June 14, 2019
An Imam found guilty of sexually abusing two young girls who he privately tutored has been jailed in United Kingdom.
According to Metropolitan Police, Hafiz Azizur Rehman Pirzada, 76 (19.08.42) of Laughton Road, Northolt was sentenced to a total of eight years’ imprisonment at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday, 21 January for child abuse offences.
Pirzada will also have to sign the Sex Offenders Register for life and a Sexual Harm Protection Order was issued.
He was found guilty of seven counts of sexual assault of a child, and two counts of causing a child to engage in sexual activity after a trial at the same court in September 2017.
During the trial, the court heard how the victims, both sisters, came forward to speak to police in July 2015.
Between 2007 and 2009 the two girls, aged between nine and 11 when the abuse took place, were taught the Quran by Pirzada when he was an Imam appointed by the family.
On 28 July 2016, Pirzada was arrested at his home address and bailed pending further enquiries. He was later charged with all ten counts on 16 March 2018; eight counts of sexual assault with a female under 13, and two counts of causing a child to engage in sexual activity.
Detective Sergeant Tony Killeen, from the Child Abuse and Sexual Offences Team, said: “This is a case which dates back more than ten years, but despite the length of time since the incidents Pirzada has been convicted of his crimes.
“Pirzada exploited the trust placed in him as a religious leader to assault these two young girls.
“The victims have shown great courage, persistence and determination in securing the conviction, having persevered with the allegation and supporting the police investigation.
“The victims have had to live with this trauma and the appalling abuse they endured for the years they were taught by Pirzada, and will have to live with these memories for the rest of their lives.
“I would urge anyone who has been a victim of Pirzada to contact police; specially trained officers will be there to support you.”
June 7, 2019
The state of Georgia ranks as No. 10 in the nation for its large and expanding population of Hispanic immigrants. So the expansion of a Mexican-based megachurch in Flowery Branch, Georgia, was nothing out of the ordinary. But the proposed expansion is being opposed by residents in the surrounding community, and now the opposition is even more entrenched after the church’s founder, Joaquin Garcia, and three other church members were arrested on charges of sex trafficking, child rape and child pornography.
Garcia runs La Luz Del Mundo and, according to the Los Angeles Times, is the largest evangelical church in Mexico. It has branches in 50 countries and boasts more than 1 million members. On Tuesday, June 5, 2019, the California Attorney General’s office filed charges against Garcia and others after a year-long investigation of sex abuse in the church. The investigation was initiated after an online complaint form was received by prosecutors. That complaint alleges that Garcia groomed girls as young as 16 for sex. According to the Los Angles Times, church official Alondra Ocampo allegedly took pictures of naked minors engaging in sex acts for Garcia, who is called the Apostle of Christ.
Church officials have denied these charges and vehemently defended Garcia at a recent press conference held in Mexico City. Silem Garcia, a spokesman for La Luz del Mundo, told reporters that the church and its members “consider these accusations defamatory and calumny against our international director, the Apostle of Jesus Christ. We believe firmly in the innocence of the Apostle of Jesus Christ.”
The allegations have sent shockwaves throughout the evangelical community and put the future of the church in jeopardy. Critics of the church have stated that it preys on poor immigrants and is cult-like in its practices.
June 6, 2019
Timothy M. Crowley, a former priest at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Ann Arbor, was arrested on May 23 in Tempe, AZ, according to Maricopa County jail records. The next day, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Crowley was one of five Michigan Catholic priests her office charged with criminal sexual misconduct.
Crowley, 69, was charged in Washtenaw County with four felony counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, with a maximum sentence of life in prison, and four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. He is accused of assaulting a minor boy for about eight years while at St. Thomas from 1987 to 1990.
The charges come after months of investigation into sexual abuse by Michigan clergy inside the Catholic Church. The investigation was started in August 2018 by Nessel’s predecessor, former Attorney General Bill Schuette, following a report exposing widespread sexual abuse in the Pennsylvania Catholic Church.
All charges against Crowley fall within the statute of limitations because he has not been a Michigan resident since 1995. Prosecutors will move ahead with proceedings.
According to Nessel, all five cases began as tips from the Attorney General’s sexual abuse hotline, which she said has received more than 450 tips. The tips were then corroborated by interviews with victims and information found in the hundreds of thousands of documents seized from Michigan’s seven Catholic dioceses last October.
