10/31/17

No surprise that Bishop Robert Morlino and Co. imperil Christianity’s good name, again

Robert Morlino, bishop of the Diocese of Madison, gives his homily during an ordination Mass at St. Maria Goretti Catholic Parish in Madison in 2015.

By

At least two online petitions have been started to protest the decision by Madison’s ironically conservative Catholic diocese to provide advice to priests on whether some gay deceased should be denied funeral rites.

As a Christian, I find it repugnant that any religious institution calling itself Christian would wobble on whether to give a grieving family a Christian burial for their loved one. As if deeming homosexuality a sin weren’t silly enough, the Catholic Church considers denying spiritual comfort to the families of gay people.

Just as bad is the harm such un-Christ-like behavior could do to Christianity’s brand and its relationship to government.

One of the petitions calls for Pope Francis to remove Madison Bishop Robert Morlino from his position, while the other calls on Morlino to rescind the guidance allowing priests to deny full funeral rights to gay Catholics. Both miss the point.

Recalling Morlino isn’t going to suddenly cause the church to fully accept gays and become what my denomination calls “open and affirming.” Francis has talked a better talk on this issue, but he’s yet to walk a better walk — which is why it wouldn’t be in line with Catholic teachings for the Madison diocese to declare that the gay deceased are entitled to funeral rites.

Refusing the rites to a specific class of people doesn’t raise the same kinds of constitutional questions raised by, say, a baker refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding.

“The courts, in the name of protecting religious liberty, typically have given religious organizations fairly wide latitude to engage in practices that might seem to be discriminatory in a secular context,” said Shawn Peters, an expert in religious freedom from UW-Madison.

The, ahem, good news is that if a gay person or her family wants a Christian burial, there are plenty of Christian churches that will provide it — as long as those wanting the funeral don’t consider Catholicism is the only true Christianity, in which case they shouldn’t expect a Catholic funeral anyway.

The bad news is that because of the Catholic Church’s considerable size and influence, the pronouncements of Morlino and Co. put Christianity generally in a bad light, while making it look as if longstanding tax breaks for Christian churches and clergy amount to government endorsement of bigotry.

Peters said he didn’t think that in our “current political environment” tax breaks for religious organizations are “seriously at risk.” But earlier this month a federal judge struck down a tax break for clergy housing allowances.

I’m not sure any occupation should be singled out for a housing-related tax break, although it seems a small indulgence given how little clergy are paid and how much they help raise for charity the government might otherwise have to provide. One 2013 analysis estimated Catholic groups spent some $30 billion on social services annually, although some of their funding comes from government.

Christians can find evidence of such mission work just about every Sunday at church. But the work looks less Christ-like if the church deems some people unworthy of Christ’s grace, including after they die.

Complete Article HERE!

10/27/17

Clerical sex abuse disclosures skyrocket in pope’s Argentina

In this Oct. 11, 2017 photo, Karen Maydana, center, Mailin Gobbo, behind right, and Yasmin Detez, behind left, pose for a photo at San Jose Obrero church in Caseros, in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The schoolmates returned to the church and adjacent school they’d attended to describe to journalists what had happened, saying they hoped it would help protect children.

Karen Maydana says she was 9 years old when the Rev. Carlos Jose fondled her at a church pew facing the altar. It was her first confession ahead of her first Holy Communion.

She blames the trauma of that moment in 2004 for a teenage suicide attempt. And yet she never spoke about it publicly until this year. After hearing that two women who attended her school in the Argentine town of Caseros were allegedly abused by the same priest, she joined them as complainants in a case that in July led to his arrest for investigation of aggravated sexual abuse.

“Unfortunately, there are many of us. But speaking about it now also gives you strength to carry on,” Maydana, 22, said. “I have a 9-year-old niece who’s receiving her Communion this year, and this is not going to happen to her.”

The allegations are part of a growing trend: While Pope Francis struggles to make good on his “zero tolerance” pledge to fight clerical sex abuse worldwide, victims in his native Argentina are denouncing abuses in unprecedented numbers. An analysis by The Associated Press shows that the number of clerics publicly identified as alleged sexual abusers has increased dramatically in the last two years.

