Category Archives: Milwaukee Archdiocese

Federal Judge: Catholic Church Has A Constitutional Right Not To Compensate Victims Of Sex Abuse


Federal Judge: Catholic Church Has A Constitutional Right Not To Compensate Victims Of Sex Abuse

 

By Ian Millhiser on July 31, 2013 at 2:05 pm

From the link: http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/07/31/2388461/federal-judge-catholic-church-has-a-constitutional-right-not-to-compensate-victims-of-sex-abuse/

Cardinal Timothy Dolan allegedly transferred church funds into a separate trust in order to protect them from clergy abuse lawsuits

Cardinal Timothy Dolan allegedly transferred church funds into a separate trust in order to protect them from clergy abuse lawsuits

 

A federal judge in Wisconsin handed down an opinion yesterday granting the Catholic Church — and indeed, potentially all religious institutions — such sweeping immunity from federal bankruptcy law that it is not clear that it would permit any plaintiff to successfully sue any church in any court. While the ostensible issue in this case is whether over $50 million in church funds are shielded from a bankruptcy proceeding triggered largely by a flood of clerical sex abuse claims against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Judge Rudolph Randa reads the church’s constitutional and legal right to religious liberty so broadly as to render religious institutions immune from much of the law.

The case involves approximately $57 million that former Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan transferred from the archdiocese’s general accounts to into a separate trust set up to maintain the church’s cemeteries. Although Dolan, who is now a cardinal, the Archbishop of New York and the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has denied that the purpose of this transfer was to shield the funds from lawsuits, Dolan penned a letter to the Vatican in 2007 where he explained that transferring the funds into the trust would lead to “an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.”

The issue facing the court is, essentially, whether the funds that Dolan split off into a separate trust can now be reabsorbed into the archdiocese’s assets in order to enable sex abuse victims and other creditors to be paid out of these assets. In holding that these funds cannot be so absorbed, Randa relies on a law that limits the federal government’s ability to “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion,” Randa cites to the current Archbishop of Milwaukee’s statement that “the care and maintenance of Catholic cemeteries, cemetery property, and the remains of those interred is a fundamental exercise of the Catholic faith,” and concludes that this statement alone is enough to shield the church’s funds. As Randa explains, “if the Trust’s funds are converted into the bankruptcy estate, there will be no funds or, at best, insufficient funds for the perpetual care of the Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries.”

And Randa does not stop there. He goes on to argue that senior church officials get to unilaterally decide what constitutes a “substantial burden” on their faith for purposes of federal law — “Archbishop Listecki’s declaration stands unopposed, and on the issue of religious doctrine, it is unassailable. Moreover, the issue of substantial burden is essentially coterminous with religious doctrine.” In this case, an archbishop declared cemetery funds to be untouchable in a bankruptcy proceeding, but Randa’s reasoning could extend much farther. Nothing in his opinion would prevent a church’s officials from declaring that every single line in every single ledger kept by the church is mandated by the sacred word of God — and therefore every single dollar owned by the church is untouchable so long as the church engages in the kind of accounting gymnastics Dolan allegedly performed.

The same federal law that protects religious liberty also permits substantial burdens on religion when such a burden is “in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.” Randa largely glosses over this exception, however, holding that the “interests advanced by the bankruptcy system are not compelling.” That very well be true, but there is another, overriding interest in this case — whether an employer whose employees stand accused of widespread sexual abuse can evade accountability by engaging in accounting tricks. At least 45 Milwaukee priests face sex abuse accusations. One priest in particular was accused of personally molesting close to 200 deaf boys. Yet Randa does not even consider whether America has a compelling interest in deterring the church from allowing future such incidents to occur.

If Randa had stopped there, his opinion would still award the church — and, indeed, potentially all religious institutions — a breathtaking degree of legal immunity. Taken to its logical conclusion, Randa’s framework would allow a church to run up whatever debts it chooses, then effectively protect the entirety of its assets from its creditors through a combination of creative accounting and a bankruptcy filing. Yet Randa does not even stop there. After reaching this sweeping interpretation of federal religious liberty law, he then turns to the First Amendment of the Constitution. With little analysis, and in an almost certain conflict with a binding Supreme Court precedent, Randa concludes that the church has a constitutional right to shield its funds. By raising his opinion to constitutional status, Randa effectively strips Congress of its ability to correct his sweeping interpretation of the law.

