06/22/17

Archbishop: Church of England ‘colluded’ to hide sex abuse

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The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby listens to debate at the General Synod in London on Feb. 13, 2017.

By Sylvia Hui

The Church of England “colluded” with and helped to hide the long-term sexual abuse of young men by one of its former bishops, the head of the church said Thursday.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby apologized to the victims of ex-bishop Peter Ball as his church published a damning report that detailed how senior leaders did little about allegations against Ball over years and even appeared to cover up the case.

Welby ordered the independent report after Ball was convicted and imprisoned in 2015 for misconduct in public office and indecent assaults against teenagers and young men from the 1970s to 1990s. Ball, who admitted to abusing 18 young men, was released after serving 16 months.

The report said Ball’s conduct “caused serious and enduring damage to the lives of many men,” but at the time the church trivialized it, partly because of a lack of understanding about safeguarding vulnerable adult men.

Some victims reported that Ball, 85, encouraged them to engage in “spiritual exercises” involving naked praying and cold showers. One of his victims, Neil Todd, later took his own life.

“The church, at its most senior levels and over many years, supported him unwisely and displayed little care for his victims,” the report said.

Ball was arrested in 1992 for suspected indecent assault and given a police caution. He retired as bishop of Gloucester, but was allowed to continue work in churches and schools for years. He was not prosecuted until two decades later.

The report said George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, believed Ball to be “basically innocent” and played a lead role in enabling Ball’s return to ministry.

Carey and other church leaders also appeared to try to cover up the problem when they failed to pass on letters that raised concerns about Ball to police, the report said.

The church said Thursday that Welby has asked Carey to “consider his position” as an honorary assistant bishop in Oxford in light of the report.

Describing the report as “harrowing reading,” Welby said: “The church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward.”

“This is inexcusable and shocking behavior,” he said, adding that while most of what happened took place years ago “we can never be complacent, we must learn lessons.”

Vickery House, a retired Anglican priest who worked under Ball, was sentenced in 2015 to 6 ½ years in prison for sex attacks on teenagers and young men in the 1970s and ’80s.

Last year the church published a review that said senior clergymen were reportedly told of an unnamed priest’s alleged abuse of a young man, but the victim’s repeated attempts to get help and justice didn’t get anywhere.

The Anglican and Catholic churches are among institutions being investigated in a wide-ranging British probe into child sex abuse after it emerged that entertainers, clergy, senior politicians and others were implicated in decades-old abuse.

Complete Article HERE!

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06/16/17

Catholic Church Says Sexual Abuse by Clergy Still Unresolved With 25 New Cases: Annual Report

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Sexual abuse by clergy continues to be a problem within the Roman Catholic Church, according to a recent annual report.

By Michael Gryboski

The Church’s National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People found in May that between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, there were 1,232 abused individuals who brought forth 1,318 allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.

“These allegations represent reports of abuse between a specific alleged victim and a specific alleged accused, whether the abuse was a single incident or a series of incidents over a period of time,” noted the annual report.

“Compared to 2014 and 2015, the number of allegations has continued to increase. This is due to six dioceses experiencing an influx of allegations during the 2016 audit year. Of the increase in these six dioceses, two were due to bankruptcy proceedings and the other four were due to the state opening the statute of limitations.”

While these allegations involved incidents of abuse from as far back as the 1940s, the report noted that 25 of the credible allegations came from “current minors.”

In a letter dated from March that was included in the report, National Review Board Chairman Francesco C. Cesareo stressed the need to stay vigilant in combating sex abuse within the Church.

“It is important for the bishops not to conclude that sexual abuse of minors by the clergy is a thing of the past and a distant memory,” wrote Cesareo.

“Any allegation involving a current minor should remind the bishops that they must rededicate themselves each day to maintaining a level of vigilance that will not permit complacency to set in or result in a less precise and less thorough implementation of the [Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People].”

