08/31/12

Rev. James Nowak, Montini Catholic High School board member, former west suburban pastor, on leave after sex abuse allegation

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A member of Montini Catholic High School’s board of directors is on leave from the Diocese of Joliet amid allegations that he sexually abused a minor more than 25 years ago.

The Rev. James Nowak, a retired Roman Catholic priest who served in parishes in Lombard, Romeoville, Westmont and most recently Naperville over a 40-year career, is no longer allowed to celebrate a public Mass or to administer other sacraments, diocese officials said, as he is on temporary administrative leave.

In a statement the diocese has dated Aug. 28, Bishop Daniel Conlon, head of the Diocese of Joliet, said he has “determined that abuse likely occurred,” and that the case has been forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome for further review.The statement also says parishioners where Nowak was assigned are being notified of the allegations against him through their local parish.

James Segredo, president of Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, confirmed he was aware of the allegations against Nowak, but directed all other questions to the diocese.

Doug Delaney, a spokesman for the Diocese of Joliet, said the diocese does not know when the alleged sexual abuse occurred or what church Nowak was serving at the time of the alleged incident. The Diocese declined to say on what basis it made its decision to place Nowak on leave.

Nowak, 75, retired in 2007 after serving five years as pastor at Saints Peter and Paul in Naperville, Delaney said.

Prior to that tenure, he was assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Lombard, St. Mary Nativity in Joliet and St. Andrew in Romeoville from 1971 to 1974, according to information from the Diocese of Joliet.

After studying church law in Rome and an eight-year tenure in the Diocese of Joliet’s offices — where he worked with marriage annulments, according to the diocese — Nowak was named pastor of St. Anthony in Joliet in 1988.

He went on to serve as pastor at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Westmont from 1993 to 2002 and Saints Peter and Paul in Naperville from 2002 to 2007, when he retired.

The diocese statement asks that individuals with relevant information to the allegations should contact Judith Speckman, Dioecesan Victim Assistance Coordinator, at (815) 263-6467, as well as law enforcement authorities.

Complete Article HERE!

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08/31/12

Archbishop Nienstedt’s latest marriage-amendment letter adds to Catholic turmoil

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On Sunday, priests in a number of Twin Cities Roman Catholic parishes read a letter from Archbishop John Nienstedt re-stating the church’s support for the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

On Monday, Michael Bayly, the director of Catholics for Marriage Equality, noticed a spike in requests for the group’s lawn signs, which read, “Another Catholic Voting No.”

Some of the people who stopped by his south Minneapolis office to pick them up told him people had walked out of their churches during the reading. A parishioner at the nearby Church of the Annunciation said half a dozen left her service.

On Thursday, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’s official publication, the Catholic Spirit, carried the text of the letter.

Meanwhile, the Facebook site “I am Catholic. I am Voting NO!” acquired a list of parishes where the letter was not read. The most prominent of the 17 churches listed: Minneapolis’ Basilica of St. Mary.

In the letter, Nienstedt asserts that the purpose of the ballot initiative has been misconstrued. “Our effort to support God’s unchanging plan for marriage is not a campaign against anyone, but rather a positive effort to promote the truth about marriage as a union between one man and one woman,” he writes.

“But the reality is that marriage is not ours to redefine, just as another human life is not ours to take,” the archbishop continues. “God is both the author of life and the author of marriage. It is this most fundamental understanding of the natural order that animates who we are as Catholics. … It is also why we fight to defend God’s plan for marriage, because his providence is as clear for what marriage is as it is for the dignity of each human life. …

“Now, Minnesota for Marriage needs your help to get the message out. We must ensure that Minnesotans know what is at stake and have the correct information about why they should vote ‘Yes’ for the marriage amendment. (Remember that if you leave the ballot box blank, the government votes ‘No’ for you!).”

The Archdiocese did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.

Bayly hears something different. “He seems to have softened his language about gay people,” he said, referring to Nienstedt. “They must have realized they’ve alienated people.”

“We know that some who are seeking to redefine marriage experience same-sex attractions,” the letter reads. “Our brothers and sisters living with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God who must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.

“Every sign of unjust discrimination in this regard must be avoided. People with same-sex attractions, like others in society, are productive citizens, community servants, good friends and our beloved family members.

“At the same time, however, it is important to know that the effort to ensure that the definition of marriage remains as between one man and one woman does not take away anyone’s existing rights or legal protections. As Catholics, we believe that all people should be able to visit loved ones in the hospital, pass on their property to whomever they choose and have access to employment, housing and the basic necessities of life. Saying ‘yes’ to God’s plan for marriage will not change any of this.”

In recent months, Catholics who either plainly disagree with the church’s stance on marriage rights for gays and lesbians or who are wrestling with their consciences have been increasingly visible. The conflicted parishioners have organized everything from informational meetings in borrowed, non-Catholic churches to vigils outside the Chancery.

Many were offended by Nienstedt’s decision to take a very active role in the campaign for the amendment. To date, Minnesota Catholic churches and groups have given $1 million to the vote-yes effort.

Others have been unhappy with statements that put their love for their church in opposition to their love for LGBT relatives and friends. One example: A letter Nienstedt penned for the Catholic Spirit soon after his 2007 ascension in which he warned that those “who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts … formally cooperate in a grave evil, and … are guilty of mortal sin.”

Still others were upset that in the run-up to the 2010 gubernatorial contest, Nienstedt distributed 400,000 DVDs, paid for by an anonymous donor and by the Knights of Columbus, urging Catholics to vote for the only candidate in the race opposed to same-sex marriage, Tom Emmer.

