Denver Archdiocese announces Clergy Misconduct Advisory Committee

DENVER (CO)
Colorado Politics

Dec. 31, 2019

By Michael Karlik

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver has announced a new panel to investigate allegations of clergy misconduct that do not involve the sexual abuse of a child.

“I have noticed there has been a heightened call for greater transparency in the Church, especially as historical sins that have long been hidden in the shadows have recently been brought into the light,” wrote vicar for clergy Father R. Michael Dollins in the Denver Catholic. “Where is the line between being a trusted person who must keep something confidential, and a person who is involved in a cover-up?”

The Clergy Misconduct Advisory Committee will comprise senior priests, mental health professionals, those with law enforcement backgrounds, and finance specialists. All members will be Catholics

The panel will advise Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila after investigating the alleged misconduct. Dollins cited financial transgressions, addiction or inappropriate relationships as examples of matters in the CMAC’s jurisdiction.

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U.S. Capitol to Fly a Flag Honoring Survivors of Sexual Violence

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

Dec. 31, 2019

The U.S. Capitol will ring in the new year by flying a flag in honor of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. We are grateful for this display of support and are hopeful that legislators will follow it up by taking up legislation in 2020 that will protect children and prevent future cases of abuse.

On January 1, the U.S. Capitol will fly a flag “in honor of survivors and victims of childhood sex abuse” thanks to a request made by Senator John Cornyn III. This show of solidarity and support for survivors of sexual violence is a powerful gesture by Senator Cornyn and we are grateful to him and his office for this show of support. We hope that that legislators around the country will follow in Senator Cornyn’s footsteps and take steps to promote the protection of children and support of survivors by taking up needed reforms during this upcoming year.

At a national level, legislators can follow up this display with action by holding hearings on cases of institutional sexual abuse, using their power as national leaders to demand answers from institutional leaders about cases of sexual abuse and cover-ups that have taken place in churches, universities, and youth groups nationwide. Such hearings can draw the public’s attention to these cases, channel public outrage in action and force institutions to do better.

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Should Old Acquaintances be Forgot – Ten Years On

Patheos blog

Dec. 31, 2019

By Suzanne Titkemeyer

It’s been eight years, folks, eight years that I have been adminning No Longer Quivering, and about ten years since I found NLQ and started writing. Which got me to thinking. In the last ten years the Quiverfull world has changed a lot. So going into the year of 2020 let’s recap what’s happened with the more well known promoters of Quiverfull.

There’s been a great deal of change in not just evangelicalism and various types of Christianity, but most especially in Quiverfull. Once it was a more secretive off shoot of evangelicalism. In many ways it was more acceptable to be outed as Quiverfull ten years ago because it was thought to be a sweet old-fashioned expression of faith leaning towards the fundamentalist side.

Now it is more widely known ten years later because of the very public scandals of some of the more prominent practitioners. What they believe is now more widely understood, for both good and bad. This exposure has both harmed and helped the movement, mostly harmed. The Duggars are the main proponents to spread Quiverfull even as they disavow the name.

Let’s look at what’s happened in ten years with the leaders. Some of these are mere highlights, not in depth critiques.

Bill Gothard – Institute in Basic Life Principals
–Allegations of sexual abuse of teenage girls
–Lawsuits alleging abuse
–Removal as head of IBLP
–Exposure in the media of theology and lack of accountability

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He Ruined That Man’: Colorado’s Catholic Church Reparations Exclude Victims Of Religious Order Abuse

DENVER (CO)
Colorado Public Radio

Dec. 31, 2019

By Andrew Kenney

Jacque and Terry Schippers with their daughter in a photo from the family scrapbook.

Pat Wilcox’s younger brother arrived at her Greeley home with rain-drenched, moldy clothing and a dilapidated pickup truck. She welcomed him that day in 2015, thinking she could help the man she knew as “Shug.”

But the next few months would bewilder her.

How had her charming, successful brother gotten so lost in middle age? One evening, after she found him drinking again, the siblings sat down to talk.

“I know how you were raised,” she told him. “I know the people you were around, and how you were loved. You are on such a self-destructive path. Something is wrong.”

Then she asked the question that surprised them both: “Were you sexually abused?”

“As a matter of fact, I was,” Terry Schippers responded. Then he crumpled.

Soon afterward, Schippers joined more than 160 other Coloradans who alleged they were sexually abused by Catholic priests. Yet this reckoning has offered little resolution, legally or emotionally, for Shug Schippers. Three years later, he’s stuck in a strange stalemate with the church and with himself.

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Attorney: Charlotte Diocese List Not Complete

CHARLOTTE (NC)
WFAE Radio

Dec. 31, 2019

By Lisa Worf

On Monday, the Charlotte Diocese release a list of 14 clergy credibly accused of sexually abusing children. It also released names of people who worked in the Charlotte Diocese but were credibly accused elsewhere, and names of clergy accused of sexual abuse when the region was covered by the Raleigh Diocese.

But, the list is not complete in the view of Seth Langson. He’s a Charlotte attorney who has represented victims in lawsuits against the Charlotte Diocese. Some of his clients sued priests who were on the list released yesterday. He joins us now.

Lisa Worf: Why do you believe the list is incomplete?

Seth Langson: Well, I know from my own personal investigation of one more names that should be on that list that aren’t on the list. That has nothing to do with what documents, confidential documents, are seen by the Diocese. I just know there was at least one other person that wasn’t on the list.

Worf: And so how many names are we talking about, in your estimation?

Langson: I’m not certain. Terry McKiernan of Bishop Accountability, I think was quoted yesterday saying that even six or nine names that should have been on the list.

Worf: Have you spoken to any clients about the list that was released? And if so, what what do they have to say about it?

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New California law brings new lawsuits against Sonoma church

SONOMA (CA)
Index Tribune

Dec. 30, 2019

By Anne Ward Ernst

Three separate childhood sex assault lawsuits filed last week against the Catholic Church by four men and two women include naming a former priest at St. Francis Solano Catholic Church in Sonoma as an abuser.

Now adults, all the accusers were children when they allege they were molested by priests. All but one accuser is choosing to remain anonymous. The one named accuser, Stan Sloan, alleges abuse in Napa County, where he lived.

A new California law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October which goes into effect Jan. 1 extends the statute of limitations for when a claim can be filed. Assembly Bill 218 gives adult survivors who realize they have suffered psychological injury or illness five years to sue from the time they discover their abuse, or the age of 40, whichever is later. The current law requires survivors to file suit by the age of 26, or within three years of recognizing their suffering caused by childhood sexual assault.

Fifteen states have expanded their “lookback” windows over the last couple of years. Sacramento attorney Joseph George, who filed the three new lawsuits and has represented several adults in similar cases, said churches may think they’ve already gone through the bulk of lawsuits against clergy starting in the 1980s.

“I think this will open up even more,” he said.

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Santa Rosa Diocese hit by flurry of clergy abuse lawsuits under new state law

SANTA ROSA (CA)
Press Democrat

Dec. 30, 2019

By Mary Callahan

The Santa Rosa Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church is facing a fresh onslaught of lawsuits for its alleged role in enabling and, in some cases, concealing child sex abuse as far back as the 1960s involving four former North Coast priests — three of them now deceased.

The five lawsuits announced Monday by two law firms specializing in childhood abuse are among the first of what are expected to be hundreds, if not thousands, of cases filed throughout California under a new state law allowing survivors of childhood sexual assault to recover damages long after incidents of alleged sexual misconduct occurred. Although many of the suits are likely to involve the Catholic Church, the law applies to any childhood survivor.

The priests involved in the newly filed cases are all well-known among the ranks of local clergy accused of using their position of trust and spiritual authority to exploit children.

They include the late Rev. Patrick M. Gleeson and defrocked priests Gary Timmons, Xavier Ochoa and Don Kimball. All have been the subjects of past legal settlements between civil plaintiffs and the diocese, as well as in most cases criminal investigations. Only Timmons, who served four years in state prison for molesting youngsters, is still living. Now 79, he resides in Sacramento and has to report in each year as a registered sex offender.

But Timmons is not a named defendant in the cases involving him, both filed Monday in Sonoma County Superior Court.

Instead, the lawsuits target the Santa Rosa Diocese and Camp St. Michael, where much of his alleged abuse occurred. Both institutions could be subject to substantial financial penalties under the new legislation, which takes effect Wednesday, if the plaintiffs show sufficient proof.

“These cases are not so much about Timmons, but about the system and the reckless choices that the Catholic bishops of Santa Rosa have made over the years to protect their reputation over the safety of children,” said Minnesota-based attorney Jeff Anderson, whose law firm is representing the plaintiffs in the two cases involving Timmons.

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Year in Review: Catholic Church unveils accusations

RUTLAND (VT)
Rutland Herald

Dec. 31, 2019

By Gordon Dritschilo

The Diocese of Burlington finally named names.

The diocese released a report in August listing 39 Catholic priests it said had been credibly accused of sexual abuse during their time in Vermont, and one who served in Vermont and was credibly accused elsewhere. Twenty of them spent at least some time in Rutland County parishes. Six served at Christ the King over a span of 26 years.

The report was assembled by an independent committee that reviewed the files of 52 priests who had been subject to accusations. Almost all of the accusations dated back at least 20 years. The majority of the accused priests were deceased and none were active. Many had been moved from parish to parish over a long period before they were either removed from positions of authority or retired.

Reactions demonstrated that what was know in the church had been kept from the community.

“Most of the names of that list were not surprises to us,” said the Rev. Bernard Bourgeois, pastor of Christ the King. While they may not have been surprises to Bourgeois, many of the names came as a surprise to Rutland Catholics. In other cases, members of area parishes said they heard rumors or had bad feelings about particular priests, but never knew anything for sure.

Only one victim in Rutland County has come forward publicly, describing abuse at the hands of the Rev. Edward Paquette as well as the long-lasting psychological impacts of that abuse.

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Newsmaker of the decade: Survivors of sexual abuse – brave, loud and saving others

HARRISBURG (PA)
Patriot News

Dec. 31, 2019

By Janet Pickel

They’re the survivors.

More than anyone else, victims of sexual abuse have changed the world over the last decade.

When a teenaged Aaron Fisher told adults that he was being sexually abused by a well-respected well-known man, he wasn’t consistently believed.

That man, retired Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, was convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of sexually abusing boys he’d met through a children’s charity he’d started. Penn State has paid out more than $110 million to Sandusky’s victims.

An 18-month grand jury investigation of six of Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses uncovered decades-long abuse of children by more than 300 clergy members. Similar investigations are taking place in at least 20 other states. The Harrisburg Diocese alone has paid out $12 million to 106 victims since that report was released.

Women have been accusing actor-comedian Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually abusing them for decades. They’d been called gold diggers or told they misunderstood romantic situations. Cosby, accused by 60 women, was convicted in 2018 of sexually assaulting one.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Nick Miccarelli decided not to run for re-election months after allegations surfaced that he’d sexually and physically assaulted two women. One of them was a fellow lawmaker, Rep. Tarah Toohil, his ex-girlfriend, who detailed her accusations publicly. Miccarelli denied all the accusations and was not charged.

A woman says state Sen. Daylin Leach forced her into oral sex with him in 1991, and she wasn’t the first woman to accuse him of misconduct. Leach denies he’s acted inappropriately, and he has sued both an accuser and a newspaper.

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Lawsuit: Famed Jesuit Priest With Connections to Mother Teresa Abused Boy ‘More than 1,000 Times’

LOS ANGELES (CA)
Associated Press

Dec. 30, 2019

One day in May of 1970, an 11-year-old boy and his disabled sister were sitting on the curb outside a Chicago tavern, waiting for their mother to come out. When a priest with crinkly eyes and a ready smile happened by and offered the family a ride home, they could not have been happier.

The boy, Robert J. Goldberg, now 61, would pay dearly for the favor, enduring what he describes as years of psychological control and sexual abuse he suffered while working as a child valet for the late Rev. Donald J. McGuire. He remained in the Jesuit’s thrall for nearly 40 years, even volunteering to testify on McGuire’s behalf during criminal trials that ultimately resulted in a 25-year prison sentence for the priest.

But today, Goldberg says he has finally broken the hold McGuire once had on him. And he has begun to tell his story, in interviews with The Associated Press and in a lawsuit he filed Monday in California state court in San Francisco.

The lawsuit charges that McGuire, a globe-trotting Jesuit with ties to Saint Teresa of Calcutta, abused Goldberg “more than 1,000 times, in multiple states and countries,” during sojourns to spiritual retreats throughout the United States and Europe.

On these trips, the lawsuit says, McGuire referred to Goldberg as his “protégé.” All the while, the suit says, the boy carried his briefcase, ran errands and often endured daily abuse that included “sexual touching, oral copulation and anal penetration.”

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SAN BERNARDINO DIOCESE SUED OVER PRIEST’S ALLEGED ABUSE OF HEMET BOY

PALM SPRINGS (CA)
KMIR TV

Dec. 30, 2019

Attorneys suing the Diocese of San Bernardino on behalf of a man who claims he was sexually abused as a child by a priest in Hemet alleged Monday that the clergyman was one of dozens permitted to have a free hand with children for decades.

During a news briefing in Riverside, attorney Mike Reck said the civil action filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court is one of multiple lawsuits submitted statewide under the auspices of a law that takes effect Wednesday — Assembly Bill 218, known as the “California Child Victims Act.”

“The law catapults California to the forefront of child protection,” Reck said. “It addresses the cover-up of child sexual assault and provides that not only the abuser can be sued, but those who covered it up can be sued. It directs a change in behavior of institutions, liked this (San Bernardino) Diocese, which time and time again placed their reputation and secrecy over the safety of children.”

Requests for comment from the diocese were not immediately answered.

AB 218 opens a three-year window in which abuse victims can take civil action against religious and other institutions where children were allegedly molested, and the offenses concealed. If a jury finds that an institution conspired to shield abusers and hide crimes, the damage awards can be tripled, under the new law.

“This is to deter behavior and make institutions charged with the care of children change and do the right thing,” Reck said. “They do not always do the right thing (until) brave survivors call them out on the decisions they’ve made.”

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Pennsylvania’s Stories of the Decade: Child protection failings dominated

HARRISBURG (PA)
CNHI News Service

Dec. 29, 2019

By John Finnerty

The state’s struggle to confront and combat abuse and neglect of children struck at the heart of three of the biggest stories of the past decade in Pennsylvania.

That includes revelations of child sexual abuse by former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, as well as abuse by Catholic priests across the state. Advocates for children have noted that the opioid epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives through overdoses has also wrought havoc on families and contributed to neglect and abuse of children.

While the state has responded to the scandals in a variety of ways, it’s clear that a solution that makes a far-reaching impact on efforts to help children remains elusive, said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children’s Justice, a Berks County-based advocacy group focusing on efforts to better protect children.

Palm said public outrage over the crimes of Sandusky and the hundreds of predator priests identified in grand jury investigations has translated into improved awareness about the harm caused by sexual abuse of children.

But that hasn’t necessarily translated into attention and action to help children harmed in other ways, including other forms of physical abuse and neglect.

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Diocese of Charlotte Releases Incomplete List of those Accused of Abuse

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

Dec. 29, 2019

Catholic officials in Charlotte, NC have finally followed in the footsteps of the vast majority of dioceses around the country and released a list of priests accused of abuse. Unfortunately, the list released today is incomplete and leaves off allegations related to other church staffers. We call on them to update this list immediately in order to provide a clearer and more complete look at abuse within the Diocese of Charlotte.

Here are four examples, easily found online, of abusers within the Diocese of Charlotte who were not listed:

Paul L. Berrell, Music Minister — Berrell was convicted of producing child pornography while working as the music minister at St. Eugene Catholic Church in Asheville. Berrell’s victim was a student at Asheville Catholic School. Notably, the pastor at Berrell’s church, John Schneider, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for going to Berrell’s home after he had been arrested and deleting evidence from Berell’s computer.

