Posts Tagged “clerical child abuse”

Roma, sant'Anselmo all'Aventino, via Wikimedia CommonsI’ve blogged about the release of documents by the Catholic Church in Los Angeles. This was the result of a lawsuit settlement back in 2007. That’s right … 6 years ago, the Church agreed, presumably in good faith, to release these documents, but resisted doing so until this year. I admit I don’t really understand the logic of agreeing to release some documents, yet staunchly refusing to release them — but hey, I’m just a cynical, godless agnostic heathen, so what could I possibly know about such things?

At any rate, over 6 months after the archdiocese coughed up its records, some of the religious orders of L.A. released their own, and as the Los Angeles Times reports, they reveal how evasive and dodgy the Church hierarchy was (WebCite cached article):

Confidential personnel records from five Catholic religious orders were turned over to victims of sexual abuse Wednesday in the first wave of a court-ordered public disclosure expected to shed light on the role the groups, operating independently of the L.A. Archdiocese, played in the region’s clergy molestation scandal.

The documents pertain to a dozen priests, brothers and nuns accused of sexual misconduct in the landmark 2007 settlement with hundreds of people who filed abuse claims against the Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles. An additional 45 religious orders will release the personnel files of their accused clergy by this fall, completing what is believed to be the fullest accounting yet of the abuse crisis anywhere in the Catholic Church.

The orders’ officials used some rather novel strategies in order to avoid revealing anything or creating any sort of audit trail:

For the most part, the files have little or no reference to abuse allegations that surfaced in lawsuits a decade ago, suggesting the orders were either unaware of molestation claims or opted not to document them.

When matters of abuse were referenced, officials sometimes seemed reluctant to commit the ugly details to paper. In the case of Benedictine priest Mathias Faue, one supervisor wrote vaguely [cached] of “his problem” or “difficulty.” In the file of Oblate Father Ruben Martinez, an order official repeatedly switched to Japanese characters [cached] to note sensitive subjects, including his admissions of “homosexuality” and “relations with boys.”

This official must have thought he was really clever. As though no one could possibly have thought he was covering something up, or that no one who ever saw one of these documents might recognize Japanese characters.

Setting this revelation apart from many others, is that this one includes the records of abusive nuns:

Wednesday’s release also covers the Marianists, the Benedictines, the Oblates and two orders of nuns. The disclosures by the Cabrini Sisters and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet mark the first time in the L.A. litigation the files of women have been made public. The two nuns, who are deceased, were accused in lawsuits of sexually abusing students decades ago. Their files contained no information on misconduct allegations.

All by itself, strategies like writing comments in Japanese characters reveal, conclusively, that Catholic officials knew they were dealing, at best, with unsavory characters doing things that weren’t allowed; or at worst, with criminals committing crimes; and that they didn’t want anyone else to know about them. Even so, I’m sure the Catholic Church’s defenders will continue blaming others and making ridiculous excuses for this behavior, just as they’ve been doing all along. The cold fact, though, is that there is no reasonable excuse for this. Not one.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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DownView CathedralBasilicaSH / Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Interior), Newark, NJThis is a story which is a couple weeks old, but sadly, it might as well have been decades old. Why? Because it’s merely the latest example of a long-standing pattern of behavior which the Roman Catholic Church has engaged in around the world. Several years ago a priest in the Newark archdiocese admitted to having been a pedophile, and agreed to stay away from children thereafter. But as the (Newark, NJ) Star-Ledger reports, he failed to abide by that agreement, and did so — as a priest still in good standing! — under the noses of his bosses in the archdiocese (WebCite cached article):

Six years ago, to avoid retrial on charges that he groped a teenage boy, the Rev. Michael Fugee entered a rehabilitation program, underwent counseling for sex offenders and signed a binding agreement that would dictate the remainder of his life as a Roman Catholic priest.

Fugee would not work in any position involving children, the agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office states. He would have no affiliation with youth groups. He would not attend youth retreats. He would not hear the confessions of minors.

