Category Archives: Association of Catholic Priests
Published Date Thursday, April 24,2014
From the Link: http://www.berlindailysun.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49465:frank-laferriere-support-the-victims-not-the-victimizers&catid=73:letter&Itemid=428
To the editor:
If you were to find out that the leadership of a group or organization you belonged to had appeared before commissions and grand juries and openly admitted to covering up the abuses of children, from rape to severe beatings, to even the death of a child, and that this involved tens of thousands of members own children, and that the cover ups are wide spread throughout the organization or group, you would think that the membership of the group would rise up in arms and make sure that the leadership is arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows. That they would stand up and defend and protect their children over the leadership of their group or organization. Yet there is one such organization…though there are others….that its leadership is totally immune from liability for crimes such as these by it’s membership. This organization is known as the Roman Catholic Church.
While they have come far with this problem of child abuse, the Vatican announced that for 2011-2012 almost 400 priests had to be let go because of credible accusations of child abuse, including rape, there is still much to be done. While it is commendable that they caught and fired these priests, what about those whom participated in the cover ups of these crimes? Why are they not called to account for their crimes of the members own children? Why are the leadership of the church put above the law and those whom they have harmed? Why are they defended and even praised or made a saint?
There have been at least a half a dozen commission reports, like the Ryan Report, that detail the systematic sexual, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual abuse of children and teens, children of the Roman Catholic Church; and the cover ups of these abuses by the leaders and even their highest leaders, ones whom are supposed to be the Vicars of Jesus while on this earth and in their position. Yet even to this day, not one credibly accused leader has ever been arrested or prosecuted for their crimes save one, Bishop Robert Finn and that case is being retried. Matter of fact, one of these, John Paul II was given sainthood. There is overwhelming evidence he participated in the cover up of and through acts of omission, turned a blind eye to, the pederast Rev. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ. Yet he is given sainthood? This is an insult to all those whom are survivors of these evil crimes against us.
There are some incredible priests and leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. I have met some of them. From Fr Tom Doyle, ret., whom has fought tirelessly for the victims of priest abuse, at the cost of his being a priest, to even our own local priest Fr Kyle Stanton whom has helped me immensely, to groups like Catholic Whistleblowers, and others, they have sort of restored my faith that this problem of priests and nuns abusing children and teens will stop. Yet to truly set things right the following must be done.
1. All credibly accused leaders, from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, to Cardinals like Timothy Dolan, Donald Wuerl, Roger Mahony, Bernard Law, George Pell, and many others, against whom there is overwhelming evidence, through commission reports, grand jury testimonies and the churches own documents, must be fired. They must be arrested and prosecuted. We do this to other criminals, we demand this of any rapist or those whom cover up the rapes and abuses of children. They may be leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, but these men are criminals and deserve to be arrested and prosecuted and the victims deserve their day in court and justice for the crimes committed against them because of these leaders actions.
2. Abide by the Pledge to Protect, Promise to Heal charter all of the diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States signed. All attacks against the victims must stop. We are not responsible for our rapes, we did not enjoy being raped. We are not homosexuals because we were raped by a male priest. We are not liars, gold diggers who are out looking for a payday from the Roman Catholic Church.
We are your sons, we are your daughters, who want justice, whom want those who perpetrated these crimes against us punished, whom went through one of the most horrifying and terrifying experiences a human being can go through. We trusted these priests and nuns and they destroyed that trust with their evil crimes against us. We were raped, we were beaten, we had our souls, our hearts stolen from us, we had our bodies destroyed and abused. We did not deserve this, we were not willing participants and we refuse to remain silent while those whom are responsible for these crimes against us go free while we still remain trapped inside the prisons they created for us.
3. No matter what….put your children before your leaders. Protect and stand up and defend your children….not the leaders whom committed these evils against us. Your children should come first. Stand up for the victims of these crimes, whom are your own children. You may know one. Again, we are your sons, your daughters, your nieces and nephews, your God children, whom you vowed and promised to protect and defend.
