Church of England warned bishops not to apologise too fully to sex abuse victims


Bishop of Durham
The Bishop of Durham was head of safeguarding

Survivors of child sexual abuse have accused the Church of England of “acting like Pontius Pilate” as a previously unseen document revealed that bishops were explicitly instructed only to give partial apologies – if at all – to victims to avoid being sued.

Legal advice marked “strictly confidential” and circulated among the most senior bishops, told them to “express regret” only using wording approved by lawyers, PR advisers and insurers.

The guidance – written in 2007 and finally replaced just last year – also warns bishops to be wary of meeting victims face to face and only ever to do so after legal advice.

It speaks of the “unintended effect of accepting legal liability” for sexual abuse within their diocese and warns them to avoid “inadvertently” conceding guilt.

The paper, seen by The Telegraph and confirmed as genuine, advises bishops to use “careful drafting” to “effectively apologise” without enabling victims to get compensation.

oe tried to contact the Archbishop of Canterbury
Joe tried to contact the Archbishop of Canterbury

Survivors said it showed there was a culture of denial, dishonesty and “blanking” victims in ways which had heightened their pain and ultimately failed to tackle the roots of the abuse crisis.

It follows a damning independent review of the Church’s handling of sadistic abuse by Garth Moore, a priest and top canon lawyer, in the 1970s.

It highlighted how the teenager – known as “Joe” – revealed his ordeal to a string of leading clerics, three of them later ordained as bishops, who then claimed not to remember anything.

The report singled out the way in which the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, the Church’s then head of safeguarding, cut all contact with Joe, following advice from insurers, after he began legal action. The review condemned this as “reckless”.

Meanwhile Lambeth Palace brushed off around 17 requests for a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, without any “meaningful” reply, it shows.

Joe said the newly revealed document “made total sense” in light of his own experience.

“This finally exposes the culture that has been followed,” he said

“The approach to survivors is often a corporate model and this document supports that – it shows a church led by lawyers and insurers, you get the impression that these people are really their masters.

“A diocese is deferential to their bishop and the bishop is deferential to a bunch of lawyers.

“The Church will say ‘our hands are tied’ but they are paying the people who are tying their hands.

“They should say we need to stop this nonsense but they wash their hands like Pontius Pilate.

“Every part of this nexus [the bishops, the lawyers and insurers owners] washes its hands of every other part of it but the nexus is joined at the hip.”

The advice, by the Church’s top legal advisor, Stephen Slack, explains how bishops could find themselves being sued over the actions – or inaction – of their predecessors.

While accepting that they might “understandably want to express their regret”, it adds: “Because of the possibility that statements of regret might have the unintended effect of accepting legal liability for the abuse it is important that they are approved in advance by lawyers, as well as by diocesan communications officers (and, if relevant, insurers).

“With careful drafting it should be possible to express them in terms which effectively apologise for what has happened whilst at the same time avoiding any concession of legal liability for it.”

On the possibility of bishops meeting victims, it adds: “This may be the right course in some circumstances but great care will be needed to ensure that nothing is said which inadvertently concedes legal liability.”

One of Britain’s leading child abuse lawyers, David Greenwood of Switalskis, who represented Joe, said: “With Church organisations you expect a higher standard than just a legalistic approach.

“This is a naïve document, it is legalistic and doesn’t take into account the needs of survivors of child sexual abuse.

“I think this is more naivety than nastiness – but the effect definitely can be nasty.”

Richard Scorer, another leading lawyer representing more than 50 victims in the ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, said: “This confirms what we have long suspected which is that when they would offer apologies they were deliberately constructed in a way to avoid any meaningful responsibility.

“I’m sure they will be embarrassed at the language here but it reflects a reality that we have come across time and again with the churches that they will take an apologetic tone but that is combined with an unwillingness to admit responsibility.”

New guidelines produced by the Church of England in June last year effectively repudiate the earlier advice, insisting that the “pastoral response” to victims should be the top priority and must be separated from legal and insurance responses.

But it goes on to add that apologies should be discussed with insurers, communications officer and ecclesiastical lawyers.