Deacon Mark Doherty — Deacon Doherty was denied ordination to the priesthood in Boston after two boys came forward to allege that he had molested them when they were 13. Despite being informed of these allegations by Cardinal Bernard Law, the deacon was hired as a teacher at Charlotte Catholic High School by Bishop William Curlin. Deacon Doherty was supervised by Monsignor Mauricio West, who himself has recently been accused of sexual misconduct.

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Letter to Illinois AG Regarding Lack of Updates on Clergy Abuse Investigation

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

Dec. 29, 2019

Dear Attorney General Raoul,

We are leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and the Archangel Foundation. We are writing to you to ask for an update on the progress of the investigation into cases of clerical sexual abuse in Illinois started by your predecessor, Lisa Madigan and that you and your team have continued.

Last Thursday marked one full year since the preliminary report was released by A.G. Madigan and her team. Through that report we learned that Catholic officials in Illinois had received allegations of abuse by 690 priests yet had made public only 185 of those complaints. Additionally, according to that report, the six dioceses in Illinois ignored or minimized nearly ¾ of all reports made to internal reporting systems.

Since that report was released, we have seen several things happen in Illinois:

–Diocesan officials in Chicago assigned Fr. Michael O’Connell, a priest who has twice been accused during his career of abusing children, to a position at St. Bartholomew’s School;
–As many as 1,000 allegations of sexual abuse committed by clergyand reported to DCFS were never investigated;
–Religious order officials moved Fr. John McCloskey, a pastor against whom they had already settled an abuse complaint and had promised to keep out of ministry, to a new church in Illinois while telling the community that he was “a priest of good character and reputation” and “in good standing”; and
–Parishioners in Niles, IL learned that a previous pastor had been found “credibly accused” of abuse, but only because of the outreach done by church officials in Minnesota, not in Illinois.

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The SBC Has a Sex-Abuse Problem

NEW YORK (NY)
Wall Street Journal

Dec. 26, 2019

By Nicole Ault

Before Rachael Denhollander became a victim of USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar, she says she was sexually abused by a college student at her nondenominational church when she was 7. Some parishioners protected her, she says, but others thought her family had falsely accused the man.

She told a crowd of Southern Baptists at an October conference that she had “internalized” the message that “if you cannot prove your abuse, do not speak up.” The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, with some 15 million members and 47,000 churches—is reckoning with mistreatment of sexual-abuse victims in its ranks.

A six-part Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News report found more than 250 SBC officials and volunteers who were convicted of sex-abuse crimes over the past 20 years, and some 700 victims. It also revealed cases in which church members and leaders scorned victims and masked accusations of misconduct against popular pastors.

In a report published this summer by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the SBC’s public-policy arm, a woman recalls a pastor implying that she had brought her youth minister’s abuse on herself. Another woman said she was anally raped on campus at a Southern Baptist college, then told by a male administrator that she hadn’t really been raped because it wasn’t vaginal penetration. Paige Patterson was fired last year as president of an SBC seminary because, among other reasons, he said in an email that he’d try to “break . . . down” a woman who accused a student at the college of rape. The SBC has failed “to take disclosure seriously and to believe the survivor,” the commission’s report says.

The commission devoted its October conference to the topic of sexual abuse and promotes a “Caring Well” curriculum to train its congregations to identify and address abuse. But awareness won’t suffice. “The solution to this is a cultural shift,” Russell Moore, the commission’s president, says. That includes “vigilance,” educating church members and a new attitude toward survivors: “We want to listen and to care for you. Shaming or blaming of survivors is itself a predatory act.”

The cultural problem raises questions about the SBC’s practices and structure. The denomination ordains only men as pastors. It also leaves member churches fairly autonomous, with little top-down regulation and an emphasis on local responsibility. Southern Baptist leaders sometimes “try to hide behind” that structure, claiming that they can encourage but not mandate certain behavior for local churches, says Boz Tchividjian, a lawyer and former sex-crimes prosecutor. That’s legally “very beneficial” to the SBC.

Changes are in the works. Women can already hold nonordained leadership positions in SBC churches, and Mr. Moore acknowledges “we need to hear more from women” in these capacities. The SBC approved an amendment this summer (which must pass again in 2020) providing that churches found to be “indifferent” toward sexual abuse may be removed from fellowship with the denomination. It also established a committee to apply greater scrutiny to disputes between churches and the national body. The committee recently set up an online portal where congregants can submit concerns.

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Asheville, WNC priests named in Charlotte diocese list of clergy credibly accused of abuse

ASHEVILLE (NC)
Asheville Citizen Times

Dec. 30, 2019

By Joel Burgess

The Catholic Charlotte Diocese has released a list of clergy it says were “credibly accused” of child sexual abuse.

The list “aims to promote healing for victims and demonstrate commitment to transparency,” the diocese said in a Dec. 30 press release accompanying the list.

Church officials deemed a total of 14 clergy credibly accused in the diocese, which includes parishes from Guilford and Richmond counties all the way to the western tip of the state.

None of the named clergy are still in the religious order, according to the church, which said no priest serving today has a credible allegation against him. Some listed are dead, while others left, were removed or were convicted.

A support group for sexual abuse victims criticized the list, saying it was incomplete and didn’t include church staff members with allegations against them. Those include Paul L. Berrell, former music minister at St. Eugene Catholic Church in Asheville, said SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“We call on them to update this list immediately in order to provide a clearer and more complete look at abuse within the Diocese of Charlotte,” the statement said.

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For US Church, a year of abuse fallout, new leaders, and unsung heroes

NEW YORK (NY)
Crux

Dec. 30, 2019

By Christopher White

Aftershocks of 2018’s reemergence of the abuse scandals continued to plague the U.S. Catholic Church throughout the past year, as leaders tried to turn a corner on one of the bleakest periods in modern American Church history while also acknowledging the pain and suffering caused by the Church’s failings.

While calls for greater responsibility, accountability, and transparency were echoed across the global Church, in the United States they were felt in a particular way with the downfall of several high-profile church leaders.

At the same time, 2019 brought new leadership reflecting the rapidly shifting face of U.S. Catholicism, and also reminders that while, at an institutional level the Church may continue to reel, in the trenches the Church’s everyday work continues – often by those who rarely see, or seek, the spotlight.

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Australian Jews decry Israeli health minister’s appointment

JERUSALEM (ISRAEL)
Associated Press

December 30, 2019

Australia’s Jewish community has slammed an Israeli government decision to promote to the post of health minister a legislator who is suspected of aiding an alleged sexual abuser wanted in Australia.

The Israeli government on Sunday appointed Yaacov Litzman as health minister, sparking a litany of condemnations from Australia’s staunchly pro-Israel Jewish community.

In an open letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jeremy Leibler, the president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, called the decision “a slap in the face to the Australian Jewish community, the Australian people,” as well as to the survivors of the alleged abuse.

In a tweet Sunday, the Australia Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, another pro-Israel body, called the move “a deplorable decision and insulting to Australia and all those many Australians justifiably expecting the prompt extradition of Malka Leifer,” the alleged abuser.

Leifer is wanted in Australia on 74 charges of sexual assault during her time as a teacher and principal of an ultra-Orthodox religious school in Melbourne. She returned to her home in Israel in 2008 as allegations surfaced, was arrested in 2014 and has since faced a protracted extradition process that critics have deemed a farce.

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Hundreds of accused clergy left off church’s sex abuse lists

UNITED STATES
Associated Press via RochesterFirst.com

December 29, 2019

Richard J. Poster served time for possessing child pornography, violated his probation by having contact with children, admitted to masturbating in the bushes near a church school and in 2005 was put on a sex offender registry. And yet the former Catholic priest was only just this month added to a list of clergy members credibly accused of child sexual abuse — after The Associated Press asked why he was not included.

Victims advocates had long criticized the Roman Catholic Church for not making public the names of credibly accused priests. Now, despite the dioceses’ release of nearly 5,300 names, most in the last two years, critics say the lists are far from complete.

An AP analysis found more than 900 clergy members accused of child sexual abuse who were missing from lists released by the dioceses and religious orders where they served.

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Disgraced bishop spent $4.6 million on mansion that sold for only $1.2 million

WEST VIRGINIA
Washington Post

December 29, 2019

By Aaron C. Davis

After Bishop Michael J. Bransfield was banished from his post as head of the Catholic Church in West Virginia, the church-owned residence he had lived in was put up for sale. It was a historic 9,200-square-foot Colonial Revival-style house with five bay windows that was once known as Elmcrest. Bransfield had spent $4.6 million to restore it to his exacting taste.

The diocese did not hire a real estate agent, advertise the property’s sale online or hold an open house. Instead, as allegations of sexual and financial misconduct against Bransfield spilled into public view in June, the church sold the property to a wealthy Wheeling, W.Va., resident for $1.2 million.

Church officials said the private sale was a way to avoid paying commission to real estate agents, but it also had the effect of keeping the public from taking the full measure of Bransfield’s extravagance and excess.

More than just an opulent private retreat for a high-spending bishop, Elmcrest was the site where the heavy-drinking cleric quaffed Cointreau and made unwanted sexual overtures toward younger priests in a basement with a custom-made sunken bar, according to a confidential report by church investigators for the Vatican completed earlier this year. The Washington Post obtained a copy of the report and published a redacted version online on Dec. 23.

In his 13 years as bishop, Bransfield spent more than $2.4 million traveling the world, often by private jet, and gave fellow clerics hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash gifts that originated from the diocese’s accounts, church documents show. Nowhere did he spend more church money than on the turn-of-the-century mansion at 52 Elmwood Place in Wheeling, according to investigators.

What started as a modest renovation before Bransfield’s arrival in 2005 soon sprawled, at his insistence, into a costly undertaking, according to the construction manager, architect and four others involved in the project. By the time it was finished, the residence would feature a $20,000 dining room table, a master bath with a heated floor and a climate-controlled wine cellar that could store hundreds of bottles, they said.

“It was always, ‘this’ or ‘that’ is what the bishop wants,” said Jim Baller, who served as the construction manager during most of the renovation.

Baller said Bransfield wanted trees planted to create a buffer between the house and nearby Interstate­ 70. He also wanted parts of the seven acres surrounding the home landscaped and large areas covered with sod, Baller said. A fish pond and waterfall were built as the centerpiece of the grounds.

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Diocese of Charlotte releases full list of clergy credibly accused of child sex abuse

CHARLOTTE (NC)
WSOC TV

Dec. 30, 2019

The Diocese of Charlotte released a list of clergy members credibly accused of child sex abuse since the diocese was established in 1972.

Dioceses nationwide started revealing the names of church leaders accused of abuse, but the Diocese of Charlotte had not yet released a full list of all priests with credible allegations until Monday.

Channel 9 has been pushing for it to be released for months.

The list revealed 14 clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor since 1972. You can read the full list by clicking here.

The diocese said the list contains details about each Charlotte Diocese clergy and the allegations against them. It also includes information about six accused clergy members who served in western North Carolina before the Charlotte Diocese was established.

The list also reveals information on 23 clergy members who served in the Charlotte Diocese but were accused of sexual abuse elsewhere by other dioceses and religious orders.

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Abuse crisis continued to demand US bishops’ attention, action in 2019

WASHINGTON (DC)
Catholic News Service

Dec 30, 2019

The clergy sexual abuse crisis continued to command a large amount of attention and action from the U.S. bishops throughout 2019.

The year was headlined by actions during the bishops’ spring general assembly, during which they approved a plan to implement Pope Francis’ motu proprio on addressing abuse.

The pope issued his document, Vos Estis Lux Mundi (“You are the light of the world”), in May to help the Catholic Church safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable.

The motu proprio was one of the measures that came out of a February Vatican summit on clergy sexual abuse attended by the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences.

The U.S. bishops’ implementation plan passed 281-1 with two abstentions.

Vos Estis Lux Mundi established procedures for reporting allegations of sexual abuse of minors or of vulnerable person by clerics, including bishops, or members of religious orders. The document also holds church leaders accountable for actions or omissions relating to the handling of abuse reports.

In line with the plan, the bishops in June approved a third-party reporting system to field sexual misconduct allegations against bishops. Such a system could be in place by the end of February, Anthony Picarello, associate general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, reported during the bishops’ fall general assembly in November.

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Former Priest In MD Left Off Sex Abuse List; DC, Baltimore Lists

BALTIMORE (MD)
Patch

Dec. 28, 2019

By Deb Belt

A former Catholic priest has been on the Maryland sex offender registry since 2005 after serving time in prison for possession of child pornography and then violating the terms of his probation by having contact with children. But Richard J. Poster, 54, who lives in Silver Spring, was not on a church list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse until this month.

Poster, who admitted masturbating in the bushes near a church school, was only added to a list of clergy members credibly accused of child sexual abuse after The Associated Press asked why he was not included, according to an investigation by the news service. Despite the church’s release of nearly 5,300 names in recent years, victim advocates say the lists are incomplete.

An AP analysis found more than 900 clergy members nationwide accused of child sexual abuse who were missing from lists. The AP reached that number by matching the public diocesan lists against a database of accused priests tracked by the group BishopAccountability.org and then scouring bankruptcy documents, lawsuits, settlement information, grand jury reports and media accounts.

More than a hundred of the former clergy members not listed by dioceses or religious orders had been charged with sexual crimes, including rape, solicitation and receiving or viewing child pornography. Church officials say that without an admission of guilt, they have to weigh releasing a name against harming the reputation of priests who may have been falsely accused and facing lawsuits from those who maintain their innocence.

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Catholics ‘can’t stop fighting’ to have their voices heard by church hierarchy

CINCINNATI (OH)
WCPO TV

Dec. 30, 2019

By Craig Cheatham

Catholic laity ‘reformers’ discuss their plans to change the Archdiocese of Cincinnati
Gerry Ahrens fought back tears as he described his frustration with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati .

“We’re just a voice crying in the wilderness,” said the retired Catholic school teacher. He is also a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of a Jesuit priest.

“They’re not listening,” Ahrens said. “They don’t hear us.”

Catholic laity in the Tri-State and across the country are determined to be heard by the church hierarchy.

In December, two local groups – Beyond the Scandal and Concerned Catholics of Cincinnati – discussed their progress and plans for reforming the church.

Their organized effort is part of a growing national movement dedicated to increasing the influence of non-clergy in dioceses across the country.

“The person in the pews has to wake up and realize that we have a rightful role that we must play in the church,” said Jan Seidel, a longtime Catholic lay leader who hosted the December meeting at the home she shares with her husband, Bruce.

The need for a deeper and more direct role for an increasingly disillusioned laity has also been a focus for the National Review Board created in 2002 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to collaborate with the USCCB in preventing the sexual abuse of children.

In a Nov. 13, 2018 special report to the Body of Bishops, NRB Chair Francesco Cesareo told bishops “the faithful and the clergy do not trust many of you.”

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Year in review: Vermont’s Catholic Church finds atonement a slow go

BURLINGTON (VT)
VT Digger

Dec. 29 2019

By Kevin O’Connor

Vermont Catholic Bishop Christopher Coyne had hoped 2019 would be the year the church’s history of priest misconduct would stop making headlines.

Coyne, the former spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston in the aftermath of the 2002 scandal dramatized in the Oscar-winning “Spotlight,” seemed to have shed the past when he became head of the Green Mountain State’s largest religious denomination in 2015.

That changed a year and a half ago when BuzzFeed posted a story about the “unrelenting physical and psychological abuse of captive children” at the Vermont diocese’s long-shuttered St. Joseph’s Orphanage, which operated in Burlington from 1854 to 1974.

The local press already had reported most of the facts in the 1990s, while authorities have yet to confirm BuzzFeed’s most shocking claim — that a nun supposedly threw a boy out a window to his death three-quarters of a century ago. But that didn’t stop the story from sparking calls for investigation.

Coyne shocked those accustomed to decades of church stonewalling by scheduling a press conference a day before another set by police and prosecutors. There he pledged to work with authorities before going on to release accusers from past nondisclosure agreements and form a lay committee to review clergy misconduct files and publicly release the names of offenders.

