Montreal conference to probe abuse in Catholic Church

A former member of the Brothers of Holy Cross, disillusioned by the widespread sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic order, wrote a letter in 2007 to Anthony Mancini, then bishop of the Montreal Archdiocese, about the “dysfunctional situation.”

Wilson Kennedy wrote that he left the religious community, to which he’d belonged for 20 years, because he could not accept a “culture that rewarded individuals for inappropriate behaviour and actions.”

Kennedy says he also had a long phone conversation with Mancini’s secretary, detailing the brothers’ sexual abuse of students at College Notre Dame and in other institutions run by the order, including St. Joseph’s Oratory.

He never heard back.

This weekend, Mancini, now Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Halifax, will be among scholars and religious leaders speaking at a conference studying the crisis that has shaken the Catholic Church.

Mancini couldn’t be reached for comment, but Lucie Martineau, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Montreal, said Kennedy’s letter was never received. Mancini’s secretary is on sick leave, but the archdiocese also has no knowledge of a conversation she may have had with Kennedy.

“It’s not as if I was calling about a church function happening next week,” Kennedy said Wednesday. “I told her I was a religious brother and wanted to talk to (Mancini) about sexual abuse and the whole coverup.

“You don’t get those kinds of calls every day.”

Dan Cere, one of the organizers of the conference taking place at McGill University, said Mancini was invited to speak because, as archbishop of Halifax when Nova Scotia Bishop Raymond Lahey was arrested in 2009 for possession of child pornography, Mancini “stepped up to the plate to grapple with it.”

Lahey was picked up at the Ottawa airport while returning to Nova Scotia from a trip to Europe. His laptop held 588 graphic images of child pornography, 33 videos and pornographic stories featuring children enslaved and degraded.

A week earlier, he’d brokered a $15-million settlement for victims of sexual abuse by priests of the diocese of Antigonish in Nova Scotia dating back to 1950. At the time, Lahey apologized to the victims on behalf of the church.

“I think those like Anthony Mancini, who had some connection to him, they were genuinely stunned,” said Cere, a McGill professor of religion, ethics and law. “It was wrenching for them to see someone they had put a lot of trust in and suddenly at that level betraying the trust.”

The conference, entitled Trauma and Transformation, will gather mainly academics with diverse backgrounds.

In his 2007 letter to Mancini, Kennedy wrote that he’d asked to leave the order because he was living in a “dysfunctional situation which has affected me physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.”

After receiving no support for his concerns from anyone in the church hierarchy, Kennedy turned to the media. In December 2008, The Gazette published an in-depth report about the abuse — of which the order’s internal documents showed even Rome was aware.

The Brothers of Holy Cross maintained that Kennedy was simply trying to blackmail them with false allegations to get more money from them after leaving the order in July 2007. But faced with documented proof of the abuse and a class-action suit, they agreed last week to pay their victims $18 million in damages. They also apologized for “acts that should never have happened.”

But the victims, many of whom have suffered silently all these years, wonder why the congregation hasn’t taken any punitive action against the abusers, most of whom are living, all-expenses paid, in the brothers’ comfortable retirement home in Laval, Que.

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Lawyers ask court for ‘continuing supervision’ of diocese

Alleging that the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese broke a series of legal obligations in its mishandling of sexual misconduct by clergy, a law firm representing abuse victims today filed a formal complaint that could force the diocese to accept third-party supervision of its reporting procedures.

The complaint, filed this afternoon by attorneys Rebeccca Randles and Jeff Anderson, alleges that the diocese broke a 2008 settlement between the diocese and 47 victims of sexual abuse which put in place a series of commitments the diocese had agreed to follow in its sex abuse reporting policies.

Speaking in a phone interview, Randles said her firm decided it had to pursue a formal arbitration process with the diocese over the 2008 agreement to ensure that future cases of misconduct are not mishandled.

The lawyers are asking for “continuing supervision” of how the diocese responds to cases of sexual misconduct, she said, and are “looking for a mechanism to enforce the provisions of the settlement agreement from this day forward, so that there is some form of continuing watch-dogging.”

David Clohessy, the executive director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, called the complaint a “historic, crucial step.”
“For decades bishops have made and broken promises about childrens’ safety with no consequences, penalty, punishment, or enforcement,” Clohessy said in a phone interview. “That has been and remains the crux of this ongoing crisis. Someone has to do something to make sure that Catholic officials do what they pledge to do.”

Referring to the fact that the new complaint makes no call for additional monetary payments to the 47 victims for the possible breach of the agreement, Clohessy said the focus on the complaint is prevention of further abuse.

