Victims question Kamala Harris’ record on clergy abuse

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 03:32 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (DC) Religion News Service June 26, 2019 Joey Piscitelli was angry when Kamala Harris emerged as a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. It brought back the frustration he felt in the 2000s, when he was a newly minted spokesman for clergy sex abuse victims and Harris was San Francisco's district attorney. Piscitelli says Harris never responded to him when he wrote to tell her that a priest who had molested him was still in ministry at a local Catholic cathedral. And, he says, she didn't reply five years later when he wrote again, urging her to release records on accused clergy to help other alleged victims who were filing lawsuits. "She did nothing," said Piscitelli, today the Northern California spokesman for SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Survivors of clergy abuse and their attorneys say that Harris' record on fighting sex abuse within the Catholic Church is relevant as the U.S. senator from California campaigns for the presidency as a tough-on-crime ex-prosecutor who got her start prosecuting child sexual abuse cases. They complain that Harris was consistently silent on the Catholic Church's abuse scandal — first as district attorney in San Francisco and later as California's attorney general. In a statement to The Associated Press, the Harris campaign underscored her record of supporting child sex abuse victims but did not address her silence regarding victims abused by Catholic clerics.

‘Me Too,’ the Catholic Sex-Abuse Scandals, and a Double Standard

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 03:28 PM PDT

NEW YORK (NY) National Review June 26, 2019 By Nicholas Frankovich In January 2002, the Boston Globe ran its first of what would be hundreds of articles on the history of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the local diocese, raising public awareness of the problem in the Church nationwide. Four months later, the U.S. bishops met and hammered out a rapid response: the Dallas Charter — formally, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Since then, the number of allegations against priests in the United States has been a little less than 2 percent of what it was at the height of the crisis, in the late 1970s. Slightly less than 18 reports per year have been filed for abuse that was alleged to have been committed by Catholic clergy in the period 2000–17. The figure was approximately 1,000 for 1980. The numbers have been on a steep decline since then, falling to approximately 75 per year by the late 1990s. The data for this century are consistent with a decades-long trend. We see no sudden or dramatic change in that downward slope since the release of the charter, but allegations of new incidents had already begun to hover closer and closer to zero, so the room for improvement was limited. What we can say for the Dallas Charter era, 2002 to the present, is that it has seen the Church succeed at keeping the incidence of alleged abuse at a low plateau and even at lowering it a little further. (Again, only a little because the plateau was already so low.) Meanwhile, we've seen a sharp spike in the number of reports of abuse or misconduct alleged to have been committed last century — reports filed with law enforcement as well as reports filed with Church officials.

Vicar found guilty of sexually assaulting student on a transatlantic flight

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 03:24 PM PDT

LONDON (ENGLAND) ITV News June 26, 2019 A vicar has been found guilty of sexually assaulting an American male student on a transatlantic flight. A jury returned a unanimous verdict at Newcastle Crown Court. The Reverend Peter McConnell, who was a vicar at Longhorsley, in Northumberland, had denied the claim. The 23-year-old PhD student said he was subjected to "sleazy comments" and groped under a blanket on overnight flight 0066 from Philadelphia to Heathrow in March 2017. The 64-year-old clergyman, who was vicar at St Helen's Church, in Longhorsley, Northumberland, had been in the USA to visit his sister after she suffered a serious illness. The court heard he'd had up to five quarter bottles of wine during the flight, although he denied he was drunk. The student said he reported what had happened to the airline and the Church of England. The police became involved as a result. McConnell will be sentenced on 29 July 2019.

SNAP Calls for Transparency from Church Officials in Fargo, ND

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 03:20 PM PDT

ST. LOUIS (MO) Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests June 26, 2019 The Diocese of Fargo has potentially kept children and vulnerable adults in harm's way for months by not publicly disclosing a child sex abuse accusation against a local priest. We call for the responsible party or parties to be disciplined by Church officials, both in the US and in Rome. According to the media report, more than a year ago a woman reported to the Diocese of Fargo that she was molested as a child by Fr. Jack Herron. However, we know this only because she had the strength and courage to disclose this horror to a newspaper. We call on the Diocese to explain why it would endanger the faithful and the public, as well as violate Church policies and promises, by hiding this information for months. Informed communities are safer communities, and in choosing to keep this information internal, Catholic leadership in the Diocese of Fargo have put children and vulnerable adults within their borders at risk. Members of the public who have been around an accused child molesting priest for decades need and deserve to know who and where he is. This kind of secrecy only protects wrongdoers while leaving others at risk. We are glad that the press broke this story, and we hope that others with information or suspicions about Fr. Herron – or any other priest, nun, deacon, or church staffer – will call independent sources of help, like police, prosecutors, therapists and support groups like ours.

