Archdiocese Sued Over Alleged Abuse by Church of the Immacolata Priest Leroy Valentine
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
By Sarah Fenske
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis was sued Friday over sex abuse allegedly suffered by a young boy who attended school at the Church of the Immacolata in Richmond Heights.
The suit, filed by a pair of anonymous parents on behalf of their son, alleges that Fr. Leroy Valentine began abusing the boy when he was eleven — eventually sodomizing him in the rectory. The abuse allegedly continued for four years, from 1977 to 1981.
Valentine was a priest within the Archdiocese from 1977 to 2002, when he was removed from active duty, according to the lawsuit. But, the suit alleges, “although his church privileges were permanently removed in 2002, he was never laicized” — that is, officially defrocked.
In 2013, Archbishop Robert Carlson found allegations of sexual abuse against Valentine, then 71, to be substantiated.
The suit was filed by attorney Kenneth Chackes of Chackes, Carlson and Gorovsky, who frequently handles such chases against the Archdiocese. In a statement released by Chackes, the unnamed plaintiff said, ““I approached the Archdiocese multiple times for help and tried to get assistance without getting lawyers involved. Filing a lawsuit was my last resort and due to their inaction.”
In 1995, three adult brothers sued the archdiocese accusing Valentine of molesting them in 1982. The brothers had been members at St. Pius X Catholic Church in the Glasgow Village area and attended the school there. Valentine denied the charges, and then-Archbishop Justin Rigali backed him up in court.
He put Valentine on administrative leave, and for a time Valentine entered a Catholic facility for troubled priests in eastern Franklin County. Subsequently his address was listed as a St. Louis apartment building. In 1998, the archdiocese paid each of the brothers $20,000 settlements, and the following year Rigali assigned Valentine to a new parish.
Those incidents — and the transfer — would have come after the conduct alleged in this lawsuit. However, the lawsuit does not allege that anyone filed an official complaint about Valentine’s abuse of the Immocalata student at the time it was happening.
In 2002, when priest abuse scandals became big national news, Valentine’s conduct at St. Pius X was featured in a front-page story in the New York Times. Numerous Pius X parishioners told the paper they had been uncomfortable with the priest’s activities, and that he was subsequently moved to another parish. In the next 12 years, the paper reported, he was assigned to three different parishes — two of them with schools.
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Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of the church where Valentine served during the allegations in the lawsuit. We regret the error.
Long road toward priest’s removal traces church’s abuse journey
From the link: http://m.stltoday.com/lifestyles/faith-and-values/tim-townsend/long-road-toward-priest-s-removal-traces-church-s-abuse/article_26e0dab9-c94d-5a18-82eb-0ec4dce8cc12.html?mobile_touch=true
The St. Louis Archdiocese had what Archbishop Robert Carlson called sad news about clergy sexual abuse.
On May 1, the archdiocese posted a statement from Carlson on its website saying he had permanently removed the Rev. Leroy Valentine, 71, from ministry. An internal, lay investigatory board had determined that “incidents” taking place “in the 1970s” which had been “only recently brought to our attention” were credible, Carlson said.
The archdiocese also published an article in its weekly newspaper, the St. Louis Review, about Valentine’s removal saying the “allegation of abuse occurred in the 1970s.”
A closer look at Valentine’s story reflects a 30-year journey that neatly embodies the Roman Catholic church’s struggle to deal with its sexual abuse troubles over that time.
It’s a sad story — Carlson is right — about a priest who has been repeatedly accused of abuse, and yet neither the law nor the church can prove it. So the archdiocese, despite proclaiming again and again through the years that no allegation against Valentine has been found credible, says he’s “been monitored and supervised continuously since 1999.” He is not guilty. He is not innocent.
In 1995, three adult brothers sued the archdiocese accusing Valentine of molesting them in 1982. The brothers had been members at St. Piux X Catholic Church in the Glasgow Village area and attended the school there.
