September trial date set for KC bishop, diocese

The trial of Bishop Robert W. Finn and the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., the first bishop and diocese to face criminal charges in the decades-long clergy sex abuse crisis, has been set for September.

Finn and the diocese were charged in October by a grand jury in Jackson County, Mo., with separate counts of failing to report suspected child abuse in the case of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a diocesan priest who was arrested last May for child pornography.

Lawyers for Finn and the diocese met with Jackson County Judge John Torrence on Thursday to set a Sept. 24 trial date in the case. Finn and the diocese have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Speaking to NCR after the meeting, which was held in the judge’s chambers, Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker said Torrence also set the next pretrial hearing for March 27, when the court would deal with motions from the defense.

Gerald Handley, one of three lawyers representing the diocese, said the judge had given defense lawyers until early February to file motions in the case, which the prosecution would have to respond to by March 9. Two other lawyers were also present to represent Finn.

News of the trial date comes after the diocese confirmed Wednesday that it placed another diocesan priest on administrative leave pending a review by the diocesan review board into unspecified allegations.

In a press release, no details about that case were available because the review board’s investigation is still under way.

“While this investigation is in a preliminary phase, the diocese urges everyone to understand that further information only can be made available once the facts are known,” the statement reads.

The trial date also comes as Finn is undertaking court-mandated parish visits to parishes in Clay County, Mo., as part of an agreement with the county prosecutor there to avoid charges in the Ratigan case.

The diocesan chancery is located in Jackson County. The parish where Ratigan last served as pastor is in Clay County.

The Clay County agreement between Finn and prosecutor Daniel White allowed the bishop to avoid criminal charges if he agreed to meet with diocesan parishes in that county to outline diocesan reporting procedures for suspected child abuse.

Finn also agreed to meet monthly with White to discuss all reported suspicions of abuse in the county and to appoint a new director of child and youth protection.

The second in a series of visits to county parishes took place Jan. 14 at St. James Church in Liberty, Mo.

Complete Article HERE!

The end of the mystique

A Philadelphia prosecutor has decisively — and good for him — ended 2000-years of unwarranted deference to the Catholic Church.

Prosecutors on Monday accused the Archdiocese of Philadelphia of being an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a clergy sex abuse case and said the Roman Catholic Church fed predators a steady supply of children.

Everybody willing to know the truth has known the truth for a long time: The Catholic Church has masterminded a global criminal conspiracy centered on the sexual abuse of children for a long time.

What is so striking is that now a state prosecutor is saying so, too, instead of a few hundred cranky bloggers. However naturally this may follow from the past decade of revelations, however easily it may be overlooked in the cataracts of abuse stories, this is a milestone.

And it might be that the pews are at last waking-up, too. Notice this comment at Andrew Sullivan’s blog:

It’s funny that you linked to the story regarding the Catholic Church’s position on the birth control under the health care insurance rules. My wife, daughter and I went to mass on Long Island on Saturday night at 5PM, a mass that tends to be an older crowd though some families are mixed in. Our pastor was the celebrant and his sermon amounted to him yelling for 15 minutes about abortion, the administration’s anti-religious attacks, and contraception. He was particularly upset about the contraception rules – yelling about taking money out of his insurance premiums to subsidy the pill – to the point that he took the Lord’s name in vain as he walked in front of the altar. When he was screaming about the money, the only thought that went through my mind was the amount of money I’ve put into the collection box that was used by the Church to cover up pedophile priest cases.

This is the tipping point. Prosecutors will no longer go after just a single priest, but those who protected him, too. And they’re not going to have to worry any longer about public blowback, either.

Complete Article HERE!

Lawyer: Church official threw monsignor ‘under the bus’ amid child sex accusations in Philly

An indicted Catholic church official is showing signs he won’t take the fall alone for the priest abuse scandal in Philadelphia, with his lawyer saying Wednesday that a successor threw him “under the bus.”

Monsignor William Lynn, 61, is the only official from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia facing trial for allegedly failing to remove accused predators from the priesthood. He served as secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004.

Defense lawyers argue that Lynn took orders from then-Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and other superiors in the church hierarchy.

Prosecutors hope to include dozens of old abuse allegations to show a pattern of conduct at the trial, which is scheduled to start in late March and last several months.

One such case involves a West Chester University chaplain accused in 1994 of taking pictures of students in their underwear.

He next became chaplain of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, worked with a parish youth group and later admitted taking boys on overnight trips, one to Jamaica, before retiring to the New Jersey shore, prosecutors said.

When a New Jersey diocese asked the Philadelphia archdiocese about the priest, Monsignor Timothy Senior allegedly wrote in a letter that Lynn, his predecessor, did not fully investigate complaints against the priest.

