Posts Tagged “archdiocese of hartford”

Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford 3, 2009-09-02You could say the archdiocese of Hartford is the gift that keeps on giving … for agnostic bloggers like myself, anyway. Some two and a half years ago, this is the outfit whose attorney, Jack Sitarz, achieved a new high in low, during a civil trial over child abuse by a priest, by not only claiming the abuse wasn’t harmful because the victims “liked it,” but then by doubling down on that claim later in the same trial. (This is in spite of the fact that minors cannot by law be construed as consenting to sexual activity. Even I know this, and I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not sure how Sitarz got away with it.) Fortunately, the jury didn’t fall for Sitarz’s nasty and reprehensible maneuver (WebCite cached article).

Well, the archdiocese isn’t done scraping up new ways to evade responsibility for the abuse that it knew Fr Ivan Ferguson had been guilty of. They’ve appealed the verdict, the Hartford Courant reports, and demand the Connecticut Supreme Court invalidate the law that allowed the suit in the first place (cached):

The Archdiocese of Hartford is seeking to have the state Supreme Court overturn a $1 million verdict in a priest sex abuse case while at the same time reversing a state law that extended the amount of time in which accusers may file a lawsuit against it.

In February 2012, a jury in Waterbury awarded a former altar boy $1 million after a trial in which the victim, identified in court papers as Jacob Doe, testified that he and another friend were repeatedly molested and sexually assaulted by the Rev. Ivan Ferguson and a friend of the priest.

The diocese is asking the Supreme Court to overturn that verdict based on a variety of claims — including that the trial judge erred by not allowing an expert witness to testify for the church and by allowing the jury to hear testimony from a deposition of Ferguson.

But the most controversial argument is the claim that a state law last updated in 2002 — bumping to 30 years the statute of limitations for when a victim of sexual abuse may file a lawsuit — is unconstitutional and should be stricken.

What the archdiocese conveniently leaves out of the discussion, is just how long ago it knew the abuse had been going on, and even after it knew about the abuse, purposely chose to put Fr Ferguson back in a place where he could abuse more kids:

At the trial, testimony showed that when former Archbishop John F. Whealon confronted him about the 1979 allegation, Ferguson admitted to the abuse. Ferguson was sent to a treatment facility in Massachusetts. Two years later, Whealon appointed Ferguson priest director of a Derby school.

Ferguson and his boyfriend were accused of abusing Doe and his childhood friend at, among other places, the rectory to which Ferguson had been reassigned in Derby. At the time of the abuse, from 1981 to 1983, the boys attended the school. Ferguson died in 2002.

Now, I know some of the Catholic Church’s defenders here in Connecticut. Most of them are convinced no Catholic clergy ever abused any kids; that plaintiffs and their lawyers fabricated claims solely to extort money from a totally-innocent Church. It’s all a pack of malicious lies, you see, cooked up by greedy trial lawyers. While I agree some trial lawyers are greedy, and also agree it’s possible some plaintiffs are exaggerating or lying for profit, the cold facts are:

  1. Clerical child abuse has occurred within the Catholic Church;
  2. It happened all over the world, not just in Connecticut;
  3. The Church hierarchy knew damned well it was going on;
  4. The bishops happily and giddily continued putting kids in harm’s way by redeploying abusive clergy all over the place;
  5. And they actively interfered with secular authorities’ efforts to prosecute it, stifling investigations and even refusing to obey mandatory-reporting laws.

So am I impressed with these apologists’ objections? Fuck no. I’m nowhere near as stupid as they seem to think I am.

It’s long past time the archdiocese of Hartford stopped making ridiculous excuses, such as “the victims liked it,” grew the hell up already, and owned up to what they did. In this case, that was was to knowingly put Fr Ferguson in a place where he could abuse Jacob Doe and his friend. Pitching fits and whining in court over “unfair” legislation, is not accountability, and not what anyone ought to expect of Jesus’ representatives on earth. If you’re a Catholic and don’t like hearing this … well, it’s time you fucking grew up too, and started holding your own Church accountable, even if your bishops refuse to do so on their own.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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In 2011, Rev. Gerald Robinson tried to get his conviction overturned. He failed. He is eligible for parole in 2016. / Madalyn Ruggiero/AP, via (NY) Daily NewsPope Francis has named Leonard Paul Blair, the incumbent bishop of Toledo, OH, to replace the retiring Henry Mansell as the archbishop of Hartford. As appointments go, this one might seem unremarkable. Making a midwestern bishop into a northeastern archbishop is a normal promotion process within the Catholic hierarchy in the US, and an expected feather-in-the-cap of a man who declared ecclesiastical war on America’s Catholic nuns.