Valentine denied the charges, and then-Archbishop Justin Rigali backed him up in court. He put Valentine on administrative leave, and for a time Valentine entered a Catholic facility for troubled priests in eastern Franklin County. Subsequently his address was listed as a St. Louis apartment building.
In 1998, the archdiocese paid each of the brothers $20,000 settlements, and the following year Rigali assigned Valentine to a new parish.
In its story this week, the Review said that Valentine had “repeatedly stated” that the brothers’ allegations was untrue, and “was not found to be credible by civil authorities, and he was returned to active ministry.”
Rigali assigned Valentine to be associate pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Florissant in October 1999. In a letter to parishioners, the church’s pastor said “the conclusion of the therapists who evaluated Father Valentine is clear that he poses no threat to children. Additionally, the allegation has been resolved with no finding of guilt or liability on the part of Father Valentine.”
But a little more than two years later, the clergy abuse crisis had rocked the Catholic church back on its heels, and Valentine became the subject of a front-page New York Times story and multiple stories in the Post-Dispatch.
As the crisis expanded during the first months of 2002, the St. Louis archdiocese tightened its abuse policy saying no priest with a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse would be allowed to work in a pastoral setting or a position that provided access to children.
After two priests accused of abuse resigned under the new policy, the archdiocese was under pressure to answer questions about any of its priests who had been accused of abuse in the past. Then-auxiliary Bishop Timothy Dolan (now a cardinal and archbishop of New York) said allegations against Valentine and two other priests who had been sued in civil court were unsubstantiated. The archdiocese had no plans to remove them or to review previous complaints, he said.
“There is nobody we are worried about in the ministry,” Dolan said.
He told the New York Times that, “we have to be able to say, we have to be able to believe, that there is no priest in a parish against whom there is a credible claim of clerical sexual abuse.”
Three days later, the archdiocese issued a statement specifically about Valentine, saying it “continues to support Father Valentine in his ministry to the people of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish.”
But then, a few weeks later, a former altar boy came forward. He was 32, and told the Post-Dispatch that he was 8 at the time Valentine had molested him, in 1978 at Immacolata Church in Richmond Heights. Valentine allegedly put the boy on his lap while hearing his confession, then put his hands in the boy’s pants.
“I was molested during the first sacrament I ever received,” the man said.
The archdiocese said then that it was investigating new accusations against Valentine “from many years ago.” The alleged misconduct dated to the 1980s, the archdiocese says now.
Valentine resigned from St. Thomas during that investigation but maintained his innocence, saying his departure was “in the best interest of our parish family, of the archdiocese and for my own personal well-being.”
But eventually, the allegations leading to Valentine’s resignation were also found to be unsubstantiated by the archdiocese’s advisory board.
And yet despite being cleared by the archdiocese, Valentine never returned to public ministry.
From his resignation in 2002 until 2005, Valentine lived in a private residence, according to the statement. Since then, he’s been living “in a retirement home.” Public records indicate that is Regina Cleri, the archdiocese’s retirement home for priests on its campus headquarters in Shrewsbury. A request to speak with Valentine went unreturned.
The archdiocese did not distribute a release about Valentine to the secular press. It declined to directly answer questions provided by the Post-Dispatch for this column. It also declined to make anyone available for an interview. Instead, it issued a statement from Phil Hengen, director of its Child and Youth Protection office, who said the recent, credible allegation took place in 1978.
The allegation involved “inappropriate touching of a minor” and the archdiocese learned of it last summer, Hengen said in the statement.
Archdiocese spokeswoman Angela Shelton said the recent allegation involves a single person who says Valentine abused him “on more than one occasion.”
Archdiocese officials investigated, and the process concluded with Carlson’s announcement May 1.
“Father Valentine,” according to Hengen, “will continue to live in a monitored, secure environment.”
St. Louis Archdiocese Dismisses Victim’s Abuse Claims as Lies, “Personal Issues” (VIDEO)
Immediately after the Archdiocese of St. Louis settled a civil lawsuit Monday from a woman who accuses a priest of molesting her as a child, church officials went after the alleged victim, discrediting her claims and dismissing her as mentally ill.
