The Catholic diocese in San Francisco has settled roughly $87 million worth of sex abuse cases against priests and others associated with the church, mostly in the last 15 years, according to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.
The archbishop divulged the eye-popping figure during a series of town hall meetings held to address the sexual abuse of minors in the local Catholic Church on the heels of a grand jury report in Pennsylvania that found hundreds of priest had molested at least 1,000 children in that region.
The multimillion-dollar figure, while expensive, represents just a fraction of the problem in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, according to an advocate with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, otherwise known as SNAP.
“It’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said SNAP national Board of Directors Secretary Melanie Sakoda, who is based in the Bay Area. “Only maybe one in 10 victims ever come forward. Some of them will say they don’t want money. They just want their abuser out of ministry.”
In October, a law firm named 135 priests linked to the Catholic diocese in San Francisco who have been accused of sexual abuse. Cordileone has not released such a list, though the archbishop was expected to decide whether to name priests who have been credibly accused by the end of November.
In a Nov. 15 letter, Cordileone said only that he had decided to hire an independent consultant to review the personnel files of all 4,000 priests who have served in the diocese since 1950.
“This work will take a while, and when it is done I will report back the results to the Archdiocese,” Cordileone wrote without addressing the release of names.
Cordileone disclosed the $87.2 million sum on Oct. 18 at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church. He said $80.5 million worth of a total of 125 sex abuse cases had been settled since 2003, when California lifted the statute of limitations for adults abused as children to file civil lawsuits against the church for one year.
California passed legislation opening the one-year window for civil litigation after the Boston Globe reported in 2002 on the local church covering up for priests who abused children.
“To me this is the deepest betrayal imaginable,” Cordileone said. “I can’t express adequately the deepest shame for you, our victims, and for what has been done to you, and for those in positions of authority who did not respond responsibly but rather allowed abusive priests to continue unchecked.”
Cordileone said insurance covered 70 percent of the $87.2 million in settlements, while roughly $35 million of the funds came from the diocese, the sale of church properties and other religious funds. No parish funds were used to cover the costs of the settlements, he said.
Cordileone claimed there had not been a reported incident of the sexual abuse of a minor in the Archdiocese of San Francisco since 2000.
“We did have a close call in the year 2011,” Cordileone said. “There was a priest serving here from another diocese who made advances to a young man who was just shy of his 18th birthday. The father was nearby and intervened so thankfully the abuse didn’t happen, but that priest has been removed from ministry.”
Sakoda questioned the claim. The SNAP advocate said she does not believe abuse has stopped in the local diocese — it likely just hasn’t been reported yet.
“The average age for coming forward is 48,” Sakoda said. “It could be either that people aren’t reporting it, or that Archbishop Cordileone is not being totally honest in the sense that there have been no allegations they have found, in their word, to be credible.”
As the San Francisco Examiner reported Saturday, preliminary findings in the diocese review of accusations of sexual abuse since the 1950s revealed six allegations of sexual abuse of a child by clergy in the 1990s and three in the year 2000, including an incident reported in 2006.
Cordileone said the priest in that incident was from Guatemala and had left the country by the time of the report.
In the other two most recently reported incidents from 2000, Cordileone said one priest was “caught in a sting of selling kidding porn” and another was arrested “for commerce with male prostitutes.” Both were removed from ministry.
As for the millions in settlements, Cordileone said the diocese most recently discovered it had paid $60,000 to settle two cases in Stockton in the 1950s. Church officials found out about the settlements during bankruptcy proceedings for the city, which was once part of the Diocese of San Francisco.
When the pastor of Ottawa’s Catholic parishes announced in March that his assistant, the Rev. Jeffrey Windy, was being removed from ministry, the abrupt and mysterious departure came as a shock to people who had grown to like the young priest over the last nine months.
To others, the brief notice of the removal in the local newspaper brought a different kind of shock — that Windy had been serving as a priest at all.
He was, after all, an ex-con who had been arrested while assigned to a different parish in 2002 and served time in federal prison for manufacturing and selling gamma-hydroxybutyrate, more commonly known as GHB, or the date-rape drug.