“Throughout the settlement process, the victims stressed that most important of all, they wanted to push for steps for prevention, to ensure that sexual abuse did not happen again,” said Clohessy. “They just want to use whatever small clout the justice system gives them to force reforms.”

Citing from a Sept. 1 diocesan-sponsored report of its handling of cases of sexual misconduct, which found that “diocesan leaders failed to follow their own policies and procedures” for responding to reports of sexual misconduct, the complaint says that report acts as an “admission by defendants” of their breaking the 2008 agreement.

Today’s complaint calls for the circuit court of Jackson County, Mo., where diocesan headquarters are located, to force the diocese to enter into arbitration over the possible violations and to “compel compliance” with the 2008 agreement.
In response to an NCR query, a spokesperson for the Kansas City diocese said in an e-mail that the diocese had provided the victims “a comprehensive accounting of all actions” regarding sexual misconduct and cited a June 20 “Community update” letter outlining 19 steps the diocese has taken since 2008 to ensure compliance with the settlement.

The diocese hired former U.S. attorney Todd Graves to investigate how the diocese handles cases of sexual misconduct as part of Bishop Robert Finn’s response to questions that he had mishandled the case of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a diocesan priest who was arrested on charges of child pornography in May.

Graves’ Sept. 1 report, which totaled 138-pages, included testimony from Finn and vicar general Msgr. Robert Murphy, and concluded that the diocese’s handling of Ratigan, and other cases of sexual misconduct by clergy, “could have jeopardized the safety of children in diocesan parishes, school, and families.”

The lawyers’ complaint filed today cites 17 examples of conclusions found in the Graves Report that, it says, “establish breaches of the settlement agreement.” The supposed breaches cover a variety of incidents, but many center around the diocese’s response to Ratigan.

Ratigan is in jail on charges filed in Clay County, Mo. A federal grand jury charged him in August with 13 counts of production, attempted production and possession of child pornography.

Media reports have indicated that grand juries in Jackson County, Mo., and Clay County, Mo., are also investigating the matter and have heard testimony from Finn and Murphy.

Among the commitments made by the diocese in the 2008 agreement are vows that the diocese would report sex abuse allegations to law enforcement “at the request of the victim” and that it would follow its own published policies regarding reports of sex abuse. While the original agreement also awarded $10 million between the 47 victims, today’s complaint does not seek additional monetary relief.

Much of the controversy surrounding the diocese’s response to Ratigan centers around how it treated warnings of misconduct by the priest, when it decided to remove him from ministry, and when police were notified of child pornography found on his laptop.

  • Among the examples cited in the complaint to allege the diocese broke the 2008 agreement which reference testimony provided in the Graves Report:
  • The failure of the diocese to “pursue complaints” about Ratigan which were raised by Julie Hess, the principal of the school attached to Raitgan’s parish, in May, 2010, alleging that the priest “fit the profile of a child predator” and spent too much time with students;
  • The failure of the diocese to disclose that nude photographs of children were found on Ratigan’s laptop in Dec., 2010, until May, 2011;
  • That the diocese “took no steps to notify parents and families” at Ratigan’s parish of the questions surround the priest;
  • That the diocese “enabled Fr. Ratigan to have contact with children” when it moved him to a house of Vincentian priests connected to a retreat center run by Franciscan sisters in January, 2011.

The lawyers first called for arbitration with the diocese over the 2008 agreement in June. In an exchange of letters between the firm and diocesan counsel, a lawyer representing the diocese wrote June 20 that the diocese “has complied with and continues to comply with” each of the terms of the agreement.
The complaint says that since that exchange, diocesan lawyers have denied the settlement provides for arbitration and, “unless ordered by the court, defendants will continue to refuse to engage in arbitration over the breaches claimed by the plaintiffs.”

In her email, Rebecca Summers, the diocesan director of communications, pointed to the diocese’s July appointment of an ombudsman to receive reports of claims of sex abuse and a five point plan outlined by Finn in June to show that the diocese is in compliance with the 2008 agreement.

Since that plan, Summers wrote, the diocese has “implemented changes and reforms that guide its response to reports of child sexual abuse.”

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‘Crisis of leadership’ in church, says dissident theologian Küng

DISSIDENT CATHOLIC Church theologian Hans Küng says the church’s failure to deal with global clerical sex abuse is proof that it is suffering a “crisis of leadership”.

Küng (83), for many years an outspoken critic of the Holy See, makes the criticism in his most recent book, Ist Die Kirche Noch Zu Retten? (Can The Church Still Be Saved?), published this year but recently released in Italian.