I started going back to church. I even started photographing St Annes, an incredibly beautiful place of worship. I had no choice though, I had to stop because I felt like such a hypocrite. Far too many of us whom were victims still see those responsible for these evils against us in their positions as if nothing in the world is wrong. We victims are still being attacked, by people like Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League. We are still being attacked by parishioners whom have called me a liar to my face and how dare I spread lies and rumors and false accusations and gossip against the leaders. Well, sadly, I am not spreading lies, rumors and false accusations, these statements I have made can all be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law if it were allowed.
Yet while these leaders whom perpetrated these crimes against us are still in power, I cannot in good conscious go into the church. I cannot be part of a church where the leadership covered up the crimes of child abuse, child rape and put the church before the children and are still in power, for that makes me a hypocrite in my eyes.
I would love to go on a regular basis to St Anne, to be among the other worshipers, some of whom I made acquaintance and even friends with, especially Fr Kyle, but I cannot, for while the wolves are still in control….someone must stand outside the door for the defense and protection of the children and the victims.
Sin is one thing…sin can be forgiven when there is true repentance from the sin. There has been no true repentance among the leadership whom covered up these crimes. There have been staged acts of contrition, but no true repentance. For if they are to truly repent they must also submit to prosecution for the crimes they committed. They must not hide behind their robes of religion. If they seek to make laws for man like they do, they also must submit to the laws of man and be arrested and prosecuted for their crimes. No one, not even religious leaders, should be allowed to get away with crimes against children. They should not be above the law!
When it comes time to the crimes of the rapes and abuses of children and teens and the cover up of these crimes by the leadership…only justice in a court of law, where the victims may have their day in court to see those responsible for the crimes against them be tried and if found guilty sentenced to prison…that is true justice. The Roman Catholic Church promised this to victims and to prosecuting attorneys…but have failed to deliver on this promise. Instead they still fight the victims and hide behind the statue of limitations to deny justice to the victims. Ask yourself is this true justice? If you were raped would you say this is true justice?
In closing whom do you think Jesus Christ will stand up for in the end?
Those whom perpetrated these crimes against children and teens…or the children and teen victims?
Here is a clue: “For it would be better for you to tie a huge boulder around your neck and throw yourself into the deepest of lakes than to harm a single hair on the head of a child.”
Well the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church did a lot more than harm a hair on the head of a child. Whom are you going to stand besides? The ones Jesus Christ would stand up for? Or the ones He would toss into the pit of hell for their evils against children?
Frank LaFerriere, Berlin
You Parishioners on here find my postings insulting and degrading, you find my words disgusting and nasty. Well I would ask YOU to read this posting. It will NOT be full of my swears but it speaks the truth. I just want you all to hear, from the words of a Priest Rape Survivor why we cannot forgive you just yet.
When I was diagnosed with PTSD over my priest rape and soul torture, I thought it was bull. I believed that the ONLY people whom could be classified as someone with PTSD were soldiers or those in war zones. Then my therapist started explaining to me what a person whom they diagnose with PTSD goes through, what their life is like…it was like they wrote most of that definition for me.
Yet people still think what I went through can simply go away if I just get over it, forgive the priest, forgive the church, forgive those whom harmed me.
That if I just forget…somehow this will make me all better.
What those whom think this way do not realize, for 33 years I hid what that priest did to me. I felt guilty, I hated myself for what he did to me. I called myself the Antichrist because of it.
When I thought I was the ONLY one who got raped by a priest…once I came out and started raising my voice about this evil…I found there were tens of thousands of us. Then I found out what the leadership did to protect the rapists and not us. Then I found they continue to rape us and harm us by their actions against us.
They continue to deny us justice. They just wish we would shut up and go away. They insult us, denigrate us, call us faggots, say we enjoyed and wanted what happened to us. They call us liars and gold diggers. They say we should look at others whom do the same thing.
How can anyone with what I or others went through EVER hope to get any healing from this, hope to ever find it in our hearts to forgive those whom harmed us…when they continue to do this to us?
Whom do you think Jesus Christ is going to one day, heal our pain and wipe away our tears, take away the never ending nightmares we suffer from because what those whom called themselves priests, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops and even Popes did to cover this evil up? I have some hope with Pope Francis…we survivors had none with Pope Benedict.
