One of the high-ranking American officials of the Roman Catholic Church was arrested for drunken driving late last week in Kailua-Kona.
The Most Eminent Cardinal William Joseph Levada, 79, of Menlo Park, Calif., was stopped at about midnight Thursday on Hina Lani Street and charged with DUI, according to the police arrest log. He was released from police custody after posting $500 bail about an hour later.
“I regret my error in judgment. I intend to continue fully cooperating with the authorities,” Levada said in an email statement issued Monday by the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
Levada, the former Archbishop of San Francisco, was appointed as a cardinal, a prince of the church, on May 13, 2005, by Pope Benedict XVI, just weeks after his election as pontiff. He was the first U.S. prelate to lead the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s powerful guardian of doctrine. He now holds the title of Prefect Emeritus of the Conclave of the Faith since his retirement as prefect in July 2012. He also was a member of the conclave that elected Pope Francis in March 2013.
Levada drew fire in 2013 after coming to the defense of Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, who was stripped of his public duties over his handling of the priest sex abuse crisis in the church, but still allowed to select a new pope, saying some priest abuse victims groups who have criticized Mahony may never be satisfied with the church’s response to the crisis.
“There are some victims groups for whom enough is never enough, so we have to do our jobs as best we see it,” Levada said at the time, according to Associated Press. “He has apologized for errors in judgment that were made. I believe he should be at the conclave.”
Levada was on vacation with priest friends when the DUI arrest occurred, according to archdiocese spokesman Michael Brown.
He has a court date of Sept. 24 in Kona District Court.
“He’s required to appear at court,” said Sgt. Robert Pauole, who heads the police Traffic Services Section.
A police spokeswoman said in a Monday email Levada was pulled over after a Kona Patrol officer saw him swerve while driving northbound on Queen Kaahumanu Highway north of Kealakehe Parkway.
Levada was driving a 2015 Nissan Altima and was alone in the car at the time, the spokeswoman said. She could not say who the car is registered to or if the car was towed. She also declined to give Levada’s blood-alcohol content, but a 0.08 blood-alcohol level is the threshold for legal intoxication in Hawaii.
Pauole said Levada, who likely has a California driver’s license, would have had his license taken by the arresting officer, but the license would not have been suspended.
“The officer should have given him a four-page document,” Pauole said. “That four-page document is his temporary license for 30 days. He was also supposed to be given a document that would tell him how to contest (the Administrative Driver’s License Revocation Office case) it, in the meantime, in the ADLRO office.
Asked if the car would have been impounded, Pauole replied, “That depends on the circumstances.”
“Sometimes officers will impound it based on the Aliyah law,” Pauole continued, referring to the statute named after Aliyah Braden, a 17-month-old toddler killed by a drunken driver who ran a red light in Kailua-Kona on May 23, 2009. “… That’s based on where it’s parked, if there’s someone else in the car who’s not intoxicated, or he’s able to get someone to come down and pick up the car. It varies depending on the circumstance.”
According to the archdiocese website, Levada, a Long Beach, Calif., native, was ordained a priest in the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1961.
A Louisville Catholic priest resigned from his church after child pornography and hundreds of images of schoolchildren from his parish were found on his computer, archdiocese officials said Friday.
Stephen A. Pohl resigned as pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish, the Archdiocese of Louisville said. The eastern Louisville church has a private school on its campus.
Archdiocese officials said FBI investigators found 200 images of students from the school on Pohl’s computer. The students were clothed but some of the images were “inappropriate.” Officials say they also found child pornography on the computer, but no charges have been filed against Pohl.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said at a news conference Friday that the archdiocese is cooperating with the investigation.
“Pastorally, I’m feeling the grief that I can only imagine parents are feeling,” Kurtz said Friday.
Pohl was placed on administrative leave after he told archdiocese officials he was visited by the FBI’s Cyber Crimes Unit. He submitted his resignation on Thursday.
The Rev. Thomas Andert, the prior at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, has been removed from his leadership position following an allegation of student sex abuse.
The allegation was made in a letter by a former student at St. John’s Preparatory School, where Andert served as headmaster from 1988 to 1994. It alleges abuse about three decades ago. The abbey is not providing details of the complaint.
“We asked Father Andert to step back from public ministry and from his work until an investigation is completed,” said abbey spokesman Aelred Senna in an e-mail.
Andert, who was ordained in 1975, held key positions at the abbey, St. John’s University and a Twin Cities Catholic school. He was president of Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in St. Louis Park from 1981 to 1987, during which time he also served as associate pastor at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Parish in St. Louis Park.
He was headmaster of St. John’s Preparatory School from 1988 to 1994. He taught German in St. John’s Preparatory School and the university. He also served as the academic advising director for St. John’s University.
St. John’s Abbey, home to more than 150 Benedictine monks, is part of a sprawling campus that includes St. John’s University and the prep school. In 2013, it identified 18 clergy credibly accused of child sex abuse. But victims’ advocates say the number is higher and reflects abuse going back decades.
