Secret Catholic Church report found parish priest Peter Searson was guilty of child sex abuse, despite no charges ever being laid against him
Secret Catholic Church report found parish priest Peter Searson was guilty of child sex abuse, despite no charges ever being laid against him
A secret Catholic Church report concluded a parish priest was guilty of child sexual abuse, despite no charges ever being laid against him.
The internal report of a confidential 1997 investigation into Father Peter Searson, of the outer-Melbourne parish of Doveton, made a finding that “the parish priest had been guilty of sexual abuse”, Four Corners has revealed.
In his evidence to last year’s Victorian inquiry into child sexual abuse, Cardinal George Pell rejected suggestions of a cover-up of Father Searson’s crimes, stating: “No conviction was recorded for Searson on sexual misbehaviour. There might be victims. He was convicted for cruelty. But speaking more generally, I totally reject the suggestion.”
Cardinal Pell made no reference to the inquiry about the internal hearing into Father Searson which had taken place in 1997, or the finding that the parish priest had sexually abused two girls.
Cardinal Pell was regional bishop in the early 1990s when allegations were being made about Father Searson in Doveton.
He told the Victorian inquiry that, at the time, “I certainly did not do nothing; I certainly did. I was sent back to Searson to tell him to follow the protocols correctly, because people were saying he was misbehaving. He was furious at that … He denied everything and anything.”
Father Searson was eventually removed from the Doveton Parish and charged by police for the physical assault of a young boy attending the Holy Family School. He received a suspended sentence.
Father Searson died in 2009.
He was the last of four paedophile priests who had headed the Doveton Parish for an unbroken span of 25 years from 1972 to 1997.
The others were Father Thomas O’Keefe, Father Wilfred Baker, and Father Victor Rubeo.
Their criminal acts over a quarter of a century damaged the lives of countless young children in the Doveton area, and other parishes in which they worked.
Father O’Keefe died in the 1980s, but the church has since apologised to some of his child victims.
Father Rubeo died in December 2011, the day he was due to front a Melbourne court on 30 child sex abuse charges, while Father Baker died in February this year, days before his trial over the sexual abuse of eight boys.
The revelation the Church knew about Father Searson’s crimes is contained in the secret report written by the church’s Independent Commissioner into Sexual Abuse, Peter O’Callaghan QC.
Mr O’Callaghan was appointed in 1997 by George Pell, the then-Archbishop of Melbourne, to investigate the allegations from teachers, parents and others, surfacing about the priest.
Archbishop Pell “urged people not to rush to judgement” and said it was “essential to keep an open mind”.
However, the Melbourne Archdiocese has never released the results of Mr O’Callaghan’s inquiries.
Mr O’Callaghan’s confidential report says that, even before he was appointed parish priest in Doveton in 1984, Father Searson had “achieved a regrettable record of suspected sexual abuse of children, and considerable financial misappropriations”.
This record stretches back to other parishes over several decades.
The report records the many complaints that were made by teachers at Holy Family School, in Doveton, to the Catholic Education Office, about the priest’s activities.
Two of those teachers, the former school principal Graeme Sleeman and another former teacher, Carmel Rafferty, were interviewed on Monday night’s Four Corners program.
Mr O’Callaghan writes in his report that in May 1993, the Director of Education wrote to the Vicar General at the Melbourne Archdiocese, expressing concerns about the safety of the pupils in the school, and the “apparent vulnerability of the Archbishop and the Archdiocese in such matters and advised that legal advice had been sought”.
Father Searson was placed on administrative leave and not sacked by the church when the assault charges were laid.
Mr O’Callaghan’s secret report reveals that Father Searson had “successfully appealed to the Congregation in Rome, which held that the Commission did not have appropriate jurisdiction or procedure to make the findings”.
“Notwithstanding, the Parish Priest remains a retired Priest with no permission to exercise any priestly faculties,” the report said.
Church ‘better late than never’: Hart
- May 20, 2013
MELBOURNE Archbishop Denis Hart says the Catholic Church taking 18 years to petition for a pedophile priest to be defrocked is “better late than never”.
Father Desmond Gannon was convicted and jailed for sexual offences in 2009 but remains an ordained priest.
A Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse has heard he offended from 1957 to 1979 and was identified to then-Melbourne archbishop George Pell in 1998 as “high risk”.
Yet it wasn’t until 2011 that the Catholic Church in Victoria petitioned Rome for Fr Gannon to be laicised.