The archdiocese admits that the accused ex-priest, Joseph Ross, sexually assaulted at least one boy before being defrocked in 2002. But in Monday’s statement, executive director of communications Katie Pesha says the woman, known in the lawsuit only as Jane Doe 92, lied about her abuse and has “very personal issues” regarding her mental health.
“Jane Doe 92 has been diagnosed, by her own treating doctors, with a medical condition that causes her to falsify claims, exaggerate symptoms and make inconsistent statements,” Pesha says. “Her own doctors and expert witnesses voiced doubts about her allegations and noted that they contained multiple inconsistencies.
“We simply do not believe her allegations are true.”
Jane Doe’s attorney, Ken Chackes, the Circuit Attorney’s Office and several therapists have supported her allegations.
“We believe a jury would have ultimately found that Fr. Ross raped Jane Doe 92,” Chackes said Monday. “We must, however, take action to preserve her health and well-being. We agree with the archdiocese that there is no healing for Jane Doe 92 that would come from a three-week trial of these difficult and personal facts.”
Jane Doe is accusing Ross of sexual assault, sometimes while he babysat her as her mother attended choir practice. The lawsuit says Ross told the girl he was disciplining her on behalf of God and that she was helping him overcome his sexuality because he “liked boys more than girls.”
The lawsuit also accuses the archdiocese of knowingly placing Ross, an admitted sex offender, back into ministry at St. Cronan Church where he could abuse more victims. Ross moved to St. Cronan in 1989 after a year of inpatient therapy.
The criminal case against Ross and the archdiocese fell through in 2010. Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said that while her office had “full confidence in the victim’s allegations,” she didn’t have enough evidence to go to trial.
But things changed in January, when a judge in the civil lawsuit ruled that Jane Doe could have access to the archdiocese’s list of all the sex allegations filed against priests. The so-called “matrix” lists 115 employees accused of molesting children from 1983 to 2003.
Attorney Ken Chackes told Daily RFT then he hoped to use the matrix to establish a pattern of reckless disregard for the safety of parish children. But now that the civil case is settled out of court, the future of legal challenges against the church remains unclear.
SNAP, the leading group advocating for victims of clergy sexual abuse, denounced the archdiocese’s post-lawsuit statement, accusing it of using the resources and experience in “cover-up cases” to find experts who would “disparage this brave victim.”
“Katie Pesha should be ashamed of herself for savaging this brave young woman today,” the group says in a statement. “Years from now, we suspect that she will be. And we hope she will then try her best to make amends.”
SNAP is demanding an explanation or apology from the church for placing a known abuser in a local church. The archdiocese said Monday it relied on Ross’ doctors, who said in 1989 the priest was no longer a pedophile. Thirteen years later, the archdiocese revoked his religious standing “in the wake of clear changes in society’s and the medical community’s views on the ability to treat child abusers.”
Jane Doe’s case won’t go to trial, and both sides have agreed to keep details of the final settlement quiet. But that didn’t stop the archdiocese from one final attempt to poke as many holes in her story as it could.
Some dirty little secrets followed Archbishop Raymond Burke from Wisconsin to St. Louis
By Malcolm Gay Wednesday, Aug 25 2004
When Pope John Paul II tapped him to be Archbishop of St. Louis last December, Raymond Burke took yet another stride along the ecumenical fast track. Ordained as a priest in Rome by Pope Paul VI in 1975, Burke had studied canon law in Italy. In 1989 he was appointed to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the church’s highest court, and six years later the pope named him bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Now, at age 55, he was taking his place on the national stage.
The local press described him as the ultimate Vatican insider, a conservative who was said to follow papal decrees minutely. His hard-line stances often spilled over into the eccentric: He’d pulled his diocese out of Church World Services’ annual Crop Walk because the agency advocates birth control. He’d criticized J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series of children’s books. He’d spearheaded a controversial $25 million shrine in La Crosse honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe. Most remarkably, he’d ordered priests in his diocese to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who supported euthanasia or abortion rights.