Bishop Sarah Mullally met with Joe and apologised for the Church's handling of the case
Bishop Sarah Mullally met with Joe and apologised for the Church’s handling of the case

A Church of England spokesman said: “The Church of England published new guidance in 2015 emphasising that: ‘The pastoral response to alleged victims and survivors is of top priority, and needs to be separated as far as possible from the management processes for the situation, and from legal and insurance responses.’

“That superseded all previous advice and ensures that the pastoral needs of survivors must never be neglected and pastoral contact can continue whatever legal issues exist.”

He added: “Bishop Sarah Mullally is working closely with the National Safeguarding Team to implement the recommendations of the Elliott Review which have been fully endorsed by the House of Bishops.

“When Bishop Sarah received the review on behalf of the Church of England, as requested by the survivor, she offered an unreserved apology for the failings of the Church towards the survivor.

“Following the publication Bishop Sarah met with him and two members of MACSAS [Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors].

“This was an opportunity to apologise in person for the failings of the Church towards him and the horrific abuse he suffered.”

Complete Article HERE!

Catholics hold ‘Liturgy of Apology’ to LGBTI People

‘We wanted to make sure the event was ethical, respectful and safe for all’

(L-R) Justin Koonin, ACON President, Chris Pycroft, co-convenor NSW GLRL, Chris Pycroft, Co-Convenor, Natalie Cooper, PFLAG Secretary Organization and Father Peter Maher.
(L-R) Justin Koonin, ACON President, Chris Pycroft, co-convenor NSW GLRL, Chris Pycroft, Co-Convenor, Natalie Cooper, PFLAG Secretary Organization and Father Peter Maher.

NEWTOWN’S Catholic Church has become one of the world’s first churches to apologise to LGBTI people for the hurt caused by the action and inaction of Catholic and Christian people and churches.

In June, Pope Francis called for an apology to gay and lesbian people and St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Newtown become one of the first to respond holding a Liturgy of Apology organised by the Rainbow Catholic Interagency for Ministry on Friday.

“It was difficult to choose which personal stories to share during the liturgy; each individual’s story is so powerful, unique and precious,” Francis Voon, a Catholic organiser said.

“As organisers we wanted to make sure the event was ethical, respectful and safe for all. There are so many heartbreaking stories of our LGBTIQ siblings.

“Some have been badly hurt by us as a church community. Others we have failed completely, to the point of suicide, because of prejudice, ignorance and fear, and worse still, in God’s name.

“Tonight, with Pope Francis’ encouragement, in the name of God, we apologise for religious LGBTIQ-phobia, and we pledge to work towards healing and reconciliation in this Year of Mercy.”

One of the stories shared at the liturgy of apology was of a gay man who attempted suicided after he was forced to undergo gay conversion programs promoted by the church.

The liturgy included a symbolic Well of Tears which the congregation was invited to interact with and triggered a lot of emotion for people at the event.

“It was a powerful and raw moment of letting go and of forgiveness” said an attendee.

“I came tonight with trepidation and deep reservation having not been to church for over 20 over years, having been deeply hurt by homophobic actions and words of Catholic church leaders. I feel hope and peace. That there are many ordinary and good Catholic people working hard to hold the church accountable for the violence they have inflicted on LGBTIQ people, including LGBTIQ Catholics here and elsewhere”.

Dignitaries from various Catholic parishes and other faith communities attended the event to hear St Joseph’s parish priest Father Peter Maher issue the apology to the LGBTI community.

“I couldn’t believe the diversity of communities leaders who are here this evening for this historical ceremony, and the fact that Christian leaders actually came up to us and other LGBTIQ folks saying how sorry they are for the way by which the church has in the past and some parts that still lend support to those who wish to vilify and hurt LGBTIQ people,” Benjamin Oh, Chair of the Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry said.

Melody Gardiner from Australian Catholics for Equality said “Saying sorry is a good start. There are thousands of LGBTIQ people and families in our parishes and many more who no longer feel they belong or are welcome. The majority of Australian Catholics support and celebrate LGBTIQ people, we are their families and friends.”

“Some church leaders don’t care to hear our stories, let alone ask for forgiveness for what they have done to us. Tonight is the beginning of new possibilities for our Catholic and Christian communities here in Sydney and across Australia.

