Why We Yell and Scream

Tricycle blog

July 31, 2019

By Patricia Ullman

The other day I was talking with a friend about the sexual abuse in my former spiritual community, and she said that she didn’t think so-and-so was doing any favors for those trying to make their voices heard because so-and-so was going on and on and, in effect, ranting. My friend said she thought people would be able to hear so-and-so better if she toned it down and spoke more selectively and in a less inflammatory way, instead of getting people’s backs up and making them feel attacked.

I said that I thought everyone has to express these horrifying things in their own ways, which may not necessarily be completely diplomatic or “nice.” I said that so-and-so had gone through periods of being suicidal, of many years of therapy, of dropping out of her Ph.D. program because she couldn’t focus, and, like most of us, losing many of her friends who feared that associating with her would be a blot on their need to appear loyal to the offending organization. I reminded my friend about how crazy-making all of this can be, when someone is finally trying to understand their own abuse.

Later on, as I thought back on this conversation, I began to wonder why so-and-so was perceived to be yelling and screaming (figuratively, through her writing), and why so many of us, no matter how we present our stories, are accused of being angry whiners, disrupters, unhappy people, aggressive “feminazis,” revenge seekers, complainers, man-haters, and on and on. And, aside from all that, I wanted to try to express why we do yell and scream and why, yes, we absolutely have the right to do so.

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Belleville Priest Who Said He ‘Never Hurt A Child’ Accused For Second Time Of Sexually Abusing A Boy

ST. LOUIS (MO)
KWMU Radio

July 31, 2019

By Lexi Cortes

Catholic church leaders in the Belleville Diocese promoted a priest they knew as a danger to children until he was in charge of their largest parish and its grade school, where he is accused of sexually abusing students, according to a civil suit filed earlier this month.

Joseph Schwaegel, who was first accused of child sexual abuse in a 1999 lawsuit, has been named in a new complaint filed against the diocese July 19 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

Schwaegel died in 2016. During his career, diocese officials had given him the elevated title of monsignor and eventually made him rector of Belleville’s St. Peter’s Cathedral and superintendent of Cathedral Grade School.

He was added to the diocese’s list of accused priests who were removed from their churches in 1994.

The latest plaintiff to come forward with allegations against Schwaegel filed under the pseudonym John Doe.

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Aiken priest accused of exchanging explicit photos with minor

AUGUSTA (GA)
Augusta Chronicle

July 30, 2019

By Jozsef Papp

An Aiken priest has been placed on administrative leave after being accused of sharing explicit images with a juvenile.

Father Raymond Flores, 33, of St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church, was placed on leave without the ability to perform priestly duties. According to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston, the suspension is a result of behavior inappropriate of a priest but did not involve the touching of a minor.

According to an Aiken County Sheriff’s Office incident report, Flores had an online conversation with a male juvenile via an adult social media application during which photographs of genitalia were exchanged. The complainant reportedly told police the victim’s family does not wish further investigation.

The diocese said in a statement Tuesday that it followed all legal and appropriate protocols, including prompt notification of law enforcement. No charges have been filed.

Lt. Jake Mahoney with the Aiken Department of Public Safety said his department took the report originally since the church is within city limits, but the case was sent to the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office after it was determined the incident occurred outside city jurisdiction. According to the Aiken Public Safety incident report, officers received a call from the complainant July 21.

Capt. Eric Abdullah with the sheriff’s office said they received a report from the Aiken Department of Public Safety on Monday and have opened an investigation.

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Neither the National Catholic Register nor anybody else in the Right Wing Noise Machine broke this story

DRYDEN (MI)
Patheos blog

July 31, 2019

By Mark Shea

DRYDEN, Mich. (AP) — The visiting priests arrived discreetly, day and night.

Stripped of their collars and cassocks, they went unnoticed in this tiny Midwestern town as they were escorted into a dingy warehouse across from an elementary school playground. Neighbors had no idea some of the dressed-down clergymen dining at local restaurants might have been accused sexual predators.

They had been brought to town by a small, nonprofit group called Opus Bono Sacerdotii. For nearly two decades, the group has operated out of a series of unmarked buildings in rural Michigan, providing money, shelter, transport, legal help and other support to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse across the country.

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US Olympic Committee Accused of Cover-up in Larry Nassar Case

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

July 31, 2019

A report from a U.S. Senate subcommittee has called out several organizations for a “cover-up” related to the serial abuse of hundreds of girls and young women by a now-disgraced and jailed former U.S. Olympic team doctor. Our hearts ache for these survivors and we hope that this report will lead to a fundamental shift in the way we view institutional accountability in cases of sexual violence.

According to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection and ranking member of the Senate subcommittee overseeing the Olympics, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, and the US Olympic Committee not only failed to protect athletes from Dr. Larry Nassar but also engaged in a “cover-up,” which resulted in more women and girls suffering abuse.

As survivors and advocates with experience in the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the news of continuing and ongoing cover-ups is both unsurprising and incredibly disappointing. Instead of learning from the moral and criminal failings of Catholic Church officials when it comes to cases of institutional sexual violence, it appears instead as if officials at MSU USA Gymnastics, and the USOC copied their playbook instead. We hope that accountability continues at these organizations, and that criminal proceedings continue to investigate the officials who failed in their duty to protect these girls and young women.

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Lawyers in clergy abuse lawsuit seek documents from Saints executives

NEW ORLEANS (LA)
Times Picayune

July 25, 2019

By Ramon Antonio Vargas

The lawyers for a man who alleges he was sexually abused by former Catholic deacon George Brignac decades ago have sent a subpoena to the New Orleans Saints for copies of any communications between club officials and the local archdiocese.

According to attorneys Richard Trahant and John Denenea, the move came after the discovery process turned up documents and emails which, they contend, showed at least one member of the Saints’ administration — longtime public relations chief Greg Bensel — was advising the archdiocese on how to publicly address local claims pertaining to the Catholic Church’s ongoing clergy abuse crisis.

The lawsuit, filed in late October, alleges that the unidentified plaintiff is due damages because Brignac molested him when he was an altar boy at a local church in the late 1970s and because the Archdiocese of New Orleans failed to protect him. Brignac has denied wrongdoing, and the archdiocese has been litigating the claims.

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Former St. Gertrude’s Priest Has Substantiated Claim of Sexual Abuse

WASHINGTON (MO)
Washington Missourian

July 29, 2019

There is at least one priest who served locally named Friday by the St. Louis Archbishop who has a substantiated claim of sexual abuse of minor.

Dennis B. Zacheis, known here locally as Father Dennis, served as pastor at St. Gertrude Parish, Krakow, from 1994 to 2003, and St. Anthony Parish in Sullivan from 2005-09.

The Rev. Robert J. Carlson, archbishop of St. Louis, made public the names of 44 priests who had a claim filed against them while alive. The also were 11 priests with allegations made against them after their death.

There were five additional clergy members named with claims that “occurred in the Archdiocese of St. Louis or elsewhere,” and another three priests with claims against them of possession of child pornography.

Zacheis has been retired from ministry without priestly faculties since 2010, due to alleged irregularities in finances for which he was responsible for as pastor of St. Anthony’s in Sullivan.

Father Zacheis served as associate pastor at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in south St. Louis from 1979-85; Christ, Prince of Peace in Manchester from 1985-88; and St. Matthias in Lemay from 1988-92.

In addition, he was pastor at St. Alban Roe in Wildwood from 2003-04.

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Local woman says priest abused her when she was 14 years old

DETROIT (MI)
WXYZ TV

Jul 30, 2019

By Kim Russell

A local woman says a Catholic priest abused her as a child. Tuesday, she burned a book just outside the Archdioceses of Detroit Headquarters, then told her story publicly for the first time.

Jeanne Hunton stood with supporters outside the Detroit Archdiocese headquarters. She burned a book published by a priest recently. She then told her story of that priest.

“I was a 14-year-old,” she said. “I had taken a summer job.”

Hunton says it happened in the summer of 1977 while she worked as a housekeeper at a metro Detroit rectory. She says the priest – who has not been charged with any crime – sexually abused her. She didn’t tell anyone for decades.

“I held it in all those years because I was ashamed,” Hunton said. “I was embarrassed.”

She says she reported it to Detroit police in 2010, but learned the statute of limitations had passed. She filed another report this year with Michigan State Police when State Attorney General Dana Nessel called on people to come forward. She is hoping her story gives credibility to anyone else who is a victim who comes forward and complains about the same priest.

“I am sad for all the people out there who are still afraid to come forward,” Hunton said. “They need to get that burden off their shoulders. It is not their shame to carry.”

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So far, Diocese of Scranton has paid $7 million to 44 sex abuse survivors

SCRANTON (PA)
Citizens Voice

July 30, 2019

By Jeff Horvath

Victims of child sexual abuse within the Diocese of Scranton have until midnight Wednesday to register for a program compensating survivors of such abuse.

Through the Independent Survivors Compensation Program, the diocese already paid approximately $7 million to 44 survivors of clergy sex abuse, all of whom submitted claims for compensation under a special fund created last year.

The program officially launched in January, about five months after the release of a statewide grand jury report detailing decades of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including Scranton.

The Scranton diocese has publicly identified 81 individuals, mostly former diocesan priests but also members of religious communities and lay people, who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. The compensation program is open to any victim, including those who never previously reported the abuse, regardless of when it occurred or whether it was committed by clergy or a lay person in the diocese or a religious order.

To be eligible for the program, survivors who have not previously reported abuse to the diocese must register before midnight at www.scrantondioceseISCP.com.

They also must report the allegation in writing to the district attorney’s office.

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The Village Church sued for more than $1 million over alleged abuse at church camp

WASHINGTON (DC)
Religion News Service

July 29, 2019

By Emily McFarlan Miller

A young woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a youth minister at a church camp is suing the Village Church for more than $1 million for gross negligence and the emotional distress the alleged abuse has caused her.

According to the lawsuit obtained by Religion News Service, the Village Church’s former associate children’s minister, Matthew Tonne, allegedly sexually violated the woman, identified only as Jane Doe One, when she was an 11-year-old girl at a 2012 program run by the Dallas-area megachurch at the Mount Lebanon Kids Camp in Texas.

RELATED: Former staff member at Dallas-area megachurch indicted for indecency with a child

Tonne had left a meeting of adult leaders, both male and female, in a meeting area in the same cabin where the girl slept — a violation of the church’s policies and procedures, according to the suit.

That’s when the suit alleges Tonne assaulted the girl as she lay in her bed. It claims he still was wearing the yellow T-shirt indicating he was a camp counselor when the alleged abuse occurred.

“It is without question that Tonne was able to access and abuse Jane Doe One because her cabin was the designated meeting location for some of the staff debrief meetings,” the lawsuit says.

Tonne was indicted in January by a Dallas County grand jury on a charge of indecency with a child involving sexual contact. He has denied the allegations against him.

The Village Church is part of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant Christian denomination in the United States. Dealing with sexual abuse was a main focus of the denomination’s recent annual meeting.

Its popular lead pastor, Matt Chandler, addressed the allegations at a luncheon during that meeting.

“We just did the best we knew how to care for them. These issues are far more complex than one would imagine,” Chandler said.

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Pastor who worked in Delaware schools removed after sex misconduct allegations

WILMINGTON (DE)
Salisbury Daily Times

July 25, 2019

By Rose Velazquez

A pastor accused in March of sexual misconduct with a teenager in Delaware nearly 40 years ago has been removed from ministry.

A Thursday statement from the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington shows Rev. William J. Porter, 71, has been pastor at Holy Name of Jesus in Pocomoke City, Maryland, since 2003.

The diocese said he was accused March 1 of sexual misconduct 38 years ago at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in New Castle.

Porter’s accuser was a teenager at the time the allegations occurred, according to the statement. After the diocese notified Delaware State Police and the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, police launched an investigation.

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St. Louis archdiocese names 61 clergy accused of sex abuse

ST. LOUIS (MO)
The Associated Press

July 26, 2019

By Jim Salter

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis on Friday released the names of 61 clergy facing what it determined to be “substantiated” allegations of sexual abuse of children.

The archdiocese published the names online and said it planned to also put the list in a special edition of its newspaper and distribute it to 150,000 Catholic households. The archdiocese said none of the priests are currently in ministry. The list separately named three additional priests accused of possessing child pornography.

In a letter posted on the archdiocese’s website, Archbishop Robert Carlson wrote that he has witnessed the “devastating impact” sexual abuse has had on the lives of victims and their families.

“It will be painful for all of us to see the names of clergy accused of behavior we can barely allow ourselves to imagine,” Carlson wrote. “But publishing their names is the right thing to do.”

