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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Disobedient priests plan global movement

A parish priest who encouraged clergymen to be “disobedient” towards the Vatican plans to go international.

Helmut Schüller of the Preachers’ Initiative said yesterday (Sun) that “2012 will be the year of internationalisation”. Schüller – who previously headed Caritas Austria – said the Austrian Roman Catholic Church should “finally take members seriously”.

Schüller criticised the Vatican due to its conservative approach towards key topics of the 21st century and said the institution resembled an “absolutist monarchy”. The head of the parish of Probstdorf in the province of Lower Austria stressed that his initiative “receives a lot of approval from Catholic reform movements all over the world.”

Schüller claimed some weeks ago that the Preachers’ Initiative currently consisted of 370 members. He said yesterday there were no plans for further talks with the highest representative of the Roman Catholic Church of Austria, Viennese Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn. The archbishop condemned the word disobedience as a “term of fight” last month. Schönborn said it was “burdened with a negative connotation”.

Schönborn said it was not true that he opposed all kinds of reforms of the Church. He admitted that there was the need to rethink certain decisions and opinions but also made clear that he was against the crucial points of Schüller’s agenda.

The Preachers’ Initiative, which was established more than half a year ago, calls on the Vatican to allow priests to give Holy Communion to people who married a second time at registry offices after getting divorced following church weddings. The group also says women should be allowed to become Catholic priests.

Austria is one of the Roman Catholic Church’s most significant strongholds in Europe. Around 5.4 million Austrians are members of the Church. The number of people leaving the Church declined by 32 per cent from 2010 to 2011. More than 58,600 people quit their membership last year. Around 65 per cent of adult residents of the country are part of its Catholic Church – down sharply from 1981 when the same applied to 84 per cent.

The budget of Austria’s Catholic Church was strained in 2011 due to declining membership numbers meaning receding financial support but also compensatory payments to victims of sexual and physical abuse. The Church paid 6.4 million Euros altogether to 456 people who came forward to inform special commissions dealing with the issue that they suffered abuse at boarding schools and other institutions run by the Church.

The Church was also in the news recently due to discussions over whether it should be allowed to charge people who left it. Maximilian Hiegelsberger of the Austrian Association of Farmers’ section in Upper Austria said the Church could tax everyone regardless of whether they were members or not. Hiegelsberger argued that every resident of the country benefited by the Church’s activities in some way. He also made aware of abbeys’ positive effects on the domestic tourism industry.

The Social Democrats (SPÖ) rejected his appeal while St. Pölten Diocese Bishop Klaus Küng said it was an idea worth discussing in his opinion. Hiegelsberger is a member of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) which has formed a federal government coalition with the SPÖ since 2007. The SPÖ emphasised it would not support his initiative. The party branded Hiegelsberger’s suggested post-Church membership fee as a “forced charge”.

The Austrian Catholic Church generated 394 million Euros with the so-called Church tax in 2010. The sum Church members have to transfer depends on their salaries. Unemployed people and everyone with a comparably small income do not have to pay anything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Church: Springs priest faces sex-abuse probe

After learning their pastor has been accused of sexually abusing a child, the shocked congregation of St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church was left in silence Saturday night.

The Rev. Rafael Torres-Rico told the packed, 1,100-member church during the 5 p.m. Mass that The Rev. Charles Robert Manning is being investigated by Colorado Springs police for “sexual abuse of a minor.”

No other details of the allegations against Manning were shared with the congregation, some of whom were in tears by the end of Torres-Rico’s announcement.

“It is important to remember that in both civil and canon law Father Manning is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Torres-Rico told the church.

The allegations were brought to the police on Jan. 4, and Manning has since been asked to step down, Torres-Rico said.

Colorado Springs police spokeswoman Barbara Miller said she was not aware of the investigation and had no comment.

St. Gabriel’s, on Scarborough Drive in one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in eastern Colorado Springs, opened its doors in 1998. The church, near the intersection of Powers Boulevard and Research Parkway, hosts five services per weekend for its growing congregation, according to the church’s website.

The church does not allow children under 12 years old to attend mass alone. At Saturday’s mass the congregation was reminded to accompany children under 12 anywhere in the building, including to the restroom.

Church-goers refused to comment as they left the service. Church officials had no immediate comment.

No criminal record for Manning can be found in Colorado. An online search shows that Manning has served in three parishes over the past decade.

In a 2002 posting on a Catholic website, a C. Robert Manning identified himself as pastor of St. Lawrence the Martyr Church in Bridgeton, Mo.