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Ousted cardinal McCarrick gave more than $600,000 to fellow clerics, including two popes, records show

WASHINGTON D.C.
Washington Post

December 26, 2019

By Shawn Boburg, Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Chico Harlan

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in church money to powerful Catholic clerics over nearly two decades, according to financial records obtained by The Washington Post, while the Vatican failed to act on claims he had sexually harassed young men.

Starting in 2001, McCarrick sent checks totaling more than $600,000 to clerics in Rome and elsewhere, including Vatican bureaucrats, papal advisers and two popes, according to church ledgers and former church officials.

Several of the more than 100 recipients were directly involved in assessing misconduct claims against McCarrick, documents and interviews show. It was not until 2018 that McCarrick was removed from public ministry amid allegations of misconduct decades earlier with a 16-year-old altar boy, and this year he became the first cardinal known to be defrocked for sexual abuse.

The checks were drawn from a little-known account at the Archdiocese of Washington, where McCarrick began serving as archbishop in 2001. The “Archbishop’s Special Fund” enabled him to raise money from wealthy Catholic donors and to spend it as he chose, with little oversight, according to the former officials.

McCarrick sent Pope John Paul II $90,000 from 2001 to 2005. Pope Benedict XVI received $291,000, most of it a single check for $250,000 in May 2005, a month after he was elevated to succeed the late John Paul.

Representatives of the former popes declined to comment or said they had no information about those specific checks. A former personal secretary to John Paul said donations to the pope were forwarded to the secretary of state, the second most powerful post at the Vatican. Experts cautioned that such gifts may also have been directed to papal charities.

A Vatican spokesman declined to comment. In statements, Vatican clerics who received checks described them as customary gifts among Catholic leaders during the Christmas season or as a gesture of appreciation for their service. They said the gifts from McCarrick were directed to charity or used for other proper purposes.

The gifts “never had any effect on the Cardinal’s decision-making as an official of the Holy See,” said a spokesman for Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, a high-ranking cleric who received $6,500 from McCarrick in the 2000s, the ledgers show.

The checks from McCarrick’s fund add a new dimension to a scandal over how he rose to the highest levels of the U.S. Catholic Church and remained there despite complaints of misconduct that reached the Vatican as early as 2000. A Post investigation earlier this year found that another cleric, a McCarrick ally who was a bishop in West Virginia, also gave cash gifts to influential clergy in the United States and at the Vatican while facing allegations of sexual misconduct and financial abuses.

McCarrick, a legendary fundraiser for the church, was defrocked in February after Vatican officials found him guilty of two charges: soliciting sex during confession and committing “sins” with minors and adults “with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”

The Vatican plans to release a report about its handling of the allegations against McCarrick in the coming months, church officials have said. The financial records from the Archbishop’s Special Fund are among the documents church officials in Washington sent to Rome for that examination, according to one former archdiocese official. The former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

An attorney for McCarrick did not respond to requests for comment for this story. In his only public statements about the misconduct allegations, McCarrick recently told a reporter, “I do not believe that I did the things that they accuse me of.”

In a statement to The Post, the Archdiocese of Washington said McCarrick had sole control of the tax-exempt fund.

“The funds in the account came from donations sent personally to Mr. McCarrick to direct in his sole discretion,” the archdiocese said. “During his tenure in Washington, Mr. McCarrick made contributions to many charitable and religious organizations and members of leadership in the Church.”

Cardinal: McCarrick defrocking represents a ‘sad’ ‘shameful’ moment in time

The ledgers obtained by The Post show names of beneficiaries, check numbers, amounts and dates of disbursement. The ledgers also contain the names of donors for the years 2010 to 2016.

McCarrick’s fund took in more than $6 million over 17 years. Among the biggest contributors was Maryanne Trump Barry, the sister of President Trump and a former federal appellate judge. She gave him at least $450,000 over four years, the records show. She declined to comment.

McCarrick directed millions of dollars from the fund to Catholic charities in the United States and in Rome, as well as organizations in countries stricken by poverty and conflict, the ledgers show.

Yet nearly 200 checks were sent to fellow clerics, including more than 60 archbishops and cardinals.

The leader of a foundation that made substantial contributions to McCarrick’s fund said he was surprised to learn that checks went to clerics. Tom Riley, president of the Connelly Foundation, based outside Philadelphia, said in a statement that his group’s contributions were meant to help “the poor, the needy, refugees, and the mission of the Catholic Church.”

“Everything about the current situation is a source of terrible sadness for us,” he said.

McCarrick, 89, became one of the most recognizable church figures in America during a career spanning a half-century. He traveled the world for the Vatican and became the U.S. Catholic Church’s de facto spokesman nearly two decades ago as it reeled from a sex-abuse crisis that began in Boston. In Washington, he presided over funerals of the city’s political elite, including Edward M. Kennedy, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, and hosted dinners for President George W. Bush and other dignitaries.

Behind the scenes, McCarrick’s alleged conduct so alarmed some of his fellow clerics that they reported it to superiors, according to documents that have been posted online in recent years and interviews with some of those involved.

One of those who came forward was the Rev. Boniface Ramsey, a teacher in the late 1980s and early 1990s at the Immaculate Conception Seminary in the Archdiocese of Newark. McCarrick was leader of the archdiocese for more than a decade.

Ramsey said publicly last year that he called the Vatican’s U.S. diplomat, known as the apostolic nuncio, in 2000 to sound the alarm when McCarrick was announced as the next archbishop in Washington.

“I was just shocked,” Ramsey said in a recent interview with The Post.

Ramsey said he told the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, that McCarrick routinely took students from the seminary to his New Jersey beach house and pressured them to sleep with him in his bed. Ramsey told Montalvo he was not aware of any sexual contact but considered McCarrick’s behavior inappropriate.

Montalvo instructed Ramsey to put his claims in writing so they could be forwarded to the Vatican, and Ramsey did so, he said. Ramsey heard nothing back until 2006, when he received a letter from Sandri, then an archbishop in the Vatican secretary of state’s office. The letter briefly acknowledged his warning from several years earlier, according to a copy he posted online.

The ledgers obtained by The Post show that McCarrick was writing checks in those years to Montalvo, Sandri and other senior prelates responsible for managing clerics or handling sex-abuse allegations.

Montalvo accepted three checks from McCarrick worth a total of $5,000 before his death in 2006, the ledgers show, while Sandri received the $6,500 from 2002 to 2008.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who until 2006 served as secretary of state, received $19,000 from 2002 to 2016, the records show.

Sodano did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The Rev. J. Augustine Di Noia, an American who in 2001 started working in the Vatican office that assessed sex-abuse claims, accepted six checks worth a total of $9,500 from 2001 to 2009, the records show.

In a statement, a spokesman for Di Noia, now an archbishop, said the first check was for expenses related to his move to the Vatican. Others were “Christmas-time offerings” or were given to support him as he transferred to another Vatican post in 2009.

“Archbishop Di Noia affirms categorically that Theodore McCarrick never attempted to influence him in his work for the Holy See,” he said. “Whatever were Theodore McCarrick’s tragic personal failures, it is nevertheless a sad day when improper motives are reflexively assigned to assistance given and received in good faith.”

Told by The Post of McCarrick’s checks, Ramsey said he was not surprised.

“I assumed something like this was going on,” he said. “But I didn’t know checks were going to individual clerics.”

Lack of action

A retired bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., said in a statement last year that in December 2005 he contacted Montalvo with new allegations about McCarrick, who had been bishop there in the 1980s. Bishop Emeritus Paul Bootkoski said he called the apostolic nuncio and then followed up in writing to relay two former seminarians’ claims of sexual misconduct by McCarrick.

Officials in the Metuchen Diocese deemed one claim so significant that they had secretly paid an $80,000 settlement, according to recent news accounts. They would pay $100,000 to the second seminarian a short time later.

While leaders in Rome considered how to proceed, McCarrick reached retirement age. In May 2006, he stepped down from his post in Washington, his public reputation untarnished. He remained prominent in church affairs and in his capacity as archbishop emeritus was allowed to maintain control of the special fund.

At least one Vatican official has said he was infuriated by the lack of action against McCarrick. Late in 2006, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò wrote a memo urging Sandri and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, then the secretary of state, to sanction McCarrick, according to a public letter Viganò released through Catholic publications in 2018.

Viganò wrote that his superiors never responded to the memo he sent in 2006. He accused Vatican officials of protecting McCarrick and asserted that McCarrick “had the financial means to influence decisions” at the time. He did not elaborate in the letter and did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Viganò’s August 2018 letter was published soon after the church announced that McCarrick was being removed from public ministry.

Critics of Viganò have accused him of using the letter to undermine progressive adversaries within the church. In public statements, some top Vatican officials have disputed details of Viganò’s account, including his claim that Pope Francis was aware of detailed allegations against McCarrick years ago but ignored them. Francis does not appear among the list of check recipients, according to the ledgers obtained by The Post.

At the same time Viganò says he was urging sanctions, McCarrick continued sending checks to key church figures. The checks were often clustered around Christmas, with just over half recorded in the ledgers in December or January, according to a Post analysis. In some cases, McCarrick started giving clerics money when they took on new jobs with more authority.

In 2007, among the new beneficiaries was Bertone, who had recently been named secretary of state. Records show that Bertone received seven checks worth a total of $7,000 before he stepped down in 2013.

Cardinal Fernando Filoni began receiving checks in 2008, soon after he was elevated to be a top aide to Bertone. Filoni received $3,500 through 2013, the records show.

Viganò said in his public letter that he shared his concerns about McCarrick with Filoni in 2008. Once again, nothing came of it, Viganò said.

“I was greatly dismayed at my superiors for the inconceivable absence of any measure against the Cardinal,” Viganò wrote.

Bertone and Filoni did not respond to messages seeking comment.

McCarrick also gave to lower-level officials in Rome.

American Archbishop Peter Wells started receiving checks in 2010, the year after he took a key Vatican job under Filoni. Wells had received $2,500 by the time the checks stopped in 2016, the year he left the post for an assignment outside the Vatican.

Other recipients included the longtime head of the papal household, Cardinal James Harvey, and at least two priests working as personal assistants to Benedict and John Paul.

Wells did not respond to messages seeking comment.

In an interview, Harvey said numerous bishops from big cities in the United States sent him monetary gifts to show appreciation for his office’s help, including in making arrangements for visits to the pope.

“It never occurred to me that this would be in some way improper,” he said.

“It wasn’t about currying favor,” Harvey said. “It wasn’t some parallel system of nefarious activity.”

A spokesman for Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, called such gifts common and said they do not influence how Parolin exercises his official responsibilities. He received $1,000 from McCarrick shortly after becoming secretary of state in 2013.

“To send and receive such gifts is customary during the Christmas season, including between Bishops, as a sign of appreciation for work carried out in the service of the universal Church and for the Holy Father,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Some experts, told of The Post’s findings, said cash gifts can create the appearance of a conflict.

“It raises questions about whether McCarrick was buying access or protection,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a columnist at Religion News Service and author of a book about Vatican politics and operations. “This doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Former West Virginia bishop Michael J. Bransfield gave $350,000 in cash gifts to clerics in the United States and at the Vatican from 2005 to 2018, The Post reported in June. He used church money that was routed through his personal account.

The church began investigating Bransfield last year after one of his top aides wrote in a confidential letter to church leaders that the gifts, many of them sent around the Christmas season, were an attempt to “purchase influence.” The investigation later faulted Bransfield for the gifts and found that he inappropriately spent millions of dollars in church money on personal extravagances and engaged in sexual misconduct with seminarians and young priests. Bransfield, who was removed from public ministry in July, has denied wrongdoing.

More than a dozen recipients of Bransfield’s gifts pledged to return the money after The Post reported that it was drawn from church accounts.

At least 17 clerics who received cash gifts from Bransfield also received checks from McCarrick, records show.

Well-known donors

The donors to the Archbishop’s Special Fund include wealthy and well-known figures.

Among them are novelist Mary Higgins Clark; John B. Hess, chief executive of oil giant Hess Corp.; and a foundation run by Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), who previously served as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, the ledgers show.

“For many years I have supported a long list of Catholic charities and causes because I believe in the work they do,” Clark said in a statement. “If the money I donated to Cardinal McCarrick was misused in any way, it was without my knowledge, and I am shocked and saddened.”

Hess and Rooney did not respond to requests for comment.

Another donor was William McIntosh, a former Wall Street executive. McIntosh said he got to know McCarrick in the 1990s when both served on the board of the Papal Foundation, a Philadelphia-based charity that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for initiatives favored by the pope. McCarrick was a founder of the charity and its first president.

McIntosh said he began sending contributions to McCarrick when he was archbishop in Newark for a discretionary charitable account he controlled at the time. McIntosh said he trusted McCar­rick’s judgment and was unaware that money he sent him over the years went to other clerics.

“Based on my work with him at the Papal Foundation, I considered him excellent at what he did and tried to be helpful,” McIntosh said. “I had no idea what he was doing with it. I assumed he was doing good things.”

A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Newark, Maria Margiotta, declined to answer questions about the fund McCarrick controlled there. “Since matters involving former Cardinal McCar­rick are under review by law enforcement and/or involve litigation, it would be inappropriate for us to discuss publicly,” she said.

The current archbishop of Newark, Joseph W. Tobin, received a $1,000 check from McCarrick in 2016, the ledgers show. Margiotta said that the check was a gift marking Tobin’s elevation as a cardinal and that he believes he deposited it “in a personal account, where it was used to defray the expenses incurred by his new responsibilities or for charitable purposes.”

Some of the money that flowed into McCarrick’s fund came from a foundation that he advised as a board member.

McCarrick directed at least $250,000 to his fund from the Loyola Foundation between 2011 and 2016, as he sat on the foundation’s board, said Executive Director Gregory McCarthy. Each foundation board member was allowed to designate an annual allotment to a favored charity, McCarthy said.

“In this case, the funds went to the Archbishop’s Fund, which was overseen by the Archdiocese of Washington,” McCarthy said. “Frankly I did not know where the funds would go from there.”

McCarthy said foundation officials received assurances from the Archdiocese of Washington that McCarrick’s account was a legitimate charitable fund.

According to two former archdiocese officials, the fund was reviewed yearly to account for expenditures and deposits but otherwise received minimal oversight.

Meanwhile, the number of people claiming to have been abused by McCarrick continues to expand. Early this year, U.S. church officials sent the Vatican allegations involving at least seven boys and dating from 1970 to 1990, The Post has reported.

Amid the fallout, the Catholic Church has been under pressure to explain how it ignored or missed years of warnings. The Vatican report addressing those issues is expected to be released as early as January. In announcing the review in 2018, the Vatican said in a statement that “both abuse and its cover-up can no longer be tolerated.”

Harlan reported from Rome. Stefano Pitrelli in Rome and Andrew Ba Tran and Alice Crites in Washington contributed to this report.

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‘Absolutely disgusting’: Catholics in Philadelphia react to the latest child sex-abuse scandal

PHILADELPHIA (PA)
Philadelphia Inquirer

Dec. 29, 2019

By Wendy Ruderman

As Phoenix Robertson sat in church on Sunday, she looked around and noticed — not for the first time — that she was one of very few young people attending Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.

The 24-year-old resident of West Philadelphia said she believes the dwindling numbers of her peers at Mass each week is largely due to how the Roman Catholic Church has handled cases of child sex abuse by covering up allegations and shielding priests from public scrutiny for decades.

And the latest scandal, which came in the form of a news report that diocescan leaders nationwide had failed to disclose the names of hundreds of clergy members accused of sexually abusing children, will only engender more distrust and disdain, Robertson said.

“It’s bad for the church to cover things up. It’s bad for our collective souls,” Robertson said after emerging from 9:30 a.m. Mass. “But regardless of how it affects us, obviously the survivors or victims should be the top priority and it’s bad for them more than anyone.”