I onced loved the RCC with all of my heart and soul. When I was a young boy taking my Catechism and doing my First Communion…I was hooked to the beauty and the mysticism and most of all…the love of God and Jesus Christ. That I just had the incredible honor of having my first Communion, of taking the Holy Body and Blood of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into me and that meant the world to me at that moment.
That was taken away from me in one night due to the perversities of a priest. Whom that night decided his vows he made to God, Jesus Christ and all of us did not matter, that his lusts mattered, and in that night…he took the soul, the faith and the life of a scared, young boy whom had just ran away from a foster home and thought the next day he was going to go to prison til he was 18 for it.
So when YOU PARISHIONERS hear us survivors of these crimes against us, speak out in anger, speak out in pain, speak out in horror about the evils done to us…do not condemn us…help us…help us heal from all of this suffering, all of this pain. Stand up for us. Stand up for your children. I know if you are true to the church…you have some God children. Remember the vows YOU TOOK…to protect and defend the life of this baby…with your very own if you need to.
If this is true to your heart and soul, if you took vows like these and you felt them burn within you…then do this again. Take the vow again to stand up and defend the Children of the Roman Catholic Church.
Help us heal our pain, help us heal our suffering. Help us.
Former Promoter of Justice for Congregation of the Faith Addresses Canon Law Society about Abuse Situation: For Whom Is Canon Law Designed?
Former Promoter of Justice for Congregation of the Faith Addresses Canon Law Society about Abuse Situation: For Whom Is Canon Law Designed?
From the blog: Bilgrimage
1. Pastoral leaders must find “the courage to tell victims to move on,” to stop creating “a persona out of being victims.”
2. “A tragic consequence of abuse is the loss of faith — a loss of faith in a God who is compassionate, merciful and loving. I have met victims who have renounced the faith as a consequence of what they suffered, and my attitude is silence and prayer.”
3. “The victims evangelize us.”
As long as we have bishops (with canonists who think as Rev. [Reginald] Whitt [of St. Paul-Minneapolis] does to advise them) who assume that their primary pastoral responsibility as bishops, bolstered by canon law itself, is to “save” pedophile priests while ignoring the needs of the people of God, we’ll continue to have dangerous priests placed by bishops in positions in which they’ll have access to minors. And we’ll have cover-ups.
Catholic priest recalls fleeing after sex abuse confession
9/9/13 By Gillian Flaccus of Associated Press
The Rev. Carlos Rodriguez’s account of his flight after confessing to molesting a boy was among files released Monday under the terms of a lawsuit settlement.
LOS ANGELES — The orders the Rev. Carlos Rodriguez got from his religious superiors after he confessed to molesting a 16-year-old boy just hours before were swift and decisive: Leave immediately. Check into a motel. Don’t tell anyone where you are going. Await further instructions.
Rodriguez, then 31, picked up cash and waited by the phone. The next day, the regional leader of his religious order called and told him to book a plane ticket out of state. By the time the victim’s family went to police, he had checked in at a residential treatment center for troubled priests in Maryland.
“I felt like a fugitive. But what else could I do under the circumstances. I had no other choice but to follow orders,” he wrote years later in an essay that was included in his Vatican petition to be defrocked.
The essay was part of a 303-page confidential personnel file on the priest that was released Monday along with files for five other priests who were also accused of molesting children while working for their Roman Catholic religious orders — the Vincentians, the Norbertines and the Augustinians — while on assignment in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Rodriguez’s file stands out because it includes a candid and detailed autobiographical account of his actions in 1987 and the steps his religious superiors took to shield him from the family and civil authorities.
The file also makes clear that officials with Rodriguez’s religious order, the Vincentians, and the LA archdiocese worked together to intercede. Both knew of Rodriguez’s confession, but no one spoke with police until the boy’s family filed a police report a month later, according to the file.
“The thing that Carlos Rodriguez does is, he lays out the truth, the underbelly, and exposes that for all that it is,” said Ray Boucher, a lead plaintiff attorney in the clergy litigation who secured the release of the files.
