Disgraced West Virginia bishop Michael Bransfield was told a year ago to make restitution.

His successor says Bransfield has gone incommunicado.

Michael J. Bransfield, then-bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., in 2015.

By Michelle Boorstein

More than a year after Pope Francis ordered ousted West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield to make personal amends for alleged sexual and financial misconduct, his successor bishop says he has yet to hear from Bransfield about a restitution proposal.

Last Tuesday, MetroNews, a West Virginia news site, quoted Bishop Mark Brennan as saying that he had not heard from Bransfield in “many months, and I would not expect to. … Whatever he is doing, he is doing and is in a dark hole. We do not know exactly what he is up to; we have not been in communication.”

In July 2019, Francis forbade Bransfield, a well-connected Philadelphian who had held prominent national spots in the Catholic Church, from celebrating Mass and from living in West Virginia. Bransfield had led the church there for 13 years. In November, Brennan had proposed, per Francis’s demand, a specific proposal for Bransfield’s restitution.

Some experts say the restitution package was a first for a bishop. Brennan called for his predecessor, now 76, to pay the diocese nearly $800,000, to apologize to victims, to lose his place in the diocesan cemetery, and to lose the normal bishop retirement package and instead receive a lower stipend equal to that of someone who had been a priest for 13 years.

Diocesan spokesman Tim Bishop on Monday referred The Washington Post to a July 28 letter Brennan wrote to the diocese. The letter only briefly mentioned Bransfield, saying that neither Brennan nor the papal nuncio — the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States — had heard back from Rome since November “on the plan of amends I submitted.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Brennan in the MetroNews report is saying Rome needs to approve of Brennan’s plan, Bransfield’s response or both.

Bransfield declined to comment Monday, and his lawyers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Post in 2019 obtained an internal church investigation that found Bransfield, as bishop in one of the country’s poorest states, spent millions of dollars of diocesan money on chartered jets, lavish furnishings at his official residence and nearly 600 cash gifts to fellow clergymen. The Post also found that $21 million was moved from a church-owned hospital in Wheeling, W.Va., to be used at Bransfield’s discretion. The money was moved into the Bishop’s Fund, a charity Bransfield created with the stated purpose of helping residents of West Virginia, tax filings showed.

MetroNews quoted Brennan last week as saying Bransfield “would not come up with his own plan and did not admit to his actions. Brennan previously told MetroNews that Bransfield told him he did not know who he needed to apologize to.”

Francis was the one who initially called for Bransfield to make amends, Brennan said told MetroNews.

“I wasn’t sent in to demand that. They demanded that. They asked me to work with him, and let me tell you, that was not easy to do,” Brennan said.

Bransfield has denied wrongdoing, saying that his staff in Wheeling was responsible for diocesan finances and which accounts checks came from. He has told The Post that he thinks he greatly improved the financial health of the diocese during his tenure and that gifts and lavish perks were within church culture norm. He has denied the claims of seminarians and priests who said he sexually harassed them.

Complete Article HERE!

What is a priest worth?

Latest Ted McCarrick news says it depends on the lawsuit

McCarrick was appointed cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II.

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There’s a book out there asking: “What is a Girl Worth?” Written by former gymnast Rachael Denhollander, it asks who is going to tell little girls that the abuse done to them years ago was monstrously wrong and that it actually matters that their perpetrators are punished.

There also needs to be a book asking “what is a priest worth?”

For two years now, we’ve been looking at the news reporting about the sex scandal that surrounded the now-former Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and how “everyone” knew he was dallying with seminarians and sharing beds with them at his New Jersey beach cottage back in the 1980s.

After the news about McCarrick broke on June 20, 2018, it took the MSM a month to get all the major details together — and still they missed a few. This New York Times piece says the sexual activity that McCarrick carried on with his protégé Robert Ciolek stayed above the waist. The paper hinted in the next paragraph that another seminarian or young priest involved with McCarrick had endured far worse sexual abuse, but unless you knew how to read between the lines, you missed it.

But the late Richard Sipe, a Benedictine priest-turned-psychotherapist, had posted on his web site 10 years beforehand accounts of very R-rated sexual activity McCarrick foisted on his underlings. Many journalists read it, but we didn’t know how to prove it. At the time, the church attitude I picked up was that nothing happened at that cottage and that the seminarians and young priests involved should get over it.

The thought that some could be scarred sexually for life never occurred to anyone. Who could they talk about this with? Who’d believe them? Because of what had been done to them, they were abandoned to mull over some very dirty thoughts while at the same time berating themselves for not fighting back.

