Monthly Archives: March 2013
Victims of Argentina’s pedophile priests say Pope was little help
BUENOS AIRES — The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, Mar. 19 2013, 9:10 PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Mar. 19 2013, 9:27 PM EDT
A Roman Catholic activist group said Tuesday that Pope Francis was slow as head of the Argentine church to act against sexual abuse by clergy and urged him to apologize for what it called church protection for two priests later convicted of sexually assaulting children.
A lawyer for some of the victims, meanwhile, said the future pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, had not met with or helped victims, and charged that mid-level church officials who covered up the problem haven’t lost their jobs.
The Buenos Aires archbishop’s office didn’t immediately comment on the complaints, which came as Francis was being installed as pope in a Vatican ceremony seen around the world.
The U.S.-based Bishop Accountability group cited the cases of two priests: Father Julio Cesar Grassi, who ran the “Happy Children” foundation and was convicted of pedophilia in 2008, and Father Napoleon Sasso, convicted in 2007 of abusing girls at a soup kitchen in suburban Buenos Aires, where he was assigned after being accused of pedophilia elsewhere.
Grassi is currently free pending appeal, thanks partly to a court filing on his behalf by the Argentine church, which was headed by Bergoglio as archbishop of Buenos Aires. Bergoglio oversaw Argentina’s bishops conference when Sasso was assigned to the soup kitchen at a chapel, said the victims attorney, Ernesto Moreau.
Bishop Accountability co-director Anne Doyle said those events show Bergoglio was behind the curve in the Catholic Church’s global struggle to deal with sex abuse by its priests, which erupted in 2002 after thousands of cases became public in the United States and around the world.
“We would be alarmed if the Archbishop Bergoglio had done this in the ‘60s or ‘70s. That would be sad and disturbing,” Doyle told The Associated Press. “But the fact that he did this just five years ago, when other bishops in other countries were meeting victims and implementing tough reporting laws, it puts him behind some of his American counterparts, that’s for sure.”
The group said that to send a message of zero tolerance in the church around the world, the new pope should tell the Buenos Aires archdiocese to release the complete files on the Grassi and Sasso cases, publicly identify any other priests who are “credibly accused” of sex abuse and endorse mandatory reporting by church officials to law enforcement of suspected abuse.
The pope himself should admit that he was wrong to defend abusive priests, apologize to the victims of Grassi and Sasso, and offer to meet with the victims, the group said.
Noting the pope’s coronation, Doyle said: “The victims of these two priests are the very children of God about whom he was speaking in his homily today. They are the most vulnerable of the poor. We hope that Francis will seize this as a priority and reach out to the victims and rectify his terrible insensitivity to them when he was archbishop.”
No one has presented evidence that Bergoglio was directly involved covering up sex abuse.
But Moreau told the AP that Bergoglio, as the top authority for the Argentine church, was ultimately responsible for the treatment of the victims, who have yet to get medical treatment or compensation.
“Bergoglio has been the strongest man in the Argentine church since the beginning of this century,” Moreau said, and yet “the leadership of the church has never done anything to remove these people from these places, and neither has it done anything to relieve the pain of the victims.”
At the Vatican, Francis will be ultimately responsible for the work of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which last year told the church’s bishops conferences around the globe to draw up comprehensive guidelines to deal with sexual abusive clergy. It gave the bishops a year to draft guidelines to better screen priests, root out potential abusers, educate laity about the problem, and require bishops to report suspected abuse to civil authorities where civil reporting laws exist.
The pope’s authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin, told the AP before Bergoglio was elected pope last week that he had drawn an increasingly tough line on clergy abuse. Bergoglio insisted that accused priests face trial, and imposed a thorough screening process in an attempt to weed out future problems, Rubin said.
In the 2012 book On Heaven and Earth, in which Bergoglio and Rabbi Abraham Skorka engage in a religious dialogue, the future pope said the church should not ignore the sexual abuse of minors by priests.
“When that happens, we must never turn a blind eye. You cannot be in a position of power and destroy the life of another person,” he said, adding that priests guilty of such offences should be stripped of their right to perform priestly duties.
But Bishop Accountability said the cases of Grassi and Sasso show that Bergoglio and the Argentine church were slow to recognize the problem and act against it.
Grassi was well known in Buenos Aires for persuading celebrities to donate to his “Happy Children” foundation, which ran orphanages and social outreach programs. Before he was convicted of abusing a child, Grassi praised Bergoglio for “never abandoning him.” He’s free while appealing the conviction.
Sasso was assigned to the soup kitchen, which was at a chapel where his bedroom shared the only bathroom, after living in a home for wayward priests where he had been sent after accusations of pedophilia were raised against him in remote San Juan province.
“The bathroom had two doors. The girls would come in through the outside door, and the priest would bring them into his bedroom through the other, sexually abusing the girls,” Moreau said. “These were really poor people, who were there for free meals while their parents worked. They found an enormous amount of child pornography in his computer, semen, condoms.” It was a medical priest and a nun who discovered that Sasso had abused 25 girls aged 3 to 16, but when they informed church officials, they were told to “remain patient,” and nothing was done, Moreau said.
Eventually, they sought out higher authorities and the case was taken up by the criminal courts, but the middle- level officials who covered up are still in their posts, while the priest and nun were forced to work elsewhere, the lawyer said.
Sasso later became a fugitive and hid out for a year inside church property in the same diocese where the abuse occurred, Moreau said.
Sasso now gets one-day monthly furloughs from prison after serving half of a 17-year sentence for abusing five girls.
In the United States, confidential files on hundreds of pedophile priests have been released either through civil litigation, settlements or court order. The contents have revealed how top church officials worked behind the scenes to control the sex abuse scandal and keep it from authorities as well as parishioners.
Similar broad releases of confidential priest files haven’t happened in Latin America, where victims are less likely to come forward and even less likely to file a civil claim.
Ramon Luzarraga, an expert on the Catholic Church in Latin America, said justice has come more slowly in Argentina in part because its society has until recently avoided public discussions of sexual humiliation, which was used as a tactic in the “dirty war” waged against leftists by the 1976-83 military dictatorship.
Also, he said, “Argentina’s democracy is still comparatively young and, compared to the United States, people are not as acclimated to being outspoken in the face of injustice.”
That leaves clergy abuse victims in the U.S. and their supporters to hold the pope to account on questions of priest abuse everywhere, said Luzarraga, who teaches theology at the University of Dayton in Ohio.
The hundreds of confidential priest personnel files that have been made public in the U.S. have bolstered critics because they can see with their own eyes how the American church dealt with abusive priests, he added.
Diocese of Joliet Chancery
Diocese of Joliet Chancery Established in 1948, encompasses seven counties in northern Illinois, roughly 30 miles southwest of Chicago, serves Roman Catholics in seven counties. It consists of 122 parishes and 11 missions, 64 elementary and secondary schools, and three colleges and serves a population of 620,363 registered Catholics with 171 deacons and 195 diocesan priests.
