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Australian of the Year: Chrissie Foster’s resolute battle ‘to right a wrong’ for abused kids

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 10:31 AM PST

SYDNEY (AUSTRALIA) The Australian January 5, 2018 By Tessa Akerman Chrissie Foster said last year she and her late husband Anthony only "struggled to do the right thing and try to right a wrong". Their struggle resulted in the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child abuse by religious and other organisations and showed the need for a royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. Ms Foster drew state attention to the issue of clergy abuse with her book Hell on the Way to Heaven, co-written with Paul Kennedy, which detailed the Fosters' fight for justice after two of their daughters were abused by pedophile priest Kevin O'Donnell. The scale of child sexual abuse and failings by institutions led to a damning report in 2013 and highlighted the need for the royal commission announced by then prime minister Julia Gillard in 2012. "It has been a long time — for us it has been a 16-year wait,'' Ms Foster said. "This just feels like we've been heard and believed, which feels like justice.'' The Fosters gave evidence before the royal commission and supported other survivors, even travelling to Rome for cardinal George Pell's testimony in 2016. "This is helping the work of the royal commission on a world stage," Ms Foster said. "It's been such a godsend for the victims of Australia." While the journey has been marked by losses, including the death of her daughter Emma in 2008 and her husband's death last year, Ms Foster has continued to speak out for victims and travelled to Canberra last month to see the commission's final report handed down. Ms Foster is adamant the government and church must follow through on the commission's recommendations to the Catholic Church, including on such matters as the sanctity of the confessional seal. "The government must be brave and follow the royal commission's informed recommendations," she said. "The Catholic Church priesthood says confession is sacrosanct. I say the bodies of children are sacrosanct." Ms Foster was Victoria's 2017 nominee for Australia's Local Hero and is one of The Australian's Australian of the Year nominees. Readers are encouraged to make a nomination for Australian of the Year by filling out the coupon, sending an email or going to our website.

Community comes together for Lina's project

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 10:06 AM PST

NEWCASTLE (AUSTRALIA) MN News January 3, 2018 By Joanne Isaac In September the launch event for The Atonement: Lina's Project took place at Newcastle City Hall. It was arguably the first time a Catholic diocese had facilitated a project conceived by a victim of child sexual abuse. Lina, who was abused by a member of clergy in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, devised The Atonement: Lina's Project as a way of rebuilding her own trust in "my Church" and bringing some healing to the "average, ordinary human beings" whose skin had been "burnt, scorched and blistered" by the actions and inactions of the church. Lina hoped that by admitting its criminal history and cover-ups at the launch event and then projecting images onto the façade of Sacred Heart Cathedral, the diocese might take a step towards atonement with the community. The audio-visual presentation has been viewed over 1,600 times, so clearly, people are engaging with Lina's message. You can watch it on the Lina's Project website, The projection onto the cathedral also saw a significant number of people watching each evening. Around 500 people attended on Friday 15 September. Victims, survivors, families and friends, clergy, religious, principals, teachers, diocesan staff and many others sat together. The mood was, as Pat Feenan described, "quiet, respectful and sad, which was exactly as it should be". ABC presenter, Juanita Phillips, welcomed all and explained how Lina's Project came to be. A 16-minute presentation was shown. The focus was the naming of perpetrators of abuse, as well as those who concealed their crimes, but Lina's voice and words anchored the film and − along with statements from other victims and survivors who lent their voices − gave the presentation its compass. The silence during the presentation was moving. One person described the event as "beautifully sensitive and heartbreakingly truthful".

Priest gets 8 months in prison for embezzling $500,000

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 10:04 AM PST

PHILADELPHIA (PA) The Associated Press January 4, 2018 The rector of a retirement home for Roman Catholic priests who was convicted of embezzling a half-million dollars has been sentenced to eight months in federal prison. Authorities say Monsignor William Dombrow spent the stolen funds on casino visits, expensive dinners and concerts. At his sentencing Wednesday, Dombrow acknowledged committing a "serious crime" and said he would accept the judge's decision. Dombrow's attorney says the priest was sometimes accompanied on those outings by residents of Villa St. Joseph. The Philadelphia Archdiocese runs the facility in Darby to house aging priests and treat those accused of sexual abuse.

