Blog Archives

Brazilian archbishop resigns after paedophile ‘cover-up’


Brazilian archbishop resigns after paedophile ‘cover-up’

From the Link: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-36723117

Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto,

Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto,

A Brazilian archbishop has resigned after being accused of covering up actions of paedophile priests in his diocese.

Pope Francis accepted Bishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto’s resignation.

In a statement (in Portuguese), Mr Pagotto said he had committed some “mistakes” while trying to give shamed bishops a second chance.

Last year he was investigated and barred from appointing priests in his home state of Paraiba.

Mr Pagotto was accused of letting priests into seminaries in his diocese that were rejected elsewhere for suspected paedophilia.

In his statement, he said: “I welcomed priests and seminarians with the intention of offering them new opportunities in life.

“Some were later suspected of committing serious wrongdoings… I made mistakes by trusting too much, with naive mercy.”

Last month the Pope said bishops who had been negligent over sexual abuse allegations could be removed from office.

Mr Pagotto resigned under a portion of canon law that allows for early retirement for “grave cause or illness”.

Key papal adviser accused of mishandling abuse allegation in 2006


Key papal adviser accused of mishandling abuse allegation in 2006

Anian Christoph Wimmer

August 20, 2016

From the Link: https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2016/08/20/key-papal-adviser-accused-mishandling-abuse-allegation-2006/

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, who has been accused of failing to remove an abusive priest in 2006, at a press conference in Rome, Oct. 5, 2015. (Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.)

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, who has been accused of failing to remove an abusive priest in 2006, at a press conference in Rome, Oct. 5, 2015. (Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.)

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, Germany, a key papal adviser and a leading voice for progressive positions during the recent Synods of Bishops on the family, faces accusations of mishandling an abuse allegation against one of his priests in 2006.

TRIER, Germany – Accusations have been raised in a number of German media that Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising failed to remove from office a priest accused in 2006 of sexually abusing a minor.

The alleged abuser, it appears, was allowed to stay on as parish priest for a number of years, even going on overnight excursions with youth.

A spokesperson for Marx has said that the prelate had acted in accordance with relevant guidelines that were in place at the time.

Saarland public broadcaster SR reports that Marx, who was then Bishop of Trier, knew authorities were investigating a parish priest – identified only as “M” –  for allegedly sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy.

Citing the victim’s legal counsel as a source, SR reports that “M”, who was then 52, had partially confessed the crime to authorities. However, he appears to have avoided prosecution because the alleged crime fell just outside the statute of limitations.

The Church was duly informed by authorities of this in 2006, but never requested the case files, several media report.

When nonetheless questioned by the diocese, “M” denied the allegations, SR reports, and then-Bishop Marx closed the matter and moved on.

It appears the accused continued to serve as parish priest in the community where the alleged abused took place until 2015.

According to the German news magazine “Focus”, state authorities initiated two further investigations into the priest’s conduct, in 2013 and 2015. Both times, the lines of inquiry stalled and finally were abandoned due to a lack of evidence.

Only as of May 2015, the alleged abuser is no longer allowed to be in contact with minors or to publicly say Mass, Focus reports, as both civil authorities and the Trier diocese are yet again investigating the matter under both legal and canonical auspices.

Marx, who was Bishop of Trier from 2001 to 2007, has not yet spoken about the accusations leveled against him. Spokespersons for both the Diocese of Trier and for Marx have confirmed that the then-Bishop of Trier knew of the case in 2006.

However, the spokesperson for Marx emphasized that he “had acted in accordance with the guidelines of the German Bishops’ Conference”. These guidelines were reformed in 2010, and then again in 2013.

“Such a case would be dealt with differently today; the Church would conduct her own investigation”, the spokesperson said. “The German bishops have acted on the bitter experiences, and introduced new guidelines that apply to all dioceses”.

Marx is also president of the German bishops’ conference, a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis on the reform of the Roman Curia, and coordinator of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy.

 

Vatican finance minister accused of child sexual abuse


Vatican finance minister accused of child sexual abuse

By Josephine McKennaReligion News Services  •  Friday July 29, 2016 7:24 AM

From the Link: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/faith_and_values/2016/07/29/vatican-finance-minister-accused-of-child-sexual-abuse.html

Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s finance minister, Cardinal George Pell, has strenuously rejected the latest claims that he sexually abused children many years ago as a priest.

Pell, an Australian who is third in the Vatican hierarchy after Pope Francis and Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, is the most senior figure in the Catholic Church to be accused of sexually abusing children.

“The allegations are untrue. I deny them absolutely,” the 75-year-old Pell said from Rome on Thursday.

This week, a TV report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said police in the state of Victoria were investigating claims that Pell had touched boys inappropriately and, in a separate incident, appeared naked in front of three boys at a surfing club locker room in the late 1980s.

“Untested allegations should be put through the proper procedures,” Pell said. “I’m quite prepared to cooperate. … I won’t cooperate with trial by the media. I think it’s unjust and inappropriate.”

It’s not the first time Pell has faced similar accusations.

After an internal church investigation, Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney, was cleared of an allegation that he had abused a 12-year-old boy at a camp in the 1960s.

The Vatican declined to comment on these most recent claims.

SNAP — the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests — urged anyone “with suspicions or knowledge” of any alleged wrongdoing by Pell to speak to secular authorities, not church figures.

“After a lengthy investigation, police have deemed eight accusers’ accounts are credible enough that they’re giving the evidence to prosecutors,” said David Clohessy, SNAP president, in a statement. “That speaks volumes.”

Anthony Fisher, the archbishop of Sydney, told reporters the claims did not correspond with the Pell he knew.

“He has a record of leadership in the fight against child sexual abuse, and was the first bishop in the world to implement a process under which such claims would be investigated by an independent commissioner,” Fisher said.

Pell has wielded significant power since he was appointed prefect of the secretariat for the economy by Pope Francis in 2014.

Pell has long been accused of shielding predatory priests in Australia. Earlier this year, he gave lengthy evidence by video link to an Australian inquiry into clerical sexual abuse from Rome after doctors said he was not well enough to testify in Sydney.

At the end of his hearing, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi praised Pell for his “ dignified and coherent” testimony.

Former Ballarat priest found guilty of historic indecent assault charges


Former Ballarat priest found guilty of historic indecent assault charges


23 Aug 2016, 5 p.m.

From the Link: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/4115070/former-priest-found-guilty/

Father Leslie Sheahan

Father Leslie Sheahan

A former Ballarat priest has been found guilty of indecently assaulting a young girl in her own bed more than 40 years ago.