Asked at the inquiry on Monday why it had taken so long, current Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart replied “better late than never”.
“It’s not a nice story, I agree with you, and his activities have been most offensive,” Archbishop Hart said.
He blamed Fr Gannon’s incarceration and church law for the delay.
“There would have been very few who would have been laicised forcibly until the late 2000s, until after 2002,” Archbishop Hart said.
“I would say we did what we could.”
He said Rome required a very high standard of proof when it came to defrocking priests.
“They require absolute certitude as to what took place,” he said.
When pressed on the fact Fr Gannon had been “convicted, tried and sentenced” Archbishop Hart said: “I’m not proud of that but at least we’re addressing it,” drawing groans from the public gallery.
Archbishop Hart said he was initially told by the Holy See to impose a penal precept, due to Gannon’s extreme age.
He said he wrote again to Rome, insisting Gannon be laicised.
Archbishop Hart wrote that he felt if Fr Gannon wasn’t laicised it would reflect poorly on the church.
“I’m concerned that the good name of the church … could be damaged unless reverend Desmond Gannon is laicised.”
Their Deeds Shame the Devils in HellhellIf you’ve got the stomach to read the news from Ireland these days, you can click here and do so:Opinion: Mass grave ‘filled to the brim with tiny bones and skulls’ shows how we cherish children.Their deeds shame the devils of hell. Twisted Catholicism. When religion is spread by the power of laying guilt on others so some remain in total control. And the nuns TODAY, NOW, RIGHT NOW, see no reason to compensate survivors or families… “Hey! If you survived that’s your compensation!” There are no words for the lack of any sense of shame on the part of these religious orders and zero sense of accountability. This is going on in Ireland in a very dramatic show down between those harmed and their families vs the nuns who couldn’t care less. They are beyond all that. Much the same as the LCWR is toward victims of abuse by its member communities’ sisters. They are beyond responding to this. To do so would sully their pious reputation among their blind supporters, and would cast a bit of mud on their ridicule of hierarchy. What creates this kind of compartmentalization of conscience? It’s got to have some survival benefit to be so strong in the religious and clergy. How does hypocrisy rationalize itself when cloaked in religious life that preaches to others about social justice and how to live by some Catholic moral code? It has got to have some benefit or the Church would not be in the kind of state it is in right now, and we would not be finding tanks of dead babies in Irish convent gardens. What is the price of power? At what cost did one emerge from the bog to clerical heights, or from a poor neighborhood or family in the States to teach our young in Catholic schools? Was the cost integrity? Was it mental illness with a religious uniform? Was it the cost of one’s soul? What kind of families, what kind of parents sent their kids off to religious life and priesthood without a conscience, and what kind of superiors never noticed the lack of conscience in their predatory, and cruel novices and professed members? What is the price of twisted Catholicism and its perks? The price of trusting them is innocence, and sometimes mental stability, and all too often, at the end of the day, one’s Faith, and even one’s life if healing is not found. When is the price too high? When is it high enough for the Vatican to crack down on their sickos, both priests and nuns, and force them to step up to the plate and do right by their victims? I honestly have never believed that pedophiles should be in civil jails with general population. I think an island with an electric fence is fine, just because they are sick and we have hospitals for sick criminals. But the superiors of these religious orders need to be jailed. Just my opinion, as the stomach turns over these dead babies, and the many more to be discovered, and all those who’ve died with their wounds never healed. Jail is fine for those superiors.Hell is empty
The Curious Case of Carlos Urrutigoity (I)
August 14, 2014 – 6:24pm
In early July the Vatican announced that it would send investigators to the Diocese of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. The apostolic visitation was prompted by complaints from local bishops and laypeople following news reports that an Argentine priest accused of molesting high-school students in Pennsylvania had been welcomed into Ciudad del Este by Bishop Rogelio Livieres—and promoted to vicar general.
Weeks later, the Vatican revealed that it had removed Fr. Urrutigoity from his position as vicar general and—in an unusual step—barred Bishop Livieres from ordaining anyone for the time being. (A final decision will be made after the Vatican finishes studying the investigators’ report.) In response, the Diocese of Ciudad del Este published a long, forceful defense of Urrutigoity and Livieres. The statement, posted to the diocese’s website, claims that Urrutigoity is innocent, that he and the bishop have been the victim of a smear campaign, that his previous bishop approved his transfer to Paraguay, and that he came with the recommendation of several cardinals—including Joseph Ratzinger.