Renowned harpist who played privately for royal family accused of sexually abusing teenage boy

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 10:01 AM PST

ENGLAND The Independent January 4, 2018 By Rachel McDermott Danielle Perrett, 58, in court along with former boyfriend Richard Barton-Wood, 68, a church warden, over seven counts of indecent assault dating back to 1980s One of the world's most renowned harpists, who has played privately for the royal family, has appeared in court accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy. Danielle Perrett, 58, is accused of seven indecent assaults which date back to the 1980s. She is charged with church warden Richard Barton-Wood who she is understood to have been in a relationship at the time of the alleged offences. Barton-Wood, 68, has pleaded not guilty to five counts of indecent assault on a teenage male, two charges of attempting to commit buggery and a further allegation of attempting to indecently assault a teenager. Barton-Wood, of Wymondham, Norfolk, is said to have been involved in teaching in Suffolk, at the time.

Family of late Stone Mountain priest settles child molestation suit

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 09:56 AM PST

ATLANTA (GA) The Atlanta Journal-Constitution January 3, 2018 By Joshua Sharpe When a 47-year-old man decided to sue a former DeKalb County priest in 2017, he dreamed of facing his alleged abuser in court. But it turned out Father Stanley Idziak, who'd been accused of molesting multiple children in Dunwoody and Stone Mountain, had died months earlier, leaving the only legal recourse suing his estate. On Tuesday, the plaintiff withdrew the complaint after receiving a settlement from the priest's family, attorney John Burdges said. "It just meant a lot to him that he had that opportunity to fight back," Burdges said of his client, whose name is sealed in court filings. "His statement to me was, 'John, it's finally over.'" Burdges declined to say how much money was involved in the settlement, other than that it was all the family could give from the estate after administrative costs. Idziak's estate was worth $62,000, according to a copy of his will obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Burdges said it seemed the priest's family felt for the victim. Their attorney, Stephen H. DeBaun, declined to comment Wednesday.

A second mediator is in the works for church settlement

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 09:54 AM PST

GUAM Pacific News Center January 4, 2018 By Janela Carrera Mediation is expected to conclude in June. Guam – The Archdiocese of Agana and Attorney David Lujan who has the bulk of the church sex abuse cases have agreed to seek a second mediator. The parties filed a notice in District Court that they have already discussed this with their current proposed mediator Tony Piazza. But because of the number of cases involved, over 140, an additional mediator will be needed. In fact, they have already identified that second mediator as Judge Molloway, who they propose will assist Piazza. Settlement negotiations were expected to conclude in March or April of this year but has since been pushed back to June this year.

Racist cult leaders accused of ritualistic sex abuse of children in new lawsuit

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 09:51 AM PST

SALT LAKE CITY (UT) Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) January 3, 2018 By Brendan Joel Kelley Last week, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' (FLDS) "prophet," Warren Jeffs, along with three other church leaders, were accused in a Utah lawsuit of ritualistic rape of the unnamed plaintiff beginning when she was eight years old The FLDS is a polygamist, white supremacist, homophobic cult that Jeffs ruled with an iron fist, a splinter group that broke from the mainstream Mormon church when it abandoned the doctrine of polygamy in the late 19th century. In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the FLDS as a hate group due to Jeffs' racist, anti-LGBT, misogynistic teachings. As "prophet," Jeffs assigned marriages of underage girls to male FLDS members. FLDS members who did not comply with Jeffs' decrees were separated from their families and lost their homes. Jeffs is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for raping two of his own child brides, ages 12 and 15, who were among his 78 wives. The allegations in the new lawsuit go far beyond the child bride practice, though. The plaintiff, now 21 years old, accuses Warren Jeffs, along with his brothers Lyle Jeffs and Seth Jeffs, and Wendell LeRoy Nielsen — all leaders in the FLDS at one time, to varying degrees — along with 20 unnamed John Does, of gathering underage girls and ritualistically raping them while other FLDS members watched and documented the abuse.

