01/29/17

Vatican confirms Apuron trial; canon lawyers say trial could last for years

“Defrock Apuron” and “Apuron Out” signs are scattered throughout a picket line at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña on Jan. 29, 2017.

By Haidee V Eugenio

The Vatican has confirmed Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron’s canonical trial is ongoing, and some leading canon law experts said it could last for years.

Vatican policy dictates that only Rome can investigate bishops and archbishops who are accused of sexual abuse.

Besides undergoing a canonical trial in Rome, Apuron is also facing lawsuits filed in the Superior Court of Guam for allegedly raping and sexually abusing altar boys in the 1970s.

“This is new ground, as no bishop I am aware of, who sexually abused children, has ever finished a canonical trial,” Attorney Patrick J. Wall, a world-renowned expert on canonical trials and the Catholic clergy abuse crisis, said.

Wall is a former priest and Benedictine monk. He left the Catholic ministry after he felt he was used to help cover up other clergymen’s sex abuses. He has since been advocating for hundreds of clergy abuse survivors.

“Archbishop [Jozef] Wesolowski, Papal Nuncio to Haiti, died prior to the completion of his canonical trial in Rome,” said Wall, author of “Sex, Priests and Secret Codes,” a leading book on the 2,000-year history of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Apuron, who has been Guam’s archbishop for nearly 31 years, turns 72 on Nov. 1. Under church law, bishops are required to resign at 75.

Attorney Jennifer Haselberger, also a leading canon lawyer based in Minnesota, said Apuron always has the right to request retirement or to tender his resignation before the conclusion of his canonical trial. She said the same is true of accused priests.

“However, if he believes himself innocent, he is unlikely to do so,” Haselberger said. “Moreover, with either of those resolutions, he would simply become emeritus archbishop, meaning that he retains all the privileges of an archbishop, and your diocese is still responsible for his financial support.”

On Oct. 31, 2016, Pope Francis named Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Jude Byrnes, of Detroit, Michigan, to succeed Apuron should Apuron retire, resign or is removed.

Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai said as early as 2015, the Vatican was already searching for an Apuron successor.

Hon, who temporarily led the Catholic Church on Guam when Pope Francis placed Apuron on leave on June 6, 2016,, said the early search was made because of concerns about Apuron’s leadership, allegations of sex abuse against him and his health problems.

Apuron is the first bishop who has served on Guam to undergo a canonical trial.

‘Unique’

Attorney Michael Pfau, a leading Washington State-based lawyer who has represented hundreds of clergy abuse survivors in multiple states, said the Guam situation is “unique” because its own archbishop is the one accused of abuse.

Archbishop Michael Byrnes joins Defrock Apuron’ protests

“Most cases involve a bishop accused of covering up the abuse of his priests,” said Pfau, who also handled cases involving abuse by the bishop’s close advisers.

Pfau has been working with the Guam-based law office of Dooley Roberts Fowler & Visosky LLP on clergy abuse cases.

The Holy See Press Office at the Vatican confirmed that Apuron’s canonical trial is ongoing. However, the office said it cannot release other information until after the trial is over, and referred further questions about the trial to the local archdiocese, the Archdiocese of Agana.

Byrnes, the first church official to state, in November, that Apuron’s canonical trial had started, just recently returned to Guam. The archdiocese said Byrnes arrived on Jan. 23.

“A canonical trial can certainly last for years,” Haselberger said. “Unlike with the civil courts, the judges and other officials will likely have other jobs, possibly in other parts of the world. So, the times in which they can assemble to proceed may be limited and cause delay.”

Haselberger previously served as chancellor for canonical affairs at the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, but resigned in April 2013 in protest of the archdiocese’s handling of accusations of clergy sexual abuse.

In 2013, Haselberger established Canonical Consultation and Services LLC. She has served on independent review boards and is a noted speaker on issues relating to canon law and the Catholic Church.

Trial process

Wall provided a general outline of the canonical trial process, which begins with the complaint filed by the prosecutor or what the Catholic Church calls the Promoter of Justice, at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.

The Promoter of Justice is the Rev. Robert Geisinger, an American Jesuit from Chicago, Illinois, said Wall. Geisinger’s office, when contacted about the Apuron trial, declined to comment.

Apuron’s advocate will likely be a priest, and must be a canon lawyer, Wall said. Since 1991, Wall has consulted on more than 1,000 abuse cases and has been helping lawyers pick apart defenses that dioceses from around the nation have mounted.