Experts attribute the spike to a cultural shift as victims feel more emboldened to denounce abuse, prosecutors are more inclined to investigate complaints of even decades-old abuse, the media are increasingly aggressive about reporting them and courts are willing to hand down stiff sentences.

“It’s a domino effect,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a U.S.-based group that compiles a clergy abuse database.

In the U.S., confidential files on hundreds of pedophile priests have been released either through civil litigation, settlements or court order. The contents have revealed that top church officials worked behind the scenes to control the sex abuse scandal and keep it from authorities as well as parishioners.

“What is really remarkable here is that the survivors in Argentina don’t have the same powerful legal tools that we see in other countries,” Barrett Doyle said. “And yet, we’re still seeing the significant increase in cases.”

The AP compiled a list of 66 priests, nuns and brothers who have been accused since 2001 of abusing dozens of people, most of them children. The figures were gathered from testimonies by victims, judicial and church documents, and local media reports corroborated in conjunction with the BishopAccountability.org database. The number of new reports remained in the single digits each year from 2000 to 2015. But since the start of last year, victims have named 21 more, most accused of decades-old abuse.

“In Argentina, the abuse crisis is just beginning,” said San Francisco Bishop Sergio Buenanueva in Cordoba province, who leads a church council on clerical abuse. “I’m sure the Argentine church is going to face increasing numbers of these disclosures.”

To deal with the expected increased caseload, he said the church is planning to create its first comprehensive database of clerical abuse.  Buenanueva also recently returned from the Vatican, where he met with members of Francis’ sex abuse advisory commission to discuss prevention policies for Argentina, including training of clergy to detect potential abusers and victims.

Abuse survivors are taking action too. Maydana, and her schoolmates Mailin Gobbo, 29, and Yasmin Detez, 25, recently visited the church and adjacent school they had attended to describe to journalists what had happened, saying they hoped it would help protect children. Four other women have joined their case since they reported the priest to law enforcement.

“I don’t care about exposing myself as long as it leads other people to talk,” said Gobbo, who decided to speak publicly after the birth of her daughter.

The priest is accused of abusing Gobbo and Detez at a pool and at their school.

“He’d make me sit on his lap and ask me if I had been naughty while he kissed my neck and fondled me,” Detez said while Gobbo shed tears next to her.

Jose has told the court he is innocent and said the statute of limitations has expired in any case. He is appealing the arrest order.

Some of the accused remain in the ministry. In several cases, no canonical or judicial investigation was carried out. Some were probed and dismissed. Others, especially in recent years, have led to arrests and convictions.

A court in Entre Rios province this year sentenced a Colombian priest, the Rev. Juan Diego Escobar Gaviria, to 25 years in prison for sexually abusing four boys, one of them 10 years old. It was one of the stiffest sentences handed down to date against a pedophile priest in Argentina.

 ”I feel satisfied with the sentence,” said Alexis Endrizzi, 18, who was molested by Escobar when he was 12. “It sided with the victims.”

Two other priests are awaiting trial on pedophilia charges after they were accused this year in the same small province.

In one of the most shocking cases, prosecutors say at least 20 children at the Provolo Institute for deaf and mute children in Mendoza province were abused. Some of the victims say they were molested by an Italian priest, the Rev. Nicola Corradi, who also had been accused by some of the dozens of abuse victims at the Provolo’s school in Italy but never faced justice there. Corradi, now elderly, was formally charged by Argentine prosecutors in November and is under house arrest awaiting trial in Argentina. Corradi’s attorney declined to comment on his client’s plea or any other detail of the case.

Advocates of priestly abuse victims question how Francis could have been unaware of the allegations against Corradi since he was publicly named by the Italian victims starting in 2009 and most recently in 2014.

One of the cases that has festered for years is that of the Rev. Hector Ricardo Gimenez, who had been detained after several abuse complaints in 1985 and 1996, but was freed by the courts.