State looks to close Hanna Boys Center

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 09:43 AM PST

SONOMA (CA) The Press Democrat January 3, 2018 By Paul Payne License revocation proceedings have begun against Sonoma Valley's embattled Hanna Boys Center following a year of controversy in which a former top manager was charged with molesting four children, a second employee was accused of having sex with a youth and the facility was slapped with numerous civil lawsuits containing further allegations of abuse. A six-page complaint filed late last month by the Community Care Licensing Division of the Department of Social Services seeks to stop the 73-year-old, Catholic Church-based center on Arnold Drive from operating as a group home while stripping its former clinical director, Kevin Scott Thorpe, of the ability to ever work in a state-licensed facility again. Thorpe, 39, of Rohnert Park was arrested in June after a former resident came forward alleging Thorpe sexually abused him over a five-year period. An investigation turned up three more former residents who claim Thorpe molested them at the facility and during off-site, solo outings, in incidents dating back to at least 2006. Thorpe, who also ran a youth ministry program as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, remains in jail awaiting a February preliminary hearing with bail set at $1.8 million.

No additional mediator in clergy sex abuse cases

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 09:36 AM PST

GUAM Pacific Daily News January 4, 2018 By Haidee V. Eugenio Attorneys for clergy sex abuse accusers and the Archdiocese of Agana told the federal court Thursday that no additional mediator is needed to settle 150 Guam clergy sex abuse lawsuits filed in the local and federal courts. Antonio Piazza, of the San Francisco-based Mediated Negotiations, is the mediator chosen by the parties in the abuse cases. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood had asked the parties to consider having an additional mediator, Judge Susan Mollway, to assist in the proposed mediation. The judge gave the parties until Jan. 4 to respond to her proposal. "It is the desire at this time to proceed with Mr. Piazza, who will bring with him additional staff, to commence and complete the mediation between all the parties involved," archdiocese counsel John Terlaje and plaintiffs' attorney David Lujan said in a Jan. 4 federal court filing.

Catholic Church rocked by new sex abuse scandal as 10 paedophile priests named in Switzerland

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 09:35 AM PST

SWITZERLAND International Business Times January 4, 2018 By Isabelle Gerretsen One victim has accused the church in Sion of covering up allegations of clerical abuse. The Catholic Church has been rocked by new sex abuse allegations, with victims in Switzerland identifying ten paedophile priests who abused children between the 1950s and 1990s. Jean-Marie Lovey, the bishop of the Swiss city Sion, apologised this week to the victims for the suffering they endured. Around 220 victims came forward with allegations between 2010 and 2016, according to Swiss news agency SDA. Last year, several victims accused ten priests of being paedophiles. Three of the accused clergymen are still alive. In February, the Swiss Bishops Conference set up a commission to award compensation to victims abused by Swiss priests. One of the victims, who chose to remain anonymous, told Radio Rhône FM that the church in Sion had covered up the abuse and moved priests who had been caught abusing children to other parishes. He said that he had met around 50 victims in Sion, but believed that there were many more. Bishop Lovey, who was appointed by Pope Francis in 2014, has denied that the church in Sion covered up abuse allegations. He said priests were moved to other parishes as a preventive measure. Last month, Cardinal Bernard Law, who was at the heart of the Boston sex abuse scandal, died in Rome, having never faced punishment for covering up the clerical abuse.

Catholic church in Valais rocked by new sex abuse claims

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 09:33 AM PST

SWITZERLAND The Local January 4, 2018 Accusations of historic sexual abuse have been made against around ten Catholic priests in the bishopric of Sion in the canton of Valais. The bishop of Sion, Jean-Marie Lovey, has asked the victims for forgiveness, the Swiss news agency SDA reported, quoting Radio Rhône FM. It said the abuse of children and young people happened between the 1950s and 1990s, and all the cases were now too old for a prosecution to take place. The paedophile priests were identified after some ten victims went to the diocese of Sion with abuse allegations last year. Three of the accused clergymen are still alive. One of the victims told the radio the numbers of reported abuse cases did not correspond to the reality.