But it turns out there’s a lot more to this story than might appear at first glance. The Hartford Courant‘s Belief blog reports that Blair might have helped interfere with an investigation into a murder (locally-cached article):

The morning after Toledo Bishop Leonard P. Blair was named to take over the Hartford Archdiocese, a Connecticut representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests was on the front steps of the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford to air the organization’s concerns about the appointment.

The SNAP member, Gail Howard of Redding, said she was there with her husband Wednesday in part to draw attention to Blair’s behavior regarding the nationally publicized case of the Rev. Gerald Robinson, a Toledo diocesan priest, who ultimately was convicted in 2006 of killing a nun 26 years earlier.

SNAP has asked why Blair, bishop at the time of the trial, wasn’t more forthcoming with documents that the group says might have helped prosecute the case. The organization has also argued that Blair should have worked harder to get the priest, the Rev. Gerald Robinson, defrocked. The organization has called on Blair to explain his actions.

I looked into the the 1980 murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, 71 years old at the time. You can, too; articles on it are available from sources such as the (NY) Daily News and in a series of articles in TruTV’s Crime Library.

Sr Pahl’s murder went unsolved for over 2 decades, until prompted by another woman’s allegation in 2003, detectives re-examined the cold case. The following year, Fr Robinson was finally charged with murder. As the Daily News explained:

What changed? In a book about the case, the Blade’s David Yonke wrote that the Catholic Church had Toledo “wrapped around its little finger” in 1980. Officer Dave Davison told Yonke that all five detectives who investigated the homicide were Catholics.

“They sat on it as a courtesy to the church,” Davison said.

Fr Robinson had killed her, it turns out, because she’d repeatedly complained about his conduct as a priest.

As for where Blair comes into this … SNAP reports on their own Web site with references included (cached), Blair worked diligently to prevent the release of documents police had needed when they were prosecuting Fr Robinson. This resistant behavior is entirely consistent with how Roman Catholic hierarchs have dealt with other allegations against clergy, so it’s not surprising nor out-of-character for a bishop.

You see, the R.C. Church still believes it’s entitled to the medieval notion of privilege of clergy — that is, the idea that clergy are immune to secular criminal authorities — and never willingly allows its priests to be prosecuted; cooperation always has to be dragged out of them.

Of course, they have no objection to priests being prosecuted when the Church itself is the victim. But, like most Christians, the R.C. hierarchy has elevated hypocrisy into an artform, in spite of Jesus’ clear and unambiguous injunction against it. It would be nice if they’d obey their own Jesus for once, but that’s asking too much of the poor little things, I guess. (Yes, I know: How horrible of me to expect that avowed Christians actually live according to Christ’s teachings!)

Photo credit: Madalyn Ruggiero/AP, via (NY) Daily News.

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Archdiocese of Hartford / Parishes / St. Philip ChurchNote: See below for a couple updates on this story.

A couple years ago, America’s Catholic bishops commissioned a report on child sexual abuse among its clergy, which concluded that it was a “historical problem” (in other words, something that had happened “historically,” but had stopped occurring). Unfortunately for the bishops and their sycophants who wrote this report, the reality is that child abuse by R.C. clergy is anything but “historical.” Here in Connecticut, just within the archdiocese of Hartford, it’s been an issue a few times within those past two years.

As one would expect — given that this is the archdiocese that dared use the “but the victims enjoyed it” defense in court during a lawsuit — the Hartford Courant reports on yet another example of this “historical problem” that won’t seem to go away (WebCite cached article):

An East Windsor priest has been placed on leave by the Catholic Church after being accused of sexually abusing a minor, the Hartford Archdiocese said Monday.

The Rev. Paul Gotta had earlier come to public attention in June when he told police about an 18-year-old who had told him he was planning a memorable prank for his graduation ceremonies. Police later charged the teenager with attempting to make a bomb, possession of explosives and other charges.

The state Department of Children and Families has received a complaint of sexual abuse of a minor involving Gotta, who is administrator of St. Philip and St. Catherine churches in East Windsor, said Maria Zone, spokeswoman for the archdiocese. Police are investigating the allegation, she said in a written statement.