The religious order files are the second set to be released and more are expected in the coming weeks as religious orders comply with the final terms of a 2007 settlement with hundreds of clergy abuse victims in Los Angeles.
The archdiocese itself released thousands of pages under court order this year for its own priests, but the full picture of the problem has remained elusive without records from the religious orders, which routinely assigned priests to work in Los Angeles parishes.
Without access to Rodriguez, the police case dried up and the priest was back at work within seven months, where he molested two brothers. Rodriguez, who was defrocked in 1998, was convicted of that abuse 17 years later, in 2004, and sentenced to prison. He was released in 2008.
Now 57, he lives as a registered sex offender in Huntington Park, a gritty, industrial city southeast of Los Angeles. He has been accused of abuse in at least five civil lawsuits.
“It still weighs heavy on me,” Rodriguez, who wore a cross around his neck, said on Monday when reached at his apartment. “It’s nothing proud to talk about. I still feel remorse and it still hurts.”
The Rev. Jerome Herff, the Vincentian regional provincial who told Rodriguez to leave LA after his 1987 confession and placed him back in ministry the following year, said he urged him to leave because the boy’s family was irate and he feared for the priest’s safety. The treatment center, he said, was recommended by a law enforcement authority, although he declined to say who.
“I did what I thought was best and had to be done and what happened, happened,” Herff said in a brief phone interview. “I’ve lived with this for years and I just don’t want to go back there anymore.”
Rodriguez’s troubles began when he took two teenage boys on a trip to the Grand Canyon in 1987, roughly a year after he was ordained. The three checked into a Holiday Inn in Flagstaff, Ariz., and in his essay, Rodriguez wrote he began molesting one teen who was asleep on the floor.
The boy awoke and the novice priest, terrified at being discovered, drove nearly 500 miles through the night to deliver both teens to their families and immediately went back to his parish, where he took a shower and confessed.
The Vincentians sent him to the residential treatment center. While there, Rodriguez fretted in letters home about the “seriousness of the law in Arizona” that could get him up to 15 years in prison and asked the Vincentians for character references that would convince the Arizona prosecutor not to press charges.
When the family contacted the Los Angeles police a month later, Rodriguez’s superior told the investigating detective that the “church was aware of the situation and the defendant was currently hospitalized,” according to court papers.
The victim’s former attorney, Drew Antablin, said his client, who could not be reached for comment, was part of a larger settlement with the church in 2007.
After his release, Rodriguez was assigned to work for the archdiocese’s office of family life in Santa Barbara in 1988 and then to St. Mary’s Seminary in Santa Barbara. He took a leave of absence in 1993 after complaints of abuse surfaced again — but his superiors soon discovered he was saying Mass in a neighboring county in violation of his status.
In 1996, Rodriguez asked the Vatican to be defrocked and was exiled from the priesthood two years later.
In 2004, he pleaded guilty to molesting two brothers whom he met in 1988, just after his return to ministry. “He used his position in the church and used the victims’ faith as a weapon against them,” said Deputy District Attorney Anthony Wold, who handled that case. “It was outrageous and unforgiveable.”
Associated Press Writer Greg Risling reported from Los Angeles and Huntington Park, Calif.
Cardinal Roger Mahony defends legacy on church abuse in blog
2/2/13 By Gillian Flaccus
On his blog on Friday, retired Cardinal Roger Mahony said he was ill-equipped to deal with sexually abusive clergy when he took over the archdiocese in 1985 and quickly sought to develop policies and consult with leaders in other dioceses.
LOS ANGELES — The public rebuke of retired Cardinal Roger Mahony for failing to take swift action against abusive priests adds tarnish to a career already overshadowed by the church sex abuse scandal but does little to change his role in the larger church.
Mahony can still act as a priest, keep his rank as cardinal and remain on a critical Vatican panel that elects the next pope.
While Archbishop Jose Gomez’s decision to strip Mahony of his administrative and public duties was unprecedented in the American Roman Catholic Church, it was another attempt by the church to accept responsibility for the abuse scandal that has engulfed it.
Victims were quick to point out that Mahony’s new, paired-down local standing was in stark contrast to his continued position among the prelates at the Vatican.
