A law firm representing sexual abuse survivors filed six more lawsuits against the Seattle Archdiocese on Tuesday, alleging that Archdiocese knew or should have known about the crimes, yet did nothing.
Five out of the six cases involve abusive priests outed on the list of 77 names that the Archdiocese released in January. And all six plaintiffs called the law firm after the list was made public, according to Seattle attorneys Michael T. Pfau and Jason P. Amala, who’ve filed hundreds of such cases over the years. (One case settled with the Seattle Archdiocese in late March for $9.15 million.)
The six victims whose cases were filed this week “all saw the names [of their alleged perpetrators] on the list and called with questions, many of them thinking that they were the only one,” says Pfau. That fact alone is worth noting, he says. The Archdiocese had, in its files, credible accusations of sexual abuse — enough to publish each priest’s name on a list — but none of the survivors who called Pfau’s law firm had spoken out previously, or had any idea that their perpetrators may have abused other children. “To see that they weren’t the people who had called the Archdiocese to complain,” says Pfau, makes it “obvious that there are other victims.”
Still, the breadth of the six alleged crimes is astonishing, and points, once again, to the culture of abuse and secrecy that many claim dominates the Catholic Church — both in Seattle and across the world. “It’s not six abuse survivors saying one notorious pedophile abused them during a limited time,” Pfau says. “It’s six different people accusing six different pedophiles spanning 30 years at parishes all over the [Seattle] Archdiocese.” As a result, thanks to today’s news and all of the news that came before it, “You can’t really say it’s just a few bad apples.”
He adds that these six lawsuits represent just a fraction of the calls his firm receives. Since the release of the list in January, he’s gotten some 25 to 30 calls from survivors, “either upset about the list, or [because] the list triggered memories or feelings,” and often wanting more information about their abuser; not all victims want to file a lawsuit. Some victims are looking for compensation, some are looking for an apology, and some are simply looking for answers, Pfau says — all the more reason for the Archdiocese to release the full, secret files it keeps on these alleged crimes.
One of the cases filed Tuesday, for instance, accuses Father James Gandrau, a former priest at St. Mark School and Parish in Shoreline, of sexually abusing the plaintiff while he was an altar boy in 1966 and 1967, usually in a side room where the altar boys got dressed. According to the complaint, Reverend Father Theodore Sullivan, a pastor at St. Mark Parish at the time, caught Father Gandrau in the act of abusing the plaintiff, but never reported the abuse to authorities, never reported Gandrau for his crimes, and never sought medical or psychological care for the plaintiff. The plaintiff alleges that the Archdiocese did nothing to protect him, and as a result, Gandrau continued to abuse him.
Today’s lawsuits are not the only ones his firm will file, adds Pfau. More lawsuits should appear in the coming months. In the meantime, the firm also intends to speak with officials at the Archdiocese to “resolve the claims of clients who would rather not file a lawsuit, but still want closure,” as well as help secure counseling for some victims.
Above all, Pfau says, “We’re continuing to give information to abuse survivors who want information… and perhaps want information from someone other than the Archdiocese.”
Francis said in an interview with French Catholic daily La Croix coming out Tuesday that a resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin “would be a mistake, an imprudence.”
“Based on the information I have, I think in Lyon, Cardinal Barbarin has taken the necessary measures and has taken things well in hand,” the pope said. “He is a brave and creative man, a missionary.”
Francis said “we must now wait for the result of the proceedings before the civil courts,” but resigning now “would amount to admitting guilt.”
Barbarin, one of the most high-ranking officials in the French Catholic Church, has been targeted by two investigations for not reporting cases of child abuses by priests to judicial authorities. The cardinal has denied any cover-ups, but acknowledged “some mistakes in handling and appointing some priests” last month. Other church officials have been also investigated.
In the interview, Francis said that regarding cases of pedophile priests in general, for the church, “there can be no prescription” and that “tolerance must be zero.”
“Through these abuses, a priest, who is designed to drive a child to God, is destroying him. He spreads evil, resentment, pain,” the pope said.
