March 1, 2019
The cases, which will number in the many hundreds at least, will lay bare new details of past horrors and could push some of New York’s diocese to the brink of bankruptcy.
Unknown to many, the Catholic Church is a group of franchises, not unlike McDonald’s. The Vatican is financially immune from the debts of the parishes.
A new wave of allegations against Roman Catholic clergy will emerge in New York as a result of the new Child Victims Act. Matthew Leonard, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. After decades of anguish and argument over sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, a final reckoning may be coming for New York parishioners.
Over the last quarter century, sexual abuse allegations, some of them horrendous, have been lodged in fits and starts against more than 400 priests and others associated with the church in New York state. The church hierarchy has been accused of concealing the truth about sexual misconduct as well.
But the number of past accusations and admissions pale in comparison to what’s happening today, and what will happen in the months ahead. The Democrat and Chronicle has found this confluence of events:
- More than 1,260 sexual abuse claims have been resolved and at least $228 million paid in compensation over the last two years under a systematic reconciliation program adopted by New York’s eight Catholic dioceses. Rochester is lagging, however, and has resolved about a half-dozen claims. By contrast, Ogdensburg, in less-populous St. Lawrence County, has already settled 39.
- A wave of lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy will begin arriving soon in New York courtrooms and peak starting this summer. Big law firms are flocking to New York to take advantage of a new state law that eases stringent limits on who can file such suits.
- The cases, which will number in the many hundreds at least, will lay bare new details of past horrors and could push some of New York’s diocese to the brink of bankruptcy. What may be the first suit brought under the new law, filed Friday in Buffalo, is seeking $300 million for a single victim.
- The state Attorney General’s investigation of church sexual abuse has given investigators access to private diocesan records that will document still more instances of sexual misconduct and could well reveal past efforts by church officials to shield abusive clergy from discovery.
Combined, the three initiatives will provide a painful yet welcome opportunity for victims of sexual abuse to grievances against priests that have festered for decades.
Colleen O’Hara Carney and her sister say they were abused more than 45 years ago by a Jesuit priest, the Rev. Peter Conroy, a Rochester native who was a member of their extended family. His behavior including touching, grabbing and groping the girls when they were adolescents.
The family later reported the acts to the Jesuits and to the diocese of Buffalo, where Conroy was assigned in the early 2000s. At least one other complaint was made by a young woman who encountered Conroy on a college campus, Carney said.
Decades later, Carney is still troubled. “It keeps rearing its ugly head. He did this to me, and it’s been following me my whole life,” said Carney, who is 60 years old.
Earlier this week she signed the paperwork authorizing a lawsuit be filed against Conroy and the Jesuits.
“I just want acknowledgment,” said Carney, who added she hopes legal action will hold Conroy and his order to account, alleviate some of the anguish that she and her family feel and support the people who have worked to bring the church’s secrets to light.
The church’s reconciliation program is private, though victims are free to speak about their cases. Litigation can play out beyond public view as well, and the extent of the information that will be released by Attorney General Letitia James is unknown.
But advocates for sexual-abuse victims say they’re confident the flood of settled claims, lawsuits and the attorney general’s probe will reveal much.
“Because the doors of the courthouse have been locked, the information about what the dioceses knew and when they knew it, that remains under lock and key. The new law, frankly, is going to blow that door open. The survivors can share their stories,” said J. Michael Reck, a lawyer with a Minnesota firm that specializes in clergy abuse cases and has an office in New York City.
“We’re going to be able to crack open those secret archives,” Reck said. “I think what we know right now is a drop in the bucket. I think we’re going to find out a lot more.”
For decades, the rock on which child sexual abuse lawsuits foundered was New York’s statute of limitations.
These laws limit the amount of time that can elapse between an act of abuse and a lawsuit seeking damages for that act. There are statutes of limitations for crimes as well.
The underlying idea of a limitation is to ensure the best evidence and witnesses are available when the lawsuit is filed. But New York’s limitations for claims of child sexual abuse were among the most severe in the country.
Consider what happened with three high-profile civil actions filed against the Rochester diocese and its clergy:
- A Rochester woman filed suit in 1993 accusing Brother John Laurence Heathwood, a popular teacher and theater director at Bishop Kearney High School, of sexually assaulting her beginning in the late 1960s, when she was a student at the Irondequoit school. She said the attacks continued for years and included threats and coercion and left her unable to conceive children.
- At least six former altar boys sued the Rev. Albert Cason in 2002, claiming he sexually abused them in the 1960s while he served at St. John the Evangelist Church in Spencerport and at St. Patrick’s Church in Owego, Tioga County. He was accused of abusing boys on overnight camping trips and at a drive-in movie.
- Ten men filed a joint lawsuit in 2002 against the Rev. Robert F. O’Neill, accusing the once-popular priest of “sexual exploitation.” He allegedly molested numerous young teens in the late 1970s and early 1980s, often on trips to his cottage in Jefferson County.
In each of those cases, lawyers had what they believed was credible evidence that the plaintiffs had been sexually abused and left deeply scarred.
But they never had the opportunity to present that evidence in court. Each of the cases was dismissed out of hand, at least in part because the plaintiffs had waited too long to bring suit.
