Why the Roman Catholic Church still struggles with sexual abuse scandals


In an internal diocese memo from Erie in northwestern Pennsylvania, a priest admitted to being “aroused” while tutoring a boy, hugging him and sharing sexually suggestive text messages with multiple boys.

The priest’s bishop admonished him to “cease and desist,” but Catholic Church leaders didn’t pass that information along to authorities until six years later — and only then in response to a grand jury subpoena.

The Rev. David Poulson resigned from the diocese this past February, three months before he was charged with sexually abusing two boys.

Poulson’s case is an example of how abuse and cover-up continue to plague the Catholic Church, even after the issue first exploded into the national consciousness some 16 years ago in Boston. Since then, the church has vowed to make improvements and paid out billions of dollars of parishioners’ tithes to victims.

In March, a Vatican tribunal found the archbishop of Guam, Anthony Apuron, guilty of “certain accusations” involving the sexual abuse of minors.

In July, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who is alleged to have sexually abused a minor 47 years ago.

And in Pennsylvania, Poulson was one of the 301 predator priests identified in a sweeping grand jury report released Tuesday that detailed child sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses and religious leaders’ efforts to cover it up. The investigation identified more than 1,000 victims.

“There is an entrenched infrastructure of secrecy in the Catholic Church that continues to reward concealment rather than disclosure,” said Co-Director Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountablity.org, a group that collects data and researches sex abuse in the church.

Much remains hidden still about clergy sex abuse across the USA, she said. That is why the Catholic Church continues to struggle with it.

Most of Tuesday’s grand jury report, one of the most extensive public accountings of abuse within the Catholic Church to date, deals with events before the early 2000s. And the report points to promising signs in the past 16 years, saying victims “are no longer quite so invisible.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002. It set procedures for addressing allegations of clergy sexual abuse of minors and came in wake of The Boston Globe‘s investigation into priest abuse and the ensuing national crisis.

Still, the scandals and cover-ups have continued. In multiple states, the church has resisted efforts to reform statute-of-limitation laws to allow people abused as children, sometimes decades ago, to seek compensation through civil lawsuits.

“It prevents more victims if we get exposure,” said Florida lawyer Michael Dolce, who is a child-sex-abuse survivor and advocated for Florida to repeal its statute of limitations for such crimes. “It raises the information in the community as a whole by exposing the secrecy.”

The grand jury report and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro were critical of actions the church took since 2002:

In 2002, a victim inspired by the revelation of abuse in the Boston Archdiocese reported that a priest in the Allentown Diocese abused her. The district attorney didn’t pursue a criminal case, citing the statute of limitations, and the diocese and its lawyer “attempted to undermine and discredit” the victim and her family, according to the grand jury report.

In June 2002, the bishop in the Erie diocese wrote to a victim that he was shocked the victim would “go to the press directly rather than contact me regarding the past.”

In 2013, the Greensburg diocese received email from a victim concerned after seeing photos of a priest on a parish website, even though the priest was dismissed from the church a decade earlier following multiple complaints of child sexual abuse.

In 2014, Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer wrote to the Vatican to recommend that one accused priest not be removed from the priesthood even though he was taken from active ministry. Gainer wrote that the priest should “be permitted to live out his remaining years in prayer and penance, without adding further anxiety or suffering to his situation, and without risking public knowledge of his crimes.”

In a statement after the grand jury report, the Harrisburg diocese said the letter didn’t accurately represent the action taken and was not part of a cover-up.

“Only when they’ve been forced again into a corner are they doing the right thing,” state Rep. Mark Rozzi, a Pennsylvania legislator who testified before the grand jury as an abuse victim, said Wednesday in a radio interview.

Without the grand juries, “they would still be doing exactly what they have always done,” he said.

Hilary J. Scarsella, who studies sexual violence and trauma as a doctoral candidate in theological studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, said the church needs to put concerted energy into an external, independent analysis of what has enabled this problem for so long and then systematically clean it up.

“I think at this point I think the Catholic Church has shown itself to be incapable and untrustworthy of managing this problem on its own,” Scarsella said. “They need outside folks to come in and they need to be accountable to victim-centered experts to help them deal with this.”