Francis gave the one-hour interview to two La Croix’s journalists at his residence in the Vatican on May 9. The pope was speaking in Italian. The daily said the Vatican read the piece before it was published.
In September, the pope made a unprecedented statement on the church sex abuse scandal, in a wide-ranging press conference en route to Rome from his first-ever visit to the United States.
THE main churches have been urged to engage with the LBGT community in a bid to ease the burden of `invisibility’ from the “many, many members” who feel forced to conceal their sexuality.
The call from the Rainbow Project came as parishioners rallied to support a high-profile Co Armagh priest after it emerged that he had taken a leave of absence from clerical duties after posting pictures of himself on a gay dating website.
Fr Rory Coyle, a member of Armagh GAA’s management committee and member of the board of governors of St Malachy’s Primary School and chaplain of St Catherine’s College, Armagh, withdrew from public life in March, when he asked for some time off to reflect on his future.
Among the material the popular priest posted on the website `Grindr’ earlier this year, were naked images of himself and inappropriate comments.
The 35-year-old also made reference to previous sexual activity in posts where he described himself as a `lecturer’.
Fr Coyle has been a curate in Armagh for the last six years and was master of ceremonies during the funeral Mass of Cardinal Cahal Daly.
A number of parishioners took to social media to hit out at the reports explaining the reason for the priest’s absence from his clerical duties.
They expressed support for Fr Coyle on the Irish News Facebook page, for the “absolute gentleman” who they said married them and baptised their children, describing him as “a legend and great craic”.
One parishioner described him as “a lovely man, loved by the parish including those of us who for a long time have believed that the Catholic Church should focus on more important things than people’s sexuality or whether people have babies out of wedlock”.
John O’Doherty of the Rainbow Project said it deals with “clients from all walks of life” who are struggling to come to terms with themselves because they “do not know other people who are LBGT”.
“The biggest issues that still affect people are invisibility and isolation,” he said.
“The invisibility of not knowing other LBGT people in civic society and isolation of not seeing anyone else that looks like you. That can make it hard to understand what it means to have a minority sexuality.”
Mr O’Doherty said while the smaller faiths in Northern Ireland, including humanists, pagans and some of the reformed Presbyterians had been open to engaging with his pressure group and been inclusive of their LBGT members, the main churches had remained aloof.
“People from the LBGT community are of all faiths and none,” he said.
“Everybody needs a support network. Our services are open to absolutely everyone and we do welcome people from all walks of life and all faiths and none.
“From a faith perspective we are happy to engage with all faiths. The main churches, the Church of Ireland, the Catholic Church, the Presbyterians and Free Presbyterians do not engage with us.”
HARRISBURG — State investigators are conducting “inquiries” into child-abuse allegations in Roman Catholic dioceses beyond Altoona-Johnstown, which was the subject of a hard-hitting grand jury report in March, Bruce Castor, solicitor general in the attorney general’s office, said Friday.
The grand jury report said nearly 50 priests molested hundreds of children over several decades in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. Castor’s statement in an interview with the Tribune-Review is the first public acknowledgement by Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office that other allegations are getting a serious review.
“Whether they lead to arrests is an open question,” said Castor, the former Montgomery County district attorney.
Besides Altoona-Johnstown, there are Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Scranton.
As Kane’s top staffer, Castor said he is “getting updates every two weeks from (the prosecutor) in charge” of the inquiries, Deputy Attorney General Dan Dye.
“This is not surprising,” said David Clohessy, spokesman for SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.) “How can law enforcement not make inquiries about proven, admitted or credibly accused clerics, regardless of where they are in Pennsylvania?”
“Inquiries are good. Investigations are better,” said Clohessy of St. Louis, who has stated publicly he was a victim of abuse by a priest as a teenager.
Catholic priests are no more likely to abuse a child than people in any other group, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference said.
“Without specifics, I can’t directly respond to Mr. Castor’s statement,” conference spokeswoman Amy Hill said.
