Archive for September, 2019

Rochester diocese, facing flood of sex-abuse claims, files for bankruptcy protection

September 18, 2019

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, facing potentially huge judgments for past sexual abuse by its priests and other ministers, filed for bankruptcy protection Thursday.

“This was a very difficult and painful decision,” Rochester Bishop Salvatore Matano said at an afternoon news conference that detailed the action.

The diocese filed its petition for Chapter 11 reorganization in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Rochester at about 9:30 a.m. The petition estimates the diocese’s assets as $50 million to $100 million – and its financial liabilities as $100 million to $500 million.

Rochester’s diocese becomes the first of New York state’s eight dioceses – and the 20th nationwide — to seek protection from creditors in bankruptcy court because of financial fallout from the Catholic Church’s decades-long child sexual abuse scandal.

The bankruptcy filing does not mean the diocese is penniless and does not mean its churches will close.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 12, 2019. The Diocese held a press conference talking about why they did that. Bishop Salvatore R. Matano read from a prepared statement before answering questions with Lisa Passero CFO for the diocese, and Stephen Donato, with the law firm, Bond, Schoeneck, and King that is representing the diocese in the bankruptcy, beside him.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 12, 2019. The Diocese held a press conference talking about why they did that. Bishop Salvatore R. Matano read from a prepared statement before answering questions with Lisa Passero CFO for the diocese, and Stephen Donato, with the law firm, Bond, Schoeneck, and King that is representing the diocese in the bankruptcy, beside him.

The intent of a Chapter 11 filing such as this is to reorganize the diocese’s finances, marshal funds to pay fair compensation to sex-abuse accusers and create a plan for the diocese to continue operations much as they were before.

Matano made it clear that the diocese sought Chapter 11 protection to shield itself from the impact of the legal claims, which he said could “exceed our resources.”

The diocese encompasses 12 counties in upstate New York. An estimated 360,000 Catholics live within the diocese.

The bankruptcy filing is the direct result of a long-anticipated flood of litigation triggered by New York’s Child Victims Act.

The act, adopted by the state Legislature early this year, carved out a one-year window during which the statute of limitations is lifted and accusers can file legal claims for sexual abuse they suffered as children, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.

The window opened on Aug. 14. Since then, more than 580 lawsuits have been filed statewide, with the lion’s share of them accusing Roman Catholic priests, brothers, deacons or nuns of abuse.

Nearly all of those named as a defendant the diocese where the priest or other minister worked, arguing that diocesan officials were responsible for the abuser’s conduct.

Church sex abuse ‘far-reaching’ in Missouri: attorney general

September 18, 2019

Washington (AFP) – The attorney general in the US state of Missouri on Friday accused the Catholic Church of turning a blind eye to church sex abuse and referred a dozen former clergymen for criminal prosecution.

“Sexual abuse of minors by members of Missouri’s four Roman Catholic dioceses has been a far-reaching and sustained scandal,” said the Midwestern state’s top prosecutor, Eric Schmitt, after a year-long investigation.

“For decades, faced with credible reports of abuse, the church refused to acknowledge the victims and instead focused their efforts on protecting priests,” Schmitt told a news conference.

He said the probe into diocese records across the state revealed that 163 priests or other members of the clergy had been accused of sexual abuse or misconduct against minors.

Around 80 of the accused are already dead, but the attorney general said he will refer a dozen men for prosecution by local authorities.

“The standard response to reports of abuse by church leadership was to move an offending priest into a short-term period of treatment and then reassign him to public ministry in a new parish,” Schmitt said.

“Members of an offending priest’s old and new parishes were not notified of the reason for a transfer in these cases. At best, victims were offered limited counseling services to help recover from the abuse.”

A spokesman for Schmitt’s office told The New York Times that investigators had heard from more than 100 victims of abuse and had spoken directly to 45 victims or their families.

“We did have one priest who had 21 victims come forward, so we can assume the number is in the hundreds,” said the spokesman, Chris Nuelle.

