Catholic bishops who fail to sack paedophile priests can be removed from office under new church laws announced by Pope Francis.
The move, announced by the pope on Saturday, answers a long-running demand by victims of abuse to make bishops responsible if they fail to stop clergy sexually abusing parishioners.
Many have long accused bishops of simply moving priests accused of abuse to another parish, rather than report them to police or church authorities. While acknowledging that church laws already allowed for a bishop to be removed for negligence, Francis said he wanted the “grave reasons” more precisely defined. However, doubts remain about the Vatican’s commitment to tackling the issue.
Juan Barros was appointed a bishop in Chile in March 2015. He had been accused of ignoring reports of abuse by Father Fernando Karadima, a Chilean priest who was found guilty of molestation by the Vatican in 2011. Victims claimed Barros not only helped cover up the crimes, but in some instances observed the abuse. Barros has denied the allegations and the Vatican said he had the church’s support.
Peter Saunders, a British abuse survivor who sits on a papal commission to protect children, said Francis had been vocal about the abuse scandals. However, he criticised the church’s handling of another case in Missouri, where bishop Robert Finn has remained in power even after being convicted of failing to report clerical child sex abuse.
A former Vatican ambassador, Józef Wesołowski, died before he was due to go on trial at the Vatican for possessing child pornography.
During his visit to the US last September, the pontiff met victims of Catholic church sex abuse and vowed that those responsible would face justice. It was the first time Francis had met abuse victims outside of Rome, where he had done so once before. The pope had already apologised for the church’s inadequate response to the US abuse crisis.
The scandal has severely tarnished the church’s reputation and cost $3bn (£2bn) in settlements in the US.
he Archdiocese of Agana announced Friday it is working with a prominent U.S. law firm and an independent investigator to look into recent allegations made against Archbishop Anthony Apuron.
In a media release, the church responded to accusations made in recent days by a local deacon.
Deacon Steve Martinez, the former coordinator of a local church group charged with reviewing sexual abuse allegations involving clergy, said at a press conference Wednesday that Apuron purposely kept the archdiocese’s sexual abuse policy weak to protect himself.
On Friday, the church said that this allegation is a “calumny of such magnitude that the only avenue, which we are following, is recourse to the civil and canonical legal processes to address these intentional lies.”
The statement continues: “We are working with one of the most prominent U.S. legal firms to address these issues and with an independent investigator to inquire about this allegation and these rumors. These intentional lies oblige the Archbishop to take appropriate and immediate canonical measures in regard to Stephen Martinez.”
The media release identifies Martinez as “Mr. Stephen Martinez.” His title as deacon is not stated.
Martinez, when sought for comment, said on Friday the key word is “incompetence,” adding that the archbishop was incompetent when he failed to investigate his own violation of the sex abuse policy regarding notification that Martinez advised him of in 2014.
The archbishop removed Martinez from his position as sexual abuse response coordinator after that.
Martinez said the archbishop was incompetent when he failed to initiate an investigation into recent allegations by Roy Quintanilla, a 52-year-old man who said he was molested by Apuron as an altar boy, and Doris Concepcion, whose son allegedly told her he was molested before he died in 2005.
The archbishop decided to attack them “rather than reach out to them with care and support,” he said.
He also said the archbishop was incompetent when he failed to step aside as the accused until the investigation has been completed.
“Perhaps the true test of competence would be to rapidly commence an independent and professional investigation of the sex abuse allegations brought forward in 2015 and 2016,” Martinez said.
The Archdiocese, in its statement, said it is facing “one allegation — contradicted by other testimonies — and some unsubstantiated rumors of sexual abuse.”
“We are dealing with unproven allegations, not with proven crimes,” the statement said. “To insult the archbishop as Mr. Martinez did is not only against any Christian standard, but also below any standard of due process which have to be granted to every person: a man is innocent until proven guilty and the Archbishop has adamantly denied these allegations.”
The archbishop, the highest leader of the Catholic Church in Guam, has twice been accused publicly in recent weeks of sexual abuse.
Quintanilla, who now lives in Hawaii, said he was sexually abused by Guam’s current archbishop about 40 years ago. Quintanilla said he was a 12-year-old altar server for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, in Agat, when the alleged abuse took place.
Days later, Concepcion, of Prescott, Arizona, told Pacific Daily News her deceased son, Joseph “Sonny” A. Quinata, was molested by Apuron when the latter was the parish priest in Agat in the late 1970s.