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Jake Tapper mocks the Catholic League for defending ‘widespread molestation and rape’ by priests

CNN’s Jake Tapper


CNN anchor Jake Tapper mocked the Catholic League on Friday after a 884-page statewide investigative grand jury on “child sex abuse by Catholic priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses” was released by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

“It is interesting to note that the most irrational, indeed hysterical, reaction to PA grand jury report is coming from conservative Catholics. They are singularly incapable of making a cogent argument, so all they do is vent like little boys,” the Catholic League argued Friday. “They are a pitiful lot.”

“Yeah, can’t believe Hugh Hewitt Marc Thiessen and others object to credible & detailed allegations of widespread molestation and rape of up to a thousand minors by priests and other clergy, with the subsequent and systematic coverup by the Church,” Tapper replied, citing two conservative Catholics who were alarmed by the report.

Hewitt has pledged that he will not donate “one dime” until Cardinal Donald Wuerl is gone, because such tithing “is exactly like contributing to legal defense fund of accomplice to child rape.”

“If any CEO uncovered 19 child molesters/pornographers in his or her company, didn’t report 18 of them to law enforcement, kept them employed in new jobs where CEO thought ‘Probably won’t rape another child,’ would he/she still be CEO after reveal?” Hewitt asked, in a thought exercise for “the deniers.”

Thiessen has also tweeted calls for Cardinal Wuerl to go and said that, “The bishops not only failed the victims but have also scandalized the church, undermined its teaching authority and driven countless people away from Christ.”

Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, released an 11-page statement (PDF) claiming to “debunk” the grand jury report.

The Catholic League is not part of the Catholic Church.

While Donohue’s organization attempted to defend the sexual assault detailed in the grand jury report, the Vatican on Thursday expressed “shame and sorrow.”

“The Catholic League can’t possible embarrass and injure the Church as much as Wuerl and other prelates have, but every now and then they give it a try,” Hewitt responded.

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Why Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Is So Hard to Stop

The latest horrific report came from Pennsylvania, but it won’t be the last one, thanks in part to an insane lobby standing in the way.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former D.C. archbishop, waves to fellow bishops at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on September 23, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

by Allie Conti

On Tuesday, a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church that was nothing less than explosive. Although Americans have been reading similar horrific tales since at least 2002, when Spotlight reporters at the Boston Globe reported on priests there molesting kids and the Church systematically covering it up, the details in the new—nearly 900-page—document were particularly gut-wrenching. What’s more, the report suggested that the already jaw-dropping estimate of the number of victims was probably a conservative one.

“We subpoenaed, and reviewed, half a million pages of internal diocesan documents. They contained credible allegations against over three hundred predator priests,” the report reads. “Over one thousand child victims were identifiable, from the church’s own records. We believe that the real number—of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward—is in the thousands.”

To get a sense of what this very lengthy report means in the broader context of Catholic Church sex abuse, how rank-and-file adherents might be responding, and what can be done to punish offenders and prevent abuse in the future, I called up Michael Dolce. He’s a lawyer who represents survivors of clergy abuse and helped get Florida to repeal its statute of limitations on child sex crimes in 2010.

VICE: Like most people, I’m familiar with what happened in Boston, but less so everywhere else. I was hoping we could start off talking about the scope of this scandal so you could get me up to speed on where else there have been explosive reports at this point.
Michael Dolce: We’ve seen similar reports to the most recent one that’s come out of Pennsylvania in Los Angeles, Washington state, Milwaukee, and Minnesota. This is not the first time, but as I see it, the reports are becoming more and more specific and kind of confirming, if you will, the patterns we have seen are very much patterns in terms of the institutional mishandling of child abuse.

Can you elaborate on how the latest grand-jury report fits into the larger picture of what we know about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, though? For instance, have the alleged cover-up tactics been the same nationwide, or have they evolved over time?

I see them as being quite typical of what we’ve seen across the Catholic Church—and not just there, but in other institutions. But certainly the leadership in the Catholic institutions have been particularly purposeful in efforts to cover up reports of abuse and failing in particular to report abuse to law enforcement. What we also see in this report was the acknowledgement by the grand jury of what we’ve known for a long time, which is that when we see 1,000 victims, there’s knowledge that the numbers are much higher. If you look at underreporting rates, this is probably more like 10,000 victims. That was essentially one of the findings of the grand jury—the magnitude and scope of the problem.