Leslie Sheahan, 85, who was an assistant priest of St Columba’s Church at the time of the offence, will return to the Ballarat Magistrates Court next month for sentencing over the historic indecent assault.

The woman assaulted as a young girl by the former Ballarat priest while she slept told the court the traumatic experience still haunted her.

The woman, who was aged nine or 10 at the time of the incident, gave evidence she woke one night in the 1960s to find Sheahan in her bed with his hand down her pants while he forced her hand on his penis.

“He kept telling me how nice it felt for me and I kept thinking no it wasn’t nice at all,” she told the court.

Left feeling ashamed, she said Sheahan, who would visit the house often with other members of the clergy including Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns and Cardinal George Pell, told her “that’s our secret” and not to tell her parents.

“I just curled up in a ball and cried,” she said.

“I remember it as if it happened last night.

“It’s a shadow that stays with you and hangs over you for the rest of your life.”

It was decades later before she told anyone about the night.

She told the court she originally wrote a letter to Bishop Mulkearns advising him of what happened because she wanted to make sure Sheahan was not working around children, but she never followed up on an invite to talk about the complaint.

She added a number of years later she found out Sheahan was still working in a Victorian parish and out of shock decided to ring him.

“He denied the incident and started to cry … but he didn’t respond to questions about why he was crying,” she told the court.

But it was not until seeing Sheahan at a funeral she decided to make a complaint to police.

Sheahan denied the allegations and made a no comment interview to police.

Sheahan’s defence lawyer, Raymond Alexander, put to the woman she had fabricated the incident in which she responded “I had absolutely no doubt it was Father Sheahan in my bed.”

He also asked if the complaint was born out of desires to gain compensation, to which she told him she had not lodged for any compensation by the Catholic Church.

Mr Alexander argued Sheahan never groomed the young girl, which the woman also agreed never occurred, and said Sheahan risked the girl screaming or telling her parents if he had molested her.

“The likelihood of someone exposing themselves to that great of risk is unreasonable,” he said.

He added if the assault had occurred, it may have been another priest, as many frequently visited the Ballarat property.

He told the court no evidence of the letter could be found, and no diary notes were made by the woman which could support the allegations.

After the one-day contested hearing, Magistrate Cynthia Toose ruled Sheahan was guilty of two counts of unlawfully/ indecently assaulting the woman.

Ms Toose, who indicated Sheahan was looking at a period of imprisonment, said in her view there was clear identification by the victim of Sheahan on the night.

The matter was adjourned until September 28 for a plea hearing.

Fugitive Catholic priest at centre of five-year manhunt arrested in Britain over historic sex abuse


Fugitive Catholic priest at centre of five-year manhunt arrested in Britain over historic sex abuse

By  Camilla Turner

From the Link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/22/fugitive-catholic-priest-at-centre-of-five-year-manhunt-arrested/

Father Lawrence Soper has been arrested on suspicion of nine counts of historic sexual assaults CREDIT: MET POLICE

Father Lawrence Soper has been arrested on suspicion of nine counts of historic sexual assaults CREDIT: MET POLICE

A Catholic priest who skipped bail five years ago has been arrested on suspicion of nine counts of historic sexual assaults.

Father Laurence Soper, 72, the former abbot of Ealing Abbey, was wanted on a European Arrest Warrant over allegations of child abuse.

The accusations date back to when he taught at St Benedict’s School, a private independent Catholic school which is part of Ealing Abbey in west London.

In March 2011, Fr Soper was believed to have been living in a monastery in Rome and was due to return to London to answer bail but he failed to show up, sparking an international search.

After spending five years living as a fugitive, he was arrested in Kosovo in May.

However, attempts to bring him back the UK to face charges were thwarted when a Kosovan judge blocked the extradition order on the basis that his alleged crimes have expired in Kosovo, which has a 30-year statute of limitation.

On Sunday night, Scotland Yard announced that Fr Soper was arrested as he arrived back in the UK at Luton Airport from Kosovo.

A spokesman said he was “arrested on suspicion of nine offences of sexual assault committed over a period from 1972 to 1986”.

In 2011,  Lord Carlile of Berriew stripped monks of control at St Benedict’s School, which offered a “heartfelt apology for past failures”.

The peer said he hoped his decision to take powers away from Ealing Abbey would “set a template” for other schools.

In his inquiry into the sexual abuse, Lord Carlile outlined a catalogue of failures by the abbey to intervene as allegations of abuses came to light.

“I have come to the firm conclusion … that the form of governance of St Benedict’s School is wholly outdated and demonstrably unacceptable,” he wrote.

“The abbot himself has accepted that it is ‘opaque to outsiders’.”

The report added: “In a school where there has been abuse, mostly – but not exclusively – as a result of the activities of the monastic community, any semblance of a conflict of interest, of lack of independent scrutiny, must be removed.”

Chargesheet ready against defrocked priest for teen’s rape and murder


Chargesheet ready against defrocked priest for teen’s rape and murder

Published: 23rd August 2016 12:58 AM

Last Updated: 23rd August 2016 12:58 AM

From the Link: http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/Chargesheet-ready-against-defrocked-priest-for-teens-rape-and-murder/2016/08/23/article3592282.ece

PALAKKAD/COIMBATORE: AS the charge sheet is being readied against defrocked priest, H Arockiaraj, accused in the suspicious death of a teenage girl at the pastor’s residence attached to the St. Stanislaus church in Walayar in 2013, the Coimbatore Bishop and three members of the clergy are likely to be made approvers.

According to police summons might be issued to Bishop Thomas Aquinas and the priests, Fr BF Madalaimuthu, Fr Kulandairaj, Fr Lawrence Melcure arrested and later released on bail for withholding information, to give a statement under section 164 before the Magistrate. If they supported the prosecution, they are likely to be made approvers. The Bishop and the three priests would have to give a statement to the Chief Judicial Magistrate which will determine the course of the case.

On July 23, 2013, the body of Fathima Sofiya was found in the living room of Fr Arockiaraj’ residence attached to the St. Stanislaus church in Chandrapuram. She was then 18 years and 4 days old. Subsequently, four weeks after the ‘murder’, a canonical court was set up by the Coimbatore Bishop, which found that Fr Arockiaraj guilty. He was suspended from the diocese and defrocked.

Sources, privy to the investigation, said the post mortem report by police surgeon Dr PB Gujral has clearly stated that rape had been committed on the girl while ruling out ligature strangulation. However, Shanthi Roselin, the mother of the girl,  continued to maintain that her daughter was strangulated. As such, investigators are learnt to have sought medico legal opinion on whether under these circumstances Section 302 (murder) could be included in the chargesheet.

