Monthly Archives: September 2012
Documents detail church coverup
Newly released records from a California lawsuit settlement show the extent of the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese’s efforts to conceal priest’s sex abuse
From the link: http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/29488339.html
Hundreds of pages of just-released documents that the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese compiled over four decades reveal a coverup of pedophilia that involved top church leaders and touched a prominent law-enforcement official.
The documents, which a California court released as part of a $16.65 million settlement of civil lawsuits in that state, paint more than just another graphic story of a priest who sexually abused children: They could be a harbinger of things to come for the church here as victims of abuse press their cases in the courts and the Legislature.
The archdiocese fought to keep sealed the documents, which focus on Franklyn Becker, an archdiocesan priest who has been accused of sexually abusing nine teenage boys in Wisconsin and one in California, the first case dating to just two years after his ordination.
The records indicate that as early as 1983, church officials sought the advice of E. Michael McCann, then Milwaukee County district attorney, about a priest’s record of sex abuse, without identifying Becker by name. The documents say McCann, a Catholic, advised the church to take the priest out of ministry “for about five years, and if no complaints come forth in that time perhaps he can be given another chance.”
McCann said Thursday that at the time, he was not told of any criminal activity involving Becker.
He said the conversation about Becker, referred to in a 1983 document, involved a phone call from an archdiocesan official who spoke of concerns about a priest who was “spending way too much time with a particular boy.” McCann recalled being told that the boy’s mother supported her son’s relationship with the priest. The boy had made no allegations of inappropriate conduct, and there were no allegations of criminal misconduct, McCann said.
“Do you think, for God’s sake, if they told me he committed a crime that I would say keep him away (from the boy) for five years? . . . If they told me he had committed a crime, I would have acted on it,” McCann said.
But a log entry made by Father Joseph Janicki, vicar for the archdiocese at the time, indicates McCann told him the priest “has been given adequate warnings and enough chances and that he should not be assigned anywhere where he could come in contact with youngsters.”
Michael Finnegan, an attorney working for the victims, said McCann’s recollection that he had been told of only one boy, and that no one chose to make a complaint, seemed inconsistent with the document.
“That sounds to me like they told him about a lot more than one kid whose mother said it was no big deal,” Finnegan said.
McCann said information in the documents lacked context, asking, “Why don’t you have the whole diocesan file?”
Finnegan said that if the former district attorney was correct and there was more detail in Becker’s file on the conversation, then the church did not produce the entire file as the California court ordered, and that his firm would seek contempt charges against the archdiocese.
Incident at seminary
Becker, now 70 and a defrocked priest living in Mayville, was described in documents dating to at least 1970 as abusive. Church records show that the archdiocese had received at least nine credible reports of abuse involving children. In 1983, a psychological report described Becker as a pedophile who was in denial.
Signs of trouble go back to his days at St. Francis Seminary, where shortly before his ordination in 1964, Becker entered the bed of a sleeping classmate and was accused of attempting to initiate sex. The matter was forwarded to Archbishop William Cousins, who considered kicking Becker out of the seminary.
Becker met briefly with the archbishop, who asked a few questions and then concluded there was no reason Becker should not become a priest. “I recall his parting words, which were ‘Don’t muddy the waters,’ ” Becker said in a separate statement that the Journal Sentinel obtained.
Becker began abusing children, according to the complaints, at his first assignment at Holy Assumption Parish in West Allis.
After several parish assignments, Becker asked to be assigned to college campus ministry and was removed from one because of his involvement with Dignity, a gay Catholic group.
Becker received permission to take an assignment in San Diego in 1977, and he was involved with at least one teenage boy who later sued. The Milwaukee Archdiocese was made aware that Becker was asked to leave his San Diego assignment, but the record does not show details of sex abuse.
Back in Milwaukee in 1979, he had a number of short assignments at parishes before he went on a nine-month sick leave in 1983.
A psychological report suggested that he be assigned to an all-girls high school, a college for women, a nursing home or, last on the list, a college. It was noted that although a college would present temptations, at least those involved would be adults.
Becker then was moved into hospital ministry – something in which he had earlier said he had no interest.
Archbishop Rembert Weakland wrote to Becker in 1983, wishing him success in his assignment as a chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital but also warning him that if there were a recurrence of his “past personal problems,” Weakland would take steps to remove him from the priesthood. Weakland’s letter came just months after a therapist’s warning that Becker was a pedophile who did not have the “mechanism” to stop abusing boys and that “parish ministry is out of the question.”