In 2013, Julieta Anazco led other women in publicly confronting Gimenez as he celebrated Mass at a hospital chapel, accusing him of abusing her and many others as children decades before.

“He’d jump into the shower with the excuse of washing us,” said Anazco, who went on to become president of the Survivors’ Network of Ecclesiastical Abuse.

The Archbishopric of La Plata said in a statement to the AP that the church had found Gimenez guilty of previous abuses and that he had been banned from ministerial duties, a common church sanction for elderly priests accused of abuse.

It also said that Anazco came to a meeting at the La Plata archbishopric in 2015, and that an official for the archdiocese heard her complaints and “shared the cruelty of these crimes and the importance that no one guilty of them remains unpunished.”   

Anazco’s criminal complaint initially was dismissed, but was later reopened and remains pending, according to her attorney.

The AP tried to reach Gimenez, who is in his eighties, at the nursing home where he now lives in the city of La Plata but he declined to comment.

No official numbers on clerical abuse have been published by Argentina’s church, government or its judicial system, and the issue is still something of a taboo.

But Pope Francis tried to break the stigma by phoning Rufino Varela after he revealed that he had been abused as a child by a priest at a school that Argentine President Mauricio Macri also attended. Other students at the school told the AP that they suffered abuse by the same priest, who has since died.

Francis has pledged “zero tolerance” for abuse, but he has also said he never had to confront the issue as archbishop of Buenos Aires, where he served from 1998 to 2013. Recently, he has acknowledged that the church was “late” in recognizing the scale of abuse and the damage it wreaked on victims, and said the practice of cover-up and moving pedophiles around was to blame.

Many Argentine victims of abuse say they feel abandoned by the church.

 ”You realize the complicity, the cover-up of the church hierarchy that goes all the way up to the Vatican,” Anazco said.

Complete Article HERE!

10/27/17

Madison diocese advice to priests on LGBT funerals causes grief

File Under:  Insulated, monolithic, callous, tone deaf church power structure

 

A top aide to Bishop Robert Morino issued guidance to priests in the Catholic Diocese of Madison that critics say could limit the availability of funeral rites within the church for gay people.

Vicar General James Bartylla emailed a newsletter to priests earlier in October, with the bishop’s approval, that says rites “may be denied for manifest sinners” if they would cause unavoidable “public scandal of the faithful,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported this week.

The message laid out a series of “general considerations” for priests to keep in mind if asked to perform Catholic funeral rites by a deceased person’s family or same-sex partner, including whether “the deceased or the ‘partner’ was a ‘promoter of the gay lifestyle.’”

The “attitude” of the deceased’s family members, especially toward the church, and whether the deceased person showed “some signs of repentance before death,” also were cited as prominent considerations.

“My short answer to pastors and parochial vicars in these cases is to think through the issue thoroughly and prudently,” Bartylla wrote in the email. “The pastoral task is to minimize the risk of scandal and confusion to others amidst the solicitude for the deceased and family.”

Vicar General James Bartylla (she’s got issues)

Diocese spokesman Brent King in emails to the newspaper stressed what he described as the advisory nature of the vicar general’s message.

“The only word used in Saturday’s email was ‘consideration’ or ‘considerations,’” King said. “There were no directives, bans, or even real guidelines. other than what is written in canon law. If there was any directive, it was, ‘Think through the issue thoroughly and prudently.’”

The newsletter said any surviving partner “should not have any public or prominent role” at any church funeral rite.

It also said there should be no mention of the surviving partner’s name and no reference to “the unnatural union” in “any liturgical booklet, prayer card, homily, sermon, talk by the priest, deacon, etc.?…”

An advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics said the message only served to distance LGBT people and their families from the church.

“This document is the very antithesis of pastoral care,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said in a statement . “It shows that this bishop believes that lesbian and gay people who have lived a deep commitment to a spouse or partner should be demeaned even in death. Our families could be refused the sacraments of our faith at the moment of their greatest grief.”

A diocesan statement criticized the public airing of Bartylla’s message, which emerged through the Minnesota-based progressive Catholic blog Pray Tell.