The Vatican is struggling to deal with a global epidemic of sexual assault by priests, in particular of minors. Much of the abuse has gone on for decades.

Faced with widespread criminal investigations, Pope Francis announced in May that every Catholic diocese would have to come up with a plan for reporting abuse.

Chicago Catholic Church paid $80m to sex abuse victims

September 18, 2019

Victims' rights attorney Jeff Anderson, pictured in April, 2019, said the payouts varied from five figures for some victims to more than $1 million (AFP Photo/EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ)

Chicago (AFP) – A victim of clergy abuse urged other survivors to come forward Tuesday as lawyers revealed that the Catholic Church in Chicago had paid out more than $80 million in sexual assault cases.

Joe Iacono, who says he was abused by his parish priest when he was 11, spoke at a news conference as Jeff Anderson and Associates announced it had won compensation totaling $80,080,000 for 160 victims over two decades.

“I know today that there are still a lot of survivors that are suffering in silence. Those individuals need to reach out,” Iacono said as he opened up about his recovery, appearing at times choked with emotion.

Attorney Jeff Anderson said the payouts in cases involving 48 priests in total varied from five figures for some victims to more than $1 million.

In each case the cash failed to bring closure, he added, although the abusers were removed from their positions.

“Payment of money in a case does not bring healing, it does not make their pain go away,” Anderson said.

“But standing up for yourself and giving voice to your truth as a survivor, and knowing you have done something to protect other kids, is helpful.”

The Catholic Church has been rocked by thousands of reports of sexual abuse by priests and accusations of cover-ups by senior clergy, starting in the Boston archdiocese in the United States in 2002.

The Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for exposing the abuse, and its investigation was turned into Oscar-winning Hollywood movie “Spotlight” (2015), starring Rachel McAdams.’Much work to do’

Faced with a growing number of cases worldwide and repeated criticism over the Church’s response, Pope Francis in 2013 introduced legislation covering child sex abuse on Vatican grounds and allowing for sentences of up to 12 years.

Since the crisis became public in the 2000s, the US church has spent more than $3 billion in settlements, according to abuse tracking site Bishop Accountability.

The group has documented settlements for 5,679 alleged victims of Catholic clergy — only a third of 15,235 allegations through 2009 that bishops say they have received. One estimate suggests up there were 100,000 US victims.

Iacono, who settled his case against the Chicago Archdiocese 15 years ago, came forward after reading about the Boston scandal.

Former priest arrested on child sex abuse charges in Pennsylvania

September 5, 2019

A former priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been arrested for allegedly sexually abusing a minor in the early 2000s at St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Levittown.

Francis X. Trauger, 74, had been removed from ministry in 2003 then laicized, or removed from the priestly state, in 2005 following allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

A new allegation against Trauger from the early 2000s when he was parochial vicar at St. Michael’s was the basis for his arrest on Tuesday, Sept. 3 in Bucks County on charges of indecent assault and corruption of minors.

He remains free on bail awaiting a Sept. 10 court hearing.

Trauger, currently a resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., was named in the 2005 Philadelphia grand jury report on sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests. He appears on the archdiocese’s website listing priests with credible allegations against them. The site was developed in 2005 and continues to be updated over time as priests on it are laicized or die.

Ordained in 1972, Trauger had nine parish assignments and two leaves of absence during his 31 years of ministry before he was suspended in 2003. The longest assignment was as parochial vicar at St. Michael’s from 1993 to 2003.

A Sept. 3 statement from the Philadelphia Archdiocese said an allegation of sexual abuse against Trauger was received in August 2018 and immediately forwarded to Bucks County law enforcement.

According to court documents, Trauger is alleged to have sexually assaulted two boys at St. Michael’s in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.

The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office believes more minors may have been assaulted by Trauger and it encourages any other victims to come forward.