“Although we have charged these men with very serious crimes, I want to remind everyone that they are innocent until proven guilty by a court of law,” Nessel said in her announcement.
In a statement on the Attorney General Office’s website, Nessel emphasized the importance of holding large institutions accountable. Nessel was quoted in the statement saying she estimates her office has worked through only 5 to 10 percent of the documents, meaning the investigation could take more than two years to complete.
“This is about taking on large-scale institutions that turn a blind eye to victims and making certain we hold all of them accountable — that includes unapologetically pursuing any and all individuals who abuse their power by victimizing our residents,” the statement read.
The Attorney General’s Office asks anyone with information relevant to the clergy sexual abuse investigation to call the investigation hotline at 844-324-3374 or email [email protected]
In a statement released by the Diocese of Lansing following the Attorney General’s announcement, Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea expressed support for the charges and investigation.
“I welcome today’s action so that the truth can come out and justice may be served,” Boyea wrote. “Any priest who commits reprehensible acts against children does grave harm to victims. He betrays the priesthood and the entire Church. I pray that Christ brings healing to all involved.”
According to the affidavit filed in the Attorney General’s case against Crowley, the abuse began when the child was approximately 10 years old at St. Mary Parish in Jackson, where Crowley was a chaplain and the victim was an altar boy. From 1982 to 1990, as Crowley moved from St. Mary to St. Anthony in Hillsdale and then to St. Thomas in Ann Arbor, the boy attended these churches at the same time as well.
Crowley is accused of multiple illegal acts with a minor, including forcing oral sex and masturbation, watching pornography and providing alcohol or cigarettes. He allegedly threatened to kill the boy if he told the nun or his parents about the abuse.
June 3, 2019
A Madrassa teacher from Kerala who is believed to have sexually abused several children over a period of many years has finally been arrested by the police.
The 63-year-old has been identified as Yusuf, a Madrassa teacher hailing from Aluva who was employed at a local mosque in Kottayam.
For the last two years, Yusuf was teaching at a mosque in Thalayolaparambu where he sexually abused several of his students, police say.
“The Chief Imam of the mosque would not visit the Madrassa for three days a week. This is when Yusuf would pick his victims, take them to a private room and abuse them,” Soofi TM, Sub Inspector of Thalayolaparambu station told TNM. The accused would carefully choose victims of 10-years of age or below, to ensure his crimes were never reported.
“Since children that young are naive and are unlikely to understand what sexual abuse is, he relied on this,” Soofi added.
The accused also earned the confidence of local residents by holding long prayers and speeches to avoid suspicions. He later convinced the mosque authorities to set aside a private room for him, where he would go on to abuse most of his victims.
“He would lure children, especially girls, by promising them sweets and nicknacks and taking them to the room. Here he would abuse them,” Soofi added.
How Yusuf was exposed
Yusuf’s predations came to light 2 weeks ago, when he abused a young boy by promising to teach him the Holy Quran in his private room. The visibly disturbed boy returned home and disclosed the incident to his parents when they questioned him, noticing a difference in his behaviour.
The family immediately complained to the mosque authorities who fired the accused and then filed a complaint with the local police police.
The accused used this opportunity to flee from the place. Instead of returning to his native place of Aluva, he visited mosques and addressed gatherings in Thrissur and Palakkad during the month of Ramzan.
The Thalayolaparambu police finally nabbed him from Kodungallur on May 27th, as he was getting ready to address a mosque gathering.
The exact number of children Yusuf abused remains unconfirmed. The police have got in touch with the Mosque authorities to see if more students would speak up.
Accused was a victim of child sexual abuse
While this is no way excuses what he did, it does go to show that the abuse of children can lead to the victims themselves becoming abusers.
Following his arrest, Yusuf claimed that he too was a victim of child sexual abuse.
Yusuf told the police that his first victim, a girl, was the daughter of a man who had sexually abused him and that he’d committed the crime as an act of revenge.
“He told us that he continued to abuse young children after this and did not stop as he was never caught. We believe he may have abused at least 19 children and we are yet to probe the case deeper,” a police officer said.
June 3, 2019
ROME – Italian police arrested former U.S. Salvatorian Father Joseph J. Henn 16 years after Italy’s highest court confirmed his extradition to the United States to face allegations of child sexual abuse in Arizona.
Michele Gentiloni, Henn’s attorney, said his client was taken into custody May 28 after trying to use his expired U.S. passport as identification to pick up some medicine he needed. A spokesman for the Carabinieri, the Italian police force that apprehended Henn, disputed that version of events, claiming instead that the priest had requested assistance at a city-run immigrant assistance center using a false name.