State law then required that most civil actions for such abuse be filed before the victim reaches age 23, and in some cases earlier than that. In each of the three high-profile cases, the plaintiffs were in their 40’s.
Experts say that gap in time between violation and litigation is common among victims of child sexual abuse. Many of them don’t come to terms with their injury until middle age.
“Some say the usual age of revelation is about 50,” said Robert Hoatson, founder of Road to Recovery, a support group for survivors of sexual abuse. “A victim only comes forward when they have the ‘tools’ to reveal the abuse.”
For that reason, multimillion-dollar jury awards against abusive priests and their dioceses have been rare in New York compared to other states with more liberal statutes of limitations.
But now the law has changed.
The Child Victims Act, which went into effect earlier this month, sets new and more relaxed time limits on civil actions. Victims of child sexual abuse now will be able to bring suit at any time before they reach the age of 55.
In addition, the law created a one-year window of time during which anyone may file suit over childhood sexual abuse, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred or the age of the accuser.
February 27, 2019
FRESNO, CA (KMJ)- A Fresno Anglican Church priest is arrested for sexual misconduct crimes against his followers.
Fresno police are aware of 22 potential victims — mostly undocumented Hispanic male adults and one female, but they believe Jesus Antonio Serna could have hundreds more.
Culminating a thirteen-month investigation, Serna was arrested at his office in Fresno at 7:30am, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019.
Serna told police he would tell his victims they were under the curse of witchcraft, and needed to be rid of it with a ritual he learned of in India.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Serna would then undress the victims, have them lie down on a recliner or a table and rub oil on the victim’s body telling them it was sacred oil and then masturbate the victims.
Serna led them to believe the ritual was spiritually or physically necessary for them to be healed.
All of the victims were members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at 4147 E. Dakota, or at his office at 1300 East Shaw, which police say was more isolated.
The Bishop of the Anglican Church in Fresno learned of the crimes in October of 2017, when eighteen parishioners said they’d been victimized by Serna but were afraid to report the crimes to law enforcement..
Bishop Eric Menees confronted Serna on November 24th, and went to the Fresno Police in January of 2018, with the three victims.
Since that time, Chief Dyer’s been made award of 22 people assaulted but due to the reluctance of the victims to make statements, police could not take action.
After Bishop Menees kicked Serna out of the church, the disgraced priest later opened up his own Padre Dia Ministry at Holy Spirit Church, located at 4277 N. West Boulevard (not on Friant).
Chief Dyer during the press conference on Monday that the abuse may have been going on among his followers for years prior to 2014, during the time he was a priest in Yakima, Washington from 1997 to 2006.
Chief Dyer believes there are victims there, as well.
Cardinal George Pell: Vatican treasurer and highest ranking Catholic in Australia found guilty of five counts of child sexual assault
February 26, 2019
George Pell, convicted pedophile
We here at FuckThePope.com have been reading the media accounts of Pell’s conviction and are gobsmacked that so many express shock at the verdict. A priest raping alter boys is hardly news. We have to ask “Why the hell is anyone shocked?” Do people think that sex abuse is the province of only the lower echelons of the priesthood?
Cardinal George Pell, once the third most powerful man in the Vatican and Australia’s most senior Catholic, has been found guilty of child sexual abuse after a trial in Melbourne.
A jury delivered the unanimous verdict on 11 December in Melbourne’s county court, but the result was subject to a suppression order and could not be reported until now.
A previous trial on the same five charges, which began in August, resulted in a hung jury, leading to a retrial.
Pell, who is on leave from his role in Rome as Vatican treasurer, was found guilty of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16 as well as four charges of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16. The offences occurred in December 1996 and early 1997 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, months after Pell was inaugurated as archbishop of Melbourne.
He is due to be sentenced on Wednesday, having been out on bail since the verdict and recovering from knee surgery.
Pope Francis, who has previously praised Pell for his honesty and response to child sexual abuse, has yet to publicly react, but just two days after the unreported verdict in December the Vatican announced that Pell and two other cardinals had been removed from the pontiff’s council of advisers.
Pell’s conviction and likely imprisonment will cause shockwaves through a global Catholic congregation and is a blow to Francis’s efforts to get a grip on sexual abuse.
It comes just days after an unprecedented summit of cardinals and senior bishops in the presence of the pope at the Vatican, intended to signal a turning point on the issue that has gravely damaged the church and imperilled Francis’s papacy.
Before returning to Australia to face the charges, Pell was for three years prefect of the secretariat for the economy of the Holy See, making him one of the most senior Catholics in the world. He was one of Francis’s most trusted advisers, and was handpicked to oversee the Vatican’s complex finances and root out corruption.
On the day of the dramatic verdict, after a four-and-a-half-week trial, Pell stood in the dock showing no reaction and staring straight ahead. The room was silent as the foreman told the court that the jury had found the cardinal guilty on all charges. Pell’s defence barrister, Robert Richter QC, when asked by journalists if he would appeal, responded: “Absolutely.”
Pell will now almost certainly face jail time.
The case against Pell centred around events of more than 22 years ago.
The jury found that in the second half of December 1996, while he was archbishop of Melbourne, Pell walked in on two 13-year-old choirboys after a Sunday solemn mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral and sexually assaulted them.