Diocese of Joliet Chancery abuse Diocese rocked by allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up, with 18 priests accused of sexual abuse up to January 2003 (NYT survey). Ten priests were removed from the diocese 2002-03. Another priest from the diocese who was serving in Kentucky also was placed on administrative leave. Priests who were accused in Joliet and transferred to other dioceses, Anthony Ross in Santa Rosa, Calif., and Fred Lenczycki in St. Louis, also were removed when old allegations surfaced. National Audit found more than 100 credible allegations of priests engaging in sexual misconduct with children have been made against 27 diocesan clerics. Seven more priests were accused of inappropriate sexual behavior during that period, but those accusations were not sustained 22 February 2004.
- Diocese of Joliet Chancery settlements Diocese paid more than $2.6 million 1983-2002, made up of $1.7 million paid to victims of sexual abuse by priests, with an additional $936,000 paid by insurance.
Bishop Imesch Bishop Joseph Imesc (1932-), 26 years a bishop, defended accused clerics, saying they were good priests who exercised poor judgment and were victims of smear campaigns and reckless media coverage. Bishop Joseph Imesch retired in May 2006
- Bishop Imesch cover-up Bishop Imesch had a long history of covering up pedophilia, transferring at least four accused priests inside his diocese without alerting parishioners. And he brought in a convicted child molester, the Rev. Gary Berthiaume, who had served as an associate pastor under him at a Detroit church years earlier. Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of St. Louis removed two priests it had accepted from Joliet, the Rev. Fred Lenczycki and the Rev. J. Anthony Meis, saying that Bishop Imesch had not disclosed past allegations against them when recommending them for transfers. The bishop has denied that assertion. Early in 2002, he said that some people are not traumatized by sexual abuse and that some priests who molest adolescents should be allowed back into ministry after therapy, but in late May 2002, he changed to support “zero tolerance” policy after the bishops approved it in Dallas: “I am sorry for any pain I have caused victims, their families, parishioners and others,” he wrote. “I feel that some of the criticisms directed at me were harsh, but I hope that I have learned from them.”
Three priest case Two brothers, John and Jeff Welch sued the Diocese of Joliet Chancery , claiming three priests, John C. Slown, Arno Dennerlein and Richard Ruffalo abused them 1962-68 while they attended St. John the Baptist Church in Winfield. DuPage Circuit Judge John T. Elsner ruled a new state law extending the time limit for lawsuits in cases of sexual abuse of children cannot be applied retroactively to revive the brothers’ allegations.
Two priest case Two brothers sue the Diocese of Joliet, claiming sexual abuse by two different priests. The lawsuits filed in Will County Circuit Court brought to 15 the number of suits pending against the diocese in Will and DuPage counties, May 2006.
Diocesian list Names of some diocesan priests accused of sexually abusing minors against whom a credible allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor has been made. It will not include the names of religious order priests who served in the diocese, or diocesan priests who were the subjects of claims that were deemed unfounded. Announced 2 April 2006.
Diocesan Cases of Joliet Chancery
[34 offenders identified, 42 listed]
Anon priest I Civil lawsuit accusing a former suburban priest of sexually abusing a teenage boy more than 30 years earlier would not be made public unless a judge agrees first to release them. It names the Diocese of Joliet Chancery and Bishop Joseph Imesch as defendants, contending there was abuse in that church officials were aware of, but they took no action to prevent it. The diocese filed a legal motion seeking to seal all court filings in the case, saying it fears releasing information could harm the privacy of other alleged victims. “Bishop Imesch is trying to keep a lid on and keep all the dirty secrets hidden, said Barbara Blaine, director of SNAP.
Anon priest II Sexual allegations made against two priests by a former student who attended both Providence Catholic School and Joliet Catholic High School. The incidents would have occurred more than 30 years earlier, when the alleged victim was a student. No lawsuit or criminal charges have been filed. Reported 8 June 2010.
Anon priest III See Anon priest II
Barrett affair Rev. John F. Barrett, ordained 1959, accused of abuse. Placed on leave May 2002, re old accusations that he molested an 8th grade boy in Catholic cchool in 1968. Original claim was made in 1991 but the man says that Diocese cancelled meeting with him at last minute when he wanted to bring either his wife or attorney with him. The victim let the matter drop until 2002 when investigator for Diocese contacted him. Cleared by Diocesan investigation 10 June 2002 and returned to duty. Diocese said claims could not be substantiated and victim was not cooperating.
Bennett affair Rev. Richard Bennett, pastor at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, denied the abuse allegations claiming he was one of two priests in the Diocese of Joliet sexually abused Tim Greco beginning when he was 11 years old in 1975. He was in a shower with the Rev. Philip Dedera in the rectory at St. Pius X Church in Lombard when Bennett walked in and discovered the priest and boy naked together (Dedera affair). Greco alleges that Dedera repeatedly abused him for more than a year and that Bennett molested him once. Filed April 2006. Case dismissed due to the state’s statute of limitations and parishioners celebrated, June 2007.
Berthiaume affair Rev. Gary D. Berthiaume was convicted and received 6 months in jail 1978 for abusing a 12 years-old boy who received $325,000 settlement in the 1980s. The victim went on to have his own pedophilia problems. Berthiaume was kept in a parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit for most of the 1980s without telling the congregation about his prior molestation conviction. A priest assigned to monitor him, the Rev. Allen Bruening, himself previously had been removed from a parish because of abuse allegations and was made director of a Catholic high school. Berthiaume was transferred again, to the Diocese of Joliet, IL, until he was removed from his post as chaplain in a suburban Chicago hospital when allegations of old abuse occurred, 2002.
Burnett affair Rev. James Burnett, ordained 1968, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Mokena.
- Shanahan accusation Dan Shanahan accused Rev. James Burnett of molesting him from ages 8 to 12 until the mid-1980s at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Mokena. .
Chang affair Rev. Joseph Chang accused of abuse of woman settled 1995.
Dedera affair Rev. Philip Dedera, ordained 1 November 1972, was accused by Tim Greco of sexual abuse. Greco was showering with the Dedera in the rectory at St. Pius X Church in Lombard when Rev. Richard Bennett walked in (Bennett affair) and discovered the priest and boy naked together. Greco alleges that Dedera repeatedly abused him for more than a year and that Bennett molested him once. Dedera became a suburban Chicago hospital chaplain, was removed from his post, 2002. Case filed April 2006. Claim was settled.
Dennerlein affair Rev. Arno Dennerlein, Jesuit, ordained 31 May 1969, priest at St. Patrick Catholic Church was accused by two brothers of abusing them in the mid-1970s, when Dennerlein took them to the rectory and convinced them to lie down on his couch. The younger brother, who was between 5 and 6 years old at the time, told police that Dennerlein tried to look down his pants. The older brother, who was about 12 at the time of his incident, said Dennerlein fondled him. The two did not learn about each other’s experiences until years later. Sued 2003. Placed on administrative leave 2003, canonical case pending.
Fischer affair Rev. Lowell Fischer (deceased) accused of abuse, removed from ministry 2002.
