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A former reporter is haunted by the story he didn’t pursue four decades ago.


A former reporter is haunted by the story he didn’t pursue four decades ago.

April 8

From the Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/04/08/i-got-an-early-tip-about-a-priests-sexual-abuse-and-i-sat-on-it/?tid=a_inl

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I always knew that watching “Spotlight” was going to be difficult for me, so I kept putting it off. Finally, with my wife out of town last week, I sprawled on the family-room floor with my two big dogs and steeled myself to view the Oscar-winning film about the investigation of sexual abuse in Boston’s Catholic Church. I was glad Patricia was away. I didn’t want her to see my tears.

As the next two hours crawled by, I was consumed by three emotions: admiration for the Boston Globe’s investigative team, pride in the journalism profession I have labored in for more than four decades — and guilt.

One day in the 1970s, I fielded a phone call in the newsroom of the Providence Journal. The caller was a local woman with a story that seemed inconceivable: Her 10-year-old son had been repeatedly molested by a Roman Catholic priest.

A couple of days later, I sat across from her and her boy at their kitchen table in a rundown Providence tenement building. What they told me was chilling. The boy, his voice cracking, said that he wasn’t the only victim — two of his friends also had been abused. I asked the woman if she or the other parents had reported this to the Providence police. She said they’d tried, but the police scoffed and warned them that it was a crime to file a false report.

As a journalist, I am skeptical by nature. But by the time I left them that evening, I believed that what they’d told me was true. The next day, I consulted with an editor, one of the top guys who ran the paper. He branded their account rubbish before I could even finish relating it.

I understood why he was incredulous but insisted it was worth looking into. He forbade it. No way would the paper ever slander a priest, he said. Besides, he added, even if the story were true (a notion he dismissed out of hand), none of our readers would believe it. At the time, Rhode Island was the most heavily Roman Catholic state in the union, and people trusted the church — in the 1970s, public surveys regularly showed that more than 60 percent of all Americans had high levels of confidence in organized religion.

I protested. The editor dug in. I argued. He got angry. If I didn’t let this go, he warned, I’d be looking for another line of work.

I was a young reporter, less than a decade into a profession in which he’d excelled for several times that long. I had a wife, kids and a mortgage I could barely afford. I needed that job. I loved it, too. And when that editor threatened to take it away, he was so red-faced with fury that I knew he meant it. Besides, I told myself, what good would it do to chase the story if the newspaper wasn’t going to print it?

So I swallowed hard and moved on to other investigative targets. (In a state rife with organized crime and political corruption, there was no shortage.)

It seems unlikely that I was the only journalist who got a lead about a pedophile priest in the decades before Marty Baron walked into the top job at the Globe and began to set things right. (Baron is now executive editor of The Washington Post.) There were so many damaged kids, so many distraught parents. Yes, most of them were loath to speak of it, even in a whisper. They were cowed by their shame, their reverence for the church and their fear that they would not be believed. But surely a few must have called their local newspapers and gotten the brush-off. Knowing that I probably wasn’t the only one who failed to follow up doesn’t make me feel even a teeny bit better.

In Rhode Island, the first public indication that something was amiss came in 1984, the year after I left the paper, when the Rev. Henry Leech, assistant pastor of St. Jude’s Parish in Lincoln, was charged with five counts of sexual assault on teenage boys. Later, as he was sentenced to three years in prison, he told the judge that he, too, had been sexually assaulted when he was a child. Over the next few years, three more Rhode Island priests were convicted of similar crimes.

By 1997, when Louis Edward Gelineau retired after 25 years as bishop of Providence, several civil lawsuits accusing a dozen Rhode Island priests of sexual assault were winding their way through state and federal courts. Some of them accused Gelineau of either doing nothing about the assaults or trying to cover them up. Then it got uglier. In the 1950s, when he was assigned to a Vermont orphanage, the future bishop molested a child himself, according to a deposition sworn out by the alleged victim. Around the same time, Gelineau was also accused of having sex with an altar boy and soliciting sex at a nearby Massachusetts truck stop. He denied it all and was never charged.