Former monk Richard Sipe, chairman of the abbey’s Interfaith Sex and Trauma Institute in 1995 and 1996, said that a student reported to him at the time that Andert was sexually abusing him. Sipes said he reported it to then-Abbott Timothy Kelly, “who dismissed it.’’
Sipe, who has been a consultant or expert witness on more than 200 cases of sex abuse against minors, said he was baffled as to why the abbey was removing Andert at this time. The abbey has had “well documented” evidence about the abuse of the other student for years, including letters from Andert to the young man.
That young man committed suicide in December, he said.
Senna said the new accusation did not contain many details. The accuser was referred to a victim’s advocate and offered support for counseling.
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, urged other victims from St. John’s to step forward and report their abuse to law enforcement.
Stearns County law enforcement has no record of receiving a report on the Andert accusation, said Lt. Jon Lentz of the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office.
The Rev. Bradley Jenniges was named interim prior of the monastery. The abbey will not release further information “in fairness to all involved and because the complainant requested strict confidentiality,’’ Senna said.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has settled a civil lawsuit brought by an accuser whose testimony helped convict two Catholic priests and a former parish-school teacher on sexual abuse charges, and aided in the unprecedented prosecution of a church administrator for covering up the priests’ crimes.
In filings Tuesday, Common Pleas Court Judge Jacqueline F. Allen said the plaintiff – a 26-year-old man identified only as “Billy Doe” – had “settled any and all claims” against the archdiocese and two former church officials. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
A spokesman for the archdiocese did not return calls for comment Wednesday, nor did lawyers for Doe.
Their agreement – first reported by the legal blog BigTrial.net – is at least the third this year between the church and its accusers.
Previous agreements have contained clauses barring the parties from discussing their deals publicly.
Doe’s story was arguably the most disturbing in a landmark 2011 report by a Philadelphia grand jury outlining decades of clergy sex abuse in the region.
He told grand jurors he was passed among three men and repeatedly sexually assaulted while serving as an altar boy at St. Jerome’s parish in Northeast Philadelphia in the late 1990s.
Doe’s tearful testimony at a 2013 trial helped convict two of his abusers – the Rev. Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero, an English teacher at the parish school.
The abuse destroyed his life, Doe said in his lawsuit, and led to years of drug abuse, behavioral problems, and suicide attempts.
Lawyers for the priests and the archdiocese have questioned Doe’s story and motives for years, accusing him of fabricating his claims to cash in by suing the church.
Engelhardt died in prison last year while serving a six- to 12-year sentence. Shero, who was sentenced to eight to 16 years, continues to appeal his case.
A third abuser – Edward V. Avery, now defrocked – pleaded guilty in 2012 and was sentenced to five years in prison. He has recanted his confession, but remains in prison.
Prosecutors also pointed to Doe’s abuse in building their case against Msgr. William J. Lynn, who in 2012 became the first Roman Catholic Church administrator in the United States convicted of enabling sexual abuse of children by priests. He, too, is appealing his case.
This week’s court filings in Doe’s civil case indicated that he would not only drop his suit against the archdiocese, but also against two other named defendants: Lynn and the estate of the late Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, who headed the archdiocese at the time of Doe’s abuse.
Shero, Avery, and Engelhardt’s estate remain parties to the lawsuit. A trial is scheduled for November.
In an extraordinary admission of wrongdoing, a priest sought by authorities in New Jersey has acknowledged engaging in a sexual encounter with a 15-year-old boy, but he deflected blame for the incident by saying the teen “wanted” it and had “evil in his mind.”
In a telephone interview with NJ Advance Media, in e-mail exchanges, and in a lengthy post on Twitter, the Rev. Manuel Gallo Espinoza said it was a “mistake” to have sexual contact with the boy in the rectory of a Plainfield church in 2003. He said he fled to his native Ecuador after the victim told a nun and another priest that Gallo Espinoza raped him.
I didn’t force him to do anything he didn’t want,’ he reportedly told the journalist.
“One thing that I am conscious (of) is he was at that time a teenager, and it is a big mistake for me. But I didn’t force him to do anything he didn’t want,” Gallo Espinoza wrote. “He was older (sic) enough to walk away, but I think that I was attracted to him, that is the only explanation that I can think right now.”
Gallo Espinoza added: “He had something evil in his mind. He approached me many times.”
The 51-year-old priest, who was not questioned by detectives in 2003 because he could not be located, is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Union County (N.J) Prosecutor’s Office.
The agency reopened the long-dormant probe after inquiries by NJ Advance Media, which reported late last month that Gallo Espinoza returned to the United States in 2005 to work as a teacher. He said he went back to Ecuador when his visa expired last year and that he remains there now.
Gallo Espinoza said he does not consider himself a “pedophile person” and that he learned a lesson from the encounter.
“I made a mistake once and that’s (sic) was all,” he said.
