Jury finds priest guilty in molestation case


After a two-day trial and two hours of deliberations, a Meade County jury found Louisville Catholic priest Joseph Hemmerle guilty Tuesday of one count related to sexually molesting a young boy in a summer camp in the 1970s.

Hemmerle, 74, a former Trinity High School teacher, was convicted on one of two counts of immoral or indecent practices with a child following his 2014 indictment on charges of sex abuse and sodomy.

Rev. Joseph Hemmerle
Rev. Joseph Hemmerle

His accuser, Michael Norris, 53, of Texas, had testified that at Camp Tall Trees near Otter Creek Park in 1973, Hemmerle told him to report to his cabin one night to treat poison ivy. Hemmerle told him to strip and stand on a stool before touching him sexually with his hands and mouth, he said.

After the jury foreman read the verdict after 5 p.m. Tuesday, Norris broke out in tears and sobs as he hugged family members who came out to support him, including his mother and wife. Hemmerle just stared straight ahead.

“I feel vindicated,” Norris said, noting it had been 15 years since he first reported it to the church and police. “That jury had the same evidence that the Catholic church had in 2001.”

Norris alerted the archdiocese and Kentucky State Police in 2001 of the incident, but no charges were brought until another accuser from the camp came forward in 2014. His name hasn’t been made public but that trial is set for next April.

In closing arguments in a case that largely boiled down to Norris’ word against Hemmerle’s, defense attorney David Lambertus tried to paint Norris as an attention-seeker who had concocted the story. He said adult oversight at the camp made his story unlikely.

“He was starved for attention,” he said. “He’s gotten plenty out of this.”

But prosecutors noted that Hemmerle admitted to applying poison ivy lotion to some boys genitals, and said Norris had no motivation other than justice for coming forward after “years of suffering.”

“What does he have to gain from telling his story other than getting to the truth?” said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jeremy Logsdon.

Camp Tall Trees in Otter Creek Park, run by the Archdiocese of Louisville until 2002. Hemmerle was a director at the camp from 1970 to 2001.

Earlier Tuesday, Lambertus called a half dozen witnesses including former counselors who said children were closely monitored. They weren’t allowed to walk around unaccompanied in the evening except to go to the latrine or an activity. But none had direct knowledge or supervision of Norris.

Those testifying included former Kentucky Lt. Gov. Steve Pence, now an attorney who worked as a counselor at Camp Tall Trees in 1973, the year Norris said the abuse took place.

“Kids were not simply allowed to roam in the evenings,” he said.

Hemmerle, wearing a sweater and eyeglasses, took the stand after 11 a.m.  He told the jury that he didn’t have his own cabin, as Norris had contended, but rather had a room in an administration building. He said he sometimes treated boys with poison ivy, including putting medical lotion on their genitals, but in the infirmary and always asking permission first.

“Do you want to put the Calamine lotion on or do you want me to do it,” he said he’d ask them.

He said he didn’t remember Norris. Asked if he did anything improper with Norris, he said, “No. Absolutely not. There is no doubt in my mind at all.”

Logsdon said Norris’ recollection “isn’t stuff you make up,” and said that “even in the 1970s, you’re not going to touch someone else’s kid’s genitals. It’s not appropriate whatsoever.”

Norris did not join the slew of plaintiffs who sued the archdiocese in the early 2000s, alleging sexual abuse by dozens of priests. The archdiocese settled a class action lawsuit with 243 plaintiffs in 2003 for more than $25 million.

David Clohessy, director of SNAP, a support group for victims of clergy abuse, issued a statement praising the men for coming forward and for prosecutors taking on the cases. His groups urged others with information about such abuse to come forward, acknowledging it takes “real courage.”

“Child sex abuse cases are very hard. They’re even harder when defendants are well-educated priests backed by powerful church officials,” he said.

Hemmerle, a native of the California neighborhood who attended the old St. Benedict Catholic Elementary School, taught religion at Trinity after his ordination in 1967, the Courier-Journal reported in 2002. He also coached wrestling and track teams, and directed the now-closed boys’ camp from 1971 until about 2001.

Since 2003, after being allowed to return to the ministry following the first accusation, Hemmerle has served as pastor of Holy Cross and St. Francis of Assisi, both near Loretto, Ky., archdiocese officials said. He was put on leave but said in court he had retired.