Despite Windy’s criminal past, the bishop in Peoria had decided in 2013 to return Windy to parish work, first in Bloomington and then in Ottawa, just a few minutes from Windy’s hometown of Peru. Now he was being removed from ministry again — and the church wasn’t saying why.
People in the central Illinois towns of Ottawa, LaSalle-Peru and a handful of smaller communities that hug the banks of the Illinois River were left to wonder what had happened.
In fact, the explanation does not fit neatly into the usual narrative of priest misconduct. Late last winter, Windy’s superiors in Peoria learned that Windy had involved himself in a criminal court case, paying a visit to an 82-year-old crime victim along with the father of the woman who had robbed her. That man later would be charged with attempted harassment of the victim.
Windy’s role in the matter drew the attention of Ottawa police, who eventually showed up at church to question both the priest and his boss, the Rev. David Kipfer.
Within a few days, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky removed Windy from ministry, setting off a scramble among the priest’s supporters in Ottawa. At the request of a lawyer who is helping Windy, the LaSalle County state’s attorney and at least one other lawyer involved in the case wrote letters to Jenky explaining that the priest was not facing criminal charges. But the bishop has not changed his mind.
Windy declined to comment on his situation, but the prominent Ottawa-area lawyer advising him — former LaSalle County State’s Attorney Gary Peterlin — said the diocese is seeking to remove Windy from the priesthood permanently. Peterlin said the priest has done nothing that would justify removing him from ministry.
Jenky’s vicar general, Monsignor James Kruse, confirmed that Jenky has filed a canon law case in Rome seeking further action on Windy’s status. The fact that Windy did not seek the counsel of superiors in Peoria before involving himself in the criminal case, nor immediately report the police interview to the chancery, showed Windy had not overcome “a pattern of imprudence” that had marred his behavior for years, Kruse said.
Jenky “was immediately unnerved by the fact that he did not know about it,” Kruse said.
The bishop’s position is a turnaround from a decade ago, when Jenky repeatedly supported Windy’s efforts to win early termination of his parole. Jenky twice supported efforts to move Windy out of the Peoria Diocese so he could re-enter ministry away from central Illinois, where the “negative implications” of his date-rape drug conviction would be less of an issue, according to federal court records.
At a time when the public spotlight is again fixed on how the Catholic clergy deals with misconduct in its ranks, Windy’s case raises questions about how, when and with what oversight the church decides to return troubled priests to ministry, regardless of the nature of their transgressions.
“It’s amazing he was put back in,” said Terry McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, a Boston-based advocacy group that has tracked the Catholic hierarchy’s record in dealing with priest misconduct. The fact that Windy has now been removed again “does seem to indicate that the diocese had not thought it through.”
Kruse said years of thought went into the decision to give Windy another chance after his conviction and drug-related problems.
“There was a probationary period to see if he was in a position to reintegrate into ministry,” Kruse said. Ultimately, diocesan officials felt as though Windy deserved compassion and had earned a chance. No one had ever alleged sexual misconduct of any kind, Kruse noted, and “with his addiction … it was something that had been overcome.”
The Peoria Diocese initially declined to comment to the Tribune, maintaining that the situation was a private personnel matter. Jenky agreed to allow Kruse to respond after the Tribune said the newspaper was going to write about the case regardless, based on documents and lawyers’ statements.
‘A terrible mistake’
In early 2002, Windy was a 31-year-old pastor running two parishes in tiny farming towns an hour north of Peoria. Young and athletic, he was popular with parishioners and often seen lifting weights in the garage of the parish house. That image was shattered when Windy was arrested in late January 2002 on federal drug charges.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Iowa alleged that Windy and five men from the Quad Cities had been manufacturing and selling GHB. Windy ordered chemicals and used church property to mix the drug, according to federal prosecutors.
At the time of their arrest, Windy and his codefendants said they were using the drug primarily as a bodybuilding supplement. However, the science underlying its purported muscle-building qualities is dubious at best, experts said.