Byrnes said in November that the initial phase of the canonical trial started and the tribunal had been established.

Wall said this means Apuron has the written charge from the Promoter of Justice. The Archdiocese of Agana so far has not released information about the specific charges Apuron is facing, other than saying they involve sexual abuse allegations.

“This is important, and can impact the possible outcomes. You may be aware of accusations, but that does not mean that those accusations are part of the trial. Getting clarity on what accusations he is facing would be most helpful,” Haselberger said.

The discovery phase of the canonical trial is where both sides will depose witnesses and interview experts, and this could take months, Wall said.

Outcomes

The discovery phase is followed by the trial and determination by a panel of three clerical judges, with penalties up to and including dismissal from the clerical state, Wall said.

“If a lower penalty such as ‘prayer and penance’ is imposed, then the Pope will need to assign him (Apuron) to a monastery or some other appropriate location,” he added.

Haselberger said there are ways for canonical trials to end without the verdict of the turnus, or the judges appointed to decide the case.

A verdict could be issued by extrajudicial decree, usually done when the penalty is only for a few years rather than perpetual, she said.

Or if guilt is evident, she added, the court could recommend that dismissal be issued by the Holy Father without prolonging trial.

“The latter circumstance does not admit of an appeal. The others do, during which the suspension of the sentence is held in abeyance. However, any precautionary penalties, those that the archbishop is under now, such as being absent from the diocese, would continue,” Haselberger said.

The Concerned Catholics of Guam and the Laity Forward Movement continue to advocate for Apuron to be defrocked or removed from clerical ministry.

“We worry that there may be some compromise or settlement solution being worked out with Apuron. We implore the Vatican officials not to let him get away without being seriously disciplined, and not rewarded,” said David Sablan, president of the Concerned Catholics of Guam.

Sablan said the only thing that should be worked out “is for Apuron to be removed from service to our archdiocese and laicized for the shame he has caused our Church.”

“He has lost the trust of the people of Guam who had always looked up to him for moral and spiritual guidance, only to now know it was all a ruse to forward his own personal agenda and to help his Neocatechumenal [Way] friends who are complicit in causing this division and mistrust within our church,” Sablan added.

Complete Article HERE!

01/20/17

Northern Ireland child abuse inquiry singles out police and church

Report on historical abuse in 22 church, state and charity-run homes accuses RUC and Catholic hierarchy of serious failings

Campaigners for alleged victims of historical institutional abuse outside the hotel where Sir Anthony Hart was making his statement.

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Police were guilty of a “catalogue of failures” over the abuse of boys at a Belfast care home run by a paedophile ring, a comprehensive report into child mistreatment across Northern Ireland has found.

The historical institutional abuse inquiry, established in 2014, found that a Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) investigation into sexual abuse at the Kincora care home in east Belfast was “inept, inadequate and far from thorough”.

The report, released on Friday, also accused the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland of ignoring repeated warnings about a serial paedophile, Fr Brendan Smyth, who sexually assaulted and raped dozens of young victims.

The implications of the Smyth scandal and other clerical abuse in the region were so serious that a senior Catholic cleric was due to discuss the findings with the pope later on Friday.

Kincora care home was run by a number of paedophiles whom it was alleged were agents of the state. They included the prominent Orange Order member William McGrath, who was accused of being an informer for MI5 and special branch in the 1970s, spying on fellow hardline loyalists.

At least 29 boys were sexually abused by McGrath, the Kincora housemaster, and others at the home. One boy is said to have killed himself by jumping off a ferry into the Irish Sea in the late 1970s following years of abuse. Three senior staff at Kincora – McGrath, Raymond Semple and Joseph Mains – were jailed in 1981 for abusing 11 boys.

The retired judge Sir Anthony Hart, who chaired the inquiry, said if the RUC had carried out a proper investigation into Kincora many of the victims might have been spared. He said 39 boys were abused byMcGrath and others running Kincora at the height of the Troubles.

But Hart said the notion that the home was a homosexual “brothel” used by the security services to entrap paedophiles to spy on influential political figures was without foundation.

Controversially, he also dismissed the notion that McGrath was a state agent. “We are satisfied that McGrath was never an agent of the state. William McGrath was a sexual pervert who had political views of a bizarre type.”