“That language and that approach has clearly been ditched,” said Bayly. Still, he added, “The fact that they can’t bring themselves to talk about gay people or lesbian people is offensive.”

The divide has put the church in the headlines numerous times in recent months. In late July, newspapers reported that Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, himself the topic of amendment-related news stories, had been invited to speak at St. Joan of Arc Church in Minneapolis. Later stories reported that he was subsequently uninvited and then that his appearance had been postponed.

At the same time, some members of a group of 102 former priests that signed on to a statement opposing the amendment have disagreed publicly with the church’s depiction of its teachings.

“That conscience must rule is consistent with what all of us former priests learned in seminary,” Ed Kohler wrote in a letter published earlier this month in the Pioneer Press. “That conscience must rule is also consistent with the current Pope Benedict XVI — who taught, while still Father Joseph Ratzinger, that ‘Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirements of ecclesiastical authority.’”

One active priest, Bob Pierson, told some 200 Catholics at an event in Edina that they can vote against a proposal to amend the Minnesota Constitution to ban gay marriage. Bayly and several other members of Catholics for Marriage Equality say they have been told the Archdiocese has ordered Pierson to stay silent on the issue from now on.

“There are groups of Catholics who are hungry for alternative perspectives on this,” Bayly said. “I’ve got a pretty well-full September of speaking engagements around the state.”

Complete Article HERE!

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08/30/12

‘Boys will be boys,’ Bishop Finn purportedly said after being told of priest’s lewd photos

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When confronted by the diocese’s computer director about her concerns over lewd images found on a priest’s laptop, Bishop Robert Finn replied that, “Sometimes priests do things they shouldn’t,” court papers filed Thursday alleged.

“Sometimes, boys will be boys,” the bishop is purported to have said, court records show.

Julie Creech, the director of management and information systems for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, described her meeting with the bishop during an Aug. 17 deposition in a Jackson County civil case. According to that lawsuit, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan abused a 9-year-old girl months after the diocese learned of the photos on his computer.

Finn and the diocese are scheduled for a criminal trial starting Sept. 24 on misdemeanor counts of failing to report Ratigan’s suspected abuse of children. Ratigan is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in federal court earlier this month to producing and attempting to produce child pornography.

State prosecutors have identified Creech as a witness in their case against Finn and the diocese. A prosecutor’s spokesman declined comment on the Creech deposition Thursday.

The diocese and lawyers representing Finn declined comment Thursday.

Rebecca Randles, the lawyer representing the girl and her parents who filed the lawsuit, also declined to comment.

Though Creech’s concerns in December 2010 about the contents of Ratigan’s laptop previously had been reported in a fact-finding study commissioned by the diocese, her meeting with Finn had not been disclosed publicly until today.

According to the study, prepared by former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, Creech examined Ratigan’s laptop on Dec. 16, 2010, and discovered hundreds of disturbing photographs of young children, primarily girls. That evening, Creech called vicar general Robert Murphy and advised him to call police, the study said. The diocese did not report the suspected abuse until May 2011.

In the Graves report, Finn said he didn’t see what was on the computer.

The civil motion filed Thursday quotes Creech as having been concerned when she heard that some at the diocese were saying that she had not found “lewd” photographs on the computer. In a partial deposition transcript included with the civil filings, Creech said she approached Finn about the diocese’s response to the Ratigan discoveries.

Finn, she noted, was not specific as to what actions the diocese would take.

“He did indicate that, you know, sometimes priests do things that they shouldn’t, and he said, you know, he said, ‘Sometimes boys will be boys,’ ” Creech said in the deposition.

Creech said she had no indication that Finn had ever seen any of the images from Ratigan’s computer and that the bishop never told her that he had.

Creech said in the deposition that she was “upset” during her meeting with Finn.

“I think I was upset in a different way than he was because of what I had seen,” Creech said.

Creech did not immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment.

Finn always has maintained that he never saw the images and that he had delegated the diocese’s initial response and management to his subordinates.

The civil lawsuit in which the deposition pages were filed Thursday alleges that Ratigan engaged a 9-year-old girl in sexually explicit conduct as late as May 2011 — about five months after the diocese learned of the pictures.

Complete Article HERE!

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08/28/12

Catholic Bishop’s Anti-Gay Campaigning May Violate WA Election Law

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State workers who track election-law violations are meeting later this morning to discuss the Catholic Church, says Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.

At issue is a story I reported yesterday: Yakima bishop Joseph Tyson sent a letter this month instructing all priests in his diocese to begin a fundraising drive inside their parishes that directly funds the anti-gay-marriage PAC Preserve Marriage Washington, which is trying to reject Referendum 74 on the fall ballot. While I lamented that Tyson’s effort seems to comply with federal tax rules, it may not be legal under state law.

Here’s why: The church can’t act as an agent that collects money and sends it to the campaign. In his letter, Bishop Tyson asks the priests to circulate Preserve Marriage Washington’s fundraising envelopes among pews, collect the checks, and mail all the checks to the anti-gay PAC. As he put it, “Please place unopened envelopes into the addressed security envelope, and mail them to Preserve Marriage Washington.”

That sort of activity is informally called “bundling,” Anderson explains, and it would violate a state law that concerns collecting contributions on anther’s behalf. “A person, other than an individual, may not be an intermediary or an agent for a contribution,” says the RCW.

“They can hand out those envelopes,” Anderson says, “but they that can’t collect them and send them in.” Anderson says that election workers will try to “head them off at the pass and see that they are complying.”

Bishop Tyson did not respond to a request for comment.

Complete Article HERE!

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