On a petition from Shanthi Roselin, the Additional Sessions Court I, Palakkad had issued warrants against the Bishop and the four priests. They were charged under section 201 and 202 of the IPC for withholding information about Fr Arockiaraj from the police.

On August 12, Bishop Thomas Aquinas, Fr Madalaimuthu, Fr Kulandairaj, Fr Lawrence

Melcure had appeared before the investigation officer MK Zulfiquer at the Palakkad South police station and their statements were recorded. They were later let off on bail.

The Walayar police who investigated the crime had collected the shawl in which the body was reportedly found hanging. But this crucial piece of evidence was now missing after the police had closed the case within two weeks after writing it off as suicide.

It was in July 2015, after two years, Shanthi Roselin after recovering a letter Fr Arokiaraj had written to Sofiya and based on the photographs showing bruises on the face of the deceased, had approached the police for a reinvestigation. By then, Shanthi had also recorded many telephonic conversations she had with Arokiaraj in the background of her daughters death.

Later, Fr Arockiraj was arrested on charges of rape and under Posco for abusing a minor. He is now out on conditional bail.

Shanthi had also approached the Kerala High court and met the DGP of Kerala seeking justice.

She admits that her family had known Fr Arockiaraj since 2007 when her daughter was in Class VI. He was the Assistant Vicar of the St. Michael’s church in Coimbatore. The family kept in touch after he was transferred to Valparai in Tamil Nadu and later to Chandrapuram in Walayar. He used to visit Shanthi’s house Coimbatore and bring Sofiya in his car to Walayar, located 35 km away, for an eye treatment, counselling and catechism classes. It was during one such trips that the body of Sofiya was found in the living room of Fr Arockiaraj

Meanwhile, the Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Coimbatore, speaking to Express, clarified that the question of hiding evidence from the police by four members of the clergy, never arose as the Kerala police had never sought any information from them in the first place.

Bishop Thomas Aquinas, and the three priests, Kulanthai Raj, Madalai Muthu and Lawrence Melcure, were part of the canonical commission that inquired into the issue. Despite Arockiaraj having confessed to have “used” the girl, to the canonical court, the information was not divulged to the Kerala police.

“The inquiry was conducted in 2013, and Arockiaraj was defrocked. We did not divulge information to the police as they did not seek it from us,” said Father John Joseph, Vicar General.

“At the time the girl was supposed to have died, the Bishop was away on ecclesiastical duty. The police had already conducted an autopsy into the teens death and were proceeding with the investigations,” he added.

Following the arrests of the four priests for concealing evidence, the church has submitted documents relating to the inquiry to the Kerala police, officials confirmed

Unholy Secrets: The Legal Loophole That Allows Clergy To Hide Child Sexual Abuse


Unholy Secrets: The Legal Loophole That Allows Clergy To Hide Child Sexual Abuse

Jack Jenkins

From the Link: https://thinkprogress.org/unholy-secrets-the-legal-loophole-that-allows-clergy-to-hide-child-sexual-abuse-9a6899029eb5#.73nfch55c

It was 2008, and Rebecca Mayeux was living a nightmare.

Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell

Just 14 years old at the time, she was being sexually harassed and abused by a member of her church, 64-year-old George Charlet Jr. According to Mayeux*, Charlet bombarded her with emails “laced with seductive nuances” over the course of a summer, slowly escalating his inappropriate advances before ultimately kissing and fondling her.

As if the abuse wasn’t enough, Mayeux had to sit in the same pews as Charlet every Sunday at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, a tiny country parish about 35 miles north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Shaken and afraid, Mayeux, like so many children who endure sexual abuse, felt too ashamed to tell her parents about her ordeal, fearing they would judge her.

Instead, she fled to the person she thought she could trust the most: Father Jeff Bayhi, her parish priest.

Mayeux says she visited Bayhi on three occasions to reveal intimate details about her abuse, always meeting under the context of Catholic confession. She says she told him about her unsettling experience, which included an avalanche of suggestive emails, “obsessive” phone calls, and Charlet saying he “wanted to make love to her” before inappropriately touching her.

“Rather than help Mayeux, her lawyers say the priest told her simply to move past the abuse, suggesting she ‘sweep it under the floor and get rid of it.’”

But rather than help Mayeux, her lawyers say the priest told her simply to move past the abuse, suggesting she “sweep it under the floor and get rid of it” because “too many people would be hurt” if she brought it out into the open. He reportedly took few if any steps to stop the mistreatment, and the crimes she claimed went unreported.

Mayeux’s alleged abuser died one year later, but the emotional scars remained. After she finally informed her parents about her ordeal, the family immediately filed a lawsuit in 2009 that implicated Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge. They charged that Bayhi was negligent in allowing the alleged abuse to continue and that the diocese had failed to inform him that clergy are listed as “mandated reporters” in the state of Louisiana — that is, people in leadership positions who are legally required to report knowledge of child abuse to authorities.

But the diocese, which declined to comment for this story, did not accept blame or even move to condemn Bayhi’s behavior; rather, they rushed to his defense. They pointed to an obscure exemption in Louisiana law: According to the state Children’s Code, clergy do not have to disclose information about child abuse if it is revealed during church-sanctioned “confidential communication” — in other words, confession. They argued that not only was the priest exempted from reporting the abuse, but also that he could not be forced to testify about what he heard during confession, as it would broach the Catholic belief in the “seal of confession” and violate his religious liberty. In fact, he could not even confirm that a confession happened, as doing so would also violate the seal.

Moreover, they contended that Mayeux should also not be allowed to testify about the cloistered conversations, as Bayhi — bound by his priestly vow to never reveal what is discussed in confession — would be unable to testify in his own defense. To do so, they said, would mean his automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church.

Mayeux’s lawyers insisted they were not trying to force Bayhi into the witness stand, but maintained that the priest was required to report and that Mayeux should be allowed to testify. The ensuing legal battle has lasted years, with attorneys vigorously debating the limits of confession carve-outs — that is, legal protections for religious conversations in the case of child abuse. The case effectively pits religious liberty advocates against supporters of mandated reporting laws, or rules designed to assist abuse victims by upping the chance their ordeals — which are often never reported — will be conveyed to authorities.

The dispute is equal parts legal and theological, and has major implications for the more than 30 states with similar “religious liberty” laws exempting clergy from mandatory reporting during confession. At a time when star-studded films such as Doubt and Spotlight keep the Catholic child sex abuse scandal in focus, many in Louisiana and elsewhere are beginning to raise questions about the ethics of such exemptions, with some asking out loud why confession carve-outs for child abuse exist in the first place — and if they should be changed.