The complainant, who is now aged 35 and cannot be named, said he and the other choirboy had separated from the choir procession as it exited the church building. The prosecution’s case hinged on his evidence, as the other victim died in 2014 after a heroin overdose. Neither victim told anyone about the offending at the time.
After leaving the procession, the complainant said, he and the other boy sneaked back into the church corridors and entered the priest’s sacristy, a place they knew they should not be. There they found some sacramental wine and began to drink. The complainant alleged that Pell had walked in on them and told them something to the effect that they were in trouble.
Pell manoeuvred his robes to expose his penis. He stepped forward, grabbed the other boy by the back of his head, and forced the boy’s head on to his penis, the complainant told the court.
Pell then did the same thing to the complainant, orally raping him. Once he had finished, he ordered the complainant to remove his pants, before fondling the complainant’s penis and masturbating himself. The complainant said the attack lasted only a few minutes, and the boys left the room afterwards, hung up their choir robes and went home.
Being in the choir was a condition of the complainant’s scholarship to attend St Kevin’s College, an elite independent school in the affluent inner-Melbourne suburb of Toorak, the court heard.
“I knew a scholarship could be given or taken away even at that age,” the complainant told the court. “And I didn’t want to lose that. It meant so much to me. And what would I do if I said such a thing about an archbishop? It’s something I carried with me the whole of my life.”
The complainant alleged that either later that year in 1996, or in early 1997, Pell attacked him again. He said he was walking down a hallway to the choristers’ change room, again after singing at Sunday solemn mass at the cathedral, when Pell allegedly pushed him against the wall and squeezed his genitals hard through his choir robes, before walking off.
The complainant told the court that after the attacks he could not fathom what had happened to him and that he dealt with it by pushing it to the “darkest corners and recesses” of his mind.
In his police statement, the complainant said he remembered Pell “being a big force in the place”.
“He emanated an air of being a powerful person,” he said. “I’ve been struggling with this a long time … and my ability to be here. [Because] I think Pell has terrified me my whole life … he was [later] in the Vatican. He was an extremely, presidentially powerful guy who had a lot of connections.”
In his closing address, the crown prosecutor Mark Gibson told the jury their verdict would come down to whether they believed the complainant beyond reasonable doubt. They should find the complainant an honest witness, Gibson said.
Pell pleaded not guilty from the beginning. He was interviewed by a Victorian detective, Christopher Reed, in Rome in October 2016, and the video of that interview was played to the court. In that interview Pell described the allegations as “a load of garbage and falsehood”.
When Reed said the attacks were alleged to have occurred after Sunday mass, Pell responded: “That’s good for me as it makes it even more fantastically impossible.”
Pell’s defence team told the jury there were so many improbabilities in the prosecution’s case that they should conclude the abuse could not have happened. Richter said it was unlikely that two boys could leave the choir procession after mass unnoticed or that the sacristy would be unattended or left unlocked, or that Pell would be able to manoeuvre his robes to show his penis in the way described by the complainant. The robes were brought into the court for jurors to view.
Richter used a PowerPoint presentation in the retrial during his closing address to the jurors, something he did not do in the first. One of the slides read: “Only a madman would attempt to rape two boys in the priests’ sacristy immediately after Sunday solemn mass.”
In his directions to the jury, the judge, Peter Kidd, told them that the trial was not an opportunity to make Pell a scapegoat for the failures of the Catholic church.
The jury took less than four days to reach their unanimous verdict.
Until now the trials have been subject to a suppression order and could not be reported. The reason for the strict order was that Pell faced a second trial in relation to separate alleged historical offences. The first trial was suppressed temporarily so information from it would be less likely to influence the jury in the second. Suppression orders are not unusual in such cases.
But Kidd has now ordered that reporting restrictions be lifted after the Department of Public Prosecutions dropped the second set of charges. Kidd had ruled that key evidence was inadmissible and could not be used, significantly weakening the prosecution’s case.
February 25, 2019
Reinhard Marx, part of the culture of clergy sex abuse cover-up
The Roman Catholic Church took pains to deliberately hide the extent of its global sex abuse crisis, going as far as destroying documents and failing to compile records that could be used to prosecute perpetrators, a top cardinal admitted this week.
At an unprecedented Vatican summit designed to tackle the church’s lingering child sex abuse scandal, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx shed light on the institution’s many failures to tamp down on the problem, telling the gathering of more than 190 bishops from around the globe that “the rights of victims were effectively trampled underfoot.” The National Catholic Reporter has more:
”Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created,” said Marx, beginning a list of a number of practices that survivors have documented for years but church officials have long kept under secret.
”Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated and silence imposed on them,” the cardinal continued. “The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution of offenses were deliberately not complied with, but instead canceled or overridden.”
The Catholic Church is in the midst of a reckoning over its wide-scale child abuse allegations that span the globe and date back decades. Thousands of child victims have come forward describing their abuse, while hundreds of priests have been reprimanded by the church as a direct result. But only recently has the shoe begun to drop for the highest-ranking officials, including those who are either accused themselves of sexually assaulting young children, or allowed the abuse to continue under their watch.