After a second hospital chaplaincy, Becker was given no formal assignment from 1990 onward. He was placed on a “restricted” ministry in 1993, but he was still allowed to help out in parishes until 2002. Parishioners were never told of his misdeeds.
In 1995, a three-person team of psychological and criminal experts interviewed Becker regarding nine allegations.
“The accused (Becker) admitted not only some of the alleged incidents but also factually described and admitted to multiple others,” according to an investigative report. “These admissions were supported by various letters and entries in his personnel file.”
Reached at his Mayville home this week, Becker said he believed that his rights – both the constitutional rights afforded every citizen and church law protections for a priest – have been violated.
He said he has been “through the mill” and added: “There is a gospel of forgiveness and redemption, but that apparently doesn’t apply to me. I pray every day that the Lord will take me.”
Becker’s misconduct and that of the late Siegfried Widera, another archdiocesan priest who served for a time in California, cost the archdiocese millions in out-of-court settlements in California, as well as legal fees and payments for psychological treatment for both the victims and the abusive priests.
The archdiocese has acknowledged that it knows of more than 40 priests who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct, but it has refused to release clergy personnel files – such as those released in California.
Last year, the Wisconsin Supreme Court opened a door to lawsuits by victims of sex abuse by priests, saying the church could be sued for fraud for not telling the public about abusive priests before placing them in public ministry. At least seven people have already filed suit.
Further, a bill is pending in the Legislature that would allow lawsuits to be brought despite the age of the allegations – a step that would remove what has been a principal roadblock for victims.
The archdiocese said this week that it faced a $3 million deficit in the current fiscal year and that further cases could push it toward bankruptcy.
Jeff Anderson, a lawyer from St. Paul, Minn., who represents victims here, called the release of that news a “shameful public relations tactic, timed to the release of these documents.”
8 more sex-abuse suits filed against Archdiocese
BY DANA DiFILIPPO
Philadelphia Daily News
Daily News Staff Writer
ANDY DRUDING has a lot to say to the priest who he says repeatedly raped him when he was a middle-school choir boy.
So he wrote the Rev. Francis S. Feret a letter. He wanted to give it to him personally, but hasn’t – still scared, after 40 years, to see Feret again.
But Tuesday, Druding read his letter in the most public of venues: a news conference at which it was announced that eight more lawsuits have been filed, including one by Druding, against the Philadelphia Archdiocese, its leaders and seven priests accused of sexually abusing children.
A flushed, sweating, trembling Druding took the podium and read, as if addressing Feret, his former choir director at St. Timothy’s Catholic School in Mayfair: “You took advantage of a 9-year-old boy who loved to sing and was afraid to tell because you were a priest, God’s messenger on Earth, the most holy person in my life. But I’ve never forgotten what you did to me. I remember every day of my life, the details so graphic and so horrific. I see your face all the time in my mind, in strangers’ faces, in scary dreams and even in terrible flashbacks that I have to this day.”
The eight lawsuits filed Tuesday by attorneys Dan Monahan, Marci Hamilton and Jeffrey Anderson follow eight others the legal trio filed earlier in Common Pleas Court. Altogether, the legal team represents 17 people who say they were sexually abused as children by Philadelphia-area priests.
The cases cite Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Monsignor William Lynn, in addition to the accused priests.
In most of the cases, the victims are listed as John Does. But plaintiffs Druding and Michael McDonnell, 44, of Bristol Borough, Bucks County, attended the Center City news conference because they want their names out there.
“It’s important to put a face to the cost – show the doubting public that these victims do exist. We do live our lives. Although we struggle on a daily basis, we are real people who have countless issues,” said McDonnell, as his fiancée, Debra, cried and their 6-year-old son, Sean, sang and played with a Thomas the Tank Engine toy.
McDonnell accuses two priests, John P. Schmeer and Francis X. Trauger, of molesting him when he was an altar boy and worked at the rectory at St. Titus Catholic School in East Norriton.
Hamilton said Druding, McDonnell and the unnamed victims gained the courage to come forward after Lynn’s July conviction. Lynn, 61, who investigated abuse complaints against priests as the Archdiocese’s former secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004, is the first U.S. church official convicted of endangering children by keeping predator priests in the ministry. He was sentenced to three to six years in prison.
The lawsuits, Hamilton said, are the only way to hold the Archdiocese accountable.