Judge Randa, a George H.W. Bush appointee, has a history of being reversed by higher courts in cases involving hot button social issues, so there is a good chance that his opinion will ultimately be reversed on appeal. In the meantime, however, Randa effectively places the church above the law — and leaves what could be hundreds of sexual abuse victims in the cold.

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Victims: Pope Benedict Protects Accused Pedophile Bishops


Victims: Pope Benedict Protects Accused Pedophile Bishops

By  BRIAN ROSS , RHONDA SCHWARTZ and ANNA SCHECTER April 15, 2008

From the link: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=4656143

Pope John Paul II is seen giving his blessing to Father Marcial Maciel in 2004. Maciel has been accused of sexually abusing children, including his own, in a lawsuit. He died in 2008.

Pope John Paul II is seen giving his blessing to Father Marcial Maciel in 2004. Maciel has been accused of sexually abusing children, including his own, in a lawsuit. He died in 2008.

Even as he told reporters on his flight to America that he was “deeply ashamed” over the church sex abuse scandal, Pope Benedict was accused by victims of protecting some 19 bishops accused of sexually abusing children.

“As a Catholic, I have to sadly conclude that he is not serious about ridding the church of corrupt bishops,” said Anne Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a group tracking public records involving the bishops.

According to the group, of the 19 bishops “credibly accused of abusing children,” none has lost his title, been publicly censured by the Vatican or referred for criminal prosecutions.

“The sexual corruption in the Catholic church starts at the very top,” said Doyle.

Pope Benedict told reporters on his flight this morning from Rome to Washington, D.C., he would do everything possible to avoid a repeat of the scandal. “We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry,” he said, according to Reuters.

While the church has moved to expel accused priests, critics say the higher-ranking bishops have been given favored treatment. “The attitude of the bishops towards the victims and the families of sexual abuse and predatory clergy is drop dead,” said Michael Wegs, of Marion, Iowa, one of nine former high schools students who said they were abused at a seminary in Missouri by former Palm Beach, Fla. Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell.

When the allegations were made public, Bishop O’Connell admitted at least two cases of abuse and was allowed to resign. He now lives on the beautiful, sprawling grounds of  the Trappists Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina.

“He deserves to be in jail,” said Wegs, his accuser. “I don’t think there is any justice because he is allowed to travel, go where he please. He’s still a bishop, and he’s living among priests in the hierarchical structure; he is a top dog despite the fact that he’s a sexual predator.” Wegs says O’Connell has failed to even apologize to his victims.

Bishop O’Connell did not return phone calls from ABCNews.com seeking comment, but church officials say he and other bishops have been punished appropriately. “You cannot put on clerical attire, and you cannot service in a public way in ministry,” said Austin, Texas Bishop Gregory Aymond, chair of the U.S. Bishop’s Committee on Protection of Children and Young People.

“That is a very, very significant consequence, and I would say a significant penalty,” said Bishop Aymond, who conceded the accused bishops maintain their title. “Priests and bishops remain priests and bishops forever, regardless of what happens to them or what they do,” said Bishop Aymond.

But victims groups and church critics say the pope can and should do much more to punish the bishops and finally resolve the scandal.

Before he became pope, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was in charge of monitoring cases of pedophile priests and was directly involved in deciding what punishment, if any, would be administered to priests and bishops.

“Priests who abuse children can be removed from the priesthood, but they do not remove bishops, they do not remove cardinals,” said author Jason Berry who has been tracking the sex abuse scandal and produced a documentary film on the subject, “Vows of Silence,” which premiered in New Orleans last night. “The problem is the power structure. There is no accountability,” said Berry.