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CATHOLICS DEMAND INVESTIGATION OF MSGR. WALTER ROSSI

WASHINGTON (DC)
ChurchMilitant.com

July 25, 2019

By Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.

Catholics have launched a petition demanding the investigation of Msgr. Walter Rossi, rector of the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

“Whereas Monsignor Walter Rossi has been credibly accused of sexual harassment by a former Catholic University of America (CUA) student, we strongly urge President John H. Garvey to open an investigation to determine the veracity of these allegations,” states the petition, authored by Winnie Obike and launched by the group Catholic Laity for Orthodox Bishops and Reform. “In the meantime, we call on Monsignor Rossi to step down from the CUA Board of Trustees while the result of the investigation is pending.”

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the papal nuncio-turned-whistleblower, confirmed in June that he received complaints of homosexual predation and harassment by Rossi when Viganò was nuncio.

“Monsignor Rossi is, without a doubt, a member of the ‘gay mafia,'” Viganò said in remarks to Italian journalist Marco Tosatti on June 15.

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Bishop returned accused priest to ministry after investigation some called ‘a sham’

BUFFALO (NY)
6ABC

July 26, 2019

By David Wright

Bishop Richard Malone says his congregation’s darkest days are in the past.

The embattled spiritual leader has faced calls for his resignation over his handling of sexual abuse allegations against clergy members in the Diocese of Buffalo, where a public reckoning that started as a local scandal became a national headline.

A whistleblower, Malone’s own former secretary Siobhan O’Connor, leaked internal church documents to Charlie Specht, an investigative reporter for ABC’s Buffalo affiliate WKBW, sparking months of stories about whether there had been efforts to conceal the extent of the problem from the public.

Malone admits that he has made some mistakes, but stresses that he “inherited a decades old horrific problem,” one that extends far beyond the limits of his city, and is now “trying to be part of moving us beyond it” by, among other things, purging pedophiles from their midst.

The Diocese of Buffalo’s list of credibly accused priests has grown from 42 to 132 in a little more than a year, and Malone expects that more names will be added before their work is done.

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Buffalo bishop returned priest accused of abuse to ministry after ‘thorough’ investigation. Others call it ‘a sham’

BUFFALO (NY)
ABC News

July 26, 2019

By David Wright, Pete Madden, Cho Park, and Shannon K. Crawford

Bishop Richard Malone says his congregation’s darkest days are in the past.

The embattled spiritual leader has faced calls for his resignation over his handling of sexual abuse allegations against clergy members in the Diocese of Buffalo, where a public reckoning that started as a local scandal became a national headline.

A whistleblower, Malone’s own former secretary Siobhan O’Connor, leaked internal church documents to Charlie Specht, an investigative reporter for ABC’s Buffalo affiliate WKBW, sparking months of stories about whether there had been efforts to conceal the extent of the problem from the public.

Malone admits that he has made some mistakes, but stresses that he “inherited a decades old horrific problem,” one that extends far beyond the limits of his city, and is now “trying to be part of moving us beyond it” by, among other things, purging pedophiles from their midst.

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Diocesan Review Board concludes Father Michael Duesterhaus not credibly accused of child sexual abuse

ARLINGTON (VA)
The Arlington Catholic Herald

July 24, 2019

Since March 14, 2018, the Diocese of Arlington has provided announcements and updates regarding allegations of child sexual abuse and other inappropriate conduct against Father Michael Duesterhaus. Father Duesterhaus was placed on administrative leave pending investigations conducted by local law enforcement agencies and the Diocese of Arlington.

On January 17, 2019, the Diocese of Arlington was informed that the Stafford County Commonwealth Attorney was not pursuing criminal charges against Father Duesterhaus. This followed previous decisions in other jurisdictions that no criminal charges would be pursued.

The Diocese subsequently completed its own internal investigation of all allegations involving Father Duesterhaus. The information gathered during that investigation was presented to the Diocesan Review Board, and the Review Board reported to Bishop Michael Burbidge its determination that, based on the available evidence, a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor had not been made against Father Duesterhaus. Bishop Burbidge accepted the Diocesan Review Board’s determination.

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Woman says she didn’t realize an influential bishop sexually abused her for 20 years — until he called her 6-year-old daughter ‘sexy’

NEW YORK (NY)
The Insider

July 27, 2019

By Kelly McLaughlin

Kimberly Pollard first met Bishop James L’Keith Jones, a pastor in the Church of God in Christ, in Clovis, New Mexico, 1994. Pollard was helping her godmother make phone calls for a June youth convention organized by the church, also known as COGIC, which describes itself as “the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States,” with 6.5 million members across 63 countries.

Jones, then a 29-year-old youth group leader, was in charge of COGIC youth groups across New Mexico. During their first phone conversation, Pollard said, Jones didn’t believe how young she was — 15 — and noted her maturity and confidence.

“He was just kind of like, ‘Well, I’m gonna date you when you turn 18,'” she recently recalled. “Of course, it didn’t happen like that.” Instead, as Pollard claimed in a lawsuit she filed in 2016, the bishop pursued an on-again-off-again sexual relationship over the next decade, during which he groomed and sexually abused her.

Pollard said she waited more than 22 years to file the lawsuit because she didn’t always recognize Jones’ behavior as abusive or exploitative. Her recognition came three years ago, after she and Jones reconnected, when she witnessed him calling her six-year-old daughter ‘sexy’ in a video he sent to the child. The comment reminded her of the way he had treated her as a teen.

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Unmarked buildings, quiet legal help for accused priests

DRYDEN (MI)
The Associated Press

July 29, 2019

By Martha Mendoza, Juliet Linderman and Garance Burke

The visiting priests arrived discreetly, day and night.

Stripped of their collars and cassocks, they went unnoticed in this tiny Midwestern town as they were escorted into a dingy warehouse across from an elementary school playground. Neighbors had no idea some of the dressed-down clergymen dining at local restaurants might have been accused sexual predators.

They had been brought to town by a small, nonprofit group called Opus Bono Sacerdotii. For nearly two decades, the group has operated out of a series of unmarked buildings in rural Michigan, providing money, shelter, transport, legal help and other support to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse across the country.

Again and again, Opus Bono has served as a rapid-response team for the accused.

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Diocese of Rochester to face at least 75 new lawsuits over child abuse

ROCHESTER (NY)
Ithaca.com

July 24, 2019

By Matt Butler

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester will face a potentially massive flood of lawsuits next month when New York’s child sexual abuse reporting reforms go into effect, as the local fallout continues from decades of abuse and cover-ups by priests and others in the Catholic community nationwide.

According to Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, dozens of victims claiming abuse by clergy members in the Diocese of Rochester have come to him over the last several months to inquire about filing lawsuits. In mid-August, when a state-created window for childhood sexual abuse opens for one year, Garabedian said he will bring lawsuits on behalf of 75 victims against the diocese, with more likely in the following months once more people become aware of the new statute. Garabedian said he expects a second wave of lawsuits to come, and maybe more after that. He has been handling sexual abuse cases for decades, rising to prominence when the Catholic priest abuse scandal was revealed in Boston, in which he was deeply involved in representing victims and their families against the Catholic Church. (Garabedian was portrayed by Stanley Tucci in the 2015 movie “Spotlight” about the uncovering of the scandal.)

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Broomfield pastor faces trial on charges she sexually assaulted teen parishioner over 3-year period

DENVER (CO)
Denver Post

July 28, 2019

By Elise Schmelzer

When she was 15 years old, Candy Orona Villalba’s pastor asked her to come live with her in a Broomfield apartment.

For the next three years, the pastor, Erika Gonzalez, sexually abused the teen, convinced her to drop out of school and said that Villalba would be punished by God if she left, Broomfield police and prosecutors allege in court documents.

“I don’t think there’s ever going to be a time that I heal from it,” Villalba, now 19, said in an interview Thursday with The Denver Post.

Provided by Broomfield Police DepartmentPastor Erika Gonzalez
More than a year after she left the pastor’s apartment — and three months before a scheduled jury trial in the case — Villalba said she is telling her story publicly because she doesn’t want others to be victimized by the 36-year-old Gonzalez, who appears to have continued preaching at her church, Ministerios Rey de Reyes.

The independent Christian church with a congregation of a few dozen people is unaffiliated to any larger denomination and operates out of rented space in Broomfield, Villalba said.

Gonzalez now faces three sexual-assault counts — including sexual assault of a child by a person in a position of trust — as well as a misdemeanor charge of obstructing the use of a telephone in connection to her relationship with Villalba.

Gonzalez’s attorney declined to comment on the allegations when contacted by a reporter. In a police interview last year, Gonzalez admitted to having what she called a consensual relationship with the teen. Her trial is scheduled for October.

The case comes as inquiries into abuse by religious leaders expands outside of those in the Catholic Church, which long has been a target of scrutiny. The Southern Baptists are grappling with the issue after an investigation by local newspapers in Texas found that 250 church leaders and volunteers had been charged with sex crimes. A network of bloggers has chronicled abuse in Protestant churches. And in Colorado, leaders of a Buddhist retreat center apologized after allegations of a pattern failing to respond to sexual-abuse claims.

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Priest, under investigation in Wilmington, stripped of clergy status after New Castle child sex abuse claims

WILMINGTON (DE)
WDEL

July 25, 2019

By DJ McAneny

A priest in the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington has been removed from ministry and had his faculties to exercise priestly ministries suspended following allegations he sexually abused a teen 38 years ago.

The victim made claims against Rev. William J. Porter, 71, while at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in New Castle. Delaware State Police began their investigation in March, but informed the diocese on July 19, 2019, that it had completed the investigation and the conduct had occurred outside the statute of limitations.

The suspension by Bishop W. Francis Malooly was announced Thursday, July 25, 2019.

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Catholic priest suspended by Saginaw Diocese says he’s innocent

BAY CITY (MI)
Saginaw News

July 30, 2019

By Cole Waterman

Suspended from the ministry two months ago, a Catholic priest says his life has been ruined after a woman accused him of inappropriately touching her when she was a child and a student of his.

The Rev. Dennis H. Kucharczyk says he was made “to look like a pervert,” his reputation and credibility damaged, when the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw publicly announced his suspension from the ministry.

Professing his innocence, Kucharczyk said he’s stuck in limbo when it comes to his standing with the diocese, feeling jettisoned by an organization he’s devoted his life to after what he says is a baseless allegation.

“I have been called to serve the diocese,” said Kucharczyk, 61. “I want to continue to serve the diocese as a priest. That’s been my calling. I’m concerned about what the diocese is doing to me. What about me? What about what I have given to the diocese and the parishes? Doesn’t that matter? Doesn’t that mean anything? Don’t I matter?”

Erin Looby Carlson, the diocese’s director of communications, said the diocese and state law enforcement are, in fact, investigating Kucharczyk, so he’s still on suspension.

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Plenty of shock, ‘very little details’ at meeting about St. Ignatius priest’s sudden suspension

GREEN TOWNSHIP (OH)
WCPO TV

July 30, 2019

There is no evidence the Rev. Geoff Drew is guilty of criminal wrongdoing, according to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters. But some parishioners who attended a crowded Monday night meeting meant to address the St. Ignatius priest’s suspension left uneasy.

They said they still did not know exactly what Drew had been accused of doing.

“They gave us very little details,” said Mike Hausfeld, whose son attends eighth grade at St. Ignatius of Loyola School. “The questions we asked, it was shoved off, pushed off to the side, turned into another, ‘That’s not our decision. We can’t make that decision. It’s not our call.’”

Reporters were not allowed inside the meeting. According to Hausfeld, Archdiocese of Cincinnati leaders disclosed only that the allegations against Drew involved inappropriate texts exchanged with a male student at the school.

That explanation matched the archdiocese’s official statement to press earlier in the day: That Drew had been accused of behavior “contrary to the (archdiocese) Decree On Child Protection.”

Archdiocese officials at the meeting also said Drew had been under monitoring after “some concerns” surfaced during his time in Liberty Township’s St. Maximilian Kolbe parish, according to Hausfeld. They did not share whether those concerns had been related to his relocation to St. Ignatius.

They also did not share what would happen to Drew when his suspension and the accompanying investigation were finished. Hausfeld said they promised they were “making changes” but didn’t specify.

