March 14, 2020
What could possibly go wrong?
VATICAN CITY (AFP) – Pope Francis urged Catholic priests on Tuesday (March 10) to “have the courage” to go out and help those sickened by the coronavirus, hours after Italy was placed on a nationwide lockdown.
“Let us pray to the Lord also for our priests, that they may have the courage to go out and visit the sick… and to accompany the medical staff and volunteers in the work they do,” the pontiff said during a mass in Vatican City.
St Peter’s Square in the Vatican – in the centre of the Italian capital Rome – was almost empty on Tuesday, with only a few dozen people walking around, most of them without masks.
March 1, 2020
Another one bites the dust.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The embattled Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo filed for bankruptcy protection Friday, taking another major step in its effort to recover from a clergy misconduct scandal that’s been the basis for hundreds of lawsuits, Vatican intervention and the resignation of its bishop.
With its filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the western New York diocese became the second in the state to file for Chapter 11 reorganization, and one of more than 20 dioceses to seek bankruptcy protection nationwide. Most recently, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, filed Feb. 19.
The Buffalo diocese has faced particular turmoil in recent months, culminating in the Dec. 4 resignation of Bishop Richard Malone following a Vatican-mandated investigation. Malone had faced intense pressure from members of his staff, clergy and the public to step down amid criticism that he withheld the names of dozens of credibly accused priests and mishandled reports of misconduct against others.
Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger called the bankruptcy filing “a path forward to healing.”
“My hope is that, going forward, regardless of the mistakes we have made, regardless of the suspicions that may rightfully have been raised about the way things were done, going forward, we’re going to see a lot of action that will result in very fair resolutions as much as we can,” Scharfenberger, who is temporarily overseeing the Buffalo diocese, said at a news conference.
Scharfenberger said the process, expected to take more than a year, will enable the highest possible number of victims to be compensated while allowing the work of the diocese to continue. The diocese includes 163 parishes and missions across eight western New York counties.
The Chapter 11 filing estimates between $10 million and $50 million in assets and between $50 million and $100 million in liabilities. The number of creditors is estimated at between 200 and 999.
The diocese already has paid out about $18 million — including $1.5 million from the sale of the bishop’s mansion — to more than 100 victims under an independent compensation program established in 2018. It faces more than 250 new lawsuits filed since August, when the New York’s Child Victims Act suspended the statute of limitations to give victims of childhood abuse one year to pursue even decades-old allegations. The number of suits is expected to grow to more than 400, financial director Charles Mendolera said in a court filing.
February 24, 2020
PARIS (AP) — A respected Catholic figure who worked to improve conditions for the developmentally disabled for more than half a century sexually abused at least six women during most of that period, according to a report released Saturday by the France-based charity he founded.
The report produced for L’Arche International said the women’s descriptions provided enough evidence to show that Jean Vanier engaged in “manipulative sexual relationships” from 1970 to 2005, usually with a “psychological hold” over the alleged victims.
Although he was a layman and not a priest, many Catholics hailed Vanier, who was Canadian, as a living saint for his work with the disabled. He died last year at age 90.
“The alleged victims felt deprived of their free will and so the sexual activity was coerced or took place under coercive conditions,” the report,commissioned by L’Arche last year and prepared by the U.K.-based GCPS Consulting group, said. It did not rule out potential other victims.
None of the women was disabled, a significant point given the Catholic hierarchy has long sought to portray any sexual relationship between religious leaders and other adults as consensual unless there was clear evidence of disability.
The #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements, however, have forced a recognition that power imbalances such as those in spiritual relationships can breed abuse.
During the charity-commissioned inquiry, six adult women without links to each other said Vanier engaged in sexual relations with them as they were seeking spiritual direction.
The women reported similar facts, and Vanier’s sexual misconduct was often associated with alleged “spiritual and mystical justifications,” the report states.
A statement released by L’Arche France Saturday stressed that some women still have “deep wounds.”
The report noted similarities with the pattern of abuse of the Rev. Thomas Philippe, a Catholic priest Vanier called his “spiritual father.” Philippe, who died in 1993, has
February 15, 2020
God hates orphans.
A burning candle is regarded as a possible cause. A Pennsylvania group, which runs the orphanage, lost government accreditation several years ago.