“The coverup, the incompetence in handling reports of abuse, must stop,” said Hamilton, a national expert on clergy sex abuse and law professor at Yeshiva University in New York. “No one knew more about abuse than the Archdiocese itself, and no one did less to protect children. . . . The only way to protect children is the criminal-justice system.”
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the Archdiocese responded: “We have not received copies of the cases . . . so we cannot provide more detailed information on those particular lawsuits at this time. We believe lawsuits are not the best mechanism to promote healing in the context of the very private and difficult circumstances of sexual abuse. We will work to assure all victims of sexual abuse receive appropriate assistance.”
Besides Feret, Schmeer and Trauger, the priests named in the lawsuits are John H. Mulholland, Robert L. Brennan, Joseph J. Gallagher and Edward V. Avery (defrocked).
Two men come forward as litigants in priest-sex-abuse suits
By Joseph A. Slobodzian
Inquirer Staff Writer
Breaking with anonymity – but not loosening the tenacious hold of childhood sexual abuse – two men announced Tuesday that they had sued the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, church officials, and three priests.
The emotional statements by Andrew Druding and Michael W. McDonnell highlighted a Center City news conference where their lawyers also announced six other lawsuits on behalf of seven victims purportedly abused as children by archdiocesan priests.
“What you did didn’t define me,” said Druding. “I may be damaged goods, but I’m not going to allow you to beat me.”
Druding, 51, of Holmesburg, struggled to control his voice as he said he had been sexually abused in the early 1970s by the Rev. Francis S. Feret, then choir director at St. Timothy parish in Mayfair.
“You took advantage of a 9-year-old boy who loved to sing and who was afraid to tell because you were a priest, God’s messenger on Earth and the most holy person in my life,” Druding said as his wife, Denise, wept in the front row of seats.
Feret, 75, was an archdiocesan priest from 1963 until March 2011, when he was suspended from active ministry while at St. Adalbert parish in Port Richmond. In May, he was found “unsuitable for ministry.”
McDonnell, 44, of Bristol, described growing up as the youngest of eight children, all of whom attended St. Titus parish and school near Norristown.
McDonnell said that in the late 1970s and early ’80s when he was an altar boy, he was sexually abused by two priests – the Rev. John P. Schmeer and the now-defrocked Francis X. Trauger.
“We were taught that the hands raised over us in blessing were those that represented the hands of Christ here on Earth,” McDonnell said. “Never did I imagine then, and struggle to believe it today, that those hands could abuse a child of God.”
McDonnell, who described years of mental-health and addiction problems, spent a year in prison after pleading guilty in 2010 to defrauding the archdiocese by submitting more than $100,000 in bills for psychotherapy sessions that never occurred. He also admitted stealing $9,000 in donations and payments to the Bucks County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, where he worked.
Trauger, 67, was laicized in 2005 after complaints of sexually abusing children and spent almost two years at St. John Vianney, the archdiocesan hospital for priests with sex, alcohol, or drug problems. Schmeer, 77, was removed from public ministry in 2004 and then agreed to a supervised life of “prayer and penance” at Villa St. Joseph, a retirement home for priests.
The eight lawsuits join eight others involving different victims filed earlier in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court by Marci Hamilton, a legal advocate and expert on child sexual abuse; Malvern lawyer Daniel F. Monahan; and Jeffrey R. Anderson, a veteran litigator involving church sex-abuse cases, based in St. Paul, Minn.
Although the criminal statute of limitations has passed for all nine victims, Hamilton said there was a basis for a civil conspiracy lawsuit because “the church’s cover-up continued right up to the start” of this year’s trial of Msgr. William J. Lynn.
Lynn, 61, the first church official charged for his supervision of a priest accused of sexually abusing children, was convicted of child endangerment and is serving three to six years in prison.
“The abuse must stop,” Hamilton said. “The cover-up, the incompetent handling of reports of abuse, must stop.”
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a statement said that church officials had not seen the new lawsuits and could not comment.
“We believe lawsuits are not the best mechanism to promote healing in the context of the very private and difficult circumstances of sexual abuse. We will work to assure all victims of sexual abuse receive appropriate assistance,” the statement read.
Dressed in suits, Druding and McDonnell also wore a veneer of poise that proved very thin.
After the news conference ended, Druding sat in a chair, shoulders rising and falling with sighs, as he tried to control himself, and as his wife held an arm around him and dabbed his tears.