The decision “is little more than window dressing. Cardinal Mahony is still a very powerful prelate,” Joelle Casteix, the Western regional director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said at a Friday news conference outside the Los Angeles cathedral. “He’s a very powerful man in Rome and still a very powerful man in Los Angeles.”
The Vatican declined to comment Friday when asked if the Holy See would follow Gomez’s lead and take action against Mahony.
Tod Tamberg, the archdiocese spokesman, said Mahony was in Rome several weeks ago for meetings unrelated to Thursday’s announcement. He said he did not know if Pope Benedict XVI was aware of Gomez’s announcement.
The cardinal and Gomez both declined interview requests from The Associated Press.
In a letter to Gomez posted on Mahony’s blog Friday, the cardinal said he was ill-equipped to deal with sexually abusive clergy when he took over the archdiocese in 1985 and quickly sought to develop policies and consult with church leaders in other dioceses. He reminded Gomez that he was well aware when he took over in 2011 of the steps Mahony had taken to safeguard children.
“Not once over these past years did you ever raise any questions about our policies, practices, or procedures in dealing with the problem of clergy sexual misconduct involving minors. I have stated time and time again that I made mistakes, especially in the mid-1980s,” he wrote.
“Unfortunately, I cannot return now to the 1980s and reverse actions and decisions made then. But when I retired as the active Archbishop, I handed over to you an archdiocese that was second to none in protecting children and youth.”
Gomez’s public criticism is almost unheard-of in the highly structured church institution and would have been cleared by the Vatican in advance, said the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer who worked for the Vatican’s Washington, D.C., embassy.
“He’s an archbishop — he cannot order a cardinal around,” said Doyle, who co-authored a 1985 report warning of a coming clergy sex abuse scandal. “The Catholic church is a monarchy. If you’re one of the princes of the realm and you’re a duke, you don’t dump on a prince without the king’s permission or you’re no longer a duke. That’s what the deal is.”
Gomez went as far as he could within this authority, but only the Pope has the power to sanction a cardinal or laicize him, he said.
Gomez made the announcement Thursday as the church was forced by a court order to turn over thousands of pages of confidential priest personnel files after a bruising, five-year legal fight. The archbishop also accepted a resignation request from one of Mahony’s top aides, now-Bishop Thomas Curry.
The move came two weeks after other long-secret priest personnel records showed Mahony and Curry, in particular, worked behind the scenes to protect the church from the engulfing scandal.
Mahony is a member of three Vatican departments, including the Holy See’s all-important economic affairs office, and he remains a member of the College of Cardinals. At 76, he is still eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.
The Vatican’s former sex crimes prosecutor, Bishop Charles Scicluna, has said Canon Law provides for sanctioning bishops who show “malicious or fraudulent negligence” in their work, but has acknowledged that such laws have never been applied in the case of bishops who covered up sex abuse cases.
In the past, lower-ranking members of the church hierarchy who have spoken out about their superior’s handling of the clergy abuse crisis have been rebuked by the Holy See.
In 2010, for example, Viennese Cardinal Cristoph Schoenborn criticized the former Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, in an interview for his handling of a notorious sex abuse case. Schoenborn didn’t use Sodano’s name in his critique, but was nonetheless forced to come to Rome to explain himself to the pope and Sodano.
The Vatican publicly rebuked Schoenborn, saying that only the pope has authority to deal with accusations against a cardinal.
The Vatican’s silence after Thursday’s announcement indicates they were aware of it, said Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine monk and priest and vocal church critic who consults on clergy abuse cases.
“Gomez was as brilliant as a sniper the way he orchestrated this because he did not overstep his authority against the Pope and yet at the same time it appears that some type of penalty is being imposed,” said Wall. “He cannot force Mahony to resign. It’s brilliant and this has never happened in the U.S.”
Mahony will reduce his public appearances, including numerous guest lectures nationwide on immigration reform, and no longer perform confirmations, Tamberg said. However, he remains a priest in good standing and will continue to live in a North Hollywood parish and can celebrate the sacraments with no restrictions, he said.