Just last week the Vatican defrocked Theodore McCarrick, an ex-cardinal and the former archbishop of Washington, who was accused of abusing at least three minors and harassing adult seminarians. It’s likely the first time that a cardinal has been expelled from the priesthood specifically because of sexual abuse, but comes too late for McCarrick’s victims to pursue criminal charges against their alleged abuser.
Pope Francis, who has had a mixed record on addressing the church’s pedophilia problem, convened the four-day summit in a landmark effort to curb the widespread and systemic failures that turned the issue into a global crisis. In his opening remarks on Thursday, Francis condemned the “scourge” of sexual abuse and said it was up to church leaders to “confront this evil afflicting the Church and humanity.”
But for years, it’s been others who’ve claimed the spotlight calling for accountability and reform — a trend that continued at the pope’s conference this weekend.
A Catholic nun took bishops to task: “This storm will not pass by. Our credibility is at stake.”
Activists and victims of clergy abuse are calling on the church to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy that would apply universal standards for abusive priests around the globe. So far, however, accountability measures have varied from region to region — if they happen at all. Even as more and more allegations of abuse come to light, factions within the church still deny its existence. Which is why one major theme to emerge out of this week’s summit focuses on transparency as a (small) first step to confront the crisis.
It’s a point driven home by Sister Veronica Openibo, a Nigerian-born nun and journalist, who in a standout moment in the conference, chastised church leaders to their face for their culture of silence and hypocrisy. As CNN religion reporter Daniel Burke noted of Openibo’s speech, “a nun just read the riot act to Catholic bishops over clergy sex abuse.”
February 25, 2019
Go right ahead and fuck all the kids you want. I’ve got your back.
Francis could have, with the stroke of a pen, made the sexual assault of children by clergy against church law which would demand the expulsion of violators from the priesthood. But he chose instead to offer another round of platitudes and vague promises leaving victims of sex abuse feeling victimized once again.
(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis closed out his extraordinary summit on preventing clergy sex abuse by vowing Sunday to confront abusers with “the wrath of God” felt by the faithful, end the cover-ups by their superiors and prioritize the victims of this “brazen, aggressive and destructive evil.”
But his failure to offer a concrete action plan to hold bishops accountable when they failed to protect their flocks from predators disappointed survivors, who had expected more from the first-ever global Catholic summit of its kind.
Francis delivered his remarks at the end of Mass before 190 Catholic bishops and religious superiors who were summoned to Rome after more abuse scandals sparked a credibility crisis in the Catholic hierarchy and in Francis’ own leadership.
“Brothers and sisters, today we find ourselves before a manifestation of brazen, aggressive and destructive evil,” the pope said.
February 21, 2019
Marcin Michael Strachanowski, torturer and raper of children
SÃO PAULO, Brazil — The authorities in Rio de Janeiro said Sunday that they had arrested a Polish priest and charged him with sexually abusing a 16-year-old former altar boy.
The judge who issued the arrest warrant said the priest, Father Marcin Michael Strachanowski, 44, had used his parish’s rectory as an “erotic dungeon” to carry out sex acts with boys.
The police in Rio de Janeiro State said that Father Strachanowski, who was arrested late Friday, was being held at a police station awaiting court proceedings. He is accused of handcuffing the 16-year-old to a bed “to satisfy his sexual whims,” according to state prosecutors.
It is the third case of sexual abuse involving a priest in Brazil, which has the world’s biggest Roman Catholic population, in the last two months.
In April, Msgr. Luiz Marques Barbosa, 83, and two other priests were taken into custody in northeastern Brazil and accused of abuse after a videotape surfaced of Father Barbosa having sex with a former altar boy. Also that month, in Franca, in southeastern Brazil, prosecutors charged the Rev. José Afonso with abusing altar boys ranging from 12 to 16 years old.
The Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro has relieved Father Strachanowski of his parish duties because of the criminal investigation, said Adionel Carlos da Cunha, a church spokesman. Mr. da Cunha said that church officials had been investigating Father Strachanowski for at least two years for suspected abuses of the teenager.
February 20, 2019
For decades Francis has been part of the problem.
LUJAN DE CUYO, Argentina -When investigators swept in and raided the religious Antonio Provolo Institute for the Deaf, they uncovered one of the worst cases yet among the global abuse scandals plaguing the Catholic Church: a place of silent torment where prosecutors say pedophiles preyed on the most isolated and submissive children.
The scope of the alleged abuse was vast. Charges are pending against 13 suspects; a 14th person pleaded guilty to sexual abuse, including rape, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The case of the accused ringleader – an octogenarian Italian priest named Nicola Corradi – is set to go before a judge next month.
Corradi was spiritual director of the school and had a decades-long career spanning two continents. And so his arrest in late 2016 raised an immediate question: Did the Catholic Church have any sense that he could be a danger to children?
The answer, according to a Washington Post investigation that included a review of court and church documents, private letters, and dozens of interviews in Argentina and Italy, is that church officials up to and including Pope Francis were warned repeatedly and directly about a group of alleged predators that included Corradi.
Yet they took no apparent action against him.
“I want Pope Francis to come here, I want him to explain how this happened, how they knew this and did nothing,” a 24-year-old alumna of the Provolo Institute said, using sign language as her hands shook in rage. She and her 22-year-old brother, who requested anonymity to share their experiences as minors, are among at least 14 former students who say they were victims of abuse at the now-shuttered boarding school in the shadow of the Andes.