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Ruth Krall, Historical Meandering: Ideologies of Abuse and Exclusion (2)

LITTLE ROCK (AR)
Bilgrimage blog

July 29, 2019

By William Lindsey

The essay below is the second part of Ruth Krall’s essay entitled “Historical Meandering: Ideologies of Abuse and Exclusion.” The first part was published on Bilgrimage several days ago. As the introduction to the essay at the link I have just provided explains, the essay is one of a series of essays Ruth has published on Bilgrimage, under the series title “Recapitulation: Affinity Sexual Violence in a Religious Voice.” Links to the previous essays in this series appear at the link I’ve just given you above. The common theme binding these essays together is the endemic natural of religious and spiritual leader sexual abuse of followers. The current essay explores this theme by arguing that clergy sexual abuse is a global public health issue whose noxious presence can be found inside multiple language groups and national identities. The second part of Ruth’s essay, “Historical Meandering,” follows (note that footnotes begin with xiii because this essay is a continuation of the first part published previously):

Historical Meandering: Ideologies of Abuse and Exclusion

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Accused former Macomb County priest convicted of drug offense in 1985

CLINTON TOWNSHIP (MI)
Macomb Daily

July 30,2019

By Jameson Cook

A former priest at a Shelby Township church accused of sexually assaulting a boy in the mid-1980s was arrested around that time for distributing and possessing cocaine.

Neil Kalina, 63, dressed in jail garb, appeared in 41A District Court in Shelby Township on Monday for a hearing on charges he assaulted a boy when he was 12 to 14 at St. Kieran Catholic Church.

He was among five priests charged in May for sexual-conduct allegations while serving at churches in Michigan as part of a special investigation under Attorney General Dana Nessel. Four of them were residing out of state.

Kalina is charged with four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and lifetime electronic monitoring.

He and the boy spent time together while Kalina was a pastor at Kieran during the mid-1980s, according to a sworn statement by Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Rick Lutz. Kalina allegedly provided the boy with alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, and the boy awoke to Kalina fondling him during overnight stays at the St. Kieran rectory, the affidavit says.

Kalina’s accuser attended Monday’s hearing.

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Retired Mississippi Catholic priest removed from ministry after credible abuse allegation

JACKSON (MS)
Clarion Ledger

July 29, 2019

By Sarah Fowler

A retired priest in the Catholic Diocese of Jackson has been removed from public ministry after a credible accusation of abuse.

The Rev. Edward Balser, 90, is no longer allowed to publicly identify himself as a priest after a credible allegation of years-long inappropriate touching in the 1950’s, according to a release issued by the diocese.

The abuse first occurred in 1953, when Balser was a seminarian and continued after his ordination into the priesthood in 1956, the release stated. The female victim was a minor throughout the abuse. It did not include sexual intercourse. The extent of the touching or when the allegation was first made were not publicly available.

Attempts to reach Balser were unsuccessful Monday.

Balser, who served in Jackson, Pearl and Flowood, retired in March 2003.

Balser’s removal from the ministry makes 38 clergy—36 priests and two religious brothers—in the Jackson Diocese who have been credibly accused of abuse. The allegations date back decades, with the most recent allegations coming in the early 2000s.

In January 2019, while the Diocesan Fitness Review Board was reviewing and preparing files for the release of the list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors, the board examined Balser’s file and the accounting of the abuse, the release stated.

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Belleville priest who said he ‘never hurt a child’ accused for second time of sexually abusing a boy

BELLEVILLE (IL)
News-Democrat

July 29, 2019

By Lexi Cortes

Catholic church leaders in the Belleville Diocese promoted a priest they knew as a danger to children until he was in charge of their largest parish and its grade school, where he is accused of sexually abusing students, according to a civil suit filed earlier this month.

Joseph Schwaegel, who was first accused of child sexual abuse in a 1999 lawsuit, has been named in a new complaint filed against the diocese July 19 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

Schwaegel died in 2016. During his career, diocese officials had given him the elevated title of monsignor and eventually made him rector of Belleville’s St. Peter’s Cathedral and superintendent of Cathedral Grade School.

He was added to the diocese’s list of accused priests who were removed from their churches in 1994.

The latest plaintiff to come forward with allegations against Schwaegel filed under the pseudonym John Doe.

A spokesman for the diocese could not be reached for comment. The lawyers representing the plaintiff were not immediately available for comment.

From 1987, when Doe was a 6-year-old starting kindergarten, until 1989, Schwaegel would call Doe and other students out of class to be alone with him, according to the civil lawsuit. The complaint states that is when Schwaegel sexually abused Doe on the diocese’s property.

Jeph Hemmer, who had also been a student at Cathedral Grade School, said Schwaegel abused him in 1973 at the school and rectory when Hemmer was 8 years old, according to his lawsuit in federal court. Hemmer’s lawsuit, which was refiled in federal court in 2001 after a year in civil court, ended in a settlement. U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Proud dismissed the lawsuit against the diocese in that case. Proud died earlier this year.

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>Veteran lawyer for victims of clergy sexual abuse ‘absolutely not surprised’ by Bishop Weldon allegations

GREENGFIELD (MA)
The Republican

July 29, 2019

By Anne-Gerard Flynn

Attorney John J. Stobierski was not surprised when he read news reports this spring that a man had come forward with accusations he had been sexually molested by the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon during the 1950s.

“During the years I represented survivors of abuse, I heard a number of references to Weldon,” said Stobierski who litigated and negotiated more than five dozen clergy sexual abuse cases with settlements totaling more than $10 million. “I am absolutely not surprised.”

Weldon served from 1950 through 1977 as the fourth bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, the diocese’s ninth bishop, met in June with the most recent alleged victim to come forward with claims of sexual abuse by Weldon. Rozanski announced last week that retired Superior Court Judge Peter J. Velis would lead an investigation into the allegations.

Stobierski described Velis as “a man of integrity,” but added what the investigation yields will depend on what Velis has access to and what accountability is given to the public.

In short, Stobierski said, Velis “needs free rein.”

“Will he truly be an independent force?,” asked Stobierski who represented 46 alleged victims of clergy sex abuse who settled claims with the diocese for $7.75 million in 2004, and 28 of the 59 survivors in the $4.5 million settlement reached in 2008.

He added, “Will he be entitled to all information, will everyone associated with the diocese be told they are duty-bound to cooperate with him, will he have to sign a confidentiality agreement?”

“The report,” Stobierski said, “needs to be made public. Good, bad or indifferent, the investigation and its findings need to see the light of day. Lack of transparency is what continues to dog this diocese.”

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Conference at Carlisle church to examine abuse crisis in Catholic Church

CUMBERLAND COUNTY (PA)
The Sentinel

July 29, 2019

By Tammie Gitt

Nearly a year after Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a comprehensive report on clergy child sexual abuse, an organization dedicated to education will hold a conference looking at the crisis.

Hosted by the St. Gabriel ministry of Saint Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Carlisle, the conference will examine the causes of the crisis and learn what is being done to promote healing and justice for the victims.

The conference, “Pro Vita 2019: Healing the Wounds in the Body of Christ,” will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 9 at Saint Patrick Church, 87 Marsh Drive.

The day begins with a light breakfast buffet and registration at 9 a.m., followed by keynote speaker Dr. Massimo Faggioli of Villanova University. Faggioli will take questions from the audience then, after a coffee break, join a panel that includes retired Pennsylvania State Police Capt. Janet McNeal, who is the safe environment coordinator for the Harrisburg Diocese, and Carlisle-based clinical psychologist Dr. Jerry Mock. The panel will be moderated by Col. Celestino Perez, a professor at the U.S. Army War College.

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This Corrupt Catholic Group Helps Priests Accused of Child Sexual Abuse

Patheos blog

July 29, 2019

By Hemant Mehta

The Associated Press has discovered a secretive network within the Catholic Church, albeit with no formal affiliation, that helps people dealing with child sexual harassment. They offer money and legal assistance. They help people relocate. They say they want to do anything they can to help the victims.

But they’re not talking about the kids.

Instead, Opus Bono Sacerdotii helps the accused priests.

Martha Mendoza, Juliet Linderman, and Garance Burke learned about the network through multiple interviews with former employees, Freedom of Information requests, and hearing from priests themselves.

For nearly two decades, the group has operated out of a series of unmarked buildings in rural Michigan, providing money, shelter, transport, legal help and other support to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse across the country.

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Retired Mississippi Catholic priest removed from ministry after credible abuse allegation

JACKSON (MS)
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

July 29, 2019

By Sarah Fowler

A retired priest in the Catholic Diocese of Jackson has been removed from public ministry after a credible accusation of abuse.

The Rev. Edward Balser, 90, is no longer allowed to publicly identify himself as a priest after a credible allegation of years-long inappropriate touching in the 1950’s, according to a release issued by the diocese.

The abuse first occurred in 1953, when Balser was a seminarian and continued after his ordination into the priesthood in 1956, the release stated. The female victim was a minor throughout the abuse. It did not include sexual intercourse. The extent of the touching or when the allegation was first made were not publicly available.

Attempts to reach Balser were unsuccessful Monday.

Balser, who served in Jackson, Pearl and Flowood, retired in March 2003.

Balser’s removal from the ministry makes 38 clergy—36 priests and two religious brothers—in the Jackson Diocese who have been credibly accused of abuse. The allegations date back decades, with the most recent allegations coming in the early 2000s.

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A Priest in Tucson Abused Him When He Was 12. At 60, He’s Finally Able to Sue

PHOENIX (AZ)
Phoenix New Times

July 23, 2019

By Elizabeth Whitman

When Charles Taylor was 12 years old and growing up in Tucson in the early 1970s, a priest at the local Episcopal church began sexually abusing him. Although Taylor told the rector, and a church secretary knew about the abuse, the church did nothing.

All of that is according to a new lawsuit that Taylor, who is nearly 61, has filed against Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Tucson and the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona for the two years of sexual abuse he says he suffered as a child at the hands of Father Richard Babcock.

The suit could be the first of its kind after Arizona changed its law in May to give survivors of childhood sexual abuse more time to sue perpetrators or organizations that knew of the abuse. Survivors previously had until the age of 20. The new law gives them until the age of 30 and gives older survivors, who previously were time-barred from suing, until December 31, 2020, to file claims.

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EDITORIAL: A step toward justice for abuse victims in R.I.

BOSTON (MA)
Boston Globe

July 26, 2019

The decision by Attorney General Peter Neronha of Rhode Island to review all files of childhood sexual abuse collected by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence since 1950 is a welcome first step toward transparency and the healing it brings to victims.

Now comes the real transparency test: making sure all relevant files are turned over, without any whitewashing by church officials.

According to a Globe report, the agreement between Neronha’s office and Bishop Thomas J. Tobin gives prosecutors and the Rhode Island State Police access to 70 years of diocesan files and records, whether or not the allegations were deemed credible by the diocese.

Again, that sounds positive. However, as Anne Barrett Doyle, codirector of the advocacy group BishopAccountability.org, points out, Neronha is not doing what law enforcement authorities are starting to do in other states — aggressively take on the church by getting search warrants and grabbing church records without prior warning to church officials.

Because the Rhode Island AG is allowing the diocese to gather the files itself, and because Tobin’s cooperation is voluntary, Barrett Doyle said she has doubts Neronha will get the full archives and worries that “the files he does get will have been sanitized.”

There’s cause for concern. On July 1, the Providence diocese published a list of nearly 50 clergy who had been accused of child sexual abuse. However, some victims said the names of some accused clergy were missing from the list. Among those upset was former Suffolk University and Lesley University president Margaret McKenna, who said a priest she had accused of molesting her was labeled “publicly accused” instead of “credibly accused.” To illustrate the difficulty in documenting the true scope of abuse, advocates at Bishop Accountability point to a 2007 court document that shows Tobin admitting to 125 accused priests between 1971 and 2006.

Mitchell Garabedian, the Massachusetts attorney who helped reveal the extent of clergy sexual abuse in the Boston archdiocese, said obtaining all relevant files is just step one for the Rhode Island AG. Then, he said, Neronha “has an obligation to follow up the review of files with questions to church officials about the criminality discovered in those files, whether it be sexual abuse or the cover-up of sexual abuse. If laws were broken, then charges must be filed.”

That’s not a given: McKenna says she and others have turned over information to the state police in the past, “but nothing happened.”

Even that initial step taken by Neronha might not be as big as some want. But both Garabedian and Barrett Doyle say it should remind Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey that the dioceses in her state require greater vigilance than she has so far exerted. Boston was the epicenter of the clergy sexual abuse scandal, and Garabedian said victims continue to contact him. Law enforcement officials in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and across the country must leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of long-overdue justice.

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Advocates and lawmakers want New York child sexual abuse survivors to know one-year window to seek civil action is about to open

ALBANY (NY)
New York Daily News

July 28, 2019

By Denis Slattery

Survivors of child sex abuse will soon have a new opportunity to seek justice.

The recently enacted Child Victims Act dramatically changed the legal landscape in New York State, empowering those who were subjected to sexual abuse at a young age and offering them new ways make things right.