Hart was extremely critical of a number of individuals who had previously made claims about Kincora, including the former army intelligence officer Colin Wallace, who first raised allegations of a paedophile ring at the home.

The judge said the cooperation of the current Police Service of Northern Ireland was in “marked contrast to the unwillingness of some individuals”.

He stressed that all requests by the inquiry for classified files relating to Kincora were “honoured” by government and security agencies.

Hart said there was “no credible evidence” to support allegations that a paedophile ring including senior British establishment figures had abused children in Kincora. The report had “stripped away decades of half-truths masquerading as facts in relation to Kincora”.

The inquiry, which sat at Banbridge courthouse in County Down for two years, investigated children’s care homes and institutions from the Northern Ireland state’s foundation in 1922 to 1995.

During the Kincora section of the inquiry it emerged that MI5 and MI6 were legally represented at Banbridge. Critics of how the hearing into Kincora had been framed expressed concerns the government would use the Official Secrets Act to prevent the inquiry gaining access to files from MI5 and MI6.

Among the other scandals highlighted in the report was that surrounding Fr Brendan Smyth. He was a paedophile priest whom the Catholic hierarchy kept moving around parishes in both Ireland and the United States long after it knew about his abuse of children in places such as west Belfast.

The report severely criticised the Catholic Church’s behaviour.

“Father Brendan Smyth was able to carry out widespread sexual abuse of children, including some children resident in homes investigated by the inquiry, due to the failure of branches of the Roman Catholic church to properly address his behaviour from before he was ordained as a priest, despite clear warnings,” it said.

“There was repeated failure to assess the risk he posed to children, to confine him to his abbey, to thoroughly investigate allegations of abuse, to notify the police and social services, and to share information between dioceses and report matters to the appropriate civil and ecclesiastical authorities.”

The report also criticised an order of Catholic nuns, the Sisters of Nazareth. Of the homes they ran in Belfast and Derry, it said: “In each of the four homes, some nuns engaged in physical and emotional abuse against children. Emotional abuse was widespread in all homes.”

Hart and his team found that a disinfectant was used in baths in the orphanages. He said there was a significant number of cases of sexual abuse involving priests and lay staff. Many of these incidents were known to members of the clergy, who did nothing to stop them, the report said.

The leader of Ireland’s Catholics, archbishop Eamon Martin, said he would discuss its findings with Pope Francis when he met the pontiff in Rome later on Friday.

He said the report “reminds us that much work remains to be undertaken in this regard”.

Public hearings were held into 22 institutions across Northern Ireland which were run by the state, local authorities, the Catholic church, the Church of Ireland, and other voluntary organisations. Hart’s report runs to 2,300 pages and contains 10 volumes of findings and testimonies.

The NSPCC children’s charity said: “This inquiry has shed light on horrendous and widespread abuse carried out against children in Northern Ireland in the past. Institutions must now be held to account for the prolonged, systematic failings against the children in their care. It is right that the survivors receive the justice they deserve and we support the recommendation for redress.”

Complete Article HERE!

01/20/17

Ex-worker sues priest sex-abuse victims advocacy group, says it exploited survivors

Gretchen Rachel Hammond answers reporters’ questions during a news conference, as her attorney, Bruce Howard, listens at his law firm Jan. 19, 2017, in Chicago. Hammond is suing Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, her former employer.

 

By Manya Brachear

A former employee of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has sued the victims advocacy group, alleging that SNAP exploited victims of sexual abuse by clergy in return for financial kickbacks from attorneys.

According to a lawsuit filed this week in Cook County Circuit Court, Gretchen Rachel Hammond worked as a director of development from July 2011 until she said she was fired in February 2013, shortly after asking superiors whether SNAP was referring potential clients to attorneys in exchange for donations.

In addition to the organization, defendants named in the lawsuit are Barbara Blaine, its founder and president; David Clohessy, executive director; and Barbara Dorris, outreach director.

Blaine said in a statement that “the allegations are not true.”

“This will be proven in court,” she said. “SNAP leaders are now, and always have been, devoted to following the SNAP mission: To help victims heal and to prevent further sexual abuse.”

Neither Clohessy nor Dorris could be reached for comment.

Though it did not name attorneys, the lawsuit said donations from several high-profile litigators across the country comprised a large percentage of SNAP’s income.

Jeff Anderson, a prominent Minnesota attorney for victims of clergy sex abuse who was not named in the lawsuit, confirmed that he makes regular donations to SNAP, as well as other nonprofit organizations that advocate for the safety of children. But he said he does not do it in exchange for referrals.