Flores affair Rev. Alejandro Flores (Alex) (1973-), who is a native of Bolivia, was ordained in June 2009 and was the parochial vicar of Holy Family Parish in Shorewood. Prior to that he served as a deacon at St. Elizabeth Seton in Naperville. He was placed on administrative leave after a St. Charles family alleged that he had sexually assaulted their 13-year-old son over a five-year period, starting in January 2005, when the boy was 8, 4 January 2010.
- Flores suicide attempt Flores attempted suicide, surviving the fall from a 20-foot choir balcony at St. Mary’s Carmelite Church in Joliet, 6 January 2010.
- Flores trial Alejandro Flores was charged with one count of predatory criminal sexual assault, two counts of sexual assault, and four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, 21 January 2010.
Formusa affair Rev. Salvatore Formusa (deceased) ordained 27 April 1935, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, retired 1985.
Frederick affair Rev. James Frederick (d. 1988) ordained 30 May 1959, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him.
Furdek affair Rev. John M. Furdek (1953-), ordained 2 June 1984, pastor of St. Alexander Catholic Church in Villa Park, had been assigned to Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Naperville, St. Philip the Apostle in Addison, and St. Mary of Gostyn in Downers Grove. He had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, removed from ministry 2000, arrested, charged, 2000. In 2003, a Wisconsin court convicted Furdek of attempted second-degree sexual assault of a child and sentenced him to 15 years. He had been arrested at a Racine, Wis., restaurant where he went to meet a 14-year-old boy for sex. He served three years of his prison sentence and was paroled in May 2006. He is a registered child sex offender in Illinois and Wisconsin.
- MusclePosing773 screen name of “the boy” Furdek had been chatting with online for months who turned out to be an agent with the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Gibbney affair Rev. Michael Gibbney began his ministry in 1959, served at St. Isidore Church in Bloomingdale, St. Charles Borromeo in Bensenville, St. Luke’s parish in Carol Stream 1972-81. He was accused of molesting an altar boy at Mary Queen of Heaven Church in Elmhurst from 1978-79. He served at Holy Ghost Church in Wood Dale 1981-90, finally St. Daniel the Prophet on West Loop Road in Wheaton since the parish formed in 1989. Removed from ministry 1992. Sued 2002.
- Gibbney lawsuits Two more men filed lawsuits against the Joliet Diocese claiming Bishop Joseph Imesch and other diocese officials are responsible for alleged sexual abuse by Michael Gibbney. Bobby Drish (1968-) and David Mortell (1969-) accused Gibbney of molesting them beginning when they were 11 and 13 years old in 1979 and 1981, respectively. The lawsuits claim that Imesch was aware of Gibbney’s inappropriate conduct with boys at Mary Queen of Heaven parish in Elmhurst when the bishop moved him to St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi parishes in Bolingbrook. Filed 2 February 2006.
Gibbs affair Rev. Lawrence M. Gibbs (Larry), ordained 12 May 1973, sexually abused boys in Lombard parish 1977 and 1980. Then early in Bishop Joseph Imesch’s career in Joliet in 1980, the diocese moved Gibbs while he was under criminal investigation and refused to tell investigators where he was. The bishop told parents whose children had been interviewed in the case that authorities had found no evidence to charge. During a deposition in August 2005, Bishop Imesch said a priest skinny-dipping and playing poker in the nude with young boys was “inappropriate,” but because Imesch did not consider it to be sexual abuse. The bishop sent Gibbs to Lockport parish where he began molesting an 11-year-old boy. Removed from ministry 1992. Gibbs left the priesthood. Affair settled 1998.
Howlin affair Rev. Carroll Howlin, ordained 26 May 1961, pastor in Whitley City, KY, since 1980, was suspended by the Joliet diocese and the Lexington, KY diocese pending an investigation into sexual misconduct, April 2002, canonical case pending.
Jochem affair Rev. Harold Jochem (deceased), Franciscan ordained 1930, man filed civil suit June 2004 alleging that he was abused from 1974 to 1978 by Jochem and another franciscan friar, Jeffrey Salwach, at St. Jude Catholic Parish in New Lenox. Suit says that the two priests forced the youth to engage in group sex, smoke marijuana and drink alcohol over a 4 year period.
Kocher affair Rev. Donald C. Kocher sued for abuse of a woman 1995.
Lenczycki affair Rev. Frederick A. Lenczycki (Fred), ordained 21 October 1972, had a history of sexual abusing as many as 30 boys, many from Chicago’s suburbs, which began after his ordination and continued through his 2004 conviction for the crimes committed at St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Hinsdale. He was accused in Joliet, moved to St. Louis and was removed when old allegations surfaced. Because Lenczycki left the state in 1984, shortly after more than a dozen young boys at St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Hinsdale accused him of molesting them, the statute of limitations had not yet run out, ruled DuPage County Circuit Judge Ann B. Jorgensen, 18 June 2003. Removed from ministry 2002. Convicted 2004. It appears that he had more than two dozen from about six assignments in Illinois, California and Missouri over several years.
McBrien affair Rev. Kevin Michael McBrien, Carmelite ordained 1970, was removed from position at St. Matthew Church In Glendale Heights May 2010 after allegation that he abused one youth on a single occasion approx. 30-35 yrs previously while at Joliet Catholic High School. Same person also alleged abuse on multiple occasions by Fr. Lee Ryan at Providence High School. Investigation by Diocese is ongoing, Lives in a supervised setting August 2010.
Mateo affair Rev. Leonardo Mateo, ordained 17 March 1956, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, left diocese 1984, later returned to Archdiocese of Cebu
Meis affair Rev. J. Anthony Meis, ordained 15 August 1972, hospital chaplain, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, settled. Removed from ministry 2002.
Mullins affair Rev. Lawrence Mullins (Larry), ordained 15 October 1977, sexually abused three boys while they were elementary school students and altar boys at St. Raymond Cathedral in Joliet from 1978 to 1980. Mullins told them the molestation was a normal part of coming of age. Removed from ministry 1993. Removed from Joliet Catholic Academy 2002.
- Fehrenbacher accusation Christopher Fehrenbacher said Mullins abused him several times between 1978 and 1980 in the school, in the church sacristy and in Mullins’ apartment in the rectory. Fehrenbacher was 10 years old when the reported abuses began. Mullins, who supervised altar boys, preyed on an elite group of youths who were granted privileges by serving at church functions.
Murphy affair Br. Robert Murphy, Carmelite, accused of abuse.
Nowak affair Rev. James A. Nowak, ordained 1967, retired in 2007 from Saints Peter and Paul in Naperville. Member of Montini Catholic H.S. board of directors. Removed without privileges August 2012 after allegation of sexual abuse of a minor approx. 25 years previously (possibly mid to late 1980s.) No parish information given but 1989 Official Catholic Directory shows him assigned to St. Anthony in Joliet. Review Board found allegation to be credible. Matter will be forwarded to Rome for further action.
O’Connor affair Rev. Donald O’Connor, ordained 23 May 1964, police chaplain, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, removed from ministry 2002.
Pock affair Rev. Donald Pock (d. 2004), ordained 7 June 1958, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, removed from ministry, 2002.