“The church has long encouraged all accusations to be reported immediately to law enforcement. We also have a policy that requires us to remove someone from ministry if there are credible allegations made,” Hill said.
But Terry McKiernan, president of Boston-based BishopAccountability.org, said, “The molestation and collusion revealed in the Altoona-Johnstown grand jury report are certainly problems in other dioceses, but secrecy has so far prevailed. The attorney general’s scrutiny is especially needed in the Harrisburg, Greensburg, and Erie dioceses, each of which have larger Catholic populations than Altoona-Johnstown.
“Clearly a broader investigation by the AG is needed,” McKiernan said.
Jerry Zufelt, spokesman for the Greensburg Diocese, said the size of Catholic populations does not determine the likelihood of priest abuse.
“I would say it’s based on how each diocese handles the cases,” Zufelt said. “We’re very comfortable with how we’ve handled them.”
The diocese has had a “zero-tolerance policy” and forwards every allegation to the district attorney, Zufelt said. It’s had that policy in place since the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ so-called “Dallas Report” on priest abuse in 2002, he said.
No charges were filed based on the initial grand jury report, though one of the priests mentioned, the former Rev. Joseph Maurizio, 71, of Somerset County, was convicted by a federal jury last year of traveling to Honduras on mission trips to abuse boys. He was also convicted of possessing child pornography and international money laundering. He is serving a 16-year prison term.
Prosecutors said cases frequently extended beyond statute of limitations for prosecution.
Attorney general’s investigators two weeks after the report charged three former religious leaders for participating in a conspiracy that allowed Brother Stephen Baker, a Franciscan friar, to abuse more than 100 children. In 2013, Baker killed himself by stabbing himself in the heart. Many of his sex crimes took place at Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown. The three former “ministers provincial,” who oversaw personnel within the organization, have denied the allegations. They’ve been held for trial on charges of criminal conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children.
“One important thing that is often left out of these stories is that the Catholic Church does provide support and assistance for survivors and their families,” Hill said. “We have a sincere commitment to the emotional and spiritual well-being of individuals who have been impacted by the crime of childhood sexual abuse, no matter how long ago the crime was committed.”
Lobbying funds have gone towards opposing bills that would extend statutes of limitations for child sex abuse cases or grant temporary windows to take action
The US Catholic church has poured millions of dollars over the past decade into opposing accountability measures for victims of clergy sex abuse, according to state lobbying disclosures.
The lobbying funds have gone toward opposing bills in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland that would extend statutes of limitations for child sex abuse cases or grant temporary civil windows for victims whose opportunities for civil action have already passed.
In light of major child sex abuse scandals from Jerry Sandusky to Dennis Hastert, lawmakers nationwide are pushing to give victims other avenues to sue. In Pennsylvania, house representative Mark Rozzi, who was abused as a child by a Catholic priest, has led a campaign to extend the age before which child abuse victims can bring on cases. In New York, assemblywoman Margaret Markey is pushing to grant a temporary one-year window for those whose statute of limitations has already expired.
“Many child sex abuse cases are done gradually, under the guise of love or sex education, and so what happens is most victims don’t even realize until literally decades later,” said David Clohessy, a director with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “The overwhelming majority of us rationalize it. That’s how we as survivors cope with this stunning betrayal. We cope with it by denying and minimizing it.”
Since 2007, the New York bishops’ lobbying arms have poured more than $1.1m into “issues associated with timelines for commencing certain civil actions related to sex offenses”, nearly half of their total compensation for lobbyists in that period. Another nearly $700,000 also went towards lobbying for a package of church priorities, including but not limited to influencing the climate on “statute of limitations” legislation.
During this same time period, bishops’ conferences spent millions on lobbyists in states where the church is actively opposing similar legislative proposals. Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey spent more than $5.2m, $1.5m and $435,000 respectively on top lobbyists in the state capitols. Opposition effortsultimatelythwarted statute of limitations reform efforts in those states.