In a 2002 federal lawsuit, a plaintiff claimed that Urrutigoity and another priest, Eric Ensey, had molested him under the guise of “spiritual direction.” He accused Ensey of abusing him while he was a high-school student in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and he accused Urrutigoity of sexual misconduct after he graduated and was preparing for the priesthood. (No criminal charges were filed because the statute of limitations had run.) In addition to the abuse accusations, depositions and affidavits taken in connection with the suit allege that the priests often supplied alcohol to underage boys and regularly shared their beds with them. The bishop at the time, James Timlin, eventually suspended both clerics, and the diocese eventually settled out of court for about four hundred thousand dollars. The case rocked the diocese for years, not only because of the plaintiff’s shocking allegations, but also because the accused priests were not local to Scranton. Bishop Timlin had invited them in.
A review of hundreds of pages of court documents—including private correspondence, depositions, and affidavits—makes it clear that the Urrutigoity case is one of the most complicated to emerge during the 2002 wave of sexual-abuse scandals. It spans three decades, two continents, three countries, and two states. It involves multiple bishops—some schismatic—several dioceses, and numerous high-ranking Vatican officials. The priest’s rise to prominence tracks closely with the church’s growing awareness of the gravity of clerical sexual abuse. Accusations of misconduct have followed him from Argentina to Pennsylvania. That’s what makes his reappearance in Ciudad del Este—where the bishop had him helping with seminary formation before promoting him to vicar general—so difficult to understand. How could a Catholic priest with such a history end up as second in command of a diocese—in 2014?
Carlos Urrutigoity’s route to Ciudad del Este was remarkably circuitous. His clerical career began in La Reja, Argentina, where he entered a seminary run by the schismatic Society of St. Pius X, a traditionalist organization that rejects the Second Vatican Council and practices the unreformed Latin Mass. Urrutigoity was kicked out when it was alleged that he had made sexual advances on a fellow seminarian, according to court documents. He was given a second chance at another SSPX seminary in Winona, Minnesota, where he was ordained in the early 1990s by Bishop Richard Williamson, one of the four bishops illicitly ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988—an act that brought automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church.
(As part of his failed effort to bring the SSPX back into full communion with Rome, Benedict XVI lifted the SSPX bishops’ excommunications in 2009. Soon after, video surfaced in which Williamson denied that the Nazis had used gas chambers, and claimed no more than three hundred thousand Jews died in the Shoah. He was eventually ejected from the SSPX.)
By 1997, Urrutigoity was teaching at the Winona seminary. He had developed quite a following among priests and seminarians, a following that Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the SSPX, would later call “strange” and “abnormal.” Urrutigoity hatched a plan to create a society within the SSPX that would espouse more rigorous spiritual practices. They would call themselves the Society of St. John. But when that plan was discovered by Williamson in May ’97, the bishop was not pleased, and he expelled Urrutigoity from the seminary. He didn’t leave alone.
Within weeks, Urrutigoity and a handful of other former members of SSPX—including Eric Ensey—had secured a meeting with James Timlin, then bishop of Scranton. They told the bishop that they were “seeking to return to the true church,” according to a 2007 chronology prepared by James Earley, then chancellor of the Diocese of Scranton. Timlin was persuaded.
That was June 1997. On September 15, Timlin wrote to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which was responsible for normalizing relations with SSPX members and other traditionalists. Benedict XVI tasked the commission with supervising the application of his 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which granted permission for wider use of the old Latin Mass (the “extraordinary form,” as it’s now called). Timlin sought the commission’s advice about restoring Society of St. John priests and deacons to full communion with Rome. Just seven days later “the censures the former members of the SSPX had incurred by virtue of receiving the sacrament of holy orders illicitly were lifted,” according to Earley’s chronology. They were Catholic again.
Society of St. John members took up residence in an unused wing of St. Gregory’s Academy, a Catholic boarding school run by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a small traditionalist group in communion with the Holy See. Members exclusively celebrate the extraordinary form of the Mass. The Fraternity of St. Peter established its North American headquarters in Scranton in 1992, while Timlin was bishop. Ensey became chaplain of St. Gregory’s, and other Society of St. John members taught classes.