‘They were the perfect victims’
Vulnerable to the extreme, the deaf students tended to come from poor families that fervently believed in the sanctity of the church. Prosecutors say the children were fondled, raped, sometimes tied up and, in one instance, forced to wear a diaper to hide the bleeding. All the while, their limited ability to communicate complicated their ability to tell others what was happening to them. Students at the school were smacked if they used sign language. One of the few hand gestures used by the priests, victims say, was an index figure to lips – a demand for silence.
“They were the perfect victims,” said Gustavo Stroppiana, the chief prosecutor in the case.
And yet they may not have been the first. Corradi, now 83 and under house arrest, is also under investigation for sexual crimes at a sister school in Argentina where he worked from 1970 to 1994. And alumni of a related school in Italy, where Corradi served earlier, identified him as being among a number of priests who carried out systematic abuse over five decades. The schools were all founded and staffed by priests from the Company of Mary for the Education of the Deaf, a small Catholic congregation that answers to the Vatican.
The Italian victims’ efforts to sound the alarm to church authorities began in 2008 and included mailing a list of accused priests to Francis in 2014 and physically handing him the list in 2015.
It was not the church, however, but Argentine law enforcement that cut off Corradi’s access to children when it shut down the Provolo school in Lujan. Argentine prosecutors say the church has not fully cooperated with their investigation.
As Francis prepares to host a historic bishops’ summit this week to address clerical sexual abuse, the lapses in the case – affecting the pope’s home country of Argentina and the home country of the Roman Catholic Church – illustrate the still-present failures of the church to fix a system that has allowed priests to continue to abuse children long after they were first accused.
Corradi’s lawyer declined multiple interview requests for this article and did not respond to emails seeking to speak with the priest. Attempts to reach Corradi through his family were unsuccessful. The Vatican declined to comment on a detailed list of questions.
But Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the abuse-tracking site BishopAccountability.org, said the Provolo case “is truly emblematic.”
“The church failed them abysmally. The pope ignored them, the police responded,” she said. “It’s a clear example of the tragedy that keeps playing out.”
February 19, 2019
Not so secret anymore.
Vincent Doyle, a psychotherapist in Ireland, was 28 when he learned from his mother that the Roman Catholic priest he had always known as his godfather was in truth his biological father.
The discovery led him to create a global support group to help other children of priests, like him, suffering from the internalized shame that comes with being born from church scandal. When he pressed bishops to acknowledge these children, some church leaders told him that he was the product of the rarest of transgressions.
But one archbishop finally showed him what he was looking for: a document of Vatican guidelines for how to deal with priests who father children, proof that he was hardly alone.
“It’s the next scandal,” said Vincent Doyle, the son of a priest. “There are kids everywhere.”
“Oh my God. This is the answer,” Mr. Doyle recalled having said as he held the document. He asked if he could have a copy, but the archbishop said no — it was secret.
Now, the Vatican has confirmed, apparently for the first time, that its department overseeing the world’s priests has general guidelines for what to do when clerics break celibacy vows and father children.
“I can confirm that these guidelines exist,” the Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti wrote in response to a query from The New York Times. “It is an internal document.”
The issue is becoming harder to ignore.
“It’s the next scandal,” Mr. Doyle said. “There are kids everywhere.”
As the Vatican prepares for an unprecedented meeting with the world’s bishops this week on the devastating child sexual abuse crisis, many people who feel they have been wronged by the church’s culture of secrecy and aversion to scandal will descend on Rome to press their cause.
There will be the victims of clerical child abuse. There will be nuns sexually assaulted by priests. And there will be children of priests, including Mr. Doyle, who is scheduled to meet privately in Rome with several prominent prelates.
The Vatican has confirmed that it has general guidelines for clerics who father children, pressuring them to prioritize the welfare of the child and leave the priesthood.
For the church, stories like Mr. Doyle’s draw uncomfortable attention to the violation of celibacy by priests and, for some former clerics and liberals inside the church, raise the issue of whether it is time to make the requirement optional, as it is in other Christian churches.
The children are sometimes the result of affairs involving priests and laywomen or nuns — others of abuse or rape. There are some, exceedingly rare, high-profile cases, but the overwhelming majority remain out of the public eye.
The longstanding tradition of celibacy among Roman Catholic clergy was broadly codified in the 12th century, but not necessarily adhered to, even in the highest places. Rodrigo Borgia, while a priest, had four children with his mistress before he became Pope Alexander VI, an excess that helped spur Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. Luther wrote mockingly that the pope had as much command over celibacy as “the natural movement of the bowels.”
There are no estimates of how many such children exist. But Mr. Doyle said that the website for his support group, Coping International, has 50,000 users in 175 countries.
He said he was first shown the Vatican guidelines in October 2017 by Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Vatican’s envoy to the United Nations in Geneva.
“You’re actually called ‘children of the ordained,’” Mr. Doyle recalled Archbishop Jurkovic having said. “I was shocked they had a term for it.”
Archbishop Jurkovic declined a request for an interview.
Mr. Gisotti, the Vatican spokesman, said that the internal 2017 document synthesized a decade’s worth of procedures, and that its “fundamental principle” was the “protection of the child.” He said the guideline “requests” that the father leave the priesthood to “assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child.”