In the sentencing phase that came after the verdict, the jury recommended seven years, though prosecutors said a single count could carry as many as 10 years in prison. Hemmerle was released on bond pending a final sentencing hearing on Feb. 9.

Complete Article HERE!

Man denied singing at grandmother’s funeral because of ‘gay lifestyle’


A man from Indiana said a priest told him he wasn’t allowed to sing at his grandmother’s funeral because he attended a gay pride rally. The whole thing stemmed from a picture shared on Conner Hakes Facebook page, which was uploaded by a friend last year.

Hakes said he and his family have been longtime members of St. Mary’s of the Assumption Catholic Church in Decatur. His grandmother lived nearby, and generations before her have been a part of this church.

So when his Grandmother passed away last Monday, Hakes contacted the church Tuesday to get permission to sing at her funeral. Father Bob J. Lengerich denied that request, concerned that he was His concern was living a same-sex life and openly advocating for LGBT rights.

“This Priest had judged me and really formed an opinion about me without ever communicating with me,” said Hakes.

Hakes maintains that Lengerich never came to him to discuss if he was participating in a gay lifestyle or not, and said he sang numerous times for the congregation previously.

However, a letter states that if Hakes were to sing at the funeral, that would scandalize the church and the congregation. The letter goes on to say that any person who serves in the church or as a representative of the church must uphold the church’s values.

“This was coming from a man, a priest out of my home Parish that I have always felt very loved and welcomed in,” said Hakes. “All of he sudden I felt very ostracized.”

The letter explained that Catholic Church forbids people who defy the rules of the church, including people who are divorced and remarried without having the marriage annulled, those who support abortion rights, and openly participate in unchaste same-sex relationships.

Lengerich said that Hakes is allowed to honor his grandmother with a tribute song, only if it is outside of the Mass and outside of the church.

“It was very clear to me that he was very set in his mindset,” said Hakes. “He did not want me to participate in my grandmothers funeral.”

me thinks she doth protest too much...Father Bob J. Lengerich
me thinks she doth protest too much…Father Bob J. Lengerich

Hakes took his frustration to social media; posting the letter and condemning it’s message. It was shared nearly 850 times with more than 420 comments. Hakes said he doesn’t blame the church members for what happened, but he prays that Father Lengerich will change his ways.

“I pray honestly for the softening of his heart and that he becomes a better leader for the Catholic Church,” he said.

In the meantime, St. Mary’s Parish issued this statement:

Having become aware of the painful situation at Saint Mary’s Parish in Decatur, the diocese is working on fostering healing and reconciliation between the pastor and the Hakes family. We encourage all to move forward with genuine Christian love and mercy and with respect and prayer for one another.”

Hakes and his family has filed a formal complaint with leaders of the Diocese. His family is planning to meet with leaders there.

Complete Article HERE!

Nine Guam priests with sex abuse allegations

By Haidee V Eugenio


Another Guam law firm is reaching out to those who were sexually abused by clergy as children.

Gov. Eddie Calvo recently signed a law, lifting the statute of limitations on civil suits against those accused of sexually abusing children, as well as the institutions that supported them. The new law is in response to allegations by former altar boys who said they were sexually abused by Guam clergy decades ago. Among those accused was Archbishop Anthony Apuron, who was a parish priest in Agat in the 1970s.

The first Guam law firm to file lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Agana and its priests is Lujan & Wolff LLP, which has so far filed nine lawsuits on behalf of seven former altar boys and former Boy Scouts. Attorney David Lujan said more lawsuits will be filed in the weeks ahead, and the defendants include institutions other than the Catholic church.

Lujan’s clients have alleged abuse by Apuron and former Guam priest Louis Brouillard, who has admitted to abusing altar boys decades ago.

The law office of Dooley Roberts Fowler & Visosky LLP,  said it has teamed up with mainland-based lawyers who have experience representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse, including abuse by Catholic priests. The law firm said it will maintain the confidentiality of its clients as much as possible.

“A number of Catholic priests who served in Guam have been the subject of allegations of child sexual abuse. Some of the allegations date back many years, while others have been made more recently, after Guam changed its statute of limitations to make it easier for abuse survivors to come forward and seek redress for what they endured,” the law firm stated.