Finally, last week, a bunch of media, including a consortium of New Jersey newspapers, reported a juicy lawsuit against McCarrick that threatens to expose some of the nastier details. Written by Newark Star-Ledger reporter Ted Sherman on the NJ.com site, the story was worth the wait.

He is known only as “Doe 14.”

Raised in a devout Catholic family, he attended St. Francis Xavier in Newark and Essex Catholic in East Orange in the Archdiocese of Newark, participating in church and youth activities.

And by the time he was a teenager, his lawyers say he was being groomed for a role in what they called a “sex ring” involving then-Bishop Theodore McCarrick, the 90-year-old now defrocked and disgraced former cardinal who was cast out of the ministry last year over decades-old sexual abuse allegations.

In a lawsuit, they charged other priests served as “procurers” to bring victims to McCarrick at his beach house on the Jersey Shore, where he “assigned sleeping arrangements, choosing his victims from the boys, seminarians and clerics present at the beach house,” and that they were paired with adult clerics.

At this point, allow me to note that I wrote something similar two years ago here at GetReligion, quoting from the Sipe website and other documents I had amassed about this scandal. I even named names of some of the priests involved, although I didn’t realize it was at the level of a “sex ring.”

In a press conference on Wednesday, attorneys for the now 53-year-old victim serving as the plaintiff in the lawsuit detailed a sordid, predatory scheme of sexual abuse involving McCarrick and other members of the clergy involving at least seven children, including Doe 14, that they said played out over dozens of years…

According to the lawsuit, much of what allegedly transpired occurred at a Sea Girt beach house that has been the focus of other complaints involving charges of abuse by McCarrick of seminarian students, who he allegedly would bring down to the Jersey Shore.

“McCarrick would creep into this kid’s bed and engage in criminal sexual behavior and whisper, ‘It’s okay,’” said Anderson.

Sherman mentioned names of other accused priests who participated in the abuse. For this story to come out in New Jersey is sweet revenge, in that I know folks at the Star-Ledger were aware of the rumors a decade ago. Like me, they were stymied by the victims’ refusals to go on the record.

Because the press conference (see the above video) was virtual, lots of media were listening.

Be sure to look at the video, as it has a photo of the beach house; the first time I’ve seen what it looks like. I actually drove to Sea Girt, the New Jersey town in which it’s located, back in 2009 in a fruitless search for the address.

The Washington Post gave us an organized list of the accused:

The accused clerics aside from McCarrick are: the Rev. Anthony Nardino, Brother Andrew Thomas Hewitt, the Rev. Gerald Ruane, the Rev. Michael Walters and the Rev. John Laferrera. They were all priests in Newark. None could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Ruane, Walters and Laferrera are on Newark’s list of credibly accused clerics. Hewitt and Ruane are deceased, the list says. Hewitt is on the list of credibly accused clerics from the Christian Brothers, the order to which he belonged, according to a ProPublica investigation of accused clerics. Hewitt was the boy’s principal at the time the abuse occurred, the suit alleges.

The New York Post was also at this July 22 confab and included a ripe quote from the attorney representing the victims.

(Jeff) Anderson said decades of alleged sexual abuse have been covered up by the Catholic Church.

“All of it cloaked in papal power,” he said.

Which takes us to the next shoe that needs to drop, which we’ve been waiting for a long time.

Tmatt reminded us earlier this month that a long-delayed Vatican report on McCarrick — and how church officials ignored the open secret of his sexual predilections for years — still has yet to come out.

Justice delayed is justice denied, right?

What is a priest worth? What is a seminarian worth? As reporters probe further, we’re learning that, for far too many officials in the Catholic Church, they weren’t worth much. Then, this National Catholic Register editorial points to one of the biggest questions that continues to loom over this scandal:

… After all this time, Catholics in the United States are still waiting for answers about which Church leaders, here and in Rome, knew about McCarrick’s scandalous situation but failed to take meaningful disciplinary and preventive actions — and possibly even facilitated and abetted his meteoric rise to prominence.

That’s far too long to wait.

The question, of course, is this: Who were the bishops and cardinals who lifted McCarrick high into church leadership? And what about the bishops and cardinals that McCarrick brought to power?

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

Former Cardinal McCarrick accused of participating in beach house ‘sex ring,’ lawyers allege

Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who is charged in a new lawsuit of sexually abusing teenagers in his New Jersey beach house decades ago.

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He is known only as “Doe 14.”

Raised in a devout Catholic family, he attended St. Francis Xavier in Newark and Essex Catholic in East Orange in the Archdiocese of Newark, participating in church and youth activities.