“I have supported SNAP and a lot of other organizations that help survivors throughout the country, unapologetically,” he said.

“The allegation is explosive because it’s unethical,” he added. “I’ve never done it nor would I ever do it.”

According to the lawsuit, Hammond grew suspicious of SNAP’s methods when she was not permitted to participate in an internal audit of SNAP by an accounting firm and was barred from attending survivors’ meetings, group therapy sessions or counseling sessions to help generate material for grant proposals.

She also was given access to a list of lawyers who regularly donated to SNAP but was told to never tell anyone that lawyers donate to the organization, according to the lawsuit. At a news conference, Hammond said she raised more than $950,000 for SNAP during her 19 months there.

A Missouri judge ruled in 2012 to open more than two decades of correspondence with victims, lawyers, witnesses and journalists to shed light on whether SNAP had coached victims to fabricate claims of repressed memory.

Shortly after that, Hammond said, she was accidentally copied on an email from Clohessy to an attorney, asking when he could expect the next donation, the lawsuit said. It was then she began to ask questions and the workplace climate dramatically changed, she alleged in the lawsuit.

She said she began to collect evidence of what she believed to be a kickback scheme, copying reams of documents and downloading records on a flash drive she used to do work at home. When SNAP sent a volunteer to her apartment to collect the flash drive, she did not disclose that she had copied it, the lawsuit said. She was fired two days later, she said.

Though she decided not to go to authorities at the time, the movie “Spotlight” renewed her concerns and she sought legal counsel. Hammond alleges she could not find employment that paid as much as she made at SNAP and is seeking compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and expenses.

Complete Article HERE!

01/10/17

Fr Tony Flannery to ignore Vatican ban to celebrate Mass

Kenny took letter from priest, suspended for views on Catholic teachings, to pope during visit

 

By Patsy McGarry

A letter from a priest who was suspended from public ministry was taken to Pope Francis by Taoiseach Enda Kenny when he met the pontiff on November 28th last. A spokesman for the Taoiseach confirmed the letter was delivered as Fr Tony Flannery had requested.

Fr Flannery was disciplined by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for views he expressed on Catholic teachings in 2012, the year prior to Pope Francis’s election.

The priest has also announced that he will ignore this suspension from public ministry by celebrating Mass on Sunday 22nd of January next at 2.30pm in the Killimordaly Community Centre near where he lives in east Galway.
It will mark his 70th birthday on January 18th.

Announcing this decision to publicly break the Vatican directive, Fr Flannery said: “Having spent 40 years of my life ministering as a priest, I am now into my fifth year when I am forbidden by church authorities to minister publicly. I have decided to honour my age, and my lifetime, by ignoring the church censures, and celebrating a public Mass.

“Since I would not be allowed to do so either in a Catholic church or other Catholic controlled building, I have chosen, with the kind permission of the committee, to celebrate it in the local community hall in the village where I now live.”
He was not celebrating this Mass “for the sake of defying church authorities,” he said. But it was the case that “the Mass, the Eucharist, is not in the ownership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or indeed of the Vatican. It belongs to the believing communities,” he said.

‘Serious questions’
In his letter to Pope Francis, as delivered by the Taoiseach, Fr Flannery recalled how “since 1994, the credibility of the Catholic Church in Ireland has been severely damaged due to the clerical sexual abuse problems. This led to many people, even committed Catholics, asking serious questions about the structure and practices of our church, and the reasons why church authorities failed to deal properly with the emerging scandal.”

He continued that “six Irish priests who sought in their writings to examine these questions were censored by the CDF since 2006.” He himself was “most severely censored, as I am forbidden to minister publicly as a priest.”

The main concerns of the priests who were disciplined were that, in its dealings with them, the CDF had failed “to act in accordance with the principles of natural justice: We were accused and judged to be in error before we had any knowledge that a case was being prepared against us.”

Condemnations and punishments “were communicated to us indirectly, through our religious superiors. We were never given the dignity of being addressed directly. We were not given any opportunity to explain or defend our positions, or to put them into the context of the situation in which they were written. We were not informed as to the identity of the people who made complaints about us to the CDF. We did not have any opportunity to cross examine our accusers.”