Seventeen children including infants died in Haiti after a fire broke out inside their remote unaccredited orphanage located above the hills of Port-au-Prince.
Two of the children died from burns, Haiti’s Social Affairs Minister Elyse Gelin told the Miami Herald, while 13 others died from smoke inhalation. Two young survivors are being treated for respiratory distress at a hospital in the capital.
In all, there were 61 children living inside the Orphanage of the Church of Bible Understanding’s two-story building at Fermathe 55 when the fire broke out Thursday night, Gelin said. The group home, located just south of Port-au-Prince in the town of Kenscoff, is run by a much-criticized Scranton, Pennsylvania, religious nonprofit.
The incident is strongly being condemned by child protection advocates, and highlights Haiti’s ongoing challenges in trying to regulate non-accredited children’s homes, which are a profitable business in the country despite a 2018 moratorium banning any new orphanages and the closure of nearly 200 in recent years.
February 14, 2020
A former monk at a Catholic boarding school who sexually abused boys as young as nine has been jailed for more than 20 years.
Peter Turner, 80, was removed from Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire in 1987 after he told the headteacher about having sexual contact with a pupil.
He showed the boy, who was just 10 when the abuse began, pornography, made him perform sex acts on him and himself, touched him sexually and committed buggery.
The abuse took place in a number of areas of Ampleforth, including a hermitage and during car journeys.
Tom Storey, prosecuting, said Turner told the boy it was their secret and gave him sweets and alcohol and taught him how to drive a car in the school grounds.
He said: “He described being completely dominated by the defendant and completely at his mercy, unable of saying anything and did not know who to seek help from.”
Turner — who was previously known as Father Gregory Carroll — was sent away from the school to work as a parish priest in Workington, Cumbria, where he went on to abuse two more boys.
The victims were aged between nine and 12 and were subjected to indecent assaults and gross indecency on a nearby beach and in Turner’s car.
Turner, from Redcar, North Yorkshire, was sentenced to 20 years 10 months at York Crown Court on Wednesday after admitting to 11 counts of indecent assault, two counts of buggery and one count of gross indecency with a child.
February 11, 2020
Father Jamie Forsythe has always felt his purpose was to be a priest. He pursued that calling even after he pleaded guilty in 1989 to a charge of attempting to take indecent liberties with a 15-year-old boy in Kansas, serving time in prison, and being laicized — officially removed from the priesthood — by the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City.
Forsythe, then in his 30s, was released from prison after less than four months of his one-to-five-year sentence, and eventually found work at Metropolitan Community Church of the Black Hills, a progressive Christian church in South Dakota that primarily serves LGBTQ worshippers. Forsythe was ordained within the Metropolitan Community Church denomination in 1996, according to the Rapid City Journal, and began working at the Black Hills church in January 2000. But when the congregation discovered in 2002 he had failed to register as a sex offender in the state, he resigned from his post and made his way to Wilton Manors, Florida.
That’s where Forsythe found a job at Holy Angels, nestled in a strip mall between a tapas bar and a Peruvian restaurant.
It is part of a church system called The National Catholic Church of North America, but it is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Forsythe was hired as a priest there in 2005, according to the church. The alternative diocese is home to about 200 parishioners in seven parishes in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Washington, D.C.
February 4, 2020
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo faces near certain bankruptcy after posting a $5 million loss in 2019, and with a barrage of lawsuits from the clergy misconduct scandal still pending, according to a financial report released Thursday.
”In response to the magnitude of the number of claims, lawsuits and alleged damages, the (Central Administrative Offices) has determined that a filing of a voluntary petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code is imminent,” the diocese’s 2019 financial report said.
The diocese would become the second of New York’s eight dioceses to seek bankruptcy protection. The Rochester diocese filed for Chapter 11 protection in September. Nationwide, more than 20 dioceses have sought bankruptcy protection in a sexual misconduct reckoning that has spanned nearly two decades.
The report cited lower revenue from donations and investments as hundreds of alleged child victims of clergy abuse have come forward with claims.
It was the second consecutive yearly loss for the diocese of 163 parishes and missions across eight counties. It lost $1.8 million in fiscal 2018.