Note, this revelation didn’t reach police attention because of anything the archdiocese did. It appears — somehow — to have been a side-effect of Gotta having reported a teen’s threat of violence against his school. The Courant article itself is strange reading, since it doesn’t connect the child-abuse allegation with the bomb threat. The article, as written, is basically a single report of two different incidents. A pretty substantial amount of information is completely missing from the story. Given the decline of journalism, this isn’t really surprising … sorry to say.

At any rate, the bishops’ contention that child abuse by its clergy is merely “historical,” is a lie. And they know it.

Update 1: Things just got a whole helluva lot worse for the Rev. Gotta. The Courant reports he was just arrested on federal charges (cached). The ATF and East Windsor police accuse him of helping a juvenile get firearms. It also seems the Reverend may have helped him make a gun:

The warrant also states that Bass said he and Gotta had discussed making a shotgun, which he tested in the backyard in the presence of the priest.

This is one seriously bad situation for a priest — of all people! — to have gotten himself into.

Update 2: Back in November most of the charges against Rev Gotta were dismissed, and he pled guilty only to a minor count (cached). Yes, this latest news is 2+ months old, but I only just became aware of it.

Photo credit: Archdiocese of Hartford.

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And Jesus WeptTrouble’s been brewing in Waterbury, CT for some time. Its two hospitals spent more than a year trying to negotiate a merger. The proposed deal would have benefitted the hospitals — because they’ve both been losing money for a while — as well as the people of Waterbury, because they’d get a new, bigger and better hospital once the merger took place. But one of the two hospitals, St Mary’s, is Catholic, which meant the R.C. Church was involved. Finally, as the Hartford Courant reports, the archdiocese of Hartford proved intransigent and saw fit to derail this deal (WebCite cached article):

Waterbury Hospital officials have abandoned their quest to merge with St. Mary’s Hospital, concluding after more than a year of negotiations that it would be impossible to comply with the Catholic hospital’s directives on birth control.

“We confronted numerous challenges and obstacles that made it difficult for both of the hospitals in Waterbury to remain true to their respective missions,” Darlene Stromstad, president and CEO of Waterbury Hospital, said in a statement released Saturday. “The objectives that needed to be satisfied in order to proceed — particularly as they relate to our efforts to comply with the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church — were too many and too insurmountable to allow us to realize our goal.

“We’ve come to the conclusion it simply isn’t going to work.”

It’s not as though the management of both hospitals hadn’t been trying, for over a year, to get this deal to work, as the Courant explains:

To resolve the thorny issue of birth control, a proposal was made to build a “hospital within a hospital” — a separate, independently operated facility within the hospital building — that would provide reproductive health services prohibited by Catholic doctrine. But that plan was rejected by Hartford Archbishop Henry Mansell.

The archdiocese went so far as to come up with another scenario, that would have placed women’s lives at risk:

Officials also considered an idea for an ambulatory surgical center near — but not part of — the main hospital campus. But that would have been problematic for some women seeking tubal ligations, a surgical form of birth control that is barred in Catholic hospitals. Tubal ligations are often performed after C-sections, and in those cases, women receiving C-sections in the main hospital would have had to be sewn up and transported to the satellite facility for the second surgery.

Diocesan officials approved the idea of a wholly separate facility, but state officials ultimately rejected the proposal because the facility would not be equipped to serve women who are considered high risk.

Now, the average rational thinker would ask the obvious question of why the R.C. Church would want to endanger women’s lives over its dogmatism. But I know better than to even ask this question. The Church has already gone on record as considering the lives of women of child-bearing age forfeit. Where their dogma and a woman’s life are concerned, they happily choose dogma over life. The Church and its princes are viciously, hatefully misogynistic. There’s no other way to put it, so I won’t even try. I will simply state it clearly and succinctly: The Catholic Church wants women to die unnecessarily.

In any event, the management of Waterbury Hospital clearly deserves kudos for taking a stand against the Church and its effort to destroy the lives of women in the Waterbury area. They refused to knuckle under to Archbishop Mansell, and called off this merger, despite their own institution’s financial peril.

Photo credit: Termin8er, via Flickr.

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Archdiocese of Hartford (Connecticut) crestNote: See below for a “good-news update” about this case, as well as another update.