“Those who place at risk the ability of the bishop to communicate with his priests confidentially do a grave harm to the Church and perform, indeed, what Sacred Scripture calls ‘a work of darkness,’” the statement said.

Complete Article HERE!

10/14/17

The Catholic Church knew he was an abuser, but helped him get a job in public schools

Melanie Sakoda holds a sign as she participates in a demonstration with SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, outside of the offices of the San Francisco Archdiocese in 2010.

By Rick Anderson

[T]ime and again, the record shows, Brother Edward “Chris” Courtney was accused of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic schools where he taught, and the church responded by moving him to another jurisdiction.

That makes his case similar to those of hundreds of other priests and brothers who committed sexual abuse before the problem exploded into national consciousness more than 15 years ago.

What sets Courtney apart is this: According to a lawsuit settled last week in Seattle’s King County Superior Court, he was ultimately shuffled off to a public school, where he continued to commit sexual assault.

Edward Courtney in an undated photo

Courtney, now 82 and retired in Hawaii, was a member of the Christian Brothers religious order who has been accused of assaulting at least 55 boys during his three decades as a Catholic school educator in a variety of jurisdictions from New York to Seattle.

It was in Seattle, where he served as principal of a parochial school, St. Alphonsus, that his Catholic school career came to an end after allegations of groping. Catholic and Christian Brothers officials then wrote letters of recommendation to the state school system and, ignoring a legal requirement, never reported his history of sexual assaults. That omission allowed Courtney to obtain his license to teach in public schools, where the assaults continued, according to the lawsuit and criminal court records.

The Seattle Archdiocese agreed to pay $1.3 million to one of Courtney’s public school victims — an unidentified male who was sexually assaulted in the early 1980s at a now-closed Tacoma-area school. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain also issued an apology.

The church and the Christian Brothers’ congregation have now paid out an estimated $30 million in court settlements to Courtney’s nationwide victims, 52 of them in one settlement alone that caused the congregation to declare bankruptcy in 2011.

In a news release, the Seattle Archdiocese pointed to changes it had made in the wake of the church scandal that began unfolding in 2001 with a Boston Globe investigation of abuse by priests. Now, criminal background checks are required for all archdiocese employees and volunteers who have unsupervised contact with children.

Courtney, however, did not have a criminal record until after he began teaching in the public school system and was convicted of assaulting a student at an Othello, Wash., elementary school.

Jason Amala, one of the latest victim’s Seattle attorneys, said in a statement this week that he was unaware of “another case where the defendant [the archdiocese] removed a known abuser from their private school system and then actively helped them get a job in the public school system.”

Mary Dispenza, leader of Seattle SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) praised the settlement and noted that a second, similar lawsuit accusing Courtney of molesting another public school student is currently moving through the courts.

Last year, the Seattle Archdiocese issued a list of 77 priests, brothers (including Courtney), deacons and a nun identified as sexual predators. The archdiocese has not provided any details of the alleged offenses.

Court files, though, lay out Courtney’s story.

Problems surfaced nearly immediately after the Seattle-born brother took his first permanent assignment in 1960, at age 22, at New York City’s Sacred Heart School. Christian Brothers records state that he began to prey on grade school students and was transferred to Brother Rice High School in Chicago, where more problems soon arose.

He was moved to St. Laurence High School in Burbank, Ill., where he was also accused of abuse. The allegations continued after his transfer in 1968 to Brother Rice High in Birmingham, Mich. Two years later, he was sent to St. Leo High in Chicago, where — following more abuse allegations — he was transferred back to St. Laurence.

He was asked to leave St. Laurence following an allegation involving a freshman boy. This time, the church and congregation sent him far afield — to the West Coast, where he wound up at O’Dea High School in Seattle in the mid-1970s, records show.

Within two months, he was coaching intramural basketball at O’Dea and the complaints started again. One student said he was attacked by Courtney in a locked classroom. The boy’s father later confronted school officials, who asked Courtney to make a public apology.

Courtney refused and was sent to a retreat in Canada for sexual deviancy treatment. When he returned to O’Dea, new abuse reports surfaced. He was moved to a Catholic elementary school and then to St. Alphonsus, where he was named principal.