On May 24, 1998, less than a year after the former members of SSPX arrived seeking to return to the Catholic Church, Bishop Timlin established the Society of St. John as a “public association of the faithful,” a designation granting them certain rights under canon law. The bishop held a series of meetings with members of the society, now officially led by Urrutigoity, to work out the organization’s mission. Their ambition was to establish a community for Catholics committed to the rites of the 1962 Roman Missal—that is, the unreformed Latin rites—a Catholic liberal-arts college, and a Catholic village. Timlin approved their plan, even though he had not run background checks on any Society of St. John members, nor had he reviewed their seminary formation records.
If he had, perhaps he would have been spared the surprise of reading a February 1999 letter from Bishop Fellay, superior general of the SSPX, warning him that Urrutigoity had approached the bed of a Winona seminarian named Matthew Selinger twice “for obvious dishonest acts.” Fellay informed Timlin that Urrutigoity was “accused of a similar action” in Argentina—“with a seminarian who is now a member of the Society of St. John.” But what disturbed Fellay the most was that Urrutigoity “had a strange, abnormal influence on the seminarians and priests, whom he seemed to attach to his brilliant, charismatic personality.” One of the reasons Fellay rejected Urrutigoity’s proposal to establish the Society of St. John within SSPX, he explained, was this “guru-like attachment between the disciples and their leader.” If Timlin wanted to investigate further, “we are at your disposal,” Fellay wrote, promising that Selinger was “ready to state under oath the facts mentioned above.” Eventually Salinger would.
Urrutigoity met with Timlin shortly thereafter, and denied Fellay’s claims. About five months later, Timlin sent three people to interview Selinger: Auxiliary Bishop John Dougherty, then-Vicar General Fr. Joseph Kopacz, and a lay attorney for the diocese, Francis X. O’Connor. In a report of that meeting written for Timlin, the three concluded, “All the auditors are inclined to believe Matthew Selinger,” according to a backgrounder prepared by the diocese’s Internal Review Board in 2002. Yet, when the IRB considered the case in 1999, it did not recommend suspending Urrutigoity. “Not only does the accused priest deny the allegation, but the other parties made points which seem to lessen the force of much that was reported by the complainant,” according to the minutes of a 1999 IRB meeting. “It is Bishop Timlin’s mind that without further knowledge, at present not available, a conclusion in this instance cannot be reached.” The minutes do not question the credibility of Selinger’s claims.
He detailed those claims four years later in sworn testimony given in connection with the 2002 lawsuit. During that deposition, Selinger recounted his relationship with Urrutigoity. The priest, then a teacher at the seminary, was Selinger’s spiritual director and confessor. Asked how the Society of St. John got started, Selinger said, “they wanted saints, and they wanted them now, and pretty much an elite.”
The first time he met Urrutigoity, Selinger said, the priest suggested he and another seminarian swim with him in the nude.
One year Selinger gave up meat for Lent. “I got constipated.” He asked Urrutigoity to help him get Metamucil, but the priest returned with suppositories. Never having seen one before, Selinger attempted to take it orally. Urrutigoity corrected him. When Selinger started heading toward the bathroom, Urrutigoity asked, “What are you doing?” Selinger explained that he was going to use the suppository in private, but Urrutigoity persisted. “What, I’m not you’re friend?” Selinger replied that he didn’t “want [his friends] watching him” in the bathroom. “That’s part of your pride, Matt,” Urrutigoity told him. According to Selinger, the priest said that because the seminarian came from “a rough background” and depended on his “strength to do everything,” the priest had to “break” Selinger’s “pride” in order to “let God into [his] heart.” Selinger went to the bathroom anyway. “He got real mad at me.”
Urrutigoity placed a high value on loyalty, according to Selinger. “He had this idea that when you’re buddies, you do everything for each other…. So much so, friendship in this supernatural realm, we’re friends, you know, we are the same faith and everything, it’s deeper.” Because both of them were Catholic, Urrutigoity believed that “we were close spiritually,” Selinger continued. “We were one.” After all, “if two people become one [in marriage], why can’t two friends become one?” That sentiment was evident in Urrutigoity’s screen saver, which Selinger said displayed the following quote from Scripture: Ego et Pater unum sumus. I and the Father are one.
On a few occasions, Urrutigoity would go home with Selinger during breaks. “He was intrigued with the idea that I grew up with three brothers,” Selinger said. “He asked me where we all slept.” The Selingers didn’t have much money, “so we all slept in the same bed.”
Sleeping arrangements became an issue after Urrutigoity was expelled from the Winona seminary. He and the men who left with him—including Selinger—ended up staying at the home of one of Urrutigoity’s friends. At first, according to Selinger, there were enough beds. But then more people showed up, and Urrutigoity suggested the two bunk together.