Rainbow Christians globally are watching and we hope to see other Churches and communities follow the example Liturgy of Apology we have seen tonight”.

Complete Article HERE!

Does it matter whether Archbishop John Nienstedt is gay?

By Tim Gihring


When allegations of a sex-abuse coverup began to leak out of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis a couple years ago, they were always accompanied by another, seemingly unrelated set of accusations: the bumbling attempts of Archbishop John Nienstedt, then the leader of the archdiocese, to have sex with men.

“The archbishop has been known to go ‘cruising’ (and I am not referring to the type of cruising one does on a ship in the Caribbean) and, on one occasion, purchased ‘poppers’ (and not the exploding candy preferred by elementary school students) and followed another gentleman to his car for, well, the type of activity that men purchase ‘poppers’ for…,” wrote Jennifer Haselberger, the whistleblower whose allegations prompted Nienstedt’s resignation last summer. On her website, Haselberger helpfully links to Wikipedia’s entry on poppers: basically disco-era sex drugs.

In late July, more stories of Nienstedt’s “promiscuous gay lifestyle,” as a fellow priest put it, were released by prosecutors. Most relate to his time in Detroit, where he moved up the clerical ladder in the late 1970s and ’80s. He’s said to have frequented a gay bar just across the border in Canada, whimsically called the Happy Tap.

But even if the allegations are true, it doesn’t mean that Nienstedt is sympathetic to sexual abuse — a link between homosexuality and priestly pederasty is as unproven as it is enduring. Nor does it mark Nienstedt as unusual. Catholic researchers estimate that as many as 58 percent of priests are homosexuals. To confirm that he desired men would be like discovering that the pope is Catholic.

But Nienstedt is not just any priest, of course. He staked his tenure in Minnesota fighting marriage equality — and using church money to do so. No other archbishop in the country has gone so far as to condemn the families and friends of gays and lesbians for abetting “a grave evil.”

Nienstedt, who now lives in California, writing and editing for a Catholic institute, has publicly denied that he is gay. He recently declared, as no straight guy ever has: “I am a heterosexual man who has been celibate my entire life.”

For gay Catholics, if Nienstedt does share their desires, the deceit would be heartbreaking, “a sickening level of hypocrisy,” as one described it. It may also help explain why Nienstedt not only neglected the sins of priests, but covered them up, a pattern of denial that would be hard to fathom if it were not so deeply personal.

A different era

When gay Catholics in the Twin Cities first came together, in the late 1970s, they asked to meet with then-Archbishop John Roach. They were looking for compassion and understanding, if not acceptance — and to a remarkable degree they got it.

With Roach’s blessing, the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) — an independent group of local Catholics based in St. Paul — introduced a sort of sensitivity training in parishes and in nine of the 11 local Catholic high schools. It was intended to help priests, teachers, and administrators better serve gays and lesbians, and it lasted for nearly 20 years.

“During the peak of our work,” one of the group’s co-founders told me several years ago, “we became almost mainstream.” In 1989, the archdiocese awarded its Archbishop John Ireland Award to another CPCSM co-founder for his social-justice activism on behalf of gays and lesbians.

The efforts paid off: “If it was okay to bash someone in the past, it isn’t now,” reported the director of Catholic Education and Formation Ministries in 1998. “We’re trying to teach kids what’s right.” When conservative activists objected that same year, the archdiocese defended the Safe Schools initiative.

Michael Bayly, a gay Catholic who until last year headed up the CPCSM, began compiling this history in 2009, shortly after Nienstedt became archbishop. He worried at the time that “there are some who would like to downplay or even deny such a relationship.”

But the church’s openness wasn’t limited to the Twin Cities. Bayly recalls that in 1994, when he moved to Minnesota, a bishop from Detroit came to talk with gay and lesbian Catholics on how — to quote the advertisement for the dialogue — a “wholeness in sexual expression” can be “deeply human and truly spiritual.”

In fact, Detroit was known as one of the most open-minded districts of the church. And as Nienstedt was starting out there, he was imbued with its liberal spirit.