Child victims of abuse are now able to seek criminal prosecution against an abuser until the age of 28, an increase from the old age limit of 23. In civil cases, victims can seek prosecution until they turn 55.

The law also opens up a one-year window that begins Aug. 14 allowing victims older than 23 to sue their abuser or any institution that helped to cover up the offense — regardless of how long ago the act occurred.

Advocates and lawmakers are launching a concerted effort to ensure survivors are aware of their options as the window approaches.

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These are the clerics from Delbarton School accused of sexually abusing children and young adults

MORRIS TOWNSHIP (NJ)
North Jersey Record

July 29, 2019

By Abbott Koloff

Eight people have received settlements over the past year after bringing sex abuse lawsuits against St. Mary’s Abbey and the Order of St. Benedict of New Jersey, which runs the Delbarton School in Morris Township and previously ran a school at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Linden.

One former teacher, a priest named Timothy Brennan, has been publicly accused of abuse by nine men and one woman.

The Benedictines are an international Roman Catholic monastic order who follow the teachings of St. Benedict, who was born in Italy more than 1,500 years ago. He is considered the father of Western monasticism.

St. Mary’s Abbey oversees Delbarton, an elite school for boys from seventh grade through high school. At least seven priests and two other monks of the abbey have been accused of sex abuse.

The abbey has declined to follow the lead of New Jersey’s five Roman Catholic dioceses, which have provided lists of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.

It recently said in a statement that it was not prepared to release such a list, partly because it was “unable to comment on active litigation.” Most of the lawsuits are no longer active. At least 11 suits have been settled.

The statement said all complaints are first sent to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, and that the abbey is required to wait for law enforcement to complete its investigations before conducting its own reviews. “Once that work is complete, we will release a list of accused individuals,” it said.

Many of the complaints were made public years ago, and it’s not clear why the county prosecutor would still be looking at them. The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office said it would not comment on investigations that don’t result in criminal charges. In most cases involving abuse from decades ago, the criminal statute of limitations expired by the time law enforcement was contacted.

The following list of clerics associated with St. Mary’s Abbey and accused of sexual abuse has been compiled by NorthJersey.com and the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey from lawsuits, most of which have been settled, as well as previous statements by St. Mary’s Abbey and past news articles by the Network.

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As a teen, this former Delbarton student trusted a priest. Then came the alleged sex abuse

MORRIS TOWNSHIP (NJ)
North Jersey Record

July 29, 2019

By Abbott Koloff

T.M. says he was 15 years old when a priest served him beers at a New Year’s Eve party, and when he awoke hours later he found the cleric sexually abusing him in a maintenance barn on the Delbarton School campus in Morris Township.

T.M., as court records call him, says that more than a year later, he wrote a letter about the abuse to Abbot Brian Clarke, then head of St. Mary’s Abbey and the Order of St. Benedict of New Jersey, the Roman Catholic religious order that runs Delbarton.

He also met the abbot, who told him to keep the accusations to himself because it could cause him problems with friends at Delbarton. He was told that the priest — Richard Edward Lott — would be reined in to keep other boys safe.

Decades later, T.M. learned that another student was allegedly abused by Lott — just months after T.M.’s own meeting to alert the abbot about the priest. The other student’s accusation was made in a 2005 lawsuit, which was settled in 2006, according to records.

“I feel now you’re taking advantage of a kid, taking advantage of my naivete,” T.M. said in a recent phone interview. “I wanted to make sure they knew what happened so no one else would ever be abused.

“They lied to me,” he said.

T.M.’s lawsuit, which is ongoing, is one of at least 14 that have been filed against the Benedictine order by 15 people alleging that they, too, were abused by monks as children decades ago when they attended Delbarton or a Catholic school in Linden run by the order.
T.M. asked that his name not be used, to protect his parents from public exposure and being questioned about the allegations.

During an alumni reunion in December 2013, someone asked T.M. why he hadn’t been to other Delbarton functions. He had been reading about lawsuits brought by several men — including twin brothers Tom and Bill Crane — who said they were abused by Benedictine priests. He responded by referring to those reports.

“I was one of them,” he said.

St. Mary’s has settled eight lawsuits since last year, the latest last month. Three are still pending in Superior Court. At least nine monks, including seven priests, have been named in lawsuits over the years or have been acknowledged by abbey officials as having been accused of sex abuse.

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Pocomoke City Catholic pastor removed after Delaware sexual misconduct allegations

DELAWARE
Delmarvanow.com

July 25, 2019

A Pocomoke City pastor accused in March of sexual misconduct with a teenager in Delaware nearly 40 years ago has been removed from ministry.

A Thursday statement from the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington shows Reverend William J. Porter, 71, has been pastor at Holy Name of Jesus in Pocomoke City since 2003.

However, the diocese said he was accused March 1 of sexual misconduct 38 years ago at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in New Castle, Delaware.

Porter’s accuser was a teenager at the time the allegations occurred, according to the statement. After the diocese notified Delaware State Police and the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, police launched an investigation.

That state police investigation finished July 19 because the diocese said the conduct occurred outside the statute of limitations, but Porter remains under investigation by the Wilmington Police Department because of similar allegations.

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Giving by Catholics Suffering from Abuse Scandal

UNITED STATES
Non-Profit Quarterly

July 29, 2019

By Ruth McCambridge

An article in USA Today says that the unwillingness of the Roman Catholic Church to address its sex abuse scandals head-on has led those charitable nonprofits affiliated with them to struggle with impatient, even disgusted donors.

For instance, Catholic Charities of Buffalo only made 85 percent of its $11 million goal. Parishioners withheld donations after Bishop Richard J. Malone let priests accused of inappropriate conduct remain active in the church. Even though donors had the option of directing the whole of their donations to the charity, instead of the usual 50/50 split with the parish, there was a shortfall. (More than half the donors chose this option.)

“People are confused,” says Dennis Walczyk, the president of Catholic Charities of Buffalo. “They’re upset with the Catholic church.” Walczyk says Catholic Charities will take any shortfalls as hits on its own budget, not reducing what it gives.

The national Catholic Charities has not provided any public update on recent overall donor support, although last year, its CEO, Donna Markham, did say to Catholic News Service, “Anybody who is working in Catholic organizations right now is being hit by the fallout from the abuse crisis. We have been faced with some of our significant donors saying, ‘No more money to Catholic Charities until the bishops straighten out this mess.’”

In June, Pew Research Center reported that as a result of the abuse crisis, a quarter of Catholics said they had both reduced donations and scaled back mass attendance. Similarly, a reader survey in Jesuit-run American Magazine in November said, “Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they had lowered the amount they gave to their bishop’s appeal, while 47 percent said they had reduced donations to their parishes.”

Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen has been one of a number of influential Catholics to call upon fellow Catholics to skip using the Catholic Church as an intermediary, giving instead directly to charities.—Ruth McCambridge

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Lawyers: Secrets, abuse can thrive under cover of NDAs

BOSTON (MA)
Boston Herald

July 29, 2019

By Mary Markos

Numerous lawyers argue that nondisclosure agreements do not belong in government, raising concerns about perpetuating inappropriate conduct and a lack of transparency.

“Nondisclosure agreements help sexual abuse to continue,” said Boston-based attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented victims in clergy sexual abuse cases. “The abuser can continue to abuse, and the public is not made aware of an existing safety concern. It is shocking to think the government would favor secrecy over transparency in such situations.”

The agreements waive a victim’s right to file a lawsuit or speak out about their experiences, but some politicians, including Gov. Charlie Baker and Speaker Robert DeLeo, have kept the practice in state government “if the victim wants one.”

This type of rhetoric is “the ultimate insult,” Boston attorney Wendy Murphy argued, because it exploits the victim’s “legitimate” privacy concerns and anticipates the misconduct is going to continue.

“It’s turning it into a right to privacy around what is often criminal activity, and you don’t privatize criminal activity,” Murphy said. “NDAs are a manufactured excuse not to tell the public what it has a right to know.”

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Catholic Priest found guilty of sex attacks on Wigan college boys decades ago

WIGAN (ENGLAND)
Wigan Today

July 29, 2019

A priest is facing jail after he was found guilty of vile historical sex offences against boys at the Catholic seminary near Wigan where he taught.

Fr Michael Higginbottom, 76, had originally been convicted in 2017 of the indecent assault and buggery of one boy at St Joseph’s College in Up Holland, but faced a retrial after the convictions were quashed on appeal.

He was also accused of abusing a second student, at his retrial at Burnley Crown Court, and was charged with a total of five counts of buggery and seven counts of indecent assault.

A jury found him guilty of all charges on Monday, a spokesman for the court said.

Both complainants said they were abused by Higginbottom in his private living quarters at the boarding school for boys aged 12 to 18, the court heard.

The first complainant attended the college in the late 1970s because he had decided to become a priest.

He told police that St Joseph’s was a “cold, dark and forbidding place” and it was the venue for “mental, physical and sexual abuse” as teacher Higginbottom forced himself on him “again and again”.

Lawyers for Higginbottom suggested the complainant had made up the allegations so he could claim compensation.

Jurors were told he had been found guilty of a fraud in which he pocketed a four-figure sum.

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Catholics insist church should not be synonymous with accused priests

ST. LOUIS (MO)
KSDK TV

July 27, 2019

By Jasmine Payoute

It’s a list that has shaken many St. Louisans of faith, or otherwise: a list of 64 priests publicly named for substantiated accusations of abusing children or possessing child pornography.

Some Catholics insist their church should not be synonymous with its sins.

“My faith is God, my faith is this parish, my faith is this body of people that are all striving for the same things,” said Donna Frayne.

But a newly published list by the archdioceses of St. Louis has some Catholics in a crisis of faith. It names 64 former priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a child or possession of child pornography.

“It’s terrible, it’s hurt our parishes so bad, it’s such a shame because we have so much to offer,” Frayne said. “But then when you have it tainted like that you have to face up to it.”

Frayne is an attorney and a loyal parishioner at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Florissant.

“The people that did these things, they’re not representative of us and they have their own problems obviously,” she said.

Some of the abuse allegations against the priests on the list go back 70 years.

Three are accused of possessing child pornography and 61 accused of abuse.

Three of the priests on the list had ties to Frayne’s church.

“Zero percent surprised by it,” Karen Condon said. “Wasn’t surprised one bit by it, glad it came out though.”

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Priests accused of sex abuse turned to under-the-radar group

DRYDEN (MI)
Associated Press

July 29, 2019

By Martha Mendoza, Juliet Linderman and Garance Burke

The visiting priests arrived discreetly, day and night.

Stripped of their collars and cassocks, they went unnoticed in this tiny Midwestern town as they were escorted into a dingy warehouse across from an elementary school playground. Neighbors had no idea some of the dressed-down clergymen dining at local restaurants might have been accused sexual predators.

They had been brought to town by a small, nonprofit group called Opus Bono Sacerdotii. For nearly two decades, the group has operated out of a series of unmarked buildings in rural Michigan, providing money, shelter, transport, legal help and other support to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse across the country.

Again and again, Opus Bono has served as a rapid-response team for the accused.

When a serial pedophile was sent to jail for abusing dozens of minors, Opus Bono was there for him, with regular visits and commissary cash.

When a priest admitted sexually assaulting boys under 14, Opus Bono raised funds for his defense.

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Catholic charities tested by abuse scandals, border crisis

BUFFALO (NY)
Associated Press

July 29, 2019

By David Crary

For U.S. charities affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, the past year has tested the resilience of their fundraisers and the loyalty of their donors in unprecedented fashion. Even as many donors reacted in dismay to the church’s extensive sex-abuse scandals, the charities faced new challenges trying to address the immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

For the agencies with the most donors, Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services , it’s too early to gauge the overall financial impact of sex-abuse developments last year. Those included abuse allegations that led to former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s ouster from the priesthood and a Pennsylvania grand jury report asserting that about 300 Roman Catholic priests had abused children at six of the state’s dioceses over seven decades.

However, several local Catholic Charities affiliates report a drop in donations linked at least in part to the scandals.

In Pittsburgh, the largest diocese targeted by the Pennsylvania grand jury, local Catholic Charities executive director Susan Rauscher said donations were down this year, though she had no figures yet. The Rev. Nicholas Vaskov, a spokesman for the diocese, estimated that giving directly to the diocese had declined about 10% — due to churchgoers’ unhappiness with a reorganization of parishes as well as dismay over sex abuse. Staff cuts have resulted.

Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, like some bishops elsewhere, has told donors that none of their gifts would be diverted to a new compensation fund for abuse victims; he said the fund would be financed largely through sale of properties.

In western New York’s diocese of Buffalo, many angry parishioners have withheld donations as Bishop Richard J. Malone faced criticism for allowing priests accused of inappropriate conduct to remain in ministry.