By that point Selinger had grown disaffected. He was not happy about the artwork in the house. The images of nude women were too tempting. More troubling, he didn’t see evidence of the spiritual rigorism Urrutigoity said motivated him to create the Society of St. John. “No one was wearing a cassock,” and “I didn’t see anyone praying the breviary.” Nor did he see anyone praying the rosary. “But the whole point of everything that we were doing was to do things more and do it in communion,” Selinger said. So when Urrutigoity offered to share a bed with Selinger to make room for the new guests, he was not inclined to accept. He would sleep on the floor instead, as a sacrifice, he told Urrutigoity, hoping the priest would be satisfied. He was, for the moment.
Later that night, Selinger said, he awoke to find Urrutigoity’s hand on his penis. Shocked, and torn between the urge to strike the priest and the fear of harming a man of the cloth—“my dad once told me a guy hit a priest and his arm was frozen forever”—Selinger rolled over on his side, pretending not to notice. Worried that Urrutigoity would try again the following night, Selinger tried to take naps during the day so he could stay awake.
Urrutigoity approached Selinger’s bed again that night, “obviously to do what he did the night before,” but this time Selinger played it off, asking Urrutigoity whether he was having trouble sleeping. The cleric claimed that he was “having temptations in my sleep, dreams of girls” and wanted to pray at Selinger’s bedside, according to Selinger. A few days later, Selinger confronted Urrutigoity, said the priest needed psychological help, and left the Society of St. John to return to his family.
Almost immediately, Selinger’s father knew something was wrong. Eventually he told his father what had happened. His father phoned Fr. Eric Ensey, who in turn called Selinger and invited him to California. It was there that Selinger shared with Ensey what had happened with Urrutigoity, according to Selinger’s testimony. Selinger said that Ensey promised to confront Urrutigoity. A couple of weeks later, Selinger said, Ensey reported to him that Urrutigoity had “admitted it.”
It was June 1998—a year after the Society of St. John convinced Bishop Timlin to invite them into the Diocese of Scranton. As the lawyer questioning Selinger noted, in March ’99 Ensey wrote to Timlin claiming that “Urrutigoity himself has always denied having perpetrated any of the improprieties with which he has been charged, and ever with the greatest fidelity to his role as Matthew’s spiritual director and friend.”
As time went on, Selinger wondered why Ensey hadn’t left Scranton. So he asked. Ensey said that “Fr. U. said I [Seinger] was sick and he was doing that [grabbing his penis] because he can tell if you’re aroused, you’re sick, or like, if you look at someone’s tongue and it’s all cracked then there’s something wrong in the soul,” according to Selinger. He explained that it wasn’t unusual for Urrutigoity to claim such expertise: “He said he would give Communion and look at people’s tongues and tell if that person was suffering more than the next person.” Selinger stopped taking Ensey’s calls.
But in summer 2003, Ensey contacted Selinger with what sounded like an urgent request. He wanted to meet in person. He warned Selinger that he might be subpoenaed in a pending lawsuit. He admitted that he was accused of molesting a boy, Selinger testified, but swore he was innocent. Ensey was concerned that if Selibger testified against Urrutigoity, it would “bury” Ensey too. “Then he said to me, ‘You know, if they subpoena you, you can’t get out of it. Now, you can leave the country.” But by that time Selinger was married with children. Then, Selinger testified, Ensey suggested that he lie. “You know I don’t lie,” Selinger replied. Finally, Ensey floated the possibility of Selinger talking to his lawyer. “He’s a good guy,” Selinger recalled him saying. “He’s got strong ties to the mafia.”
Selinger interpreted that as a threat, so he decided to accept Ensey’s offer to speak with the attorney. But, he testified, the lawyer never contacted him. And he never spoke with Ensey again.
Selinger said that he shared all that information with the auditors from the Diocese of Scranton, that they said they believed him. He also testified that he told Bishop Timlin about Urrutigoity in writing. (I haven’t seen that letter.) “I don’t want anything,” Selinger said. No money. No compensation of any kind. But he was upset when he learned that the diocese had taken Urrutigoity’s word over his:
This guy goes to Argentina, gets accused, and he says, “I didn’t do it,” and everybody says “OK.” Then he goes to the United States, and I know of two people and then, you know, including myself, in the seminary, and he’s accused, and he says, “I didn’t do it.” Then he goes to Scranton and he’s touching boys around when they’re sleeping…. They’re saying, “He touched me,” and he’s saying he didn’t do it. And everybody is saying, “OK.” So, yeah I’m mad that he keeps doing it and people keep getting it done to them and everybody just says, “OK.” Nothing gets done.