The uneven history of ‘clergy-penitent privilege’

Mayeux’s case resurrects an old debate over a little-known — but heavily protected — legal concept known as “clergy-penitent privilege.” Similar to confidentiality guaranteed to clients of doctors and lawyers, the privilege allows certain conversations between a clergy member and a parishioner to remain private, meaning a faith leader cannot be forced to reveal the information in court. Thus, Bayhi’s attorneys posited that any law forcing Bayhi or other priests to reveal things said in confession — even if it includes child abuse — “gravely violates” the principle of religious freedom, specifically Louisiana’s understanding of clergy-penitent privilege.

They certainly have precedent on their side. In the United States, clergy-penitent privilege, sometimes called “priest or pastor-penitent privilege,” dates back as far as 1813, when the Court of General Sessions of the City of New York refused to force a priest to testify. Its importance has even been championed by the nation’s highest court, with former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger declaring in 1980 that certain clerical conversations are off limits.

“The priest-penitent privilege recognizes the human need to disclose to a spiritual counselor, in total and absolute confidence, what are believed to be flawed acts or thoughts and to receive priestly consolation and guidance in return,” Burger wrote.

Indeed, shields for clergy-penitent conversations are typically more “absolute” and robust than those for other professions. Whereas doctors, lawyers, and therapists in many states are compelled to inform authorities about serious crimes they hear about in their work, religious professionals are often not held legally accountable for similar things told to them during pastoral conversations.

The concept began to impact child abuse as early as 1990, when Californiapassed a law that named clergy as mandated reporters for child sexual abuse but also included an exception for information learned during a “penitential communication,” or conversations in which a religious leader “has a duty to keep those communications secret.”

“Clergy, like social workers and teachers and doctors, if they see abuse anytime, anywhere, it ought to be disclosed.”

Although trailblazing at the time, California was eventually joined by several other states after the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team published their Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into Catholic Church abuse scandal in 2001. Horrifying details of predator priests and complicit bishops shattered trust in men who wore the collar, and Massachusetts lawmakers scrambled to pass legislation that could quell public outrage and prevent any future abuse of children by priests.

By early 2002, they had found a possible solution: crafting their own version of California’s law naming clergy as mandated reporters. But the bipartisan effort suddenly stalled when it became clear that lawmakers had differing opinions on the exemption for confession. Some state house members and senators supported it, some wanted it to be less broad, and others wanted it cut entirely.

“Clergy, like social workers and teachers and doctors, if they see abuse anytime, anywhere, it ought to be disclosed,” then-state senator Cheryl A. Jacques said at the time.

Some faith leaders also spoke out against the bill, essentially predicting the kind of hellish experience Mayeux describes in her lawsuit. In a letter sent to the state’s House of Representatives in January 2002, Nancy S. Taylor — president of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ — urged legislators to vote against it.

“While upholding confidentiality as a general principle, it should not be used to protect criminals, or criminal behavior, at the expense of innocent victims,” she wrote, according to the New York Times.

But other, more influential clergy from the Massachusetts Council of Churches and elsewhere ultimately convinced lawmakers that a law without exemptions for religious conversations would result in lawsuits from faith groups. The carve-out was defended as necessary to maintain religious freedom, and the governor eventually signed the bill into law later that year — with the exemption intact.

Dozens of other states soon followed suit, passing laws listing faith leaders as mandated reporters while also providing various permutations of California’s confession carve-out. As of 2015, at least 31 states, including Louisiana, now name clergy as mandated reporters but include an exemption for information learned during certain religious conversations. Several other states have laws that are less clear on the subject, and only six states (and Guam) require clergy to report child abuse without exception.

States With Confession Carve-Outs

States With Confession Carve-Outs

Ironically, these exemptions appear tone deaf to a crucial detail of the “Spotlight” article that triggered their creation: Many of the abuses doled out by priests in Massachusetts happened during confession.

Mitchell Garabedian, a legendary child abuse lawyer who played a key role in helping the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team unearth the horrifying scope of the Catholic abuse scandal coverup, knows this all too well. Garabedian told ThinkProgress he has defended clients who were abused during confession “on multiple occasions.” Victims were almost always told to keep their ordeal to themselves, and in one case, a child was forced to perform oral sex on a priest while the cleric heard the confession of another parishioner.

“The crimes are endless,” Garabedian said.

When asked about Mayeux’s case — where the abuser wasn’t a priest, but was allegedly protected by a priest who refused to violate the seal of confession — Garabedian was unequivocal: The child’s safety should come first.

“When children are at risk of being abused in any instance, confessional should not be used as a shield to protect the abuser,” he said. “The safety of children should take priority.”

‘Religious liberty’ vs. anti-abuse advocates

Despite early warning signs, confession carve-outs have gone largely unchallenged since the early 2000s. But the dramatic nature of Mayeux’s case exposed potential flaws, and jump-started a conversation about pastor-penitent privilege in instances of of child abuse. For their part, the Church rehashed much of the same rhetoric used during other political disputes over same-sex marriage, tweaking parts of it for a modern context. The diocese even cited the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, a Louisiana law passed in 2010 that many saw as an early attempt to push back against the coming legalization of same-sex marriage.

“The diocese argued that this statute requiring Father Bayhi to be a mandatory reporter infringes on his free exercise of religion,” Brian Abels, Mayeux’s lawyer, said.

But child rights advocates say mandatory reporting laws are needed to protect children, and that community leaders — especially clergy — should take their responsibility seriously. Cathy Townsend, the National Strategy Manager for Darkness to Light — the largest anti-child abuse advocacy organization in the country — told ThinkProgress the efficacy of mandatory reporting laws is still a matter of dispute, but insisted their existence is rooted in a painful truth: Only 33 percent of child abuse victims report their abuse in a timely fashion, with an additional 33 percent waiting years to disclose. Many never disclose at all, and those who do often only tell childhood peers who are rarely equipped to offer much-needed assistance.

“Reporting abuse is very traumatizing for many children — particularly when it’s not handled well,” she said. “It just compounds the problem.”

If true, Mayeux’s story is a textbook example of how failure to report can not only traumatize victims, but also cause more harm.

“After the first time she went to confession, there were more instances of abuse after that,” Abels said. “One of the worst instances of the abuse happened after she went to confession.”

Mayeux’s case even has some Catholics calling for an end to confession carve-outs. In 2014, Julie Love Taylor, a Catholic lawyer who grew up in Baton Rouge, published a lengthy blog post for the Louisiana Law Review blasting the clergy exemption in Mayeux’s case and suggesting an amendment to the Louisiana constitution. She argued any residual impact of the change on Catholic confession “is merely an incidental effect of the law.”