Several of the documents in the newly released files echo recurring themes that emerged over the past decade in dioceses nationwide, where church leaders moved problem priests between parishes and didn’t call the police.
Studies commissioned by the U.S. bishops found more than 4,000 U.S. priests have faced sexual abuse allegations since the early 1950s, in cases involving more than 10,000 children — mostly boys.
In one instance, a draft of a plan with Mahony’s name on it calls for sending a molester priest to his native Spain for a minimum of seven years, paying him $400 a month and offering health insurance. In return, the cardinal would agree to write the Vatican and ask them to cancel his excommunication, leaving the door open for him to return as a priest someday.
It was unclear whether the proposed agreement was enacted.
“I am concerned that the Archdiocese may later be seen as liable — for having continued to support this man — now that we have been put on notice that one of the young adults under his influence is suicidal,” a top aide wrote in a memo about the priest to Mahony in 1995, urging him to stop paying benefits to the priest.
The cardinal added a handwritten note: “I concur — the faster, the better.”
In another case, Mahony resisted turning over a list of altar boys to police who were investigating claims against a visiting Mexican priest who was later determined to have molested 26 boys during a 10-month stint in Los Angeles. “We cannot give such a list for no cause whatsoever,” he wrote on a January 1988 memo.
Mahony, who retired in 2011 after more than a quarter-century at the helm of the archdiocese, has publicly apologized for mistakes he made in dealing with priests who molested children.
Associated Press writer Shaya Tayefe Mohajer contributed to this report.
Catholic priest sentenced to 50 years for child porn
9/12/13 By Associated Press
Prosecutors had asked that he get 10 years in prison for each of five victims after he pleaded guilty to five counts of producing and trying to produce child porn.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City-area priest whose child pornography case led to a criminal conviction against a Roman Catholic bishop was sentenced Thursday to 50 years in federal prison.
Prosecutors had asked that the Rev. Shawn Ratigan be sentenced to 10 years in prison for each of five young victims after he pleaded guilty in August 2012 to five counts of producing and trying to produce child porn.
Ratigan, 47, was charged in May 2011 after police received a flash drive from his computer containing hundreds of images of children, most of them clothed, with the focus on their crotch areas.
Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, was convicted last September of one misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse to the state.
Prosecutors said the diocese learned about the photos on Ratigan’s computer on Dec. 16, 2010, after a technician found them on the priest’s laptop and alerted church officials. A day after the images were found, Ratigan missed Sunday Mass and was found unconscious in his garage with his motorcycle running and a suicide note nearby.
Instead of reporting Ratigan or the photos to law enforcement, as required by state law, Finn waited until the priest was released from the hospital and sent him out of state for psychiatric counseling.
When Ratigan returned to Missouri, Finn ordered him to stay at the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist, a facility in Independence, where he could say Mass for the sisters.
The diocese turned the photos over to police in May 2011 after receiving reports that Ratigan had violated Finn’s order to avoid contact with children.
For Minnesota Catholics, troubling new abuse scandal
By Amy Forliti of Associated Press
Unlike other abuse revelations that have rocked theJennifer Haselberger, the allegations in Minnesota aren’t decades old or involve perpetrators long retired or dead.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — When Jennifer Haselberger uncovered what looked like recent, troubling sexual behavior by several Minnesota priests — a stash of possible child pornography on one priest’s computer hard drive, another with a well-documented history of sexual compulsion still leading a parish — she tried to ring alarm bells at the top ranks of the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese.
But Haselberger, who resigned last April as the archdiocese’s chancellor for canonical affairs, said she felt ignored. She has since gone public with concerns that Minnesota’s archbishop and top deputies failed to truly reform how they handle problem priests, despite repeated promises to do so.
“I do not believe it can be said that the archdiocese is honoring its promise to protect” children and young people, Haselberger said last week in a statement to the media.
Unlike many of the abuse revelations that have rocked the U.S. Catholic Church, the allegations Haselberger brought to light aren’t decades old or involve perpetrators long retired or dead. They all happened after 2002, when U.S. bishops held a high-profile meeting in Dallas and approved broad policy changes meant to quickly remove predatory priests from parishes and restore the church’s tattered credibility with millions of Catholics.