Selinger’s deposition was given on October 28, 2003. He couldn’t have known it at the time, but just a few weeks earlier, Scranton had received a new bishop, Joseph Martino, and before long he would make it his business to get something done.
This is the first of a series of posts on the Urrutigoity case.
Pope Benedict XVI Reportedly Vouched For Carlos Urrutigoity, Paraguay Priest Accused Of Sex Abuse
(RNS) A showdown between Pope Francis and a conservative bishop in Paraguay is heating up as the bishop rejected charges that he sheltered a priest accused of sexual misconduct, and claimed that Pope Benedict XVI himself vouched for the suspect cleric just days before his election as pope in 2005.
The conflict between the Vatican and Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este was sparked by revelations in March that the bishop had promoted a Catholic priest who had been barred from ministry in Pennsylvania after church officials there said he molested several boys.
Last month, Rome dispatched a cardinal and an archbishop to Paraguay to investigate, and on July 30 the Vatican said it was removing the priest, the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity, from his job as the diocese’s No. 2 official. It also took the unusual step of barring Livieres from ordaining any men to the priesthood.
One of those cardinals, it said, was Joseph Ratzinger, who “was elected pope Benedict XVI a few days later,” in April 2005.
Benedict, who resigned in February 2013, has been praised for toughening church policies against abusive priests. Before his election as pope, he ran the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has jurisdiction over all abuse cases.
Urrutigoity was accused of abuse in a highly publicized lawsuit in Scranton, Pa., in 2002. At the time, he and another priest, Eric Ensey, were suspended by then-Bishop James Timlin amid allegations they had sexually molested students at St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst, now closed. The diocese reportedly reached a $450,000 settlement in the case in 2006.
Timlin’s successor, Bishop Joseph Martino, who is also retired, in 2005 shut down the Society of St. John, a conservative group that Urrutigoity had founded; the group was known for promoting the old Latin Mass and for lavish spending.
By then, Urrutigoity had moved to Paraguay, along with a number of priests and lay people from Scranton, to reconstitute the society under the auspices of Livieres, a member of the Opus Dei order who had developed a reputation as an outspoken conservative, even in the Paraguayan hierarchy.
At the time, Martino alerted Livieres and the Vatican ambassadors to the U.S. and Paraguay about the accusations against Urrutigoity, which a church review board had found credible.
But Livieres accepted the Argentine-born Urrutigoity, eventually named him a monsignor and then appointed him vicar general, which is the second-most powerful position in a diocese.
Media reports in March about Urrutigoity’s promotion prompted the current Scranton bishop to reiterate the objections to the priest serving in ministry anywhere, and a lengthy story in the Global Post about Urrutigoity’s checkered career also helped set in motion the chain of events leading to the confrontation between Livieres and the Vatican.
The online rebuttal by the Paraguayan diocese focuses on the Urrutigoity case but also serves as a chance for the bishop to defend himself against a range of long-standing criticisms – many from his fellow bishops — of his conservative policies and positions on church issues and Paraguayan politics.
The rejoinder concludes on an especially dramatic note, invoking the events portrayed in the award-winning film “The Mission,” about Rome’s suppression of Jesuit evangelization efforts in Paraguay in the 18th century.
“The growth and strength of the People of God in Paraguay was cruelly maimed” as a result of those events, says the statement, which is set to the famous soundtrack of the 1986 film.
“They were also accused by questionable ecclesiastics in alliance with powerful lobbies and politicians,” it adds, noting the irony that Francis is himself a Jesuit from South America who is set to “write the story” of that previous suppression “in a new way.”
The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in Ireland is a grand example of what needs to be done to put kids first.
One of the lessons the commission learned when they investigated the Irish Christian Brothers is that all roads lead to Rome AND all files on child sexual abuse are transported to Rome. Here is a section of the report and what the archivist found while reviewing the Roman archives of the Irish Christian Brothers:
Consistent with the American experience of Civil and Criminal Court litigation is the finding that the leadership of the Church is lethargic in producing or even making known the location of their files and knowledge of childhood sexual abuse. (emphasis mine)
6.168 The Rome Files make it impossible to contend that the issue of abuse and, in particular, sexual abuse of boys was not an urgent and continuing concern to the Congregation. In circumstances where the issue of abuse in institutions had been the object of so much media attention from 1995 onwards, it is surprising that these files were only discovered to the Committee in 2004.
