01/30/12

Philly Judge Again Finds Church Cardinal Competent

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A retired Roman Catholic cardinal with dementia is competent and his recent deposition testimony can be used at an upcoming priest abuse trial, a judge ruled Monday.

A church official charged with child endangerment and accused of keeping pedophiles in ministry argues that Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua can no longer recognize him, even though he served the cardinal for more than a decade.

Monsignor William Lynn, 61, is the first U.S. church official ever charged in the priest abuse crisis over accusations of administrative failings.

Prosecutors argue that Lynn and the archdiocese fed predators a steady stream of young victims for decades rather than expose the church to scandal — and costly lawsuits. Lynn served as secretary of clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004. He faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

His lawyers hint that he won’t go down alone. They stress that Lynn took his marching orders from Bevilacqua, who was never charged despite two grand jury reports that blasted both the cardinal’s leadership and his 10 grand jury appearances.

They say prosecutors are trying to make Lynn the scapegoat for the dozens of Philadelphia priests credibly accused of abusing children.

Prosecutors, though, say Lynn was among the select few who had access to sex abuse complaints kept in “secret archives” at the archdiocese.

No one was charged after the first grand jury report in 2005 because of legal time limits.

The second report last year recommended charging Lynn with child endangerment; prosecutors later added conspiracy charges as well. In court last week, they called the archdiocese “an unindicted co-conspirator.”

Lynn is set to go on trial in March with two co-defendants, a priest and a defrocked priest who are each charged with sexually assaulting a single boy, based on complaints filed under newly expanded time limits in Pennsylvania. Lynn’s defense lawyers want to limit the trial to his handling of those two men alone.

Prosecutors hope to tell jurors how Lynn and other church officials handled the careers of 27 other priests “credibly accused,” to show a pattern of behavior.

The judge heard details of those allegations, which range from “grooming” to fondling to rape, for several days last week. She pledged to rule by Monday.

“It’s very, very difficult, and maybe impossible, for us to defend 27 or 28 cases, which involve disparate elements and occurred 20, 30, 40 years ago,” Thomas Bergstrom, a lawyer for Lynn, argued Monday.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington debated the point.

“This case is not impossible, it’s (just) unprecedented,” he said.

Defense lawyers may call Bevilacqua to court if prosecutors seek to use his recent testimony. Bevilacqua was deposed in late November, to preserve his sworn statements in case he is unavailable during the monthslong trial. The retired cardinal suffers from both dementia and an undisclosed form of cancer, church lawyers have said.

Lynn’s co-defendants are former priest Edward Avery, 69, and the Rev. James Brennan, 48.

Brennan’s lawyer also wants to keep out the uncharged priest abuse allegations, lest his client get “swept up” by the tide.

“If that comes in, the danger we confront is whether my client, a Catholic priest, is going to be swept up in a perception that the Catholic Church, that the archdiocese, has a big problem, and he’s one of them, so he must be guilty,” said lawyer William Brennan, who isn’t related to his client.

Jury selection is scheduled for Feb. 21. The trial is scheduled to start on March 26.

Complete Article HERE!

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01/30/12

Catholic League: Jewish Rabbis Even Greater Abusers Than Catholic Priests

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COMMENTARY

Bill Donohue, the head of the pedophile priests supporting Catholic League, in an attempt to deflect attention from the regular, serious, and unresolved sexual transgressions, sexual assault, and child rape within the Catholic Church, today pointed the finger at Orthodox Jewish Rabbis, saying, “[t]he most serious cases of the sexual abuse of minors currently taking place are among Orthodox Jewish rabbis in Brooklyn.” Donohue, proving the ludicrousness of the existence and purpose of his entire organization, lambasted Jay Leno for a joke he made last night about an L.A. Bishop who recently resigned after revealing he had fathered two children. Donohue claims also that Leno has “a long track record of bashing Catholicism.” So, rather than work to fix the root causes of systemic and felonious issues within the Church, Donohue chooses instead to attacks its critics, hoping, praying that no one will notice the Catholic Church’s role and reputation in America is rapidly diminishing, even among America’s Catholics.

Jay Leno, according to the Catholic League, Thursday said, “I thought bishops could only move diagonally. I didn’t know they could move up and down.”

Donohue’s group added,

When making these remarks, Leno gestured with his hands, waving them side to side, and then up and down.

Leno went on to say, “Isn’t it amazing the bishop of L.A. confessed to fathering two children? But, hey, he didn’t use birth control, so at least he followed the church rules. Ya gotta give him credit for that.”