It is likely that lawsuits, according to the law firm, will force the Archdiocese of Agana to disclose any information it has regarding these allegations, including whether people posed a danger to children, and if so, whether the archdiocese failed to take reasonable steps to protect children from them.

The Archdiocese of Agana has repeatedly apologized to victims of clergy sex abuse and offers prayers to them.

List of priests

Dooley Roberts Fowler & Visosky issued a list of Guam clergy who already have been publicly accused of abuse, along with a brief explanation of where they worked.

  • Andrew Mannetta. He first came to Guam in 1980, and was ordained into the priesthood in May 1983. He served at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Agat, and also was assigned to San Miguel Church in Talofofo and Santa Teresita Catholic Church in Mangilao. In 2003, a lawsuit filed against Mannetta claimed that he sexually abused a child from 1997 to 2001 while he was a pastor of Saint Elizabeth Church in Aiea, Hawaii. Other public accusations claimed that Mannetta sexually abused two altar boys in 1994 and another youth between 1997-1998.
  • Antonio C. Cruz. In September 2016, a former altar boy, Ramon Afaisen De Plata, 62, publicly claimed he saw Cruz sexually abuse an altar boy in Chalan Pago in 1964. Cruz was assigned to Our Lady of Peace and Safe Journey Church in Chalan Pago after its dedication in 1959. He also serves at the Saint Anthony and Saint Victor Church in Tamuning. Cruz died in November 1986 at the age of 62.
  • Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron. Starting in May 2016, former altar boys accused Apuron of sexual abuse in the 1970s when he was parish priest at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Agat. Apuron is facing a canonical trial at the Vatican over the allegations, and Pope Francis has already named his successor. Apuron has denied all allegations.
  • Gale Leifeld. Leifeld was accused of sexually abusing students at St. Lawrence Seminary in Wisconsin. According to BishopAccountability.org, Leifeld is said to have sexually abused at least several dozen St. Lawrence Seminary students. One of the men claimed that Leifeld often spoke about the time he spent on Guam. Leifeld died in June 1994.
  • John H. Wadeson. Wadeson was publicly accused of abusing children between 1973 and 1977 while he was serving in Los Angeles. In 2004, Wadeson was included on a list of priests accused of sexual abuse by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In 2014, it was discovered that Wadeson was working as a priest on Guam, from 2000 until 2014.
  • John Hugh Sutton. He worked on Guam from 1971 until about 1975 at Father Duenas Memorial School and Seminary in Mangilao. Between 2014 and 2015, a lawsuit claimed Sutton sexually abused a student while he was a teacher at Notre Dame Middle-High School in Wichita Falls, Texas. Sutton died on Sept. 11, 2004. In September 2016, a Dallas-based law firm reached out to anyone who had information about Sutton.
  • Louis A. Brouillard. Brouillard’s first public admission of sexually abusing boys was through a phone interview with Pacific Daily News in August, a few days after a former altar boy publicly accused Brouillard of molesting him in 1956. Since then, Brouillard talked to other media and signed a statement in support of a lawsuit against him. Brouillard said he sexually molested at least 20 boys on Guam. He was ordained as a priest on Guam in 1948 and served on island until about 1985. He taught at the San Vicente and Father Duenas Memorial School, and was scout master for the Boy Scouts of America on Guam in the 1970s. The Archdiocese of Agana has apologized at least three times to Brouillard’s alleged victims.
  • Randolph “Randy” Nowak. He served at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Agat between 1982 and 2005. His other assignments included Honolulu in 1989. In 2010, Nowak was publicly accused of sexually abusing a minor between 1961 and 1966 at Saint Mary’s Seminary in Glenclyffe, New York.
  • Raymond Cepeda. In 2010, the Archdiocese of Agana confirmed that Cepeda was removed from priesthood after it investigated allegations of sexual abuse against Cepeda. He served at Santa Barbara Church in Dededo and the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña.

Complete Article HERE!

Trump, White U.S. Catholicism, and the Fate of God’s Creation

By Marian Ronan


In a blog posted soon after the presidential election, I argued that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops colluded in the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency. But that’s not all there is to Catholic collusion in the Trump phenomenon, not by a long shot.