David Clohessy, director of the St. Louis-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called on police and prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against the Newark archdiocesan officials who helped Gallo Espinoza evade the law.
“It’s heartbreaking to learn that, once again, New Jersey Catholic officials told a predator priest to flee the US to evade police,” said Clohessy. “And it’s equally heartbreaking to learn that the priest later returned to the US and got a job around kids and remains a teacher even now.”
Asked by e-mail if he realized he was committing a crime by having sex with a 15-year-old boy when he was 40, Gallo Espinoza responded, “I just came fr (sic) my country and really in Ecuador a person at 15 years old is not consider (sic) so innocent.”
He added that he had not had sex with other minors.Gallo Espinoza’s accuser, Max Rojas Ramirez, said the priest raped him in a bedroom of the rectory at St. Mary’s Church in Plainfield shortly before Easter in 2003. Ramirez, now 28 and living in Elizabeth, was an altar boy and a member of the parish’s youth group at the time.
He said Gallo Espinoza attacked him weeks after he told the priest in confession that he was confused about his sexuality. Ramirez flatly denies Gallo Espinoza’s contention that he sought anything more than counsel.
“I saw him as a priest, and that’s it,” Ramirez said. “I didn’t even know who was in the confessional when I went in there.”
One thing that I am conscious (of) is he was at that time a teenager, and it is a big mistake for me. But I didn’t force him to do anything he didn’t want.
– The Rev. Manuel Gallo Espinoza, accused of raping a teen in 2003
He added that he was gratified Gallo Espinoza admitted the encounter, saying it shows he has been telling the truth.
NJ Advance Media published Ramirez’ name at his request.
In March, Ramirez filed suit against the Archdiocese of Newark, saying it was responsible for the priest’s behavior and should have established stronger protections. The incident took place just a year after the nation’s bishops — badly shaken by the church’s sex abuse crisis — established a landmark document known as the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
Gallo Espinoza made reference to Ramirez’s lawsuit in his correspondence, saying the victim had revived the issue after 12 years to cash in.
“The explanation that I find to begin again with this incident after many years is ‘EASY MONEY,’” Gallo Espinoza wrote.
He repeatedly blamed his use of alcohol the night he took Ramirez to the rectory, saying he drank too much because he was depressed, lonely, and homesick.
In later e-mails, Gallo Espinoza sought to retract his admission, saying he was so drunk he didn’t remember the incident and simply accepted Ramirez’s claims.
Gallo Espinoza, who had served at St. Mary’s for three years leading up to the sexual encounter, said he wanted to speak out to prove that he is a good person and that he is not a danger to others.
“I want people (to) know that a mistake made in my life doesn’t define myself that way,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I am a man dedicated to teach doing my best to help students to get ready to be successful in life.”
He said he continues to teach in Ecuador.
He added that stress from the incident has contributed to lasting medical problems, chiefly gastritis and colitis.
It was not immediately clear how Gallo Espinoza’s admission will affect the criminal investigation. Mark Spivey, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, declined to comment on the status of the probe or on the priest’s statements. The criminal statute of limitations on sexual assault was abolished by the state Legislature in 1996.
Should the prosecutor’s office charge Gallo Espinoza in absentia, it faces the hurdle of extraditing him. The United States and Ecuador do have an extradition treaty, but a 2012 analysis by the online magazine Slate found the South American nation to be among the least cooperative partners.
Beyond the fate of Gallo Espinoza, the circumstances of his departure raise new questions about those who were made aware of it early on.
Ramirez has said that within days of the attack, he reported it to Jeivi Hercules, his godfather, and Antonino Salazar, then the leader of the charismatic youth group at St. Mary’s. Both men confronted the priest, Ramirez said.
Shortly afterward, he said, Salazar brought him to a Catholic Charities office, where Ramirez told a nun and a priest what had happened. The account is confirmed by a transcript of an interview Salazar gave to police in 2003. It was Catholic Charities that ultimately notified the prosecutor’s office, records show.
While the circumstances of Gallo Espinoza’s abrupt departure have never been fully disclosed, he said in the telephone interview it was Salazar and Hercules who told him to run. Hercules, who has since entered the priesthood, is now parochial vicar at Queen of Peace Church in North Arlington.
“They said, ‘You’re going to get in big trouble. You better leave. … God prays for you. Go back to your country,’” Gallo Espinoza said.
Before leaving, he said, he attended confession with another priest and admitted what he did.
Gallo Espinoza said he then bought a plane ticket. He did not inform Archbishop John J. Myers or any other official of his plan to run.
Hercules has not responded to numerous requests for comment. Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the priest would not consent to an interview.
Salazar’s wife said the couple would have no comment.
Gallo Espinoza said he wanted to speak with Ramirez to apologize and to “clarify things.”
“You know my truth, and I don’t want to make this situation bigger, but to look for a humble solution,” he wrote in an e-mail. “… God bless America. I love it with all my heart.”