Gone but not forgotten

— Months later, former Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika is threatening priests

Bishop Richard F. Stika waves to the congregation during his during his episcopal ordination March 19 at the Knoxville, Tenn., convention center. Bishop Stika, a St. Louis native, is the third bishop to lead the Diocese of Knoxville, which was founded in 1988 and is home to almost 60,000 Catholics.. At left is principal consecrator Cardinal Justin F. Rigali of Philadelphia.

by Tyler Whetstone

Though he hasn’t been employed by the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville for nearly a year, former Bishop Richard Stika continues to make his presence felt, contacting whistleblowers directly with threats of a lawsuit, including one who is a key witness in the sexual assault lawsuit against the church.

That lawsuit was filed by a former diocesan employee who alleges a former diocesan seminarian raped him and details how the diocese, led by Stika, interfered with the investigation and worked to discredit him. Knox News independently verified the interference, which led to the firing of an independent investigator.

As complaints about Stika’s leadership and handling of allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct piled up in the diocese, the bishop offered his resignation and it was accepted by Pope Francis in June 2023.

But Stika has continued to try to assert control over some of the priests in the Knoxville diocese. He sent a text message recently, for instance, to three priests, including the Rev. Brent Shelton, who left Knoxville in April 2023 after he was told he was being reassigned, a move church watchdogs viewed as retaliation.

Shelton recently filed a formal complaint against the diocese’s attorney with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, which polices attorney conduct.

Know News is not naming the other recipients of Stika’s message because they are constrained by church authorities from talking to the media and were unwilling to discuss the message.

“Happy Spy Wednesday,” reads the opening of the text.

“And it all started with (name of priest Knox News is not identifying)! I will never understand how anyone could be so hateful to destroy the ministry of any cleric and in (name of priest Knox News is not identifying)’s case to bring a former seminarian to the point of suicide. It is all documented, my attorneys are ready and the information will be shared with my successor.”

Shelton said Stika’s messages are both threatening and intimidating.

“If bishops keep getting away with threatening and retaliating against whistleblowers, I’m afraid children and vulnerable adults will never be safe in the Church,” he told Knox News in an email. “The diocese needs to move forward, but we cannot do that if priests must live under the shadow of threats like these from the man we looked up to as our spiritual father for over a decade.”

Stika responded to questions from Knox News by text message and denied his messages to priests were threatening.

“Did not threaten at all. Just informed them about a possible lawsuit but I have decided not to include them in a lawsuit,” he said. “I have developed some additional heart issues over the last months and decided it is not worth it. I have moved on. I am retired. Plus, I have not found you to present anything that is balanced.”

The most recent messages were sent March 27, and Knox News viewed them. Shelton sent a list of questions to the diocese about the messages April 1 and 10 days later he received a “good faith” response acknowledging the questions from Louisville Archbishop Shelton Fabre, who is acting as the apostolic administrator until a new bishop is named.

The perception of some priests that Stika is threatening them is similar behavior they and others flagged during his years in Knoxville.

In a 2023 court filing, for example, Stika admitted he told a room full of priests that the man who says he was raped by the former seminarian was actually the predator, not the other way around. He also admitted to telling a separate group of priests that the man groomed the seminarian accused of rape.

Former Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika, who is a named defendant in a lawsuit alleging he helped cover up sexual assault of a former seminarian, sent messages to priests in the diocese, at least one of whom is a key witness.

“I’m sad but not surprised,” David Clohessy, former national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, wrote in an email. “This sometimes happens when church officials let a bad bishop quietly slink away without disciplining or defrocking him.”

Is it Witness intimidation?

Mitchell Garabedian, a world-renowned clergy sex abuse attorney whose work helped break open the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal in Boston in the early 2000s, told Knox News Stika is potentially tampering with witnesses in the lawsuit that names him among the defendants.

“The question is (was) he intimidating the witness,” Garabedian said. “If he is intimidating the witness, then the judge in the case will look at what was said and whether the witness was intimated and decide what sanctions should be brought against Stika.

“Witness intimidation can turn into a criminal matter if it is found the witness is being intimidated and being influenced by a person.”

He went on to say Stika’s messages are unusual but not unprecedented. Typically, those types of messages are kept within secret church files.

“It sounds like bishop Stika is still a powerful person within the church who might be trying to influence the outcome of the case,” he said.

Attorney Patrick Thronson, who represents the man who filed the lawsuit that names Stika, declined to comment about whether he thought the former bishop is tampering with witnesses, but he did say he plans to take up Stika’s messages with the court.

Complete Article HERE!

The Changing Face of Conversion Therapy


When I was a teenager in the early aughts, conversion therapists reigned supreme in evangelical Christian spaces, spewing pseudo-scientific techniques as a supposed “remedy” for LGBTQ identities. Growing up in the Seventh-day Adventist church and school system, LGBTQ identities were vilified and demonized at the pulpit and in our classrooms. The answer to our sexualities, according to the church, was to deny ourselves love or a partner, stay celibate, or to work on “changing” our sexuality so that we were no longer queer. There were groups and conferences with self-proclaimed “ex-gay” speakers providing testimonies about how they “overcame” their sexuality and therapists eager to “help” others pursue the same path.