McDonnell’s voice cracked as he referred to the “love and light of my life” – wife Debra Bashwinger and their 6-year-old son, Sean, in the audience. Bashwinger was weeping; Sean, unimpressed with the television cameras and photographers clicking away, played on the floor with a Thomas the Tank Engine locomotive.
“No one understands what the families of victims go through,” said Bashwinger, who added that without the support of her husband’s family, she would have become homeless while McDonnell was in prison.
“I think it’s important to put a face to the cost,” McDonnell said, referring to his reason for going public. “It’s important to show a doubting public that these victims do exist. We do live our lives, although we struggle on a daily basis. We are real people.”
Prosecutors say they never received convicted priest’s polygraph test
By John P. Martin
Inquirer Staff Writer
Philadelphia prosecutors scoffed Tuesday at a new claim by defense lawyers that they withheld evidence that might have helped Msgr. William J. Lynn at his landmark child-sex abuse and endangerment trial.
The District Attorney’s Office never received a formal statement or polygraph results suggesting that Lynn’s codefendant, former priest Edward Avery, lied when he admitted sexually assaulting an altar boy, according to Hugh Burns, chief of the appeals unit.
The accuser’s testimony about the 1999 attack became a cornerstone of Lynn’s trial.
“To say that we knew [Avery] was innocent was, I’m sorry, it’s insane,” Burns said. “What we know is that he formally pleaded guilty because he had evidence that made him guilty.”
Burns’ comments marked the office’s first response since defense lawyers Monday cited Avery in their latest bid to win bail for Lynn, the former secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Burns said he would file a formal reply to the Superior Court motion within two weeks, but wanted to counter specious claims by the monsignor’s defense.
Avery, 70, was a critical figure in the case, even though the Common Pleas Court jurors never heard or saw him.
Four days before the trial opened in March, Avery pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome parish in Northeast Philadelphia and conspiring with Lynn to endanger children.
Three months later, jurors convicted Lynn of one count of endangerment because he let Avery live at the parish and celebrate Mass there in the 1990s despite knowing the priest molested a boy in a previous assignment.
Lynn is now serving three to six years in state prison.
In their bail motion, attorneys Thomas Bergstrom, Allison Khaskelis, and Alan Tauber said they learned only last month that Avery had passed a polygraph test in which he denied assaulting, or even knowing, the former altar boy.
Bergstrom said one of Avery’s lawyers told him about the polygraph.
The motion says Avery agreed to admit molesting another boy in the 1970s, but prosecutors insisted instead that he plead guilty to the attack on the St. Jerome’s boy.
In return, Avery got a 2½- to five-year prison term, one far shorter than what he faced if he had been convicted at trial, where prosecutors were prepared to show jurors evidence that he molested at least a half-dozen boys.
The monsignor’s defenders said the district attorneys knew about Avery’s denial and the polygraph results, but did not share them because they were “driven by a zealous and single-minded desire” to convict Lynn, the first church official charged with covering up clergy sex-abuse.
They contend that this violated long-standing court rules requiring government lawyers to turn over any evidence that could be considered exculpatory for a defendant.
Burns disputed the facts and the argument.
Guilty defendants typically insist they are innocent at first, he noted. And he said prosecutors never saw any polygraph results – but even if they had, they would not have been required to share them because the material came from a codefendant and was not uncovered by government investigators.
Besides, the appeals chief said, the results of a polygraph commissioned for a defendant by a defendant would not have mattered.
“It would have made no difference,” Burns said, “because polygraphs are not reliable – and that’s why they are not admissible in court.”
Lynn’s lawyers say the information could have shaped their tactical decisions at trial.
The lawyers said they had considered cross-examining Avery’s accuser, but that Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina made it clear such a line of questioning would open the door for prosecutors to tell jurors about Avery’s guilty plea. So the man’s testimony stood unchallenged.
Taleah Grimmage, one of the jurors, acknowledged Tuesday that the testimony from the former altar boy “definitely played a large part” in their guilty verdict against Lynn.
“He was the face, the voice,” of Avery and Lynn’s crimes, Grimmage said in an interview.
But the man’s testimony wasn’t the only evidence that swayed jurors, she said. Lynn’s decision to let Avery live at the rectory and celebrate Mass at the church endangered other children as well, she said.
“A lot of us felt that if [the accuser] didn’t exist, there were other potential children who did come in contact with Father Avery,” Grimmage said.