“The most serious cases of the sexual abuse of minors currently taking place are among Orthodox Jewish rabbis in Brooklyn, yet Leno would never tell a joke at their expense,” Donohue said in a statement. “The rate of HIV/AIDS among homosexuals is 50 times higher than in the rest of the population, yet Leno would never tell a joke at their expense. [Note: making such jokes would be equally offensive.] But if there is one wayward Catholic clergyman, it’s not only acceptable to ridicule him, it’s okay to mock the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

(The disclaimer above is Donohue’s, not ours.)

Donohue offered no proof of his allegations, nor did he offer any compassion, help, or hope for any victims, regardless of religious affiliation.

Donohue, who earlier this month claimed that rape victims of the Catholic Church’s pedophile priests are “professional victims,” and “a pitiful bunch of malcontents” unable to move on, apparently is learning that we’re watching his every word. In the past, Donohue would not have inserted the HIV/AIDS disclaimer.

In fact, just two months ago, Donohue called AIDS a “self-inflicted wound,” claiming that if “homosexuals” followed the teachings of the Church they would not “self-destruct.”

But Donohue’s default position of trying to point the finger elsewhere is offensive and misguided. No doubt there are child abuse problems in the Jewish community also, but Donohue neither works for the Jewish community, nor the Islamic community, nor any other community.

If Donohue spent his time working to prevent abuse, working to help victims of child rape by the Catholic Church — rather than, say, assist Archbishop Dolan to bash 16-year old abuse victims — then perhaps he would be qualified to point fingers and call his organization the “Catholic League.” Because right now, it’s merely a league of one extraordinary bigot.

Complete Article HERE!

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01/27/12

Maine Catholic Church versus gay rights advocates

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Maine’s Catholic Church and a coalition of gay rights advocates are once again fighting an emotional battle over same sex marriage.

Supporters delivered signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in Augusta Thursday and officially launched a new campaign to give same sex couples the right to marry in Maine.

From Cumberland to Caribou, these boxes contain the signatures of more than 100,000 Maine voters.

All of them gathered by gay marriage supporters who want the issue on the November ballot.

“It is never too late for justice never too late to do the right thing, time to end discrimination against Maine same sex couples and their families,” said Shenna Bellows with Maine’s Civil Liberties Union.

This new campaign comes three years after a stinging defeat for gay marriage supporters when Maine voters overturned a same sex marriage law passed by the legislature.

Back in 2009, gay marriage supporters needed to lobby lawmakers. This time around, they are going directly to Maine voters.

Advocates say they have knocked on more than 100,000 doors in the past year, trying to change hearts and minds one person at a time.

Lucy Bauer and her partner of nearly 20 years, Annie Kiermeyer, are hopeful this more personal campaign will have a different result.

“Nothing will please us more than to have the commitment made to each other acknowledged and honored by people here in our beloved state,” said Bauer.

Maine’s Catholic Church, which played a big role in the campaign to overturn the law three years ago is gearing up for another battle, albeit reluctantly.

“Quite frankly, we don’t think we should have to go through this again,” said Church spokesperson Brian Souchet. “It’s divisive and contentious lot of money spent on both sides.”

Gay marriage advocates believe the campaign will cost their side between four and five million dollars.

They are encouraged by internal polling that shows 54 percent of Mainers now support the issue.

But polls aren’t votes and, over the next 10 months, both sides expect it’s going to be a difficult and emotional debate.

Complete Article HERE!

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01/27/12

Corruption scandal shakes Vatican as internal letters leaked

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Say it ain’t so! Vatican and scandal in the same sentence? Can’t be!

The Vatican was shaken by a corruption scandal on Thursday after an Italian television investigation said a former top official had been transferred against his will after complaining about irregularities in awarding contracts.

The show “The Untouchables” on the respected private television network La 7 on Wednesday night showed what it said were several letters that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was then deputy-governor of Vatican City, sent to superiors, including Pope Benedict, in 2011 about the corruption.

The Vatican issued a statement on Thursday criticising the “methods” used in the journalistic investigation. But it confirmed that the letters were authentic by expressing “sadness over the publication of reserved documents”.

As deputy governor of the Vatican City for two years from 2009 to 2011, Vigano was the number two official in a department responsible for maintaining the tiny city-state’s gardens, buildings, streets, museums and other infrastructure.

Vigano, currently the Vatican’s ambassador in Washington, said in the letters that when he took the job in 2009 he discovered a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to outside companies at inflated prices.

In one letter, Vigano tells the pope of a smear campaign against him (Vigano) by other Vatican officials who wanted him transferred because they were upset that he had taken drastic steps to save the Vatican money by cleaning up its procedures.