When the Irish bishops or papal nuncio were questioned on the priests’ situation, “they say that they are helpless to intervene and that it is strictly a matter for our religious superiors, even though there is clear documentary evidence to show that our superiors acted always under orders from the CDF.”

Fr Flannery hoped, in light of Pope Francis’s proposed visit to Ireland, “ that our situations might be looked at in a new and more just fashion.” He concluded by expressing “great respect, and appreciation for all you are doing to renew our church. ”
Complete Article HERE!

01/6/17

Hundreds of church sex abuse victims continue to come forward

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian (right) comforted Bassam Haddad (center), who said he was abused by a priest, at a press conference Thursday.

By

Fifteen years after the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston broke into public view, hundreds of victims around the world continue to come forward, including some who say they were attacked as recently as 2001, advocates said Thursday.

Two victims’ support groups and a lawyer who has represented more than 2,000 survivors worldwide denounced church officials for doing too little to help those who were abused and to protect children from harm, despite ongoing revelations about the scope of the crisis.

“You have reportedly the most moral institution in the world acting the most immoral,” attorney Mitchell Garabedian said at a news conference Thursday in downtown Boston. “There is no excuse for it.”

The event coincided with the anniversary of The Boston Globe Spotlight Team’s 2002 reports about former priest John J. Geoghan, who was shuffled from parish to parish despite evidence of his predatory sexual habits.

Since the 2015 release of “Spotlight,” a movie about the Globe’s investigation into the abuse scandal, Garabedian said he has heard from hundreds of new victims, including “dozens upon dozens” who accuse priests or employees of the Boston Archdiocese of attacking them.

“No bishop has been punished for protecting pedophile priests,” said Ann Hagan Webb, the Rhode Island coordinator for Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, who says she was abused by a clergy member. “As far as I can tell, the pope’s commission about child abuse has done absolutely nothing over the last few years of its existence.”

A spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese, Terrence C. Donilon, said safeguarding children is paramount.

“The church continues to hold the protection of children as a priority while at the same time providing support to survivors and all people who have suffered as a result of clergy sexual abuse,” Donilon said in a statement. “We are grateful for the efforts of all of those who join us in this important ministry.”

The archdiocese reports that its Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach has met with more than 1,000 survivors since 2002.

At any given time, the office provides pastoral, therapeutic, and medical assistance to an average of 300 people, Donilon said. Some people came forward as recently as last year, but Donilon said he couldn’t say exactly how many.

Over the past 12 years, the archdiocese has spent nearly $35 million on counseling, psychiatric medications, and other services for survivors. Since 2003, it has paid about $215 million to settle legal claims, church officials say.

After the abuse scandal became public, the archdiocese began reporting all allegations of clergy sex abuse to law enforcement, notifying child welfare officials if the victim was younger than 18, and telling the public when a clergy member was removed from active ministry for investigatory reasons, officials said.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, was appointed by Pope Francis to serve on an advisory panel on sexual abuse and has personally apologized to hundreds of survivors and their relatives, the archdiocese said.

In a letter made public Monday, Francis told bishops worldwide they must have zero tolerance for clergy who sexually abuse children.

But Bassam Haddad, 43, of North Andover, said he received no help from church or civil authorities after he came forward in 2012 to say he had been abused in Lawrence by the Rev. Ross S. Frey from when he was 13 until he was nearly 18.

“I can’t get over the pain,” said Haddad, who said he’s attempted suicide six times. “It’s not fair that people like me . . . have to live our lives knowing that these people got away with what they did.”

Frey was a priest with the Basilian Salvatorian Order and the Melkite Catholic Church. He died in 2014 after moving to Lebanon, where he couldn’t be returned to the United States for prosecution, Garabedian said.

Another man who spoke with reporters at the news conference said he was sexually abused by Ricardo Gonzalez, who held an administrative post at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in East Boston. He and two others sued the archdiocese in September.

“They’re saying he was a volunteer and they’re not taking responsibility,” said the man, who asked that his name be withheld. “My damages are like endless.”

Gonzalez pleaded guilty in 2015 to sexually assaulting three children during the 1980s and was sentenced to four years in jail, according to the Suffolk district attorney’s office.

Garabedian said some clergy sex abuse victims now coming forward are in their late 20s or early 30s, meaning they were abused in the 1980s or 1990s.

“The clergy sexual abuse crisis is endless,” he said. “They’ve enabled the sexual abuse to continue for decades, and it’s not going to end in my lifetime.”

Complete Article HERE!