Poff affair Rev. Edward Poff, ordained 7 June 1958, hospital chaplain, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, removed from ministry, 2002.
Ross affair Rev. Anthony Ross, ordained 11 November 1972, had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors made against him, removed from ministry 2002
Ruffalo affair Rev. Richard Ruffalo (1935-1997), ordained 30 May 1959, In 2002 Ruffalo was accused by at least 2 men of abusing them when they were boys. Allegedly gave them beer and wine, took them on trips to Las Vegas and molested them. Ruffalo was also accused of stealing from collections. He was over $95,000 in debt when he died in 1997. One man filed civil suit 1998 which later settled. 2 more plaintiffs filed suit 2003. 4th man came forward 2006.
Ryan affair Rev. F. Lee Ryan allegedly had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old boy in the 1970s. The now-52-year-old accuser said he and Ryan had a relationship for more than a year. The man confided in Ryan that he was gay, and things turned sexual as the two became closer. He believed they were dating. The accuser said he did not tell anyone at the time, and it was only in 2010 that he told his mother about his relationship with the family’s priest. His mother spoke to a victims advocate who arranged for him to submit a complaint to the church.
- Vatican view Vatican cited Canon No. 2359 in the 1917 Code of Canon Law to explain why the priest was not found guilty of violating church law. The code states that a cleric who violates the commandment forbidding adultery, by indecently touching a person under the age of 16, has committed a canonical crime. The priest removed from ministry over a sexual abuse allegation has been reinstated, September 2012.
Salwach affair Rev. Jeffrey Salwach, ordained 1984, man filed civil suit alleging that he was abused as youth from 1974 to 1978 by Salwach and another friar. Salwach later transferred to Texas before being placed on leave May 2003. Lawsuit settled and no criminal charges were filed. Still shown as active priest per Catholic Times 10 May 2009. In November 2011, word was received that Salwach had recently been assigned to work at LaVerna Friary in a residential neighborhood in St. Louis, MO.
Simonelli affair Rev. Jerry Simonelli was removed from his pastorate by Bishop J. Peter Sartain because he engaged in homosexual activity. “It was consenting behavior, but a priest takes a vow of celibacy,… He was unfaithful to his vows on more than one occasion,” 20 May 2010.
- Additional affair Separate diocesan investigation found that Father Simonelli had engaged in an additional homosexual relationship.
Slade affair Rev. Henry Slade, ordained 1984, accused of abuse, arrested and placed on leave January 1990. Pled guilty February 1990 to sexual misconduct with 18 year-old disabled man, removed from ministry 1990. Sentenced to 12 month. probation. Victim filed suit December 1991. Suit later settled.
Slown case Rev. John C. Slown, ordained 30 May 1959, was convicted in 1983 of sexually abusing an altar boy at St. Irene Catholic Church in Warrenville, was defrocked and then moved to Colorado. Slown says he left priesthood because he was alcoholic. In October 2003 two brothers filed suit alleging abuse by Slown, Ruffalo and Arno Dennerlein. Suit said abuse occurred in Illinois for several years and, for the younger boy, later in NJ. He was removed from ministry.
Stalzer affair Rev. David Stalzer (d. 2000), ordained 1974. 1993 civil suit claims that Stalzer and Lawrence M. Gibbs abused the plaintiff in 1981. Suit was dismissed in 1994 by the Court after Plaintiff claimed to have been treated by two psychologists and both denied having seen the man. Stalzer was returned to duty 4/93 (under supervision and with limited contact w/ youngsters) prior to resolution of suit. He was allowed to continue active duties until his death in 2000.
Stefanich case Rev. Edward Stefanich, ordained 25 May 1965, removed from ministry 1987, convicted for abuse of 14 year-old Woodridge girl, sentenced to 1 year probation 1987.
- Glen Ellyn allegation Stefanich was also accused of sexual abuse by a man Glen Ellyn man who recalled repressed memories of alleged abuse by Stefanich while at Christ the King parish in Lombard c. 1971.
- Anon girl I allegation Stefanich abused a 15 yr old girl for 16 mos in 1985-86. Church warned by Counselor about the relationship in 1986; they promised to handle but did nothing until 1987 after Stefanich proposed marriage and girl’s parents complained. Stefanich was indicted and pled guilty. In 1987 sentenced to 6 mo. jail; 1 yr of counseling and had to be laicized.
- Anon girl II allegation Police admitted that they knew he had abused another girl as well. Settled with family 4/88 for $450K.
- Anon accusation Man filed suit re abuse from 1969-1970, September 2003.
Van Duren affair Rev. Charles Van Duren (d. 1997), ordained 1952, name appeared on Diocese’s June 2008 list of accused priests with a credible/substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. Worked in MA, PA, St. Joseph Indian School in SD, and MS before coming to Joliet Diocese in 1970. Worked in several parishes,retired in 1995.
Virtue affair Rev. William D. Virtue, ordained 1975, accused of abuse in Joliet Diocese in 1980-1981. Placed on leave February 2006. Not included on Joliet Diocese list of confirmed abusers released 4.09.06. Civil suit filed May 2006. Virtue worked in Joliet, Rockford and Peoria dioceses. Diocese settled suit as to Virtue as of September 2007.
Welch accusations Brothers Jeff and John Welch accused a priest and two of his colleagues of repeated sexual abuse, beginning during the nightly prayers and continuing even after the family moved out of state in a lawsuit against the Diocese of Joliet and three former priests they allege molested them, 14 October 2003. They said the abuse continued for six years until 1968 while they attended St. John the Baptist Church and its religious school in Winfield. The priests named in the suit were John C. Slown, Arno Dennerlein and Richard Ruffalo. The brothers struggled through years of depression and counseling before coming to grips with the allegations, “As a kid, you’re taught to respect and admire priests, almost to the point that you believe these guys can’t sin,” said John Welch.
White case I Rev. Myles Patrick White, ordained 28 May 1968, removed from ministry 1992, convicted for abuse of teenager 1992.
White case II Rev. Thomas White, pastor of St. Daniel the Prophet Parish in Wheaton, Ill., was the target of the lawsuit, which asked for damages exceeding $50,000, alleging repeated molesting of a 10-11 years old boy, in the rectory of the Carol Stream parish, 1979-80, October 2003. White was exonerated of abuse charges and reinstated as pastor after James Tibor of Naperville recanted charges of sexual abuse.
Suit alleges abuse by 2 priests in ’70s
Arizona man seeks $350,000 in civil case
April 28, 2006|By Manya A. Brachear, Tribune staff reporter
An Arizona man has accused two priests of sexually abusing him more than 30 years ago at St. Pius X Parish in Lombard, according to a $350,000 civil lawsuit filed Thursday in DuPage County Circuit Court.
Tim Greco, 43, of Gilbert, Ariz., alleges that Rev. Phillip Dedera sexually molested him more than 100 times, starting in 1974 when the plaintiff was an 11-year-old altar boy. He also recounted how Rev. Richard Bennett, now pastor of Holy Spirit Catholic Community Church in Naperville, caught Dedera in the act, but instead of reporting it to church or civil authorities, allegedly fondled the boy after a mass.