But Fugee has openly done all of those things for the past several years through an unofficial association with a Monmouth County church, St. Mary’s Parish in Colts Neck, The Star-Ledger found.

The archdiocese can’t plead ignorance of Fugee’s agreement with prosecutors, because it was made with their knowledge and even their blessing:

In addition to Fugee and Prosecutor John Molinelli, the archdiocese’s vicar general signed the agreement on behalf of Myers, pledging to abide by the restrictions on Fugee’s ministry.

The document — which can be found on NJ.com, the online home of The Star-Ledger — states explicitly that Fugee may not have unsupervised contact with children, minister to children or work in any position in which children are involved.

“This includes, but is not limited to, presiding over a parish, involvement with a youth group, religious education/parochial school, CCD (or Sunday school), confessions of children, youth choir, youth retreats and day care,” the agreement says.

Amazingly, the archdiocese contends Fugee’s activities didn’t actually violate the agreement:

But [Archbishop Myers’s spokesman Jim] Goodness denied the agreement had been breached, saying the archdiocese has interpreted the document to mean Fugee could work with minors as long as he is under the supervision of priests or lay ministers who have knowledge of his past and of the conditions in the agreement.

“We believe that the archdiocese and Father Fugee have adhered to the stipulations in all of his activities, and will continue to do so,” Goodness said.

Even if Fugee heard private confessions from minors, those supervising Fugee were always nearby, Goodness said.

“The fact is, he has done nothing wrong,” the spokesman said. “Nobody has reported any activity that is inappropriate, and I think that’s important to know, especially given that he’s a figure whose name is public and whose past is public.”

It’s clear that Mr Goodness and the rest of the Newark archdiocese have parted ways with reality, if they think anyone is going to buy into this idiotic claim. I’m certainly not stupid enough to accept it.

In any event, a few days after this revelation, the Rev Fugee contradicted Mr Goodness by admitting his behavior was, in fact, a breach of his agreement, and attempted to deflect any blame for it from the archdiocese (cached):

Asserting his actions were “my fault alone,” the Roman Catholic priest who violated a court-sanctioned agreement to stay away from children wrote in his resignation letter that he attended youth retreats and heard confessions from minors without the knowledge of his superiors in the Archdiocese of Newark. …

“In conscience, I feel it necessary to make clear to all that my actions described in recent news stories were outside of my assigned ministry within the archdiocese,” Fugee wrote. “… My failure to request the required permissions to engage in those ministry activities is my fault, my fault alone.”

This latter Star-Ledger article includes a revealing tidbit that bolsters what I’ve said, since this blog’s inception, about the worldwide Catholic child-abuse scandal:

For years, Myers has faced criticism for his handling of Fugee, whom he has characterized as a victim in the criminal case. In correspondence with priests of the archdiocese, he referred to the criminal case as an “acquittal” despite the fact Fugee entered a rehabilitation program and underwent counseling for sex offenders.

You see, the hierarchs who rule over the R.C. Church are largely convinced that abusive priestsnot the children they abusedare the real victims in this scandal. It sounds crazy, but it’s absolutely true. The abusive clergy and the Church sincerely and truly do not consider themselves responsible for any of the bad behavior uncovered by numerous investigations around the world; according to the Church, the scandal is anyone and everyone else’s fault.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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The retired bishop Peter Ball, pictured with Prince Charles in 1992. Photograph: SWNS.com, via (UK) Guardian.I’ve blogged about the worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal repeatedly over the last few years, and more than a few correspondents have complained that I seem to be targeting only Catholic abusers, and not those in other churches or faiths. (As though this somehow absolves abusive Catholic clerics of their guilt … to be honest I have no idea how that works, but it seems to be a common presumption among Catholic apologists.)

That said, it’s just not true that I’ve solely blogged about Catholic child abusers. I’ve stated explicitly — and repeatedly — that child abuse at the hands of clergy is not only a Catholic problem, and have highlighted this in lots of other blog posts on the matter.