In a preliminary analysis published on November 9, the Pew Research Center reported that 52% of U.S. Catholics voted for Trump.  But 60 percent of white Catholics voted for Trump. And while only 26% of Latinx Catholics voted for him—67% went for Clinton—the percentage of Latinx voters going for Clinton was an 8% decline over the percentage that went for Obama in 2012. This was another component of the Trump victory

And when we examine the individuals central to Trump’s campaign, the picture is no less disheartening.   Though I could find nothing about her current religious affiliation, if she has any,  Trump’s campaign manager and current top advisor, KellyAnne Conway (née Fitzgerald) graduated from a Catholic high school and from Trinity College, once a leading Catholic women’s college.

Then there’s Steve Bannon, the former head of the Breitbart News, an unambiguously  anti-semitic, white nationalist news site, and soon to be Trump’s chief counsel in the White House. Bannon is a Catholic. In a talk he delivered at the Vatican on June 27, 2014, sponsored by the Institute for Human Dignity, he spoke of “a crisis both of our Church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.” The U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has also recently assured us of Donald Trump’s Christian values, arranged to have Bannon speak at the Vatican conference.

Then there is Paul Ryan. An article I read recently—God knows where— argued that we should be more worried about Reince Priebus, Trump’s soon-to-be chief of staff,  than Steve Bannon. Why? Because Priebus will ultimately be more influential than Bannon—having major impact of administration hires, for example. And he is totally on board with Paul Ryan’s campaign to eviscerate the social safety net. And what’s Ryan’s religious affiliation? Roman Catholic, of course. At least the U.S Catholic Bishops did call him out for the cuts to social programs he proposed during the 2012 election, something they hardly did at all with regard to Trump’s threats during the 2016 campaign.

Now this is by no means the first time in U.S. history that white Catholics, and their bishops, have come down on the wrong side of pivotal ethical issues. In his recent book American Jesuits and the World, the distinguished scholar of U.S. Catholicism, John McGreevy, documents how the American church, and the Jesuits, were strongly pro-slavery for a stunningly long time. I believe the church called slavery “just servitude.”

And in the 1950s, the Catholic press, and the highly influential archbishop of New York,  Francis Cardinal Spellman, strongly backed anti-Communist and anti-gay “witch-hunts” by the Catholic senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy was eventually censured by the U.S. Senate, and died, probably of alcoholism, in 1957.

But the support of slavery and of Senator McCarthy by American Catholics and the U.S. bishops pales in significance beside their support of Donald Trump. This is so because Trump is a complete climate change denier, pledged to roll back President Obama’s already inadequate climate change initiatives, and restore the fossil fuel industry. And he has already appointed a “notorious climate change denier” and “head of a coal industry funded think tank,” Myron Ebell, to lead the transition at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Some may think this is no more significant than the threat Trump poses to Muslims and undocumented immigrants. But as an editorial in this week’s issue of The Nation argues compellingly, climate change is the “worst crisis that human beings have ever faced.” And as the U.S. Catholics who voted for Trump, and those who work for him, and the bishops well know, this is an increasingly irreversible crisis that the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has called out emphatically in an encyclical, the primary teaching instrument of the Catholic Church.

But who cares about that? What really matters to the majority of white U.S. Catholics,  a minority of Latinx Catholics, and the vast majority of the U.S. Catholic bishops, is the “right to life.” And everybody knows that the environment, God’s creation, has nothing to do with life.

Complete Article HERE!

Why nuns are silent about sexual abuse within the Catholic church in India: It’s never taken seriously


“If it comes out, it will be like a tsunami,” the nun Manju Kulapuram said, earlier this year, about the rampant sexual abuse of women by the men of the Catholic church in India. Evidently, Kulapuram was onto something — and it’s across denominations, nor confined just to the Catholic church. Unlike other work places, which in theory are meant to have set up mandatory internal complaints committees, there is no formal institution in place that addresses sexual abuse inflicted by members of the clergy.