Küng draws a correlation between celibacy and paedophilia. In yesterday’s Rome daily La Repubblica, Küng states: “People are always trying to deny the correlation between the abuse of minors by priests and the ruling on priestly celibacy but in the end you cannot avoid it.” He argues that priestly celibacy might well have kept women out of “all church ministery”, but in the process it [the church] has accentuated the “risk of paedophilia”. As part of the way forward, Küng calls on the church to embrace the ordination of women, thus advancing “equal dignity with men”.

He refers to the church as “truly sick”, adding that the cause of that malady is the “system of Rome government” that has evolved in the last millennium. “The defining traits are . . . the monopoly of power and truth, clericalism, juridicalism, misogyny, a hatred of sex and a profane use of the power of religion. The papacy is not to be abolished, rather it needs to be renewed so that it becomes a Petrine service based on the Bible. What does have to be abolished, however, is the . . . mediaeval-style Rome government.”

Küng says he would not have written his most recent book if Pope Benedict indicated how the church should develop “in the spirit of Vatican Council II”. But he argues that the pontiff has preserved with the politics of restoration initiated by his predecessor John Paul II.

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Msgr. Lynn got standing ovation at Chaput dinner, say those at event

Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former church official awaiting trial for allegedly protecting sexually abusive priests, drew words of encouragement from Philadelphia’s new archbishop and a standing ovation from scores of priests at a private gathering last month, according to people familiar with the event.

During the invitation-only dinner for Archbishop Charles J. Chaput at a parish hall in Montgomery County, Chaput singled out Lynn in the crowd and noted how difficult the ordeal has been for him, according to one priest who attended and two people briefed by others at the gala.

Much of the audience, which included hundreds of priests, then stood and applauded, said the sources, who asked not to be identified.

The exchange, in a banquet room at St. Helena’s in Blue Bell, spanned just seconds in a talk by Chaput on changes and his vision for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. But it reflected one of the strongest signals of support for Lynn since his arrest and suspension from ministry in February.

It came as Chaput, who last month took the helm of the 1.5 million-member archdiocese, strives to bond with his new flock and the hundreds of priests who are the face of the church in the region’s towns and parishes.

Told how sources described the event, Donna Farrell, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, declined this week to discuss what she said was a private gathering for Chaput and the priests. She said Chaput was away at a retreat and would not elaborate on his remarks.

Chaput, who previously headed the Archdiocese of Denver, has spoken only sparingly of the sex-abuse allegations involving the Philadelphia priests, saying he needed time to absorb the facts and issues.

But in an interview with the Associated Press the day before his Sept. 8 installation, Chaput said of the case against Lynn: “It’s really important to me, and I think to all of us, that he be treated fairly and that he not be a scapegoat.”

Jeffrey Lindy, one of Lynn’s defense attorneys, said he was gratified to hear about the ovation for the monsignor. “He’s a real good person,” Lindy said.

Citing a gag order in the case, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said Tuesday that the office had no comment.

Lynn, 60, faces a March trial in Philadelphia, along with two priests, a defrocked priest, and a former Catholic school teacher.

Two of the clerics and the teacher are charged with raping a 10-year-old altar boy at St. Jerome’s, a Northeast Philadelphia parish in the late 1990s. The other priest allegedly molested a 14-year-old boy at his apartment in 1996.

Lynn is not accused of assaulting children, but rather of conspiracy and endangerment for taking steps that enabled the other priests to allegedly molest the boys.

As the secretary for clergy from 1992 until 2004, he recommended where archdiocesan priests are assigned. That included assignments for those who had previously been accused of molesting children. He is believed to be the first church official in the nation charged with covering up clergy sex abuse.

When he announced the charges in February, Williams, the prosecutor, said Lynn “went out of his way to put known abusers into contact with adolescents.”

Lindy and Thomas Bergstrom, Lynn’s attorneys, have called the allegations untrue, unfair, and the product of overzealous prosecutors.

The archdiocese is paying their fees.

After Lynn’s arrest, some parishioners at St. Joseph’s in Downingtown, where he has been pastor since 2002, praised his work there. And several priests have attended his pretrial hearings, flanking him outside the courtroom.

The criminal charges accompanied a grand jury report that accused the archdiocese of failing in its efforts to root out abusive priests and help victims.

Responding to that report, Chaput’s predecessor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, placed two dozen other priests on administrative leave while the archdiocese reexamines old allegations that they sexually abused or acted inappropriately around children. Those reviews are pending.