And by the time he was a teenager, his lawyers say he was being groomed for a role in what they called a “sex ring” involving then-Bishop Theodore McCarrick, the 90-year-old now defrocked and disgraced former cardinal who was cast out of the ministry last year over decades-old sexual abuse allegations.

In a lawsuit, they charged other priests served as “procurers” to bring victims to McCarrick at his beach house on the Jersey Shore, where he “assigned sleeping arrangements, choosing his victims from the boys, seminarians and clerics present at the beach house,” and that they were paired with adult clerics.

The lawsuit does not say if McCarrick asked the other priests to bring boys to the beach house.

In a press conference on Wednesday, attorneys for the now 53-year-old victim serving as the plaintiff in the lawsuit detailed a sordid, predatory scheme of sexual abuse involving McCarrick and other members of the clergy involving at least seven children, including Doe 14, that they said played out over dozens of years.

Jeff Anderson, who represents Doe 14, said priests and others under the control of McCarrick engaged in “open and obvious criminal sexual conduct” that was kept cloaked by the church.

“That continued for 50 years until McCarrick, having been publicly exposed, was ultimately defrocked,” declared Anderson.

In their court papers filed Tuesday night in New Jersey Superior Court in Middlesex County, the unnamed victim filed suit against the Diocese of Metuchen, where McCarrick served as bishop, the Archdiocese of Newark, where he was the archbishop, and the schools, high schools and parish schools Doe 14 had attended while growing up in New Jersey.

According to the lawsuit, much of what allegedly transpired occurred at a Sea Girt beach house that has been the focus of other complaints involving charges of abuse by McCarrick of seminarian students, who he allegedly would bring down to the Jersey Shore.

“McCarrick would creep into this kid’s bed and engage in criminal sexual behavior and whisper, ‘It’s okay,’” said Anderson.

Asked about the charges, attorney Barry Coburn, who represents McCarrick, said only, “no comment at this time.”

The Newark Archdiocese also declined comment.

“It would be inappropriate to discuss or comment on matters in litigation,” said spokeswoman Maria Margiotta. “The Archdiocese of Newark remains fully committed to transparency and to our long-standing programs to protect the faithful and will continue to work with victims, their legal representatives and law enforcement authorities in an ongoing effort to resolve allegations and bring closure to victims.”

The Doe 14 complaint charged that boys were also selected and abused not only by McCarrick, but by other priests and clergy at the beach house, who were named in the court papers.

Gerald Ruane, Michael Walters and John Laferrera, allegedly abused Doe 14, the lawsuit claimed. All three were listed last year by the Newark Archdiocese as having credible accusations of sex abuse made against them. Ruane was listed as deceased, and the others had previously removed from ministry.

Brother Andrew Thomas Hewitt, the former Essex Catholic principal, was also accused of abusing the boy from 1981 to 1983, and named as well in a list of those accused of sexual abuse. He is now dead as well.

Also accused of “unpermitted sexual contact” when the plaintiff was 11 years old was a former priest named Anthony Nardino. He had not been publicly accused before, but was said to have left the ministry as well. Church officials did not respond to questions about him.

McCarrick, once the most recognized Catholic leader in New Jersey and a major voice on national issues for the church, has already been repeatedly accused of sexual abuse in earlier court filings.

Last year, James Grein stepped forward with a lawsuit under a new law that gives people more time to sue their alleged abusers and the institutions that protected them. He charged McCarrick sexually abused him for 20 years, even after he told Pope John Paul II during a visit to the Vatican about the abuse.

In a separate lawsuit, John Bellocchio, a former Catholic schoolteacher and principal, alleged in a lawsuit that McCarrick sexually assaulted him when he was the archbishop of Newark.

Even before any of those allegations came to light, church officials in New Jersey later revealed that McCarrick had previously been accused of sexual misconduct with three adults during his time in the state. Two of those cases resulted in secret legal settlements, according to the Archdiocese of Newark.

The settlements included $80,000 paid to a former priest turned lawyer from New Jersey who said McCarrick, known as “Uncle Ted,” would invite young seminarians and priests to the house in Sea Girt, where they would be expected to share a bed with McCarrick.

All that time, McCarrick continued his ascendancy in the church hierarchy, picked by Pope John Paul II as Washington’s archbishop in late 2000. A year later, he was made a cardinal.

The cardinal’s downfall began after a former altar server went to the Archdiocese of New York after hearing that a panel was considering settlements for alleged victims, to report how he had been abused as a teenager while being measured by McCarrick for a special cassock for Christmas Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

He told them that McCarrick, then a monsignor, unzipped the teenager’s pants while measuring him for the garment and was later cornered in a bathroom.