Henn, who was expelled from his order and removed from the priesthood in 2006, currently is in Rome’s Regina Coeli prison awaiting questioning, which must happen by June 3, his attorney told Catholic News Service May 31.
However, Gentiloni said he believes the 2006 extradition order is now null and void because “the police never moved to execute it.”
At the time, officials at the Salvatorian order’s headquarters in Rome, where Henn was assigned when the abuse allegations were made, had said Henn fled.
His lawyer said that was not true, but the Italian police never bothered to check, and they missed their 45-day period for notifying him of the extradition order.
“At the end of August 2006, the Italian Ministry of Justice, believing he was no longer present, issued an arrest warrant” for violating the terms of his house arrest, and it was on the basis of that warrant, not the extradition order, that police took him into custody 16 years later, the lawyer said.
A spokesman for the Carabinieri in Rome told CNS, “before he could be advised officially” that the court upheld the extradition request, “he disappeared and that is why he was declared a fugitive.”
Father Jeff Wocken, U.S. provincial of the Salvatorians, confirmed to CNS that Henn had been removed from the order and the priesthood in 2006, and that he had left the Salvatorian headquarters before the extradition order could be carried out.
Henn had been arrested in Rome in July 2005 after a request by the U.S. Justice Department that he be extradited to face charges in Maricopa County, Arizona.
He was placed under house arrest at the Salvatorian headquarters while his lawyer, Gentiloni, tried to fight the extradition order.
Henn had been accused of molesting at least three boys under the age of 15 between 1979 and 1981 when he was living and working in Phoenix.
In 2003, Arizona’s Maricopa County indicted him on 13 counts related to child molestation.
Gentiloni had told CNS in 2005 that Henn “would accept facing trial in the United States because he is innocent, but he fears for his physical safety” in a U.S. prison given the climate created by the U.S. clerical abuse scandals.
June 3, 2019
Operatives of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) said on Sunday that they have arrested an Abuja-based pastor for the alleged rape and sexual exploitation of a 16-year-old orphan (name withheld), and impregnating her in the process.
NAPTIP disclosed the identity of suspect as David Onyekachukwu, from Nsukka, Enugu State. He is also a full time pastor with the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Church (MFM), Gwarimpa branch, Abuja.
NAPTIP spokesperson Stella Nezan alleged in a statement released in Abuja that the suspect was asked to conduct deliverance on the girl after she was accused of being a witch, but he ended up taking advantage of her vulnerability by sexually molesting, repeatedly.
Nezan said that preliminary investigation revealed that the pastor lost his wife sometimes ago, and was left with a daughter. It also revealed that the suspect and the victim’s late parents share the same neighborhood in Karimo community, a suburb of Abuja.
After the death of the victim’s parents, the suspect volunteered to take her in and assist in her education.
During interrogation, the abusive pastor confessed to having sex with the girl only twice, attributing his actions to the devil.
He stated that he took the girl in, conducted “deliverance” for her and also enrolled her in school, having missed school for about two years.
“But after the deliverance, she couldn’t find a to stay; I then took her to live with me and my daughter,” the clergyman confessed.
The victim, in her statement, confirmed that the clergyman started making advances to her after her first year of living in their house, but she constantly resisted it.
She said the first time she was raped was in March during her birthday. She said the pastor took her and his daughter out to some relaxation spots in Abuja.
“In the evening of that day, after the pastor’s daughter had gone to bed, he approached me with the love advances and pounced on me, ignoring all my pleas for mercy,” the victim explained.
It was gathered during investigation that the clergyman had thereafter the first encounter continued his actions at will, resulting in the girl getting pregnant.
NAPTIP Director General Julie Okah-Donli described the action of the man as the “highest form of wickedness against a fellow human being,” considering the fact that the victim is a vulnerable and helpless orphan.
June 3, 2019
A pedophile Catholic priest made young boys dress up as the Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes then sexually abused them. Frederick Lenczycki, 74, admitted two counts of sodomy Thursday, after a court in St Louis, Missouri, was told how he molested two boys between 1991 and 1994.
One of the victims had his genitals repeatedly grabbed by Lenczycki, while the pervert clergyman kept trying to rip the second one’s clothes off. They were attacked while he was chaplain of St Louis’s DePaul Health Center. Lenczyski, who will be sentenced on August 15, had previously been charged with sexually abusing three other boys in Chicago during the 1980s.