One of the unique aspects of this grand-jury report is the recommendations for change. They emphasize more than I’ve seen before the importance of failure-to-report laws [for sex abuse]. They said close the loopholes and don’t give people a pass on this.

Have narrow statutes of limitations been the primary roadblock against criminal charges where there’ve been allegations against priests over the years?
No question about it. We know the average time for reporting is 15 years after the fact and in most states, the statute of limitations is set up that crimes had to be prosecuted in four or six years or something like that. We estimated here in Florida before we repealed the statute of limitations for child sex abuse in 2010 that they were barring 70 percent of all criminal prosecutions.

How does one go about removing the statute of limitations in any given state?
When I started the effort in 2004, I would not have believed you if you had said it would take six years. I knew my way around the legislature, I had worked there for years, I had assisted in passing a number of other laws. I knew what I was doing. I had worked for an influential senator—I knew how to get things done. But when I came back as a citizen it still took six years because I couldn’t find the political willpower to overcome the strength of the Catholic leadership lobby. And they of course were backed by an insurance industry that didn’t want further civil exposure. Then, of course, the criminal defense bar was fighting me tooth and nail.

What reasons do actual lawmakers give for opposing expanding the statute of limitations for civil or criminal action? And is this simply about the Church and other institutions’ lobbying power or is it more complicated?

The tactics that were employed in Florida are the same ones I see elsewhere. They try to kill the legislation quietly and behind the scenes, never letting it go to a vote. Most legislators understand that if you publicly fight against legislation that is specifically designed to protect children and work against the tactics of predators and those who give them safe harbor, you’re going to pay for that in the next election. So what they did in Florida was keep me off the Senate and the House floors for six years. They tied it up in committee and with amendments and excuses. When it got there, we won unanimously. It was the right thing to do—at least publicly.

But the resistance, when it’s spelled out at all, is largely argued on financial grounds?
The main tactic we saw in Florida was they said if the legislation passes, we would see liability insurance for running schools, daycare centers, and recreation leagues become unaffordable. Churches would shutter. Daycare centers would become non-existent.

Well, what have we seen in states where they’ve been repealed? Is that true?
We repealed the limitations in Florida, effective July 1, 2010. And I can tell you as I sit here today, I have not heard of a single daycare center, a single church, a single rec league, being closed as a result of this. And I would be the first person to lodge a complaint to, OK? What we see is the flip-side benefit, which is that insurance carriers are much more careful about the institutions that they insure, and that they come in and audit, and that the best practices are in place.

You mentioned not seeing any church doors close as a result of exposure to liability, but what about due to lack of membership? Why aren’t people leaving the Church despite what is now a decades-long scandal?
I got a note two nights ago from a dear, dear friend of mine, she and her husband are devote Catholics, about their struggle to distinguish the faith from the institution. I simply encouraged them that their faith is their faith and that the people who administer it can do the wrong thing. But I do know people who have been turned off by it.

But when—as in what year—might we have a nationwide accounting? When does this end?
I shudder to think how long it’s going to take. There’s an underlying problem here, and that’s the societal unwillingness to even confront these issues. People don’t wanna believe this will really happen. I can tell you about a case I just tried in Gainesville, Florida. My client’s pastor* said he didn’t believe it was even possible that her father could have behaved this way toward her. He was in disbelief the entire time—including when he testified at trial two years later. And he was willing to look past a lot of very compelling evidence. He said a bizarre theory that somehow my client had been brainwashed by a man who spent ten days around her.

Every time you open a newspaper and see an article about child sexual abuse, you always see quotes from friends, neighbors, family members saying, “I’m in shock.” At what point in time are we going to say, ‘We need to stop acting this way, and this is the reality of the danger we face?’

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Church used children fathered by priests as leverage to silence victims

By Laura Kelly

One priest raped a girl who bore him a child. Another made his victim get an abortion in violation of church doctrine. And others preyed upon women and girls in their parishes for years with impunity.

The crimes — and their cover-ups by Catholic church leaders, such as Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the current archbishop of Washington — are presented in graphic detail in a landmark grand jury report that documents decades of abuse committed by hundreds of clergy in six Pennsylvania dioceses.

Many previous reports about sexual misconduct among priests have focused on homosexuality and pederasty, but the grand jury report delves into sex crimes against female victims and their consequences when pregnancies occurred.