“I understand it’s within the Catholic confessional, but when a child comes forward with that sort thing, you can’t just ignore it. You have a moral compulsion to take some kind of action.”

She repeated her position earlier this year in an interview with ThinkProgress.

“When you have a child who has been abused — they feel a lot of shame,” Taylor said. “It takes great courage to tell anybody what’s going on. I understand it’s within the Catholic confessional, but when a child comes forward with that sort thing, you can’t just ignore it. You have a moral compulsion to take some kind of action.”

“I completely understand the other side — this is not an easy issue,” she added, noting that two of her uncles are priests. “It certainly would create problems within the Catholic Church. But I also think that the protection of children who are being abused — the worst thing you can imagine — needs to take priority over that.”

This same argument — that protections for religion should have limitations, at least in cases of sexual abuse enacted against minors — was also voiced by Mayeux’s lawyers.

“We understand [religious freedom] is a constitutionally protected right, but all of our rights give way in certain circumstances — there is always a limitation, especially regarding child sexual abuse,” Abels said.

A (false) theology of secrecy?

Mayeux’s case has been waged in the courts, but it has also sparked a debate among Catholic theologians. Bayhi’s lawyers hold, for instance, that he cannot testify even if Mayeux does, because doing so would violate the seal of confession and leave him automatically excommunicated. After all, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the seal “admits of no exceptions.”

Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and former editor-in-chief of the Catholic magazine America, explained to ThinkProgress the Catholic dedication to confession by recounting a story of a clergyman forcibly apprehended by the mafia. Even as his captors held him at gunpoint, the priest reportedly refused to reveal information he learned during confession, choosing Godly duties over his own life.

“If a priest broke the seal of confession, he would not be allowed to act as a priest,” Reese said. “He would be charged with a canonical crime. It’s the greatest ecclesiastical crime he could commit.”

Bayhi echoed this sentiment while being questioned by one of his attorneys. When asked whether he would ever violate the seal of confession, he seemed shocked, arguing that confession is only valuable if parishioners believe it to be completely secret.

“Knowingly? Absolutely not,” Bayhi said. “If that’s not sacred, no one would ever trust us.”

“If the penitent says the priest can reveal what he heard in confession, then he can.”

But Reese and other canon law experts say the problem isn’t so cut and dry. Reese penned an extensively researched article for the National Catholic Reporter in February 2015 arguing that “the weight of theological and canonical opinion supports the right of penitents to allow their confessor to reveal what they told him in confession.”

In a separate interview with ThinkProgress, Reese explained that while the issue of whether a priest can be released from the seal of confession is “a disputed question,” most canonists believe clergy should be free to testify if the penitent wants to publicly discuss the content of a confession.

“The majority of canonists appeared to side with the idea that confession is to protect the penitent,” he said. “Therefore, if the penitent says the priest can reveal what he heard in confession, then he can.”

The debate makes it difficult to discern whether the Diocese of Baton Rouge is alone in its belief that a priest cannot be released from confession, or if the lawsuit is the new norm for American Catholicism (the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not return ThinkProgress’ requests for comment). But as Reese pointed out in his article, even if a priest is allowed to testify, problems remain: the ironclad silence of confession — where bishops and other superiors aren’t allowed to know what transpired in a priest’s confession booth — makes the practice extremely difficult to police.

“Here again the church faces an impossible dilemma: How can it supervise the work of confessors without knowing what is said in confession?” Reese wrote.

The closed-lipped nature of confession also allows it to be used as a manipulative tool. David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said laws protecting information gathered in confession can be used by abusers to silence other well-meaning clergy members.

“We’ve heard rumors over the years,” Clohessy said. “Say ‘Father A’ molests kids, but fears that ‘Father B’ has suspicions. Father A then asks Father B to hear his confession, so that Father B is constrained and unable to say anything to anybody.”

Not just a Catholic problem

The 2001 “Spotlight” report drew national attention to child abuse enacted by priests, but the issue is hardly unique to Catholic clergy. Advocates report that instances like the Mayeux case — where a parishioner, not the priest, is the perpetrator — are common. In addition, abuse levels may even be higher among Protestant Christians.

“Some preliminary studies have indicated that more children are sexually abused within Protestant faith communities than Catholic faith communities,” said Basyle Tchividjian, a Liberty University Law School professor and founder of Protestant-focused anti-child abuse organization Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE).

Unsurprisingly, Protestants and other faith groups are also impacted by confession carve-outs, although usually in different — but no less problematic — ways than Catholics. Many state laws have been written to protect private conversations with a wide range of religious professionals, for instance, and many explicitly name Protestant pastors. But some states do not appear to protect Protestant faith traditions that lack an “official” doctrine resembling Catholic confession, and others are simply too vague to draw conclusions either way.

“It’s not just Louisiana that is having a problem,” Townsend said. “Other states also aren’t quite sure how to handle it either. A lot of the legislation is just not particularly well-written.”

“I’ve talked to pastors who were told about abuse by a victim [or perpetrator] and they felt like, ‘Well that confession is privileged so I can’t report it.’ Which is crazy.”

Tchividjian explained this minefield of unclear laws is further complicated by widespread ignorance among clergy regarding mandatory reporting laws, leading to instances where pastors fail to report because they believe — falsely — that they aren’t required or even allowed to.

“I do think there are a lot of situations where offenders could be identified and stopped, and they haven’t, because too many pastors are under the mistaken belief that clergy privilege prevents them from reporting the offense to the police,” Tchividjian said. “I’ve talked to pastors who were told about abuse by a victim [or perpetrator] and they felt like, ‘Well that confession is privileged so I can’t report it.’ Which is crazy. Such a misunderstanding of the law can contribute to the revictimization of vulnerable children.”

Tchividjian also said abusers can often manipulate this legal confusion to their advantage, transforming churches and other faith communities into a “very safe place for offenders.”

“All they have to do is communicate to the pastor, and the pastor believes that his or her hands are tied,” he said.

The tragic results of this precedent were on full display recently at the evangelical Christian Covenant Life Church (CLC), Protestant megachurch outside Washington, D.C. CLC made headlines in 2014 after a 55-year-old church member named Nathaniel Morales was sentenced to 40 years in prisonfor repeatedly sexually assaulting young boys in the congregation. Although Morales’ victims took solace in the ruling, the trial also uncovered a startling fact: In an exchange with a courtroom lawyer, CLC pastor Grant Layman appeared to admit that he was aware of the abuse, but failed to report it.

Attorney: As a pastor, when you become aware of sexual child abuse, did you have a responsibility to report that to the police department? That’s a yes or no.