From my Rockefeller Plaza office in New York, where I directed a team of Associated Press national writers, I followed these developments with a growing sense of revulsion. Still, I never imagined that they were a mere shadow of what was to come.

On Jan. 6, 2002, the first of the Globe’s 600 news stories on the pedophile scandal and the unconscionable worldwide cover-up by the Roman Catholic hierarchy hit the streets. Suddenly, the unthinkable was in the open for all to see. Across America and then around the world, victims by the thousands came forward to tell their stories. And this time, the world listened.

In September of that year, Providence’s new bishop, Robert E. Mulvee, settled 36 lawsuits accusing 10 Rhode Island priests and a nun of sexually abusing children, paying the victims $13 million . But that was not the end of it.

Two years later, the John Jay Report, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, put the number of Rhode Island priests accused of sexually abusing children since 1950 at 56 — a figure that seemed astounding for such a small state. In the years since, at least four more Rhode Island priests have been either put on “administrative leave” or criminally charged for sex offenses.

When the Globe broke the news, my instant reaction was professional jealousy: That story, and the Pulitzer I was sure would follow it, could have been mine. But then I was transported back to that Providence tenement house, felt the eyes of that woman and her son on me, and I was deeply ashamed. Their names are lost to me now, but for years, I’ve often thought about them — and about all the other kids who were molested during the decades when nobody, including me, was doing anything about it.

What of that priest the woman and her son told me about? Was he ever brought to justice? I don’t know. My notes were discarded decades ago, and I no longer remember his name. But to this day, I study every fresh report about predatory priests in the hope that I might recognize it if I see it again. Sometimes, I find myself wondering if my old editor does the same. He’s an old man now, and there’s no point in burdening him with my shame.

I have no idea if my Providence colleagues and I could have followed that lone lead and unraveled the whole monstrous mess in the 1970s. But even then, I was a capable investigative reporter. Sometimes working alone, sometimes as part of a team, I exposed fraud in the state Medicaid system, corruption in the federal Section 8 low-income housing program, widespread voter fraud in a mayoral election, third-world conditions and needless deaths at the state’s institution for the developmentally handicapped, physical and sexual abuse at the state’s institution for delinquent children. I even helped identify a murderer. And I was far from the only one. In the 1970s, the Journal was rich with investigative talent.

So, yes, perhaps we could have done it. But we didn’t even try. I didn’t, to my everlasting regret. There are a lot of us out here: journalists who got a whiff of the stink and missed the big story, cops and prosecutors who looked the other way, bishops who saw the depth of the depravity and chose to cover it up. Perhaps some of us are guiltier than others, but we are members of the same tribe. That’s why one line in the movie, delivered by Stanley Tucci in the role of crusading Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, brought me to tears:

“If it takes a village to raise a child it takes a village to abuse one.”

 

Catholic Whistleblowers urge greater accountability on sex abuse crisis


Catholic Whistleblowers urge greater accountability on sex abuse crisis

By Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel

From the link: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/208528911.html

In its first public action Wednesday, a national network of Catholic clergy and nuns founded in part by a Milwaukee-area priest called on the church to take a stronger stand against child sexual abuse in its ranks.

Eight members of the Catholic Whistleblowers gathered for a news conference in New York, home to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is considered the most influential American prelate.

The group urged Dolan to use his influence to help oust Newark, N.J., Bishop John Myers, who has been in the news in recent weeks for allowing a pedophile priest continued access to minors, in violation of an agreement with prosecutors.

In addition, members called on Catholic bishops to:

 Support proposed legislation in New York, Wisconsin and elsewhere, that would lift statutes of limitations on sex crimes against children. (A Wisconsin bill, known as the Child Victims Act, is expected to be re-introduced this legislative session.)

 Adopt policies, similar to one in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, that protect priests, nuns and other church employees who report child sex abuse or cover-ups to civil authorities.