I’ve already blogged about the reprehensible defense offered up by the archdiocese of Hartford, facing a court case over one of its priests who abused children — which is that the youthful victims “liked it” so it was OK and no big deal. Never mind that a minor “liking” sex with an adult is not a legitimate defense. Never mind that the victim “liking it” at the time it happened does nothing to make it acceptable. Oh no. Those little facts carry no weight, in the eyes of the achdiocese. The Hartford Courant reports on the latest chapter in this bone-chilling judicial proceeding (WebCite cached article):

A psychiatric expert called to testify Tuesday in Superior Court by the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford disputed an earlier diagnosis that an adolescent victim of sexual abuse by a priest would likely suffer from mental health problems for the rest of his life.

Dr. J. Alexander Bodkin testified that the most significant mental disorder suffered by the victim — depression — was not the result of the sexual abuse he experienced in the early 1980s, but is the result of stress caused 26 years later by litigation associated with the abuse.

This is truly precious. This “expert” is saying that the victim’s problem is not that he was abused by a priest … rather, it’s that he pursued a case against the Church over the abuse.

That’s right, folks. Bodkin is saying that the victim wouldn’t be having any trouble, had he simply “accepted” the abuse, kept quiet about it, and never made any attempt to hold the priest who abused him or the archdiocese of Hartford responsible for it.

Really. That’s what this guy said. Yes, this … from a “hired gun” working for an organization that dares set itself forth as an arbiter of morality and ethics.

In the words of every informercial you’ve ever seen, though … “But wait! There’s more!”

In fact, Bodkin testified that Doe’s experiences with Ferguson — which included being given pornographic materials and alcoholic beverages when he was 13, 14 and 15 years old — was a “positive relationship.”

“He was eager to keep up the relationship,” Bodkin said. “This was his choice. He was eager to see Ferguson. From his perspective, this was something he was looking forward to.”

So you see, because Fr Ferguson — an adult, and a clever manipulator — was able to convince a minor child, at that time, that having sex was just fine, then no harm could possibly have befallen the victim. It was all terrific fun!

Yes, that is precisely what the archdiocese’s “expert” said at trial.

Of course, Dr Bodkin at least made an attempt to distance himself from his own downplaying of the damage:

“It ain’t nice. I’m not approving any aspect of it,” he said. “But it is not the type of thing that is prerequisite to long-term mental illness, expecially 26 years later.”

So while Dr Bodkin claims he doesn’t “approve of any aspect of” child sexual abuse, he nevertheless doesn’t see that it can cause any harm. One wonders, then, what logical reason he’d have for saying he doesn’t “approve of any aspect of” it? If it causes no harm to a child, then there would seem to be no rational reason for him not to “approve of” it.

Just goes to show that you can pretty much find any “expert” who will say or do just about anything one wants him/her to do, if the check one writes has enough zeroes in it. (And yes, the archdiocese of Hartford can most certainly afford to pump lots of zeroes into the check it writes to Dr Bodkin.)

Really, the amount of evil the Roman Catholic Church has brought to the world, is staggering. But what’s even more staggering, is the amount of evil it continues to bring into the world … and the amount of it that it actually tries to rationalize and justify!

I’m not sure there ever was a Jesus Christ, but if he did live, I can’t imagine he could possibly have wanted to be represented by this hideous bunch.

I honestly hadn’t though the archidiocese of Hartford could possibly have stooped any lower than they already have … but they managed this immense feat nonetheless. I suppose they’re proud of themselves; but in reality, they have nothing to be proud of. With every word they speak, with every action they take, with their every step, they condemn themselves as amoral and despicable, in every conceivable way.

Update: The Hartford Courant reports the jury has found the archdiocese of Hartford reckless and negligent in its dealings with Fr Ivan Ferguson, and awarded “Jacob Doe” a million dollars (cached). I’m sure the archdiocese will appeal and continue litigating this case, stalling as long as they can. But at the very least, it’s clear the jury did not buy into the archdiocese’s horrific defense.

Update 2: The archdiocese brought its appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court, asking that the statute of limitations be rolled back so it can’t be held accountable for its actions.

Photo credit: Archdiocese of Hartford.

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Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford 3, 2009-09-02Note: See below for a “good-news update” about this case, as well as another update.