The issue could ripple beyond Lynn’s appeal. Avery had been listed as a potential witness in the January trial of the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero, who are charged with sexually abusing the same altar boy at St. Jerome’s.
The accuser also has a civil suit pending against Avery, Lynn, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Church settles abuse case; local victim goes public
By Karen Florin
Hartford — Mary Howarth Maynard was looking for an apology from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich along with a $1.1 million settlement.
The 48-year-old New London woman, who went public Thursday with the story of her molestation in 1976 at the hands of the late Rev. Thomas W. Shea, will be getting the money, but may never hear the word “sorry” from a church official.
Her civil lawsuit against the diocese, retired Bishop Daniel P. Reilly and Monsignor Thomas Bride was resolved in Superior Court just as a jury assembled for the first day of trial.
The lack of an apology was disappointing, Maynard said, but she did get the satisfaction of confronting Reilly, who had transferred Shea to St. Joseph Church in New London knowing the priest had a history of fondling young girls.
“I told him, ‘Shame on you,’” Maynard said.
Had the case gone to trial, plaintiff’s attorneys Robert I. Reardon Jr. and Kelly E. Reardon would have called Reilly as their first witness and followed up with several other Shea victims.
Reilly, who is 84 years old and lives in a church rectory in Worcester, arrived at the courthouse mid-morning with Bride and appeared relaxed as he sat on the witness stand while an associate from the diocese’s law firm tested the courtroom acoustics and asked practice questions.
At the trial, Maynard’s attorneys planned to put into evidence a portion of an April 2005 letter that a Reilly successor, Bishop Michael Cote, wrote to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the man who shortly thereafter became Pope Benedict XVI.
Cote wrote that the “trail of destruction caused by Thomas W. Shea is staggering.” He wrote that there were at least 15 credible cases of abuse by Shea of girls under the age of 18, including one who tried to kill herself three times before she turned 23.
The complaints against Shea had started the year the 48-year-old Maynard was born and continued for years after the day she fled the church choir loft in terror, according to Robert Reardon.
“Another troublesome aspect of this case includes a 1965 letter that describes Shea fondling little girls,” he said.
Priest abuse cases rarely go to trial — only two have gone forward in Connecticut, according to Reardon — but it appeared that “Jane Doe vs. Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich et. al’ would be aired before a jury.
Settlement talks began Wednesday afternoon, but the case was still unresolved as jurors assembled at the courthouse Thursday morning for the lawyers’ opening statements.
On his last day as a state judge, Robert L. Holzberg, described by members of the bar as a gifted mediator, helped the two sides come to an agreement. After several phone calls between diocese attorneys and the church’s insurance company as well as closed door conversations between the Reardons and Maynard, the case was resolved. Holzberg, who is going to work in private practice, donned a black robe for the last time to announce the 11th-hour agreement from the bench. He told both sides that he recognizes it is an “imperfect” resolution under all the circumstances.
Upon learning of the settlement, Reilly and Bride quickly left the courthouse. Maynard burst into tears and hugged her husband, New London City Councilor John Maynard, and her sister, Jean Perry.
Because of Shea, Maynard has undergone years of treatment and still requires care for severe depression and other psychological problems, according to her attorneys. She is unable to work.
The settlement is a bittersweet ending to an ordeal that kept her from living the life she would have chosen, Maynard said, but now she has the second half of her life. Though she had the right to remain anonymous, the mother of two said she chose to divulge her identity because she wanted the public to know there will be no more secrets in her life.
Maynard came forward with her story in 2007, after reading other reports of people who had been victimized by priests. She had never told anybody, she said, because she didn’t want her father to know what had happened to her and she didn’t want to “rock the boat” with her mother, a devout Catholic.
“There’s a great deal of disappointment in the fact that the church still would not apologize,” Maynard said. “I’m afraid for the future of the church until they become transparent and stop moving these monsters around.”
Shea already had a history of inappropriate behavior with children when Reilly assigned him to the local parish in 1976, with orders that he be kept away from children. Maynard attended the nearby St. Mary’s school but was a member of St. Joseph’s parish.
Prior to his arrival in New London, the diocese had placed Shea on a two-year sick leave prompted by complaints from parents in a Higganum church that Shea was kissing their 8- and 10-year-old daughters. Two previous bishops also had transferred Shea from parish to parish and had placed him on sick leave after receiving similar complaints.