“Holy Father, my transfer right now would provoke much disorientation and discouragement in those who have believed it was possible to clean up so many situations of corruption and abuse of power that have been rooted in the management of so many departments,” Vigano wrote to the pope on March 27, 2011.

In another letter to the pope on April 4, 2011, Vigano says he discovered the management of some Vatican City investments was entrusted to two funds managed by a committee of Italian bankers “who looked after their own interests more than ours”.

LOSS OF $2.5 MILLION, 550,000 EURO NATIVITY SCENE

Vigano says in the same letter that in one single financial transaction in December, 2009, “they made us lose two and a half million dollars”.

The programme interviewed a man it identified as a member of the bankers’ committee who said Vigano had developed a reputation as a “ballbreaker” among companies that had contracts with the Vatican, because of his insistence on transparency and competition.

The man’s face was blurred on the transmission and his voice was distorted in order to conceal his identity.

In one of the letters to the pope, Vigano said Vatican-employed maintenance workers were demoralised because “work was always given to the same companies at costs at least double compared to those charged outside the Vatican”.

For example, when Vigano discovered that the cost of the Vatican’s larger than life nativity scene in St Peter’s Square was 550,000 euros in 2009, he chopped 200,000 euros off the cost for the next Christmas, the programme said.

Even though, Vigano’s cost-cutting and transparency campaign helped turned Vatican City’s budget from deficit to surplus during his tenure, in 2011 unsigned articles criticising him as inefficient appeared in the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.

On March 22, 2011, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone informed Vigano that he was being removed from his position, even though it was to have lasted until 2014.

Five days later he wrote to Bertone complaining that he was left “dumbfounded” by the ouster and because Bertone’s motives for his removal were identical to those published in an anonymous article published against him in Il Giornale that month.

In early April, Vigano went over Bertone’s head again and wrote directly to the pope, telling him that he had worked hard to “eliminate corruption, private interests and dysfunction that are widespread in various departments”.

He also tells the pope in the same letter that “no-one should be surprised about the press campaign against me” because he tried to root out corruption and had made enemies.

Despite his appeals to the pope that a transfer, even if it meant a promotion, “would be a defeat difficult for me to accept”, Vigano was named ambassador to Washington in October of last year after the sudden death of the previous envoy to the United States.

In its statement, the Vatican said the journalistic investigation had treated complicated subjects in a “partial and banal way” and could take steps to defend the “honour of morally upright people” who loyally serve the Church.

The statement said that today’s administration was a continuation of the “correct and transparent management that inspired Monsignor Vigano”.

Complete Article HERE!

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01/26/12

September trial date set for KC bishop, diocese

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The trial of Bishop Robert W. Finn and the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., the first bishop and diocese to face criminal charges in the decades-long clergy sex abuse crisis, has been set for September.

Finn and the diocese were charged in October by a grand jury in Jackson County, Mo., with separate counts of failing to report suspected child abuse in the case of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a diocesan priest who was arrested last May for child pornography.

Lawyers for Finn and the diocese met with Jackson County Judge John Torrence on Thursday to set a Sept. 24 trial date in the case. Finn and the diocese have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Speaking to NCR after the meeting, which was held in the judge’s chambers, Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker said Torrence also set the next pretrial hearing for March 27, when the court would deal with motions from the defense.

Gerald Handley, one of three lawyers representing the diocese, said the judge had given defense lawyers until early February to file motions in the case, which the prosecution would have to respond to by March 9. Two other lawyers were also present to represent Finn.

News of the trial date comes after the diocese confirmed Wednesday that it placed another diocesan priest on administrative leave pending a review by the diocesan review board into unspecified allegations.

In a press release, no details about that case were available because the review board’s investigation is still under way.

“While this investigation is in a preliminary phase, the diocese urges everyone to understand that further information only can be made available once the facts are known,” the statement reads.

The trial date also comes as Finn is undertaking court-mandated parish visits to parishes in Clay County, Mo., as part of an agreement with the county prosecutor there to avoid charges in the Ratigan case.

The diocesan chancery is located in Jackson County. The parish where Ratigan last served as pastor is in Clay County.

The Clay County agreement between Finn and prosecutor Daniel White allowed the bishop to avoid criminal charges if he agreed to meet with diocesan parishes in that county to outline diocesan reporting procedures for suspected child abuse.

Finn also agreed to meet monthly with White to discuss all reported suspicions of abuse in the county and to appoint a new director of child and youth protection.

The second in a series of visits to county parishes took place Jan. 14 at St. James Church in Liberty, Mo.

Complete Article HERE!

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