Contacted by telephone Thursday, Bennett tearfully denied the allegation, adding that Greco’s complaint had been investigated by the Joliet Diocesan Review Committee and was deemed “not credible.”
Dedera could not be reached for comment Thursday.
In a statement, diocese spokesman Tom Kerber said the review committee would reconvene soon to discuss the present situation. There have been no other allegations made against Bennett, Kerber said. For the time being, he said, Bennett will remain in ministry with restrictions.
Dedera was suspended from ministry in 2002 after church officials found an allegation against him to be substantiated. In a deposition taken in August 2005, Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch confirmed that Dedera had been credibly accused of child sexual abuse.
Greco said at least one incident of abuse happened on a trip to Wisconsin, where the statute of limitations applies only to residents and therefore would not shield the Illinois priest from criminal prosecution.
While the recollection of abuse surfaced during alcohol abuse treatment years ago, Greco said it was the sight of his 11-year-old son that pushed him to contact Imesch about Dedera in 2004.
“I decided to come forward as a father,” Greco said. “It just destroys me to know there are men out there who can do this to children.”
It was not until a later conversation with his attorneys, Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman, that he realized what Bennett allegedly did was also wrong.
The diocese was informed of the allegations against Bennett in a letter to Imesch and diocese attorney James Byrne in August 2004.
Kerber said neither Greco nor his attorney responded to an invitation to present the allegation to the review committee or to provide additional information. Anderson said the diocese already had enough information by then to draw a conclusion.
Both Dedera and Bennett were ordained in 1972. Dedera also worked at churches including St. Andrew the Apostle in Romeoville, Visitation Parish in Elmhurst, St. Walter Parish in Roselle, St. Mary in Downers Grove, St. Scholastica in Woodridge, St. Mary in Paxton and St. Patrick in Momence. His last two assignments were in Naperville, at Edward Hospital and St. Patrick’s Residence.
Bennett has worked at churches including St. Dennis in Lockport, St. Raphael in Naperville and Sacred Heart Church in Joliet
Diocese apologizes for priest remarks
April 18, 2002|By David Heinzmann, Tribune staff reporter.
Catholic Diocese of Joliet officials scrambled Wednesday to apologize for the comments of a priest who said he had “no sympathy” for victims of sexual abuse by clergy.
After the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Calif., suspended former Joliet priest Rev. Anthony J. Ross because of an allegation that he sexually abused a teenage boy in Illinois in 1983, his brother, Rev. Richard Ross of Joliet, made inflammatory remarks that were printed in a newspaper Wednesday.
“I don’t have much sympathy for people who somehow couldn’t stop whatever happened,” Richard Ross told the Joliet Herald-News. “I’ll take all of these people who were abused, and I’ll abuse them with a baseball bat. You can quote me on that.”
The Joliet Diocese issued an apology Wednesday afternoon for Ross’ statements, which Bishop Joseph Imesch called “absolutely contrary to our beliefs and sensitivities and all that we stand for.”
The Santa Rosa Diocese has placed Anthony Ross on administrative leave while the allegation is investigated. Church officials there said they would cooperate with any police investigation. Anthony Ross has been at Santa Rosa since 1993, although he was officially assigned to Joliet until 1997, church officials said. Santa Rosa church officials said Ross requested the relocation. In California, Anthony Ross’ assignments included prison ministry and AIDS Ministry Outreach but no parish assignments, church officials said.
No criminal charges have been filed in the case.
Diocese spokeswoman Sister Judith Davies said Wednesday that church officials have not been able to reach Richard Ross, but the comments “will be addressed with Father Ross.”
The statement from Imesch’s office said that Ross’ remarks were out of character with his career of service as a priest.
“All can attest to Father Richard Ross’ lifelong excellent reputation for faith-filled and dedicated ministry, especially to those in need. Therefore, we cannot reconcile his statements with his exemplary ministry, nor can we attempt to explain them.
“We can only apologize on behalf of ourselves, the clergy, and all of our parishioners to all victims, their families and to all who are hurt by what was said.”
Attempts to reach Richard Ross at St. Bernard’s Parish, where he is pastor, were unsuccessful.
Anthony Ross is the fourth priest with a connection to the Joliet Diocese in three weeks to be removed from his duties because of allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct with boys.
In the first week of April the diocese removed Rev. Gary Berthiaume from his position as chaplain at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove after it was revealed that he had been convicted of molesting a child in Michigan 24 years ago. Last week, Rev. Phillip Dedera was removed from his position as a chaplain at Edward Hospital in Naperville and chaplain at St. Patrick’s Residence, a Naperville nursing home.
Church officials said they had received a “credible” allegation that Dedera sexually abused a teenager in 1974 while he was serving at St. Andrew Parish in Romeoville. Diocesan officials said they believe the allegation against Dedera is factual and warrants no further investigation. He is receiving counseling.
Monday, the diocese acknowledged that Rev. Carroll Howlin has been suspended from his ministry in rural Kentucky, where he has worked as a missionary since 1977. Howlin is accused by a former seminarian of sexual abuse while he taught at St. Charles of Borromeo Seminary near Romeoville.
FOR THE RECORD – Additional material published April 19, 2002:
CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS.
A story in Thursday’s Metro section incorrectly reported that Rev. Anthony J. Ross, who has been accused of sexually molesting a teenage boy in 1983 in the diocese of Joliet, had been placed on administrative leave by the diocese of Santa Rosa, Calif. In fact, Ross remains on active duty in prison ministry in California while the Santa Rosa diocese investigates the allegation. The incorrect information was supplied by the diocese of Joliet.
Abuse Alleged at Wellesley Seminary
By Matt Carroll Boston Globe August 10, 2002
WELLESLEY – Today, the Elm Bank estate, nestled in a bend of the Charles River, is a state park and the home of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. A generation ago, the setting was no less idyllic for grammar school graduates who came here to a high school seminary, full of hope they would someday be ordained as Catholic priests.
Some were. Others, however, left the tiny school after they were sexually abused by members of the Stigmatine Fathers, the religious order that ran the seminary. Their accounts describe sexual misbehavior by an extraordinary percentage of the priests who were entrusted with their care.
The school had only 10 to 15 teachers at any one time, according to the alleged victims. Yet four men who contacted the Globe said they were molestedby five Stigmatines at the school – four priests and a religious brother – during a six-year period. One seminarian said he was victimized by three of the priests, and two of the others said they were each molested by two priests. The men attended the school between 1955 and 1961.
Officials of the order knew about the sexual abuse at the time but did nothing to stop it, according to interviews with victims and a document the religious order turned over to one victim. One Stigmatine priest who tried to stop the abuse was twice transferred after alerting superiors to what was going on.
”We went there thinking it was a holy institution,” said John Vellante, who attended as a freshman in 1958 but left a year later. ”It turned out it was a hunting lodge, and we were the captured prey.”
The multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by the Stigmatine clerics are surfacing as the leaders of Catholic religious orders, gathered in Philadelphia for a national conference that ends today, grapple with the orders’ role in a national sexual abuse crisis that has focused mostly on diocesan priests. Almost one-third of the estimated 47,000 Roman Catholic priests in the United States belong to religious orders.
The Rev. Gregory J. Hoppough, the provincial superior of the Stigmatine order, which is based locally in Waltham, referred all questions to attorney Kenneth H. Zimble, who did not return several phone calls from the Globe. The order, known formally as the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata, has about 550 priests worldwide, according to its Web site, but only about 20 active in the United States, according to a priest. The order’s name is drawn from the term used to describe the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ.
Vellante, along with two others who attended Elm Bank, told the Globe they were molested by the Rev. Leo P. Landry, who left the seminary in 1959 and subsequently served as a parish priest in Somersworth, N.H. Landry, who is now 72 and lives in Rochester, N.H., left the priesthood in 1972.
Landry, who faces several civil lawsuits in New Hampshire for allegedly abusing minors, referred questions to the Diocese of Manchester. A diocesan spokesman said there was no record of complaints about Landry during his years in Somersworth.
The Stigmatines also face accusations of sexual abuse outside of Elm Bank. According to two attorneys, six other men have alleged that they were molested as boys by either the Revs. Richard J. Ahern or Joseph E. Flood, both of whom are dead, according to the attorneys. The alleged abuse occurred in Springfield, Agawam, and in New Hampshire during approximately the same time period as the abuse at Elm Bank.
A spokesman for the Norfolk district attorney said the order had turned over the names of alleged Elm Bank abusers, but no investigations had been opened because the alleged crimes are beyond the statute of limitations. Sources said the order had turned over the names of Landry, the Rev. Leo T. Riley, and Brother John Fowler.
Elm Bank was once part of a thriving tradition of minor seminaries that today has largely faded from the landscape. Minor seminaries educate high-school-age boys, while ”major” seminaries, such as St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, are for college-age men.
As recently as the 1960s, there were between 50 and 70 Catholic minor seminaries scattered across the country, supported by local dioceses or religious orders. Today, there are only two that board students and another six day schools, according to the Minor Seminary Association.
Most minor seminaries failed because of drastically declining enrollments, the cost to the diocese of maintaining the schools, and because relatively few of their graduates became priests.
In addition, there have been several sex scandals. St. Thomas Aquinas in Hannibal, Mo., a diocesan minor seminary, shut its doors this spring after its former rector, Bishop Anthony O’Connell, was publicly accused in March of sexually abusing a student at the school in the 1970s. After the allegations surfaced, O’Connell resigned as bishop of Palm Beach, Fla.
Nowadays, the notion that high school-age boys should begin formal seminary training has few adherents. ”Minor seminaries were inherently flawed because the kids were too young,” said Ray Higgins, coauthor of a 1993 report to the Franciscan order on sexual abuse at St. Anthony’s, a minor seminary in Santa Barbara, Calif., that closed in 1987.
Boys that young often aren’t ready to elect a vocational track. They also don’t have a clear enough sense of their own sexuality to be put in such a setting, Higgins said. Because of their confused feelings and isolation from their own families, the boys were that much more vulnerable to the sexual predators who took advantage of them, according to Higgins, whose own son was abused by two priests at St. Anthony’s.
The former students described Elm Bank as, on the surface, an idyllic place. The school was tiny, with no more than 30 students in all four grades. Classes might have two or three students, and some of the teachers were brilliant, said the men. The boys rose early for Mass and worked hard in class, but there was time for sports, prayer, and contemplation. They lived dormitory style in a century-old 40-room brick mansion or in other buildings on the property.
The Stigmatines bought the former estate in 1941 and ran the school and summer camps until shortly before they sold it to the state in 1971. The property is now known as Elm Bank Reservation and is a Metropolitan District Commission park and the headquarters of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.
But while the men said they enjoyed the educational atmosphere and the facilities, they also suffered incalculable damage from the men who allegedly molested them.
Abuse ranged from single incidents of fondling to several years of sex. All four men said they have contacted the order about the abuse. Two of the four have received financial settlements in recent years.
Vellante, 57, a Boston Globe sportswriter who retired a year ago, said Landry, under the guise of providing the 13-year-old with sex education, would have him drop his pants and would masturbate him. Almost always, immediately or within days, Landry would don the stole priests use to hear confessions and have Vellante confess to the sin he had just committed.
”I know it sounds weird,” Vellante said in an interview yesterday. ”But we were brought up to believe the priest was God and that he was to be revered and obeyed, that anything he said was right and that he could do no wrong.” Vellante has not filed a lawsuit but said he believes Landry deserved to be prosecuted for what he did.
Two other former students, David Leonard and a successful Massachusetts businessman who asked to remain anonymous, said they told school officials about the abuse at the time it was happening, but nothing was done.
Leonard, 58, who was born in South Boston and now lives in Frankfort, N.Y., said he was molested twice by Stigmatines – once as an 11-year-old at a summer camp and again at Elm Bank. Leonard said he told the Rev. Joseph Henchey, his prefect, and Henchey tried to have the abusers punished but was instead punished himself by the order.
At a meeting arranged with the Stigmatines two weeks ago, Henchey told Leonard that, after he learned of the alleged abuse, he had unsuccessfully pressed the order to deal with abusive priests. Instead, Henchey said the order at least twice transferred him after he complained, according to Leonard and the Rev. Geoffrey J. Deeker, a Stigmatine who attended the meeting. Henchey, who did not dispute the story, declined to comment.
Leonard said he has had mental health problems for decades. In 1978, he doused himself with gasoline and tried to set himself on fire outside a Stigmatine building in Newton. But the matches wouldn’t light. He was committed to a state mental hospital for nearly a year. He has reached a financial settlement with the order.
The businessman, who recently brought his complaint to the order, received in reply a letter which acknowledged that he told them of the abuse when it happened and that no one had investigated. The businessman said he was molested at the school for four years by Riley, a teacher. While at school, the businessman told the Rev. Charles F. Egan, at the time the head of the order in North America, and the priest was transferred. When the businessman this spring raised more questions about the abuse, the order questioned Egan.
”I did not conduct any further investigation,” Egan wrote in a letter, a copy of which the order gave the businessman. ”I cannot remember sharing this information with others, or entering this matter into any record.” He did not even tell the victim’s parents.
Riley died in 1995. The businessman said he attended the priest’s wake because he wanted to see him dead in his casket. The businessman said he was also molested by Landry and another Stigmatine.
John Neely, formerly of Newton and who now works in Texas for the state prison system, said he was abused by two Stigmatine priests. Neely and his attorney said the Stigmatines settled his claim for $15,000.
Neely, 52, said that when he was 14 he was masturbated by Ahern and later, while at a summer camp at Elm Bank, by Landry. He said he sunk into years of alcoholism and recently ended his third marriage.
He said the abuse twisted his moral compass for years. ”When a trusted authority figure violates the innocence of a child, what they do is turn north to west, so you never know where you are going,” he said. ”You trust untrustworthy people and don’t trust trustworthy people.”