Leaders of Buffalo’s Catholic Charities affiliate worried about impact on their programs serving more than 150,000 people. So they offered a deal: Unlike past years, when gifts to its annual appeal were split between the charity and the diocese, donors this year could choose to direct their entire donation to the charity. More than 50% of donors picked that option.

“People are confused. … They’re upset with the Catholic church,” said Dennis Walczyk, president of Catholic Charities of Buffalo. “But don’t take it out on the people that really need help.”

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Book offers hope amid church abuse scandal

BRIARCREST (TX)
The Eagle

July 27, 2019

By Shawn Manning Chapman

In the current wave of the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, it has been hard to know what to do. I have taken it on faith that the church eventually would survive this crisis and make the necessary changes to protect children and adults from abuse, because I believe the church is true.

However, I have also shared in the agonized cry of so many devout Catholics who have chosen to stay with the church in the midst of this crisis, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” as the abysmal response of church leaders has left me feeling helpless and angry. I had begun to think I never would see a meaningful response in my lifetime to this dire situation.

Abuse of Trust; Healing the Church gave me real hope for the first time that there is a way, and all of us can be a part of it right now.

I am confident that reading it will help Catholics understand the experience of sexual abuse and its effects better and to see how each of us can be a part of healing the wounded and helping the church take a righteous and effective path to being a refuge for the broken, making amends, protecting the vulnerable, educating families and reclaiming the spiritual fatherhood of our leaders.

The arrangement of the book helps to draw the reader into the experience of survivors, their spouses, their parents, by letting them tell their stories — “sacred stories” as they are called in the book.

These stories contain no lurid details but are very honest. Their authors don’t varnish the truth of what happened and what people suffer from clergy sexual abuse and the resulting trauma. It interested me to see how each of them found a path to healing. I enjoyed hearing about the way their Catholic faith actually helped them find restoration and new life, helped the rise and help others.

“We all love the Church and desire to heal her of this great wound. We desire to help our fellow Catholics (the secondary victims) to receive healing and to help our priests and Bishops to better understand how to seek out and offer healing to all victims of sexual abuse; especially those harmed by a leader of the Church.”

Allen Hebert is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse and an active, faithful and devout Catholic. He speaks our language and can explain this to us from the inside. This is a good Catholic book from a good Catholic man.

I appreciated the sections of the book written by experts to help us understand abuse and trauma as well as a way not only realize the problem and recognize abuse and potential abuse, but how to respond to it.

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Sister of Kansas priest ran over his computer in attempt to hide child porn

SALINA (KS)
Salina Post

July 26, 2019

A Kansas priest pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to possessing child pornography, according to U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister.

In his plea, Christopher Rossman, 46, who formerly served at the Annunciation Catholic Church in Baldwin City, Kan., admitted that investigators found child pornography on his Samsung Galaxy tablet. The crime occurred in September 2016 when monitoring software installed on Rossman’s computer devices reported he had visited adult pornography and child pornography websites. The archdiocese forwarded the report to law enforcement.

When investigators tried to find Rossman in Baldwin City, they learned that his sister had taken possession of the Galaxy tablet and tried to run over it a number of times. A forensics examination found files on the device depicting prepubescent females engaged in sexual activities.

Sentencing will scheduled at a later date. The crime carries a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

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Former LDS bishop Sam Young, other advocates announce first national march against child sex abuse will take place in Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY (UT)
Salt Lake Tribune

July 28, 2019

By Alison Berg ·

A coalition of advocates against child sex abuse in churches gathered Sunday to announce the nation’s “first march” — planned for this fall in Salt Lake City — dedicated to ending such abuse.

Sam Young — a former bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who was excommunicated after his push to end one-on-one interviews with lay leaders in which children sometimes are asked sexually explicit questions — joined forces with the Zero Abuse Project, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and Boise’s James, Vernon & Weeks law firm to announce the march and a series of mountain climbs to protest child sex abuse.

“Child abuse is the most prevalent health problem children face. Yet we’re not talking about it, not addressing it,” said Young, who founded Protect Every Child and planned the march. “I encourage everybody that is concerned about child sex abuse, anybody that wants to eliminate what’s happening to children, to come to the march.”

The march is set for Oct. 5, starting at Salt Lake City Hall and ending at the Utah Capitol.

Until Aug. 3, a news release stated, coalition members also will ascend Wasatch Front mountains to “emphasize the point that society should be shouting from the mountaintops the importance of protecting children from sexual predators in their religious communities.”

Young said the climbs are symbolic of the Latter-day Saint hymn “High on the Mountain Top,” which encourages members to stand proud in their faith.

“It’s very symbolic,” Young said in an interview. “This is the message: Protect our children from abuse. That is a message so important we want to shout it from the mountaintops.”

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Justice still to come for victims of Crookston Diocese abuse after settlement

BISMARK (ND)
Forum News Service

July 27, 2019

By Tess Williams

The Diocese of Crookston reached a $5 million settlement this month with victims of clergy sexual abuse, but one victim said the real victory is still to come.

“I was never concerned about monetary gain in this lawsuit. My pursuit was for truth. I wanted the people to find out how many priests the public did not have information on who were credibly accused,” said Ronald Vasek, who filed a lawsuit against the diocese and Bishop Michael Hoeppner in 2017. “And that list is going to greatly increase now, through the efforts of these lawsuits.”

Attorney Elin Lindstrom, who represents victims as part of the Jeff Anderson and Associates team, said the settlement will include publicly releasing depositions and private documents from the diocese that likely will reveal more allegations.

“I think this is a really important step for these survivors to just get some accountability and acknowledgement for what happened,” she said. “These non-economic settlement parameters were something they were striving for and I think it’s a good day for us and a good day for some more transparency in the diocese.”

Most of the lawsuits were filed in response to the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which opened a three-year period for victims to bring forward civil suits that otherwise would be barred by the statute of limitations in regard to child sexual abuse.

Vasek, whose lawsuit was part of the recent settlement, said he was abused as a boy by Monsignor Roger Grundhaus. Vasek said Hoeppner told him to keep the abuse secret and covered up the truth.

The lawsuits allege sexual abuse at the hands of Father James Bernauer, Father James Porter, Father Patrick Sullivan, Father Stanley Bourassa, Father James Vincent Fitzgerald and Grundhaus. All served in Crookston. The abuse reportedly spanned from 1969 until 2009.

Sullivan was placed on leave and then reinstated after allegations came to light. He has since been suspended in light of new accusations of “boundary issues,” according to the diocese. All five other accused priests are dead.

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Child Abuse Victims Want To Know What NY AG Has Found In Catholic Church Files

NEW YORK (NY)
WCBS 880 Radio

July 27, 2019

An ongoing New York investigation that some think could hold a “bombshell” about abuse in the Catholic Church remains secret ­— and victims want to know what’s in it.

Last year, Pennsylvania’s attorney general released a report of “secret files” from the Catholic Church. The report showed how the archdiocese handled complaints, who witnessed the abuse and whether accused clergy members were simply removed or transferred.

The Pennsylvania attorney general found a thousand cases of abuse in that state.

The New York Attorney General’s Office announced it would do a similar investigation. That was almost a year ago, and now advocates for abuse victims in New York have written a letter requesting to see what they’ve discovered in the child abuse files from the church.

“We think that New Yorkers deserve the same transparency and openness that citizens in the state of Pennsylvania received from the attorney general report there. And our letter is an attempt to encourage Attorney General Letitia James to do the same thing,” said attorney James Marsh, whose firm is representing hundreds of people who say they were abused by priests.

AG James hasn’t commented on the letter. She didn’t start the investigation, her predecessor Barbara Underwood did.

“I think the issue with the Catholic Church is they started down this path of transparency. This is just one more aspect of giving a full accountability of the wrongs of the past so that they can move forward with a new day and a better outcome for children in the future,” Marsh said.

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Watchdog Team: Goodwill fires man on list of accused priests

PROVIDENCE (RI)
Providence Journal

July 27, 2019

A man whose name appeared on the Diocese of Providence’s list of priests “credibly accused” of child sexual abuse was fired this month from his job at Goodwill, his friends and family said.

Kevin R. Fisette, 64, was director of donated goods and volunteer coordinator for the nonprofit organization, according to Richard Borer, president of Goodwill of Southern New England.

Borer declined to discuss the circumstances of Fisette’s departure, which was effective July 16. Borer also would not confirm Fisette’s own account, posted on his Facebook page, that the organization had fired him because his name was on the diocese’s list.

Fisette’s friends and family have rallied to support him. His sister, in a letter to The Providence Journal before he lost his job at Goodwill, said that in 2017, “it was concluded that my brother did not commit the allegation made against him.” Margaret Fisette Wharton did not cite who had cleared him, or in what way.

“Don’t priests deserve basic justice, too?” she wrote.

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Some clergy sex abuse survivors choosing to decline compensation from Diocese of Harrisburg

HARRISBURG (PA)
Fox 43 News

July 26, 2019

By Jossie Carbonare

The deadline to accept or decline offers from the Diocese of Harrisburg’s Survivor Compensation Program has arrived.

The program was set up in February as an attempt to make financial amends to victims after a Grand Jury report on child sex abuse within six Catholic Dioceses in Pennsylvania.

However, for one of those survivors, who anonymously told FOX43 his story of abuse by a former Diocese of Harrisburg priest, the settlement money simply isn’t enough.

He says “The payoff amount might be enough for some who were victims of the systematic abuse and cover-up by the church leaders and their subordinates, but for me it was a veiled attempt to rid themselves of any future liability or accountability.”

“They have the right to deny it and there is no one forcing them to participate in the program,” said Mike Barley, spokesperson for Diocese of Harrisburg.

Barley says while he believes the program is successful, he understands it’s not going to solve everything.

“Money is not going to erase what was done to them or the issues that have been created and quite frankly their lack of trust with the church but its a step, it’s trying to help them with their lives moving forward.” he added.

Some survivors refused the offer, while others say they feel they need to accept it to feel some sense of closure.

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Carlson: Release of abuse allegations ‘painful,’ but ‘right thing to do’

WASHINGTON (DC)
Religion News Service

July 27, 2019

By Julie Asher

As the Archdiocese of St. Louis released a list of names of archdiocesan clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor July 26, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson acknowledged that seeing the names “will be painful” and publishing them “will not change the past.”

“Nothing will” change the past “but publishing their names is the right thing to do,” he said in a message to the faithful of the archdiocese, and it fulfills a promise he made last September to do so.

“It will be painful for all of us to see the names of clergy accused of behavior we can barely allow ourselves to imagine,” Carlson said.

“For years, victims have carried the burden of the crimes committed against them. In talking with many of them, I have witnessed the devastating impact on their lives and the lives of their loved ones,” he said, adding that the release of these names “is an important step in the long process of healing. And we are committed to that healing.”

The list is available online at www.archstl.org/list, along with the text of the archbishop’s message and a video message. The list itself is divided into four categories:

As the Archdiocese of St. Louis released a list of names of archdiocesan clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor July 26, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson acknowledged that seeing the names “will be painful” and publishing them “will not change the past.”

“Nothing will” change the past “but publishing their names is the right thing to do,” he said in a message to the faithful of the archdiocese, and it fulfills a promise he made last September to do so.

“It will be painful for all of us to see the names of clergy accused of behavior we can barely allow ourselves to imagine,” Carlson said.

“For years, victims have carried the burden of the crimes committed against them. In talking with many of them, I have witnessed the devastating impact on their lives and the lives of their loved ones,” he said, adding that the release of these names “is an important step in the long process of healing. And we are committed to that healing.”

The list is available online at www.archstl.org/list, along with the text of the archbishop’s message and a video message. The list itself is divided into four categories.

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RI AG Gains Access To 7 Decades Of Clergy Sexual Abuse Records

PROVIDENCE (RI)
Patch

July 24, 2019

By Rachel Nunes

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office is investigating nearly seven decades of sexual abuse to children by Roman Catholic priests in the diocese of Providence. On Tuesday, the two offices signed a memorandum of understanding, giving Neronha’s office and Rhode Island State Police access to records of allegations dating back to 1950.

Together with State Police, Neronah will review the records to determine if any cases can be prosecuted and to ensure no credibly accused priests are still actively serving. The two agencies will then provide the diocese feedback on ways to improve reporting procedures and policies in the future, as well as to determine how to diocese responded to past allegations of child sexual abuse.