“Maybe that’s an answer to why Monsignor Senior is not here (as a defendant). He obviously doesn’t mind throwing Monsignor Lynn under the bus,” defense lawyer Jeffrey Lindy argued.

Prosecutors call the archdiocese “an unindicted co-conspirator” in the case. A 2005 grand jury report blasted Bevilacqua and his successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, for their handling of abuse complaints, but they were never charged. Bevilacqua is now 88 and in failing health.

A judge will hear more arguments Monday on whether 27 of the 63 priests described in that grand jury report can be referenced at Lynn’s trial. Prosecutors want to show that Lynn kept them on the job despite knowing of complaints stored in “secret archives” at the archdiocese.

They have detailed the cases over a three-day pretrial hearing this week. The cases include a priest who allegedly pinned loincloths on naked boys playing Jesus in a Passion play, and whipped them, in keeping with the drama; a priest who held what prosecutors called “masturbation camps” at the rectory, having boys strip naked and teaching them to masturbate; and a pastor written up for disobedience for complaining to Bevilacqua about an accused priest being transferred to his parish.

“I truly would love a jury to see how these were handled,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said in court. “The more cases they see … the clearer the picture becomes.”

Although some of the abuse dates to the 1960s through 1980s, before Lynn’s time as secretary for clergy, he had access to the secret files. And many of the cases were not reported until years later, during his tenure.

Defense lawyers hope to limit the trial evidence to Lynn’s handling of the priest and ex-priest on trial with him. The Rev. James Brennan, 48, and defrocked priest Edward Avery, 69, are charged with rape. All have denied the charges.

The archdiocese declined to respond to the comments made Wednesday about Monsignor Senior, citing a gag order in the case.

Lynn is on leave from the archdiocese. Jury selection is set to start next month.

Complete Article HERE!

Lawyers: Prosecutors hanging blame for Philly church abuse on 1 monsignor; March trial looms

Prosecutors are trying to hold a single Roman Catholic church official responsible for the priest abuse scandal in Philadelphia, defense lawyers argued Tuesday at a key hearing in a novel clergy-abuse case.

City prosecutors want to include accusations against dozens of priests when Monsignor William Lynn stand trial on child endangerment and conspiracy charges in March. Most of the cases stem from a 2005 grand jury report that blasted church officials for keeping 63 problem priests on the job — but yielded no criminal charges.

Now, prosecutors are pushing to include about 30 of those cases in Lynn’s trial. Lynn served as secretary of clergy for the archdiocese from 1992 to 2004.

Prosecutors say the 61-year-old Lynn kept priests in ministry and around children despite explosive allegations in secret church files. Those files are now in prosecutors’ hands — and some of them are being aired in court.

Defense lawyers argued Tuesday that Lynn took orders from Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and several bishops above him in the church hierarchy. They said prosecutors should have indicted the archdiocese and others if they wanted to attempt a broad conspiracy case.

Lynn, they said, was doing his job as ordered in the era before 2002, when Catholic bishops nationwide, battling scandal, adopted formal rules on how dioceses should handle accused priests.

Church files “show when his marching orders changed,” defense lawyer Jeffrey Lindy argued Tuesday. “They can complain about his job. They can complain about the (archdiocesan) rules. … But the archdiocese is not charged.”

Prosecutors call the archdiocese “an unindicted co-conspirator” in the case. Bevilacqua is now 88 and in failing health. His successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, retired last year after a second grand jury returned charges against Lynn and four others. The co-defendants — three priests and a teacher — are charged with raping boys.

Lynn is the first church official in the U.S. ever charged over his alleged administrative failures.

Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina is hearing arguments this week on what evidence should be included at his trial. Lynn will be tried with two of the co-defendants; the others will be tried separately.

Prosecutors are detailing accusations against various priests who remained in parish work despite complaints they had abused and sometimes raped boys on overnight trips, in schools and rectories, and even in the church sacristy. Prosecutors also allege that Lynn did little to ensure that priests sent for sex-therapy treatment were supervised upon their release.

Sarmina didn’t indicate when she would rule. But she tipped her hat on her view of the church’s oversight of its priests when Lindy suggested that Lynn was just one part in a strict chain of command.

“It doesn’t sound like it. Even though priests take vows of obedience, (and break them), … nothing happens,” Sarmina said, referring not just to accused molesters but also to priests who moonlighted as disc jockeys or who were accused of living with former students. “But that’s not what this trial is about.”

Sarmina could rule Wednesday on how many, if any, of the 2005 grand jury cases will find their way into Lynn’s trial.