Matt Carroll be be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 8/10/2002.
L.A. Pedophile Priests ‘Dumped On’ Latino Neighborhoods? Revealing Audio Unearthed
By Dennis Romero Fri., Mar. 15 2013 at 3:31 PM
THERE IS AN EXCELLENT VIDEO IN THE LINK THAT YOU SHOULD WATCH
The L.A. Archdiocese not only knew about pedophile priests, but strategized about how to shuffle them around.
KCET’s “SoCal Connected” at 5:30 tonight will air its exclusive investigation into the scandal that has clouded the legacy of ex-Cardinal Roger Mahony. The station obtained exclusive, 1996 audio of Father Stephen Rosetti speaking about how to deal with these creeps:
KCET also discovered that many of L.A.’s alleged pedophile priests — our archdiocese had the most, 260, in the nation — worked in the city’s Latino neighborhoods.
For the church, out town became, KCET says, the home of the “‘L.A. Model,’ a program that quietly put sexual abusive priests in desk jobs around the dioceses and even helped them find outside employment.”
“SoCal Connected” found that of the top 10 parishes for abusive priests, half were in Latino neighborhoods. Former priest Richard Sipe tells the show:
Victims of Murphy’s law
Paul Byrnes March 16, 2013
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I am old enough to remember those words as part of the Latin Mass. I learnt them growing up in the Catholic Church in Australia. We spoke them to ask forgiveness for our sins. ”Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault …”
As I was learning them, the Vatican was receiving the first reports of the extent of one priest’s sexual abuse of deaf children at St John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Father Lawrence Murphy, ordained in 1950, was a master of American Sign Language, a charismatic personality and a great fund-raiser. He may also have abused more than 200 deaf children in the three decades in which he was allowed to remain at St John’s, even after his activities were reported to the Vatican.
Father Murphy took a holiday in 1958. Father David Walsh came to the school. Some of the boys told him what Father Murphy was doing. Father Walsh reported the allegations to Archbishop Meyer of Milwaukee and to the Vatican’s apostolic delegate in Washington, DC. Walsh never came back. In 1963, Father Murphy was promoted to head of the school.
This setting gives extra meaning to the title of Silence in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa. Many of these boys arrived at St John’s aged just four, from families in which they could not easily communicate. Many hearing parents never learnt to sign.
When the abuse started, Murphy would interpret for the children when they spoke to their parents.
Interviewed against a black background, victim Terry Kohut, now a teacher in his 60s, signs with expressive gestures.
”I was afraid to tell my mother because I didn’t think she would believe me,” he says. ”She would say a priest would never do something like that to children. I kept it a secret.” On that word, he clenches his fists in front of his mouth, signing ”secret”.
These interviews, with four of the children Lawrence Murphy abused, offer a story of unimaginable sadness. Gradually, their testimony becomes heroic. In 1973, Bob Bolger wrote a letter to Archbishop William Cousins of Milwaukee about Murphy. Later that year, he and two fellow former pupils, Arthur Budzinski and Gary Smith, went to the police. The police did not file charges, so these angry young men made a flyer with Lawrence Murphy’s face and the words ”Most Wanted”. They passed it out at church.
Murphy was finally removed as director of St John’s a year later after a staff member threatened to go to the parents. Murphy was allowed to retire to a family home in another diocese, where he continued to abuse other children. He died in 1998, still a Catholic priest. He is buried in a Catholic cemetery in his vestments. A canonical trial, begun in 1997 by the new archbishop of Milwaukee, was abandoned in 1998 just before Murphy died.
Alex Gibney examines several other cases in this superb documentary. The director talks to high-profile former priests, who criticise the church’s response to the tsunami of sexual-abuse cases in the US. Gibney then takes the allegations to Rome. For 25 years, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ran the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as ”the Inquisition”. Many of these cases went across his desk. After 2001, all cases concerning a minor went to him. Most of them were dealt with in secret. Even when he wanted to investigate, Ratzinger was sometimes blocked by Pope John Paul II, a man now on the way to sainthood.
Gibney exposes the same worrying trends that we’ve seen here – disbelief, followed by leniency towards the abuser and scant concern for the victim.
The film left me sick to my stomach and speechless with anger. I left the church long ago. If I had still been part of it, this film would have made me leave. As the cardinals gathered this week to choose a new pope, I wondered how many would choose to watch it?
L.A. Archdiocese to pay $10 million to 4 alleged abuse victims
By Harriet Ryan and Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times March 12, 2013, 7:06 p.m.
The agreement settles four suits against the archdiocese concerning Michael Baker, who authorities believe molested 23 boys over three decades as a parish priest.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay nearly $10 million to four men who say they were molested by one of the region’s most notorious pedophile priests.
The agreement brings to an end four lawsuits against the archdiocese involving Michael Baker, a charismatic parish priest accused of molesting at least 23 boys over three decades.
The church has settled numerous cases brought by Baker’s alleged victims in the past, but the $9.9-million settlement announced Tuesday is the first settlement since the January release of 12,000 pages of internal archdiocese records about abuse. Many of those documents detailed Cardinal Roger Mahony’s dealings with Baker.
The priest admitted his abuse of two boys to the then-archbishop during a 1986 retreat. Mahony sent Baker to a New Mexico treatment center but later returned him to the ministry, and Baker molested again. In 2007, he was convicted of abusing two boys and sent to prison.
Two of the civil cases settled were set for trial next month. Vince Finaldi, a lawyer for the alleged victims, said he believed the file release “played heavily” into the archdiocese’s decision to settle the cases.
“Once we got the files, it confirmed everything we had argued for years and years,” Finaldi said. “Cardinal Mahony’s fingerprints were all over the case.”
A lawyer for the archdiocese said the church was committed to compensating people hurt by Baker, and the negotiations were “just a matter of reaching a reasonable number.”
“We’ve taken responsibility for Michael Baker, whatever he did and for whomever he did it to,” said attorney J. Michael Hennigan.
A lawyer for Baker, who was defrocked in 2000, did not respond to messages seeking comment. Baker was released from prison in 2011 and lives in Costa Mesa. Baker is not required to pay anything under the terms of the settlement, Finaldi said.
The men who settled the suits range in age from 24 to 54. Two are brothers of a third man whom Baker was convicted of molesting. That third brother previously received a $2-million settlement. Under a distribution agreement determined by a judge, his brothers will receive $4 million each for abuse that they said they suffered in the mid-1990s.
A man who alleged that Baker abused him in 1974 and another who said the priest victimized him in the mid-1980s each received nearly $1 million.
Archdiocese wants upcoming sex abuse trials moved far from L.A.
By Harriet Ryan and Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times March 15, 2013, 5:27 p.m.
Church asks L.A. County judge to delay the trials or move them to San Luis Obispo County because it doesn’t believe a fair, impartial jury can be found locally.
In an acknowledgment that new revelations in the priest abuse scandal have tarnished the church’s image, lawyers for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are seeking to postpone upcoming sexual abuse trials or relocate them to a courthouse 200 miles away because they don’t believe they can get a fair trial in Southern California.