Rome Files and documentary evidence
6.159In the Emergence hearings in July 2004, Br Gibson described how files, which came to be known as ‘The Rome Files’, came to the attention of the Leadership Team in Ireland.
6.160In 2003, the Leadership Team took the decision to employ an archivist to look at all the documents in the possession of the Congregation. This archivist was asked to go to Rome to look at the files there that related to the Irish Communities for any references to abuse. He explained that, in the early 1960s, a decision was taken to move the Congregation’s headquarters from Dublin to Rome. The management team brought with them the relevant archives for their own work, and left in Ireland the files and records that dealt with the Christian Brothers in Ireland.
6.161Br Gibson explained:
However, when our archivist went to Rome, she came across their minute books of their Council decisions, the General Council decisions. In those, she came across details of allegations of abuse in the institutions in Ireland that did not exist in our files … Yes, all of these dealt with incidents of child abuse in our institutions between, say, 1930 and when they closed.
6.162Br Gibson outlined the number of allegations recorded in respect of residential schools:
… we came across details of incidents of abuse in our institutions in Ireland. We came across eleven incidents of child abuse in Artane, ten in our day schools, three in Letterfrack, two in Tralee, two in the OBI,20 and two in Glin. Now, what we came across was that there had been information given to the Leadership Team at the time when they occurred. These allegations had been investigated. The investigation included getting the boys to write out what had happened to them and the boys had done that in some cases – well, in one case at the moment we have one incident of that. Then they had at the end of what they called a trial, they had a decision made, and the decision was either to give a Canonical Warning to the person, they were dismissed from the Congregation or they were rejected for the application for vows that year. Now, we wouldn’t have the details of all the allegations, but a lot of material has emerged there which we didn’t know about …
It shows that there were individual cases of abuse. It wasn’t, in a sense, systematic or widespread, but over 30 years in Artane there were eleven cases that had been discovered at the time they had occurred.
6.163Br Gibson went on to state that, in 1990, the Leadership Team in Ireland was not aware of the existence of these files at all. He asserted that it was only when he saw these files that he understood the comments that he saw in the Constitutions and Acts of the Congregation emphasizing that a Brother should never be alone with a child. He said:
That makes sense in the light of this discovery of complaints where children were abused in the institutions.
6.164He confirmed that there was no mention of the children in these records:
The focus was on the culpability of the person who did it and I am not sure how much was done for the children who suffered.
6.165The Rome Files were made available to the Committee after the Emergence hearings had been completed. They contained details of applications for dispensations or disciplinary hearings in respect of more than 130 Brothers. At least 40 of these cases referred specifically to improper conduct with boys. In the majority of cases, the actual crime being investigated was not detailed, and phrases such as ‘evidenced unsuitable moral character’ or ‘grave misconduct’ or ‘caused scandal’ were used when recommending a dispensation.
6.166The Rome Files were by no means exhaustive. Brothers who left the Congregation before any allegations came to the attention of the authorities would not appear in the Rome Files.
6.167In addition, the Brothers who left following allegations of abuse did not appear in these files. For example, Mr. Brander21 a former Christian Brother, did not feature although he received a Canonical Warning for sexually abusing boys in 1953 and was ultimately dispensed from his vows in the late 1950s.
6.168The Rome Files make it impossible to contend that the issue of abuse and, in particular, sexual abuse of boys was not an urgent and continuing concern to the Congregation. In circumstances where the issue of abuse in institutions had been the object of so much media attention from 1995 onwards, it is surprising that these files were only discovered to the Committee in 2004.
6.169The scale of the problem as revealed in these documents was very serious. When other features of abuse are taken into account, there is reason to believe that the amount of such abuse was substantially greater than is disclosed in these records. First, there was the recidivistic nature of child abuse; secondly, children were frightened and reluctant to speak about it; and thirdly, many adults experienced difficulty in dealing with it.
6.170In light of the investigations that had taken place in other jurisdictions and the evidence contained in their own archives, together with the complaints received, the Leadership Team in this country could be in no doubt that sexual abuse of children in their care had occurred at an unacceptably high level in their institutions.
6.171In the circumstances, although it was legitimate to protest about exaggerated allegations and false claims, which were undoubtedly made in some instances, it was also the case that an attitude of skepticism and distrust of all complaints was unwarranted and unjustified.