More Names Released in Arizona, but not by Church Officials

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 03:18 PM PDT

ST. LOUIS (MO) Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests June 26, 2019 Today, the names of more abusive clergy who worked and lived in Arizona will be revealed at a press conference. We are grateful to Jeff Anderson and his team for getting this important information out to the public. At the same time, we are disappointed that this transparency did not come from church officials themselves. Informed communities are safer communities, and the more information about accused clergy that church officials share with parents and parishioners, the more knowledgeable and vigilant they will be. This helps protect children and vulnerable adults. Similarly, when church officials release information about abusers, the communities where those abusers served in will know to look deeper in their midst for survivors who may not have come forward but are still in need of help. Simply put, transparency is good for everyone. So we are glad that independent reports continue to be publicized and that this important information gets released. We hope that in the future, church officials will live up to their promise to be "open and honest" regarding cases of clergy sex abuse and will release this kind of information on their own.

Diocese of New Ulm reaches $34M settlement in sex abuse cases

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 03:15 PM PDT

MINNEAPOLIS (MN) Star Tribune June 26, 2019 By Paul Walsh A tentative settlement announced Wednesday between the Catholic Diocese of New Ulm and 93 people who allege they were sexually abused by clergy as children calls for the claimants to receive roughly $34 million. The agreement in principle now goes for approval to U.S. Bankruptcy Court, where the south-central Minnesota diocese filed for protection from its creditors in March 2017. "This is a big day for the survivors," Jeff Anderson, attorney for many of the New Ulm claimants. "Throughout this process, all of the survivors have demonstrated tremendous courage and patience. They have advanced the child protection movement and made their communities safer for kids." Anderson also represents clients in negotiations with dioceses in St. Cloud and Winona-Rochester. He said last month that litigation against the Crookston diocese is going forward after settlement negotiations broke down. The Diocese of Winona-Rochester claimed bankruptcy in November of 2018 and set a deadline in April 2019 for those wishing to file a claim of sexual abuse. A total of 121 claims had been filed against the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, naming 17 priests. Many of them were filed as a result of the state's Child Victims Act, which lifted the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse for three years. At the time, Bishop John Quinn said bankruptcy was necessary to ensure the victims are able to get justice and heal.

Cardinal Dolan Refuses to Remove Priest Accused of Sexually Abusing Eight Children

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 03:12 PM PDT

Legal Examiner blog June 26, 2019 By Joseph Saunders For the second time in six month's Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, refuses to remove a priest accused of sexual abuse. The latest incident involves Monsignor John Paddack, stationed at Church of Notre Dame on W. 114th St. in Manhattan. The priest has been accused of sexual abuse by eight different individuals and the Archdiocese, and specifically Cardinal Dolan, has known about the allegations since 2012 but has stubbornly refused to take action. Five accusers leveled abuse allegations against Paddack in March, with one former student at Cardinal Hayes High School recalling how he went to the priest for counseling over suicidal feelings. Rafael Mendoza said Paddack instead asked him to strip naked and examined him with a stethoscope. The abuse occurred when Mendoza was a freshman in 1996. "He would take me to his office and he would tell me to remove my shirt, unbuckle my pants. I can remember the coldness of the knob of the stethoscope while he's checking my heartbeat and all around my chest and slowly going down to my genitals," Mendoza said. "Just seeing his face turn bloodshot red while doing this, I go back now and think he was getting something out of this." Paddack also worked at St. Joseph By the Sea on Staten Island and the Church of the Incarnation in Manhattan. According to Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, this is the second time in the past year that Cardinal Dolan kept the vulnerable in harm's way. Just six months ago it was revealed that Fr. Donald Timone, himself twice-accused of abuse, was able to stay on the job even though Catholic officials paid one of his victims a six figure settlement. Cardinal Dolan has spoken publicly about his concern for survivors of sexual abuse by priests but his actions belie his words. When the NY state legislature was considering helping survivors by enacting statute of limitations reform, the Cardinal had his lobbyists spending money and fighting vigorously against the measure. Fortunately, this year, the legislation finally passed and NY sex abuse survivors can now hold the Archdiocese of New York and other dioceses in NY accountable for aiding and abetting abusive priests.