“The church has made strides; thousands of people have been trained in how to spot and report sex abuse. But all of that has to do with the future,” said the Rev. James Connell of Sheboygan, who has emerged in recent years as a vocal advocate for child sex abuse victims.

“But that doesn’t address the accountability, or the justice issues of the past,” he said. “Those issues are still at hand.”

A spokesman for Dolan said in an e-mail that the Archdiocese of New York has had a policy for years that encourages those with allegations of abuse to report them to civil authorities, and that here are no known abusers serving in the dioceses. He did not respond to questions about Myers or the statute-of-limitations legislation.

The group laid out its mission at a news conference at Cardozo Law School, which employs First Amendment scholar, Marci Hamilton, who has represented church victims in lawsuits across the country, including in Wisconsin.

Hamilton successfully argued the 2007 Wisconsin Supreme Court case that allows victims to sue religious entities under the state’s fraud statute — the basis of the 570-plus claims in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Bankruptcy. And she won a January ruling in the bankruptcy case that barred the archdiocese from using the First Amendment to keep up to $57 million in cemetery funds from being tapped for sex abuse settlements. That decision is on appeal to the U.S. District Court.

Connell is a founding member of the Whistleblowers, a group of like-minded mostly priests and nuns, brought together last year by the founders of BishopAccountability.org, a Boston-based non-profit that researches and posts information about the Catholic church’s response to sexual abuse.

Other members include well-known critics of the church’s handling of the sex abuse crisis, including Father Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer who alerted U.S. Catholic Bishops to the coming crisis in the 1980s; and Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine monk and “fixer,” who was sent by his order to clean up after abusive priests, and now consults for victims in lawsuits around the country.

Cardinals Dolan and Mahony quizzed on child abuse


Cardinals Dolan and Mahony quizzed on child abuse

21 February 2013 Last updated at 14:38 ET

From the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-21539070

Two US cardinals due to go to Rome to help elect a new pope are being questioned about cases of child abuse by priests under their supervision.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan testified about his release of names of accused clergy members in his former archdiocese.

Cardinal Roger Mahony will be questioned on Saturday about a Mexican priest accused of abusing 26 children.

Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly said last week he would retire, becoming the first pontiff to do so since 1415.

Cardinal Dolan, 62, also the Archbishop of New York and president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been seen as a long-shot candidate for the papacy.

‘Maneuvering offenders’

His deposition came during a bankruptcy trial filed in 2011 by Cardinal Dolan’s successor to the archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, over abuse claims from nearly 500 people.

The scandal has seen the removal of several church officials, including another former archbishop.

A spokesman for Cardinal Dolan said he was eager to co-operate with lawyers on the trial.

“He has indicated over the past two years that he was eager to co-operate in whatever way he could,” said spokesman Joseph Zwilling.

The plaintiffs have said the evidence given by Cardinal Dolan would help them to establish when church officials first became aware of the abuse allegations and victims.

Current Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki has said the church is seeking bankruptcy protection so it can continue to operate, while still compensating victims.

It is the eighth US diocese to take such action.

A spokesman said Cardinal Dolan’s decision to make public the names of suspected abusers was part of a wider effort to begin the healing process.

But the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is asking for the cardinal’s testimony to be made public.

Cardinal Dolan “did a lot of creative maneuvering of priest sex offenders and creative accounting of church money,” said Peter Isley, a director of the group.

Calls to withdraw

Meanwhile, Cardinal Mahony is due to provide evidence in a separate case over visiting Mexican priest Reverend Nicolas Aguilar Rivera.

Police believe he abused 26 children in 1987 and fled to Mexico a year later  when parents complained.

He has been removed from the priesthood and is still a fugitive.

In recent weeks, the archdiocese of Los Angeles has released thousands of documents concerning over 120 accused clergy members.

The papers showed Cardinal Mahony and other church officials protected some of those accused and made no effort to warn churchgoers about the risk to their children.

There are mounting calls for Cardinal Mahony to withdraw from the conclave. But in blog and Twitter posts the cardinal has indicated he intends to go to Rome.