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Joliet Bishop Daniel Conlon Taking Medical Leave

JOLIET (IL)
Channel 2, CBS-TV affiliate

December 28, 2019

The Catholic Diocese of Joliet said this week that Bishop Daniel Conlon is taking medical leave.

The diocese said Conlon’s leave was granted by Pope Francis, but they have not given any details as to what the medical issue might be.

Conon is no stranger to the CBS 2 investigators. Just over a year ago, CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards showed up at Conlon’s house – trying to get Conlon to answer questions about priest sex abuse allegations in the Joliet diocese.

Conlon slammed his front door in Edwards’ face.

There is a list of more than 30 priests who are accused of abuse in the Joliet diocese, including Father James Nowak.

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Mourners pay tribute to Father George Clements during funeral at Holy Angels Church

CHICAGO (IL)
WLS-TV

December 28, 2019

By Jesse Kirsch

Family, friends and members of Holy Angels Catholic Church came together to pay tribute to Father George Clements during a funeral service Saturday.

A complicated figure in Chicago’s Catholic community, Clements died Nov. 25 at the age of 87.

He served as the priest at Holy Angels in the Bronzeville neighborhood for more than 20 years.

“I felt that he was truly a man of God, a servant of God. He was speaking from his heart,” said Carole Haymon, who attended Clements’ funeral.

Clements’ impact reached far beyond his hometown of Chicago. In 1980, he blazed a new trail for Catholic priests as the first to adopt a child. In all, he adopted four sons.

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12 big stories of 2019 in mid-Michigan

MICHIGAN
MLive.com

December 29, 2019

By Heather Jordan

The shooting of a police officer during a routine traffic stop in Saginaw Township. High water threatening Saginaw Bay shoreline homes. A sexual-abuse crisis sweeping the Catholic Church, including the diocese of Saginaw. A plan to privatize two of Bay City’s drawbridges and charge tolls. The longest automotive strike in 50 years.

As we look forward to 2020, here’s a look back at these and other top stories of the year in mid-Michigan:

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First clergy abuse suits under new California law announced

LOS ANGELES (CA)
Angelus News

Dec. 29, 2019

A national attorney for victims of clergy sexual abuse has announced plans to file twelve clergy sexual abuse lawsuits in nine California dioceses under California’s new Child Victims Act, which extends the state’s statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse survivors, set to take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The announcement from Jeff Anderson & Associates included plans for the law firm to file lawsuits in the Archdioceses of Los Angeles and San Francisco and the Dioceses of Fresno, Monterey, Orange, San Bernardino, Oakland, San Jose, and Santa Rosa.

The firm announced the first lawsuits on December 27 in Los Angeles against the Friars Minor Capuchin religious order, St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles over alleged abuse by a wrestling coach, Fr. Christopher Kearney O.F.M. Cap..

In the suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, an unnamed male alleges that Fr. Kearney touched him inappropriately during wrestling matches at St. Francis High School.

Two other lawsuits were announced the same day against Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana and the Diocese of Orange over alleged abuse by former principal Msgr. Michael Harris and Bernie Balsis, a former guidance counselor at the school. The suits were filed on behalf of former students of both high schools alleging abuse decades ago.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said it had not been served with the lawsuit. The statement confirmed that although Fr. Kearney was not a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 15 years ago the Archdiocese had included him on a list of publicly accused priests, following a history of similar accusations against the priest.

“Fr. Kearney is a priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, an independent religious order that runs St. Francis High School,” the Archdiocese said. “Fr. Kearney was included, as a religious order priest, in the list of publicly accused priests that the Archdiocese published in 2004.

The Archdiocese said that it is “committed to transparency and has established reporting and prevention policies and programs to protect minors and support victim-survivors in our parishes, schools and ministries.

“The Archdiocese does not tolerate anyone who does harm to a child or vulnerable person and remains committed to the support and healing of victim-survivors and to

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Reverend Tan Van Tran

COUNCIL BLUFFS (IA)
Daily Nonpareil

Dec. 14, 2019

Reverend Tan Van Tran, age 62, died at his home on December 10, 2019.

Tan was born on April 18, 1957, in Bien Hoa Province, South Vietnam, to Thuan Van Tran and Lich Thi Nguyen. He was one of 7 children, raised in a good Catholic family. He attended seminary in the Diocese, of Dong Nai, Vietnam from 1969 to 1987, which included Seminary of St. Paul High School and college seminary in Vietnam. In 1975, when Saigon fell to the communists, all seminaries were forced to close. Tan made the courageous decision to continue as a seminarian, although this meant persecution by the State. Many of his friends were jailed. Tan, however, lived with his bishop for 7 years and had the opportunity to study philosophy and theology in an underground seminary from 1976 to 1983. He did pastoral work for 3 years from 1984 to 1987.

In 1988, Tan escaped Vietnam by boat alongside many other Vietnamese. After 5 days of dangerous sailing, Tan’s boat reached Malaysia. He spent 7 months in Malaysia and 6 months in the Philippines, living in refugee camps where he ministered to other refugees that had fled their homelands. Tan arrived in America in April 1989, and in June, became part of the Diocese of Des Moines. In 1992, he received a Master of Divinity Degree from Sacred Heart Seminary in Hales Corners, Wisconsin.

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Amazon synod, abuse crisis dominate 2019 for Pope Francis

DENVER (CO)
Crux

December 28, 2019

By Inés San Martín

Often described as the “Energizer bunny of popes,” Pope Francis in 2019 traveled more miles than ever before, addressed the full scope of the clerical sexual abuse crisis, and made key personnel moves, including one that abuse survivors had been demanding for years.

The February abuse summit

When Francis summoned the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences and the leaders of the men’s and women’s religious orders to Rome for a Feb. 21-24, 2019 meeting, there was little to no information given out to describe the event.

However, it became evident that in the pope’s mind, beyond fostering transparency and discussing best practices, an important element of the meeting would be guaranteeing that no bishop in the future could say: “I didn’t know how to respond.”

Particularly in countries where the abuse crisis still seems like a “foreign” problem, there are bishops who believe that moving abusive priests to a different parish – or a different country – is a solution, or that priests can be returned to ministry after receiving “treatment” for sexual disorders. After their meeting in Rome, those excuses will no longer fly.

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Lawsuits allege sexual abuse and cover-ups at Catholic high schools in Santa Ana and La Cañada Flintridge

ANAHEIM (CA)
Orange County Register

December 27, 2019

By Sean Emery

Lawsuits allege sexual abuse and cover-ups at Catholic high schools in Santa Ana and La Cañada Flintridge

On the eve of a new law that gives victims of childhood sexual assaults more time to come forward, lawsuits have been filed over alleged abuse and cover-ups at Catholic high schools in Orange and Los Angeles counties.

Attorneys on Friday announced a pair of lawsuits filed by two former students of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana and one by a former student of St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge. During a pair of news conferences, the lawyers alleged that systematic sexual assault occurred at both campuses and was covered up by school and diocese leaders.

Assembly Bill 218 affects those abused in many walks of life, from Olympics swimmers and schoolchildren to Boy Scouts and young Catholic churchgoers.

The legislation, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October and taking effect Jan. 1, extends the time that victims of childhood sexual abuse can file lawsuits. It gives those for whom the statute of limitations had run out a window of three years to bring claims that would have otherwise been barred.

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Lawsuit alleges priest abused student at St. Francis High in La Cañada

LOS ANGELES (CA)
Los Angeles Times/La Cañada Valley Sun

December 27, 2019

By Anndy Nguyen

The first of six planned lawsuits was filed Friday on behalf of victims who allege they were sexually abused by a priest at St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge where they were students, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Under the auspices of AB 219, which takes effect in January and extends the statute of limitations for reporting childhood sexual assaults, the lawsuit was filed against St. Francis, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin — a religious order within the Catholic Church that operates the school.

Requests for comment from the Capuchin order and St. Francis were not immediately returned.

According to the suit filed this week, the first plaintiff, identified only as John Doe LA 1002, was a 15-year-old student at the school in 1984 when he began to be sexually abused by the Rev. Christopher Kearney, who taught at St. Francis from 1970 to 1995.

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Lawsuits accusing priests, counselor of sexual abuse filed against 2 SoCal schools in light of new law

ORANGE (CA)
KABC7

December 28, 2019

By Jessica De Nova and ABC7.com staff

Three lawsuits accusing former priests and a counselor of sexual abuse were filed the last week of December in light of a new law kicking in Jan. 1.

Nicole Bonilla said she suffered abuse at the hands of her guidance counselor in the 90s at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana.

“I will not send my kids to Mater Dei, ever,” Bonilla said.

According to Bonilla and her attorneys, administrators at the school covered up the alleged act and some were still working at Mater Dei when Bonilla’s complaint was filed more than two decades later.

“After they asked me all my questions they said that they were basically going to make sure it never happens again so I thought that there would be some form of justice or consequence,” Bonilla said.

Bonilla said neither her parents nor police were ever called. The accused counselor, Bernie Balsis, was gone a few months later.

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Man Alleges He Was Abused by Priest While at Catholic High School

LOS ANGELES (CA)
NBC

December 27, 2019

“It’s time for this serial offender to be exposed in a way he never has been,” a lawyer said.

Saying it is time for every diocese and religious order in the state to come clean, attorneys Friday filed the first of six lawsuits by victims who allege they were sexually abused by a priest while attending St. Francis High School in La Canada Flintridge.

During a news conference at the Hilton Checkers Los Angeles hotel downtown, lawyer Jeff Anderson said a new law, known as the Child Victims Act, gives new hope to alleged victims like the plaintiff in the current Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, who is identified only as John Doe LA 1002.He is suing the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and St. Francis High School.

A representative for the archdiocese did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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Church Fights Abuse Lawsuit Filed After Limit Was Extended

PROVIDENCE (RI)
Associated Press via Grans Pass OR Courier

December 28, 2019

Rhode Island’s Roman Catholic diocese is challenging a lawsuit filed after a state law gave sex abuse victims more time to sue their abusers or the institutions they worked for.

The challenge by the Diocese of Providence comes in the case of a 53-year-old man who sued the diocese in September, saying he was abused as a child in the 1970s and 1980s by a now-dead North Providence priest, The Providence Journal reported Friday.

The plaintiff was the first to file a priest abuse lawsuit after the state, one of the nation’s most heavily Catholic, extended the statute of limitations on civil claims for child sexual abuse. Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, signed the law over the summer.

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Bishops council denies knowledge of alleged sexual abuse in Indonesian Catholic Church

JAKARTA (INDONESIA)
Jakarta Post

December 27, 2019

Bishops Council of Indonesia (KWI) chairman and Jakarta Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo, who was just appointed cardinal, denied any knowledge of a report of sexual abuse in the Indonesian Catholic Church and questioned its “authenticity” during a Christmas press conference at the Jakarta Cathedral on Wednesday.

“I, as the archbishop of the Jakarta Archdiocese and as the chairman of the KWI, never received such a report. Therefore, if you ask me, I don’t know,” he told The Jakarta Post.

Weekly magazine Warta Minggu, published by the Tomang Catholic parish in West Jakarta, previously reported that at least 56 people were allegedly subjected to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Indonesia.

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The Bransfield report: Post publishes secret Vatican document as parishioners demand answers

WASHINGTON (DC)
Washington Post

December 23, 2019

By Shawn Boburg, Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Michelle Boorstein

https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/the-bransfield-report-post-publishes-secret-vatican-document-as-parishioners-demand-answers/2019/12/23/69f77f68-0007-11ea-9777-5cd51c6fec6f_story.html

[The Washington Post has posted a copy of the Bransfield report. BishopAccountability.org has made the report searchable.]

For months, civil authorities and Catholic parishioners have sought access to a secret church report about Michael J. Bransfield, the West Virginia bishop ousted for alleged sexual and financial misconduct. Law enforcement authorities in two jurisdictions contend that it could aid investigations they have launched, and parishioners have said it could help them understand how Bransfield’s behavior went unchecked for so long.

But so far, the report has remained out of their reach.

The Washington Post obtained a copy of the document in June and has drawn on it and other records for a series of stories about the role of cash gifts among senior clerics in the church’s ongoing sex abuse crisis.

The 60-page report is brimming with investigative findings about how Bransfield allegedly groomed and inappropriately touched young men and spent millions of dollars in church money on himself and on fellow clerics.

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Calls to clergy abuse hotline spike after N.J. expands statute of limitations

NEWARK (NJ)
Star Ledger

Dec. 28, 2019

By Blake Nelson

More people are calling the state’s priest abuse hotline since lawmakers expanded when victims can file lawsuits.

The New Jersey Clergy Abuse Hotline has received 568 total calls as of Dec. 9, according to the state Attorney General’s office.

“More survivors have come forward,” state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said during an interview earlier this month. “That’s been a positive.”

Starting Dec. 1, people who were previously barred from filing a lawsuit because the statute of limitations had expired now have a two-year window to pursue their case. Dozens of suits have already rolled in against local Catholic dioceses, the Boy Scouts of America and other organizations.

Grewal said renewed attention has led to more information about potential abuse.

“We are looking at every single one,” he said about the new calls.

Even if a tip doesn’t result in criminal charges, Grewal said new information could be incorporated into the state’s ongoing investigation into sex crimes throughout the Catholic Church. That inquiry was launched after a grand jury report in Pennsylvania found that more than 1,000 children were sexually abused by hundreds of priests, including four from New Jersey.

Grewal said he hoped New Jersey’s report would be finished this coming fall, in 2020, but that new information could push that timeline back.

The state’s Clergy Abuse Task Force has filed two cases to date, according to Grewal’s office.

A Phillipsburg priest named Thomas P. Ganley was arrested at the beginning of this year, pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault and was sentenced to four years in prison. A second man was arrested in September and later indicted on three counts of second-degree sexual assault, according to court records.

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Hundreds of accused clergy left off church’s sex abuse lists

NEW YORK (NY)
Associated Press

Dec. 28, 2019

By Claudia Lauer and Meghan Hoyer

Richard J. Poster served time for possessing child pornography, violated his probation by having contact with children, admitted masturbating in the bushes near a church school and in 2005 was put on a sex offender registry. And yet the former Catholic priest was only just this month added to a list of clergy members credibly accused of child sexual abuse — after The Associated Press asked why he was not included.

Victims advocates had long criticized the Roman Catholic Church for not making public the names of credibly accused priests. Now, despite the dioceses’ release of nearly 5,300 names, most in the last two years, critics say the lists are far from complete.

An AP analysis found more than 900 clergy members accused of child sexual abuse who were missing from lists released by the dioceses and religious orders where they served.

The AP reached that number by matching those public diocesan lists against a database of accused priests tracked by the group BishopAccountability.org and then scouring bankruptcy documents, lawsuits, settlement information, grand jury reports and media accounts.

More than a hundred of the former clergy members not listed by dioceses or religious orders had been charged with sexual crimes, including rape, solicitation and receiving or viewing child pornography.

On top of that, the AP found another nearly 400 priests and clergy members who were accused of abuse while serving in dioceses that have not yet released any names.

“No one should think, ‘Oh, the bishops are releasing their lists, there’s nothing left to do,’” said Terence McKiernan, co-founder of BishopAccountability.org, who has been tracking the abuse crisis and cataloging accused priests for almost two decades, accumulating a database of thousands of priests.

“There are a lot of holes in these lists,” he said. “There’s still a lot to do to get to actual, true transparency.”

Church officials say that absent an admission of guilt, they have to weigh releasing a name against harming the reputation of priests who may have been falsely accused. By naming accused priests, they note, they also open themselves to lawsuits from those who maintain their innocence.

Earlier this month, former priest John Tormey sued the Providence, Rhode Island, diocese, saying his reputation was irreparably harmed by his inclusion on the diocese’s credibly accused list. After the list was made public, he said he was asked to retire by the community college where he had worked for over a decade.

Some dioceses have excluded entire classes of clergy members from their lists — priests in religious orders, deceased priests who had only one allegation against them, priests ordained in foreign countries and, sometimes, deacons or seminarians ousted before they were ordained.

Others, like Poster, were excluded because of technicalities.