The first case outlined was that of now-defrocked priest Stanley M. Gana, a one-time chaplain for the Boy Scouts of America. The 2005 grand jury said he abused “countless” boys at various parishes.

Lynn, when he served as dean of men at an archdiocesan seminary, knew Gana was frequently visiting a seminary student. The seminarian told Lynn in 1992 that Gana had been abusing him since he was 13, Assistant District Attorney Mariana Sorensen said.

Gana denied the rape accusation, but admitted he had given another accuser $12,000, she said. Gana was left in ministry, and continued to assault boys, until 2002, prosecutors said.

In a case described Tuesday, prosecutors said a priest went for inpatient psycho-sexual treatment after an abuse allegation surfaced, and was given female hormones that serve as chemical castration, but remained in parish work for years.

Other times, Lynn and others in the archdiocese investigated accusers, not the alleged molesters, and withheld information from families and parishes.

“They’re not concerned about the victims, they are just concerned about the almighty dollar, and the mother church,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington argued Tuesday.

The archdiocese cannot comment on the pretrial hearing because of a gag order, spokeswoman Donna Farrell said this week.

Complete Article HERE!

El Paso Catholic Diocese to pay $1.6M in abuse suit settlement

The El Paso Catholic Diocese will pay $1.6 million to settle a lawsuit involving allegations of sexual impropriety against a former Cathedral High School principal, a law firm announced Friday.

Officials of the law firm of T.O. Gilstrap said the lawsuit alleged that Brother Samuel Martinez abused or molested numerous boys, including the two plaintiffs who filed the suit. It states that the incidents occurred during Martinez’s tenure at the school. He was principal from 1976 to 1985.
Cathedral is a top private Catholic high school for boys in the El Paso region.

The Brothers of the Christian Schools, District of New Orleans-Santa Fe (NOSF), was under contract to run the school at the time.

“The lawsuit, which was filed in Santa Fe in the 1st Judicial District Court of New Mexico, alleged that Brother Martinez sexually abused the plaintiffs while they were students at Cathedral in the late 1970s and early 1980s,” said S. Clark Harmonson, one of the lawyers with the T.O. Gilstrap firm.
The diocese will pay $1.6 million to the plaintiffs.

The Rev. Anthony C. Celino, the El Paso Catholic Diocese vicar general and moderator of the curia, said Cathedral High School was incorporated in 1993 under a nonprofit designation as Cathedral High School Inc. and has a policy on sexual misconduct and safe environment.
“This includes background checks for all employees and those who work directly with students,” Celino said.

“They conduct sexual misconduct and safe environment training for all employees and those who work directly with students. They follow the reporting laws as provided in the Texas Civil Statute.

“Additionally, every year the school designates a day to discuss with all students a student safety awareness with regards to sexual misconduct and manner of reporting to school authorities, should such things occur.”
Celino said Martinez is in a retirement home outside of the El Paso Catholic Diocese and does not function in any ministerial capacity.

Catholic officials apparently had sent Martinez to El Paso after other complaints surfaced against him in another state.

“Allegations of sexual impropriety against Brother Martinez arose in 1971 at a school operated by NOSF Inc. in New Orleans, Louisiana,” Harmonson said.
“(He) was thereafter transferred to Cathedral High School following these allegations and a 100-day stay in Santa Fe at a retreat center operated by a religious order affiliated with NOSF Inc.”

“Part of our claim was for future therapy,” Harmonson said. “We hope and expect our clients to use part of the settlement funds to receive therapy.”
Harmonson said the diocese and the Christian Brothers order had a chance to prevent the abuse but didn’t.

“Instead of taking action then, Martinez was given a 100-day vacation at a retreat center in Santa Fe and then transferred to Cathedral High,” the lawyer said.

“There have been upwards of 10 allegations of abuse against Brother Martinez here in El Paso.”

The Brothers of the Christian Schools had prepared a document in 2004 titled “This safety plan is designed for Bro. SM (Sam Martinez).”

The document said Martinez had spent four months at a treatment center on the East Coast.

“Beginning in 1992, several complaints were raised about his improper behavior with students when he served as principal of a high school,” the religious order’s document said. “These complaints have to do with what allegedly occurred between 1981 and 1985.”

That document said that two other lawsuits were filed against Martinez, in 2004 and 2007, and subsequently settled.

Lawyers for T.O. Gilstrap of El Paso have represented at least 12 people who have made claims against the diocese, as well as survivors of sexual abuse against other religious denominations and institutions, including the Mormon church, the Methodist church, the Assembly of God church, the Boy Scouts of America and hospitals.

Complete Article HERE!