Promoted and protected

In 1977, as the era of disco and poppers was in full swing, Nienstedt was 30, a newly minted priest in Detroit, and he became the secretary to Cardinal John Dearden, characterized by the New York Times as a “leading liberal voice in the Church.” Nienstedt himself described his mentor’s views to the Times as aligned “with the mind of the Church.”

But something changed after Dearden’s retirement in 1980, when Nienstedt went to work and study in the Vatican, which was shifting toward the neo-conservatism of the new Pope John Paul II. As a leading critic of Nienstedt has noted, the ambitious young priest saw first-hand “the changes John Paul II sought in the church and the kind of bishops whom he wanted.” When he returned to Detroit in 1985, Nienstedt’s new boss was a favorite of the pope, and, sure enough, in time Nienstedt adopted his views.

For pushing back on gays in the church, among other issues, Nienstedt would be promoted and promoted and promoted again. He would also be protected: Among the revelations in the documents unsealed last month is that the Vatican envoy to the United States quashed an investigation into Nienstedt’s homosexual activity and ordered evidence destroyed.

The evidence that exists, in the form of corroborated witness accounts, suggests that Nienstedt spent his time in Minnesota, from 2001 to 2015, living a precarious double life: indulging his homosexual tendencies, even as he railed against them.

Haselberger, who worked closely with Nienstedt in the archdiocese office as an adviser on church law, believes his proclivities help explain why he coddled abusive priests — he may have been attracted to them. And the so-called Delegate for Safe Environment, a priest overseeing child-abuse prevention in the archdiocese, came to the same conclusion about Nienstedt two years ago: being gay “affected his judgment.”

But Nienstedt’s silence protected far more priests than he could have known or been attracted to — dozens across Minnesota. And aside from suspicions of a relationship with one of the most notorious, Curtis Wehmeyer, his intervention — or lack of it — appears less about personal favor and more about institutional preservation. He saw sin, and looked the other way.

Instead, the deal that Nienstedt long ago made for the benefit of his career — to follow the church into conservatism — now seems a kind of ecclesiastical quid pro quo: if he covered for the sins of the church, the church would cover for his. The internal investigation of him, reportedly quashed by the Vatican, had been his idea — he was that confident that his name would be cleared.

But the deal may also have been a trap. By closing the door to homosexuality, marking its expression as the work of Satan and the most aberrant of sins, Nienstedt had nowhere to go with his own desires. He left himself no way out.

At the end, as multiple investigations closed in, Nienstedt still stuck to the pattern, claiming both that he was unaware of abusers under his watch and that any accusations of homosexuality were merely retaliation for his anti-gay policies. He had no choice but to double down on denial.

Complete Article HERE!

Southern Africans Set to Test Anglican Ban on Same-Sex Unions

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra

The province is scheduled to vote on gay clergy and blessing civil unions.

Archbishop of the Anglican Church Thabo Makgoba (right) with former South African presidents Kgalema Motlanthe and Thabo Mbeki in 2013.
Archbishop of the Anglican Church Thabo Makgoba (right) with former South African presidents Kgalema Motlanthe and Thabo Mbeki in 2013.

When the global Anglican Communion censored the Episcopal Church in the United States for redefining marriage eight months ago, it warned that similar actions would be applied to other provinces “when any unilateral decisions on matters of doctrine and polity are taken that threaten our unity.”

Next month, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) may toe up against that line.

The ACSA—which includes South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Angola—won’t allow clergy to marry same-sex couples like the Episcopal Church did, but it announced this week that when its provincial synod meets next month, the province will consider blessing same-sex civil unions and allowing clergy in legal same-sex civil unions.

“The motion … proposes that any bishop of the church who wishes to do so may make provision for her or his clergy to provide pastoral care to those who identify as LGBTI,” stated Thabo Makgoba, archbishop of Cape Town and primate of Southern Africa.

More controversially, the motion also proposes that clergy who identify as LGBTI and are in legal same-sex civil unions should be licensed to minister in our parishes. It also suggests that “prayers of blessing” should be able to be offered for those in same-sex civil unions. However, it specifically rules out the possibility of marriage under church law.

The proposal comes with a caveat. “Any cleric unwilling to take part in providing pastoral care to people who identify as LGBTI shall not be obliged to do so,” Makgoba stated.