“While this voluntary, additional disclosure by the Diocese is an important step forward in our review, much additional work remains, Neronha said. “We will not hesitate to take any additional steps that may prove necessary to fully determine the scope of misconduct here and take appropriate action. It is my intention to be as transparent as possible regarding our findings, within the limits of current Rhode Island law. I am grateful to Colonel Manni for his commitment to partnering with the Office to undertake and complete this review.”

Neronha’s investigation has been ongoing since 2016, when a letter of understanding between the two offices provided access to past records. Tuesday’s memorandum provided Neronha further access to all reocrds of sexual abuse allegations since Jan. 1, 1950. The diocese will provide the records on a rolling basis.

The records include a recently released list of 50 credibly accused clergy, published by the diocese July 1.

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Clergy Abused an Entire Generation in This Village

ST. MICHAEL (AK)
Anchorage Daily News/ProPublica

July 26, 2019

The two brothers sat a few houses apart, each tending to his own anger. Justice is slow in Alaska villages, they have learned. Sometimes it never arrives.

Chuck Lockwood, 69, grew up in this Yup’ik Eskimo village of 400 along the Norton Sound coast but left as a child for boarding school. His rage is fresh.

Two years ago this month, the body of his 19-year-old granddaughter, Chynelle “Pretty” Lockwood, was found on a local beach. Alaska State Troopers have refused to say how she died, citing an open investigation. It appeared she had been dumped there, said Chuck, who believes it was a homicide. “Brutally murdered. Beaten up.”

Near Chuck’s family home, his younger brother Lawrence Lockwood Jr. watches crime dramas alone in his living room. His rage is long simmering. Lawrence grew up here too, but unlike his brother he didn’t go away for school.

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How a U.S. child sex abuse report hit close to home in York Region

YORK (PA)
YorkRegion.com

July 25, 2019

By Lisa Queen

It’s about trust. Our relationship with our readers is built on transparency, honesty and integrity. As such, we have launched a trust initiative to tell you who we are and how and why we do what we do. This column is part of that project.

Even amid child sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church globally, revelations in last summer’s Pennsylvania grand jury report commanded attention.

“We, the members of this grand jury, need you to hear this,” the report began.

“We know some of you have heard some of it before. There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.”

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.

Bakersfield Police Department closing clergy sex abuse case against Monsignor Craig Harrison

BAKERSFIELD (CA)
KBAK/KBFX Eyewitness News

July 25, 2019

The Bakersfield Police Department is closing the 1990’s sexual battery case against Monsignor Craig Harrison.

Police said after a thorough investigation, they were unable to “identified any allegations of criminal behavior with corroborative evidence.”

They said the case does not meet the standards for a recommendation for filing of criminal charges and they will not be forwarding it to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office.

The Fresno diocese is still investigating claims made against Monsignor Harrison and there are still cases open in Firebaugh and Merced.

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What new Catholic bishop means for West Virginia Attorney General’s lawsuit

PARKERSBURG (WV)
WTAP TV

July 25, 2019

By Phyllis Smith

Now that a new bishop is named in West Virginia, WTAP talks to West Virginia’s Attorney General about what this means for the lawsuit he’s filed against the church

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says he would like to talk with Mark Brennan and will be reaching out to his attorney. Reverend Brennan took over this week for former bishop Michael Bransfield.

Attorney General Morrisey says he hopes he will be more transparent than his predecessor. He wants him to comply with the subpoena and release the Bransfield report.

He says this is a Consumer Protection case because the church advertised its schools and camps as safe places for children. Morrisey’s suit alleges the church knowingly hired pedophiles.

“This is not a pleasant case. I’m a practicing Catholic and so, it’s not been fun, to be involved in it, but I believe I have a duty under the law and I recognize, imagine if we don’t do this. Well, the list of 40 credibly accused priests may never see the light of day,” said Morrisey.

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Pennsylvania man sues Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades

FORT WAYNE (IN)
WNDU TV

July 26, 2019

A man is suing Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, claiming Rhoades concealed knowledge of pedophile priests.

WPTA in Fort Wayne reports 67-year-old Donald Asbee addressed reporters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and claimed priests sexually abused him for many years.

As a child living in Milton, Pennsylvania, Asbee served as an altar boy at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Asbee said two priests repeatedly raped and assaulted him.

The two bishops named in the lawsuit did not lead the Diocese in Harrisburg when Asbee said the abuse took place.

Asbee said the two bishops, including Bishop Kevin Rhoades, knew about the alleged abuse.

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend released the following statement:
“Bishop Rhoades was saddened to learn of the horrific acts of child sexual abuse that Mr. Asbee alleges occurred within the Diocese of Harrisburg. Bishop Rhoades was himself less than 10 years old when these incidents purportedly occurred. He is confident the litigation process will show that he did nothing wrong. In all instances where he was aware of a credibly accused priest, Bishop Rhoades has promptly notified authorities and removed the individual from public ministry. He stands by his record as a Bishop – both in Pennsylvania and Indiana – of protecting victims of child sexual abuse.”

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Abuse accuser wants Steubenville university to be accountable

KANSAS CITY (MO)
National Catholic Reporter

July 26, 2019

By Jenn Morson

An alumna of Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio has written an open letter saying she was sexually abused while a student there and that the school administration ignored her complaints.

Visit National Catholic Reporter’s Online Classifieds to learn about job opportunities, events, retreats and more.

In a letter published July 8 on Patheos, an online site, Karen, who chooses to not share her last name, states that she was sexually abused by a friar while attending Franciscan University from 1987 until she graduated in 1991. Karen’s story was told in an NCR piece last October. She wrote the open letter, she told NCR, because “it was important for me to use my voice, and to share that my story is not over.”

In her letter, Karen wrote that she was abused by Franciscan Fr. Sam Tiesi, who died in 2001.

“Fr. Sam taught me to trust, then he abused that trust for his own sinfulness. He used God and my innocent faith to keep his secret safe. He said he loved me like a daughter. But he was not a father. He was a monster,” she wrote.

She said that Tiesi groped her breasts and assaulted her with unwanted kissing. She said that she confided in another university Franciscan, Fr. Ron Mohnickey, who, she wrote, blamed her for the sexual contact.

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Augie Boto, SBC leader who opposed abuse database, set to retire

NASHVILLE (TN)
Baptist News Global

July 25, 2019

By Bob Allen

A denominational worker who functioned as the Southern Baptist Convention’s point man in the ouster of churches for affirming homosexuality and the denomination’s response to sexual abuse is retiring at the end of September.

August “Augie” Boto, 68, announced July 18 he is stepping down as executive vice president and general counsel of the SBC Executive Committee, according to Baptist Press.

While an attorney in Dallas in the early 1980s, Boto helped Paige Patterson organize laymen in the “conservative resurgence” movement to promote biblical inerrancy in the SBC. He was involved in the 1980 launch of the Southern Baptist Advocate, a fundamentalist propaganda tool.

Boto joined the Executive Committee as a member in 1995 and was hired in 1998 as vice president for convention policy and staff counsel under President and CEO Morris Chapman, a former pastor and past SBC president who led the organization from 1992 until his retirement in 2010.

Boto picked up the additional title of general counsel in 2004 and recently served 13 months as interim president after Frank Page stepped down due to sexual misconduct in 2018.

As staff liaison to the Executive Committee’s bylaws work group, Boto mediated the 2009 ouster of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, from the SBC, saying the congregation’s views on homosexuality were too ambiguous to ensure its “friendly cooperation” with the national body.

In 2014 the Executive Committee took similar action against New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, California, ousting the church for failure to fire its pastor after he said from the pulpit he no longer believed that all same-sex relationships are sinful.

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Buffalo bishop returned priest accused of abuse to ministry after ‘thorough’ investigation

NEW YORK (NY)
ABC News

July 26, 2019

By David Wright, Pete Madden, Cho Park, and Shannon K. Crawford

Others call it ‘a sham’

[With video.]

Bishop Richard Malone says his congregation’s darkest days are in the past.

The embattled spiritual leader has faced calls for his resignation over his handling of sexual abuse allegations against clergy members in the Diocese of Buffalo, where a public reckoning that started as a local scandal became a national headline.

A whistleblower, Malone’s own former secretary Siobhan O’Connor, leaked internal church documents to Charlie Specht, an investigative reporter for ABC’s Buffalo affiliate WKBW, sparking months of stories about whether there had been efforts to conceal the extent of the problem from the public.

Malone admits that he has made some mistakes, but stresses that he “inherited a decades old horrific problem,” one that extends far beyond the limits of his city, and is now “trying to be part of moving us beyond it” by, among other things, purging pedophiles from their midst.

The Diocese of Buffalo’s list of credibly accused priests has grown from 42 to 132 in a little more than a year, and Malone expects that more names will be added before their work is done.

“This is something that we continue to evaluate over and over again,” Malone told ABC News in a wide-ranging interview, his first on national television, airing Thursday on “Nightline.” “We’re not finished with the list at this point.”

But for anyone who doubts his progress, Malone offers a guarantee.

“There’s no priest with a substantiated, what you called credible, allegation of abuse of a minor in ministry in this diocese,” Malone said. “I can testify to that honestly and 100 percent.”

In the case of Fr. Dennis Riter, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in the Buffalo suburb of Dunkirk, however, Malone decided to allow a priest who had faced multiple allegations of sexual abuse of children to return to ministry, where he remains to this day. He did so, he said, after a lawyer hired by the church investigated the matter and submitted a report, a copy of which has been obtained by ABC News, concluding that the allegations against Fr. Riter had “no merit.”

But multiple people familiar with that investigation expressed serious concerns with the findings of what they view as a deeply flawed report, raising questions about the process by which the Diocese of Buffalo evaluates allegations against its clergy members.

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Thomas McDaniels: Celibacy is not the reason some Catholic priests are sexually abusing kids

WASHINGTON (DC)
Fox News

July 25, 2019

By Thomas McDaniels

With the numerous sex scandals within the Catholic Church, some are appealing for the church to take a more in-depth review and reconsider the qualification of celibacy and the priesthood.

This clearly validates the question: Is the epidemic of sexual failure in the Catholic church due to men being unable to marry?

The question is legitimate; however, Evangelicals and other denominations are likewise experiencing sexual failures among pastors and ministers that are married. “Focus On the Family” reported that 21 percent of Evangelical/Protestant pastors have also had improper sexual contact with members of their congregations. “Focus on the Family” also reported that 60 percent of married Evangelical pastors have an issue with some form of pornography.

This dilemma is not new and is undeniably not unique to the Catholic faith.

Over 100 years ago, the Catholic Encyclopedia published; “We do not abolish Christian marriage because so large a proportion of mankind are not faithful to the restraints which it imposes on human concupiscence. No one believes that civilized nations would be cleaner or purer if polygamy were substituted for monogamy.” Neither is there any reason to suppose that the scandals would be fewer and the clergy more respected if Catholic priests were permitted to marry.”

Some think if priests were married it would solve sexual abuse and moral decline within the church.

Years of data has proven that celibacy is not the problem, nor should anyone conclude that celibacy is a contributor to sexual abuse.

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Chicago Archdiocese pledged $150 million for a scholarship trust. Six years later, it holds less than a third of the money.

CHICAGO (IL)
Chicago Tribune

July 25, 2019

By David Heinzmann

As Cardinal Francis George faced a growing financial crisis in 2013, he asked Chicago Catholics for hundreds of millions of dollars for parishes and education, with $150 million set aside for a scholarship trust to save struggling schools.

In its pitch to the faithful, the Archdiocese of Chicago said schools and parishes were “challenged on many fronts — shifting demographics, a struggling economy, rising costs, a secularized society and aging facilities, to name a few.”

Catholics heeded the call ― the “To Teach Who Christ Is” campaign became the largest in the church’s history. Church leadership set a goal of $350 million, and when the pledges were added up, surpassed it by $77 million.

“The main purpose of the capital campaign was to raise money for scholarships to help parishes and schools to make them stable over the long term,” said Betsy Bohlen, the archdiocese’s chief operating officer.

Six years later, however, stability has proven elusive for one of the nation’s largest archdioceses, where dozens of schools have been shuttered and parishes merged since the fundraising drive began.

The financial pressures are myriad: the tab for priest misconduct settlements remains mammoth and the cost of retired priest pensions is rising, even as school enrollments shrink and Sunday collection plates remain flat.

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Latest statistics show German Church faces massive exodus

LONDON (ENGLAND)
The Tablet

July 25, 2019

By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

The German Church is witnessing a massive exodus as a result of clerical sexual abuse.

According to the latest official statistics published by the German bishops’ conference on 19 July, 216,078 Catholics left the Church in 2018. That is 29 per cent more than in 2017 when 167,504 left and amounts to 0.9 per cent of all Catholics in Germany. There are now fewer than 23 million Catholics in Germany, down from 23,310,000 in 2017.