The Biggest Deterrent to Reporting Child Sexual Abuse

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 03:09 PM PDT

NEW YORK (NY) The Atlantic June 26, 2019 By Hannah Giorgis In the United States, about one-third of child-sexual-abuse victims come forward with their allegations before adulthood. Another third disclose far later in life—the median age is 52—and the rest never reveal their past trauma at all. In recent years, many children's advocates have looked to shift these low reporting numbers (and correspondingly low rates of prosecution) by addressing a legal hurdle that lies in the way of many victims seeking court-based justice: the statute of limitations. Speaking yesterday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, the lawyer Kathryn Robb, who serves as the executive director of CHILD USAdvocacy, noted a clear gap between lawmakers' understanding of abuse and their visions of justice. "There's a lot of ignorance about the nature of trauma, why victims don't disclose, and the idiocy of statutes of limitations, their arbitrary unfairness," Robb said. "That's a bit of a frustration, just trying to educate legislative leaders and governors across the [country]." As of this year, 38 states (as well as the District of Columbia) are reconsidering their statute of limitations for sexual-abuse cases. Robb and her fellow panel speaker Marci Hamilton—the founder, CEO, and academic director of CHILD USA—spent 16 years attempting to persuade New York state legislators to pass laws that would lift restrictions on victims who come forward with allegations later in life. In New York, the criminal statute of limitations for felony sexual abuse of a minor has been extended to age 28; for misdemeanors, survivors can come forward until they reach the age of 25. For civil cases—against people and institutions—the statute of limitations now extends to age 55.

Louisville archdiocese says proper steps were followed while investigating a priest

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 03:06 PM PDT

LOUISVILLE (KY) Courier Journal June 26, 2019 By Billy Kobin The Archdiocese of Louisville said it followed proper procedures while investigating a priest at a Highlands church who was accused of taking inappropriate photos of students. But a national support group for survivors of clergy sexual abuse is calling on Vatican officials to discipline Archbishop Joseph Kurtz — the head of Louisville's Catholic diocese — for "recklessly and secretively" handling the investigation into the priest, who was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. As the Courier Journal first reported Tuesday, the Rev. Jeff Gatlin resigned earlier in June as pastor at St. Francis of Assisi, 1960 Bardstown Road, to deal with health issues, according to the Archdiocese of Louisville. Previously: Louisville priest resigns after being accused of 'inappropriate' photos Gatlin, 51, had been accused of "inappropriate picture taking" of students during a May 13 field day celebrating the end of the parish school year, officials said. The church's school serves students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Archdiocesan spokeswoman Cecelia Price told the Courier Journal in an email that officials received one "specific complaint about a possibly inappropriate photo and some general concerns from other parents." Price said the photos were intended to be used for an eighth-grade video and that the photo related to the specific complaint "showed nothing inappropriate." "It was a shot of two students in a conference room working on room set-up," Price said, declining to provide more specifics on the complaint. One week after the field day, St. Francis of Assisi School principal Steve Frommeyer shared an email with parents in which Gatlin wrote that a "number of concerns have been raised and accusations have been made about my actions of taking pictures of students at the field day activities." "Though I do not believe I have done anything wrong, I have asked Archbishop Kurtz to appoint a temporary administrator so that I can cooperate with a review of what occurred, as well as my overall ministry as pastor of Saint Francis of Assisi Parish," Gatlin wrote. His comments were also included in a May 24 bulletin sent to parishioners. "You are in my prayers. Please keep me in your prayers," Gatlin wrote.

Ex-priest dies months into imprisonment for raping boys

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 01:19 PM PDT

SAVANNAH (GA) The Associated Press June 25, 2019 By Russ Bynum A former Catholic priest who pleaded guilty last year to raping two boys decades earlier has died just several months into a 20-year prison sentence in South Carolina. Wayland Yoder Brown, 75, died at a hospital June 8 from what appear to be natural causes, South Carolina Corrections Department spokeswoman Chrysti Shain said Tuesday. The ex-priest had been imprisoned since his guilty plea last October. "It's too soon to have an official ruling, but it was expected," Shain said of Brown's death. "There's nothing suspicious." Brown had already been dismissed from the priesthood and served five years imprisoned in Maryland for sexually abusing two other boys when he was indicted by South Carolina prosecutors in 2017.