Lenczyski admitted his crimes in St Louis County Circuit Court Thursday. Those youngsters told how the priest, who they knew as Father Fred, would swaddle them in cloths like the Baby Jesus was after being born. He did so under the guise of organizing religious pageants, which never took place, and which were used as a front for the abuse.
Lenczyski admitted that sex abuse in 2004 and was jailed for five years. Randy Kanaday, who is one of the two victims Lenczyski admitted attacking at Thursday’s court hearing, said the pervert’s guilty plea would help put his ordeal behind him. He told the St Louis Post-Dispatch: ‘I am so relieved that justice finally didn’t give up on me. ‘For all those years, people looked the other way, it felt like. And now, finally, something’s being done.’ Church and court files seen by the paper say Lenczyki admitted abusing up to 30 boys across Illinois, Missouri and California over the course of 25 years.
June 1, 2019
A pastor in Eastern Kentucky was arrested this week after he allegedly sought sex with a minor via text messages, according to police.
The Prestonsburg Police Department said in a news release that Bobby J. Blackburn, 26, turned himself in Wednesday without incident and was charged with prohibited use of an electronic communication system to procure a minor to commit a sex act.
A phone number listed on Elevate Church’s website was not accepting calls Friday. An email sent to the church was also not returned Friday.
An employee at Giovanni’s who answered the phone Friday said Blackburn was “not here right now.”
Prestonsburg police officers obtained a warrant for Blackburn’s arrest May 24, according to an arrest citation, after a girl showed a police sergeant images of an iMessage conversation she had with Blackburn.
In the messages, Blackburn asked the girl, who is a minor, to engage in a “threesome” with him and another female minor, among other sexually explicit requests, according to police.
Both minors were employees of a business that Blackburn manages, according to the arrest citation. The arrest report did not name the business.
On May 25, Blackburn allegedly followed a third female minor to the Prestonsburg Police Department, where she tried to give a statement saying she sent the obscene messages from Blackburn’s phone.
But when police questioned the girl further, she took back her statement and said that Blackburn told her to say it or else she would lose her job, according to the arrest citation.
May 31, 2019
LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — Five Michigan Catholic priests have been charged with a total of 21 counts of criminal sexual conduct.
Four of the men have been arrested while one awaits extradition in India. A sixth Michigan priest is facing an administrative complaint and his license as a professional educationally limited counselor has been suspended.
“In the last 30 hours, more than a dozen members of our investigative team have been in courtrooms in Washtenaw, Wayne, Genesee, Macomb and Berrien Counties while other members of our team have been working with local law enforcement in Arizona, California, Florida and Michigan – all in a carefully executed plan to take these charged defendants off the streets,” said Nessel. “Almost all of these charges came as a direct result of calls to our tip line but were then corroborated by files seized from the dioceses last fall, followed by multiple interviews with victims.”
Charges were filed as follows:
- Timothy Michael Crowley, 69, Lansing Diocese, was charged in Washtenaw County with four felony counts of Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) 1, a maximum sentence of life in prison and a lifetime of electronic monitoring, and four felony counts of CSC 2 – a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Crowley, who was a priest in various parishes, including St. Thomas Rectory in Ann Arbor, was arrested Thursday in Tempe, Arizona.
- Neil Kalina, 63, Archdiocese of Detroit, was charged in Macomb County with one felony count of CSC 4, a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a lifetime of electronic monitoring. Kalina, who was a priest at St. Kiernan Catholic Church in Shelby Township, was arrested Thursday in Littlerock, California.
- Vincent DeLorenzo, 80, Lansing Diocese, was charged in Genesee County with three felony counts of CSC 1, a maximum sentence of life in prison and a lifetime of electronic monitoring, and three felony counts of CSC 2, a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. DeLorenzo, who was a priest at Holy Redeemer Church in Burton, was arrested Thursday in Marion County, Florida.
- Patrick Casey, 55, Archdiocese of Detroit, was charged in Wayne County with one felony count of CSC 3, a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Casey, who was a priest at St. Theodore of Canterbury Parish in Westland, was arrested Thursday in Oak Park, Michigan.
- Jacob Vellian, 84, Kalamazoo Diocese, was charged with two counts of Rape, a maximum sentence of life in prison. Vellian was a priest at St. John the Evangelist Parish, Benton Harbor, and now lives in Kerala, India.