Single mediator will handle church lawsuits

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 09:29 AM PST

GUAM KUAM News January 4, 2018 By Krystal Paco A new year hopefully brings the Church closer to resolving the 150-plus clergy sexual abuse lawsuits against them. In a joint filing on Thursday, attorneys for both parties agree that they wish to proceed with only Tony Piazza as their choice mediator for settlement talks. As reported, the federal court asked parties to consider Judge Susan Mollway to join their team. According to plaintiffs' attorney David Lujan and Church attorney John Terlaje, "It is the desire to proceed with Mr. Piazza, who will bring with him additional staff, to commence and complete the mediation between all parties involved."

OPINION: Church reform is coming agonizingly slowly

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 09:28 AM PST

PETERBOROUGH (ONTARIO, CANADA) The Peterborough Examiner January 4, 2018 By Rosemary Ganley I once again take up the topic of reform in the Catholic church, because I'm a kind of an insider/outsider, a Pope-watcher, and an analyst who knows the immense power and global reach of this church. And the sad effects of its mistaken teachings and practices. There were two items in recent news: one the death of American Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, age 86, who, after being indicted on charges related to his cover-up of clergy sex abuse against children, fled to Rome in 2002 and was put in charge of a major church. Remember the courageous journalism of the Boston Globe and the subsequent film Spotlight. Here is what Canadian politician Charlie Angus, NDP MP from Cobalt, had to say in an anguished post: "I learned my lessons in faith and justice in the church. I remember pastors organizing over the grape boycott for farmworkers. I was working at a Catholic Worker house when the sexual abuse scandals first came to light. They were stunning revelations, but even more stunning was to see powerful men who were supposed to follow the words of Jesus suppress, cover-up and protect serial predators. Cardinal Law was eventually brought down by a grand jury indictment, but protected by Pope John Paul II. He was a disgrace to everything Jesus stood for. Good riddance." In Canada, we had our own searing scandal at Mount Cashel orphanage in Newfoundland 40 years ago, where 300 young persons alleged physical and sexual abuse by the Christian Brothers, cover-up by churchmen and police collusion. The Newfoundland government ordered an inquiry and the report in 1992 by former Lt.-Gov. Gordon Winter caused the Archbishop, Alphonsus Penney to resign, the orphanage to be closed and razed, some priests to go to jail and the churches largely to be emptied.

Joliet Diocese compromises on wording of woman's grave marker

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 09:25 AM PST

JOLIET (IL) The Herald News January 3, 2018 By Alex Ortiz 'She supported priest sexual abuse victims' Weeks after an initial request, Marguerite Ridgeway's grave finally hosts a marker stating, "She supported priest sexual abuse victims," after her years of advocacy and death in 2015. Ridgeway's son, Jack Ruhl, a professor of accountancy at Western Michigan University, sent a letter to the Diocese of Joliet in October requesting a marker be added to his mother's grave which would read, "She supported priest rapist victims." The diocese took issue with the use of the word "rapist," stating in a letter from diocese attorney Maureen Harton that their "concern must be with the many people who visit Assumption Cemetery with the expectation that their quiet time with their loved ones will be peaceful, tranquil and free of stress and anxiety."

Abuse survivor pushes for extending statute of limitations

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 09:21 AM PST

WEBSTER (NY) WHAM ABC 13 January 3, 2018 By Carlet Cleare Webster, N.Y. – A Webster woman, who is an abuse survivor, is pushing for extended statute of limitations on childhood sexual assault victims. Across the state, advocates of sexual assault victims are pushing the governor to expand the limitations for child victims. Currently, they only have until the age of 23 to bring criminal or civil charges against their abuser. Rebecca Holley was 13-years-old when a family friend molested her. "I was staying overnight with his daughter, and that was the first night he molested me," said Holley. The abuse lasted for a year, happening at different times while she babysat for his children. "It happened over and over again," Holley recounted. "For hours in his house or anyplace that we'd be as families." "I never really understood what was happening," she added. Once Holley did, she mustered the courage to confront her abuser.