One controversy, however, appeared to have missed Burke entirely: the clergy sex-abuse scandal, which for two years running had rocked the moral underpinnings of the Catholic Church.
While other dioceses reeled amid thousands of allegations of abuse by priests, the Diocese of La Crosse had recently reported that from 1950 to 2002 a mere 10 out of a total of 705 clerics had been found guilty of sexual misconduct — a rate of 1.4 percent. By contrast, the United States Council of Catholic Bishops reported a national average of roughly 4 percent during the same time period. All told, only 31 allegations of clergy sexual abuse had been substantiated in La Crosse. Only three of those cases had made headlines in Wisconsin. One involved a non-diocesan priest, Timothy Svea, who was part of a religious order (see accompanying sidebar); the other two priests are dead.
Burke, it seemed, had tended his garden nicely in La Crosse and was well poised to minister to the fallout of the scandal in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Whereas his predecessor, Justin Rigali, had drawn fire for ignoring victims of abuse, the incoming archbishop was tidily insulated from the problem. So much so, in fact, that when St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Ron Harris asked him to name the most pressing issue facing the Catholic Church here, Burke replied, “How to organize our parishes and our Catholic schools.”
But some members of Raymond Burke’s former flock paint a far different portrait of the erstwhile bishop of La Crosse. If cases of clergy sex abuse were few and far between, they say, it was because Burke was a master at keeping a lid on them. Several victims who claim they were abused by priests in La Crosse tell Riverfront Times they were stonewalled by Burke, who declined to report their allegations to local authorities. And while some of his fellow church officials nationwide were reaching hefty settlements with victims, Raymond Burke was unyielding in his refusal to negotiate with victims’ rights groups. He declined to make public the names of priests who were known to have been abusive, and he denied requests to set up a victims’ fund. Most strikingly, Riverfront Times has learned, while bishop in La Crosse Burke allowed at least three priests to remain clerics in good standing long after allegations of their sexual misconduct had been proven — to the church, to the courts and, finally, to Burke himself.
His critics say Burke’s ability to conceal the diocese’s dirty laundry was abetted by Wisconsin’s unique civil code, which makes it virtually impossible for someone to sue the church for the actions of an individual priest.
“He stands with his fellow bishops in Wisconsin as having had the ability to just rebuke and ignore our victims,” says Jeff Anderson, an attorney in St. Paul, Minnesota, who specializes in clergy abuse cases. “He has a long history of making pastoral statements that they care, that they want to heal, that they want to help. They are very long on words, but very short on actions.”
“We don’t exist, for him,” seconds Peter Isely, a Wisconsin leader of the national Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). “Loyalty to the church is of the highest order for him, and his response to victims’ claims has been lethargic and slow and reluctant and bureaucratic and impersonal.”
Then again, if success is measured in money saved and avoidance of scandal, Raymond Burke possesses a sterling record. At a time when dioceses are reaching million-dollar settlements with individual victims and filing for bankruptcy, Burke reported in January 2004 that between 1950 and 2002 the Diocese of La Crosse paid out a grand total of $15,807.38 to victims seeking counseling for clergy sexual abuse.
Archbishop Robert Carlson “Legally, no one can even touch me, whether I did these awful things or not, because the law doesn’t apply to bishops like me.”
Archbishop Robert Carlson: “Legally, no one can even touch me, whether I did these awful things or not, because the law doesn’t apply to bishops like me.”
Archbishop Robert Carlson Seeks to Dismiss Sex Abuse Lawsuit, Argues Archdiocese Isn’t Liable
Last month, a Lincoln county family filed a lawsuit against St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson alleging that he tried to cover up a sex abuse case involving a local priest and even attempted to tamper with incriminating evidence. The priest in question is Father Xiu Hui “Joseph” Jiang who reportedly has very close ties to Carlson — and who is accused of repeatedly molesting a teenage girl.
Now, Carlson has filed a formal response to the suit, asking the courts to dismiss it, arguing that neither he nor the Archdiocese of St. Louis is liable.