Poster’s name was not included when the Davenport, Iowa, diocese issued its first list of two dozen credibly accused priests in 2008. The diocese said his crime of possessing more than 270 videos and images of child pornography on his work laptop was not originally a qualifying offense in the church’s landmark charter on child abuse because there wasn’t a direct victim.

After he was released from prison, the diocese found Poster a job as a maintenance man at its office, but he was fired less than a year later after admitting to masturbating in the bushes on the property, which abuts a Catholic high school. Still, the diocese did not list him.

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Victims of sadistic evangelical priest want police to investigate

Patheos blog

Dec. 28, 2019

By Barry Duke

BACK in June we reported on the kinky behaviour of the Rev Jonathan Fletcher, above, a leading London evangelical who, among other things, would beat men on their bare butts with tennis shoes, and force them to give him naked massages.

When the goings-on at Fletcher’s Emmanuel Church in Wimbledon came to light in the summer, there were flurries of lurid headlines concerning allegations that he “spiritually abused” vulnerable adults. But then all went quiet until this week when it was reported that Fletcher, 77, who was banned from preaching at the church 2017, may now face a criminal investigation.

His alleged victims are seeking legal advice to see if his behaviour warrants criminal charges.

Emmanuel Church, they claim, did not take their concerns seriously, despite their reporting of the abuse. One victim said:

We don’t feel that we can go anywhere, basically. There’s no one high up that we trust.

An Emmanuel Church spokesperson said an independent review has been commissioned into safeguarding and Fletcher, with alleged victims, is encouraged to participate.

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New archbishop chosen to deal with aftermath of Chile’s abuse scandal

WELLINGTON (NZ)
Radio New Zealand

Dec. 28, 2019

Pope Francis has confirmed a Spanish priest as the new archbishop of Chile’s capital Santiago, as the Vatican seeks to turn the page on a sexual abuse scandal that has shaken its standing and eroded support in the conservative Latin nation.

Celestino Aos, 74, was appointed apostolic administrator of Santiago in March this year after the Pope accepted the resignation of Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, who faces multiple charges that he helped cover up sexual abuse of children.

Speaking shortly after his confirmation as the highest-ranking member of the Catholic Church in Chile, Aos promised to “seek justice, the truth, help the whistleblowers, people who suffer” but also said justice should not be “driven by passion, the emotion of the moment”.

Aos was educated and trained in his native Spain but has spent 36 years working in Chile. He told an interviewer this year that the Pope’s declaration last year about a “culture of cover-up” of abuse in Chile had been “painful and unfair”.

“There are some who have acted like this, and that is repugnant, but not everyone has,” he told Catholic publication Crux in May.

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What Does Cardinal Sodano’s Departure as Dean of the College of Cardinals Mean?

DENVER (CO)
National Catholic Register

Dec. 27, 2019

By Father Raymond J. de Souza

The Dec. 21 resignation of Cardinal Angelo Sodano as the dean of the College of Cardinals is the conclusion of a long career, not without controversy. It occasioned a change in the office of the dean itself, which will now be subject to a five-year term. It also signals that Pope Francis is preparing for the end of his pontificate, with no evidence that it is coming sooner rather than later, let alone imminent.

Sodano was a longtime papal diplomat, serving as nuncio in Chile during the 1980s. He was appointed secretary of state by St. John Paul II in 1990, where he served until 2006, when he retired at age 78 under Pope Benedict XVI. He had been dean of the college since April 2005, when he succeeded Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who had been dean until his election as pope.

When the complete collapse of the Chilean episcopate took place in 2018 after the disastrous papal visit, some defenders of Pope Francis attempted to blame the compromised state of the Chilean episcopate on the recommendations that Cardinal Sodano made as nuncio in the 1980s.

More significant, it is now widely known that when allegations against Legionaries of Christ founder Father Marcial Maciel arrived in Rome in 1998, there was a struggle between Cardinal Sodano and Cardinal Ratzinger over how they would be investigated. This resulted in a delay for several years until Father Maciel retired as superior of the Legionaries in January 2005. Cardinal Ratzinger immediately resumed the investigation, which was ongoing when he was elected pope in April 2005.

The subsequent year, Father Maciel was removed from all public ministry and sentenced to a life of prayer and penance. (Last week, the Legionaries released a report stating that their order’s founder had more than 60 victims.) Benedict replaced Cardinal Sodano as secretary of state four weeks after the Maciel case was resolved. The Maciel matter remains a stain on Cardinal Sodano’s record.

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2019 In Review: Bishop Accountability

Patheos blog

Dec. 27, 2019

By Brian Fraga

Over the next several days, I’ll be posting links to some of the in-depth Catholic news stories I wrote this year for Our Sunday Visitor.

In 2019, I wrote several articles on bishops’ accountability for their handling of the clergy sex abuse crises. I interviewed bishops on their plans to restore trust, especially if they followed in the heels of disgraced predecessors who resigned amidst allegations that they had mishandled abuse cases. I also spoke with lay Catholics who shared their frustrations and, in some cases, disillusionment with their shepherds.

In this Sept. 13 Q&A, I profiled Bishop Mark Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia and the challenges he was facing following in the footsteps of Michael Bransfield, who resigned after being accused of misusing Church funds to support his lavish lifestyle and of sexually harassing priests and seminarians. Bishop Bransfield has denied those allegations.

“A lot of people are upset, understandably,” Bishop Brennan told me. “I can’t wave a magic wand to make the past go away. I think it’s just the day-to-day attempt to be faithful to my ministry as a bishop, that over time I hope people of goodwill see that and be encouraged that they can trust their Church.”

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The last bull: Cardinal Sodano goes out

KANSAS CITY (MO)
National Catholic Reporter

Dec. 27, 2019

By Jason Berry

A scene in “The Two Popes,” the charming new Netflix movie, has Anthony Hopkins as a brooding, gentle Benedict XVI hearing the unprompted confession of Cardinal Jorge Borgoglio, played by Jonathan Pryce in an adroit balance of modesty and intellectual force. The Argentinian has gone to Rome seeking to retire at 75. Benedict rebuffs that. The tender plot distorts the reality of ecclesiastical ambition. Bergoglio reveals his agonizing struggle in the Dirty War as a young provincial, trying to protect a divided Jesuit community from the sadistic regime. Then, Benedict begins his confession, referencing “Fr. [Marcial] Maciel” – the notorious pedophile and Legion of Christ founder. At this point, director Fernando Meirelles cuts off the words: facial expressions convey Benedict’s remorse, speeding the plot past clergy sexual abuse.

In real life, a menacing shadow to both popes belonged to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a native of Piedmont in northern Italy. Sodano was the great protector of Maciel and other notorious predators. He was also a loyalist of Chile’s dictator, Augusto Pinochet, during the 1980s as papal nuncio in Santiago. Sodano helped Maciel gain support of affluent Chileans in establishing Legion schools there. In 1991, Pope John Paul II, impressed with Sodano’s anti-Communist credentials, made him Vatican Secretary of State. For nearly two decades he advanced the careers of most of the men who became Chilean bishops under John Paul and Benedict, along with many Vatican diplomats and officials in the Roman Curia who owed him allegiance.

Sodano, 92, was the church’s most powerful cardinal of the last generation. On December 21, Pope Francis “accepted” his resignation as dean of the College of Cardinals, in which post he practiced Machiavellian politics on a breathtaking scale. Sodano swallowed his fate in a photo-op with a smiling Francis and one of those ornamentally-phrased Vatican documents when a big man gets sacked. The pope’s motu proprio (on his own initiative) performs a verbal bow to Sodano, “whom I thank warmly for the high service rendered to the College of Cardinals in the nearly fifteen years of his mandate.” The document stipulates a five-year term for future deans, renewable if a pope so desires.

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Providence diocese challenges law giving alleged child sex-abuse victims more time to sue

PROVIDENCE (RI)
Providence Journal

Dec. 27, 2019

By Brian Amaral

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence argued in a legal filing that the state’s new deadlines to sue over childhood sexual abuse is, in part, unconstitutional.

The legal wrangling comes in the first test case after a new state law extended — in some cases retroactively — the deadline to sue over child sexual abuse. A man sued the diocese in September, saying he was abused hundreds of times when he was a child by a North Providence priest in the 1970s and 1980s.

Now, though, the diocese is asking the Superior Court to dismiss the case. Until then, the diocese argued in a separate filing, it shouldn’t have to turn over records to the man who said he was abused.

Among the diocese’s legal positions: The state can’t extend the deadline to file lawsuits over child sex abuse if the deadline had already run out under the old law. That’s exactly what the legislation, signed over the summer, tried to do for certain cases.

“The Rhode Island Supreme Court has held unequivocally that retroactive legislative changes to statutes of limitations that revive already time-barred claims are unconstitutional,” the diocese’s lawyers said. “This is not a close question.”

The diocese’s lawyers are also trying to halt what’s called legal discovery in the case, describing the requests for internal documents and information as burdensome.

The motion to dismiss the case is not unexpected, said Timothy J. Conlon, the lawyer for the man suing the diocese said. But the description of his discovery requests as a burden was “totally ridiculous,” Conlon said. It came just after Pope Francis lifted the highest levels of church secrecy on child sex abuse cases.

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2 Former Mater Dei High School Students Accuse Ex Principal And Counselor Of Sex Abuse

SANTA ANA (CA)
CBS LA

Dec. 27, 2019

Two former Mater Dei High School students have sued the Diocese of Orange this week, alleging they were victims of sexual abuse at the hands of a former counselor and a former principal while attending the private Catholic Santa Ana school.

The plaintiffs, a man and woman whose names were not revealed in the lawsuits filed in Orange County Superior Court, allege they were abused when they were 15 years old.

They filed the lawsuits under a new law that allows for a three-year window of claims that would otherwise be barred by a statute of limitations.

The woman, who was born in 1980, alleged in her lawsuit filed Thursday that she was abused by former counselor Bernie Balsis in 1995 when she was a student at the private Roman Catholic high school, located at 1202 W. Edinger Ave.

The other lawsuit was also filed Tuesday by a man born in 1963 who alleges he was sexually assaulted by former Mater Dei principal the Rev. Michael Harris.

According to the woman’s lawsuit, Balsis “befriended” her and would “summon her into his office under the guise of providing counseling services,” but then “proceeded to tell plaintiff that he loved her, hugged her and pressed his erect penis against her while his hands were underneath her skirt manipulating her buttocks,” the lawsuit alleges.

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AG charges 7 Michigan priests with clergy abuse in 2019

SAGINAW (MI)
WMEN TV

Dec. 27, 2019

By Markie Heideman

Seven priests have been charged in Michigan in 2019 for clergy abuse and the investigation is ongoing, according to Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Nessel took over the investigation from former Attorney General Bill Schuette. Since the beginning of the investigation, more than 640 tips have been received.

The attorney general said 552 victims have been identified and 270 priests have been named as abusers.

Currently, 130 cases are being investigated or reviewed for potential charges. Of those cases, about 50 cases have been closed based on the statute of limitations or the deaths of the priests involved. Forty-five of the cases are actively being investigated and 25 cases have been referred to the Diocese for further action.

Of the seven currently charged, Patrick Casey and Brian Stanley have already pleaded guilty, according to officials. Casey has been sentenced to 45 days in jail, and one year of probation and sex offender counseling. Stanley is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 27.

Others charged include Joseph Baker, Timothy Crowley, Vincent DeLorenzo, Neil Kalina and Jacob Vellian.

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Five days that stood out in a rocky year as Dallas Catholic Diocese sought to rebuild trust

DALLAS (TX)
Morning News

Dec. 27, 2019

By David Tarrant and Jennifer Emily

In 2019, the Dallas Catholic Diocese decided it was time to reconcile with its painful past over the sex-abuse scandal that has embroiled the church for decades and left its reputation scarred.

Joined by other Texas Catholic dioceses, it released the names of clergy who had been credibly accused of sexually abusing children since 1950. The hope was that such transparency would restore trust in church leadership among 8.5 million Catholics in 1,320 parishes across the state.

But the release of names did not resolve matters — not by a long shot. From police raids on the Dallas diocese to fresh accusations, the clergy sex abuse crisis showed no signs of abating locally and around the world.

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Priests, teacher, doctor accused in latest Child Victims Act lawsuits

BUFFALO (NY)
Buffalo News

Dec. 27, 2019

By Jay Tokasz

A Jesuit priest who previously had not been linked to a sex abuse claim is among several people accused in recently filed lawsuits of molesting children, along with an unnamed teacher at a South Buffalo Catholic school, an unnamed doctor at a home for orphaned and runaway girls, and a former Catholic priest who pleaded guilty in 1986 to a misdemeanor charge of first-degree attempted sexual abuse.

A male plaintiff who was raised in Cornwall, a town in Orange County, alleged that the Rev. Charles W. Lehmkuhl molested him from the time he was 7 years old in 1973 until 1983, when he was 17. The plaintiff, who is represented by attorney Nicholas J. Shemik, named Canisius College as defendant. Neither the Buffalo Diocese, nor the Society of Jesus, Lehmkuhl’s priestly order, were named as defendants.

Lehmkuhl taught at Canisius from 1956 to 1987. He died in 1995.

The lawsuit states that Lehmkuhl was a friend of the plaintiff’s family and served as a father figure and spiritual leader to the plaintiff. The plaintiff accompanied Lehmkuhl on a trip to Canisius College in 1983, according to the lawsuit, which accuses the college of failing to protect the plaintiff from sexual assaults.

Lehmkuhl was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1949 and served as prefect of discipline at Xavier High School in New York City before arriving at Canisius College, where he taught religious studies and psychology.

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Pope begins restoring normal governance to Chilean dioceses

WASHINGTON (DC)
Catholic News Service

Dec. 27, 2019

By Cindy Wooden

Beginning the process of restoring normal governance to the dioceses of Chile in the wake of a massive clerical sexual abuse and cover-up scandal, Pope Francis named archbishops for the archdioceses of Santiago and Puerto Montt.

In May 2018, every bishop in Chile offered his resignation to Francis after a three-day meeting at the Vatican to discuss the abuse scandal and cover up.

By March 2019, Francis had accepted the resignations of eight of the bishops leading one of the country’s 27 dioceses or other church jurisdictions.

Embattled Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati of Santiago was the last to step down. Francis named Bishop Celestino Aos Braco of Copiapo, 74, as administrator of the archdiocese in March and named him archbishop Dec. 27.

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New Bedford pastor accused of rape, kidnapping, held without bail

NEW BEDFORD (MA)
WPRI TV

Dec. 27, 2019

By Melanie DaSilva and Anita Baffoni

A New Bedford pastor who is facing several charges including rape and kidnapping was found dangerous and is being held without bail.

A dangerousness hearing was held on Thursday for Pastor Elmer Perez, 44, of Iglesia De Jesucristo Church on Acushnet Avenue. He was taken into custody last week following a month-long investigation into accusations of sexual assault.

In addition to rape and kidnapping, Perez was charged with indecent assault and battery, witness intimidation, and threatening to commit a crime.

Prosecutors described the alleged facts in this case as a pattern of predatory behavior.

“He’s trying to kiss people, he’s trying to get them to refer to him as a man and not their priest,” Assistant District Attorney Zach Mercer said. “All of these things suggest that this is what this defendant does.”

The alleged incident involved a 28-year-old female parishioner who says she was raped by Perez inside the church.

Prosecutors say five other women came forward saying Perez has sexually assaulted them, in the past.

The defense called a parishioner to the stand who has been at the church for five years and is in charge of maintenance of the church once a week.

The judge and attorneys reviewed a two-minute long video as evidence of the room where the alleged incident occurred.

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Church must deal with ‘fear factor’ keeping bad bishops in power

DENVER (CO)
Crux

Dec. 27, 2019

By Charles Collins

“Fear” is a word you see a lot in the 60-page report on Bishop Michael Bransfield, which was published on Monday by the Washington Post.