The allegation led to McCarrick being removed from public ministry and later forced to resign from the College of Cardinals. A subsequent Vatican investigation ended with his being laicized, or dismissed from the clerical state — considered one the harshest forms of punishment that can be issued by the church.

McCarrick has never admitted to any wrongdoing.

Complete Article HERE!

At Least 3,000 Children Were Victims of Sex Abuse in French Catholic Church

A priest checks seats at the Lyon Saint-Jean Cathedral, on May 23, 2020 in this illustrative image. A commission has found that there were over 3,000 sexual abuse victims of the Catholic Church in France.

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There have been at least 3,000 child sex abuse victims in the Catholic Church in France stretching back decades—and it’s feared there may be many more, according to an investigation.

Last June, the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) was set up to look into abuse claims committed by the clergy in France since the 1950s.

A hotline for victims to come forward has so far received more than 5,000 phone calls. The number of estimated victims represents an average of 40 cases per year over seven decades.

The head of the commission, Jean-Marc Sauvé, said that around 1,500 clergy and church officials carried out the abuse. He believes there are many more victims who had not yet come forward.

“I am profoundly convinced that there are many more victims,” he told reporters, adding in reference to the hotline and the commission’s own inquiries: “What we do not know is how to consolidate these two sources of potential cases.”

Around 30 percent of the victims who have come forward are older than 70 and around half are aged between 50 and 70. The commission has extended its call for victims’ testimony until the end of October. Its full report has been delayed due to the coronavirus and is expected around September or October 2021.

“We must remember this suffering, we must account for it. We are confronted with the shock of the suffering of the victims. We can only be touched and transformed by meeting these victims,” ​​Sauvé told the radio station RTL.

The French church has been left reeling from sex abuse scandals. In January, former priest Bernard Preynat admitted abusing around 80 boys aged between seven and 10 over two decades when he was a French scout chaplain. He said that his superiors turned a blind eye to his behavior.

Preynat was jailed for five years for the crimes, which took place between 1971 and 1991. Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was convicted of failing to report the actions of Preynat but had this conviction overturned on appeal.

He said he had heard “rumors” about the priest’s behavior in 2010, but knew nothing of the abuse until he spoke to one of the victims in 2014.

France’s Catholic Church announced that it would fund a compensation fund to pay out lump sums to abuse victims. The decision by the French Bishops’ Conference in December 2019 follows similar moves in Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.

Last year, the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, made it mandatory for any clergy to report cases of clerical sexual abuse and cover-ups.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic bishop suspends priest and issues trespass order over blog about clergy sex abuse

Because of content on his blog, the Rev. Mark White of Martinsville was suspended by his bishop as pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Martinsville and St. Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount, Va.

By Michelle Boorstein

A months-long standoff between a Catholic bishop in Virginia and a priest who blogs frequent, strident criticism of the church’s handling of clergy sexual abuse has boiled over, with the diocese suspending the priest from ministry and changing parish and residence locks where he was assigned, the priest said Saturday.

The Rev. Mark White, who has been assigned to two southwest Virginia parishes, had refused to leave the church properties despite a trespass order, saying Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout is the one violating canon law by not giving more details about what Knestout considers White’s wrongdoing and by not waiting for an appeal to the Vatican to play out.

White Saturday blogged that the diocese changed the locks on the two parishes — St. Joseph in Martinsville and St. Francis of Assisi in Rocky Mount — and on one of the residences. The two parishes are half-English, half-Spanish and have about 400 families each, he said. White was pastor to the two parishes from 2011 until April 13, when Knestout ordered him transferred to prison ministry in the midst of their conflict. White told The Post he is waiting for the appeal and is not leaving.

The diocese’s spokeswoman couldn’t be reached immediately for comment Sunday.

The dispute between the two men has been watched by the hundreds and sometimes thousands who read White’s blog, which is a mix of homilies and spiritual musings and frequent lambasting of church officials from Knestout to Pope Francis to disgraced ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who ordained White in May 2003.

While a priest being removed by a bishop isn’t unusual, the White-Knestout standoff taps into remaining deep mistrust and anger over the McCarrick scandal and how few bishops and cardinals have been held accountable for his long rise — particularly those who have worked along the New York-New Jersey-Washington, D.C. corridor where rumors of McCarrick’s sexual misbehavior percolated for decades.