The archbishop denied the allegations. He has not been charged with any crime.
The Archdiocese of Agana’s media release does not specify whether the law firm or independent investigator will look into the sexual abuse allegations against the archbishop.
When asked for additional details about the law firm’s and the independent investigator’s scope of work, the Archdiocese of Agana’s Chancellor, Father Adrian Cristobal, said “at this time, the Archdiocese is not providing the specifics of the investigation but I wish to assure you that we are applying the sex abuse policy in this area.”
The Archdiocese said the archbishop has always taken very seriously any allegations, and even rumors, of sexual abuse and acted on them.
It said this is what the archbishop did in the case of Father Paul Gofigan, who was removed when he refused to restrict from active and voluntary church activities a registered sex offender and murderer. Gofigan was removed in 2013.
The Archdiocese said this is what the archbishop also did when he limited the faculties of Father John Wadeson following the surfacing of an old unproven allegation, subsequently cleared by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Wadeson left Guam in 2014 after the archbishop removed him from his position of priest.
This was also what the archbishop did when Father Luis Camacho was removed as pastor, and has had ministry limited, “when his only accuser was the same Stephen Martinez who was reporting rumors,” the Archdiocese said. Camacho was accused of custodial interference in 2015.
Both the Archdiocese of Agana’s statement and Martinez used the word “incompetence.”
The Archdiocese said Martinez has distinguished himself “egregiously for his incompetence.”
Martinez, for his part, said the archbishop was incompetent in at least 11 instances, from dealing with Father Wadeson’s issue in 2014 to dealing with persons who have recently come forward alleging sexual abuse by Apuron of two altar boys in the 1970s.
The Archdiocese said Martinez, as the former archdiocesan financial officer, unbeknownst to the archbishop, failed for six consecutive years to submit the required financial reports to the proper authorities at the Vatican.
“This glaring incompetence caused many problems for the Archdiocese,” the church said.
“It is obvious that Mr. Martinez is part of the (Tim) Rohr group conspiring to topple Archbishop Apuron from his service as Shepherd and a successor of the Apostles, a service he had been doing for the last thirty years defending Guam from many immoral inroads and we challenge anybody to prove the contrary.”
Tim Rohr, a local blogger who runs the website JungleWatch.info, which features articles on the local Catholic Church, was previously named by the Archdiocese as among those spreading malicious lies about the archbishop and the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese said earlier it plans to sue Rohr and his associates.
Martinez said the archbishop was also incompetent when he failed to do the following:
perform a required psychological evaluation and background checks on Father John Wadeson;
update the sexual abuse policy to address the issue of conflict of interest should there ever be an allegation against the archbishop or any person involved in the administration of the sex abuse policy; and
promptly investigate the allegation against Father Luis Camacho.
Monsignor Richard Colletti has resigned his positions with the Diocese of Winona as Vicar General and Chancellor.
The announcement of the resignation was contained in a Wednesday evening email from Bishop John Quinn to diocesan clergy.
“Monsignor Colletti’s resignation stems from recent media reports involving accusations of sexual misconduct with an adult female that dates back to 1986,” Quinn’s email said.
The bishop’s announcement coincided with a Rochester Post-Bulletin story published Thursday morning detailing a personal injury lawsuit filed in 1992 against Colletti, the Diocese, Saint Mary’s University and others.
Colletti admitted in court documents to having a sexual relationship with a female student he was counseling while on staff at Saint Mary’s. The lawsuit was closed in December 1993. Terms of the settlement are confidential.
Quinn’s email described Colletti’s service as Vicar General and Chancellor as “exemplary.”
“Monsignor Colletti tendered his resignation to me because of his concern that the situation would impede the effective administration and governance of the Diocese,” Quinn said in a statement Thursday.
Colletti was also assigned as rector of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, pastor of St. Casimir’s Church and chaplain of the WSU Newman Center. Colletti has also resigned from his chaplain role, Quinn said Thursday; his other ministerial duties are under review.
“I am not able to address the specifics of the claim due to the Confidentiality Agreement signed between the parties to the lawsuit,” Quinn said in the statement. “The Diocese of Winona takes every allegation of clergy sexual misconduct very seriously and remains committed to upholding the inherent dignity of every person.”
Colletti, 63, had served in those roles since 2011. He had previously been assigned to a number of roles in the diocese in Rochester and Mankato dating back to the mid-1990s.