In 1979, Reilly transferred Shea to St. John Church in Norwich, where two girls, ages 11 and 13, complained about the priest. In 1982, Reilly sent Shea to St. John the Apostle Church and The Daughters of the Holy Ghost School in Plainfield. The next year, a woman came forward who said that as a child, Shea had made her touch him inappropriately. Reilly removed Shea and sent him for treatment but never went to police.
Shea died in 2006 at age 85.
The Norwich diocese has paid at least $5 million over the past several years to people who said they were abused by priests. At least one case is still pending.
The Catholic church has since enacted a “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” that includes a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate sexual behavior.
In the Maynard case, the diocese was represented by attorneys from the Milano & Wanat law firm of Branford, and attorney Wesley Horton of Hartford, who joined the defense team last week.
They declined to comment after the settlement was announced.
Disgraced Bishop Kirby refuses to resign over pedophile
Kirby believed pedophilia was friendship “that had crossed a boundary line”
A Catholic bishop at the center of controversy over his remarks on pedophilia is refusing to resign. Dr. John Kirby said he used to think pedophilia was friendship “that had crossed a boundary line.”
Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert and also chairman of Third World relief charity Trocaire, has remained silent on calls for his resignation.
Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly, who used parliamentary privilege to name a priest accused of abuse, said Kirby was “not fit to be a bishop.”
While Kirby apologized for his role in moving two priests to new parishes after they had abused children in the 1990s, his claims that he was unaware of the true nature of pedophilia were met with outrage by many members of the public.
Kirby claimed he did not understand pedophilia in an attempt to explain why he adopted the standard church response of the time to transfer clerical child abusers.
He said, “I saw it as a friendship that crossed a boundary line. I have learnt sadly since that it was a very different experience.”
All queries on his remark were directed to the Catholic Communications Office, which insisted that he would not consider resignation.
Ian Elliot, head of the church’s child-protection watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCC), called into question the competency of Kirby over the remarks following his audit of the Diocese of Clonfert.
“Care needs to be taken when appointing a bishop that you do not appoint a bishop with these attitudes,” Elliott said.
“These are basic competencies that everyone should have in authority. I’m not calling for anyone to resign but, for me, that’s an absolute basic requirement.”
One of seven audits into four dioceses and three religious congregations issued last week by the NBSCC found that Kirby transferred two abusive priests from one parish to another in 1990 and 1994. Kirby said the abuse was reported to civil authorities.
Officers from the Garda (police) sexual crime-management unit are to study the outcome of the seven audits, which were set up after the Ryan and Murphy reports into clerical sexual abuse.
The audits dealt with more than 330 allegations of abuse against 146 priests and members of the congregations.
The authors discovered examples where offenders were able to continue abusing children for longer than they should have, because individuals who were known to be a risk were not properly managed.
They also uncovered allegations of abuse that had not been reported to Gardai, commenting that full compliance with child protection practices agreed three years ago is still some way off.
Catholic Bishop becomes most senior U.S. clergyman to be
CONVICTED in child porn cover-up
Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn was found guilty on Thursday of one count of covering up child pornography, becoming the highest-ranking American cleric convicted in the Roman Catholic Church child sex abuse scandal.
Bishop Finn, 59, was charged in 2011 with two misdemeanor counts of failing to alert authorities about a cache of lewd images depicting young girls that were found on the computer of Reverend Shawn Ratigan.
Jackson County Court Judge John Torrence acquitted Finn on a second count of covering up child sex abuse.
Finn received two years of probation, but that sentence was suspended and will be wiped from his record if he adheres to a set of conditions that include mandatory abuse reporting training and setting aside $10,000 in diocese money for abuse victim counseling.
‘I hope this begins a new chapter in the book in this community and other communities and that, truly, children will no longer be subjected to this kind of treatment,’ the judge said.
In August, Ratigan pleaded guilty to five counts of producing child pornography in federal court. Eight other charges were dismissed.
The diocese was also charged with failure to report sex abuse and had faced a $5,000 fine, but the cases were separated on Thursday. Prosecutors said they are willing to drop charges against the diocese after the Finn verdict.
In a statement released after the verdict, lawyers for Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph said that the bishop is grateful that the court and prosecutors have allowed the case to be resolved without bringing it before a jury.
‘The bench trial, with a stipulation of testimony, has avoided the need for live testimony from diocesan employees, parishioners and others. This process has also resulted in the charges against the Diocese being dismissed by the state,’ the statement reads.