The archdiocese recognizes that news of Trauger’s arrest is “painful to victims of sexual violence and exploitation,” said spokesman Ken Gavin in a statement.

NJ rabbi gets 18 months in prison for sex with underage prostitute

September 4, 2019

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A New Jersey rabbi was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his involvement in the human trafficking and prostitution of a 17-year old girl.

Rabbi Aryeh Goodman, 37, of East Brunswick, New Jersey, also will have to undergo a year of supervised release. The sentence was announced on Wednesday.

Goodman met the teen at the hotel on February 1, 2018 and paid to have sex with her after answering an online advertisement for the girl, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. He turned himself in nearly a week later to the East Brunswick Police Department while accompanied by his attorney.

At the time of his arrest, he was running a religious learning center out of his home.

Goodman is registered as a Tier 3, or high-risk sex offender, after being arrested in 2013 for molesting a youth while serving as a camp counselor in 2001. He accepted a plea deal and served prison time for that incident.

Faith-based conversion therapy leader McKrae Game comes out as gay

September 4, 2019

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What a shock! Oh, wait. No it’s not.

The founder of one of the nation’s largest conversion therapy programs has announced that he’s gay — and disavowed the “harmful” practice.

McKrae Game, who led the faith-based conversion therapy group Hope for Wholeness in South Carolina for nearly two decades, came out of the closet this summer at 51, The Post and Courier reported Saturday.

“Conversion therapy is not just a lie, but it’s very harmful,” Game told paper. “Because it’s false advertising.”

The revelation came two years after Game was abruptly fired from Hope for Wholeness.

In the interview, the former crusader called for the dissolution of conversion therapy groups.

The widely discredited practice, which is intended to suppress or change a person’s sexuality through counseling or religion, is currently banned in 18 states, including New York.

Game said he is trying to come to terms with the harm he inflicted through his program.

“I was a religious zealot that hurt people,” he said. “People said they attempted suicide over me and the things I said to them. People, I know, are in therapy because of me. Why would I want that to continue?”

Game is still married to a woman, Julie Game, who he says knows he is gay.

After coming out, he said he readied himself for intense backlash. He still receives angry Facebook messages from people who say they were traumatized by his program.

In a Facebook post last week, he wrote a lengthy apology, saying: “I WAS WRONG! Please forgive me!”

He told the paper he knows he will likely be apologizing for the rest of his life.

Catholic School Bans Harry Potter Books, Claiming Its Spells And Curses Are Real

September 3, 2019

The Rev. Dan Reehil warned that reading the spells in the J.K. Rowling novels could conjure up actual evil spirits.

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Welcome back to the 12th Century.

A Catholic school in Nashville, Tennessee, apparently doesn’t want any transfer students from Hogwarts.

St. Edward School is no longer allowing its pre-K through eighth grade students to check out Harry Potter books from the school’s library.

The reason? Well, the Rev. Dan Reehil, one of the school’s pastors, says the spells and curses presented in the fictional children’s series are legit and could present problems for kids who read the books, according to the Tennessean.

Reehil fleshed out his point in an email sent to parents, per the Tennessean:

These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception. The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.

The pastor reportedly made the decision after consulting several exorcists in the U.S. and Rome who recommended removing the books.

HuffPost could not reach Reehil for comment, but Rebecca Hammel, the superintendent of schools for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nashville, told CBS News that the email is real.

Hammel told the Tennessean that Reehil made his decision after talking with a parent, adding that the Catholic Church does not have an official position on Harry Potter but that “each pastor has canonical authority to make such decisions for his parish school.”

“He’s well within his authority to act in that manner,” Hammel said of Reehil.

She noted that the fantasy series was pulled from the St. Edward library for the new school year.

Jury finds Washington priest guilty on four counts of child sexual abuse

September 2, 2019

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Capuchin Franciscan priest was found guilty Aug. 15 of four counts of child sexual abuse stemming from when he served as a parochial vicar at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington.

