05/19/17

Catholic School Teacher Says Students Outed Him As Gay — Then He Was Fired

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Former St. Ignatius teacher Matt Tedeschi was fired from the prestigious Catholic high school after students “outed” him as gay.

By Stephanie Lulay

A religion teacher at one of the city’s most prestigious private high schools said he was harassed and threatened by students after they found his online dating profile — and then he was fired by the school.

Matt Tedeschi, who taught religious studies at St. Ignatius College Prep in Little Italy, said students found out he was gay and “outed” him to the rest of the school — then went on to harass him about his sexual orientation in the classroom and on social media. 

Tedeschi, who taught for about four years at the school, said he believes he was then fired because his sexual orientation conflicts with some Catholic teachings, and the incident — and ensuing gossip — embarrassed top leaders at the elite school. He was slated to be considered for tenure in the fall. 

“In this place that prides itself on being a value-based school and teaches us to care for the vulnerable and marginalized, it’s precisely the same religious basis that allows horrible harassment to take place,” he said. 

In a statement released Thursday, St. Ignatius leaders said Tedeschi was not fired from school because of his sexual orientation. Previously, St. Ignatius administrators declined to directly address Tedeschi’s firing and subsequent allegations, but said that the teacher “was treated fairly” by the school’s administrators. 

“Saint Ignatius College Prep must respect the confidentiality of the term of employment of its present and former faculty and staff members,” school spokesman Ryan Bergin said in a statement. “Although I cannot comment on Mr. Tedeschi’s claims regarding his prior employment at Saint Ignatius College Prep, I can assure you that he was treated fairly at all times by the administration of the school, and we wish him all the best in his future career.” 

‘Outed’ by students 

Tedeschi, who was raised in the Catholic faith and graduated from Marist High School, a coed Catholic high school in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood, studied religion at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign before earning a master’s degree in biblical studies from Yale Divinity School. In August 2013, he was hired to teach religious studies at St. Ignatius, the school he had dreamed of going to when he was a teen.  

“In a lot of ways, I fell in love with it all over again when I became a teacher there,” said Tedeschi, 31. “I was really pleasantly surprised by how bright these [students] are.” 

Two years ago, the school expanded Tedeschi’s responsibilities, and he began teaching French classes in addition to religion classes. 

“Matt was known as being a really tough teacher, but he was really good” at his job, a former colleague said. “Most of the kids really enjoyed him — he was very smart, witty.” 

And while Tedeschi described the students as generally “very polite,” his experience at the school changed in February 2016, when a student “outed” him to the student body after finding Tedeschi’s profile on OKCupid, an online dating website. 

Tedeschi had never discussed his sexual orientation in the classroom, he said, and the online dating profile did not list his name or that he was a teacher at the school. The profile, which said he is interested in men, features three photos, including one which portrayed him shirtless. 

There is no explicit content. 

“Never once did I think a high schooler would be on it,” he said of the dating website for those 18 and older. Other teachers at St. Ignatius have online dating profiles, he said, including profiles on OKCupid. 

“Everyone should have the right to a private life,” Tedeschi said. 

After discovering the dating profile, the St. Ignatius student texted screenshots of Tedeschi’s profile to several other St. Ignatius students, and it spread across campus. 

“He ‘outed’ me to a bunch of students. He knew that he was making fun of me and insulting me,” Tedeschi said. “He wanted to embarrass me.” 

Discussing the profile in a group text message that Tedeschi obtained screenshots of, one student wrote: “Wow. This is SOOO juicy.” 

“He was sort of cyberbulled by some of our students,” said one of Tedeschi’s former colleagues who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 

A ‘horrible’ environment 

When Tedeschi found out the student had seen his profile, he said he told two administrators hoping they would take action to stop the bullying from students. At first, the administrators “were supportive,” he said, and brought the issue to St. Ignatius Principal Brianna Latko. Tedeschi talked to the students after the incident, but the students were ultimately not punished, he said. Latko did not respond to emails seeking comment.

“It was a horrible environment for me,” he said, and students continued to harass him. 

