Clergy Sex Abuse Scandals Continue to Surface

By Teresa Malcolm
National Catholic Reporter
May 3, 1996

The latest accusations of sex abuse by Catholic clergy occurred in Florida and Indiana. Kevin Sidaway, a former altar boy, is suing Father Rocco D'Angelo, a priest in Boynton Beach, FL. Federal agents are investigating whether Father Jean Vogler of Evansville, IN, purchased child pornography.

The ongoing crisis of sexual abuse by the clergy continues to rock the church. New allegations have surfaced in Florida and Indiana, while the wounds of a Canadian abuse scandal that broke in the early 1990s continue to fester in Toronto and Ottawa.

The Palm Beach Post has reported that a 73-year-old priest in Florida and the heads of the Palm Beach diocese and the Miami archdiocese are being sued by a former altar boy who says the priest sexually assaulted him in 1967.

In the late 1960s, Kevin Sidaway now 40, and four other boys accusedFr. Rocco D,Angelo of sexually assaulting them while he was pastor of St. Mark's Catholic Church in Boynton Beach, part of the Miami archdiocese until the Palm Beach diocese was formed in 1984. Sidaway is the first to file a lawsuit.

D'Angelo admitted the abuse and was sent for eight months of treatment at a psychiatric hospital. The boys, families said the diocese promised the priest would be kept away from children.

Sidaway approached lawyers and Palm Beach County prosecutors when hediscovered that D'Angelo had, in fact, been transferred to the St. Petersburg diocese and had worked in the Tampa Bay area from 1970 until his retirement in 1993.

Since news reports appeared in January, four Tampa-area men have come forward to accuse D,Angelo of sexually abusing them, some as late as 1987.

If prosecutors believe any abuse occurred after 1971, when the law changed, the priest, who is ill with cancer, could face criminal charges. The sexual abuse laws in Florida in the 1960s did not include boys.

In a letter read in February at three Tampa-area churches where D,Angelo worked, Bishop Robert Lynch asked that any victims of sexual abuse by church personnel report it to the diocese "so that we can take corrective action and offer them the spiritual, emotional and psychological support they need after suffering such a violation."

One mother who says D,Angelo molested her younger son and possibly her older son, asked for help from the Palm Beach diocese last summer.She said Bishop J. Keith Symons paid her about $500 in cash for therapy expenses, leaving it in an envelope at the diocesan office.

Symons was chancellor of the St. Petersburg diocese from 1971 to 1983. He said he reviewed "the professional psychiatric evaluations thatat the time clearly demonstrated the fitness of Rev. D,Angelo to serve as a priest."

Meanwhile, Fr. Jean Vogler of Evansville, Ind., is being investigated for violations of federal child pornography laws, according to The Evansville Courier.

Vogler resigned as pastor of Holy Rosary Church Dec. 8, 1995, after U.S. Customs and U.S. Postal Service inspectors seized videotapes of child pornography from the rectory.

Federal investigators were led to Vogler because he was on the mailing list for Overseas Male, the largest distributor of child pornography ever prosecuted in the United States.

James Kemmish of San Diego has pleaded guilty to charges related to Overseas Male's distribution of child pornography. His apartment had about 200 high quality master tapes, imported from Mexico, of children as young as 6 years old engaging in sexual acts with adults and other children.

In Canada, angry outbursts from persons who said they were abused at two Catholic-operated schools in Ontario Canada, disrupted the apology of Archbishop Marcel Gervais of Ottawa at a special Mass April 21.

"I don't want an apology from you. I want an apology from the brothers that raped me," Paul Gagnon shouted from a front pew of Notre DameCathedral Basilica. "They ruined my life, those dogs."

Gervais and Toronto Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic issued a statement of apology and invited the victims to attend special Masses in the two cities.

The two archdioceses "apologize for the hurt caused by individuals who seemed to be acting in the name of their religious communities or of the churches, but were not," Gervais said at the Mass.

Debbie Graveline, whose husband is among those who say they were abused, read from a prepared statement at the rector's podium. She told the archbishop that the church's apology "is a bit too late." She acknowledged that Gervais had helped the victims and their families, butshe said some of the victims still have not received compensation and asked Gervais to ensure that outstanding claims be settled within two weeks from the April 21 Mass.

More than two dozen Christian Brothers have been convicted of physical or sexual offenses that occurred between the 1950s end '70s at St.Joseph's Training School, near Ottawa, and St. John's Training School, near Toronto, both operated by the order.

A $16 million compensation package was reached in 1992 with the Ottawa and Toronto archdioceses, the provincial government and the OttawaChristian Brothers.

The Toronto Christian Brothers refused to be involved in the compensation package. A civil suit has been launched against them.

In the Chicago archdiocese, Fr. James C. Hagan, pastor of St. Denis Church, was recently placed on administrative leave following accusations of sexual misconduct with minors, according to television news reports April 24 and a diocesan statement.

According to the reports, Hagan was accused by two men now in their 20s. The archdiocese said an initial inquiry into the charges was made by the Professional Fitness Review administrator, part of the mechanism set up by the archdiocese for dealing with allegations. The archdiocesan review board then agreed to a recommendation to withdraw Hagan from his ministerial assignment.


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