This time, it’s my sad duty to report this scandal has hit the Anglican Church in its homeland. As the Guardian reports, a retired English bishop has been arrested and charged with abuses a couple decades ago (WebCite cached article):

The arrest of Bishop Peter Ball on suspicion of sexual offences against boys and men at addresses in East Sussex and elsewhere is the latest development in a wide-ranging and often contentious series of official inquiries into decades of alleged child protection failures in the diocese of Chichester on England’s south coast.

Sussex police said on Tuesday that Ball is suspected of committing offences [cached] during the late 1980s and early 90s, when he was Bishop of Lewes, with responsibility for most of the parishes of East Sussex.

As big a “catch” as this is, it seems to be merely the beginning of this case:

Ball is the highest-profile church figure yet to be arrested, but the attention the scandal is likely to receive is only set to rise. Between now and next April, three separate child abuse cases against priests in the diocese of Chichester will be heard at Lewes crown court.

It’s not as though this diocese hasn’t been investigated. The Guardian explains that there had been prior reviews of child-abuse cases there, and some of them had concluded there were failures. But, until now, there hadn’t been any arrests. There might be more, this time.

Once again we see similar behavior to what we’ve seen in other churches and faiths: A reflexive desire to protect the reputation — and wealth — of the organization, even at the cost of allowing children to be abused. To what degree the civil authorities went along with this desire, remains to be seen … but the multiple reported cases, over a few decades, had to have alerted them to the fact that someone unsavory was going on. Why they waited until now to take action, is incomprehensible.

Photo credit: SWNS.Com, via (UK) Guardian.

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Father Benedict Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal order, is shown in this undated photo. Via ABC News..Over two years ago I blogged about a letter to the Irish Times in which the victim of a Roman Catholic priest’s abuse recalled the priest blaming him for his own heinous actions. I’ve also blogged many times about how the Roman Catholic considers the clerical child-abuse scandal that has spread like wildfire around the world for a decade or more, is not its own fault, but rather a vile attack upon God’s unwaveringly holy Church by Satan and the Forces of Darkness. These are in addition to the litany of other slimy excuses they’ve trotted out over the years.

Of course, Church officials haven’t often overtly blamed the victims for the abuse. They’re more likely to imply such a thing by their behavior, than say it out loud. Even so, every once in a while, some cleric or other lets it slip. ABC News reports on one recent example of it (WebCite cached article):

The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, 79, who hosts a weekly show on the Catholic television network EWTN, originally made the comments in an interview with the National Catholic Register. He also referred to convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky as a “poor guy.”

“People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath. But that’s not the case. Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer,” Groeschel was quoted as saying in the interview, which is no longer available on the paper’s website.

Groeschel even offered his own pet theory as to why these kids “seduce” pedophiles:

“Well, it’s not so hard to see. A kid looking for a father and didn’t have his own — and they won’t be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping, but not having intercourse or anything like that. I’s an understandable thing, and you know where you find it, among other clergy or important people; you look at teachers, attorneys, judges, social workers,” Groeschel was quoted as saying.

Now, all of this is bad enough. But in the wake of the shitstorm this creature’s remarks have kicked up, Groeschel and the National Catholic Register took it all back. Sort of. They yanked the interview off their Web site and replaced it:

The interview has now been replaced by a statement from Fr. Benedict:

“I apologize for my comments,” it said. “I did not intend to blame the victim. A priest (or anyone else) who abuses a minor is always wrong and is always responsible. My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be. I have spent my life trying to help others the best that I could. I deeply regret any harm I have caused to anyone.”

Jeanette R. De Melo, the site’s editor in chief, included her own apology for posting the interview.