In April 2016, one of Tedeschi’s students went on a 16-tweet tirade about him, writing on Twitter: “Let’s not forget I have screenshots that can end you.” The student attached a photo from Tedeschi’s dating profile.

Tedeschi said the student’s tweet was “public blackmail” and “a threat” that declared Tedeschi could be fired because he is gay. 

Tedeschi brought the student’s tweets to the principal, and asked for him to be punished. The student received two Saturday detentions, Tedeschi said.

“It was a slap on the wrist,” he said. 

Tedeschi said administrators could have prevented “the culture of harassment.”

“They were just watching it play out,” he said. “I was having anxiety attacks before I went to class. It just completely undermined my authority as a teacher and made me feel small. … This unnecessarily pitted me against my students, which never should have been the case.” 

The harassment from students continued to happen in his classroom this school year, Tedeschi alleged, but he continued teaching. 

Then, during a class this spring, a student unexpectedly shared sensitive information involving other students. Tedeschi said he didn’t know the student was going to share the information, told her she should report it to the administration and also reported the incident himself to a counselor at the school. 

Latko subsequently called Tedeschi out of class to discuss the incident, and reprimanded him for “allowing the discussion to go on,” he claimed. St. Ignatius administrators declined to answer questions about the incident. 

Later that week, in March, the principal informed Tedeschi that St. Ignatius was not going to renew his contract. 

The school gave him the opportunity to finish out the school year, but after he discussed his departure with a colleague, the school called him to say that his employment was being terminated immediately. In exchange for the rest of his salary he would have earned over the semester, school administrators urged him to sign a nondisclosure agreement, but Tedeschi declined, he said. 

Tedeschi said he was told he was being fired because he showed poor judgment posting photos online and didn’t stop the classroom conversation involving the sensitive information. He said he was also told he was negative and undermined authority — although administrators declined to elaborate to him on these charges or provide further details in writing.

He said that no one told him directly that he was fired because of his sexual orientation.

St. Ignatius administrators declined to answer DNAinfo’s questions about why Tedeschi was fired, but in a statement released Thursday said the teacher was not fired because of his sexual orientation.

Tedeschi contends he received positive reviews from the school’s leaders in his four years at St. Ignatius, and his employee file contained no disciplinary complaints. 

Tedeschi said he believes he was really fired because he is gay and the school was embarrassed by the “outing” and subsequent fallout. He also believes the school administrators fired him “in retaliation” for complaining about the harassment he experienced at the school.  

St. Ignatius administrators declined to answer general questions about the school’s hiring practices, specifically whether they hire, and allow, gay teachers to work at the school. 

“The questions that you raise touch upon issues that are taken seriously by our school,” Bergin said in a statement. “Saint Ignatius College Prep has as its core mission a diverse community dedicated to educating young men and women for lives of faith, love, service and leadership. Through outstanding teaching and personal formation, the school challenges its talented student body to intellectual excellence, integrity, and life-long learning and growth. Inspired by the gospel of Jesus Christ, this community strives to use God’s gifts to promote social justice for the greater glory of God.”

Tedeschi said that he was “outed” to the school through no fault of his own and that if St. Ignatius doesn’t want to hire gay teachers, the school’s policies should explicitly express that. While the Jesuit school is part of a “more open-minded order,” some leaders at the school believe that same-sex relationships conflict with Catholic teachings, he said. 

“It’s a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, because they are worried about negative fallout,” he said. “I never would have taken this job if I thought this could happen to me.” 

St. Ignatius has other gay faculty members and gay students, but it’s “kind of hush-hush,” Tedeschi’s former colleague said. 

“I don’t think he was necessarily targeted [from the beginning] because he was a homosexual male, but because there was too much attention being called on Matt being gay,” the source said. “It was creating too much trouble” for the administration, the former colleague said. 

“The fact that he was fired still leaves me scratching my head,” his former colleague said. At a school that preaches social justice, “Matt tried to advocate for himself, and he was [reprimanded] for it until he was told to leave.” 

Tedeschi’s firing comes after black students raised questions about “serious racial problems” at the private school last year. 

In September 2015, a St. Ignatius College Prep teacher was placed on administrative leave after allegations of “inappropriate conduct” surfaced at the school. That teacher no longer teaches at St. Ignatius, according to school sources.