Victims’ rights advocates say this move is not surprising but still troubling. “It’s like no matter what the facts are or what the allegations are, his response is stunningly uniform: ‘You can’t hold me responsible,'” David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, tells Daily RFT.
SNAP, along with the attorneys representing the accuser, say the case against Jiang and the Archdiocese is unique for several reasons. Notably, the accusations refer to very recent incidents; Jiang, according to the suit, molested the girl several times last year and admitted his actions to the victims’ parents in June of 2012. The suit also says notes clear evidence of the abuse — including text messages from Jiang who allegedly tried to pay off the family.
Additionally, this may be the first time that Carlson has ever been subpoenaed in a criminal case.
In the case of Jiang, there is both an ongoing criminal case and civil suit. The abuse is said to have occurred inside the home of the victim, whose family was reportedly very close to the priest.
Carlson’s response doesn’t necessarily address the accusations head-on but argues that legally, he and the Archdiocese of St. Louis cannot be liable on any of the counts. An excerpt:
Under Missouri law, a corporate entity on its own cannot commit battery…. Even if the Court were to construe Count I of Plaintiff’s Petition as pleading a claim for vicarious liability, Plaintiffs would still not state a cause of action because sexual assault and battery are not within the course and scope of the employment of priests.
While the lawsuit alleges that the Archdiocese “aided and abetted” Jiang’s alleged actions, “Missouri courts have declined to extend liability under the theories attempted by Plaintiffs,” says the motion to dismiss.
Citing past cases, the filing also says, “Because the Missouri Supreme Court has determined that a claim of negligence against a religious entity (or its religious leaders) in this situation violates the First Amendment, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against the Archdiocese or Archbishop Carlson for negligence.”
Clohessy says it’s hypocritical of the Archdiocese not to offer a substantive response to the accusations — and for Carlson to claim he is not responsible.
“He repeatedly promised to be open and transparent…and yet it’s been now more than a month since these fairly shocking charges were made and he’s chosen not to give an answer,” he says. “A real, straightforward answer.”
“You could summarize this motion in one sentence. ‘Whether or not I did any of these things doesn’t matter. Missouri law says I can’t be held responsible. The case against me should be tossed,'” he continues.
There is, as Clohessy points out, one fairly significant footnote in which Carlson addresses the accusation that he attempted to tamper with evidence. According to the family, Jiang left $20,000 for the family after admitting to the abuse and then went on to directly confess his actions to Carlson. Carlson, the suit says, then told the family that Jiang would only be removed if he had sex with the girl — and suggested the parents give the check to him.
A footnote in the motion to dismiss says:
Archbishop Carlson vehemently denies the baseless allegations set forth by Plaintiffs in Count VI (Attempted Tampering with Evidence): For purposes of the instant motion to dismiss, however, the falsity of Plaintiffs’ allegations is immaterial since Plaintiffs cannot state a claim under Missouri law in the first instance.
“Despite the fact that these are very recent and very specific allegations of abuse by Jiang and coverup by Carlson, he still offers the boilerplate, legalistic, hair-splitting defenses that you would expect of any corporate CEO,” Clohessy says, “and not of an allegedly spiritual shepherd.”
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of St. Louis says in an e-mail to Daily RFT, “This matter is in the hands of the Missouri courts and accordingly we have no further comment beyond what’s been filed.”
We left a message yesterday for Jiang’s attorney and will update if we hear back.
Lawsuit says St. Louis archbishop knew priest was threat to kids
The Church’s Errant Shepherds
By FRANK BRUNI Published: July 6, 2013
BOSTON, Philadelphia, Los Angeles. The archdioceses change but the overarching story line doesn’t, and last week Milwaukee had a turn in the spotlight, with the release of roughly 6,000 pages of records detailing decades of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests there, a sweeping, searing encyclopedia of crime and insufficient punishment.
But the words I keep marveling at aren’t from that wretched trove. They’re from an open letter that Jerome Listecki, the archbishop of Milwaukee, wrote to Catholics just before the documents came out.