The Episcopal Church’s 2015 decision on same-sex marriage resulted in the church being barred from Anglican committees and other decision-making for three years.

South Africa legalized same-sex marriage early—in 2006, the second country outside of Europe to do so. It’s the only African country so far to allow it.

Anglicans have remained behind. In 2004, Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu said in a sermon that “to discriminate against our sisters and brothers who are lesbian or gay on grounds of their sexual orientation for me is as totally unacceptable and unjust as apartheid ever was.”

Several clergy have come out as gay to their congregations.

And when Tutu’s daughter, Mpho Tutu van Furth, lost her license as an Anglican priest this summer after she married her same-sex partner in late 2015, her bishop told The Telegraph he hoped it would be short-lived.

“When I married my wife prejudice slammed a door of opportunity in my face,” she wrote in an email to News24. “With this proposal we are ‘rattling the hinges.’”

But the ACSA covers more than South Africa, and Anglicans in neighboring countries are outspokenly opposed to same-sex marriage. Several African church leaders threatened to leave January’s Anglican Communion meeting if Canadian and American provinces weren’t disciplined for their acceptance of same-sex marriage. (The Canadians weren’t disciplined, since they had not yet officially accepted same-sex marriage. This summer, after a voting count scandal, they did.)

One African primate, Stanley Ntagali of Uganda, did walk out, signaling his unhappiness with the length of time it was taking to sanction the American church. Other African bishops were vocal in their support for its suspension.

In other global denominations, African contingents have also resisted same-sex marriage. The United Methodist Church’s decision to skip a vote on whether to allow gay marriage during this summer’s annual convention was strongly influenced by conservative African delegates.

The ACSA motion is bolder than one agreed upon back in February, which aimed to preserve church unity. In it, bishops agreed to accept same-sex congregants as full members but not bless same-sex unions or permit clergy to enter them.

The bishops then “were not of one mind” regarding blessing unions or allowing same-sex clergy, Makgoba wrote in an open letter to the church.

But Makgoba said he was “absolutely determined” that the church in southern Africa “should build on our history of refusing to allow our differences to separate us, and that we should continue to work patiently through them together. We overcame deep differences over the imposition of sanctions against apartheid and over the ordination of women, and we can do the same over human sexuality.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called for a “new way of being in communion” as he works to balance the tension between African conservatives and the liberal-leaning church in Europe and America.

Complete Article HERE!

Stockton monsignor sued for alleged sexual harassment, retaliation

Monsignor Larry McGovern


A Stockton monsignor is being sued for alleged sexual harassment and retaliation.

A pool maintenance contractor claims Monsignor Larry McGovern, with the Stockton Church of the Presentation, sent sexually explicit photographs of his genitals and fired the contractor after the victim reported the incident.

“This is a classic case of sexual harassment and retaliation,” said the victim’s attorney John Manly in a press release. “Monsignor McGovern texted a graphic photograph of his naked genitalia to my client, then terminated his employment after my client reported the lewd photo to the police. This would be a clear violation of the law by any employer but it is even more disturbing when committed by a member of the clergy.”

The lawsuit states the incident happened on July 26 and claims when the victim asked why McGovern sent the photo and if the monsignor was supposed to be celibate, McGovern responded with “celibate means not married…”

The lawsuit also claims McGovern was a key witness in several other sexual harassment lawsuits involving Father Oliver O’ Grady, who allegedly molested and abused at least 25 children, and Father Michael Kelly who allegedly molested an alter boy in the 1980’s.

“Monsignor McGovern was a witness and denied knowing of any sexual improprieties by Father Kelly and Father O’Grady, despite living with them in the rectory for years and contrary to victim statements. It is sad but not surprising that he now stands accused of sexual misconduct,” said the victims’ attorney Vince W. Finaldi.

The Diocese of Stockton responded to the allegations with the following statement:

Today the Diocese of Stockton learned for the first time of employment related allegations against Monsignor Lawrence McGovern, the Pastor of Presentation Parish in Stockton. In accordance with the Canon Law of the Church, Bishop Stephen Blaire has placed Monsignor McGovern on administrative leave pending a full and complete investigation.

Complete Article HERE!