From 2004 to 2007, Manning headed a Catholic church in Imperial, Mo. There, he oversaw efforts to revive the church’s school, which faced falling attendance, according to the church website. The school closed in 2007, the year Manning came to Colorado Springs.

In 2010, Manning was named chaplain of the year by the Colorado branch of Knights of Columbus.

The Catholic Church has battled allegations of sex abuse by priests for years, including a revelation in 2010 that the former priest Divine Redeemer, in Monument, was accused of a sex abuse against a child in Denver.

When the priest, the Rev. Mel Thompson, was accused in 2010 of molesting a Denver boy, there had been 50 similar cases within the Denver Archdiocese over a five-year span.

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How long will church be allowed to keep its dangerous secrets?

An American priest, who has been financially supported for the past five years by the priest and parishioners of a Vancouver Catholic church, has been convicted of sexually molesting a minor by an ecclesiastical tribunal in Pennsylvania.

In its decision, reached last October, the tribunal recommended to the Vatican that Eric Ensey be dismissed as a priest.

“The tribunal reached moral certitude that Ensey had indeed committed the offences of which he was accused,” Fr. Tom Doyle wrote in letters sent last week to Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller and John Horgan, the priest at Saints Peter and Paul Church.

Doyle, a Dominican priest and canonical lawyer, represented the victims.

“I realize that Ensey and his cohorts continue to insist on their innocence,” he wrote. “They have masked themselves with a deceitful veil of traditional orthodoxy, which has proven successful in duping a number of people. Unfortunately there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

The tribunal spent nearly three years investigating Ensey, who since 2002 has been restricted from doing any ministerial work, presenting him-self as a priest, wearing clerical garb or performing any sacred functions.

Horgan passed none of that information on to parishioners.

“I told them he [Ensey] was a student priest,” Horgan told me in December. “I did not go into all the details because, in this case, I though the charity we were doing for him was sufficient. That may well have been a mistake of prudence on my part.”

At that time, Horgan also told me he was “fully aware” of the tribunal proceedings.

Horgan’s fundraising stopped in December after Miller ordered an end to soliciting and accepting tax-deductible donations for Ensey, other members of the Society of St. John, the seminary it runs in Paraguay, and an associated orphanage.

Ensey is appealing the tribunal’s decision, Doyle said in a telephone interview from Virginia. The appeal will be heard by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body once known as the Inquisition.

“Ensey’s chances of winning an appeal are about as good as that of a rabbi being elected pope,” said Doyle, who has been involved in many similar cases since the first one in 1985 when he worked in the Vatican’s embassy in Washington, D.C.

The congregation will likely decide fairly quickly. But it doesn’t make its decisions public. The Vatican also provides no public access to its list of so-called defrocked priests.

It’s not clear how much money the Vancouver parish raised to support Ensey or whether they were given tax receipts for those donations. Horgan, however, told parishioners that he had been giving a third of his salary to the disgraced priest.

The archbishop’s direction to stop collecting donations resulted from parishioners’ complaints.

Nearly 10 years ago, Ensey was stripped of ministerial duties after a former seminarian filed a civil lawsuit alleging that he’d been sexually abused by Ensey and Carlos Urruti-goity, who is now a monsignor in Paraguay.

Ensey and Urrutigoity founded the Society of St. John in Pennsylvania. But the bishop there “suppressed” or disbanded it in 2004 because of allegations of rampant sexual misconduct and financial mismanagement.

Soon after the diocese had negotiated a $425,000, out-of-court settlement in the sexual abuse lawsuit in 2005, Ensey fled to Rome without the bishop’s permission.

Had Ensey followed orders and remained in Pennsylvania, he would not have needed the Vancouver parish’s charity. He could have collected a salary until the case was finalized.

Even so, it’s unlikely Vancouver parishioners would have financed his studies if they’d known Ensey was under investigation for sexual abuse, or helped a Paraguayan society whose leaders are also alleged sexual abusers and financial mis-managers.

But they didn’t know. Horgan’s lapses of judgment. The archbishop’s seeming lack of oversight. The Vatican’s hands-off approach that allowed the Society of St. John to be reconstituted in Paraguay and its leaders to oversee a seminary that graduated 36 priests last year.

And the Vatican’s continued secrecy regarding those who are being investigated or have been defrocked.

How long will Catholic faithful allow this to go on? They’ve already spent hundreds of millions of dollars defending priests and compensating their victims.

Vancouver Catholics dug deep to raise $19 million in 2002 for victims of the Christian Brothers’ Mount Cashel orphanage to avoid selling St. Thomas More College and Vancouver College.

If protecting children and youth isn’t a priority for church leaders, parishioners should, at very least, demand they do a better job of risk management.

Complete Article HERE!