Some of the clergy arrested were “hiding in plain sight,” Nessel said.
During a news conference, Deputy Solicitor General Ann Sherman shared one instance where a priest was discussing another priest’s abuse of a child and shared his own philosophy on sexual assault. The priest allegedly implied the child teased and enticed the priest for the abuse to occur.
May 21, 2019
How the hell can anyone still be shocked by the sex crimes of ‘holy’ men?
WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) — A community is in shock after authorities arrested a Wilson pastor and charged him with first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.
This is all part of an ongoing joint investigation between the Wilson Police Department and the FBI.
Prior to his arrest, Daniel Heath, 33, served as an associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Wilson for three years, and before that, youth minister for seven years.
Heath’s arrest warrant states he encouraged a 16-year-old girl to engage in sexual activity, and “perform sexual activities to herself for the purpose of producing material containing a visual representation depicting this activity.”
Authorities allege this all took place between December 2017 and April 2019.
It’s unknown if the victim is connected to First Baptist Church.
“This is a very hurtful time,” Henry Skinner, Chairman of Deacons at First Baptist Church said. “We’ve had to wrap our arms around each other, because of the feelings of hurt and grief.”
Skinner worked closely with Heath at the church. He said Heath was active as an associate pastor and youth minister, attracting members from all generations, especially young people.
“A younger group of individuals, who may or may not have been churched before, found their way here, and a found a place of worship and learning, and bible study that enriched their lives, and helped meet their needs,” Skinner said. “Daniel [Heath] was a part in recruiting that.”
Skinner said they’re embracing Heath’s family and the entire congregation at First Baptist Church to move forward together.
“A faith community lives on trust,” Skinner said. “A faith community has to trust in each other. They have to believe in each other, and when that is betrayed, when that falls away, it hurts.”
A federal indictment was also filed against Heath.
FBI officials told CBS 17 the case they investigated involved a victim from Texas.
May 16, 2019
DALLAS (AP) — Police searched the offices of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas on Wednesday after an investigation into child sexual abuse allegations against a former priest uncovered claims against others, a police commander said.
Investigators searched the diocesan headquarters and also a storage unit it uses and the offices of a church, police Maj. Max Geron told reporters.
We believed at this point that the execution of the search warrants was wholly appropriate for the furtherance of the investigation at this point,” Geron said.
The events began last August with the investigation of Edmundo Paredes , a former priest who is believed to have fled Texas following claims that he abused three teenagers. That investigation resulted in allegations of abuse by others, Geron said.
A copy of the warrants obtained by WFAA-TV refers to the 70-year-old Paredes and four others. All five were named in a report released in January by the diocese that identified former priests credibly accused of sexually assaulting a child.
Paredes is suspended from the diocese; the other four are suspended, on leave, retired or stripped of clerical duties.
Geron declined to release details on the suspects, potential victims or when abuse may have occurred. He said Wednesday’s search was meant to turn up documentation or data concerning the allegations against the men.
May 10, 2019
Because self-policing has worked so well in the past. Oh, wait…
The pope continues to be a major part of the problem.
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis issued a groundbreaking new church law Thursday requiring all Catholic priests and nuns around the world to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups by their superiors to church authorities, in a new effort to hold the Catholic hierarchy accountable for failing to protect their flocks.
The law provides whistleblower protections for anyone making a report and requires all dioceses to have a system in place to receive the claims confidentially. And it outlines internal procedures for conducting preliminary investigations when the accused is a bishop, cardinal or religious superior.
Abuse victims and their advocates said the law was a step forward, but not enough since it doesn’t require the crimes to be reported to police and essentially tasks discredited bishops who have mishandled abuse for decades with policing their own.
It’s the latest effort by Francis to respond to the global sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has devastated the credibility of the Catholic hierarchy and his own papacy. And it provides a new legal framework for U.S. bishops as they prepare to adopt accountability measures next month to respond to the scandal there.
“People must know that bishops are at the service of the people,” said Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s longtime sex crimes prosecutor. “They are not above the law, and if they do wrong, they must be reported.”
The decree requires the world’s 415,000 Catholic priests and 660,000 nuns to tell church authorities when they learn or have “well-founded motives to believe” a cleric or sister has engaged in sexual abuse of a minor, sexual misconduct with an adult, possession of child pornography — or that a superior has covered up any of those crimes.