It wasn’t long before complaints surfaced from St. Alphonsus students, including two boys who said Courtney had groped them.

Courtney admitted to the youths’ charges and agreed to resign. But with the archdiocese’s help, he ended up as a public school teacher in Seattle, Tacoma and central Washington. The Christian Brothers even paid Courtney’s way at Seattle University to earn accreditation so he could become a school principal.

When molestation accusations once again surfaced, Courtney took flight — aware this time that public school officials had alerted police.

Three years later, he was arrested in Nevada and returned to Washington. But with his past unknown to the court, he pleaded guilty in 1989 to one count of indecent liberties and was given a suspended sentence of 24 months and ordered to register as a sex offender — for one year.

The extent of his serial attacks began to come to light about four years ago following a $16.5-million agreement with the bankrupt Christian Brothers, when 52 of 400 U.S. abuse claimants named Courtney as their attacker, records show.

Courtney, who did not respond to phone messages at his home in Oahu this week, denied in a 2009 court deposition he committed any serious offenses over the years. He “improperly touched” some students, he said, but he was young and “I guess that’s maybe why I didn’t realize that these things bothered others as much. I don’t know.”

Complete Article HERE!

10/10/17

Number of women accusing Catholic priest of sexual abuse rises to 23

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian (right) and Robert Hoatson (left) at a news conference held by Road to Recovery, a non-profit charity that assists victims of sexual abuse, outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Friday Oct. 7, 2016.

BY

The number of women alleging they were abused as children by a Catholic priest in Queens has swelled to 23, the Daily News has learned.

The accusers of former Rev. Adam Prochaski, ranging in age from 39 to 57, say the priest abused them in the Holy Cross parish in Maspeth between 1972 and 1994. The women were between 11 to 16 years old when the abuse allegedly took place.

Mitchell Garabedian, their lawyer, said he’s been contacted by women now living in six states, as well as Canada and London. When he first came forward with the allegations, there were 15 accusers.

“Many of them claim he abused them for years in the school, the church, the rectory, and some were abused in his car,” Garabedian said.

“The police are investigating this matter. I have forwarded many of my clients’ names to them and I am informed they are interviewing my clients.”

Diocese of Brooklyn spokeswoman Carolyn Erstad said the growing number of accusers is “terrible.”

“Anytime there is news of another survivor, it is devastating to the diocese, the clergy, the faithful,” she said. 

“It is important for people to know that while the allegations against Prochaski are surfacing for the first time, all of the alleged incidents coming to light took place decades ago and before sweeping reform was implemented to ensure the protection of children and the prosecution of perpetrators.”

Garabedian was portrayed by the actor Stanley Tucci in the Oscar-winning 2015 film “Spotlight,” about The Boston Globe’s investigation into clergy sexual abuse in Boston.

The Brooklyn Diocese created a fund this year for alleged victims of sexual abuse. It has said that according to records, two women came forward to report Prochaski in 1994. Those complaints were not turned over to authorities until 2002 and 2003.

Adam Prochaski is accused of abusing 23 children as a priest at Holy Cross Church in Maspeth between 1972 and 1994.

The Queens district attorney’s office told the Daily News it investigated a range of allegations against multiple priests referred to it by the church in 2002.

“The allegations were reviewed by the experienced career prosecutors of our Special Victims Bureau,” said Kevin Ryan, a spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

“Unfortunately, all of the allegations dated back many years — even decades — and therefore were not prosecutable within the statute of limitations.”

Garabedian said many of the alleged victims are first-generation Polish immigrants.

Prochaski had a program of bringing in young women from Poland, according to several people familiar with his work.

The diocese said Prochaski was suspended in 1994 after two women made allegations against him. He left the priesthood in 1995.

However, the official Catholic directory shows he was absent on sick leave or other leave from 1994 through 2002. Garabedian said that suggests the church was protecting him.

“The question remains, where were the supervisors, and why weren’t they protecting the children?” Garabedian said.

Complete Article HERE!