Layman: I believe so.

Attorney: And you didn’t do it.

Layman: No, sir.

The information seemed to aid a class-action lawsuit filed by several parishioners against seven CLC pastors, accusing them of covering up Morales’ crimes. But the possible admission of guilt likely wouldn’t matter: Although the suit was eventually dismissed on other technicalities, it was also filed in Maryland, where state law includes a confession carve-out for child abuse that extends to Protestant pastors like Layman.

Unanswered questions in Baton Rouge

Eight years after her alleged abuse, Mayeux’s case remains entangled in the Louisiana court system. Lawyers are hopeful they can bring it to trial by 2017, but judges continue to debate the legality and scope of the state’s confession carve-out, bouncing the case between different rungs of the state and federal legal system (the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case in January 2015).

The case also suffered a major setback in February. Just one week after the film Spotlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture, the 19th Judicial District Court declared unconstitutional the provision requiring clergy to report child abuse claims heard during confessional.

“If the story is true, then the priest clearly failed in his duties.”

Frustrated but not defeated, Abels was quick to note that they won a small victory in late July, when a Court of Appeal panel court dismissed the diocese’s argument that Mayeux should not be allowed to testify. He also says they may also appeal the February ruling, possibly by charging that this kind of clergy-penitent privilege violates the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution by unfairly benefitting a specific religious group — or religion in general.

In the meantime, child abuse experts such as Tchividjian remain outraged that these kinds of cases exist in the first place. GRACE and other groups strive to train and educate clergy about mandatory reporting laws, but say the real question should be moral, not legal: Even with the confession carve-out in place, Tchividjian said, a pastor’s faith should compel them to choose the safety of a child over the possibility of losing their own job.

“It may be that the confession cannot be introduced at trial, but that’s not [a pastor’s] concern — because their concern should be the protection of a vulnerable child,” he said. “Even if the case ends up getting dismissed because that confession is deemed inadmissible, your actions of reporting the confession may have very well saved the life of a little one.”

Reese argued similarly that if Bayhi really did, in fact, ignore Mayeux’s pleas, then it’s not just confession carve-outs but priestly duty — and Christian obligation — that is in question.

“If the story is true, then the priest clearly failed in his duties,” he said. “The priest should have encouraged the child to talk to their parents, or talk to the priest outside of confession — or somebody who is required to report this.”

Back in Louisiana, however, Bayhi and the diocese appear to be more focused on defending religious liberty than clarifying spiritual duty. As Bayhi left the courthouse after the judge reaffirmed his exemption from mandatory reporting laws in February, he celebrated his win in front of reporters, declaring the decision a victory for all people of faith.

“We’re just always happy when the court upholds religious liberties,” he said.

* Although ThinkProgress typically does not name possible abuse victims, Mayeux has gone public with her story, and gave our writer permission to use her name in this article.

How the undemocratic activities of the Catholic Church silences critics


How the undemocratic activities of the Catholic Church silences critics

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH | 28 July 2016
Church and State

From the Link: http://churchandstate.org.uk/2016/07/how-the-undemocratic-activities-of-the-catholic-church-silence-critics/

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Adapted from chapter 13 of our chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s seminal book, The Life and Death of NSSM 200: How the Destruction of Political Will Doomed a U.S. Population Policy (1996). The book is available at Kindle here, and is available to read for free here.

Distortion of the Church’s Image

In 1990, the Times Mirror Company, owner of a number of large U.S. newspapers, conducted a national poll, “The People, Press and Politics.” This poll asked interviewees questions that would permit the measure of “favorability.” Eleven political institutions were compared. The Catholic Church ranked number one with an 89 percent favorability rating, handily beating the Supreme Court, Congress and the U.S. military. Evangelical Christians were given a 53 percent rating. Among famous world leaders, including living U.S. Presidents, the pope ranked number one with a favorability rating of 88 percent. Only Vaclav Havel came within 10 points of the pope.

This is either an amazing phenomenon or an impressive accomplishment by the bishops, or both. The Catholic Church in America is in serious decline. As noted earlier, half of all American priests now quit the priesthood before age 60. The average age of nuns in the U.S. is 65 years and only 3 percent are below age 40. Nearly one-third of the Catholic schools and one-fourth of the Catholic hospitals have closed in the past 30 years. Contributions by members have fallen by half in the same period, with Catholics having the lowest contribution rate of any of the major churches. Were it not for the billions of dollars received by the Church in federal, state and local tax funds, the income from corporate gifts made as a result of Catholic influence within public and private corporations, and as a result of influence within major private foundations, the Church could not possibly survive in its current form.

As noted, millions of Catholics have left the Church and become Protestants. The September 1995 New York Times/CBS News Poll revealed that 28 percent of those who had been raised as Catholics no longer considered themselves Catholic. In other words, 17 million individuals whom the bishops claim as Catholics have left the Church. In November 1979, about half of all Americans surveyed regarded the pope as a universal moral leader. By 1995, according to this survey, the proportion had fallen to 31 percent, a 40 percent drop. A 1994 Los Angeles Timessurvey found that 43 percent of priests and 51 percent of nuns say that things in the Church are not so good. According to a study conducted by the Alan Guttmacher Institute and reported in USA Today on January 29, 1993, Catholics account for 31 percent of all abortions in the U.S. but are only 22 percent of the U.S. population. A September 1995 Washington Post/ABC News Poll queried: Is the Roman Catholic Church in touch with the views of Catholics in America today, or out of touch? Nearly 60 percent of both Catholics and non-Catholics responded, “out of touch.” To the question, “Do you think someone who is using birth control methods other than the rhythm method can still be a good Catholic?,” Ninety-three percent of Catholics said yes. To the question, “Do you think someone who gets divorced and marries someone else without Church approval can still be a good Catholic,?” 85 percent said yes. To the question, “Do you think a woman who has an abortion for reasons other than her life being in danger can still be a good Catholic?,” 69 percent said yes. The Catholic Church in the U.S. can only be described as an institution in serious decline.

How can the Church and the pope have such high favorability ratings under these circumstances? This is an important question for all Americans and the American political process. The answers will tell how the Rockefeller Commission recommendations and the NSSM 200 recommendations, and every major initiative taken thus far to control U.S. and world population growth have been killed by the Church without Americans being aware of it. We will return to this question in the next chapter.