The diocese already has paid out about $18 million — including $1.5 million from the sale of the bishop’s mansion — to more than 100 victims under an independent compensation program established in 2018. It faces more than 220 new lawsuits filed since August, when New York’s Child Victims Act suspended the statute of limitations to give childhood victims one year to pursue even decades-old allegations of abuse.
Filing for bankruptcy protection, the report said, “best allows the CAO to manage the claims adjudication process in an orderly manner, as well as to ensure the equitable treatment of all claimants.”
The Catholic Church broke its promise to publish a list of “credibly accused” abuser priests, so Propublica did it for them
January 28, 2020
In 2019 the Pennsylvania Attorney General published a 900-page grand jury report on sexual predators in the Catholic Church and the coverups the church and its official had undertaken; at the time, the church promised to end the coverup and engage in truth and reconciliation with the parishoners who’d been preyed upon by clergy.
Today, 178 Archdioceses have published lists of the priests they consider “credibly accused,” according to criteria that vary widely from diocese to diocese — the US Conference of Catholic Bishops says it has no authorities to dictate standards for these lists.
41 dioceses have not published lists. These dioceses serve more than 9,000,000 Catholics, and include the dioceses of Rockville Centre, NY (1.5m parishoners); Fresno, CA (1.2m parishoners); Miami, FL (790,000 parishoners), and San Francisco, CA (445,000 parishoners).
The quality of the cooperating dioceses’ lists is highly variable: some exclude members of religious orders (like the Jesuits), who constitute 30% of the priests in America. Other lists don’t include the names of priests whose survivors have received settlements from the church, but who are not themselves considered “credibly accused” apparently. Names appear and disappear from the list all the time.
Propublica has produced a searchable database of known accused priests, searchable by name/cit/diocese (they explain their methodology here), and they’ve made the data available for download.
The database is accompanied by an excellent, deeply reported story by Lexi Churchill, Ellis Simani and Topher Sanders.
It’s impossible to know how many accused clergy members dioceses have opted not to put on their lists.
Bishop Accountability applies different standards for inclusion on its list than church leaders, tracking public accusations against nuns and other clergy members often left off the official rolls.
As a result, there are sometimes substantial gaps between the group’s tallies and those of dioceses.
The Archdiocese of Boston currently lists 171 names. Bishop Accountability lists 279, including dozens of religious order priests omitted from the official list as well as several priests who died before victims came forward.
“For every person who’s left off a list, bishops ought to be aware that they are retraumatizing survivors and doubling the insult and doubling the pain,” Terence McKiernan, the founder of Bishop Accountability, said.
Catholic Leaders Promised Transparency About Child Abuse. They Haven’t Delivered. [Lexi Churchill, Ellis Simani and Topher Sanders/Propublica]
January 27, 2020
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City said Tuesday that it has substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse against another priest.
The archdiocese said in a news release that allegations of abuse of a minor were substantiated against Father Marvin Leven by the archdiocese following an investigation by the Oklahoma City law firm McAfee & Taft. It said the allegations date to 1993, when Leven, now 94 and retired, was assigned to Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Enid.
The allegation was made by a then-15-year-old boy, who said the abuse resumed later when he was an adult at Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Edmond, the archdiocese said.
The archdiocese said it also substantiated a separate allegation against Leven of inappropriate behavior with a minor at the Enid church.
Archbishop Paul Coakley also revoked Leven’s authority to serve as a priest. Leven didn’t immediately reply to a message left with the archdiocese seeking comment.
Under Oklahoma law, the statute of limitations has expired for any possible charges against Leven.
Leven served as pastor at Holy Family Catholic Church in Lawton from 1994 until his retirement in 1998, according to their website. He also served at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Altus.
Leven is the second priest the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City has identified since December as having child sexual abuse allegations against them substantiated from 1960 to 2018, bringing to 13 the total since an initial report in October identified 11 clerics with substantiated allegations.
Separately, the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma also released a list in October, naming 11 other clerics in that diocese who were found to have credible child sexual abuse allegations against them dating to 1973.
January 20, 2020
MICHIGAN — Two former priests who served in the Upper Peninsula have been charged with sex crimes, the state Attorney General’s office announced Friday.
Both men had ties to the Catholic Diocese of Marquette.
The charges come as state Attorney General Dana Nessel continues investigations into clergy abuse.