The report into the former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, which encompasses the entire state of West Virginia, was commissioned by Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who was tasked by the Vatican to investigate allegations of sexual and financial misconduct during the 13-year reign of Bransfield, who retired in 2018.

The Post had reported on the document previously, having been leaked a copy in June, but decided to publish the full report two days before Christmas.

The report is a tale of an often-intoxicated predator, freely spending the diocese’s money, with no check on his power.

This behavior, according to the report, even predated Bransfield’s time as a bishop, with reports of misbehavior going back to his time at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where he spent most of his priestly career before his episcopal appointment.

Witnesses reported sexual comments, unwanted touching, and other harassment and abuse throughout Bransfield’s career, but no one said anything.

Why? Fear.

Priests and seminarians knew their careers were in the hands of the bishop; this is especially true of seminarians, who could easily be denied ordination if they reported Bransfield’s behavior.

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Teenager, 19, kills ‘paedophile priest who abused him’ by ramming a crucifix down his throat and suffocating him in France

LONDON (ENGLAND)
Daily Mail

Dec. 2019

By Luke Andrews

A 19-year-old man has been arrested for killing a suspected paedophile priest by ramming a crucifix down his throat after the clergyman allegedly abused him in France.

Alexandre V., whose full name has not been disclosed, attacked 91-year-old Catholic Roger Matassoli while working at the holy figure’s home in Agnetz, Oise, northern France.

The man was charged for torture, murder and resisting arrest, but had to be transferred to hospital when he was arrested on psychiatric grounds, after he was caught fleeing the scene in the victim’s car.

Matassoli had been accused of sexually abusing at least four boys including the victim and his father between 1960 and 2000.

Father Roger Matassoli, pictured left in 1980, was found dead in his home in Agnetz, Oise, northern France, with a crucifix shoved down his throat. The priest had faced accusations that he abused at least four children

The priest was found dead by officers with signs of torture on his body and appearing to have suffered asphyxiation.

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Bishops ask Pope to remove priest over abuse

ROME (ITALY)
Catholic News Service

Dec. 27, 2019

By Martha Pskowski

The Mexican Episcopal Conference released a communique on 10 December, calling on the Legionaries of Christ to ask Pope Francis to remove priest Fernando Martínez Suárez from the clerical order. The bishops wrote that there has been no material action to repair the harm caused by Martínez Suárez, who is accused of abusing children as far back as 1969.

The Legionaries of Christ released a report on allegations against the priest on 22 November. The report includes reports of Martínez Suárez abusing a boy in 1969 and a girl in 1990 at the Cumbres Institute that the Legionaries operate in Mexico City. It also documents that the priest abused six girls at the Cumbres Institute in Cancun, between 1991 and 1993.

The Legionaries’ report acknowledges there was a grave error, “to assign in this case a priest who had already committed abuses to a pastoral post in another place with children and young people”.

The general secretary of the Mexican Episcopal Conference, and auxiliary bishop of Monterrey, Alfonso Miranda Guardiola, signed the communique along with the National Council for the Protection of Minors. They called for the Legionaries of Christ to take more direct action, and for Martínez Suárez to return to Mexico from Italy, where he has been living.

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SNAP Responds as Disgraced Cardinal McCarrick’s Financial Impropriety Revealed

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

Dec. 27, 2019

A new investigation by the Washington Post has revealed that a disgraced cardinal and notorious sexual abuser was also an abuser of church finances, giving lavish gifts to church bureaucrats and friends.

According to the Washington Post, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick routinely used the “Archbishop’s Special Fund” from the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to church officials including former Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict. Church officials claim that these gifts never influenced McCarrick’s power in the Vatican, but it’s hard to believe that such donations weren’t made in an effort to burnish his reputation among his peers and protect himself when his abuses inevitably came to light.

We’re not surprised by this news. Earlier this year, it was revealed that disgraced Bishop Michael Bransfield also used donated funds to give lavish gifts to his colleagues and superiors, and a Wall Street Journal investigation also recently found that church donations earmarked for the poor ended up being taken by church officials for their personal and administrative use.

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Pennsylvania dioceses offer $84M to 564 clergy abuse victims

ALLENTOWN (PA)
Associated Press

Dec. 26, 2019

By Michael Rubikam

Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses have paid nearly $84 million to 564 victims of sexual abuse, a tally that’s sure to grow substantially in the new year as compensation fund administrators work through a backlog of claims, according to an Associated Press review.

Seven of the state’s eight dioceses launched victim compensation funds in the wake of a landmark grand jury report on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. The funds were open to claims for a limited time this year. They are independently administered, though each diocese set its own rules on eligibility.

To date, the average payout across all seven dioceses has exceeded $148,000 — a fraction of what some adult victims of childhood abuse might have expected from a jury had they been permitted to take their claims to court. Under state law, victims of past abuse only have until age 30 to sue.

“These are all time-barred claims, so it’s not going to be the kind of numbers one sees in a courtroom,” said Camille Biros, who helps administer compensation funds for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and dioceses in Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie and Scranton.

Lawmakers recently agreed to begin the lengthy process of amending the state constitution to allow a two-year window for civil suits otherwise barred by the statute of limitations, but there’s no guarantee that effort will bear fruit.

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Disgraced former cardinal McCarrick gave more than $600,000 in church funds to powerful clerics, records show

WASHINGTON (DC)
Washingon Post

Dec. 26, 2019

By Shawn Boburg, Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Chico Harlan

Former cardinal Theodore McCarrick gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in church money to powerful Catholic clerics over nearly two decades, according to financial records obtained by The Washington Post, while the Vatican failed to act on claims he had sexually harassed young men.

Starting in 2001, McCarrick sent checks totaling more than $600,000 to clerics in Rome and elsewhere, including Vatican bureaucrats, papal advisers and two popes, according to church ledgers and former church officials.

Several of the more than 100 recipients were directly involved in assessing misconduct claims against McCarrick, documents and interviews show. It was not until 2018 that McCarrick was removed from public ministry amid allegations of misconduct decades earlier with a 16-year-old altar boy, and this year he became the first cardinal known to be defrocked for sexual abuse.

The checks were drawn from a little-known account at the Archdiocese of Washington, where McCarrick began serving as archbishop in 2001. The “Archbishop’s Special Fund” enabled him to raise money from wealthy Catholic donors and to spend it as he chose, with little oversight, according to the former officials.

McCarrick sent Pope John Paul II $90,000 from 2001 to 2005. Pope Benedict XVI received $291,000, most of it a single check for $250,000 in May 2005, a month after he was elevated to succeed the late John Paul.

Representatives of the former popes declined to comment or said they had no information about those specific checks. A former personal secretary to John Paul said donations to the pope were forwarded to the secretary of state, the second most powerful post at the Vatican. Experts cautioned that such gifts may also have been directed to papal charities.

A Vatican spokesman declined to comment. In statements, Vatican clerics who received checks described them as customary gifts among Catholic leaders during the Christmas season or as a gesture of appreciation for their service. They said the gifts from McCarrick were directed to charity or used for other proper purposes.

The gifts “never had any effect on the Cardinal’s decision-making as an official of the Holy See,” said a spokesman for Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, a high-ranking cleric who received $6,500 from McCarrick in the 2000s, the ledgers show.

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Berks County state Rep. responds to clergy sexual abuse compensation

MUHLENBERG TWP (PA)
WFMZ TV 69

Dec. 27, 2019

By Tom Rader

Victims of clergy sexual abuse are receiving millions in compensation following a shocking grand jury report released in August of 2018.

“It never is far from your mind knowing that there’s victims out there,” state Rep. Mark Rozzi said. “They’re struggling and they need justice now.”

Rozzi, who represents part of Berks County, is himself a survivor of clergy sex abuse. He touted the $84 million that’s been paid to 564 victims, but he also said more needs to be done.

“We’re still working on the constitutional amendment, House Bill 963, which is gonna take that two consecutive legislative sessions to get that to apply to the referendum and hopefully we get that passed into law in 2021,” he said.

Rozzi said that amendment is key to helping victims get justice that goes beyond the grand jury report.

“We’re eliminating the criminal statutes of limitations, which it’s currently age 50,” Rozzi said. “We’re completely abolishing that, but to put it in perspective for people, most of the Catholic clergy victims that were in these grand jury reports, they only had five years to report.”

In addition to the 564 victims that have already received compensation, there is still a large amount of claims expected to be filed in 2020. Rozzi said that regardless of the money received, it does not make living with the abuse experienced any easier.

“The one thing we know about this type of abuse is that it never goes away and you constantly struggle and struggle throughout your entire life with it,” Rozzi said.

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MORE INFORMATION
Easton man, hundreds of others, receive payout from Catholic Church
Easton man, hundreds of others, receive payout from Catholic Church
A new report says Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses have paid out $84 million to clergy abuse victims across the state.

Allentown Diocese says it’s made changes in year since grand jury report
As pope begins summit, Rozzi addresses reporters in Rome
Allentown Diocese announces plans to compensate clergy sex abuse victims
Lawsuit alleges Diocese returned pedophile Carbon County priest to service
Agreement reached to settle lawsuit alleging Diocese returned pedophile Carbon County priest to service
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Bill aims to open window for adult sex abuse lawsuits

ALBANY (NY)
Associated Press

Dec. 26, 2019

By Ryan Tarinelli

Churches, youth groups and schools were hit by a tsunami of lawsuits in 2019 after New York gave survivors of childhood sexual abuse a one-year window to sue over allegations ordinarily barred by statutes of limitation.

Now, some lawmakers want to open the same window for people abused as adults, a move that could lay a pathway for people to file additional lawsuits against some high-profile men targeted in the #MeToo movement.

Sen. Brad Hoylman introduced the Adult Survivors Act this autumn, saying survivors of adult sex abuse deserve their day in court.

“For too long, justice has been out of reach for adult survivors of sexual crimes,” Hoylman said in a statement.

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No. 4 story of 2019: Sioux City Diocese reveals list of 28 priests credibly accused of abusing minors

SIOUX CITY (IA)
Sioux City Journal

Dec. 26, 2019

By Dave Dreeszen

For the first time in its history, the Diocese of Sioux City this year released a list of priests credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 100 children while serving the Northwest Iowa diocese.

Facing repeated calls from victims and advocacy groups to do so, diocese leaders said the disclosure aimed to “shine a light” on its own “shameful history.”

“For some, today’s release will be an important milestone in our healing,” Bishop R. Walker Nickless said at a Feb. 25 news conference. “For others, it will reopen deep wounds, reviving their disturbing memories or those of their loved ones.

“However, I believe the Lord compels us to shine a light on this subject so we can together heal and send a clear message to victims: We believe you, we care about you.”

For months, a Diocesan Review Board and the diocese’s law firm reviewed priest files dating to the diocese’s founding in 1902. The first accusation deemed credible occurred in 1948, and the most recent in 1995, said Review Board member Mark Prosser.

Nickless noted none of the 28 credibly accused priests currently serve in the ministry or are active with youth. At the time of the list’s release, all but six were deceased, and the survivors have been stripped of their ability to give communion, celebrate Mass or represent themselves as priests, the bishop said.

Those credibly accused represent 5 percent of the estimated 515 priests who have served the diocese since it was established.

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Backstory: Most Unanswered Doors

BURLINGTON (VT)
Seven Days

Dec. 25, 2019

By Molly Walsh

My editors call it a “door knock.” But the simplicity of that term belies the courage it takes to walk up to a stranger’s front door and rap on it — in hopes of getting a face-to-face interview with a subject who hangs up or doesn’t answer the phone.

I found myself on a two-day “door knock” in September after Seven Days set out to locate the dozen surviving priests named on a list of 39 Vermont Catholic clergy credibly accused of sex abuse. Seven of them, as far as we could deduce, still lived in Vermont. We went to find them.

On the first day I teamed up with a colleague, Derek Brouwer, and was happy to have a cocaptain on this difficult assignment. The awful details — questions about betrayals, guilt or innocence — were all in the mix.

Along with the emotional weight, there were logistical challenges. Some addresses were wrong. Or confusing. I drove, and Derek helped navigate. Together we talked through intercoms and pressed apartment buzzers that no one responded to. In one case we walked into a locked senior living building by scooting in behind a resident. We found our way to the unit we were looking for and knocked, but no one answered.

At a different address, we were about to leave after multiple knocks. Then the door opened a crack, and an old, frail man peeked through it. He was the ex-priest we were looking for, but he wouldn’t comment. On one level, it was a win to be able to pose the question to an actual human being; on another, given the man’s aged state, the encounter was just sad and pathetic.

The next day Derek and I split up to maximize our remaining reporting time. He headed to Enosburgh. I set out for Glover in the Northeast Kingdom. I drove fast for the first hour and then had to slow down as I bumped over dirt roads. I passed old cemeteries, tall corn in the September sun, weathered barns, and flower beds full of zinnias and sunflowers. I remember thinking the day was too beautiful for this miserable mission.

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‘Counting On’: Why 1 Member of the Duggars’ Religious Organization Wasn’t Surprised by Josh Duggar’s Sexual Abuse Scandal

Show Biz Cheat Sheet blog

Dec. 25, 2019

By Julia Mullaney

The Duggar family has been on television since 2008. Their reality show, 19 Kids and Counting, documented the life of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar as they raised their nearly-20 children.

However, a disturbing sexual abuse scandal involving Josh Duggar, the oldest Duggar child, was leaked in 2015; the fallout caused the Duggar’s show to be canceled and replaced with Counting On. But one member of the family’s organization says she wasn’t surprised by Josh’s incident. Here’s why.

Back in the early 2000s, Josh Duggar admitted to sexually abusing several girls, most of whom were his own sisters. When Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were made aware of the incidents, Jim Bob consulted with the family’s church about the best option for Josh. Josh was eventually enrolled in a church-related program, which seemed to both help and punish the teenager, as the program consisted of physical labor as well as counseling.

In 2015, several years after the Duggars’ reality show premiered, a police report was obtained by InTouch, which leaked the entire story. That same year, Josh also admitted to having a pornography addiction and to being unfaithful to his wife, Anna.

The Duggars are affiliated with ATI, which is a strict Christian organization. Advance Training Institute, or ATI, is a Christian homeschool organization whose members live all over the United States. Michelle Duggar has used this homeschool program on the kids in the past; the program values religion heavily in terms of education. It’s no secret that Michelle and Jim Bob have raised their children with strict religious beliefs and values, but one former ATI member says that it isn’t a surprise that Josh was sexually abusing young girls — and ATI is the reason it doesn’t come as a shock.

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Michigan AG Releases Preliminary Numbers in Investigation into Clergy Abuse, SNAP Applauds AG Effort

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

Dec. 23, 2019

Yet another secular investigation into clergy abuse has uncovered more crimes than have been revealed by church officials. Most damning of all is the fact that at least twenty five priests that were found to be abusive were still working in active ministry in Michigan.

This means that children and the vulnerable were actively at risk and would have remained at risk if it were not for the efforts of Michigan AG Dana Nessel and her team. We are incredibly grateful for their work and know that they have prevented more children from being abused. Thanks to these dedicated law enforcement officials, communities in Michigan are safer and more informed.

Through her investigation, AG Nessel uncovered 40% more cases of abusive priests than had previously been known to the public. According to the AG, she has received more than 640 tips on her hotline which helped her identify 270 priests accused of abuse that involve at least 552 victims. The attorney general also said that she expects to have identified “several thousand” victims by the time her probe is complete. We believe that she is correct and hope that she will keep her hotline open for as long as possible. When victims start to be believed and action is taken against the people who abused them or covered the crimes, those victims will be more empowered to come forward and report their abuse.

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Washington Post publishes secret report on ex-W.Va. bishop accused of abuse, financial misconduct

CHARLESTON (WV)
Associated Press

Dec. 24, 2019

By Dale Sparks

A newspaper has published a secret church report about a former West Virginia bishop ousted for alleged sexual and financial misconduct that details how he allegedly groomed and inappropriately touched young men.

The Washington Post reports law enforcement does not have a copy of the report, which officials said could aid in their investigation into former bishop Michael Bransfield.