The bishops have been permitted to make the rules on how they are reported on. This has been accomplished by using many different tools and devices and only a few will be discussed here. A 1991 study conducted by the Center for Media and Public Affairs and published by the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a study conducted by Catholics for use by Catholic activists, found that in spite of the fact that the Catholic Church is in precipitous decline and that half of its priest and nuns said that things in the Church are not so good, “the ‘Church hierarchy’ is cited more than 50 times as often as ‘identified Church dissidents’!” Given the state of the Church one would expect the opposite to be true. The dissenters obviously have something to talk about, but press reporting on dissension and dissenters has been successfully discouraged by the Church leadership. Given the enormous potential for dissenting opinion, the bishops’ accomplishment in suppressing media coverage of this opinion is truly impressive. A reasonable question is: what other information is the Church successfully suppressing?

There isn't a pedophile problem in the Roman Catholic Church spews Bill Donohue, the Defender of the Pedophiles of the Roman Catholic Church.

There isn’t a pedophile problem in the Roman Catholic Church spews Bill Donohue, the Defender of the Pedophiles of the Roman Catholic Church.

As mentioned in Chapter 11, the news outlets that placed the Church in a negative light were virtually all snuffed out or muzzled earlier in this century by the Knights of Columbus; this institution continues to take great pride in its early successes. Its efforts in recent years and the efforts of other Catholic institutions, such as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, to suppress information that places the Church in a bad light have been mostly successful (the issue of child molestation being the only significant exception but even on this issue they do what they can).

Any time a report appears in the press placing the Church in a bad light, almost without exception there is an immediate demand for an apology and retraction made to the reporter, editor and publisher by these Catholic thought police. Written responses and demands for publication are immediately forthcoming. These responses are usually published and it is amazing how many apologies are made and published. There are scores of examples each year and they can be found in the publications of these thought police. They eagerly share their successes with their members. But when a negative report appears in one newspaper or magazine it rarely appears in another, regardless of its newsworthiness—Carl Bernstein’sTIME magazine article is a good example.

Economic retribution as a tool to suppress criticism was used more commonly in the last century and earlier in this century than today because it is now largely unnecessary. The long history of its use and the success enjoyed with it makes the mere threat of its use highly effective.

Perhaps far more important than the outright intimidation practiced by many of the right-wing Catholic organizations is the self-censorship practiced by reporters, editors and publishers. All know there is a line that has been drawn by the bishops that they are not to cross—and they rarely do. They are aware of the rules formulated by the bishops regarding how Church matters are to be reported—and nearly always follow them. They know they will be punished if they do not conform.

Indeed, the bishops have had far greater success in intimidating non-Catholics than in retaining their own faithful. This is not limited to the press. With 26 years in the population field, I can say from experience that the fear of retaliation by the Catholic Church has paralyzed the population movement. I have also found that the fear felt by many American politicians aware of the undemocratic activities of the Church has resulted in their silence on this issue.

The Roman Catholic Church is a political entity headquartered in Rome and controlled in Rome. Its teachings and policies are set in Rome. All of its employees work for and represent the interests of the headquarters in Rome. It has awesome political power in the U.S. and the world over. It has inviolable territory, diplomatic representation to governments around the world and its minions sit on international bodies of a purely secular nature. It has political interests, including security-survival interests which are in direct conflict with those of the United States Government and its people. But the image of the Catholic Church presented by the American press does not reflect these realities. We are led to believe that this institution is primarily religious in nature. On the contrary; numerous observers over the years, including scholar Paul Blanchard, have correctly described the Catholic Church as a political institution cloaked in religion. Little has changed. The Church and its Vatican are firstly a political institution, now desperately trying to survive.

Much distortion is possible because relevant information that would limit distortion is not collected in the first place, since the Church has succeeded in blocking its collection. For example, for the bishops to claim “we speak for 59 million Americans” alone gives the Church an enormous amount of political power to manipulate government policy. It is not possible to challenge their present count of 59 million, though the actual number of Catholics who consider themselves adherents of the Catholic faith and who are willing to give the bishops permission to speak for them in the political arena is undoubtedly but a fraction of 59 million. But when politicians hear the number 59 million, they listen intently. The result—a lot of political power.

These are but a few of the reasons Americans have such a distorted view of the Church. However, American priests, nuns and laymen have a much less distorted view; it is amply documented that they are leaving the Church in droves. The test of the image is in the polling. The image of a healthy, robust and expanding American Catholic Church is clearly wrong. American Catholics are not conforming to the extent that our perceptions tell us. We are affording the Church far more deference than it deserves.

Too Much Evidence to Ignore

American Catholics, like the rest of us, cannot ignore the steady barrage of evidence that their church is in an untenable position and that the pope and the Church, as Father McCormack phrased it, “bear a heavy burden of responsibility” for much of the misery, suffering and premature death we see around the world.

There are numerous examples: The cover story of the February 1994 issue of the Atlantic Monthly titled “The Coming Anarchy” by Robert Kaplan links anarchy around the world, including the U.S., to overpopulation. In a follow-up column in the New York Times, Anthony Lewis writes that overpopulation-induced environmental destruction will be “the national security issue of the early 21st century.” A Los Angeles Times News Service article titled, “Massive Famine Predicted Worldwide,” reports on a symposium of international agricultural experts who predict eight times the shortage of food worldwide, as now seen in Africa, by the year 2000.

A recent Reuters dispatch is headed, “U.N. report lists developing countries in danger of collapse,” naming eight. (Rwanda was the first to go.) The New York Times News Service reports: Pontifical Academy of Sciences recommends that couples have only two children to curb world population growth. A USA Today article begins, “The Catholic Church, long outspoken in its opposition to abortion, is engaging in a massive and unprecedented lobbying effort to stop passage of an abortion rights bill in Congress … which would prohibit states from restricting abortion.” (The bishops won—the bill is now dead.) A Los Angeles TimesNews Service article is titled, “Roman Catholic bishops declare their intent to fight any legislation that provides coverage for abortions” (including the Clinton health care plan, or any alternative covering abortion). A New York Times News Service article reports on a newly released Episcopal Church document that terms the Catholic attitude toward women “so insulting, so retrograde” that women should abandon Catholicism “for the sake of their own humanity.”

The New York Times reports that taxpayers save $4.40 for every public dollar spent to provide family planning (based on costs of baby’s first two years). A Wall Street Journal article reports on a University of California finding that every $1 spent on family planning services saves the state $11.20 later. The results of a Washington Post-ABC News poll in 1993 shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans favor the availability of abortion, and the percentages increased over 1992. A Reader’s Digest article titled, “A Continent’s Slow Suicide,” reports, “Now the African continent is sliding back to a precolonial stage.” The nightly TV news stories on Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia reveal that these conflicts are all related to overpopulation.