On 14 November, a woman based in Kozhikode registered a police complaint about a parish priest in Nadakkavu St Mary’s English Church. She alleged that he sexually harassed her over email and messages after she contacted him with a request to pray for her daughter on her birthday in August. She complained to the bishop at the Malabar Diocese of the Church of South India, even showing him copies of the interactions with the priest, but was not taken seriously: the bishop said there were plenty of other churches in Kozhikode that she could attend. Although the priest was briefly transferred to Nilambur in September, he was back at Nadakkavu in just over a month. It was only after she contacted the police through Anweshi, a women’s counselling centre that a case was registered and the priest was charged under Section 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman).

nuns-ptiNumerous cases have not made it that far. A 2016 report suggested that when higher-ups of the church are alerted to these incidents, they often choose to either ignore them or, at the most, transfer the perpetrator. Sr. Kulapuram says that a fellow nun was videotaped while bathing, by a seminarian, while they were both attending a seminar away from home; she was dissuaded from pursuing the legal route and told that she’d get justice from the church. This never materialised — the priest was sent to Rome to continue his theological studies, and the victim abandoned religious life altogether. A version of the familiar promotion-for-accused and demotion-for-victim model.

Things may have changed since the 1950s, when fellow priests are said to have advised Reverend Louis Brouillard, a serial child molestor in Guam, to do regular penance instead of stopping him. But abusers still tend to get off with minimal official punishment.

A case in point is the apparent reinduction of a convicted child molestor, Father Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, into the Roman Catholic Church of South India in January. One of his victims from Minnesota says that she was 14 when he first raped her in his parish office, and during the year-long period of abuse, he forced her to say that she contributed to his becoming impure. Although Jeyapaul was sentenced to one year of prison in Minnesota, where he had been posted previously, in 2015, he served a shorter prison term under the condition that he would not return to work that kept him in contact with children. When he returned to India, a bishop lifted the five-year-old suspension, apparently in consultation with Rome.

This August, Shanthi Roselin took on the Catholic church after an investigation into the murder of her 17-year-old daughter by a Walayar priest in Kovai, Tamil Nadu, three years ago, revealed that church authorities were very much aware of her having been sexually assaulted. Strangely enough, they reported it to Rome while hiding the information from the local police. A report in The Indian Express describes Roselin reiterating how unfathomable the priest’s breach of trust was by stating repeatedly, “He was our God”. The police finally arrested five Catholic priests associated with the intentional omission of crucial information about the girl. But the leniency and the long delays give perpetrators ample time to threaten their victims. This was frighteningly apparent in a case where a Catholic priest in Kerala, who had abused a man for over a year, had his brothers intimidate the victim with death threats and demand that he withdraw his complaint to Church authorities.

Another in-depth study of sexual abuse by the clergy cited Virginia Saldanha, who had worked for years with the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, and said that the frequent cry about sexual assault complaints being dealt with ‘in-house’ really meant that the victim would be harried.

Shalini Mulackal, the first female president of the Indian Theological Association, confirms, is that nuns rarely disclose incidents because of the surrounding taboo

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India announced in August that it was going to draft a policy after a letter from the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, an advocacy group for religious women, told them that the number of cases of sexual abuse were increasing. Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, the secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said the tentative title was ‘Policy on Sexual Harassment in Work Places’, suggesting it would mirror the policies used in other work places. He was vague about the contents of the draft, but insisted it would address sexual harassment in the Church “systematically and comprehensively”.

Others have rather less faith in the glacial pace or trajectory of the Catholic Church. Because the Lord may move in mysterious ways. In September, Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, the head of a Christian women’s collective, argued at a meeting of Christian women’s groups in Hyderabad, that individuals should move outside the Catholic Church and follow the law. The meeting ended with the decision to start a legal subcommittee under the Indian Christian Women’s Movement to record cases of harassment and assault, provide counseling for victims and introduce new protocols for dealing with sexual abuse.

In 2015, Spotlight took to the big screen the real-life cover-up of decades-long child abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Boston. When the film was released, the Boston archdiocese told the media that there is “zero abuse” taking place today — sounding about as believable as the statement made in April this year by Philemon Doss, the president of the Conference of Diocesan Priests of India: “In India, it [child sex abuse] is not very rampant, maybe in foreign countries [it is].”

That the Vatican formally created a church tribunal for addressing and holding accountable bishops who were involved in cover-ups of sexual assault only in 2015 is appalling. Perhaps the guidelines for tackling sexual abuse that were formulated by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in late September will resemble the policies used by other workplaces. But the situation at the moment, as Shalini Mulackal, the first female president of the Indian Theological Association, confirms, is that nuns rarely disclose incidents because of the surrounding taboo. When they do, the bishops in charge don’t do much besides transferring the priest accused of sexual abuse or offer him counselling. Or send them on a Roman Holiday.

Complete Article HERE!