At the start of the 21st century, the Catholic Church was rocked by an international scandal surrounding a wave of sexual abuse allegations leveled against priests and efforts by church leaders to cover up said abuse.

In response, the Church took measures to defrock priests and prevent future abuse cases. This included the creation of the National Review Board and its later expansion.

By 2014, the Church also spent approximately $3 billion due to the scandal, with the money going to settlements with victims and child protection initiatives.

The National Review Board’s latest annual report comes not long after Pope Francis oversaw prayers at a Good Friday service in April wherein he appeared to ask forgiveness for the Church’s sex abuse scandal.

According to Reuters, this allusion to the scandal came when the pontiff mentioned the “shame for all the times that we bishops, priests, brothers and nuns scandalized and wounded your body, the Church.”

Complete Article HERE!

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06/14/17

Let’s call child sexual abuse in the church what it is: Catholic extremism

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I’m taken with Abbott’s notion that we need to correctly name a challenge in order to meet it. Bland labels allow abusers to hide behind their institution

‘As a Catholic, I shudder at the thought. But I know that such labels would be truthful’

By

Call it the Abbott Test for Moral Action. We can’t defeat a threat until we properly identify and name it, and the most important threats are those that have already proven deadly.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott led a chorus of voices last week demanding that political leaders define recent deadly terrorist attacks as Islamic. Abbott rejected concerns that such comments could inflame anti-Islam sentiment: “Islamophobia hasn’t killed anyone,” he said.

Abbott is wrong on that point. The recent murders in Portland, Oregon appear to be just the latest prompted by “Islamophobia.” But Abbott is right that we ought to correctly identify the mortal threats we face.

I’ve never had a problem using phrases like “radical Islam” or “extremist Islamic terrorists.” Being theologically trained, I understand that scripture is always interpreted in context and culture, and some interpretations are radical, extreme and seriously flawed.

I’m taken with this Abbottian notion that society needs to correctly name a challenge in order to meet it. I don’t often agree with the former prime minister, but he’s correct that we could better define those things that are currently killing Australians.

Let’s start with “institutional sexual abuse”. The current royal commission into institutional sexual abuse has heard thousands of submissions from victims and their families. Too many victims’ stories include suicide. In Ballarat, one police officer compiled a dossier of 43 deaths – suicides, overdoses and others – attributable to sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests and brothers in that diocese alone. (Another police report, Operation Plangere, disputed this finding, but Louise Milligan’s carefully researched book “Cardinal” lays out the flaws in Plangere’s investigations.)

“Institutional sexual abuse” is a phrase that describes where the abuse occurs rather than who perpetrated the abuse and who the victims are. I acknowledge the phrase has validity insofar as there are common factors in institutions that foster abuse, including absolute control of vulnerable people, lack of oversight, and a preference for organisational processes over the rule of law.

But the label “institutional sexual abuse” is too bland to confront us with the terror and deadly impact on the victims. It allows abusers – individually or as a class – to continue hiding behind the institution.

The phrase also fails to catch the important differences between institutions that lead some organisations to support more awful and systematic abuse than others.

The royal commission has heard from victims of abuse in many religious and state-run institutions, but the Catholic church (my church, and Abbott’s too) stands out. Over 4,000 cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic church were reported to the royal commission. These reports showed wilful ignorance by church leaders, systematic shielding of abusers and a continual preference for the perpetrator and the institution over the victim.

The royal commission is likely to make findings about how church beliefs and structures allowed abuse to occur. In Australia and elsewhere, such as in Ireland, priests, bishops and nuns have testified to a belief that prayer could cure paedophiles. Some have pointed to a belief that it was God’s work to protect the church’s reputation by not reporting abuse to the police. Had the church been drawn into such scandal, thousands of souls might have lost their faith and been in jeopardy.

The end result of this flawed theology and ecclesiology is the nauseating, terrifying, grotesque, ritualised and repeated violent assaults and rapes of children by Catholic clergy and religious.