Berry says the pope’s decision to have the Los Angeles archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, accompany him on his trip proves the point. “Why would you want someone in your entourage” like Roger Mahoney, asked Berry.

“This man has overseen a great many cases in which priests were moved from parish to parish. His diocese has paid over $660 million in settlements. And yet this cardinal has refused to release the files on these priests who have abused children,” Berry said.

Cardinal Mahoney did not return calls from ABC News seeking comment.

 

 

Gerald T. Slevin, Update–Criminal Charges of Vatican Child Abuse Cover-Up


From the link: http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2012/04/gerald-t-slevin-update-criminal-charges.html

Gerald T. Slevin, Update–Criminal Charges of Vatican Child Abuse Cover-Up

Monday, April 16, 2012

Jerry Slevin continues to be vigilant about what’s happening with Catholic church officials and the child abuse cover-up, from a legal standpoint.  He has just sent another outstanding statement, this one about SNAP’s filing last week of new charges updating their previous filing of criminal charges against the Vatican with the International Criminal Court, for the Vatican’s internationally orchestrated cover-up of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
Here’s Jerry’s statement:
SNAP, the international victims advocacy network, filed on April 11, 2012 with the International Criminal Court (ICC) a 19 page letter (“New Charges”), plus supporting documentation, updating  SNAP’s  prior September  2011  original  charges ( “Original Charges”).
The New Charges, include additional evidence supporting SNAP’s allegations against Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) and three top Vatican subordinates, Cardinals Bertone, Levada and Sodano. SNAP alleges this Vatican clique for years has been, and still is, orchestrating a worldwide criminal cover-up by Catholic bishops of  priest child sexual abuse, including acts involving  systemic rape, sexual violence and torture, of hundreds of thousands of defenseless children. These collectively would constitute “crimes against  humanity” under the ICC treaty.
After SNAP filed the Original Charges, almost 500 additional victims from over 60 countries contacted SNAP with new allegations that SNAP has added to the Original Charges. The New Charges (accessible by clicking here) also contain brief and clear updates, with citation links, concerning other recent relevant developments since the Original Charges, including:
(1) September 2011: The issuance of the scathing and devasting report, “In Plain Sight”, by Amnesty International Ireland, concerning the recent  history of priest sexual abuse of children  in Ireland and of the Irish government’s “hands off” approach until recently  to the Catholic Church hierarchy’s and priests’ appalling misdeeds;
(2) October 2011: The indictment of Cardinal Justin Rigali’s protégé, Opus Dei Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, for failing to report a child pornographer priest, and the April 5, 2012 court decision denying Finn’s motion to dismiss the criminal charges;
(3) November and December 2011: The issuance in Ireland of the sordid remainder of the Cloyne Diocese Report and the results of governmental audits in six additional Irish dioceses, all confirming in varying degrees a familiar pattern of abuse and bishops’ cover-up;
(4) December 2011: The issuance in the Netherlands of the massive Deetman report indicating tens of thousands of Dutch children had been sexually abused by priests over several  decades, supplemented by reports of several children being castrated following their reporting that they were sexually abused by clerics;
(5) January 2012: The publication of several articles highlighting the escalating  reporting of priest abuse of children in Poland and the special difficulty of getting governmental officials to confront the entrenched Polish Catholic hierarchy on priest abuse issues;
(6) March 2012: The publication by a former Legion of Christ priest of evidence of special canon law favoritism by the Pope and Cardinal Bertone towards admitted sexual deviant, Fr. Maciel, of Mexico;
(7) March-April 2012: The unprecedented ongoing  Philly criminal trial of a former top aide to Cardinals Bevilacqua and Rigali and the almost daily revelations of a decades-old cover-up, including document shredding by bishops and another  bishop’s admission under oath that  the important priest personnel decisions were always made by the Cardinals. The trial is establishing that a similar cover-up pattern was followed over a half-century by three different Cardinals with episcopal experience from five dioceses in four states, as well as in Rome. Each of the three Cardinals had close ties to the Vatican. The common cover-up pattern is indicative of at least policy coordination with Rome and, in some instances even, of direct coordination, as SNAP has alleged to the ICC generally with respect to the Vatican clique. This is discussed in more detail in my April 13, 2012 article about the Philly trial, accessible here.