The Post said it received a copy of the 60-page report in June and has previously reported its contents. Bransfield is also accused of spending church funds on dining out, liquor, personal travel and luxury items, as well as personal gifts to fellow bishops and cardinals in the U.S. and Vatican.

Bransfield resigned in September 2018 amid allegations of sexual and financial misconduct. Earlier this year, Pope Francis barred Bransfield from public ministry and prohibited him from living in the diocese.

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Mexico: Legion of Christ victims criticize sex abuse report

MEXICO CITY (MEXICO)
Associated Press

Dec. 24, 2019

By Maria Verza

Victims of sexual abuse by priests from the Legion of Christ in Mexico sharply criticized an internal report on pedophilia released over the weekend.

Victims called the report incomplete, saying Monday that it is missing some victims and does not denounce those who covered up for abuses, allowing them to continue.

“It is a small report. We have no idea about its foundations. We do not know where they get the numbers from nor how they did the investigation,” said Ana Lucía Salazar, a 36-year-old TV presenter who says she was abused by a Legionnaire when she was 8 years old at a school in Cancun.

“It is tainted and weakened because the victims of (Legion of Christ founder) Marcial Maciel alone were more than 120, and they do not name those who covered it up or were complicit,” Salazar said.

The report made public Saturday identified 33 priests and 71 seminarians accused of sexually abusing minors since the Legion of Christ was founded nearly eight decades ago.

It said 175 people were victimized by priests, including 60 by the late Maciel. But it did not specify the number abused by seminarians, though it did show there was a multigenerational chain of abuse with victims later becoming abusers.

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New Orleans archdiocese’s list of credibly accused clergy grows by one name

NEW ORLEANS (LA)
NOLA. com

Dec. 24, 2019

By Ramon Antonio Vargas

A Catholic priest who held a prominent position with the Salesians of Don Bosco before being convicted of raping boys at a Massachusetts camp has been added to a list of clergy who served in the New Orleans area and are suspected of molesting minors.

Richard McCormick was assigned to St. Rosalie Parish in Harvey from 1991 to 1992, two decades after his 1970 ordination, according to the watchdog website bishopaccountability.org.

He’s been accused of sexual molestation and other misconduct during a time period before, as well as after, his time at St. Rosalie. He was added to Archbishop Gregory Aymond’s list of credibly-accused clergy under a section naming priests who served within the Archdiocese of New Orleans and were faced with abuse allegations elsewhere.

Archbishop Aymond in November 2018 first disclosed the names of 57 clergymen in the New Orleans Archdiocese who were removed from ministry over claims of child sex abuse that the local church deemed credible. That roster was issued months after the Catholic Church’s long-running clergy abuse crisis was reignited in the wake of reports exposing numerous undisclosed cases involving priests and other religious personnel across the country.

Aymond’s list has been revised a handful of times. The addition of McCormick brings the number of names to 64.

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Investigative Report into Disgraced Bishop Michael Bransfield Released by Washington Post, not Church Officials

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

Dec. 23, 2019

A report into allegations of abuse and financial impropriety against a disgraced West Virginia bishop has been released by the Washington Post. We applaud the journalists for the steadfast efforts to force the transparency that church officials have long promised but continuously fail to deliver.

The report into the crimes committed by former Bishop Michael Bransfield was commissioned by church officials themselves but they have fought off requests to make the document public, arguing that they “didn’t have access.” It is difficult to believe that church officials did not have a copy of the investigative report that they paid more than $500,000 for, continuing the trend of church officials refusing to release details about crimes that could help protect children and prevent more abuse from occurring in the future. It is incredibly disturbing that a diocese would fund this investigation, likely using monies donated by parishioners, and then claim that they don’t have a copy to release to those parishioners.

Sadly, we are not surprised at this outcome.

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Letter to California AG Regarding Loophole Keeping Children in Danger

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

Dec. 23, 2019

Dear AG Becerra,

A lawsuit was recently settled between a Catholic high school and a survivor who was a student at the time of her abuse. The perpetrator was a lay teacher named Jeffrey Hicks. We call your attention to this matter because it highlights a number of contemporary failures that we hope your office will investigate and remedy.

First, although the abuse was reported when it occurred, the mandatory reporters at Presentation High School in the Diocese of San Jose failed to act. Instead, they apparently undertook an internal investigation and pressured the victim to not make a police report. If this was not bad enough, the school allowed Mr. Hicks to participate as the director of a performing arts camp after the victim’s outcry, telling her family that $65,000 had already been collected for the camp and would have to be returned otherwise. If that were to occur, the school said it would be “impossible” to protect the identity of the survivor. The teacher was then quietly let go at the end of the summer.

Second, the abuser was employed by a Catholic school within the Diocese of San Jose, but was not a clergyman. The diocese has published a list of abusive priests but does not acknowledge or name lay employees or nuns who have been accused of abuse, either those who abused at Presentation or those who abused at Bellarmine College Preparatory, also within the territory of the Diocese of San Jose. The Diocese of Santa Rosa follows the same playbook; although Hanna Boys Center is a Catholic facility within the diocese and the Santa Rosa bishop sits on its board, lay employees who have abused are not named on the Santa Rosa list.

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Sex abuse lawsuits spread beyond Catholic Church to other denominations

BUFFALO (NY)
The Buffalo News

December 22, 2019

By Jay Tokasz

A second woman has accused a former religious education director at a Lutheran church in the Town of Tonawanda of sexually abusing her when she was a child in the late 1970s.

Kelly L. Klose, 54, alleged in a lawsuit that Bruce Connolly abused her from 1976 to 1979, when she was 11 to 14 and attended First Trinity Lutheran Church on Niagara Falls Boulevard.

“It’s not just a sexual abuse. It’s a betrayal,” said attorney Steve Boyd, who represents Klose.

Boyd said his client has had a difficult life and that “all the rough parts” of it sprung from the relationship with Connolly, who groomed Klose to gain her trust and then preyed on her for years.

A vast majority of the more than 310 Child Victims Act lawsuits in Western New York are against Catholic Church entities, primarily the Buffalo Diocese. But child molesters operate in a wide range of denominations, religious groups and other organizations, and lawsuits filed last week in Erie County State Supreme Court bore that out, as four of the seven cases had nothing to do with the Catholic Church.

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Marcial Maciel: Mexican founder Legionaries of Christ ‘abused 60 minors’

UNITED KINGDOM
BBC News

December 22, 2019

At least 60 children were abused by Marcial Maciel, founder of the ultra-conservative Catholic order Legionaries of Christ, an investigation has found.

The report, published by the Roman Catholic group, said 33 priests in the order abused at least 175 minors since it was founded in 1941.

In 2006, Maciel was ordered to retire to a life of penitence after years of allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

He died two years later at the age of 87 without facing his accusers.

“There are probably more cases of abuse than those in the report and the statistics will have to be updated regularly,” the report said.

It added that a process of “reparation and reconciliation” had begun with 45 of the victims.

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Vatican office struggles to keep up with clergy abuse cases

VATICAN CITY
Associated Press

December 20, 2019

By Nicole Winfield

The Vatican office responsible for processing clergy sex abuse complaints has seen a record 1,000 cases reported from around the world this year, including from countries it had not heard from before — suggesting that the worst may be yet to come in a crisis that has plagued the Roman Catholic Church.

Nearly two decades after the Vatican assumed responsibility for reviewing all cases of abuse, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is today overwhelmed, struggling with a skeleton staff that hasn’t grown at pace to meet the four-fold increase in the number of cases arriving in 2019 compared to a decade ago.

“I know cloning is against Catholic teaching, but if I could actually clone my officials and have them work three shifts a day or work seven days a week,” they might make the necessary headway, said Monsignor John Kennedy, the head of the congregation’s discipline section, which processes the cases.

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Christians combat sexual abuse with solid advice, real-world examples

OKLAHOMA CITY (OK)
Christian Chronicle

December 23, 2019

By Steve Black

It is easy to find those who will stand against abuse.

It is far more challenging to convince others of how the abuse may occur — and who we should be aware of. Most of us are not wired with that level of evil creativity.

In “Protecting Your Child From Predators,” Beth Robinson and Latayne C. Scott have created an extremely practical guide for families. The book shows parents how abuse may occur at various age levels — and what they can teach their children to help make them safer. They emphasize creating a “warrior heart” in your child that empowers them by giving them age-appropriate information and the power to speak up if anyone crosses a boundary with them or others.

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It’s time to investigate Jehovah Witnesses sex crimes, says Belfast abuse victim

IRELAND
Belfast Telegraph

December 24, 2019

By Christopher Woodhouse

A WOMAN has called for an inquiry into sex crimes by Jehovah’s Witnesses after her Bible study class abuser was sentenced for subjecting her to years of abuse.

Laura Waring, who has bravely waived her right to anonymity, revealed she’s been contacted by other people who say they were also victims of abusers in the church.

The church has been dogged internationally by sex scandals involving alleged abusers and major public inquiry was held into allegations in Australia.

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Clergy sex abuse whistleblower bolsters ‘Sully Movement’

NIAGARA (ONTARIO, CANADA)
The St. Catharines Standard

December 22, 2019

By Paul Forsyth

James Faluszczak, a former priest who says he was molested as a teen, joins protesters outside Welland church

James Faluszczak was wearing a dark hoodie with the words ‘defend the defenseless’ on it.

Perhaps spandex would have been more suitable.

“James is a superhero without a cape,” said William O’Sullivan, a man whose once-lonely weekly vigils outside Welland’s St. Kevin Catholic church where he was sexually assaulted as a boy over a period of several years has grown to become known as the ‘Sully Movement.’

Dozens of people were there with him Sunday, holding signs demanding action by the Catholic church on the blight of sexual abuse by priests such as Donald Grecco, a convicted sex offender who targeted O’Sullivan.

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Former Catholic deacon charged with rape makes bail, report says

NEW ORLEANS (LA)
WWLTV

December 23, 2019

Brignac was removed from the Catholic Church after several sexual abuse allegations against him surfaced.

A former Catholic deacon charged with raping a child in the 1980s has posted bail and is expected to be released later today.

According to a report from our partners at NOLA.com/The New Orleans Advocate, George Brignac, obtained a surety bond from Miss Janie’s Bail Bonds in Marrero on Saturday afternoon and will be released Monday.

Brignac, 84, pleaded not guilty to first-degree rape on Dec. 13 and has been held in New Orleans’ jail ever since. His bail was set at $1 million. If convicted, he faces a mandatory lifetime sentence.

Brignac’s lawyer did not say what assets Brignac of his family provided to obtain the bond. Normally, a bond that large would cost $120,000 in cash.

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Victim Struggles to Heal After Sexual Abuse by Salesian Priest

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
The Epoch Times

December 24, 2019

By Chris Karr

In the fall of 1969, Joey Piscitelli, who had recently turned 14 years old, entered Salesian High School in Richmond, California. He quickly caught the eye of the vice principal, Father Stephen Whelan, who invited him to play a game of pool at the Salesian Boys’ Club on the school’s campus.

“I thought it was a really big deal that he wanted to play pool with me,” Piscitelli recalled.

But the game took a disturbing turn after Whelan asked Piscitelli to take the first shot. After he did so, Joey turned around and saw that his vice principal was touching himself.

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Cardinal (92) who ‘sought deal’ to bury sex abuse documents resigns

IRELAND
Irish Times

December 21, 2019

By Patsy McGarry

Mary McAleese described encounter with Angelo Sodano as ‘devastating moment’

Pope Francis on Saturday accepted the resignation of one of the most controversial figures at the Vatican, Cardinal Angelo Sodano (92), Dean of the College of Cardinals for the past 15 years.

He had been Vatican Secretary of State from 1990 until 2005 and succeeded then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now retired Pope Benedict XVI) as Dean of the College of Cardinals in 2005.

The Vatican said Cardinal Sodano was stepping down “because of his advanced age”.

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Vatican office overwhelmed by clergy sex abuse complaints

VATICAN CITY
Associated Press

December 21, 2019

The Vatican office responsible for processing clergy sex abuse complaints has seen a record 1,000 cases reported from around the world this year, including from countries it had not heard from before — suggesting that the worst may be yet to come in a crisis that has plagued the Roman Catholic Church.

Nearly two decades after the Vatican assumed responsibility for reviewing all cases of abuse, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is today overwhelmed, struggling with a skeleton staff that hasn’t grown at pace to meet the four-fold increase in the number of cases arriving in 2019 compared to a decade ago.

“I know cloning is against Catholic teaching, but if I could actually clone my officials and have them work three shifts a day or work seven days a week,” they might make the necessary headway, said Monsignor John Kennedy, the head of the congregation’s discipline section, which processes the cases.

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Sex abuse response, entity transitions top 2019 SBC stories

NASHVILLE (TN)
Baptist Press

December 23, 2019

Southern Baptists marked a year of transitions at several national entities in 2019, and they launched an initiative to help churches care for individuals affected by sexual abuse and harassment.

These 10 news stories, selected by both the editors of Baptist Press and a poll of Southern Baptist state publication editors, represent their picks as the most important stories of 2019.

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Churches can be safety net, but focus is on preventing sexual abuse

MERIDIAN (MS)
The Meridian Star.com

December 21, 2019

By Cheryl Owens

Faith communities can be a safety net for protecting children from abuse or neglect.

Missions strategist John Maxey, with the Lauderdale County Baptist Association, said churches, no matter the denomination, can be proactive in preventing any type of child abuse.

Most of the attention, however, is devoted to preventing sexual abuse by people working in ministries.

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Court finds Mormon church blocked southern Alberta police investigation into sex abuse of young girls in 1980s

CALGARY (CANADA)
CBC News

December 24, 2019

By Meghan Grant

Lethbridge judge convicted 51-year-old man on 2 counts of sex assault

More than 30 years ago, the Mormon church participated in the cover-up of the sexual assault of several young girls in southern Alberta, instructing the abuser not to go to police, according to an Alberta judge who has rendered a decision in the case.

These findings are laid out in the decision of Lethbridge Justice Johnna Kubik, who convicted the now 51-year-old man on two counts of sexual assault.

The abuse took place over a seven-year period between 1986 and 1993 when his victims were between the ages of eight and 13 years old.

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Catholic Church admits moving paedophile Jesuit brother interstate after complaints of sexual abuse

AUSTRALIA
ABC

December 24, 2019

The Catholic Church has admitted it shifted a paedophile Jesuit brother from a prestigious Adelaide school to another in Sydney, despite multiple complaints about his offending.

Australian Jesuit provincial Father Brian McCoy has announced the findings of an independent review into the movement of Victor Higgs in 1970 from Saint Ignatius’ College, in Athelstone, to Riverview in Sydney.

The former Victorian chief justice Marilyn Warren was appointed to undertake the review in 2018.

Her review found at least three complains were made to the then-rector of Saint Ignatius’ College in Athelstone, Father Frank Wallace SJ, regarding Higgs’s conduct.

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Ex-pastor of Medford church can’t withdraw guilty plea in child sex abuse case

PHILADELPHIA (PA)
Associated Press

December 23, 2019

A former pastor who co-founded a Christian music festival has lost his bid to withdraw his guilty plea in a child sex abuse case.

Harry Thomas, 76, had argued that his plea was invalid because his testimony had not established an adequate factual basis for four charges against him.

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Report by Cheshire-based Legion of Christ reveals its former leader molested at least 60 children

HARTFORD (CT)
Hartford Courant

December 23, 2019

By Dave Altimari

An internal investigation by the Cheshire-based Legion of Christ has identified 175 victims of sexual assault by priests, including 60 victims of the now-disgraced founder of the order and one victim who still has a lawsuit pending in Connecticut.

The 25-page report released on Dec. 21 is short on details of who the abusive priests were but draws a direct connection between the Rev. Marcial Maciel and the trail of abuse he left behind. In addition to secretly fathering at least three children himself, several of those that he abused became abusers themselves.