Legal action? 

Since his firing, Tedeschi said he is exploring legal options to fight his termination, and he wrote an open letter to the Ignatius community that he posted online.

Juan Perea, a Loyola University law professor who specializes in employment law, said religious institutions are afforded some employment exemptions under the law, including a ministerial exemption that states that churches and other religious institutions can discriminate against others in favor of hiring Catholics over non-Catholics, for example.

Under the exemption, ministers are not protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that an employer can’t hire or fire a person based on an individual’s “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” 

By the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s definition, ministers can include employees “that conduct religious ritual, worship or instruction.” 

Under federal law, it is a relatively new finding that sexual orientation can count as a form of sex discrimination, Perea said. For decades, the federal circuit courts regularly rejected claims of LGBTQ discrimination under Title VI. 

But the U.S. EEOC’s view of sex discrimination began to change under the Obama administration, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit — the court that governs Chicago — agreed last month that a lesbian professor can bring a lawsuit against her former employer Ivy Tech Community College. 

“The law is changing right now on all of these issues,” he said. 

A private, coed Jesuit high school, St. Ignatius College Prep was founded in 1869.

Matt Tedeschi's Open Letter to the St Ignatius Community by DNAinfo Chicago on Scribd

Complete Article HERE!

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05/13/17

Cardinal George Pell accused of sexually abusing two choirboys, book claims

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Vatican’s financial chief, who has always denied wrongdoing, faces fresh allegations of abuse, relating to his time as archbishop of Melbourne

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic, is accused of abusing two boys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in the 1990s.

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New allegations of child abuse are being levelled against Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s financial chief and the most senior figure in the Australian Catholic church.

Fairfax Media has reported claims contained in a new book, Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, that he sexually abused two choirboys at St Patrick’s cathedral after becoming archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.

The author Louise Milligan first flagged these claims on the ABC’s 7.30 Report in July last year. But according to Fairfax Milligan’s book, to be released on Monday, contains details of the accusations that have not been made public before.

After the 7.30 Report Pell accused the ABC of conducting a “scandalous smear campaign.”

Cardinal Pell’s office issued a statement on Saturday saying the cardinal had “not been notified by the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions or Victoria police of the status of their investigations, which have been underway since at least February 2016.”

“Cardinal Pell will not seek to interfere in the course of justice by responding to the allegations made by Melbourne University Press (publisher of Milligan’s book) and media outlets today, other than to restate that any allegations of child abuse made against him are completely false,” the statement said.

“He repeats his vehement and consistent denials of any and all such accusations, and stands by all the evidence he has given to the royal commission.”

The boys, students at St Kevin’s College, sang in the cathedral choir and were allegedly abused by the archbishop in a room somewhere in the precincts of the cathedral. They left the choir and the school shortly afterwards.

Milligan claims one of the choirboys died of a drug overdose in 2014. His mother was subsequently told by the second boy that they had been abused by Pell when they were teenagers at the cathedral.

Milligan writes that both spoke to the Sano taskforce established to investigate allegations that emerged during a parliamentary inquiry in Victoria and the later royal commission into child abuse.

Pell has now been accused of abusing boys at three stages of his career: as a seminarian, a priest and as archbishop of Melbourne.

He has denied all these allegations on a number of occasions. No charges have ever been laid against him in relation to them. The cardinal, prefect of the secretariat for the economy at the Vatican, has stated that he willingly co-operated with the detectives of the Victoria police when they interviewed him in Rome in October last year.

Sano has also investigated allegations that as a young priest Pell abused boys in the swimming pool of his hometown Ballarat. Pell also denies these allegations.

Milligan writes that Pell and his defenders have been able to “bat off or gloss over” the swimming pool allegations by casting them as “horseplay or a bit of rough and tumble … The story of [the choirboys] has no such ambiguity. If these allegations are true, they point to utter, sinful hypocrisy.”

Citing ill health, Pell declined to return to Australia to give evidence to the royal commission in person last year and instead gave evidence by videolink from Rome. In February this year the Australian senate called on the cardinal to return home “to assist the Victorian police and office of public prosecutions with their investigation into these matters.”