It is the second largest exodus since the Limburg scandal of 2013, caused by the so-called “bishop of bling”, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, who spent vast sums of Church money on a luxurious renewal of his residence.

The statistics were “alarming”, the secretary of the bishops’ conference, Fr Hans Langendörfer SJ, said, presenting the report in Bonn. “We understand when, due to alienation processes or to a massive loss of trust, [our] credibility has been gambled away.” There was no whitewashing these figures, Bishop Felix Genn (pictured) of Münster said. “People vote with their feet on whether they consider us credible or trustworthy. There is no doubt that the publication of the [Church’s] 2018 study of clerical sexual abuse, which showed that at least 4.4 per cent of German priests had been guilty of abusing minors between 1946 and 2014, was the trigger for many Catholics to leave the Church.”

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Ruth Krall, Historical Meandering: Ideologies of Abuse and Exclusion

LITTLE ROCK (AR)
Bilgrimage blog

July 24, 2019

The essay by Ruth Krall that follows below is the fifth in a series of essays entitled “Recapitulation: Affinity Sexual Violence in a Religious Voice.” The first essay in this series appeared in two installments, here and here. The second appeared in another two installments, here and here. The third essay is here, and the fourth essay, in two installments, is here and here. In this multi-part series of essays, in which Ruth generously offers us the fruits of her years of research about these matters, Ruth hypothesizes the endemic natural of religious and spiritual leader sexual abuse of followers. The current essay continues this theme by arguing that clergy sexual abuse is a global public health issue whose noxious presence can be found inside multiple language groups and national identities. In this essay, which is rich and lengthy and which I’ll offer to you in several installments, Ruth continues her investigation of these claims with an historical sounding. Ruth’s essay follows (first installment).

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Ex-Columbia priest to be sentenced

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

July 25, 2019

He’ll go back behind bars for the 2nd time
Victims seek support of Catholic parishioners
SNAP: “Write the judge, urge long prison term”
Group also ‘outs’ another abusive mid-MO cleric
“Come clean bishop! Tell us where predators were,” victims plead

WHAT
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, two clergy sex abuse victims will
–reveal that three more credibly accused predator priests spent time in Columbia.
–urge mid-Missouri Catholics to write a judge and seek the stiffest penalty for a twice-admitted serial predator priest who worked in Columbia and soon faces sentencing.

They will also prod Jeff City’s bishop to
–add another name of a priest – who worked in Rolla – to his ‘accused’ list, and
–also write to the judge about the soon-to-be-sentenced predator priest.

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Man sues Arizona diocese, alleging negligent handling of 1970s sex abuse by priest

NEW YORK (NY)
Episcopal News Service

July 25, 2019

By Egan Millard

A man who says he was sexually abused by a priest in the early 1970s is suing the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona and the Tucson parish where the abuse allegedly occurred, claiming his reports of repeated molestation were ignored at the time. It may be the first lawsuit to take advantage of a new Arizona law that extends the statute of limitations for cases of child sexual abuse. The diocese, though not disputing that the abuse took place, denies his accusations of a cover-up and says the matter was handled appropriately at the time.

According to the lawsuit, Charles Taylor was sexually abused for several years around age 12 by the Rev. Richard Babcock, a priest at Grace Church (now Grace St. Paul’s Church), in the church and in Babcock’s home. Taylor says he told the rector about the abuse at the time, but the rector failed to stop it, and Babcock continued to abuse him and other children. The lawsuit, filed on July 12, also claims that the diocese knew that Babcock was abusing children and covered it up by “reassigning him to other churches.” The complaint consists of two counts each – negligence and breach of fiduciary duty – against the diocese and Grace St. Paul’s. Babcock, now deceased, admitted to having abused children in a sworn affidavit before his death, according to the law firm representing Taylor.

Taylor had tried to sue Grace St. Paul’s and the diocese in 1991 but was unable to do so because the statute of limitations had expired, his law firm says. But in May, a new state law went into effect, allowing victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits up until their 30th birthday. It also allows anyone to file a suit until Dec. 31, 2020, no matter how long ago the alleged abuse occurred.

The Episcopal Church has extended its own internal statute of limitations for reporting clergy sexual misconduct against an adult in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Resolution D034, passed at the 2018 General Convention, suspends the time limit for reporting those cases, effective from Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2021. The church has no time limit for reporting a case of sexual abuse against a person under age 21.

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ABC ‘Nightline’ program dealing with Buffalo Diocese tentatively scheduled

BUFFALO (NY)
Buffalo News

July 24, 2019

By Alan Pergamont

The ABC “Nightline” program that will feature the award-winning coverage by Channel 7 investigative reporter Charlie Specht on the sexual abuse allegations in the Buffalo Diocese finally has a tentative air date.

WKBW-TV General Manager Michael Nurse said he was told by ABC this week that barring a last-minute change it is scheduled to be carried on Channel 7 at 12:30 a.m. Friday, following ABC’s late-night Thursday programming.

Specht’s work with photojournalist Jeff Wick will be highlighted as the national TV program takes a deep dive into the church scandal here.

In a previous phone interview, Specht said he called a “Nightline” staffer to suggest the program look into the controversy in the Catholic Church in Western New York and expected that to be the focus. But after the program did some interviews, including one with Bishop Richard J. Malone, it decided to also highlight the personal story of Specht, a Catholic who has a younger brother, Mike, studying to become a priest.

“I went from pointing them in the right direction with my reports to now becoming one of the subjects,” Specht, a former Buffalo News reporter, said. “They changed the focus. They were genuinely interested in the controversy in Buffalo.”

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Sex abuse claims against archdiocese, clergy now under review

TAOS (NM)
Taos News

July 25, 2019

When the June 17 deadline to file sexual abuse claims against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe passed, 340 people had submitted paperwork to be part of the bankruptcy settlement.

Now, the bankruptcy process is moving along and the claims are being reviewed.

The participants in the bankruptcy proceedings are “close” to identifying a mediator for settlement discussions, according to Jim Stang, a lawyer representing the creditors’ committee, a group of eight survivors or the parents of survivors.

A corporate arm of the archdiocese, which manages some of its endowment, should also be responding to requests for disclosure of documents, he said.

After decades of sexual abuse lawsuits and millions of dollars in payouts to survivors of alleged clergy abuse, the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in December in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for New Mexico. The archdiocese has about $49 million in assets, according to the court documents.

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Diocese of Rochester could face at least 75 new lawsuits over child abuse

ROCHESTER (NY)
WHEC TV

July 25, 2019

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester could face dozens of lawsuits next month due to a change in state law.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian told Ithaca.com dozens of victims claiming abuse by clergy members in the Diocese of Rochester have come to him over the last several months to inquire about filing lawsuits.

Of the 75 victims Garabedian represents, he says 70 are men and five are women, and their claims stem from alleged abuse that took place between the 1950s to 1993.

New York’s Child Victims Act allows victims who were sexually assaulted as minors to bring civil actions against their alleged perpetrators at any time before the victim turns 55 years old.

The one-year window to file claims alleging sex abuse under the new state law starts Aug. 14.

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Catholic fund begins offering cash to settle N.J. priest abuse claims

NEWARK (NJ)
Star Ledger

July 25, 2019

By Kelly Heyboer

A new compensation fund backed by New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses is paying its first financial settlements to people who say they were sexually abused by priests and other clergy members.

The fund — called the New Jersey Independent Victim Compensation Program — was unveiled earlier this year by the state’s Catholic dioceses as a way for victims to settle their cases with the church privately, without going to court.

The fund began accepting its first round of applicants June 15 and has already considered several cases and made settlement offers, said Camille Biros, co-administrator of the program.

“The program is up and running and going well with 44 claims received as of today,” Biros said Tuesday. “Three claim determinations have been made and three settlement offers have been sent to claimants.”

The cash settlements will be paid by the Archdiocese of Newark and the state’s other dioceses — Camden, Paterson, Metuchen and Trenton.

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Movement to Restore Trust releases new report on handling of clergy sex abuse cases

BUFFALO (NY)
WIVB TV

July 25, 2019

By Evan Anstey

A group of Catholics, whose mission is to address the handling of clergy sex abuse cases, has released a 68-page report.

The Movement to Restore Trust says the document seeks “increased support and compassion as well as justice for survivors of sexual abuse and recommends the implementation of meaningful reforms, with a goal of restoring the faithful’s trust and confidence in the Church and its leadership.”

In summary, the group addressed the following points:
Transparency around the nature and scale of the abuse in the diocese and financial and spiritual reparations for victims/survivors
Transparency about all diocesan operations
Accountability for bishops
Selecting and monitoring bishops
Greater involvement by women and laity in the Church
Improvements in the formation of priests & priestly life

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A Man Confessed to Trading Illicit Images of Kids; Mormon Leaders Said Nothing

Patheos blog

July 24, 2019

By Hemant Mehta

When Benjamin Alyk was in his early teens, he came across a website that trafficked in illicit photos of children. People on that website uploaded and traded pictures that were criminal in nature. When the website’s security ramped up, Alyk discovered he could only get access to pictures if he shared some of his own… so he secretly recorded two kids, ages 4 and 6, as they used the bathroom in his home. Later on, he used a remote camera to record kids at his mother’s in-home daycare changing in and out of their swimsuits.

Alyk says he stopped looking at (and trading) child pornography when he was 17. When he was 18, he embarked on a two-year Mormon mission trip in the Dominican Republic and, perhaps full of guilt, confessed everything to the man overseeing the mission.

Alyk was sent back home to Utah, where he confessed once again to a Mormon disciplinary council consisting of local church leaders — likely 15 men that included the Stake President, two counselors, and “12 members of the local High Council.”

Despite all those confessions, nothing happened. He wasn’t punished. Law enforcement didn’t come after him. More importantly, he was free to be around children without any consequences.

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Survivor rallies to expose alleged priest abusers, Jefferson City Diocese responds

JEFFERSON CITY (MO)
KRCG TV

July 24, 2019

By Kyreon Lee

A member of the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and a member from Voices of the Faithful gathered outside of the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Columbia on Wednesday to rally.

Survivor and SNAP’s former long time executive director, David Clohessy, said he was abused by a Moberly priest in the 1960s, when he was 12 to 16 years old. Clohessy said he came forward when he was in his 30s because he couldn’t be silent anymore. He said they were rallying in response to a former Columbia priest that is set to be sentenced next month.

According to online court records, in May, ex-priest Fred Lenczycki pleaded guilty to two counts of sodomy. According to The Associated Press, Lenczycki pleaded guilty to crimes that occurred in the early 1990s when he was serving at a parish in north St. Louis County. Church and court files show that Lenczycki admitted abusing up to 30 boys in Illinois, Missouri and California over 25 years. Lenczycki was removed from the ministry in 2002, when he was charged with sexually abusing three boys in the 1980s at a church in Hinsdale, Illinois. The Illinois victims told authorities “Father Fred” repeatedly molested them, often using the pretense of swaddling them in “Baby Jesus” costumes for pageants that never took place. He pleaded guilty in 2004 and was sentenced to five years in prison. In 2008, a year before his release, he became the first U.S. priest to be labeled sexually violent when he was committed under Illinois’ Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act.

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Sick of hearing about scandals in the Church? You should be. (Part I)

BOSTON (MA)
CatholicCulture.org

July 24, 2019

By Phil Lawler

I quit.

For more than 25 years now, I have been reporting and writing about scandal within the Catholic Church. Yesterday, as I wearily wrote one more article about episcopal corruption, I realized how much the topic has come to nauseate me. I can’t do it anymore.

Since the 1990s I have been digging in the muck, uncovering more and more of what Pope Benedict XVI aptly termed the “filth” in the Church—the filth that obscures the image of Christ. It hasn’t been pleasant work. It isn’t the work I would have chosen. It isn’t edifying. The daily dealing with appalling ugliness—week after week, month after month—has taken a heavy toll: on my health, on my family, on my spiritual life. In warfare, good commanders know that even the toughest troops need a break after weeks in battle. And believe me, this is—always has been—a spiritual battle.

I’m not going to walk away from that battle. Far from it. I’ve devoted my life to the cause of reform in the Catholic Church, and I fully intend to continue speaking and writing on that topic. But I need to step back, to take a new approach, to fight this war on a different front. I can’t continue plowing through the documents, chasing down the leads, dredging up the facts. Fortunately, in the past few years many other reporters have joined the hunt for the truth. I’ll comment on the facts they unearth; I’ll provide my perspective. But in order to have a healthy perspective, I have to escape the miasma, to raise my sights.