Shocking figures reveal Pope Benedict defrocked child-molesting priests at a rate of more than one every two days during his last years of office
Shocking figures reveal Pope Benedict defrocked child-molesting priests at a rate of more than one every two days during his last years of office
Italy’s bishops pass Vatican-backed rule that child molestation does not have to be reported
Kevin McDonough, former vicar general, questioned about handling of sex abuse cases
Attorney Jeff Anderson questioned a second top official of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Wednesday and again walked away complaining that he’d been cheated out of time.
Father Kevin McDonough, a former vicar general, was supposed to undergo eight hours of court-ordered testimony in preparation for a civil sex abuse trial, but Anderson claims he only got six and a half.
In a press release, Anderson says McDonough ended the deposition early on the advice of his counsel when pressed about whether claims made in the present lawsuit have been exaggerated. Anderson is suing the archdiocese on the grounds that it poses a threat to the entire population.
The crusading St. Paul attorney intends to take his complaint against McDonough to a Ramsey County judge — an act that could ultimately make the transcript and videotape open to the public.
Wednesday’s showdown comes two weeks after John Nienstedt submitted to four hours of interrogation. That same day Anderson accused the archbishop of walking out mid-question and failing to turn over all relevant documents ahead of time. Just this week the archdiocese handed over more than a dozen cases files related to internal investigations, one of which totals 3,207 pages.
A statement released Wednesday by the archdiocese responds to Anderson’s latest complaint by saying McDonough cooperated throughout the eight-hour interview. During that time, McDonough “clarified misstatements and mischaracterizations” of the alleged crimes that took place during his watch. It concludes:
Father McDonough emphasized that he always had the best interests of children and the vulnerable in mind when doing his work. He also acknowledged that the harm cause(d) by sexual abuse is serious and grave.
As vicar general, between 1991 and 2008, McDonough vetted sex abuse claims. Internal memos show that, for years, he reported to his superiors about the archdiocese’s exposure to lawsuits. His tenure as clerical detective first came into question publicly this fall with the release of an MPR report suggesting he and other officials shielded a priest who’s now in jail.
A 56-page report released Monday by an internal task force criticized the archdiocese for “a flawed organizational structure with little oversight” that “created opportunities” for abuse. It passes blame on the institution rather than the people in charge.
The Diocese of New Ulm is suing other churches
A Catholic diocese in Minnesota is suing both a diocese in Ireland and a controversial religious order, shifting responsibility for a dead priest who allegedly abused several children.
A lawsuit filed in February by the Diocese of New Ulm claims it never would have brought that priest into a Granite Falls parish in the 1980s had it known the truth of his past, according to a report by MPR and KARE-11.
The priest in question is Father Francis Markey, an Irishman who was ordained in 1952 and assigned to a parish in the Diocese of Clogher. While there he was accused of abusing minors — and suspended from ministry — at least three times before clerics booted him out of the country in 1981.
Markey went first to the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, for treatment, despite repeated warnings over the years from its founder that the facility could do little for sexually deviant clerics.
“These men,” wrote Father Gerald Fitzgerald, “are devils and the wrath of God is upon them… It is for this class of rattlesnake I have always wished the island retreat — but even an island is too good for these vipers…”
By 1982, Markey had been stationed in Granite Falls, where he allegedly abused an 8-year-old boy while serving in the Diocese of New Ulm. The following decade, Markey headed to his new gig as chaplain of the Betty Ford Clinic, and things quieted down.
It wasn’t 2010 that Markey was extradited back to Ireland on charges that he anally raped a 15-year-boy back in the late 60s. The old bugger died awaiting trial.
Late last year, the boy who says he was abused in Granite Falls filed a new lawsuit against the Diocese of New Ulm and the Servants of the Paraclete. The diocese, in turn, is blaming the servants and the Irish clerics for failing to warn them about Markey.
This isn’t the first time holy men have pointed fingers at one another. In 2003, for instance, the Diocese of San Bernardino sued the Diocese of Boston but later dropped the lawsuit (and filed for bankruptcy on the eve of another trial). Historically, these legal battles have been a handy tool in shifting blame and financial burden.
Patrick Wall, a former priest who investigates clerical sexual abuse crimes, describes church-on-church court cases as a “massive car pile-up.” One diocese tries to draw another into its legal mess, he says, and alert bill collectors that liability should be spread around.