Settlement Reached in the Diocese of New Ulm Bankruptcy Case

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 12:37 PM PDT

NEW ULM (MN) Anderson Advocates June 26, 2019 (New Ulm, MN) - A settlement has been reached in the Diocese of New Ulm bankruptcy case, which involves 93 claimants who were sexually abused as children by clergy and others in the Diocese. The Diocese and the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors ("Creditors Committee"), comprised of clergy sexual abuse survivors, have reached an agreement in principle toward a resolution of the bankruptcy. The settlement calls for payment of approximately $34 million to the 93 sexual abuse claimants. The Diocese previously agreed to the release of names of credibly accused priests. "This is a big day for the survivors," said Jeff Anderson, attorney for many of the New Ulm survivors. "Throughout this process, all of the survivors have demonstrated tremendous courage and patience. They have advanced the child protection movement and made their communities safer for kids." The Creditors Committee and the Diocese will submit a Disclosure Statement and Plan of Reorganization to the United States Bankruptcy Court. These documents are subject to approval by the Bankruptcy Court. Once the documents are approved, the 93 survivors will be sent ballots and vote on the Plan. The Bankruptcy Court must then approve the Plan the survivors approve by balloting. After that, the claims are evaluated by a claims reviewer to determine award amounts. The settlement includes contribution of $8 million from the Diocese and its parishes with the rest of the approximately $34 million being funded by insurance carriers for the Diocese. Contact: Jeff Anderson: (651)227-9990 (office); (612)817-8665 (cell) Mike Finnegan: (651)227-9990 (office); (612)205-5531 (cell) Molly Burke: (651)227-9990 (office); (651)283-7606 (cell)

Scicluna: I was saved by sex abuse victim

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 07:05 AM PDT

ROME (ITALY) CATHOLIC HERALD June 26, 2019 By Aaron Benavides Archbishop Charles Scicluna said that his life may be been saved by a victim of sexual abuse after he developed gall bladder trouble during a visit to Chile. In an interview with a Maltese radio station, Scicluna said the incident occurred during his February 2018 trip to investigate the cover-up of sexual abuse by Bishop Juan Barros. Scicluna was tasked by Pope Francis to interview victims of sexual abuse, but was feeling unwell and experiencing abdominal pain during the visit. During one of the interviews, a victim who works as a medical consultant questioned Scicluna about his symptoms and recommended he go to the hospital for testing.

Names of 109 clerics accused of sex abuse in Phoenix Diocese to be released

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 07:30 AM PDT

PHOENIX (AZ) 3TV/CBS 5 June 26, 2019 A group of survivors, advocates and their lawyers will release the names of 109 clerics accused of sexually abusing kids in the Diocese of Phoenix Wednesday afternoon. They will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Phoenix. The report will include the names, histories, photographs and information of all 109 clerics accused. The report comes after the Arizona Legislature passed legislation that extended the age limit for sexual abuse survivors to bring claims against a perpetrator and the institution that may have protected the perpetrator, according to a news release.

Auxiliary bishop latest to be hit with sex abuse allegation in archdiocese

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 06:58 AM PDT

HOUSTON (TX) HOUSTON CHRONICLE June 25, 2019 By Samantha Ketterer and Nicole Hensley The auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has temporarily stepped aside from public priestly duties after being hit with what the archdiocese has termed a "false allegation" of sexual abuse from 1971. Several chancery departments and at least one pastor received letters addressed to Bishop George Sheltz, containing an accusation of molestation, archdiocesan officials said in a statement dated Friday. The letter writer, who said she was a minor in 1971, also expressed anger that her current pastor was being moved to another parish. She indicated she would go public with her accusation against the auxiliary bishop if he went forward with the re-assignment.

Portland diocese installs 24/7 misconduct hotline

Posted: 26 Jun 2019 06:54 AM PDT

PORTLAND (ME) Press Herald June 16, 2019 The Diocese of Portland has created a 24/7 hotline to receive complaints about priests or other church employees who are accused of misconduct that violates church ethics rules. The reporting system is operated by an Akron, Ohio-based Red Flag Reporting and will take reports about fraud, misconduct, harassment or substance abuse among clergy, the diocese said in a statement Tuesday. However, the system is not intended to be a way for the public to report clergy sexual abuse, the diocese said, encouraging anyone with information about sexual misconduct in the church to contact "civil authorities." "Several months ago, after hearing from people around the state, the diocese started the process of establishing this system for individuals to express their concerns in an easily accessible way," Bishop Robert P. Deeley said in the statement. "The system is organized to ensure that these reports will be handled in a timely and thorough manner." The diocese said the company "ensures accountability at the diocesan level by overseeing the handling of each complaint," the statement said. Posters will be placed in churches, diocesan schools and buildings with the hotline number. Complaints can be received in English or Spanish, or can be submitted online. People who report misconduct also will be granted whistleblower protection.