Pell dismissed the parliamentary resolution as “an interference on the part of the Senate in the due process of the Victoria Police investigation.”

According to reports, the police have now twice sent briefs of evidence concerning Pell to the Victorian office of public prosecutions.

The Guardian is not claiming Cardinal Pell is guilty of any allegations of sex abuse, only that they have been investigated by police.

Operation Sano continues.

The Guardian contacted the Vatican, Pell’s office in Rome and his office in Australia for comment.

Complete Article HERE!

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05/9/17

Minnesota bishop accused of coercion in clergy abuse case

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Lawsuit accuses Crookston bishop of threatening alleged abuse victim and failing to report abuse. 

Patty Vasek looked on as her husband Ron Vasek said he was abused by Msgr. Roger Grundhaus at 16 and how 46 years later, as Ron studied to become a deacon, Bishop Hoeppner threatened to prevent him from becoming a deacon

Crookston Bishop Michael Hoeppner threatened to retaliate against a man who told him that a former top official in the Crookston diocese had sexually molested him as a child, according to a lawsuit filed in Polk County district court.

It marks the first time in the nation that a U.S. bishop has been individually sued for coercion in a clergy abuse lawsuit, said attorney Jeff Anderson, who is holding a news conference at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The lawsuit, filed by Ronald Vasek, also claims that the bishop failed to release the sex abuse allegation against the now-retired Monsignor Roger Grundhaus as required by a 2015 court order.

“The coercion and concealment in real-time demonstrates the crisis continues, ” said Anderson.

More than 500 claims of sex abuse by Minnesota clergy have been made in the past four years, most through a three-year law that allowed older civil cases to be filed. Catholic leaders across the state have said that the abuse scandal is in the past, and that reforms have been made.

The lawsuit, however, claims that Vasek met with Hoeppner in 2010 and reported that Grundhaus has engaged in unpermitted sexual contact with him in about 1971. Vasek was 16 at the time, and had been invited to accompany Grundhaus on a trip to Ohio for a meeting of canon lawyers, the complaint says.

Bishop Hoeppner

Vasek also reportedly asked the bishop how the allegation would affect his involvement in the diocese’s church deacon program. The bishop told him it wouldn’t be a problem, the complaint says, as long as he didn’t tell anyone else.

Grundhaus’ abuse report apparently was put in the diocese’s then-confidential abuse files.

In 2014, those files were supposed to be made public as part of a court order from a different clergy abuse case. In October of 2015, Vasek claims that the bishop summoned him to his private residence.

The bishop asked Vasek to sign a diocese-written letter retracting the abuse allegation, according to the complaint, because “Msgr. Grundhaus was unable to minister in the other diocese because they had plaintiff’s report of abuse in their files.”

The letter was authored by Msgr. Michael Foltz, the Crookston diocese vicar general, the lawsuit says. Vasek said he was threatened with retaliation if he didn’t sign it.

According to the complaint: “The bishop indicated to the plaintiff that if he should refuse to sign the letter, the bishop would have difficulty ordaining plaintiff as a deacon … and that plaintiff’s son’s priesthood in the Diocese of Crookston would be negatively impacted.”

Since 2014, Crookston has released the names of six priests who were credibly accused of sexually molesting minors. Grundhaus is not on that list. The diocese also is as a defendant in the lawsuit.

At the news conference, Vasek and his son will speak publicly for the first time about the incident.

The Crookston Diocese said it is “deeply saddened and troubled” by the allegations, and plans to “conduct a thorough investigation into this matter.”

“Bishop Hoeppner categorically denies that he in any way forced, coerced or encouraged Mr. Vasek not to pursue his allegations regarding Mons. Grundhaus,’’ the diocese said in a written statement.

Complete Article HERE!

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05/4/17

Kansas City Archdiocese Cuts Ties With Girl Scouts

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File under:  Crusty old men making silly decisions for girls.

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The Archdiocese of Kansas City severed its relationship with Girl Scouts USA in more than 20 Kansas counties, opting to align itself with a faith-based group that it says better represents the Catholic lifestyle.