Should we label this “Catholic terrorism”? The Australian victims of sexual abuse have been terrorised by the Catholic church, no doubt. Is it “radical Catholic ideology” or “extremist Catholic belief” to cover up the sin of sexual abuse for “the greater good”? It’s hard to deny it.

As a Catholic, I shudder at the thought. But I know that such labels would be truthful. And I know, as Abbott argues, that if we really want to solve the problem of the child sexual abuse by Catholic religious (priests, brothers and nuns) then we should name it appropriately.

I posed this question on Twitter last week: should we call this Catholic extremism? One of the police officers who blew the whistle on the sexual abuse of children in the Australian Catholic church, Peter Fox, responded “I’d call it organised crime.” He’s right. But it is more than that. It is a warped, extreme and deeply flawed interpretation of the Catholic faith that led to such crimes.

And we should not comfort ourselves that this distorted theology and these crimes are necessarily a thing of the past. If anything, seminaries are becoming more orthodox and traditional. Little has changed in structure or governance of the Catholic church. As Cardinal Pell told commissioner McClellan, the church’s structure came from God. Why would the church change it?

Under the Abbott test, we should call such flawed thinking out. We must name it. It’s Catholic extremism. It’s killing and terrorising Australians.

Unless we see it for what it is, we will remain powerless to stop it.

Complete Article HERE!

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06/2/17

Church saw sharp rise in clergy sex abuse victims who came forward last year

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The number of victims who brought new claims of sexual abuse by clergy rose sharply last year, fueled in large part by a surge of allegations from Minnesota, according to a report released Thursday by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

That state temporarily lifted its statute of limitations in 2013 to allow alleged victims older than 24 to sue for past abuse, and the deadline to file such claims was in late May 2016, according to the report. The deadline is believed to have prompted a rush of last-minute filings.

The annual report from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which covers July 2015 to June 2016, said 911 victims came forward with allegations the church deemed credible, the vast majority of which were from adults who said they were abused when they were children.

That was up from 384 in the previous 12-month span, and it marked the highest total since 1,083 victims came forward in 2004, the first year the bishops conference published an annual report on the topic amid the fallout of the abuse crisis that was exposed in the early 2000s.

“I am grateful that allegations are being reported,” Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the conference’s Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, wrote in the report. “I am grateful that alleged victims are being treated with sensitivity and care. I am grateful that alleged offenders are offered treatment and supervision. But much work is still needed.

“May God bless our victims/survivors and our endeavors toward healing, justice, and peace,” he added.

The report did not break down the number of complaints in the most recent year that came from Minnesota but said they were a “substantial portion.”

The report also noted that the November 2015 release of the movie “Spotlight,’’ which recounted The Boston Globe’s investigation of the clergy-abuse crisis, “helped bring the issue back into the mind of the general public.’’

“As the movie illustrates, it was because of a few brave individuals who had the courage to come forward that the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was brought to light,” the report says.

Victims who came forward during the most recent reporting year included 26 minors, the report said.

The report’s definition of “minors” included people under age 18 or anyone who “habitually lacks the use of reason.”

As of June 30, 2016, two of the 26 cases had been substantiated, while 11 had been deemed unsubstantiated by church officials. The rest remained under investigation, the report said.

The offenders in the substantiated cases were removed from ministry, as were 26 other priests or deacons accused of past abuse, officials said.

The report did not break down the location of the allegations but said its data was based on information from all 196 diocese and eparchies of the bishops conference, which includes the Archdiocese of Boston, and from 180 of the 232 religious institutes of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.

The latest figures mean that between 1950 and June 2016, more than 18,500 people nationwide made clergy abuse allegations deemed credible by US Catholic officials, and more than 6,700 clerics have been accused of abuse, church records show.

Activists have questioned whether the church’s count of clergy sex abuse victims is lower than the actual total.

The abuse crisis has cost the church billions of dollars.

Between 1950 and June 2016, about $3.7 billion was spent on settlement-related costs, including $141 million during the most recent year, according to the church.

Complete Article HERE!

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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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