“Is it legit? No,” said Mark Rasenick, a professor of physiology, biophysics and psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It is the fabric of urban legend. When you take GHB — it’s sedating. If you sleep well, you make more human growth hormone. And bodybuilders are known to inject human growth hormone. None of this has ever been proven to work.”
During his sentencing hearing, Windy acknowledged that he was addicted to the drug, which produces feelings of euphoria and relaxation as well as drowsiness. As Windy began to read a statement asking the judge for leniency, he broke down crying and asked his attorney to read what he had written, according to a transcript of the hearing.
“I know I have made a terrible mistake in using drugs and in purchasing the chemicals for the manufacturing of the same,” Windy wrote. “I have shamed my family, my parish, my brother priests and the lives that I have touched.”
The judge sentenced Windy to 70 months in federal prison, citing abuse of a position of trust as an aggravating factor. The priest spent four years in prison and was released on Dec. 12, 2006, according to court records. He then was subject to an additional three years of mandatory supervised release, the federal version of parole. Church officials said he underwent further counseling and evaluation.
In summer 2008, Windy began to ask the court to end his parole early so he could serve as a priest outside Illinois, first as a military chaplain and then, when that did not come to pass, as a parish priest in Brooklyn, N.Y. In a series of motions, his lawyer noted that the church was in need of his services because of “a worldwide shortage of priests.”
The motions acknowledged that “since his release from custody, his superiors have been reluctant to assign him to public pastoral duties, so as to avoid the negative implications associated with this pending case.” The court filings also stated that Bishop Jenky supported Windy’s efforts to rejoin active ministry elsewhere.
The Brooklyn appointment fell through “at the last minute,” Kruse said, when Windy “demonstrated some point of imprudence. It had to do with some things on his Facebook page.”
Kruse did not explain further. Windy’s Facebook posts over the years have mixed pastoral and religious messages with selfies from vacations and restaurants, often with a cocktail in hand.
Windy did not rejoin active ministry until he was placed in a Bloomington parish in 2013.
He served there for four years before transferring to Ottawa in June 2017 to serve three combined parishes — St. Patrick’s, St. Columba and St. Francis of Assisi — close to his hometown of Peru. In Ottawa he reconnected with old friends and relatives and gained supporters who liked his homilies and outgoing demeanor. But while Windy was getting settled, the trouble that would eventually reach him was growing.
‘No, he’s done’
A year ago, in October 2017, a 33-year-old woman named Deanna Rowley told an elderly couple outside an Ottawa steakhouse that she would open the door for them, according to police. As the 82-year-old woman passed by, Rowley grabbed her purse and tried to run. The woman struggled with her, and Rowley grabbed a wallet from the bag, jumped into her van and drove off.
Rowley eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery of an elderly person and hoped to be placed in a drug treatment program. However, prosecutors were seeking a 12-year prison sentence.
This is where Windy entered the picture.
Rowley’s lawyer, Matthew Mueller, wanted to appeal to the elderly victim to make a statement supporting leniency, according to a letter he later wrote to Jenky in support of Windy. However, Mueller was concerned about reaching out directly for fear of intimidating the woman, he wrote.
Mueller relayed his concerns to Rowley’s father, Gary, the letter said. A few days later, Windy called Mueller to say that Gary Rowley, a parishioner at St. Patrick’s, had contacted him about the matter. The priest also asked “if it was illegal or even frowned upon” for him to reach out to the victim, according to the letter.
Mueller assured him it was common practice for a defense team to seek the support of the victim. According to Peterlin, Windy then went to see the victim at her home and Gary Rowley went with him, in a separate car.
The elder Rowley has a significant criminal history. Among his previous cases was a 2009 conviction for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. He also had been charged with a felony for allegedly assaulting a pregnant woman.
After Windy talked to the elderly woman and introduced her to Gary Rowley, she called Mueller and, as the lawyer relayed in his letter, “indicated she did want to talk to me about the case and that she understood I was Deanna Rowley’s attorney. She expressed many good things about Father Windy.”