These states did not provide breakdowns of how much of that money was spent opposing these particular bills. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference said in a statement: “The list of issues for which we advocate is long – services for the poor, education, access to healthcare especially for the poor, elderly and children, religious liberty, immigration, pro-life issues, death penalty, just to name a few.”
Under existing law, child victims sexually abused in New York have until the age of 23 to press civil charges, but those abused across the border in Connecticut have until the age of 48. In Maryland and Pennsylvania, victims cannot enter into civil suits after turning 25 or 30 respectively, but across the border in Delaware they can do so at any age.
“New York is trying to move into the 21st century,” explains Brad Hoylman, a New York state senator sponsoring reform legislation. “How do we expect a 23-year-old to have the wherewithal to take on their church or youth group?”
Reformers have faced staunch opposition from business advocacy groups, the insurance industry, and, most publicly, the Catholic church.
In states such as Pennsylvania and New York, bishops’ organizations make their influence felt particularly among state Republicans, wary of crossing an institution that mobilizes significant pro-life constituencies and channels diocesan revenues into robust lobbying efforts.
“The Republican-dominated Senate has always been the stumbling block for final passage,” said Mike Armstrong, communications director for Markey. “They have blocked even committee consideration of the bill over the past few years.”
Representatives of the church say that the proposals they are opposing go too far in both the time window and the number of institutions they allow individuals to sue.
Dennis Poust of the New York State Catholic Conference said: “While it is fair to argue that we should extend the statute of limitations going forward to give victims more time to sue, a wide-open ‘window’ allowing claims that are decades old is fundamentally unjust because the claims are impossible to defend.” Poust added that New York’s bishops support a law that would extend the statute of limitations cut-off date to the age of 28.
Amy Hill of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference worried about protecting other institutions from lawsuits. “We continue to have serious concerns about retroactively extending the civil statute of limitations against non-profit and private institutions, allowing lawsuits for cases involving matters that occurred decades ago,” she said. “In other states, such action has led to the closure of parishes, schools, and vital social service ministries.”
But Hoylman said that while these institutions “can take care of themselves”, victims don’t have the same resources. “Who is looking after these survivors who have had years of deeply seeded personal conflicts over a crime they’re not responsible for?”
Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardozo Law School, says fears about unjust lawsuits are overblown. ‘“Reviving expired statute of limitations has identified hundreds of hidden predators across the United States, but the number of cases has been modest. Out of a population of 35 million in California, only 1,150 claims were filed and in Delaware 1,175 claims were filed but 1,000 of those claims were against a single pediatrician, Dr Earl Bradley … False claims are a fantasy issue made up by church and insurance lobbyists.” As many as 100,000 US children may have suffered clerical sex abuse, according to an estimate by insurance experts presented at a 2012 Vatican conference. Nonetheless, only several thousand members of the US Catholic clergy have ever been accused of sexual assault, and only about 300 have ever been convicted. In past few years, the church has helped shoot down similar reform attempts in New Jersey, Colorado and Maryland. And over the past decade, bishops have opposed similar reform efforts in places such as Iowa, Virginia and Washington DC.
Many legal advocates and survivor groups have been particularly disappointed with the bishops’ lobbying efforts given the new era of reform promised by Pope Francis. “The pope announced last June he would be setting up a tribunal to investigate bishops who protected predators, but the tribunal reportedly hasn’t even been created yet,” says Anne Barrett Doyle of the watchdog group BishopAccountability.org.
In March, new revelations of abuse delivered fresh momentum for reform in Pennsylvania.
A Pennsylvania grand jury report revealed that as many as 50 church officials in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown had for five decades helped cover up the abuse of hundreds of children in collusion with police and county officials. In April, following some of the grand jury’s recommendations, the Pennsylvania state house overwhelmingly passed an extensive reform bill, abolishing the criminal statute of limitations for child sex abuse cases and permitting child sexual abuse victims as old as 50 to file civil claims.
“If the bishops continue to win,” says Clohessy, the survivors network director, many victims will “behave in destructive ways because they were violated as kids … And we as society tell them ‘tough shit’.”