These hideous stories seem endless. Of course they have the same effects on Catholics as they do on non-Catholics. “The truth shall make you free” and this steady diet of information countering the Vatican’s position has emancipated Catholics from dogmas which have contributed to papal control. We have a distorted view of what American Catholics think. For decades, the Bishops have been telling us what Catholics think and most Catholics and non-Catholics alike have failed to question this arrangement. How did this arrangement come about and how is it maintained?

More importantly—how has the Vatican managed to subvert all serious efforts to deal with the overpopulation problem without the American public’s awareness of these covert operations? This is the subject of Chapters 14 and 15.

France’s Lyon diocese sacks four priests for sex abuse


France’s Lyon diocese sacks four priests for sex abuse

 on 

From the Link: http://www.globalpost.com/article/6779707/2016/06/30/frances-lyon-diocese-sacks-four-priests-sex-abuse

Four priests of the Catholic diocese of Lyon in eastern France have been relieved of their duties for sexual abuse, a diocesan source said Thursday.

A panel of experts recommended the measure, the source added, declining to say whether the clerics had already been named since the diocese’s predator priest scandal came to light in March, rocking France’s Catholic Church.

French judicial authorities are aware of all four dossiers, the source said.

The dismissals come three weeks after Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, was questioned by police over allegations that he covered up the sexual abuse of boy scouts.

One of France’s most powerful Catholic leaders, Barbarin has been accused of failing to remove a priest, Bernard Preynat, from his diocese when he became aware the man had sexually abused young boys 25 years ago.

Preynat was relieved of his duties last year.

Pope Francis issued a decree early in June that senior Catholic officials guilty of negligence in child abuse cases can now be dismissed from office.

The nine-member expert panel — which included a psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst, a doctor and Church legal expert — also recommended that the diocese keep an eye on other priests who have already been investigated.

Several other members of the Lyon diocese have already been questioned by investigators and several police raids have been carried out at the archbishop’s office.

Barbarin had said in April that he would reveal the panel’s conclusions by the end of June.

He said the members were tasked with “studying and analysing the cases of certain priests whose situation is problematic in terms of their pastoral activity, civil or Church law in the affective and sexual domain.”

The panel, which also includes a lay woman and man, both of whom are parents, has met seven times.

Fort Worth Diocese Interrogated Sex Abuse Victim and His Mother in a Starbucks: Lawsuit


Fort Worth Diocese Interrogated Sex Abuse Victim and His Mother in a Starbucks: Lawsuit

BY AMY MARTYN
FRIDAY, MARCH 6, 2015 AT 10:38 A.M.

From the Link: http://www.dallasobserver.com/news/fort-worth-diocese-interrogated-sex-abuse-victim-and-his-mother-in-a-starbucks-lawsuit-7139543

By 2013, the stories of child molestation in the Catholic church, along with the archdiocese’s attempts to sweep the allegations under the rug, were old news. In that year alone, sex abuse cases cost the Catholic church $108,954,109, according to a report by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops acknowledged the church’s failings and laid out a series of recommendations to prevent more abuse and abuse cover-ups. “We pledge that we will work toward healing and reconciliation for those sexually abused by clerics,” they wrote.

But that same year, the Fort Worth Diocese was working to cover up a new claim of sexual abuse, a lawsuit filed this week claims. The man identified in court documents only as John Doe 117 says he was the victim of sadistic “punishment” by Father John H. Sutton when he was a student at Wichita Falls’ Notre Dame Middle-High School in the early 1990s.

Sutton, who died in 2004, was employed by the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth as the school’s Chaplain, confessor and a history teacher. During a 7th grade history class, Sutton accused Doe of copying an assignment from an encyclopedia, Doe claims. For “penance,” Sutton ordered the boy to pray in the chapel during his lunch hour. Soon, Sutton would look for Doe in the lunchroom multiple times each week, the suit claims, and escort him to the chapel.

In the chapel, Sutton stood over Doe while he knelt in payer, and then began groping him, Doe says. The assaults escalated, the suit says, and eventually Sutton was raping Doe with sex toys that he kept in a black bag:

Doe also recalls hearing the sound of a camera clicking during some incidents of abuse. Sutton even stuffed a towel in Doe’s mouth to prevent his uncontrollable agonizing screams from being heard. “Shut up,” Sutton threatened the child, “or it will be worse.”

Doe claims Sutton also threatened him that “I have the power to ruin your life.” Doe was later accused of selling LSD at school — a charge he says was brought on in retaliation for hinting to another faculty member that Sutton had been abusing him. He says the abuse lasted two years.

In 2013, the victim was a grown man living in Washington when, he says, he had a nervous breakdown. Suffering flashbacks from his abuse, he decided to talk to the Catholic Diocese. Fort Worth’s Catholic Diocese acknowledges this much in a statement released to the media, the only comment they agreed to make about the case:

The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth was contacted by a former student of Notre Dame Catholic School in Wichita Falls. The former student made allegations of sexual abuse by a deceased priest, Father John H. Sutton. The Diocese offered and provided professional personal counseling and pastoral support to the former student.

Doe spoke to Fort Worth’s victim assistance coordinator over the course of a year and began going to therapy. Finally, by September 2014, Fort Worth Diocese Bishop Michael Olson agreed to fly to Spokane, Washington to meet with the alleged victim. Olson requested they meet in a Starbucks, the suit claims, and asked if it was okay if he brought along a volunteer. Doe agreed to the conditions.

It wasn’t until recently that Doe discovered the volunteer was also a Fort Worth police officer, the suit says. During the meeting, Olson agreed to be recorded. “At a busy local Starbucks, after giving in that very public place an emotionally grueling recorded account of the sexual assaults and abuses by Father Sutton,” the suit says, “Doe asked Bishop Olson to go to Mass with him and pray with him …” But Olson refused to pray with the victim afterward, the suit says, making the excuse that he was too busy.

Olson also asked to meet with Doe’s mother, separately, again in a Starbucks. While there, they also asked her to recount her son’s allegations of sex abuse. “They did not tell her that she was being recorded secretly, a criminal violation of Washington State law,” the suit claims. According to the lawsuit, the likely purpose of the recordings was to get a statement from the victim without an attorney present and to lull him into thinking the church was investigating his allegations while the statute of limitations ran out.

John Doe is asking for $1 million. The Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth’s statement to the media doesn’t address the allegations that the victim and his mother were recorded in a Starbucks. The spokeswoman says church officials did all they could to find more victims of Sutton. In early 2014, she says, Olson and other Diocesan officials visited “all parishes in the Wichita Falls area which had students at Notre Dame School during the tenure of Father Sutton. At the end of each of the Masses, the Diocese announced the allegations and formally asked for victims to contact the Diocese and civil authorities. ”