“They weren’t just going to sweep stuff under the rug. They weren’t going to move him around,” said Joe Ternus, who in 2004 found what he called “a ridiculous amount of pornography” on the hard drive of a computer he purchased at a church rummage sale and that had belonged to Jonathan Shelley, a parish priest.
Ternus, whose parents and sister attended Shelley’s church, turned the hard drive over to archdiocesan officials.
“I was given assurances that this wasn’t going to happen, but that’s exactly what happened,” Ternus said.
Haselberger’s allegations have the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese playing defense. Last week, Archbishop John Nienstedt accepted the hasty resignation of his top-ranking deputy, the Rev. Peter Laird, who wrote in his resignation letter that he hoped to “repair the trust of many, especially the victims of abuse.” Nienstedt also convened what he said would be an independent task force to examine the way church leaders officials have handled accusations of sexual misconduct by priests.
But church leaders weren’t initially so eager to deal with the cases. Minnesota Public Radio News obtained a letter from Nienstedt to Cardinal William Levada, the now-retired Vatican official who ran the office that oversees errant priests, spelling out who an archdiocese investigator found pornographic images on Shelley’s hard drive that were at least “borderline illegal, because of the youthful looking male images.”
“My staff has expressed concern the fact that CD-ROMs containing the images remain in the cleric’s personnel file could expose the archdiocese, as well as myself, to criminal prosecution,” Nienstedt wrote to Levada.
The archdiocese declined to make Nienstedt or Laird available for interviews. Spokesman Jim Accurso said media coverage of the recent allegations “leave a false impression about the commitment of the archdiocese to identify and address sexual misconduct by priests.” He said eliminating any form of abuse is the “highest priority” for the archdiocese.
Tom Wieser, an attorney for the archdiocese, has called Haselberger “a disgruntled former employee.” She worked at the archdiocese from 2008 to last April, when she resigned because of concerns about the way sexual abuse allegations were handled.
According to a police report, Haselberger found computer discs and a white three-ring binder in the vault last year that appeared to be evidence from a 2004 internal investigation into the images. A police report said Haselberger told Laird what she found, and was instructed to “put them back in the vault.”
Shelley’s lawyer said there was no child pornography on the disc. And an attorney for the archdiocese said a computer forensics expert also found no evidence to support Haselberger’s allegations. Police also found no evidence of child pornography, but acknowledged they didn’t have the computer itself.
Police received new information from Ternus on Friday, and on Tuesday afternoon they announced they were reopening the child pornography investigation. In his initial report, lead investigator Sgt. William Gillet openly wondered whether the archdiocese turned over all the pertinent evidence.
In the other case at issue, the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer was allowed to remain in ministry despite ample evidence that archdiocesan leaders knew of sexual misconduct. He is now in prison for sexually abusing two children and possessing child pornography.
Haselberger told The Associated Press in an email Tuesday that she raised concerns with her superiors in 2008, and again last year.
“Having worked on similar cases in other dioceses, I was completely unprepared for the responses I received in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis,” she wrote.
The new policies formulated by bishops in 2002 were specifically designed to quickly root out problem priests. One church leader instrumental in that process was Harry Flynn, Nienstedt’s predecessor in St. Paul-Minneapolis. Flynn is implicated in some of the decisions that Haselberger brought to light; he could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
“Since 2002, there was a real sea change, and I believe most bishops got it,” said Nicholas Cafardi, a former church canon lawyer who was involved in drawing up the new policies. Now a professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Cafardi said he would be personally shocked to learn that top officials in any diocese sheltered potential abusers since then.
Cafardi cautioned that he’s not familiar with the new allegations, and noted in particular that finding a priest in possession of legal pornography raises thorny questions for his supervisors in the church. But if it’s proven that church leaders failed to live up to the 2002 policies, he said, it would damage the church’s efforts to move beyond past scandals.
“Any diocese that’s not following that makes people question the credibility of the policy,” he said. “That then harms the entire church in the U.S., because people will think if this bishop does it, then is another bishop doing it?”