Nessel said that she authorized charges against Gary Allen Jacobs, 74, of Albuquerque, New Mexico for multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. The charges involved allege assaults between 1981 and 1984 in Ontonagon County and in early 1984 in Dickinson County.
State attorneys did not reveal information about the victims, other than to note that several charges involved a child between 13 and 16 and one charge involved a child less than 13.
Jacobs was arrested Friday in New Mexico and is awaiting extradition on eight felony charges.
The other former priest is Roy Joseph, 52, lives in India, state officials said.
The Attorney General’s office has authorized one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a 2006 incident in Marquette County. Joseph served as a priest there at the time.
Michigan priest accused of tying up teenage boy, taping mouth and eyes
Sixth Michigan priest charged with criminal sexual conduct
Court records reveal years of alleged sex abuse by priests across Michigan
January 18, 2020
Lyon (AFP) – Accused of sexually abusing dozens of boy scouts in the 1970s and 80s, a French Catholic priest confessed in court Tuesday to “caresses” he knew were forbidden, and said for 20 years “it happened every weekend”.
At scout camps, “it could be four or five children a week,” Bernard Preynat, 74, told a court in Lyon on the first day of his trial for preying on boys.
“For me, at the time, I was not committing sexual assault but giving caresses, hugs. I was wrong.”
Sitting up straight in the dock Bernard, Preynat‘s voice quavered as he admitted the interactions “did bring me sexual pleasure.”
But while he knew the actions were forbidden, he said he only finally understood that they were illegal thanks to “the accusations of the victims”.
The accusers were aged seven to 14 when the alleged crimes were committed between 1971 and 1991, when Preynat was a scout leader in Lyon.
The allegations against him sparked the biggest crisis in the French Church in decades and last year saw a cardinal convicted of covering up the alleged crimes.
Preynat was defrocked by the Church last July.
Former scouts have claimed he touched and kissed them and forced them into reciprocal fondling while they were in his care, including at camps. He denies ever kissing the boys on the mouth.
Francois Devaux, one of Preynat’s accusers and the founder of a victims’ organisation, spoke of the “hell” his parents, who had alerted church authorities about his experience, had lived through, and his own “very difficult, very complicated” adolescence as a result.
He said he had tried to commit suicide.
“I think I used to be a bright child. After, I lived a very dark life… flirted with dangerous things,” Devaux testified. He was ten when it happened.
“Pain, anger… Whatever the court decides, the harm and the trauma suffered in my childhood will continue. My responsibility is that this must never happen again,” said Devaux.
January 15, 2018
A Roman Catholic priest in Northern New Jersey was arrested and charged this week with multiple counts of child sex abuse dating to the early 1990s, the state attorney general’s office said. It was the first criminal case brought by New Jersey’s Clergy Abuse Task Force, which was formed last year to investigate abuse allegations in the Catholic Church.
Father Thomas P. Ganley, 63, of Phillipsburg, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with one count of aggravated sexual assault in the first degree and two counts of sexual assault in the second degree, the office of Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said in a statement. The office did not reveal the sex of the victim, who it said was between the ages of 14 and 17 at the time.
Father Ganley was assigned to Saint Philip & Saint James Church in Phillipsburg at the time of his arrest, but the attorney general’s office said the abuse occurred between 1990 and 1994 at Saint Cecilia Church in the Iselin section of Woodbridge. Both churches are part of the Diocese of Metuchen.
“Our Clergy Abuse Task Force is diligently pursuing its mission to expose the truth about past wrongs and seek justice for survivors, because no person is above the law and no institution is immune from accountability,” Mr. Grewal said in a statement. “This case illustrates that we are prepared to move swiftly to investigate allegations, and where there are viable criminal charges, to pursue those charges.”
The Rev. James F. Checchio, the bishop of Metuchen, said in a statement that it had never received an accusation of sexual abuse or misconduct related to Father Ganley, who he said also served as a chaplain at St. Luke’s Warren Campus Hospital in Phillipsburg.
Kira Bub, a spokeswoman for St. Luke’s University Health Network, said in a statement that Father Ganley had never been employed as a chaplain at the hospital. Instead, she said he was “one of several religious leaders who when requested by patients was permitted to visit in their room to minister requested services.”