(8) February-April: In New York, District Attorneys in the State Capitol, Albany, area have banded together to tighten up significantly the handling of claims of child sexual abuse by priests. In Milwaukee, a Federal bankruptcy judge has to date ruled against releasing massive records relating to priest child abuse in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Generally, the US bishops’ latest annual report confirms a rise in overall priest child sexual abuse claims, including some  additional new claims, as well as the continued failure of some bishops to follow even the weak US bishops’ child protection guidelines.
In addition to the foregoing, the New Charges also spell out clearly the long standing directives to the bishops from the Vatican to resist adopting mandates that Catholic bishops must promptly report priest child abuse claims to the police.
Finally, the New Charges crisply summarize the effort of senior US bishops and their highly paid apologists and attorneys to retaliate against SNAP, apparently for filing criminal charges against the Vatican clique with the ICC. The recent appointment of a woman and a mother as the new ICC lead prosecutor may be giving the Vatican clique some sleepless nights about SNAP’s ICC case. The New Charges will likely only increase the retaliatory efforts against SNAP.
The protections from prosecution  surrounding the pope have been extensive to date, but they may eventually prove to have been in vain. The pope runs a tight ship, perhaps a throwback to his teenage German military service in the dangerous days at the end of World War II. For more infomation on this, please read the comments under, “An Opportunistic Pope,” “The Pope at the Masters” and “Kids, Women and Bishops Beware,” accessible by clicking here.
The International Criminal Court, or the ICC, is structurally independent of the United Nations and the World Court, and was established as a permanent tribunal at the Hague, Netherlands, a decade ago by an international treaty now ratified by over 120 nations that are annually assessed to support the ICC’s staff of over 500 professionals, as described here.
The ICC’s  special focus is on handling crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes that, for various reasons, cannot readily be tried elsewhere, as in this case involving the Vatican. Given the geographical and chronological scope of the Vatican clique’s alleged crimes against humanity, there appears to be clear ICC juridiction over the Vatican clique if the ICC prosecutor decides to pursue the criminal case fully. Decisions to pursue criminal prosecutions frequently take a long period to evaluate, given the voluminous facts and documents, etc., sometimes taking over a year just for the decision to prosecute.
A new lead ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, presently Deputy Prosecutor, takes office  in a few weeks. She has been an advocate on behalf of African victims of violence, including those in Rwanda, and is a mother with two sons, one of whom reportedly  lives currently in the United States.  For more on Mrs. Bensouda, please see this recent Irish Times article.
Ironically, as the pope is increasingly engaged in a war against women’s rights  as part of his US efforts to replace Barack Obama, the pope’s fate may now be decided initially by a woman ICC prosecutor in a case led by a woman, Pam Spees, a no-nonsense and very competent international human rights attorney, with her excellent professional colleagues and experienced staff at SNAP’s legal advocates, the Center For Constitutional Rights, an exceptionally successful and highly regarded human rights advocacy group based in New York City and described more fully here.
For 300 years, the early Church generally prospered and grew under and obeyed  Roman law applicable to all Romans, including bishops. For most of the next 1,700 years after Constantine’s virtual takover of the Church hierarchy, the imperial Church hierarchy have mostly made their own rules as an unaccountable hierarchical monarchy and frequent player in European power politics. The power politics ended substantively in 1870  when the Papal States were lost to Italian populists, but the pope still clings to the fantasy that the Vatican is a sovereign nation and player yet in power politics. Of course, the hierarchy has personally benefited, and continues to benefit, greatly from the monarchical structure, which is mainly why it  fights so fiercely to maintain its power and wealth.
Almost 150 years later, the pope is still resisting becoming accountable to the international rule of law that applies to almost all other world leaders and nations. The ICC  and European financial regulators will likely soon change that permanently.

Cross-posted on Open Tabernacle, 16 April 2012.