Father Urbano Vazquez, who served at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart from 2014 until his November 2018 arrest, was found guilty in D.C. Superior Court on three felony counts of second-degree child sexual assault with aggravating circumstances, and on one misdemeanor count of sexual abuse of a child.

The verdicts came after an eight-day trial and two days of jury deliberation. Vazquez, 46, will be sentenced in November and faces a maximum sentence of up to 45 years in prison.

“The archdiocese respects the decision of the jury’s finding that Father Vazquez is guilty of the charges brought against him and will continue to support the legal system through the sentencing process and any subsequent proceedings,” the Archdiocese of Washington said in an Aug. 15 statement after the verdicts were announced. “Father Vazquez will have no authority to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Washington.”

Vazquez was arrested last November on charges of second-degree sexual child abuse, and was arrested again in December and charged with abusing two others, including a minor. Also in December, D.C. Superior Court Judge Juliet J. McKenna ordered Vazquez to remain in jail until his trial.

“The archdiocese has fully cooperated with law enforcement and civil authorities in their investigation” of Vazquez, the archdiocesan statement noted.

Last March, Vazquez was offered a plea deal, but he turned that down and opted for a jury trial instead. He has maintained his innocence since the accusations first surfaced.

With his first arrest, Vazquez was charged with second-degree child sexual abuse involving a 13-year-old girl in 2015. Later, when new allegations surfaced, he was charged with two additional counts – second-degree sexual assault of a minor female and assault of an adult woman – that occurred in 2016.

In a November statement issued after Vazquez’s initial arrest, the Archdiocese of Washington said “immediately upon learning of this serious allegation, the archdiocese immediately removed Father Vazquez from ministry and suspended his priestly faculties.”

All the victims were members of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, a parish that serves a predominately Spanish-speaking Catholic community.

“The archdiocese will continue to work with the Sacred Heart parish and school leadership to ensure that this community is supported and that the survivors who came forward to report the allegations are provided emotional and pastoral care through this difficult time as they continue in their process of healing,” the archdiocese said in its Aug. 15 statement.

After Vazquez’s initial arrest, the Archdiocese of Washington conducted its own investigation into what it called “this troubling matter” and determined that Capuchin Franciscan Father Moises Villalta, pastor of Sacred Heart, “failed to follow appropriate protocols related to reporting allegations of abuse to civil authorities and the Archdiocese of Washington.” The archdiocese subsequently removed Villalta as pastor and placed the parish’s child protection coordinator on administrative leave.

Vazquez still faces misdemeanor sex abuse charges stemming from another woman’s accusation that the priest groped her during confession. In addition, two other misdemeanor allegations were made against Vazquez, but they could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired.

“The Archdiocese of Washington is steadfastly committed to the protection of youth and the healing of those harmed by abuse and adheres to a zero-tolerance policy for credible claims of abuse made against archdiocesan clergy, religious orders operating in the archdiocese, staff and volunteers,” the archdiocesan statement said.

“The Archdiocese of Washington takes seriously its responsibility to protect the children entrusted to its care and the archdiocese’s Child Protection and Safe Environment Policy mandates criminal background checks, applications and education for all employees and volunteers who work with young people,” it said.

Evangelical Leader Tony Perkins Claims Teaching Kids Basic Science Causes Mass Shootings

September 2, 2019

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A right-wing evangelical leader on Sunday claimed mass shootings are caused by “driving God from the public square” and more specifically by teaching kids science such as evolution in schools.

He’s as ignorant as a person can be.

“We’ve taught our kids that they come about by chance through primordial slime and then we’re surprised that they treat their fellow Americans like dirt,” Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, said on “Fox & Friends” one day after a gunman in Texas killed 7 and wounded 21 others.

Perkins also claimed it’s impossible to have morality without religion, a view he noted was shared by George Washington.

He did not, however, offer any theories as to how nations with lower levels of religious adherence manage to avoid mass shootings.

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