But another Vatican official said that the “request” was a mere formality. Monsignor Andrea Ripa, the under secretary in the Congregation for the Clergy, which oversees more than 400,000 priests, said in a brief interview that “it is impossible to impose” the dismissal of the priest, and that it “can only be asked.”
He added: “If you don’t ask, you will be dismissed.”
The Irish bishops have their own guidelines, and made them public in 2017. Mr. Doyle, who once studied for the priesthood and has sought to cooperate with church leaders, played a role in developing them, said Martin Long, a spokesman for the Irish Bishops’ Conference.
The Irish church’s principles do not explicitly require clerics to leave the priesthood but state: “A priest as any new father, should face up to his responsibilities — personal, legal, moral and financial.”
Pope Francis’ remarks on the issue are limited. In his 2010 book, “On Heaven and Earth,” which he co-wrote when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis argues that a priest who in a moment of passion violates a vow of celibacy could potentially stay in the ministry, but one who fathers a child could not.
“Natural law comes before his right as a priest,” he writes, adding that a priest’s first responsibility would be to his child, and that “he must leave his priestly ministry and take care of his child.”
Canon lawyers say that there is nothing in church law that forces priests to leave the priesthood for fathering children.
“There is zero, zero, zero,” on the matter, said Laura Sgro, a canon lawyer in Rome. “As it is not a canonical crime, there are no grounds for dismissal.”
Mr. Doyle, along with some other children of priests and some former priests themselves, say they do not believe that dismissal from the priesthood is always in the child’s best interests, and that sometimes it potentially deprives a family of a livelihood.
“I don’t believe unemployment is a response to paternity,” Mr. Doyle said.
Some children of priests, however, wish their fathers were forced out of the ministry.
Rev. Pietro Tosi was 54 when he raped Erik Zattoni’s mother, who was 14, Mr. Zattoni said. Her family tried to force the priest to recognize their son, but he refused. The family was evicted from their parish-owned home in a tiny town outside Ferrara, Italy, where they often bumped into each other.
“He never said anything,” said Mr. Zattoni, now 37.
In 2010, Mr. Zattoni sued Father Tosi, demanding to be recognized. A court-ordered DNA test demonstrated that he was in fact the priest’s son. The Vatican eventually instructed Father Tosi’s bishop to admonish him and remind him of his responsibilities as a father, but did not demand his removal from the priesthood.
After a national news program highlighted his case, hundreds of Italians filled a Ferrara piazza in 2013, to show support for Mr. Zattoni and press Francis to take up his case.
Father Tosi died in 2014, still a priest.
“The justice I got,” Mr. Zattoni said, “came through a court sentence based on DNA.”
The children of priests are increasingly turning to DNA tests to prove that their parents are either priests or nuns.
“It’s a breakthrough, and anybody can do it,” said Linda Lawless, 56, an amateur genealogist in Australia, and herself the daughter of a priest, who has helped members of Coping International.
Her mother kept her paternity secret, but Ms. Lawless remembered noticing as a child that her mother was “absolutely terrified” whenever priests visited the house.
Last year, she used a DNA test and the increasingly comprehensive databases and family trees of the genealogical website Ancestry.com to confirm that her biological father was a priest.
“That’s when the secret came out,” she said.
February 18, 2019
February 18, 2019
It’s the line from scripture that stayed with Cait Finnegan for nearly half a century as she tried to suppress the painful memories of the sexual abuse she says she suffered at the hands of her Catholic clergy educator.
“God is Love,” Sister Mary Juanita Barto told Finnegan as she repeatedly raped her in classrooms at Mater Christi High School in Queens in the late 1960s.
The abuse began when Finnegan was 15 and continued throughout her high school years — on school buses to out-of-town sporting events, at religious retreats in upstate New York, at Finnegan’s childhood home in Woodside and at a Long Island convent.
“She was obsessed with me 24 hours a day,” Finnegan, now 67, told The Post. “The woman owned me.”
After graduating high school in 1969, Finnegan struggled to deal with the abuse and tell her story, but her efforts fell on deaf ears.
“Nobody wanted to hear about the Vestal Virgins back then,” she said.
But after Pope Francis recently made the bombshell admission that some nuns were abused by priests and even used as sex slaves, dozens of Catholics have come forward to report a tangential, and just as evil, phenomenon — sexual abuse by nuns.
“This is the next big thing for the church — the biggest untold secret,” Mary Dispenza, a director at Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a St. Louis-based advocacy group.
“In the past, victims were very much ashamed and afraid to tell their stories, but they are starting to come forward and we are expecting that this may be as big as the priest abuse scandal.”
The group has heard from 35 people in the last several days who claim they were physically and sexually abused by nuns, said Dispenza, a former nun who claims she was abused as a young girl by both a priest and a nun. Finnegan told The Post she approached SNAP for support a few years earlier.
Dispenza, 78, has fought for more than two decades for justice for victims of clergy abuse and plans to take her fight to the Vatican on Monday. She and her group are demanding the Pope help victims of nun abuse and fire anyone who has covered up crimes by Catholic clergy.
“We want them gone immediately,” she said.
