UN tells Vatican to hand over details of child sex abuse cases
A United Nations committee has demanded that the Vatican reveal potentially explosive details about the systematic cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy.
Campaigners have called on Pope Francis, who was elected in March, to make tackling the issue of sexually abusive priests an urgent priority of his papacy.
The UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child released its demands for information from the Holy See on Tuesday.
The committee said that “in the light of the recognition by the Holy See of sexual violence against children committed by members of the clergy, brothers and nuns in numerous countries around the world, and given the scale of the abuses”, the Vatican should provide detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by clergy.
The Vatican was told to show whether it had implemented measures “to ensure that no member of the clergy currently accused of sexual abuse be allowed to remain in contact with children,” amid claims from around the world that bishops often moved abusive priests from one parish to another.
The UN committee demanded to know about specific cases in which bishops or other Catholic leaders had failed to report suspected abuse to the police.
The Vatican was also urged to divulge details of its investigation of alleged sexual abuse and the outcome of those investigations, including any financial compensation or psychological counselling for victims.
The committee wants to know what measures the Holy See has taken “to prevent further sexual violence from taking place in institutions run by the Catholic Church.” The Vatican has until January to compile all the information, in time for an open meeting of the UN committee in Geneva at which Vatican officials will be questioned.
Despite being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Holy See had largely ignored requests for information, said Keith Porteous Wood, the executive director of the National Secular Society, who gave evidence to the committee last month.
“One of the requirements of a signatory is to compile a five yearly report on compliance – or in the Vatican’s case non-compliance – with the convention. The Holy See has grossly failed to do this for something like 12 years,” he told The Daily Telegraph.”They allowed sexual abuse on an unbelievable scale and it hasn’t all come out yet – we expect many, many more cases to emerge in the developing world.”
Pope Francis’s apparent determination to crack down on allegations of corruption and money-laundering within the Vatican bank gave hope that he might take a tough line on sexually abusive clergy, Mr Porteous Wood said.
“I think it’s a good sign,” he said. “Child abuse is a major issue, along with corruption, that he needs to sort out. His legacy will be judged, I think, on his ability to deal with these immensely difficult problems.”
Geoffrey Robertson QC, the human rights lawyer, who has strongly criticised the Catholic Church’s cover-up of sex abuse scandals around the world, said: “The committee’s enquiries will inevitably lead it to conclude that the Vatican has broken multiple articles of the convention on a huge scale in many countries. The result in human suffering is incalculable.
“Francis’s papacy could well be defined by the world’s verdict on his response – more handwringing apologies or calls for a line to be drawn under the past will no longer wash.
“He will fail unless he initiates bold tangible actions, for example lifting the veil of secrecy that has protected so many clerical rapists, engaging secular authorities and offering rather than resisting appropriate compensation.”
Cardinal Roger Mahony, victims speak out on clergy abuse
Friday, February 01, 2013
By Carlos Granda, Sid Garcia and Rudabeh Shahbazi
LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Cardinal Roger Mahony is speaking out after being stripped of all public duties, while victims are speaking out about the release of the clergy abuse files.
On Thursday, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez said in a statement that Mahony no longer had any administrative or public duties. Mahony said in a letter posted on his blog, “Nothing in my own background or education equipped me to deal with this grave problem.”
Documents released two weeks ago showed that in the 1980s, Mahony and others tried to hide some of the sexual abuse cases. Mahony says he dealt with priests accused of molesting children by removing them from parishs and shipping them off to treatment centers. He said that’s what diocese across the country did back then.
“While there was some information dealing with child neglect, sexual abuse was never discussed,” Mahony said. “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.”
Esther Miller was 16 when she says Father Michael Nocita first sexually abused her. She says she attempted suicide the following year.
“I’m not a practicing Catholic. I’ll never go back to this cult ever,” Miller said.
Miller is angry that church documents show Nocita had a number of incidents in the 1980s and 1990s. On Friday, Miller and other members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, held a news conference to talk about the newly released church documents. The documents are supposed to show the names of anyone who knew about the abuse and those who allegedly covered it up. But they say a number of names are still not there.
“This is nonsense. These people have spent millions upon millions of the faithful’s dollars to protect themselves,” said Jim Robertson of SNAP. “They fought the release of any documents all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, and still, they’re not giving us the right.”
Gomez has accepted Auxillary Bishop Thomas Curry’s request to be relieved of his responsibility as Regional Bishop of Santa Barbara. Curry has apologized for his decisions while serving as Vicar for Clergy. Both Mahony and Curry are still bishops in good standing.
“It sends a message to all of the clergy if the highest ranking members are publicly condemned,” said Anthony DeMarco, attorney for the victims. “It’s taken an awful long time.”
To see the clergy files, visit http://clergyfiles.la-archdiocese.org/listing.html.
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.
Cardinal in Los Angeles Is Removed From Duties
By Jennifer Medina and Laurie Goodstein
Published January 31. 2013
LOS ANGELES — Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who retired less than two years ago as the leader of the nation’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, was removed from all public duties by his successor, Archbishop José H. Gomez, as the church complied with a court order to release thousands of pages of internal documents that show how the cardinal shielded priests who sexually abused children.
The documents, released as part of a record $660 million settlement in 2007 with the victims of abuse, are the strongest evidence so far that top officials for years purposely tried to conceal abuse from law enforcement officials. The files, which go from the 1940s to the present, are the latest in a series of revelations that suggest that the church continued to maneuver against law enforcement even after the extent of the abuse crisis emerged.
Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry, who was the vicar for clergy and one of the cardinal’s top deputies and his adviser on sexual abuse, also stepped down as the regional bishop for Santa Barbara, Calif.
The church had fought for years to keep the documents secret, and until this week it argued that the names of top church officials should be kept private. In letters written in the 1980s, then-Father Curry gave suggestions for how to stop the police from investigating priests who admitted that they had abused children, like stopping the priests from seeing therapists who would be required to alert law enforcement about the abuse.
Both Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Curry have publicly apologized in the past, but have said that they were naïve at the time about the effectiveness of treatment for abusers and the impact on victims.
In a letter on Thursday, Archbishop Gomez wrote that the files are “brutal and painful reading.”
“The behavior described in these files is terribly sad and evil,” he said. “There is no excuse, no explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved had the duty to be their spiritual fathers, and they failed. We need to acknowledge that terrible failure today.”
Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Curry are still able to celebrate Mass and other religious duties. But Cardinal Mahony, a vocal advocate of immigrant rights, will no longer speak publicly, as he has done frequently since his retirement in 2011, a spokesman for the archdiocese said.
Archbishop Gomez’s move to discipline his predecessor and to accept the resignation of Bishop Curry, was unexpected and unusual. It has not been the custom of bishops to use disciplinary measures against one another — or even to issue any public criticism.
Instead, as part of the sweeping package of policies for dealing with sexual abuse that American bishops passed at the height of the abuse scandal in 2002, the bishops agreed that they would employ what they call “fraternal correction” with one another when the situation requires. Only the pope can decide to remove a bishop from the leadership of his diocese. And only the pope can defrock a priest or a bishop.
Advocates for abuse victims had called for Bishop Curry’s removal last week, and had mixed reactions on Thursday to the actions taken by Archbishop Gomez. David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called Bishop Curry’s resignation “a small step in the right direction.”
But Mr. Clohessy said that the sanctions against Cardinal Mahony amounted to little more than “hand-slapping,” and are “a nearly meaningless gesture.”