The report notes four cases that occurred in the Scranton diocese in which bishops and other church leaders allowed predator priests to continue in the ministry. The leadership also used confidentiality agreements with settlements to silence the victims. In one instance, they provided tuition for a young boy to attend a school in the diocese.

Children fathered by priests are also victims of trauma and unrecognized by the Church, says Vincent Doyle, the founder of COPING, Children of Priests International. A psychotherapist from western Ireland, Mr. Doyle, 35, is the son of a Catholic priest, which he discovered in 2011.

“I was subsequently called to keep quiet and interestingly enough, not by one single priest but by members of the lay community,” Mr. Doyle said in a phone interview with The Washington Times.

He started his organization to raise awareness of the plight of children of priests and call for recognition in the Catholic church. He was part of a landmark effort in Ireland that had the Catholic leadership acknowledge that children born to priests are due fundamental support including “personal, legal, moral, financial.”

A one-page communique by the Irish Episcopal Conference in May 2017, first made available by Mr. Doyle to The Boston Globe in its reporting on the cover-up of abuse in the Roman Catholic church, states that priests who father children must “face up to his responsibilities” and that the “two parents have a fundamental right to make their own decisions regarding their care of their new-born children.”

In cases outlined in the grand jury report, published Tuesday, at least one woman said she had a crisis of faith after becoming pregnant by her abuser-priest. The church gave her a large sum of money and thousands of dollars more later, when she said she continued to suffer from the trauma of sexual abuse.

“In terms of being proactive, the [U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops] need to emulate the Irish Episcopal Conference with regard to safeguarding of minors affected by the issue surrounding children of priests,” Mr. Doyle said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not return a request for comment by press time.

Notably, Pope Francis has yet to issue a comment on the report, which names 301 priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses, accused of grievous acts of sexual violence and abuse on more than 1,000 children, some as young as 18 months old. The abuse was never brought to the attention of law enforcement, and when charges surfaced, victims were silenced and priests were hidden away.

Cardinal Wuerl, who served as bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years, defended his role Tuesday in a statement: “While I understand this report may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse.”

The following four cases from the grand jury report show how the Scranton diocese dealt with pregnancies and the children of priests:

Father Thomas D. Skotek

Father Thomas Skotek sexually assaulted a minor female between 1980 and 1985, resulting in her pregnancy. He helped her get an abortion in 1986. When church officials, namely Bishop James Timlin, became aware of the situation, they transferred Father Skotek to another parish and, in 1989, offered $75,000 to the girl and her family contingent on a non-disclosure and confidently agreement.

“It is expressly understood and agreed that this release and settlement is intended to cover and does cover not only known injuries, losses and damages, but any further injuries, losses and damages which arise from or are related to the occurrences arising from the alleged sexual conduct of Reverend Thomas Skotek,” the agreement reads, according to the report.

Following the settlement, Bishop Timlin sought to reassure senior Catholic leaders in Rome that Skotek’s “criminal” acts would likely remain hidden.

Skotek served 39 years in the church in at least 10 communities. He was removed from active ministry in 2002, the same year The Globe broke the story of sex abuse and its cover-up in the Boston diocese.

Father Robert J. Brague

At the same time Bishop Timlin was shuttling Skotek out of Scranton and coordinating a payment to a young girl and her family, he was sent three letters accusing another of his priests, Father Robert Brague, 46, of a sexual relationship with a teenage girl.

The first two letters were sent anonymously, but a third letter was written from the sister of the high school victim. The letter author said her sister, at 17 years old, was pregnant with Brague’s child and that she believed him to be involved in at least two other affairs.

Bishop Timlin responded to the sister’s letter, saying he removed Brague from his duties as soon as he heard of the affairs but that the responsibility for the relationship rested solely on Brague and the young woman.

“Father Brague and your sister have a long, difficult road ahead … What has happened is their responsibility and certainly Father Brague will take care of his obligations,” Bishop Timlin wrote in a 1988 letter, according to the grand jury report.

In 1989, the teenage girl gave birth to a baby boy, and Brague was reassigned to a church in Florida in 1990.

In 1996, the mother asked the Scranton Dioceses to arrange for her son to attend one of the Catholic schools in its jurisdiction free of charge. The diocese arranged a scholarship for the boy.

Brague died in 1997.