The archdiocese announced this week that after 100 years of partnering with the Girl Scouts, it will instead align itself with American Heritage Girls, whose mission is “building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country.”

nice outfit!

Kansas City Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann said in a statement that Girl Scouts USA promotes “programs and materials reflective of many of the troubling trends in our secular culture” and is “no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and values of the Gospel.”

The Archdiocese of Kansas City’s main issues with Girl Scouts has to do with the group’s alleged ties to Planned Parenthood and their promotion of role models such as feminists Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, who “not only do not reflect our Catholic worldview but stand in stark opposition to what we believe,” Naumann said.

Kansas City Deacon Dana Nearmyer said the archdiocese has no malice against Girl Scouts but would rather promote Jesus Christ instead of being edgy.

“They have worked hard on being culturally relevant,” he said of the Girl Scouts.

“They are secular and we are sacred,” Nearmyer said, adding that the archdiocese hopes many troop leaders will also make the transition to American Heritage Girls, also called AHG.

Although its announcement made immediate waves, the Kansas City Archdiocese said it will give the 21 counties and 106 parishes in its jurisdiction seven years to make the transition.

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson made the same decision last year, urging priests in his parishes to severe their ties with Girl Scouts and switch their loyalty to AHG.

“We are very excited about this opportunity to join the Archdiocese of Kansas City and to help more girls figure out what girlhood is all about,” AHG Executive Director and Founder Patti Garibay said.

Garibay founded the Christ-centered organization 22 years ago. The group’s membership has doubled since archdioceses have announced support for AHG, and more than 17,000 volunteers are ready and anxious to handle the expansion.

Those not excited about the Kansas City Archdiocese’s announcement include Barb Dorris, managing director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

“They’ve taken action with the Girl Scouts but let a criminal run the whole diocese, it’s out of balance,” she said in reference to former Kansas City Diocese Bishop Robert Finn, who was found guilty in 2012 of failing to report suspected child abuse.

Dorris, a former Catholic school teacher, says she became involved with SNAP after she caught a priest molesting a child in 1991.

“We have 25,000 members worldwide and we’re growing. The good news is they found us, the bad news is there are always more victims,” Dorris said.

Deacon Nearmyer acknowledged the irony but promised that the archdiocese strives to be as transparent as possible.

“We understand all of the hurt that’s out there and we’re dreadfully ashamed and sorry for the sins of the past,” he said, adding that any and all sexual deviance is reported to the proper authorities.

In his statement released Monday, Archbishop Naumann said the decision to cut ties with Girl Scouts was not an easy one. He also thanked the group.

“I want to express my appreciation for the many extraordinary Girl Scout leaders of the archdiocese who have served so many so well,” he said. “We look forward to having as many of them as are willing join us in leadership roles as we take this new step into the formation of our girls. I will always be grateful for their exceptional service.”

Naumann also said, “Our greatest responsibility as a church is to the children and young people in our care. We have a limited time and number of opportunities to impact the formation of our young people. It is essential that all youth programs at our parishes affirm virtues and values consistent with our Catholic faith.”

Girl Scouts fired back in a statement of its own, saying it “established a positive relationship with the highest leadership of the Catholic Church to benefit and support Catholic Girl Scouts throughout the country.”

“Unfortunately, some have chosen to perpetuate misinformation that the Catholic Church leadership has acknowledged to be false,” the group said. “Girl Scouts is always willing to work with any and every person or organization in order to fulfill our mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.”

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04/19/17

Late Ottawa Catholic bishop who managed sex abuse complaints now accused of sex abuse

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An Ottawa man says he was sexually abused in August 1979 by Bishop John Beahan, who was then one of the most powerful figures in the Archdiocese of Ottawa.


An Ottawa man says he was sexually abused in August 1979 by the late Bishop John Beahan, who was once the second-highest-ranking member of the Ottawa clergy

By Andrew Duffy

The man, now 52, has launched a $2-million lawsuit against the Catholic archdiocese. It represents the first time that Beahan, once the second-highest-ranking member of the Ottawa clergy, has been named in a sex abuse lawsuit.

The allegations also raise a potential motive for Beahan to dismiss sex abuse claims made against fellow clergy members in the 1970s and 80s.