On Feb. 23, Gary Rowley was arrested and charged with felony attempted harassment of a witness, according to a statement from the Ottawa Police Department. “Rowley is accused of taking a substantial step in contacting a victim in a pending legal proceeding, being the robbery case of his daughter Deanna Rowley, with the intent to harass or annoy the victim,” it said.
Rowley’s attempted harassment case, as well as his felony assault charge, are scheduled for trial in January, prosecutors said.
As police investigated the allegations against Rowley, they questioned both Windy and the pastor, Kipfer.
LaSalle County State’s Attorney Karen Donnelly, whose office prosecuted Deanna Rowley, said she received a phone call from the Peoria Diocese’s top lawyer, Patricia Gibson, after the priests were questioned, asking if she was going to press charges.
Donnelly said she told Gibson “there was not enough to justify charges.” Only Gary Rowley would be charged with trying to intimidate the elderly woman, she said.
Windy was removed from ministry anyway. As parishioners mounted an effort to help him, Peterlin approached Donnelly and asked if she would state her position on the case in a letter to the bishop, Donnelly said. She ended up writing a second letter after the first had no effect on Windy’s status.
“Father Jeffrey J. Windy has never been considered for possible arrest in regard to his interaction with the victim,” Donnelly wrote in the second letter, dated April 28. “At no time was this office asked to pursue charges against Father Windy.”
Cathy Ciszweski, a retired nurse who attends St. Francis of Assisi parish, wrote a stern letter to the editor of the local paper in which she addressed Jenky directly, asking: “You have chosen to crucify Rev. Windy for what may I ask?”
She pledged to withhold her annual donation to the diocese until the bishop reinstates Windy. “He is a very good priest, in spite of what happened to him years ago,” she said in an interview. “I feel that he’s used that experience to be helpful.”
Kruse said the letters from Donnelly and others were beside the point.
“The fundamental reason Father Windy was removed was because of his tremendous lack of pastoral prudence in that he didn’t first contact the diocese when he first became involved in the Rowley case,” Kruse said. “That’s the reason the bishop said, ‘No, he’s done. He’s out.’”
Peterlin said he objects to the way the diocese keeps leaning on that one term.
“They can make their decision, but they should not be arbitrary decisions,” Peterlin said. “To come up with this ‘imprudent’ … that’s a judgment call. What I can see is that we’ve got some real overkill here on the part of the diocese.”
Kruse said that the day after the bishop learned of the police interview “we met with Windy and talked with him about the conversation with the police, and talked about all of the details.
“In general, let’s say he confirmed everything, and he said, with some sadness and distress, ‘Yes, I was very imprudent.’”
Coming out can be challenging for young people across the globe – but in Italy many young Catholics are struggling with negative attitudes from both their communities and their churches.
While some churches offer support for the LGBT community, others are still asking young people to see a psychologist or stop attending Church events. Sometimes even celibacy is expected.
Giulia is in the committee for an informal LGBT Catholic association that supports people up and down the country. Listen to her chat with her friend and fellow group member Edoardo about the challenges they’ve faced.
You can find out more about issues concerning young people and the Catholic Church by listening to the World Service’s Heart and Soul programme here.
IT IS EVIDENT that the Catholic Church is incapable on its own of exorcising the scourge of clergy sex abuse. The scandal raged unchecked for decades and, even after it was exposed in 2002 by the Boston Globe , has been met by the church hierarchy with denial, temporizing, stone walling and half-measures.
Even as the bishops of America’s 196 Catholic dioceses and archdioceses gathered in Baltimore Monday to grapple with the latest major revelations — a Pennsylvania grand jury’s report from August detailing decades of abuse involving more than 1,000 victims and at least 300 priests — they were stopped in their tracks by an abrupt message from the Vatican, which asked them to hold off. That intercession arrived along with a warning from Pope Francis’s ambassador in the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who seemed to scoff at the proposal, which the bishops had been set to vote on, to establish a lay commission that would assess bishops’ misconduct — “as if we were no longer capable of reforming or trusting ourselves,” as he put it.