“Prepare to be shocked,” he said.
What a quaint warning, and what a clueless one.
Quaint because at this grim point in 2013, a quarter-century since child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church first captured serious public attention, few if any Catholics are still surprised by a priest’s predations.
Clueless because Listecki was referring to the rapes and molestations themselves, not to what has ultimately eroded many Catholics’ faith and what continues to be even more galling than the evil that a man — any man, including one in a cassock or collar — can do. I mean the evil that an entire institution can do, though it supposedly dedicates itself to good.
I mean the way that a religious organization can behave almost precisely as a corporation does, with fudged words, twisted logic and a transcendent instinct for self-protection that frequently trump the principled handling of a specific grievance or a particular victim.
The Milwaukee documents underscore this, especially in the person of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, previously the archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009 and thus one of the characters in the story that the documents tell. Last week’s headlines rightly focused on his part, because he typifies the slippery ways of too many Catholic leaders.
The documents show that in 2007, as the Milwaukee archdiocese grappled with sex-abuse lawsuits and seemingly pondered bankruptcy, Dolan sought and got permission from the Vatican to transfer $57 million into a trust for Catholic cemetery maintenance, where it might be better protected, as he wrote, “from any legal claim and liability.”
Several church officials have said that the money had been previously flagged for cemetery care, and that Dolan was merely formalizing that.
But even if that’s so, his letter contradicts his strenuous insistence before its emergence that he never sought to shield church funds. He did precisely that, no matter the nuances of the motivation.
He’s expert at drafting and dwelling in gray areas. Back in Milwaukee he selectively released the names of sexually abusive priests in the archdiocese, declining to identify those affiliated with, and answerable to, particular religious orders — Jesuits, say, or Franciscans. He said that he was bound by canon law to take that exact approach.
But bishops elsewhere took a different one, identifying priests from orders, and in a 2010 article on Dolan in The Times, Serge F. Kovaleski wrote that a half-dozen experts on canon law said that it did not specifically address the situation that Dolan claimed it did.
Dolan has quibbled disingenuously over whether the $20,000 given to each abusive priest in Milwaukee who agreed to be defrocked can be characterized as a payoff, and he has blasted the main national group representing victims of priests as having “no credibility whatsoever.” Some of the group’s members have surely engaged in crude, provocative tactics, but let’s have a reality check: the group exists because of widespread crimes and a persistent cover-up in the church, because child after child was raped and priest after priest evaded accountability. I’m not sure there’s any ceiling on the patience that Dolan and other church leaders should be expected to muster, especially because they hold themselves up as models and messengers of love, charity and integrity.
That’s the thing. That’s what church leaders and church defenders who routinely question the amount of attention lavished on the church’s child sexual abuse crisis still don’t fully get.
Yes, as they point out, there are molesters in all walks of life. Yes, we can’t say with certainty that the priesthood harbors a disproportionate number of them.
But over the last few decades we’ve watched an organization that claims a special moral authority in the world pursue many of the same legal and public-relations strategies — shuttling around money, looking for loopholes, tarring accusers, massaging the truth — that are employed by organizations devoted to nothing more than the bottom line.
In San Diego, diocesan leaders who filed for bankruptcy were rebuked by a judge for misrepresenting the local church’s financial situation to parishioners being asked to help pay for sex-abuse settlements.
In St. Louis church leaders claimed not to be liable for an abusive priest because while he had gotten to know a victim on church property, the abuse itself happened elsewhere.
In Kansas City, Mo., Rebecca Randles, a lawyer who has represented abuse victims, says that the church floods the courtroom with attorneys who in turn drown her in paperwork. In one case, she recently told me, “the motion-to-dismiss pile is higher than my head — I’m 5-foot-4.”
Also in Kansas City, Bishop Robert Finn still inhabits his post as the head of the diocese despite his conviction last September for failing to report a priest suspected of child sexual abuse to the police. This is how the church is in fact unlike a corporation. It coddles its own at the expense of its image.