Appointed auxiliary bishop in May 1977, Beahan also served for 12 years as vicar general — essentially, the archdiocese’s chief administrative officer — until he suffered a fatal stroke in March 1988. In his role as vicar general, Beahan would have been responsible for managing complaints lodged against abusive priests.

In a statement of claim filed earlier this month, the man — identified only as M.D. — says he was an altar boy at Nepean’s St. Maurice Parish in the late 1970s, when Rev. Dale Crampton was pastor.

Crampton is the most notorious perpetrator in Ottawa’s clergy sexual abuse scandal, a pedophile with more than 10 known victims. He killed himself in October 2010 by jumping from an Ottawa highrise.

M.D. claims that Crampton sexually abused him for two years from time he was 13 years old.

In an interview with the Citizen, M.D. said Crampton invited him to a West Carleton cottage in August 1979. M.D. said he agreed to go because he didn’t want to explain to his parents why he was reluctant to spend time alone with the priest.

Bishop Beahan appeared at the cottage unannounced on Saturday afternoon. “I sat down beside him, we were kind of introduced, and then I remember Father Crampton said he had to go into town to do groceries or something,” M.D. said. “He left me and Bishop Beahan alone.”

They talked for a while, M.D. said, until Beahan began to flatter him, touch, kiss and fondle him. The bishop, he said, asked, “Does Father Dale do this, too?” They moved to Crampton’s bedroom, M.D. said, where the abuse escalated to masturbation and simulated sex acts.

“I remember thinking, ‘Man, I’ve been set up here,” he said. “I was nervous, scared, confused, all three.”

At one point, he heard Crampon return from his errand, but the priest did not intervene. “I wanted to go home,” he said. “I was so concerned they’d come into my room (that night), but they never did. They did drink quite a bit.”

Beahan was gone the next morning.

The lawsuit’s allegations are still to be tested in court. A spokesman for the diocese, Deacon Gilles Ouellette, said it does not comment on matters before the courts.

M.D. said he didn’t deal with the emotional turmoil caused by his abuse for decades, and relied on alcohol to numb the pain: He developed a stutter, was uncertain of his sexuality, found intimacy difficult, and was often suicidal. It was only after reading about Crampton’s history of abuse in the Citizen last year that he resolved to confront his past.

He told his therapist, then his wife, children, siblings and parents about what happened. A father of three, M.D. said all of his most important relationships have been damaged by it. “My children deserved a more attentive, loving father,” said M.D., who works in the funeral services industry.

M.D.’s lawyer, Rob Talach, said his client’s allegations support the notion that there existed in the 1970s and 80s a close-knit circle of child abusers in the Ottawa clergy, and that Beahan — the senior diocesan official responsible for managing abuse complaints — was part of it. “When the shepherd is the wolf,” he said, “it’s pretty hard to protect the flock.”

In June 1986, Crampton was charged after a group of parents from St. Maurice Parish went to the police with sex abuse allegations. The parents approached police in March after becoming frustrated by the inaction of then Archbishop Joseph-Aurèle Plourde and Bishop Beahan.

Crampton was at the hub of the archdiocese’s small circle of child abusers.

He was a longtime friend of Rev. Barry McGrory, who was convicted in 1993 of sexual assault, and now faces charges in connection with three other alleged victims. Crampton and McGrory were friends while students at St. Patrick’s High School in Ottawa, and later attended the seminary together.

As a young priest, Crampton travelled with Beahan to New York City for the visit of Pope Paul VI in October 1965, and worked with him at St. Elizabeth Parish.

In 1974, Crampton became one of two priests elected to the Ottawa Catholic School Board. His Catholic board colleague, Rev. Kenneth Keeler, would be charged with abusing three boys in the 1970s and 80s.

Keeler’s criminal trial was halted by his sudden guilty plea. During early testimony, court heard that the priest would select young boys to share his bed at St. Brigid’s Summer Camp for needy children in Low, Quebec. One witness also testified that he saw what appeared to be Keeler masturbating Beahan on a cottage balcony at the camp. Keeler denied the incident took place.

Complete Article HERE!

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