That remark crystallized the arrogance that has often characterized the church’s stance even as countless exposés have laid bare the culpability of its leaders. From high and low, the church has broadcast its conviction that its own transgressions are no worse than that of other institutions; that state statutes of limitations that shield dioceses from lawsuits should be preserved; that no foothold may be allowed for mechanisms to discipline bishops who have enabled abuse by transferring pedophile priests from parish to parish.
Voices of moral clarity have been heard from within the church, urging genuine change. “Brother bishops, to exempt ourselves from this high standard of accountability is unacceptable and cannot stand,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a speech to the gathered bishops Monday following that of Mr. Pierre. “Whether we will be regarded as guardians of the abused or the abuser will be determined by our actions.”
Yet, more often than not, those voices have been ignored.
The pontiff has summoned bishops from around the world to the Vatican for a meeting to address the scandal in February; this summit, we are urged to believe, will once and for all set the church on a path toward surmounting the blight of abuse. The fact of that pending event was the proffered pretext for the church’s request that the U.S. bishops put off two items on their agenda this week in Baltimore: establishing the lay commission to review complaints against bishops, and adopting a code of conduct for themselves — the first such codified ethical guidelines.
The agenda was modest, and Rome’s intervention is telling. Again and again, the Vatican pays lip service to the suffering of victims. Again and again, it undercuts its own assertions of contrition.
For nearly two decades, to be an advocate for survivors of Catholic clergy sex abuse was often to be a lonely protester, frequently ignored or sometimes even maligned as disrespectful by some Catholics and clergy.
That has changed dramatically since June, when clergy abuse scandals surfaced again in the U.S. church. Enormous energy has been pumped into the movement, with parishes around the country holding crowded listening sessions on the topic, bishops making abuse the focus of their annual fall meeting this week and legislators finding new support for measures to expand statutes of limitation for child sexual abuse.
But the victims’ advocacy movement is also being transformed by bitter ideological divides among Catholics. That chasm was dramatically on display this week at the semi-annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore.
Monday’s two public events were dominated by the older groups — research site BishopAccountability and SNAP — whose leaders focus on oversight and justice and participate less in the controversial debates over the perceived roles of celibacy and homosexuality in the crisis. A dozen or so people attended each of those events, and around 20 came Tuesday to stand with survivors who raised signs with words including “truth” and “reform.”
A few hours later, the right-wing advocacy group and news site Church Militant hosted more than 300 protesters under a pavilion for a revival-like rally. The profile of the group, whose leaders and web site blame abuse scandals on homosexual priests and a general falling away from orthodoxy, got a boost Tuesday as James Grein, one of two people who this summer accused ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of child sexual abuse, appeared for the first time in public at the rally.
The crowd roared as Grein singled out a pope who some on the right wing see as heretical and politically too liberal.
“Jesus’ law is much higher than pontifical secrets. It’s not Francis’ church, it’s Jesus Christ’s church,” said Grein, who says McCarrick abused him for nearly two decades, starting when he was a boy. McCarrick’s suspension in June launched the current scandal in the church.
While mainstream survivors groups declined to team up with Church Militant in Baltimore, its hefty social media audience — 200,000 Facebook followers — adopted the abuse scandals as a cause this summer.
The older survivors’ groups have shied away from Church Militant in part because it does not routinely cover female victims of clergy sex abuse or go after conservative bishops who have allegedly abused. These groups want to keep the focus on goals like identifying abusers and creating policies and practices that require transparency and help victims.
“I feel like they’re using victims for a political agenda and I’m concerned about that. They’re using this to kind of get to where they want to be,” SNAP’s regional director, Becky Ianni, said of Church Militant. “And I hate when someone uses victims. Victims aren’t conservative or liberal. We’re victims. And that’s what people need to focus on.”
At the same time, Church Militant represents a large new audience for some longtime advocates who want to keep attention on abuse— even as its approach presents land mines for long-established groups.
Referring to Church Militant and other far-right websites like Breitbart and LifeSite that have taken up aspects of the cause, BishopAccountability co-director Anne Barrett Doyle said, “I see they perform a service to some extent in that they expose predatory bishops and predatory priests that mainstream press aren’t yet covering. But at the same time, because they have a different goal, their goal isn’t simple justice and accountability and transparency — there is a bias.”