As for Dolan, he is by many accounts and appearances one of the good guys, or at least one of the better ones. He has often demonstrated a necessary vigor in ridding the priesthood of abusers. He has given many victims a voice.
But look at the language in this 2005 letter he wrote to the Vatican, which was among the documents released last week. Arguing for the speedier dismissal of an abusive priest, he noted, in cool legalese, “The liability for the archdiocese is great as is the potential for scandal if it appears that no definitive action has been taken.”
His attention to appearances, his focus on liability: he could be steering an oil company through a spill, a pharmaceutical giant through a drug recall.
As for “the potential for scandal,” that’s as poignantly optimistic a line as Listecki’s assumption that the newly released Milwaukee documents would shock Catholics. By 2005 the scandal that Dolan mentions wasn’t looming but already full blown, and by last week the only shocker left was that some Catholic leaders don’t grasp its greatest component: their evasions and machinations.
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on July 7, 2013, on page SR3 of the New York edition with the headline: The Church’s Errant Shepherds.
St. Louis Priest Father William Vatterott Indicted on Child Pornography Charge
William Vatterott, a Roman Catholic priest from St. Louis, was indicted yesterday on a federal child pornography charge — and could ultimately face ten years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.Vatterott, 36, will appear in federal court later this week or early next week to respond to the indictment, the U.S. attorney’s office says in a statement.
He was placed on administrative leave in 2011 after a complaint was filed with the Ballwin police. He had allegedly been involved in an underage drinking incident — and was accused of “inappropriate conduct.”
The indictment says that he possessed “at least two images of an unidentified nude boy on his computer” between June 2010 and June 2011.
In a July 2011 statement, Monsignor Richard Hanneke said that the Archdiocese of St. Louis had recently learned complaints of “inappropriate conduct” involving Vatterott:
More specifically, two teenagers reported incidents of inappropriate electronic communications received from Fr. Vatterott. Additionally, one teenager, who was 18 years old at the time, reported an incident involving underage drinking and other inappropriate behaviors. None of the reported complaints involved physical contact or solicitation of any sort. We are aware that these reports have been presented to law enforcement for investigation. As a result of these complaints, Fr. Vatterott has been placed on administrative leave while this matter is being investigated.
Vaterott, that statement said, had served as a pastor of St. Cecilia Parish since January of 2008 and prior was an associate pastor at Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin.
In the announcement of the indictment yesterday, U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan stated the St. Louis Archdiocese has cooperated with the investigation. But David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), questions just how forthcoming the archdiocese has been. He suggests church leaders knew about the child pornography back in 2011 but chose instead to sugarcoat it.
“We hope that someday Catholic officials will stop using euphemisms like “inappropriate conduct” and “boundary violations” and start being more honest,” said Clohessy in a statement today. “It’s hard to believe they are trying to reforming when they deliberately use vague minimizing words for these heinous crimes.”
Yesterday the archdiocese released this short new statement, saying:
The Archdiocese of St. Louis has learned that Fr. William Vatterott, who had been the Pastor at St. Cecilia Parish in St. Louis and previously an Associate Pastor at Holy Infant in Ballwin, has been charged with possession of child pornography.
Fr. Vatterott has been on administrative leave from St. Cecilia Parish since June of 2011, when the archdiocese was made aware of these allegations. Since that time, the archdiocese has fully cooperated with the investigation conducted by law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis encourages all persons with reports of misconduct with a minor involving a member of the clergy or other church personnel to contact Deacon Phil Hengen, Director of Child and Youth Protection, at 314.792.7704 or the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800.392.3737 or law enforcement officials.
St. Louis, MO – A federal grand jury returned an indictment late this afternoon charging Father William F. Vatterott, 36, of St. Louis, 63111, with possession of child pornography between June 2010 and June 2011. He is expected to appear in federal court to answer the indictment later in the week or early next week.
U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan noted that the St. Louis Archdiocese cooperated with the investigation.
If convicted, this charge carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentences, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
This case was investigated by the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and an investigator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Rob Livergood is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
As is always the case, charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.