The case also reflects the challenge posed to the world’s largest church — one accustomed to tight, top-down control — by the power of social media. The Vatican is increasingly calling social media an essential part of ministry and evangelization, but metrics of what is effective vs. what is divisive are growing more subjective. White had paused his blog last fall at Knestout’s order but restarted it in March because of the coronavirus shutdown, saying online ministering is crucial while parishes and Mass are shut off.

“I can’t recall a case when a pastor was removed because he was blogging,” said Kurt Martens, a canon law expert at Catholic University. “Blogging is a new way of ministry, so how do you stop a priest?”

At the time of White’s ordination, Knestout was priest-secretary to McCarrick. White argues that Catholic Church leaders haven’t come fully clean on what they knew about McCarrick, a former D.C. archbishop and towering leader in the U.S. church until 2018, when he was accused of sexual misconduct with young boys, seminarians and young priests. McCarrick was later defrocked, and it’s become clear that top leaders at least knew of the misconduct and abuse-of-power allegations involving adults who worked under McCarrick. A Vatican report into McCarrick’s career and how he rose to the top amid such complaints is pending.

White’s blog includes items on the role of redemption, St. Paul’s writings and the importance of keeping up spiritual training during quarantine, as well as many posts focused on the hierarchy’s actions as it pertains to clergy sexual abuse. He calls Knestout’s office “opaque” and says on the topic of sexual abuse it puts out “morale-sapping groupthink propaganda.” Bishops who don’t demand details about McCarrick from the Vatican are “feminized cowards.” His home archdiocese — of Washington — is an “edifice of lies.”

Knestout, offering a rare public explanation by a bishop, wrote a letter to parishioners in March that was published in the Martinsville Bulletin newspaper. In it he said White “has worked against the unity of the Church, promoted disrespect for the Holy Father, the Church hierarchy, his bishop, and has demonstrated a will adverse to obedience to the bishop of his diocese, which he took an oath to uphold at his ordination.”

But White, his church lawyer and some parishioners say White is the one promoting unity by pressing for justice and transparency and that Knestout is the one being divisive.

Priests are obliged to work for the “building up of the body of Christ,” concurs a March 27 letter from canon lawyer Michael Podhajsky to Knestout. “In fact, the very blog posts Your Excellency will later criticize were written with this very purpose in mind.”

The Wednesday suspension from ministry and Thursday trespass order are the apex of tension for two men who crossed paths uneventfully in D.C. nearly two decades ago.

White, who grew up in Northwest D.C., began his blog in 2008 and posted apparently without controversy until 2018, after the McCarrick scandal broke.

The revelations “completely threw me and changed my point of view on everything,” White told The Post. “All the outstanding cases, that victims weren’t accommodated, cases were shelved and treated as statistics — it all started to dawn on me.”

In a letter to the Richmond Diocese in July 2018, Knestout laid out the time the two men worked together and wrote that while he was in D.C., “I can tell you I was not approached by anyone with any allegations or evidence of sexual harassment or abuse involving the Cardinal.”

In the fall of 2019, Knestout ordered White to stop blogging or he would be suspended. In late November, White shut down the site.

The two men met twice about the conflict, White says — in November and February — but no agreement was reached. White says the bishop would not be specific about what posts were problematic and in what way. Knestout responded through his spokeswoman, Deborah Cox, who pointed The Post to some of White’s posts most confrontational and critical of church leadership.

Once the coronavirus shutdown began, White appealed to reopen his blog as a way to communicate with the parishioners he could no longer see. He says Knestout was unresponsive, and the bishop says his efforts to communicate with White were rebuffed. Without explicit permission, White restarted the blog.

Tensions continued, and in March the bishop wrote the letter to parishioners explaining his displeasure with his priest.

“From the beginning it has been my desire that Father White’s ministry in the diocese would be fruitful and effective, and that he provide that ministry as a happy and healthy priest. … This ministry is needed even more during a time of distress for so many of our people.”

In April, Knestout announced he was transferring White to prison ministry, but White has refused to leave.

Last week Knestout announced he was suspending the priest’s permission to operate his ministry in the diocese and sent White a trespass warning. Cox would not say explicitly why, calling it a personnel issue, but Podhajsky said it was because White had not moved to his new assignment.

Irma Harrison, second vice chair of the parish council at St. Joseph, said the parishes are strongly behind White. With the pandemic keeping them apart and Mass suspended, the removal of the priest to the communities is “devastating,” she said.

“Father Mark is a good pastor, a good man, and the bishop is not being adult about this,” she said. Of the pastor’s blog posts, she said he “was just speaking truth about the lack of transparency about sexual abuse, and he stepped on a few toes.”

Complete Article HERE!