It doesn’t require them to report to police, however. The Vatican has long argued that different legal systems make a universal reporting law impossible, and that imposing one could endanger the church in places where Catholics are a persecuted minority. But the procedures do for the first time put into universal law that victims cannot be silenced, that clergy must obey civil reporting requirements where they live, and that their obligation to report to the church in no way interferes with that.
The global victims group Ending Clergy Abuse, or ECA, said the Vatican shouldn’t hide behind the argument that mandatory reporting to police is a problem in some countries.
“The church should establish the law for reporting and justify the exception,” said ECA’s Peter Iseley. “Instead, they are using the exception as a pretext for not reporting sexual abuse to civil authorities and to keep abuse secret.”
If implemented fully, though, the Vatican could well see an avalanche of abuse and cover-up reports. The decree can be applied retroactively, meaning priests and nuns are now required to report even old cases of sexual wrongdoing and cover-ups — and enjoy whistleblower protections for doing so.
Previously such reporting was left to the conscience of individual priests and nuns.
Canon lawyer Kurt Martens called the new law “revolutionary” by making sex abuse of minors and adults, as well as official cover-ups, subject to mandatory reporting.
“We owe gratitude to Pope Francis for this universal law of the Church, ensuring that a victim who wishes to tell his or her story cannot be silenced,” Martens tweeted.
Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability praised some of the provisions but said they weren’t enough, primarily because there were no sanctions envisaged for violations, and because the process remained entirely internal.
“Bishops watching bishops does not work,” she said.
While there are no punitive measures foreseen for noncompliance, bishops and religious superiors could be accused of cover-up or negligence if they fail to implement the provisions or retaliate against priests and nuns who make reports against them.
The law defines the crimes that must be reported as: performing sexual acts with a minor or vulnerable person; forcing an adult “by violence or threat or through abuse of authority, to perform or submit to sexual acts”; and the production, possession or distribution of child pornography. Cover-up is defined as “actions or omissions intended to interfere with or avoid” civil or canonical investigations.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s bishops’ office, said the inclusion of sex crimes involving adults was a clear reference to cases of sexual abuse of nuns and seminarians by their superiors — a scandal that has exploded recently following reports, including by The Associated Press and the Vatican’s own women’s magazine, of sisters being sexually assaulted by priests.
The pope mandated that victims reporting abuse must be welcomed, listened to and supported by the hierarchy, as well as offered spiritual, medical and psychological assistance.
The law says victims can’t be forced to keep quiet, even though the investigation itself is still conducted under pontifical secret. And in a novelty, the law requires that if victims request it, they must be told of the outcome of the investigation — again a response to complaints that victims are kept in the dark about how their claims were handled.
Victims and their advocates have long complained that bishops and religious superiors have escaped justice for having engaged in sexual misconduct themselves, or failed to protect their flocks from predator priests. Bishops and religious superiors are accountable only to the pope, and only a handful have ever been sanctioned or removed for sex abuse or cover-up, and usually only after particularly egregious misbehavior became public.
Last summer, the scandal over ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick epitomized the trend: McCarrick rose to the heights of the Catholic hierarchy even though he had credible allegations of sexual misconduct with adults against him that the Vatican had received. Francis defrocked McCarrick this year after a U.S. church investigation determined he sexually abused minors as well as adult seminarians.
The new procedures call for any claim of sexual misconduct or cover-up against a bishop, religious superior or Eastern Rite patriarch to be reported to the Holy See and the metropolitan bishop, who is a regular diocesan bishop also responsible for a broader geographic area than his dioceses alone.
Unless the metropolitan bishop finds the claim “manifestly unfounded,” he must immediately ask permission from the Vatican to open a preliminary investigation and must hear back from Rome within 30 days — a remarkably fast turnaround for the lethargic Holy See. The metropolitan bishop then has an initial 90 days to conduct the investigation, though extensions are possible.
The law makes clear he can use lay experts to help, a key provision that is already used in many dioceses. And it recommends that a special fund be set up to pay for the investigations, particularly in poorer parts of the world.
Once the investigation is over, the metropolitan sends the results to the Vatican for a decision on how to proceed.
The new law requires Vatican offices to share information throughout the process, since an untold number of cases have fallen through the cracks, thanks to the silo-like nature of the Holy See bureaucracy.
The procedures published Thursday are likely to form a key legal framework for U.S. bishops when they meet in Baltimore June 11-13 to adopt new accountability procedures, though it will certainly force them to scrap their existing proposals and make them conform to the new law.