Most of us realize that, when we’ve dug ourselves into a hole, the best thing to do is drop the shovel and climb out. Apparently, the archdiocese of Hartford never got the memo on this. With the Roman Catholic Church already having dug itself into the abyss of an international child-abuse scandal, the archdiocese and its attorneys have decided the solution is to keep right on digging. Toward that end they pulled a truly reprehensible stunt, as the Hartford Courant reports in a little nugget near the end of the story (WebCite cached article):

In his cross-examinations, [church lawyer Jack] Sitarz has implied that, since [plaintiff] Doe and his friend never forcefully resisted [Fr] Ferguson’s advances, they may have enjoyed them.

That’s right, folks. In a court of law, no less, an archdiocesan lawyer dared imply that the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of a Roman Catholic priest enjoyed being abused!

I’m almost at a loss for words to use to describe this maneuver. This is truly sick behavior.

Sitarz must, I’m sure — being an attorney — know full well that minors cannot legally consent to any kind of sexual activity, and that “liking” the abuse cannot and never will make it legal, much less moral or acceptable.

Yet he trotted out that old saw anyway — knowing it’s legally pointless.

Once again, I’m left asking: Why oh why, lay Catholics, are you tolerating the self-serving, greedy, manipulative, crafty, hateful, and horrific antics of the robed old men who rule your Church? When you are going to say to them, “Enough! No more!” When are you going to take back your own Church, turn them out, and change it into the organ of humility and compassion your own Jesus Christ himself supposedly taught about? What part of any of this behavior do you find acceptable … and why? If (as I hope) you don’t find it acceptable, why are you tolerating it?

Update 1: The Hartford Courant reports the jury has found the archdiocese of Hartford reckless and negligent in its dealings with Fr Ivan Ferguson, and awarded “Jacob Doe” a million dollars (cached). I’m sure the archdiocese will appeal and continue litigating this case, stalling as long as they can. But at the very least, it’s clear the jury did not buy into the archdiocese’s horrific defense.

Update 2: The archdiocese brought its appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court, asking that the statute of limitations be rolled back so it can’t be held accountable for its actions.

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Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford 3, 2009-09-02The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Hartford has a number of problems on its hands. It has several misbehaving priests to deal with, in addition to its campaign to control the state of Connecticut. One would think that Archbishop Mansell would be working to address these and other issues — such as the continuing lawsuits and controversy over a deceased pedophile doctor at St Francis Hospital in Hartford (cached). But if one thinks that, one would be wrong. It turns out that the archdiocese has a much larger agenda, which includes an effort to promote abstinence among gays in Connecticut, as the Hartford Courant reports (WebCite cached article):

The Hartford Archdiocese wants gays and lesbians to practice abstinence in the new year.

On Tuesday, the archdiocese announced it was launching a local chapter of a national ministry called Courage “to support men and women who struggle with homosexual tendencies and to motivate them to live chaste and fruitful lives in accordance with Catholic Church teachings.”

This effort is ironic; on the one hand the archdiocese is putting forth a specific effort to reach out to gays; on the other hand, it’s telling them they’re disordered and need to curb themselves:

Linda Estabrook, executive director of the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective, took offense.

Thousands in the state receive services each year from the health organization, whose motto is “Be well. Be yourself.” The ministry implies that many of them “are not moral and are not leading fulfilling lives, and that is not true,” Estabrook said.

Those of us with brains can see how insulting and backhanded this ministry is, but I’ll concede that the folks who came up with it don’t see any problem with what they’re doing. The Catholic Church is run by a bunch of celibate men; they probably don’t consider it unreasonable to order gays to be celibate, too. They’re celibate themselves, so — in their eyes — there’s nothing wrong with it.

This idiocy serves as further evidence of how out-of-touch with reality the leadership of the Catholic Church is … as though we needed any more such evidence. I think the archdiocese of Hartford should work on putting its own house in order before it runs around telling other people how to live. And this shouldn’t be too much to ask of a Christian organization. After all, Jesus Christ himself is reported to have said:

Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the great log in your own? And how dare you say to your brother, “Let me take that splinter out of your eye,” when, look, there is a great log in your own? Hypocrite! Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye. (Mt 7:3-5)

How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out that splinter in your eye,” when you cannot see the great log in your own? Hypocrite! Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter in your brother’s eyes. (Lk 6:42)

Time for the archdiocese to put Jesus’ own teachings into effect, and straighten out their own act before ordering other people around.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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