Like Lynn, the suspended priests are barred from publicly celebrating Mass, ministering as a priest, or returning to their parishes. But Lynn and many of the others on leave were invited to the dinner for Chaput in the week after his Sept. 8 installation. Some but not all the suspended priests attended, the sources said.

The arrests and suspensions rocked the archdiocese and strained the relationship between the administration and some parish priests.

In July, scores of area priests formed an independent group, the Association of Philadelphia Priests, to unite their interests and serve as an advocate for priests’ rights and church reform. The leaders of the group met privately with Chaput last month and found him to be “open, supportive, and encouraging,” according to a note posted on their website.

In his remarks to the Associated Press about Lynn, Chaput also said it was important that “those that are conducting the trial treat him fairly, and that they don’t pore into his life responsibility for things he didn’t do.”

Last month, Lynn’s attorneys asked Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to dismiss the charges, move the trial out of the region, or at least lift her gag order, which bars the defendants and attorneys from publicly commenting on the case.

In their motions, Bergstrom and Lindy complained that court filings by prosecutors had “created a one-sided, and, in certain cases, a distorted view” of Lynn and grand jury testimony he gave seven years ago about his handling of abuse accusations.

Sarmina could rule on those motions Friday, when all sides are due in her courtroom for a status hearing.

Also pending is a request by prosecutors to question Rigali’s predecessor, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, in open court. His attorney has argued that the 88-year-old cardinal, suffering from dementia and cancer, is unfit to testify.

Sarmina postponed a hearing on the matter last month.

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Diocese of Wilmington emerges from bankruptcy

The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington on Monday completed the transfer of more than $77.4 million to a trust fund for survivors of clergy abuse, and with the payment the 143-year-old diocese emerged from bankruptcy after almost two years.

Diocese attorney Anthony G. Flynn said the money changed hands by wire transfer and check, starting last Friday.

The money was part of an extensive list of settlement terms included in the plan confirmed in July by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi. The diocese filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2009 after survivors of clergy abuse filed about 150 lawsuits under provisions of the 2007 Child Victims Act. The 2007 law opened a two-year window during which claimants could file civil suits that otherwise would have been barred by the statute of limitations.

Detailed reports — accounting for each penny of the money — are required before payment reaches survivors, a process likely to extend into mid-October, according to Wilmington attorney Stephen Neuberger, whose firm represented the majority of abuse survivors who had sued the diocese.

“So many of these survivors have been fighting for their entire lifetime for some small bit of justice,” Neuberger said. ” … At least now they can close the book on this chapter of their lives. And they can take a large measure of satisfaction from the fact that what they’ve accomplished in this hasn’t happened in every state.”

With the transfer complete and the plan in effect, the diocese and all of its parishes on Monday were released from any further litigation by those claimants.

Last week, the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales also were released from all pending cases after meeting settlement terms in 39 claims against a dozen of their priests. Two of those cases were filed against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and are not included in the Wilmington trust fund, but $23.5 million of the $24.8 million settlement will go to the trust.

Still pending — and in mediation — are 16 cases against other religious orders, said Wilmington attorney Mark Reardon, who represents the orders involved in most of those cases.

Nine cases name former Capuchin friar Paul Daleo, the Capuchin order, St. Edmond’s Academy and the Brothers of Holy Cross, who run St. Edmond’s, where Daleo taught from 1978-83, Reardon said. Reardon said he hopes those claims will be resolved before an Oct. 25 trial date set in the case of Wilmington claimant Matthias Conaty.

“It is my daily work and my nightly prayer to have those resolved tomorrow,” Reardon said.

Five other cases against St. Edmond’s and Holy Cross are pending against a lay teacher, John Fleming, Reardon said, and two other cases, related to two deceased priests, are pending against the Norbertines and Archmere Academy.

Payment to survivors will be determined by a complex scoring system finalized by retired U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Rutter.

In addition to the money for the survivors’ trust fund, Flynn said the diocese also has deposited $5 million into a trust fund for lay employees of the diocese as part of its assurances that it will cover future pension payments as required by the approved plan.

Yet to be completed are nonmonetary obligations required by the plan, including release of abuser priest personnel files and appointment of a special arbitrator and a child protection consultant. Deadlines for those requirements were extended by agreement of all parties.

But Monday’s release from bankruptcy is an important day for the diocese, Flynn said.

“It’s a very important day from an operational perspective,” he said. “We have a lot of things to do to implement this plan — and the nonmonetary provisions are an important part of that. So it’s not that the job is over, but the bankruptcy is over. … The cloud has been removed and the diocese can now move toward planning for the future.”

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