“Child sexual abuse is never excusable,” she wrote. “The editors of the National Catholic Register apologize for publishing without clarification or challenge Father Benedict Groeschel’s comments that seem to suggest that the child is somehow responsible for abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

These apologies are pathetic, however. Groeschel denies having said something which — in fact — he very clearly said, having elaborated on it with hypothetical scenarios to explain his position. He might not have “intended to blame the victim,” but he actually did do so … undeniably! And the NCR’s apology amounts to, “We’re sorry we got caught running something we shouldn’t have,” which is basically no apology at all. By removing the article, they tried to make it seem as though Groeschel hadn’t said anything heinous. Well, he has … and the Internet has taken notice.

I continue to wonder why lay Catholics keep swearing allegiance to an institution which is governed by a collection of amoral reprobates. I just don’t get it. Really, I don’t. Obviously there’s a lot more wrong with the Roman Catholic Church, than just the mafiosi who run it. They have legions of followers who apparently have no problem with what they’re doing and are happy to let them continue doing it.

Update: Groeschel is off the air at EWTN (cached).

Photo credit: ABC News.

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St Patrick Cathedral, Norwich CT / K Ripley, via PanoramioFor years now I’ve blogged about the worldwide Catholic clerical abuse scandal. I’ve also said numerous times that Catholic bishops bear a large part of the responsibility for it, since in many cases, they were the ones who got the abuse reports and then moved the priests around in order to protect them. Despite this, there were, it turns out, cases of abuse so egregious that even bishops admitted there was a severe problem and begged the Vatican to act … yet no action was taken. I’ve blogged about such cases from California, Arizona, and Wisconsin. Well, as the Hartford Courant reports, it turns out something similar happened right here in Connecticut too (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican’s refusal to let the Norwich diocese remove an accused pedophile from the priesthood is expected to play a role in the upcoming trial involving a New London woman who says the priest molested her when she was 12.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger received the Norwich request days before being elected pope in 2005. It’s unclear, though, if Ratzinger himself decided against laicizing Father Thomas Shea, who was accused of molesting as many as 15 girls at 11 different parishes throughout the Diocese of Norwich in a career that started in 1953.

Although the request to defrock Shea was very late in coming, it appears Norwich bishop Michael Cote was horrified over what Shea had done:

In an April 8, 2005, letter to Ratzinger, Cote wrote that the “trail of destruction caused by Thomas W. Shea is staggering.” He wrote there were at least 15 credible cases of abuse by Shea of girls under the age of 18, including one girl who tried to kill herself three times before she turned 23.

“The psychological, emotional, and spiritual damage wrought by this man is immeasurable,” Cote wrote. “The people who have been directly affected by his behavior as well as the entire People of God would welcome his involuntary dismissal from the clerical state.”

But the Vatican office — at the time of the letter, headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man who would later become Pope Benedict XVI — decided to take no action:

On May 12, 2005, less than a month after Ratzinger became pope, the Vatican responded to Cote, denying his request to remove Shea. The letter indicates that the status quo — Shea in retirement with the restrictions not to wear a collar or say Mass — was sufficient.

Once again the Vatican displays its moral bankruptcy for all to see.

Update: Diocesan attorneys have asked the court to delay the trial in question, because of the Penn State abuse scandal (cached). That’s right, folks … the diocese is saying that, because some other institution just got nailed for doing the sort of thing the R.C. Church has been doing, everything has to be put on hold for several months while the hubbub dies down. That, my friends, is just too fucking precious!

Photo credit: Panoramio.

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Monsignor William Lynn walks to the Criminal Justice Center before a scheduled verdict reading, Friday, June 22, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, via CBS News)A month ago I blogged about Monsignor William Lynn, the manager of clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who was convicted of child endangerment. As the AP reports via NBC News, he was sentenced today to 3 years in prison (WebCite cached article):

The first U.S. church official convicted of covering up sex-abuse claims against Roman Catholic priests was sentenced Tuesday to three to six years in prison by a judge who said he “enabled monsters in clerical garb … to destroy the souls of children.”

Monsignor William Lynn, the former secretary for clergy at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, “helped many but also failed many” in his 36-year church career, Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said. …

She believed he initially hoped to address the sex abuse problem and perhaps drafted a 1994 list of accused priests for that reason. But when Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua instead had the list destroyed, Lynn chose to remain in the job and obey his bishop – by keeping quiet – as children suffered, she said.