She also wants the Vatican to require Catholic leaders to contact police right away if they are confronted with abuse, rather than alerting local bishops or other church hierarchy first.
And in states where the statute of limitations has been amended to allow victims of sexual abuse to file complaints, SNAP is urging them — some now in their 60s and 70s — to file claims against their alleged abusers.
“Finally, they will have a chance at justice,” she said.
Last week, New York opened up a window for old cases with the passage of the Child Victims Act. The measure, which had languished in Albany for more than a decade, allows a one-year window for alleged victims to file lawsuits against their attackers, no matter when the abuse occurred.
Before the new law, New York had one of the most restrictive statutes of limitations for childhood sexual abuse. Victims now have until age 55 in order to file civil suits and can press for criminal charges until age 28. The old statute capped lawsuits at age 23.
Dispenza, who spent 15 years in a habit before becoming an activist against the Catholic church, is bracing for an onslaught of cases against nuns, who typically run schools and orphanages, and spend exponentially more time with children than priests.
“They are with kids at school every day from nine to three,” she said.
They also far outnumber priests. There are 55,944 nuns in the US and 41,406 priests, according to statistics compiled by SNAP.
Eight years ago, when a handful of victims of nun abuse came forward to SNAP, Dispenza urged the Chicago-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic nuns, to address the issue and reach out to victims of nun abuse. The group refused to put the issue on the agendas of their annual meetings, Dispenza told The Post.
A spokeswoman for LCWR refused to discuss how many victims of nun abuse had reached out to them, and referred to a statement on the group’s web site that reads in part, “We encourage persons with grievances involving allegations of sexual misconduct by a woman religious to approach the individual religious congregation involved. We believe that it is at this level that true healing can begin.”
In her 2014 memoir, “Split: A Child, a Priest and the Catholic Church,” Dispenza details the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of a Catholic priest in the gritty East Los Angeles neighborhood where she grew up. Despite the childhood rapes by the priest — who was trusted by her family — Dispenza decided to become a nun, only to be faced with similar abuse from a superior sister while she was a novitiate.
“She took my face in her two hands, and kissed me all over my face,” she recalled of the encounter in a convent she would not name. “And then I just remember leaving. I felt the same way I felt as a child. I felt lost, I felt abandoned, I felt confused, I felt alone.”
Finnegan said she also felt alone, and was unable to speak of the abuse she endured by Sister Mary Juanita who “vowed to chastity as she raped me.”
Finnegan, a widow whose husband was a former Catholic priest, now lives in Pennsylvania where she has run a group home for needy children and is the minister of the Celtic Christian Church.
Although her alleged abuser died in 2014, Finnegan said she still cannot bring herself to discuss the abuse openly, even after years of therapy and writing in her “Abuse by nuns” blog.
“Well, the little girl in me wept because that kid had longed for Juanita to be a spiritual mother to me … that’s how I loved her, as a mother,” she wrote. “I remember when I met her I thought she was so smart and holy, oh yeah, and funny. Wrong.”
She said she never told her father — “I was afraid of what he would do to the nun when he found out” — and only summoned up the courage to tell her mother of the trauma just before her death in 2002.
“Sexual abuse leaves scars that last for life,” she wrote on the blog. “Dealing with those wounds and scars, and surviving through daily life is a challenge for many of us. Silence sometimes is a kind of defense which allows victims to hide from the pain (for a while).”
Some of her therapy was paid for by the Sisters of Mercy, Sister Mary Juanita’s religious order that has its origins in 19th century Ireland and now ministers to the poor around the world. The Sisters of Mercy taught the girls at her high school; the boys were taught by the Christian Brothers. In 1981, the school became the co-ed St. John’s Prep.
Finnegan said she has suffered with PTSD and anxiety for most of her adult life and has turned to prayer and research on sexual abuse to try to forgive what was done to her. She will not describe in any detail how she was raped.
“More than 14 percent of nuns have been sexually abused themselves,” said Finnegan. “It’s this unattended rage they live with. It’s going to come out as physical abuse of children and sexual abuse. I believe it’s what turns so many of them into nasty bitches in the convent.”
When Finnegan finally summoned up the courage to confront Sister Mary Juanita in the early 1990s — more than 20 years after graduating high school in 1969 — she found herself tongue-tied.
“I froze and became that 15-year-old kid again,” she said. “I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move.”
She was even too nervous to enter her office at a Long Island convent.
“Sorry, I have to go,” she told the nun who had terrified her. And then she left.
Former youth pastor arrested for sex abuse in Spartanburg County now faces charges in Greenville County
Peter William Cooper, child molester
February 17, 2019
SPARTANBURG, SC (FOX Carolina) – An Alabama man that was arrested and extradited to South Carolina for charges of a sex crime committed during a bible study in Spartanburg County in 1976, now faces charges in Greenville County for crimes committed at a Bible Camp during the same time frame, according to Greenville County deputies.
Lt. Kevin Bobo said deputies began investigating in October 2018 after a special victims unit investigator received a call from an investigator with the Robertsdale Police Department in Alabama. That agency had received a complaint about possible sexual abuse but was unable to charge the suspect.
The alleged sexual abuse involved at least three victims, one of whom still resides in Spartanburg County.