Colletti admitted in Winona County District Court documents filed in the early 1990s to an ongoing relationship with the woman he had been counseling. They met at Saint Mary’s, where she was a first-year student and Colletti was then the director of campus ministry.
Colletti soon started scheduling appointments almost daily, according to court records, with the two meeting for several months and the relationship eventually turning sexual in nature.
Colletti, having told diocese administration about the relationship, was eventually transferred to Rochester. It wasn’t clear whether Colletti and the woman had any contact after the suit was filed in 1992. She is in her 40s and now lives in a different state, the Post-Bulletin reported.
The revelation comes amid a time of growing uncertainty about the Diocese of Winona’s future and the close of the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which allowed a three-year window for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file civil claims against their abusers. The woman would not have qualified to file suit under the act because she was 18 at the time.
More than 100 cases seeking financial compensation for damages have been filed against the Winona diocese during that period, connected to incidents that date back in some cases to the 1940s, all against clergy members who either have died or are no longer active in the diocese.
The diocese has not clearly said yet whether it is considering bankruptcy protection, as the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis and others have done.
Deacon Steve Martinez, the former coordinator of a group in the local Catholic Church charged with reviewing sexual abuse allegations involving the clergy, said Thursday he’s aware of “three other victims that have made contact but they are still not ready or willing to move forward with filing a formal complaint.”
The highest leader of the Catholic Church in Guam, Archbishop Anthony Apuron, has twice been accused publicly in recent weeks of sexual abuse.
Apuron and the Archdiocese of Agana have denied the two allegations and announced plans to file lawsuits against those whom it said have been perpetrating “malicious lies” about the archbishop and the Catholic Church.
There still is no investigation by the local church conducted in relation to the sexual abuse complaints, Martinez said.
The first public accusation against Apuron was by a former altar boy in Agat, Roy Quintanilla. He said he was molested by Apuron when the latter was parish priest at Mount Carmel Church in Agat in the 1970s.
The second one was by the mother of a former altar boy also in Agat. Doris Y. Concepcion, now living in Prescott, Arizona, told Pacific Daily News her son, Joseph “Sonny” A. Quinata, revealed his secret about Apuron molesting him in the 1970s, shortly before he died 11 years ago.
Martinez reiterated that assistance, including counseling, is available to victims.
“One problem is the bullying tactics by the Archbishop and his cohorts. They are worried about being harassed by the Archbishop and they are worried about being sued. I am working to try and help them get past this fear. It took a fair amount of courage for them to make even a first contact,” Martinez told Pacific Daily News.
Martinez said he’s hoping his work on Wednesday when he called a press conference “will help them and others to come forward.”
“Some of them have had terrible lives because of (what) Father Tony (did) and each needs to come to the point of admitting this sad reality at their own pace. It is a tragic situation that must be fixed. The Church should be helping in every way possible. But since the accused is the leader of the Church, he is making every effort to block their stories from coming out. Intimidation is his biggest weapon at this time. Sad,” Martinez said.
The identities of the three others are not disclosed, and it is not known at this time whether these other three individuals’ allegations also point to Apuron or other priests serving or used to serve in Guam.
Martinez said victims or those who know of any victim of sexual abuse can contact the numbers advertised in the newspapers recently: 777-6836 and 997-6969.
Apuron removed Martinez from his post as sexual abuse response coordinator for the Archdiocese of Agana through a letter dated Oct. 24, 2014, the same date the archbishop appointed to the same position the current coordinator, Deacon Rizal “Larry” Claros.
Martinez received his replacement letter after he sent two letters to Apuron in July and then in August 2014.
In those letters, Martinez alleges the archbishop violated his own Church’s sexual abuse policy and about the need to make the policy stronger so it can better protect not only the Archdiocese but also the children and the community.
Martinez said the local church’s sexual abuse policy is “weak,” “flawed” and a “failed” one that needs to be changed. The current sexual abuse policy, according to Martinez, protects only Apuron and those around him but not the innocent children who are victims.
For example, even if the archbishop is the one accused of sexual abuse, the archbishop has the “sole authority” to determine which sexual abuse allegation gets investigated and has the final word on any probe findings. Martinez said the archbishop, as the accused, cannot be the judge himself.
The Archdiocese of Agana was sought for comment but none was received.
“Like I said (on Wednesday), our Church has a wound that needs to heal. But before it can heal, it needs to be fully cleaned so no infection comes back later,” Martinez said.