How long have I been on the front lines? In November 1993, nearly a decade before the Boston Globe arrived on the scene, as editor of Catholic World Report I ran a cover story on the sex-abuse scandal. (Seven years later I published an even more provocative cover story: “The Gay Priest Problem.”) I was slapped with a libel suit (later summarily dismissed) for publishing a story that questioned the work of clinics that “treated” predator priests and cleared them for return to ministry.

In 2002 I broke the story that Pope John Paul II had summoned the leadership of the US bishops’ conference to Rome to discuss the scandal. I was the first person in Boston to call for the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, and when he finally did resign, I broke that story, too.

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Diocese of Lake Charles defends accuracy of credibly accused list

NEW ORLEANS (LA)
The Advocate

July 24, 2019

By Ben Myers

The Diocese of Lake Charles is defending the accuracy of its list of clergymen credibly accused of child sex abuse.

The Advocate reported last week that diocesan officials knew of allegations against two priests, Gerard Smit and Mark Broussard, years before the dates indicated on the list. During the intervening periods, the bishop at the time, the late Jude Speyrer, sent Smit and Broussard to a Catholic-run treatment center known for receiving accused priests and he subsequently helped them continue working as priests, records show.

The diocese said in a statement Tuesday, “we maintain that the list is both accurate and thorough,” without elaborating or disputing anything in the article.

Church officials said in an interview the list reflects the dates of the earliest written allegations on file. That standard was established by an independent review panel to ensure proper verification, they said. The panel, composed of “legal and judicial professionals,” according to the statement, investigated church records and compiled the list.

SNAP, a national advocacy organization for priest abuse victims, condemned the diocese’s rationale as “yet another loophole that church officials found and used to continue to hide the fact that they were aware of abuse allegations against Fr. Gerard Smit and Fr. Mark Broussard long before they were willing to admit.”

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Attacking the Abuse Crisis with Consumer Protection Laws

PARIS (FRANCE)
FSSPX News

July 24, 2019

The sex-abuse scandal, which continues to engulf the Catholic Church, has brought down the ire of secular authorities throughout the United States. In an attempt to hold Catholic dioceses accountable, one State has turned to its consumer protection laws. Will this help alleviate the problem?

The West Virginia Example
Earlier this year, in March 2019, West Virginia, by and through its Attorney General, brought a two-count complaint against the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and its former bishop, Michael J. Bransfield, alleging violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (WVCCPA). The Act, which is intentionally broad in scope, sanctions advertising services that are not delivered and failing to warn of dangerous services.

With respect to the local Catholic diocese, West Virginia claims that the diocese deceived Catholics (consumers) by advertising that its schools and other programs were safe despite having hired clergy who had credible accusations of sexual abuse in their past; failing to do background checks on lay hires; and knowingly employing priests and laity who had admitted to engaging in sexual abuse. This behavior, according to West Virginia, created an unsafe environment for minors which the diocese failed to warn people about.

The Complaint seeks a series of civil penalties against Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and Bishop Bransfield, including disgorgement. That means, should West Virginia prevail in court, that the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston could be forced to surrender any revenue it generated through its schools and similar programs. The Diocese may also be forced to pay restitution to anyone who used these services.

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Survivors seek more info on abusive priests

COLUMBIA (MO)
Daily Tribune

July 24, 2019

By Pat Pratt

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is calling for the addition of a previously unreported name to the Diocese of Jefferson City’s list of credibly accused priests, and the group is also asking the locations where those on the list served be made public.

Longtime SNAP leader and former national director David Clohessy spoke with reporters Wednesday outside Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Columbia and called on Bishop William Shawn McKnight to add previously unreported priest James Gummersbach, who worked in Rolla.

“Where do people go, they oftentimes go back to places where they lived and hang around with people who they once lived with,” Clohessy said. “It is conceivable that Father Gummersbach, even though he is originally from St. Louis, it is conceivable that once a year he comes back to Rolla and vacations or meets a devout Catholic family at the lake.”

Helen Osman, director of diocesan communications, wrote in an email response that the diocese will investigate SNAP’s claims Gummersbach served in Rolla, but there is no indication at this time he did.

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Many clergy abuse victims can’t sue their abusers. Will a new legal strategy change that?

HARRISBURG (PA)
Penn Capital Star

July 24, 2019

By Elizabeth Hardison

A Missouri man who says he was repeatedly raped by two Catholic priests in suburban Harrisburg sued his former diocese for fraud Tuesday, using a legal strategy that his attorneys hope could signal a sea change for clergy sex abuse victims across Pennsylvania.

Donald Asbee, 67 of Hartsburg, Mo., was repeatedly fondled and raped by priests Raymond Daugherty and Walter Sempko at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Milton, Pa., the suit filed in Dauphin County Court alleges. Asbee said the assaults occurred in the 1960s, when he was between the ages of nine and 13.

Both of the priests who allegedly raped Asbee are dead. But the suit filed Tuesday morning doesn’t sue anyone for sexual abuse.

Instead, it seeks unspecified monetary damages from the Diocese of Harrisburg and its former and current bishops, Kevin Rhoades and Ronald Gainer, who Asbee’s lawyers say committed conspiracy, fraud, and constructive fraud by failing to remove predatory priests from the parish and by allowing priests to exploit the trust of children and families.

A grand jury report released in 2018 uncovered decades of child sexual abuse by 301 “predator priests” and a widespread coverup in six Catholic dioceses across Pennsylvania. Since then, state lawmakers have split on whether or not victims should be able to sue priests and dioceses for decades-old abuse.

Pennsylvania’s statute of limitation laws currently give survivors of child sexual abuse until the age of 30 to sue their abusers.

A bill currently stalled in the state Senate would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse and expand the civil window until a victim turns 55. Another would create a two-year retroactive window in which victims could file civil suits against their abusers, no matter when the abuse took place.

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Mexico conference aims to help Latin America fight abuse in the Church

ROME (ITALY)
Crux

July 24, 2019

By Inés San Martín

Pope Francis wants an “apostleship of prevention” when it comes to abuse, he said in a new video.

“Any person, a lay man or woman, a religious man or woman, a priest, a bishop, who prevents children from reaching Jesus must be stopped while we’re still in time, or punished if they’ve committed a crime,” Francis said in a video he sent last week to the 170 participants of a five-week program on abuse prevention at the Pontifical University of Mexico.

The course, ending July 27, was organized by the university’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Formation for the Protection of Minors (CEPROME), which works with the Center for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.

“As a comparison though it’s not a nice one: Drugs,” Francis said, noting that though it takes much effort, a person who’s addicted to drugs can be cured, and it’s important to try to do so. “But the question is how do you prevent children from doing drugs? Here the question is, how do we prevent children being abused? The apostleship of prevention.”

When it comes to the Catholic Church, he said, children must be protected so that “no one – not a single person – abuses them, that no one might keep them from coming to Jesus.”

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Tennessee Priest Allegedly Sexually Abused Child and Offered Him to Others

Patheos blog

July 24, 2019

By David Gee

A Tennessee priest with a previously clean record has now been accused of repeatedly sexually abusing a young boy for years — and offering him up to other clergymen.

The alleged victim, Michael Boyd, is suing the Diocese of Knoxville, saying that longtime priest Xavier Mankel (above) took advantage of him as a child. Boyd’s lawsuit also says he was abused by Bishop Anthony O’Connell, who founded the diocese.

Making matters worse, Boyd claims Mankel offered him up to visiting priests for “inappropriate sexual conduct.”

While the diocese is the only named defendant, the 20-page lawsuit claims the former altar boy was repeatedly abused in the 1990s by longtime Knoxville priest Xavier Mankel and at least twice by Bishop Anthony O’Connell.

O’Connell, who died in 2012, is the best-known figure named in the suit. He became the first bishop of the Knoxville diocese when it was formed in 1988. Ten years later, he became bishop in Palm Beach, Florida. He resigned in 2002 after admitting inappropriate conduct with minors in Missouri decades earlier and before he was in Knoxville.

Naming O’Connell wasn’t as surprising as it could have been, then, but it’s worth noting that the most serious allegations are against someone with a previously clean record on child sex abuse issues.

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Former Buffalo priest accused of abuse in California lawsuit

BUFFALO (NY)
Buffalo News

July 23, 2019

By Jay Tokasz

An Episcopal priest in California who formerly served as a Catholic priest in the Buffalo Diocese was accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a woman in the Town of Tonawanda decades ago.

The abuse is alleged to have happened when the Rev. Paul J. Kowalewski was preparing to be a Catholic priest in Buffalo in the 1970s.

Kowalewski, 71, currently is listed as part of the assisting clergy in the Church of St. Paul in the Desert, a parish in Palm Springs in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego. He has been an Episcopal priest since 1990.

Minnesota law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles on Monday against the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, alleging that the diocese allowed Kowalewski to stay in active ministry despite being aware of accusations against him.

“I want him out. I don’t want anybody else to stand here with nothing done about this,” said Patricia Harner, a Florida resident who is the plaintiff in the suit. “I brought this suit because I have been living with this for so many years, the pain, the heartache and I thought he was out of the priesthood and any kind of ministry at all.”

Attorney J. Michael Reck said the diocese needs to remove Kowalewski from ministry immediately.

“This lawsuit seeks not money, but safety,” he said.

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Judge Velis appointment another chapter in diocesan history surrounding clergy sex abuse

SPRINGFIELD (MA)
The Republican

July 23, 2019

By Anne-Gerard Flynn

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield has its own history in the global Church’s clergy sex abuse crisis dating back decades. And that history continues with its recent announcement that retired Superior Court Judge Peter A. Velis will investigate allegations of sexual misconduct involving the late Bishop Christopher J. Weldon.

The concern of lawyers defending the Springfield Diocese over time, as one put it back in 2003, has been showing that “the diocese didn’t have knowledge of any abuse that may or may not have been committed.” While this defense has largely succeeded, the allegations against Weldon and appointment of Velis open the door once again to questions of what diocesan hierarchy knew about the abuse of minors as far back as the 1950s when Weldon became bishop.

Many of the subsequently reported allegations of sexual abuse of minors occurred during Weldon’s 27 years as bishop, and the murder of an altar boy in which a former priest remains the only publicly identified suspect also occurred during his tenure.

In 2003, it was Judge Velis who ordered the release of documents filed in the investigation of former priest Richard R. Lavigne in the brutal 1972 killing of 13-year-old Daniel Croteau of Chicopee. The state Appeals Court overturned Velis’ ruling only to have the Supreme Judicial Court uphold it in 2004.

Buishop Rozanski was directed to provide the Apostolic Nuncio’s offices in Washington D.C. all information regarding this matter.

There have been allegations in such publications as E.J. Fleming’s 2018 book, “Death of an Altar Boy: The Unsolved Murder of Danny Croteau and the Culture of Abuse in the Catholic Church,” that Weldon obstructed justice in the police investigation.

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Neronha Strikes Agreement with Diocese of Providence to Review 70 Years of Records

PROVIDENCE (RI)
GoLocalPro

July 23, 2019

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha announced the State of Rhode Island has signed an agreement to gain access to the Diocese of Providence’s records dating back to the 1950s in an effort to find additional cases of sexual abuse by church priests and staff.

As part of an ongoing review of allegations of clergy child sexual abuse within the Diocese of Providence, the Attorney General has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence.

“While this voluntary, additional disclosure by the diocese is an important step forward in our review, much additional work remains. We will not hesitate to take any additional steps that may prove necessary to fully determine the scope of misconduct here and take appropriate action,” said Neronha.

About MOU

This MOU expands on and supplements a 2016 Letter of Understanding between the Office and the Diocese dated August 30, 2016, by providing fuller access to historical records.

In October of 2018, GoLocal reported that the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a national non-profit, has called on Democratic candidate for Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha to commit to investigating the Diocese of Providence.

Alliance for Safe Communities, a Rhode Island-based organization advocating for the victims of diocesan sexual abuse, says it has reached out to former U.S. Attorney Neronha regarding his unwillingness to commit to an investigation of the Catholic Diocese sex abuse scandal.

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Vatican Punishment of ex-Bishop Bransfield Comes Up Short

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

July 24, 2019

Despite facing multiple accusations of sexual harassment and abuse, on Friday the Vatican declined to permanently remove a disgraced West Virginia bishop from the church, opting instead for a lesser punishment. This sends the message that cases of sexual abuse against adults are still not taken seriously by church officials.

Ex-Bishop Michael Bransfield has now been barred from participating in mass publicly or from living in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia, his old home. Such a punishment is the bare minimum for a prelate who is alleged to not only have sexually assaulted seminarians during his time as Bishop, but who also gave away lavish gifts and cash to curry favor with other church officials. And such a punishment underscores how little church officials at the Vatican understand or care about cases of sexual abuse.

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