‘The diocesan process and procedures as previously existed failed to adequately identify the necessity to inform the Children’s Division of Shawn Ratigan’s behavior in a more timely manner. For this, the bishop is truly sorry.’
Rebecca Randles, a Kansas City attorney representing a dozen of Ratigan’s alleged victims in civil lawsuits, said it was ‘an amazing outcome, getting a bishop convicted of anything.
‘Of course we wish the diocese was also convicted, but we understand the process and how it works,’ she said.
Finn and several other officials within the diocese became aware of the pornographic photos depicting young girls allegedly taken by Ratigan in December of 2010 when they were discovered on the priest’s laptop by a computer technician.
Of the hundreds of photos found, many focused on the crotch areas of clothed children and one series showed the exposed private parts of a girl believed to be three or four years old.
Finn has acknowledged he was told in December of 2010 about the images. The bishop also has acknowledged that a parochial school principal had raised concerns about Ratigan’s behavior around children in May of 2010.
State law requires that the Division of Family Services be informed of such evidence of abuse.
Vicar General Robert Murphy confronted Ratigan about the photos, and the next day, Ratigan was found in his garage with his motorcycle running and a suicide note that apologized for any harm he had caused. Ratigan recovered after being hospitalized.
But even though Ratigan had acknowledged his wrongdoing, Finn did not notify law enforcement, according to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.
Instead, Finn sent Ratigan for a mental evaluation and then assigned him to an area convent, ordering him to stay away from children.
Later, after the diocese received reports that Ratigan had attended a St. Patrick’s Day parade and a child’s birthday party in violation of the bishop’s orders, Finn asked a church official to hand over copies of the photos recovered from Ratigan’s laptop to police.
Following Ratigan’s arrest, Finn made a statement to a meeting with other priests that he had ‘wanted to save (Ratigan’s) priesthood,’ according to stipulations made at trial.
Finn was indicted almost a year ago and was slated to face a jury trial on September 24, but agreed to the expedited bench trial earlier this week.
The bishop initially was charged with one misdemeanor count, but a second was added to acknowledge two separate time periods in which he failed to report suspected abuse.
On Thursday, he was acquitted of a charge spanning December 17, 2010, to February 10, 2011, because the judge said there was no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Finn knew about the pornographic photos.
The charge on which Finn was convicted involved a period from February 11, to May 11, 2011. Finn sent Ratigan to stay at a convent in Independence, Missouri, during that time, which prosecutors said showed Finn knew about accusations against the priest and the judge agreed.
Finn argued he should not face charges because he was not the diocese’s mandated reporter under the law. At the time, the responsibility rested mainly with Murphy.
Before his sentencing, Finn issued an apology.
‘The protection of children is paramount. Sexual abuse of any kind will not be tolerated,’ he said. ‘I truly regret and am sorry for the hurt that these events have caused.’
The Kansas City case is among a series of prosecutions and investigations of Catholic leaders around the country in the wake of the child sexual abuse scandal that has roiled the church. In July, Monsignor William Lynn was sentenced to up to six years in prison for covering up child sex abuse by priests in Philadelphia.
2nd Philly priest-abuse trial set for Oct. 22
By MARYCLAIRE DALE
The Associated Press
The rape trial of a Roman Catholic priest and a former Catholic school teacher has been rescheduled for next month before a new judge.
The Rev. Charles Engelhardt and ex-teacher Bernard Shero are charged with raping the same boy in the late 1990s at a northeast Philadelphia parish.
Defrocked priest Edward Avery is in prison after admitting he sexually assaulted the boy. Prosecutors disclosed Friday they’ve subpoenaed Avery to testify at the upcoming trial.
The 65-year-old Engelhardt and 49-year-old Shero have pleaded not guilty. Engelhardt’s lawyer says his trial defense will take more than a week.
The trial, delayed this week, is now set for Oct. 22 before Common Pleas Judge Ellen Ceisler.
The trial is expected to hinge on the credibility of the accuser, a troubled 24-year-old policeman’s son.
Priest thrown out of priesthood for abusing boys
Friday 07 September 2012
A 59-year-old Catholic priest has been stripped of his priesthood by the Vatican following a string of offences against young boys.
Ron van der V is currently in jail following his conviction for abusing a 12-year-old boy on a campsite in France. The priest has several convictions for abusing boys and possessing child pornography over the years, Nos television said.
A report into child abuse within the Catholic church last year identified 105 priests who had abused children between 1945 and 1985 and are still alive.