The church’s request to a judge for a delay or change of venue in pending cases this week came just hours after the announcement that the archdiocese would pay two brothers an unprecedented $4 million each to avoid a molestation trial set for April. The payouts to the men, part of a $10-million deal ending four lawsuits, dwarfed settlements the church paid victims in recent years and underscored the archdiocese’s reluctance to face juries in its own backyard.
“We think that the environment in Los Angeles today is currently hostile,” archdiocese lawyer J. Michael Hennigan said.
The January release of personnel files showing that church hierarchy in the 1980s and 1990s shielded abuser priests from police refocused public attention on the clergy sex scandal. In court papers, archdiocese attorneys blamed media coverage, which they described as “unrelenting obloquy, condemnation and contempt,” for poisoning the potential jury pool.
The church proposed to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Emilie H. Elias on Tuesday that four suits concerning a Mexican priest accused of abusing more than two dozen boys in L.A. be moved to San Luis Obispo County. In the alternative, the church asked for a trial delay of at least six months to allow what Hennigan called a “cooling-off period.”
The archdiocese bolstered its request to the judge with a report from a jury consultant describing “an intense level of vitriol” in the region toward the former archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahony, and the church.
Donald Vinson, who worked on the O.J. Simpson and Oklahoma City bombing trials, did not survey potential jurors but said that based on a review of media reports and Google search trends, “the defendants in this matter will not be able to obtain a fair and impartial jury trial in any venue within the Los Angeles media market.”
He said the coverage had turned “passive consumers” of news to “active investigators of the issues” and cited caustic, offensive online comments about Mahony on KTLA’s website.
Changes of venue in civil trials are highly unusual and Richard Gabriel, a jury consultant who has worked for many parties seeking to relocate cases, said the archdiocese’s request was a long shot. Child molestation cases “engender very high emotions and very strong feelings,” he said, but judges are “very stringent” in evaluating whether moving trials is really necessary.
“When you have a metropolitan area of 8 to 10 million people, it’s pretty hard to say that out of that many, you can’t find a fair and impartial jury,” Gabriel said.
The archdiocese has always settled abuse cases before trial, but the possibility of making plaintiffs prove their claims in the unpredictable setting of a trial has been a negotiating point for church lawyers as they try to drive down the amount of settlements.
The change of venue request this week was an acknowledgment that the archdiocese believed it no longer had the option of going to trial in L.A. Hennigan, who as the archdiocese’s lead litigator has overseen two massive settlements totaling $720 million and dozens of smaller payouts, said he had no confidence in local juries given the “media frenzy about the events happening 20-plus years ago.”
“It is not likely that there is anyone who has not been affected” by the publicity, Hennigan said.
The $4-million settlements to two brothers seemed to reflect a changing landscape. The priest accused by the men, Michael Baker, is suspected of molesting at least 23 minors and was convicted criminally of abusing two boys. He admitted molesting youths in a private conversation with Mahony in 1986. Mahony sent him for treatment but returned him to ministry and Baker molested again.
When the brothers initially filed their case in 2011, the church expressed strong doubts about the validity of their claim. A third, older brother received a $2.2-million settlement from the church the previous year for molestation by Baker and archdiocese attorneys suggested the subsequent suit was a money grab.
“Each has previously denied that any abuse occurred at all…. Neither came forward until after their brother received a multimillion-dollar settlement,” church lawyers wrote.
Baker admitted molesting the older brother of the men suing him but told sheriff’s detectives he never touched them and volunteered to take a polygraph. Prosecutors declined to file charges.
Attorneys for the men said the church’s tone changed after Baker’s personnel file was made public in January. The documents revealed that one of Mahony’s top aides, Thomas J. Curry, suggested strategies for keeping police from investigating Baker, including preventing him from seeing certain therapists because they were required to report him to police.
“We did not believe they were serious about settling the cases until the documents came out,” said John Manly, an attorney for the men.
With the church ready to pay, the question became how much. The church paid an average of $1.3 million per individual in its 2007 settlement with hundreds of victims. In recent years, with suits facing tougher standards for statute of limitations, the church paid far smaller sums. In 2011, for example, it settled seven claims for an average of $83,000 per person.
The church’s insurers, which paid a chunk of the $660-million settlement six years ago, are long out of the picture — all payments now come directly from church coffers. The archdiocese said in a recent financial report that it was considering a $200-million fundraising campaign to repay loans it took out in past years to cover sex abuse payouts.
The archdiocese ultimately agreed to pay $9.9 million to the brothers and two other men who said Baker abused them. A judge apportioned the settlement. Two of the men, who alleged that they were molested before Mahony learned of Baker’s history of abuse, got just under $1 million each, and the brothers, who said they were abused in the 1990s after the cardinal was warned, split $8 million.
Hennigan said the size of the settlement had to do with a changed “public attitude” toward the church as well as the notoriety and severity of Baker’s case.
“Michael Baker is our poster boy for misconduct,” he said.
Twelve other sex abuse lawsuits remain pending against the archdiocese, Hennigan said, including the four cases the church is trying to get moved to San Luis Obispo County. Those claims concern another allegedly prolific pedophile priest whose personnel file provides damaging evidence against the archdiocese. Authorities suspect that Nicholas Aguilar Rivera, a visiting priest from Tehuacan, Mexico, molested at least 26 children during nine months in Los Angeles in 1987 and 1988. After parents contacted the archdiocese, Curry warned him of a police investigation and the priest left the country. He remains a fugitive.
Attorney suing Helena Diocese hopes new pope means new victim approach
HELENA – An attorney representing dozens of Native Americans in one of two sex-abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena said he hopes a new pope will mean a new approach by the church in dealing with victims.
But Pope Francis appears to be a conservative in a time when more transparency is needed, lawyer Blaine Tamaki said Thursday.
“We are very concerned the church needs to have a pope who is more progressive than they have had in the past, and the new pope appears to be one of those keeping the conservative doctrine of the Catholic church in place,” he said.
Tamaki’s clients claim they were sexually abused by nuns and priests in western Montana from the 1940s to the 1970s. That lawsuit has been combined with another that claims the Helena diocese covered up abuse for decades, and there now are more than 300 plaintiffs involved in the suits.
Helena Bishop George Leo Thomas released a statement congratulating Pope Francis that did not directly address the lawsuits or claims of sexual abuse.
“He has a reputation as a bridge builder, promoting dialogue and mediation in the face of conflict. Nor was he known to shy away from difficult issues that impinge,” Thomas said.
Settlement talks have been taking place between the plaintiffs’ attorneys and those of the Helena diocese, and a mediation conference is set for April. Insurers of the diocese have balked at paying the claims, spurring additional lawsuits and complicating the prospects for a settlement.
Tamaki said he has not communicated with the diocese or its lawyers since the new pope was named.
“We don’t expect any change of direction anytime soon just because a new pope was selected,” he said. “We’re trying to have a dialogue with the Catholic Church in Montana about the settlement of cases in a way that will treat the victims with respect, compassion and fairness.”