Asked for comment on the role of Church Militant, the bishops’ conference issued a statement saying the umbrella group “supports everyone’s right to a peaceful protest.”
Until this summer, posts on the Church Militant site were primarily focused on aggressively fighting advancements toward gay equality in the church, as well as some conservative secular politics. A typical headline is: “The Depth of My Anger Over Decades of Effete Priests.”
Michael Voris, a former television reporter who founded Church Militant in 2012, said the McCarrick case shifted his group’s focus.
Voris in 2016 released a video saying that for much of his 30s, he had multiple sexual relationships with men, including those with whom he lived. He portrayed himself as a victim of the devil.
Voris said the McCarrick scandal — in which many top clergy in Rome and in the United States are alleged to have known of at least rumors that McCarrick was harassing male seminarians — merges with his followers’ belief that a cabal of gay top clergy is at the core of church division.
“Since McCarrick, there is a lot more anger from faithful Catholics who feel like they’ve been duped. They feel like they’ve been lied to by the establishment,” he told the Post.
It was hard for conservative Catholics to go after the establishment, Voris said, but “not anymore.”
There was the feeling, he said: “’Well, they’re the successors of the apostle. We have to look at things in a charitable way,’” he said. “But the fact that McCarrick was the one who ran the show, and he was covered up for — that was the last straw.”
This isn’t the first time the survivors’ movement has seen disagreement, said some long-term watchers. The key division decades ago, in the 1990s and early 2000s, they said, was more about tactics. Some groups like the Linkup, now faded, were focused on healing and care for survivors, while SNAP was more about confronting the church and publicizing crimes.
It’s also not the first time the ultraconservative wing of the church was focused on the topic of abuse. Terry McKiernan, Barrett-Doyle’s partner at BishopAccountability, said some of the most aggressive reporting on the issue in the 1980s and early 1990s was by the Wanderer, a 151-year-old Catholic newspaper whose motto is “No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true Socialist.” Some of the earliest reporting on rumors of McCarrick’s behavior with seminarians in the early 2000s appeared on conservative blogs.
McKiernan said liberals and conservatives tend to focus on abusers who fall in their opposing ideological camps but that he feels it has been — until now — harder for orthodox Catholics to display leadership on the issue.
“Conservative Catholics didn’t want any activism that seemed to be counter to the power structures of the church, which they respected and felt had doctrinal valiance,” McKiernan said. “McCarrick gave them permission to be aggressive but still be thinking with the mind of the church.”
Some survivors and leaders at events in Baltimore said they see in 2018 a far greater level of interest in the topic of abuse among the typical churchgoing Catholic.
“What I’m seeing for the first time is we have Catholics joining us in droves. I have Catholic groups saying: ‘What can we do for survivors?’ ” Ianni said. While there was huge publicity in the early 2000s around the Boston crisis, the interest seemed to come and then go, as faithful Catholics believed the leadership that the problem was all cleaned up.
Then came Chile. And Ireland. And the grand jury reports in Pennsylvania And Buffalo. And McCarrick. And more than a dozen state investigations into clergy sex abuse.
Ianni said lay Catholics may be “realizing they are the church. Maybe for the first time, they’re finding their voices.”
Shaun Dougherty, a survivor originally from Johnstown, Pa., stood Monday with a sign outside the Baltimore Marriott. He said he believes it is now more comfortable for victims and advocates who speak out, but that’s not enough.
“We see so many tragedies today — Parkland, Las Vegas,” he said, citing recent mass shootings. “And people poured into the streets and marched for reforms. In Pennsylvania, we had wall-to-wall media coverage [of the grand jury report], and we couldn’t even pack the [state] Capitol for reforms. The fact that parishioner support is not there is very hard to take.”
Dougherty said the focus on celibacy or homosexuality as the solution is a distractions to the movement. “The Roman Catholic bishops have a serious problem with child molestation, and they are conferencing here to figure out how to get away with it,” he said. “A lot of this other stuff bogs it down.”