“You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong,” Sarmina said.

And that, folks, is the crux of this whole matter. Here you have a man who knew what clergy in the Philadelphia archdiocese were doing, and who’d attempted to address it, but then caved in to archepiscopal pressure and proceeded to remain utterly silent on the matter for an entire decade thereafter. He had other options: He could have continued to ask his archbishop to deal with the abusers; he could have turned the abusers in to local authorities but remained at his post; or he could have resigned in protest of the archbishop’s refusal to act and then turned them in. But those actions all required a certain amount of courage. Lynn had no courage, so he took the coward’s way out, silently acquiescing to his archbishop’s disgusting abuse-enablement scheme.

Hopefully this won’t be the only conviction of a diocesan official. Msgr Lynn might not have abused any children himself, but he consented (via silence) to the abuse of children by others, and that’s just as evil.

P.S. As an aside, I find the practice of giving out sentences which are a range of numbers (in this case, “3-6 years”) to be confusing, if not dishonest. I assume the sentence Lynn will serve is the lowest end of that range, i.e. 3 years. Why the inclusion of a supposed extra three years which — in all likelihood — he will never serve? What does that accomplish, except to make it seem as though he’ll spend more time in prison than he actually will?

AP Photo/Matt Rourke, via CBS News.

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Monsignor William Lynn walks to the Criminal Justice Center before a scheduled verdict reading, Friday, June 22, 2012, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, via CBS News)I blogged some time ago about the Philadelphia archdiocese being investigated by the state of Pennsylvania for its complicity in child abuse by its clergy. A long trial, followed by a long and apparently contentious deliberation, finally paid off: As CBS News reports, an official of the archdiocese was found guilty of child endangerment (WebCite cached version):

A Roman Catholic church official was convicted Friday of child endangerment but acquitted of conspiracy in a groundbreaking clergy-abuse trial, becoming the first U.S. church official convicted of a crime for how he handled abuse claims.

Monsignor William Lynn helped the archdiocese keep predators in ministry, and the public in the dark, by telling parishes their priest was being removed for health reasons and then sending the men to unsuspecting churches, prosecutors said.

Lynn, 61, had faced about 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted of all three counts he faced — conspiracy and two counts of child endangerment. He was convicted only on one of the endangerment counts, leaving him with the possibility of 3 1/2 to seven years in prison.

Lynn and his attorneys naturally insist he’d done nothing wrong and that he was not responsible for the transfer and redeployment of abusive priests, even though he was the one who had lied in order to cover up for them:

Lynn’s lawyer, Thomas Bergstrom, pledged in opening statements in late March that the monsignor would not run from the sins of the church. However, he said in closing arguments that Lynn should not be held responsible for them.

He suggested his client was a middle manager-turned-scapegoat for the clergy-abuse scandal. Lynn, he said, documented the abuse complaints and did his best to get reluctant superiors to address it.

“And now, now of all things, the commonwealth wants you to convict him for documenting the abuse that occurred in the archdiocese, …. the evil that other men did. They want to hold him responsible for their sins.”

It’s true that Lynn himself abused no one. It’s also true that Lynn himself was not responsible for the duplicitous behavior of his superiors. But that said, he is still responsible for what he did — which was to watch the abuse occur, lie in order to cover it up, and refuse to hand over any of his supposed documentation to police (which he most certainly could have done at any time, had he truly wished to). Instead, he remained where he was, doing what he was, surrounded by abuse he knew was going on, and which was being covered up by his archdiocese …

And he never so much as lifted a finger to try to stop it or see that it was prosecuted. Not once.

As I said, Lynn was no abuser, but he’s still a walking piece of garbage who willingly played along with the Roman Catholic Church’s policy of hiding the abuse rather than allow abusers to be prosecuted. He’s most certainly no hero or unwitting dupe, as his attorneys have portrayed him.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke, via CBS News.

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