Father Joseph D. Flannery

Father Joseph Flannery’s case is among the shorter cases in the report. It documents that between 1964 and 1966, the Diocese of Scranton received letters saying Flannery had engaged in affairs with women, dated and impregnated a young girl and was seen on vacation with her in Atlantic City.

There was no documentation showing an investigation or a questioning of the priest, the report states.

In 2016, the diocese sent a list to the district attorney’s office with the names of priests who had complaints against them sexual abuse of minors and included Flannery.

Monsignor J. Peter Crynes

Monsignor J. Peter Cryne resigned from the Diocese of Scranton in 2006 under credible allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls.

The grand jury report lists at least six encounters with teenage girls taking place throughout the 1970s, mostly girls between 15 and 17 years old.

In one situation, it is unclear exactly if Crynes impregnated a girl. That 15-year-old was sent to Crynes for counseling and support for an eating disorder. He brought her to a counseling center and stayed with her there, entering her room at night, kissing and caressing her.

“Upon returning home, the girl discovered she was pregnant,” the report states. The parents called Crynes again for support and help and he drove the girl to a nearby college, parked the car and “pulled her onto his lap. That was her last contact with him.”

When confronted with the allegations in 2006, Crynes confirmed the accusations and defended himself by saying his physical behaviors with women were “gestures of loving paternal affection,” according to the report.

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Call for three cardinals to be removed from World Meeting of Families line-up

Survivors claim each has questions to answer about known clerical child abusers

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, from Drimnagh in Dublin, speaking in 2017 at the Dublin conference – hosted by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin – in preparation for this month’s World Meeting of Families.

By Patsy McGarry

A group representing clerical child sex survivors worldwide has written an open letter to Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin seeking the removal of three cardinals from World Meeting of Families (WMOF) events in Dublin later this month.

Archbishop Martin is chairing the WMOF board.

Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) represents survivors in 15 countries and aims to hold the Vatican to account over clerical abuse of minors.

It says the three cardinals – Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life which has overall responsibility for the World Meeting of Families, Cardinal Óscar Maradiaga of Honduras and a member of Pope Francis’s Council of Cardinals, and Archbishop of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl should be “investigated, not honoured”.

The organisation claims they have covered up for clergy who abused minors, something denied by the three cardinals

“Any bishop who covers up for another bishop should not be trusted to safeguard Catholic families, much less preach to the world about the sacred and intrinsic dignity and meaning of family life. We are deeply troubled that three cardinals who may have protected abusive brother bishops are playing significant roles at the World Meeting of Families,” it said.

Sexually abused minors

They noted how recently former US cardinal Theodore McCarrick in the US was removed from ministry following accusations that he had sexually abused minors as well as seminarians and young priests.

Cardinal Wuerl succeeded McCarrick as Archbishop of Washington in 2006 “around the time New Jersey dioceses were settling with McCarrick’s victims.”

Last month it emerged that Cardinal Maradiaga’s close associate and auxiliary bishop in Honduras, Bishop Juan Jose Pineda, was removed because of sexually abusing seminarians.

Cardinal Farrell was consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of Washington in 2002 by then Archbishop McCarrick and served as vicar general.

“I was shocked, overwhelmed; I never heard any of this before in the six years I was there with him,” Cardinal Farrell said last month, referring to former Cardinal McCarrick and the allegations against him. He had “no indication, none whatsoever”.

From Drimnagh in Dublin, Cardinal Farrell and his brother Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Vatican’s Council for Promoting Christian Unity, began their clerical careers as members of the controversial Legionaries of Christ.

Bishop Farrell remains a member while Cardinal Farrell left them in 1981.

Serial sex abuser

Legionaries of Christ founder Fr Marcial Maciel, who died in 2008, was exposed as a serial sex abuser of boys and young men and father of six children by multiple women and was removed from ministry in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI.

In 2016, when asked by The Irish Times what he had known about Fr Maciel’s activities as a sexual predator, Cardinal Farrell said: “I never knew anything back then. I worked in Monterrey, and maybe I would have met Maciel once or twice, but I never suspected anything . . . I left the Legionaries because I had intellectual differences with them.”

The survivors want the pope to acknowledge and meet publicly with survivor leaders of Ireland during his visit and to announce that the next WMOF will be dedicated to the impact and prevention of sexual violence, particularly clergy sexual violence, on families.

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