“Our investigator also learned the suspect was a youth intern pastor at Central Church of Christ in Spartanburg in 1976, and that the offense occurred at the victim’s former residence during a bible study,” Bobo said.
The three victims told deputies they had reached out to the suspect, Peter William Cooper, 63, on social media and that he apologized to them.
The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office sent an investigator to Alabama to speak to Cooper and, per Bobo, Cooper stated he didn’t remember all the details but admitted apologizing to the victims.
After leaving Spartanburg County, deputies learned Cooper had primarily been employed at churches in Alabama.
“When she got back to Spartanburg, our investigator discussed the case with the Solicitor’s Office and then a magistrate, who approved a warrant on the suspect for lewd act on a minor, since that was the applicable law in 1976,” Bobo stated.
According to the arrest warrant, Cooper reached under a 13-year-old’s dress and groped her while she was playing the piano during a Bible study at the victim’s home.
Cooper was arrested in Alabama last week and extradited to South Carolina on Sunday.
Central Church of Christ sent their members a letter back in November after learning of the allegations against Cooper.
Bobo said one of the other three victims was reportedly abused in Greenville County and that deputies with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office has launched an investigation as well.
On Wednesday, February 13, Ryan Flood with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office says a warrant had been issued for Cooper for committing a lewd act upon a child less than 14 years of age.
Investigators say they received information from the Spartanburg Co. Sheriff’s Office on late January regarding Cooper’s alleged unlawful sexual contact with an underage female.
According to the sheriff’s office, the victim suffered the inappropriate contact while in Greenville County at the Palmetto Bible Camp, located on Fall Creek Road in Marietta, during a period between 1976 – 1978.
Deputies with both Greenville County and Spartanburg County are asking anyone else who may have been a victim of Cooper to come forward.
“Since this case is the third one in less than a week involving pastors and sex offenses, our special victims unit would strongly encourage any other victims of these 3 suspects or any other suspects to come forward, especially since South Carolina doesn’t have a statute of limitations,” Bobo said.
February 16, 2019
David J. Marcotte, child molester
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has suspended a priest over the sexual abuse of a minor that allegedly happened in 2016.
The church said Tuesday that it learned of the allegation against Fr. David J. Marcotte last Wednesday and immediately reported it to authorities.
Fr. Marcotte is now prohibited from all public ministry while police and the church investigate the incident.
According to the Archdiocese, Fr. Marcotte was ordained on June 7, 2014 and has been assigned to the following:
2014 – Associate pastor, SS. Francis and Clare Parish, Greenwood, and Catholic chaplain, University of Indianapolis
2015 – Associate pastor, St. Malachy Parish, Brownsburg
2016 – Administrator, St. Martin of Tours Parish, Martinsville
2017 – Ahaplain, Roncalli High School, Indianapolis, Catholic chaplain, University of Indianapolis, and sacramental assistance, SS. Francis and Clare Parish, Greenwood.
“The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is committed to protecting children and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse and misconduct,” said the church in a statement.
If you’re a victim of sexual abuse or misconduct by a person ministering on behalf of the church, or if you know of anyone who has been a victim, you’re asked to contact civil authorities and the Archdiocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator Carla Hill at 317-236-1548 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1548 or email her at [email protected]
Confidential reports can also be made on-line at www.archdioceseofindianapolis.ethicspoint.com or by calling 888-393-6810.
February 16, 2019
And what about those, including Pope Francis, who protected him for the past five decades while his crimes were widely known?
ROME — The Vatican on Saturday said it had stripped ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the rights of the priesthood, leveling a historic penalty against a onetime church power broker and former archbishop of Washington after the church found him guilty of sexual abuse.
The decision marks the first time that a cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse.
In a short statement, the Vatican said a canonical process had found McCarrick guilty of several charges, including “sins” with minors and adults, “with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power.”
The defrocking of McCarrick marks the conclusion of a closed-door Vatican trial and comes just days before Pope Francis plans to gather bishops from around the world for an unpredecented summit on abuse.
McCarrick, accused of sexually abusing three minors and harassing adult seminarians, is the most senior church official in modern times to lose his priestly rights. The sentence is considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be the most severe form of canonical punishment for a cleric — worse than excommunication, which according to religious dogma is temporary and lasts only as long as a person persists in sin.
McCarrick, 88, likely won’t face criminal prosecution, because the allegations that have been made public relate to crimes that would be beyond statutes of limitations in the U.S. jurisdictions where they are said to have occurred.
And so the Vatican decision all but finalizes the downfall of a figure who entered the priesthood six decades ago, climbed the ranks of the faith and became a public face for efforts to end clergy sexual abuse — before becoming a symbol of the church’s struggle to root out abuse in its highest ranks.
In its statement Saturday, the Vatican said that its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had found McCarrick guilty of the charges on Jan. 11. Then, on Feb. 13, the Vatican “considered the recourse” McCarrick presented but confirmed the original decision — a determination McCarrick was informed of on Friday. Pope Francis has affirmed the ruling, meaning McCarrick has no further recourse.
The accusations against McCarrick, and the notion that they languished for years, have been a central component of a renewed and painful global crisis for the church. To critics of the Vatican and of Pope Francis, McCarrick’s case exemplified a persistent culture of secrecy and coverup and a reluctance to hold church leaders accountable.