“It is worth noting that 111 of the victims were either victims of Father Maciel or were victims of his victims or of a victim of one of his victims. This represents 63.43% of the 175 victims of priests in the Congregation,” the report said.

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Bransfield’s Spending Spree Detailed in Report

WHEELNG (WV)
News Register

Dec. 24, 2019

Disgraced former bishop Michael Bransfield regularly abused prescription drugs and alcohol, which “likely contributed to his harassing and abusive behavior,” according to a secret report commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church.

Also during Bransfield’s 12-year tenure as bishop, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston spent $187 million more than it took in, causing the former bishop to draw from the diocese’s endowment and mineral rights account to make up the deficit, according to the report.

The Washington Post released the entire 60-page Bransfield report Monday. The newspaper obtained a copy of the document in June.

The report, labeled “privileged and confidential,” was submitted on Feb. 21 to Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore by the firm of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP.

Factual findings in the report include:

* “By failing to take any action, the chancery monsignors enabled the predatory and harassing conduct of Bishop Bransfield, and allowed him to recklessly spend diocesan funds for his own personal use. Further, independent, qualified lay and clergy board members should be selected to serve appropriate advisory roles in connection with actions taken by diocesan-related entities and should receive support for their proper functions.”

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Nessel: Probe finds abuse allegations against 270 priests involving 552 victims

DETROIT (MI)
Detroit News

Dec. 23, 2019

Beth LeBlanc

Attorney General Dana Nessel plans to announce charges against two more priests after the first of the year and is reviewing two additional warrants related to the investigation into clergy abuse in the Catholic Church in Michigan.

Seven priests have been charged, two of whom have pleaded guilty, in the wide-ranging investigation that so far has included 1.5 million seized paper documents and 3.5 million electronic documents. The information has been reviewed by 32 volunteers who put in over 1,400 hours at night and on weekends, Nessel said Monday.

The department has received 641 tips on its clergy abuse hotline, identified 270 priests alleged to be abusers and received allegations involving 552 victims of clergy sexual abuse, Nessel said. She estimated the department would identify “several thousand” victims by the end of the investigation.

“The vast majority of the cases can’t be prosecuted based on the statute of limitations issues,” Nessel said.

“I hope that part of this investigation is really sort of a thorough vetting of what can be done in the future so that we can address these types of concerns earlier and better,” she said.

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Ultra-Conservative Catholic Order Admits Its Founder Sexually Abused 60 Kids

Patheos blog

Dec. 23, 2019

By David Gee

An ultra-conservative Roman Catholic order admitted that its founder sexually abused 60 different children, and that 115 other minors were likewise abused since the inception of the institute.

Legionaries of Christ, founded in Mexico in 1941, said in a report that 33 priests had abused 175 different kids over the years since it started operations. Keep in mind that these types of internal investigations often underestimate the true numbers of credible allegations.

Marcial Maciel Degollado was ordered to retire in 2006 based on child sex abuse allegations.

He died two years later at the age of 87 without facing his accusers.

“There are probably more cases of abuse than those in the report and the statistics will have to be updated regularly,” the report said.

It added that a process of “reparation and reconciliation” had begun with 45 of the victims.

Because the founder of this order has been dead for more than 10 years, he has never truly been held accountable for what he did. As is often the case, this report focuses mostly on misconduct from the distant past.

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Arbitrator awards $75,000 to Mass. man who made sex abuse claim against former principal at South Boston Catholic school

BOSTON (MA)
Boston Globe

December 19, 2019

By Danny McDonald

An arbitrator has awarded a Massachusetts man $75,000 in a legal dispute with the Archdiocese of Boston, after the man alleged that the principal at a now-shuttered South Boston Catholic school sexually abused him as a child during the 1980s and 1990s. Five more men have also come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against the same administrator.

The arbitrator found that the man “suffered physical injuries and emotional injuries as a result of physical abuse.” The arbitration award was announced over the summer, and five other men have alleged that Paul Doty, who was working at the time as principal at St. Augustine Elementary School, a K-8 institution that has since closed, sexually molested them. Doty was not a priest.

The Archdiocese, in a statement this week, said it generally does not comment on or even acknowledge individual settlements and does not comment upon the specifics of any allegation. A spokesman did say the Archdiocese did notify law enforcement with regards to the case “as we do with all sexual abuse allegations.”

“Furthermore we encourage any victim to do the same either directly to law enforcement or through the Archdiocesan allegations,” the spokesman said in an e-mail.

Attempts to reach Doty, who is believed to still be alive, were unsuccessful this week.

In the case that was settled, Doty allegedly abused the victim, a 38-year-old man who grew up in South Boston and still lives in Massachusetts, about 20 times between 1989 and 1994, when he was between 8-years-old and 13-years-old, said the man’s attorney, Mitchell Garabedian. The victim attended St. Augustine’s as a student, and Doty, the principal of the school at the time, would engage him in wrestling matches that included inappropriate sexual touching, the victim said this week during a phone interview.

“Headlocks turned into rolling around the floor and leg locks and he would be aroused during a lot of this, I didn’t know how to make sense of that when I was that age,” he said. “I was too embarrassed to talk about it.”

He added, “It never escalated, it never went beyond this really inappropriate, weird wrestling.”

The victim wished to remain anonymous, and the Globe typically does not name sex abuse victims.

Of the arbitration award, the victim said, “It’s hard for me to say exactly what it represented.” In coming forward, he said he was interested in “making sure this wasn’t continuing to happen.”

Garabedian, who has represented thousands of sex abuse victims, said his client, was “a courageous survivor who by coming forward is speaking on behalf of other victims and making the world a safer place for children.”

Garabedian said the claim was filed as part of the archdiocese’s compensation program. As part of that program, a person notifies the archdiocese of their claim, counsel for the archdiocese then asks for records, and archdiocesan attorneys and an investigator interview the person who has made the claim, with the claimant’s attorney present, according to Garabedian.

The archdiocese then determines whether the allegations are credible or not, he said. In this case, they found the allegations to be credible and the matter went before an arbitrator to determine the financial award, Garabedian said.

Five other alleged victims, men in their 30s and 40s who were students at St. Augustine’s , have also made civil claims alleging Doty sexually abused claims them, according to redacted documents provided to the Globe. Those individuals allege Doty sexually molested them and claim their injuries include feelings of isolation, helplessness and shame. Some alleged that Doty ruined a part of their life, created an emotional void, or stole their childhood, according to their claims.

One victim alleged that as a result of being sexually molested by Doty his injuries included “sleep problems; concentration problems; shame; guilt; crying; depression; apathy; embarrassment; flashbacks; reminders; feeling dirty, damaged, and used.”

The allegations date back to the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s, and five of the claims detailing such accusations are currently going through the settlement process, according to Garabedian. Of the six who have accused Doty of sexual abuse, four went to law enforcement with their allegations but were told the state’s criminal statute of limitations prevented prosecution, said Garabedian.

St. Augustine Elementary School, where Doty was principal from 1987 to 1999, closed in 2003, with church officials citing mounting debts, declining enrollment, and $33,000 in needed repairs as the driving factors behind its shuttering. Its closure came amid a financial crisis for the archdiocese, partly caused by the fallout from the clergy sex abuse scandal. The fiscal pinch forced the church to reduce parish subsidies and close schools that it could no longer support.

Doty was also a principal at the now-defunct Charlestown Catholic Elementary School between 1999 and 2001 and taught at St. Patrick School in Roxbury for a decade starting in 1977, said Garabedian. Charlestown Catholic closed in 2003. After 2003, Doty also worked at Catholic schools in Ohio, Kentucky, and Alabama.

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Judge denies request to reduce bond for local priest arrested on child porn charges

CLEVELAND (OH)
WJW TV

Dec. 23, 2019

By Talia Naquin

A judge has denied a request to reduce the bond of a local priest who was arrested earlier this month on child pornography charges.

Father Robert McWilliams was arrested Dec. 5 at St. Joseph Parish in Strongsville.

He is facing several charges, including three counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance.

An assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor says there are allegations in Geauga County that the priest posed as a stranger to extort children into sending him nude videos and pictures.

McWilliams, who remains held in the Cuyahoga County jail, has entered not guilty pleas.

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Rochester diocese: Secret clergy sex abuse files could come out during bankruptcy

ROCHESTER (NY)
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

December 23, 2019

By Steve Orr

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
The diocese has received claims from 220 people who said they’d been victimized by local priests.
Lawyers say there are ways to bring about transparency in the diocese’s bankruptcy case.
The diocese initially asked all abuse-related paperwork relevant to the bankruptcy be filed under seal.

Saying they feared one more cover-up by church leaders, sexual abuse victims howled in protest when the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester filed for bankruptcy protection in September.

The bankruptcy process, they said, would enable the diocese to dodge victims’ accusations and keep damning internal records from public view.

As if to prove the point, the diocese’s lawyers initially asked that all abuse-related paperwork relevant to the bankruptcy be filed under seal.

“Bishop Salvatore Matano’s choice is simply … an attempt to prevent the truth from being revealed,” declared Jeffrey Anderson, a Minnesota lawyer known for his spirited pursuit of child sex-abuse perpetrators.

But that may not have been the last word.

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No ‘Magic Bullets’ in the Fight Against Online Abuse, but ‘Spiders’ Help

NEW YORK (NY)
The New York Times

December 22, 2019

By Gabriel J.X. Dance

Sexual predators have grown increasingly adept at using the internet to share and view child sexual abuse photos and videos. Some have computer-programming skills and have deployed sophisticated defenses against efforts to take them down.

But the predators don’t have free rein on the internet, thanks to nearly four dozen child protection hotlines around the world, which act as a first line of defense against the explosion of imagery.

The hotlines play a central role in getting tech companies, websites and others to address the content. When the hotlines become aware of an illegal image, they issue a notice to have it removed. They may also notify law enforcement officials, who can launch a criminal investigation and try to rescue the abused child.

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Fighting the Good Fight Against Online Child Sexual Abuse

NEW YORK (NY)
The New York Times

December 22, 2019

By Gabriel J.X. Dance

Several websites popular with sexual predators were thwarted last month after a determined campaign by groups dedicated to eliminating the content. It was a rare victory in an unending war.

In late November, the moderator of three highly trafficked websites posted a message titled “R.I.P.” It offered a convoluted explanation for why they were left with no choice but to close.

The unnamed moderator thanked over 100,000 “brothers” who had visited and contributed to the sites before their demise, blaming an “increasingly intolerant world” that did not allow children to “fully express themselves.”

In fact, forums on the sites had been bastions of illegal content almost since their inception in 2012, containing child sexual abuse photos and videos, including violent and explicit imagery of infants and toddlers.

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Uber Must Pay $4.4 Million To Settle Sexual Harassment Case

UNITED STATES
Huffington Post

December 18, 2019

By Lydia O’Connor

The agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission follows an investigation sparked by a former employee’s scathing blog post.

Ride-hailing company Uber agreed Wednesday to hand over $4.4 million in a settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has been investigating sexual harassment and retaliation at the company since 2017.

The sum will go into a class fund compensating anyone the EEOC finds experienced such treatment at the San Francisco-based company since 2014.

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Pope Francis fury: Vatican leader issues warning as religion being ‘denied and derided’

UNITED KINGDOM
Express

December 23, 2019

By Charlie Bradley

POPE FRANCIS has endured growing criticism from conservative figures in the Catholic Church as a result of his progressive papacy, but he made a statement of defiance on Saturday as he condemned his “rigid” opponents in the Vatican, accusing them of creating “hatred.”

In his message, Pope Francis warned faith is declining and the Church must adapt to ensure its message reaches people from all walks of life. He said: “Today we are no longer the only ones that produce culture, no longer the first nor the most listened to. “The faith in Europe and in much of the West is no longer an obvious presumption but is often denied, derided, marginalised and ridiculed.

“Here we have to beware of the temptation of assuming a rigid outlook. Rigidity that is born from fear of change and ends up disseminating stakes and obstacles in the ground of the common good, turning it into a minefield of misunderstanding and hatred.”

The statement comes amid persisting divisions in the Catholic Church, with conservative critics questioning the revolutionary papacy of Francis.

Influential figures in the Catholic Church have called out the Pope for allegedly promoting “idolatrous worship” for symbols of fertility after pan-Amazon bishops visited the Vatican in October.

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A Chicago Psychiatric Hospital Is Under Fire After Child Abuse Allegations. Again.

CHICAGO (IL)
ProPublica Illinois

December 18, 2019

By Duaa Eldeib

A new lawsuit calls Chicago Lakeshore a “hospital of horrors,” where children as young as 7 were allegedly sexually abused and others were injected with sedatives and physically attacked — all while officials covered it up.

A federal lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Cook County public guardian alleged that children as young as 7 were sexually abused, while others were injected with sedatives to control them and physically attacked, at a Chicago psychiatric hospital. Child welfare officials, meanwhile, allegedly worked with the hospital to cover up the abuse.

Charles Golbert, the Cook County public guardian, filed the lawsuit on behalf of seven children who are in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and who had been involuntarily admitted to Chicago Lakeshore Hospital in 2017 and 2018.

“These kids are entitled to justice for what happened to them at this facility,” Golbert said in an interview Wednesday. “DCFS knew perfectly well about all of the problems and dangers at this hospital.”

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Allison Mack will serve ‘a substantial amount of time’ in prison for role in Nxivm sex cult, lawyer says

NEW YORK (NY)
Yahoo Celebrity

December 18, 2019

By Taryn Ryder

For victims and their families affected by the Nxivm sex cult, 2019 was a year of reckoning.

In June, Keith Raniere was found guilty of sex trafficking, racketeering and other felonies related to the self-help group he co-founded and its secret cult after weeks of explosive testimony. Within Nxivm was a “sorority” called “DOS,” short for Dominus Obsequious Sororium, or Master Over Slave Women. Months prior, Smallville actress Allison Mack admitted to being a member and founding the women-branding group. Mack, who prosecutors say was one of Nxivm’s highest-ranking members, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and racketeering. As part of her guilty plea, Mack admitted to state law extortion and forced labor.

While Raniere is behind bars, Mack is out on bail awaiting sentencing — but it’s likely she will spend time in prison.

“Allison Mack is facing a total of 40 years maximum confinement time in the two charges she plead guilty to in federal court,” Silva Megerditchian, criminal defense attorney and CEO of Los Angeles-based SLM Law, tells Yahoo Entertainment. “At this stage, sentencing has been delayed, likely for both sides to put together a sentencing memorandum for the judge.”

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“The Environment Was Very Toxic”: Nudity, a Graphic Photo and the Untold Story of Why Ruth Wilson Left ‘The Affair’

CALIFORNIA
Hollywood Reporter

December 18, 2019

By Bryn Elise Sandberg, Kim Masters

The actress shocked fans of her Showtime drama when she suddenly quit the role that earned her a Golden Globe, then said she wasn’t allowed to say why. Now, insiders reveal a complex situation that involved complaints of a hostile work environment, Lena Dunham, and a director and showrunner who sparked a formal investigation.
In the summer of 2018, actress Ruth Wilson stunned fans and the television industry at large when she abruptly left The Affair, the Emmy-nominated Showtime drama in which she starred, with no explanation.

Days after her departure, the actress embarked on an awkward press tour for an upcoming film. Asked repeatedly about her mysterious exit from the show, she would only drop baiting hints. “It isn’t about pay parity, and it wasn’t about other jobs, [but] I’m not really allowed to talk about it,” she told The New York Times in August 2018, urging the reporter to contact showrunner Sarah Treem: “There is a much bigger story.”

That bigger story, it turns out, is much like the Rashomon-style narrative of the show itself, which explored different character perspectives on the same events and let the audience decide who might be the unreliable narrator. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed many of those involved in Wilson’s exit and the events that precipitated it. Many say Wilson, who is restrained by an NDA, had long wanted to leave the show because of ongoing frustrations with the nudity required of her, friction with Treem over the direction of her character, and what she ultimately felt was a “hostile work environment,” later the subject of a previously unreported 2017 investigation by Showtime parent company CBS.

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