According to a Williams Institute report, 7% of LGB adults ages 18 to 59 in the United States have undergone conversion therapy. About 81% of those individuals were in “therapy” with religious leaders, which heightened suicidal thoughts and ideation in comparison to LGB people who have not gone through conversion “therapy” practices. Across the globe, these numbers fluctuate between 2% all the way up to 34% of LGBTQ+ people having undergone conversion practices.

By the mid-2010s, these groups and their influence began to dwindle as national organizations like Exodus International, one of the longest-running and largest ex-gay organizations, shuttered its doors after 37 years, admitting that not only did conversion or reparative therapy not work, it was harmful to the LGBTQ people subjected to it. Former Exodus International President Alan Chambers said: “I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change,” admitting his own attractions to men had not gone away, despite being married to a woman and having children.

The closing of Exodus International signaled the end of a decades-long push for ex-gay therapy, or so it would seem. But in recent years, as legislation has passed across the country to ban conversion therapy for youth, a new push for so-called “change therapy” has re-emerged with the same flawed premise and tactics of the ex-gays of old. A group called Changed Movement, formed in response to legislation banning conversion therapy in California, is one such group using new language to promote the same-old conversion therapy.

Conversion or reparative therapy, loosely defined, is any attempt to influence and change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Often, these counselors blame trauma or violence, family dynamics, or your upbringing as the root of the deviant sexuality or gender identity. Changed Movement shares stories of individuals blaming these roots as the cause of their sexuality or gender. This assertion is false and only serves to shame the individual, often for reasons beyond their control. Importantly, ex-gay groups like the Changed Movement do not seem to reckon with the fluidity of sexuality and gender and, as proponents of this ideology typically do, seemingly view things as either gay or straight, trans or cisgender.

Leading medical and psychiatric associations have condemned conversion practices as pseudo-scientific, ineffective, and harmful to the person undergoing them. Still, groups like Changed Movement have reemerged, using religious language to promote change therapies.

“It is very difficult to stop all conversion therapy from happening for several reasons. One is that legislation is a powerful tool. We’ve made very good progress, with about half the states now having passed laws that prohibit licensed therapists from engaging in conversion practices. I hate to call it therapy,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), who, through its Born Perfect campaign, has successfully litigated conversion therapy bans. “But that’s only a part of the picture. Those laws don’t do anything to stop people who are engaging in it, such as religious counselors. Which is a very big chunk of what goes on.”

Conversion therapy efforts adapt their language to evade laws, Minter said, making it difficult to stop.

“What will happen is these counselors and therapists become very good — every move we make, they have a counter move — which is repackaging what they’re doing with new terminology, always trying to make it sound like something benign. Always trying to make it sound like something harmless,” Minter said. “The only remedy we really have is to educate parents.”

In a report by the Trevor Project, researchers found at least 1,320 conversion therapy practitioners in almost all 50 states, including states with active conversion therapy bans for minors. Almost half of those counselors are unlicensed, and most are attached to some sort of religious ministry. While couching their language and pretending to be there to help LGBTQ people, the danger of these groups and practitioners cannot be understated.

Recently, an ex-gay group called Coming Out Ministries bought a building across from my alma mater, Andrews University, a Seventh-day Adventist University, intending to “work closely” with the university on LGBTQ issues “from a redemptive perspective.” Groups like Changed Movement and Coming Out Ministries see LGBTQ young people’s identities as “confusion” instead of who they are intrinsically. Their ideology stems from a theological understanding of sexuality that does not take into account science or the world as it exists around them. Anti-LGBTQ theology fuels conversion therapy, and it’s not only flawed but also inherently harmful and violent.

As a queer person of faith, I reject theology and religious practices that cause harm, as it is not from God. The history and devastating impacts of ex-gay practices are clear in the irreparable damage it has caused to large swathes of the LGBTQ community raised in religious settings. The re-emergence of ex-gay groups, however covertly or obscure in language they may be, is an alarming and dangerous trend. More must be done to stop these groups, and it’s not going to be solely via the courts. It will take communities denouncing any and all change practices as not only ineffective but dangerous to young people — and in some cases, it’s a matter of life or death.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Parishes Disproportionately Closed in Poor, Black and Latino Neighborhoods

The Rev. Athanasius Abanulo celebrates Mass at Holy Family Catholic Church in Lanett, Ala., on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. Originally from Nigeria, Abanulo is one of numerous international clergy helping ease a U.S. priest shortage by serving in Catholic dioceses across the country.

By Aleja Hertzler-McCain

While the number of U.S. Catholics is increasing, the total number of Catholic parishes nationwide declined 9% between 1970 and 2020, according to a new report by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.

In 10 of the 11 dioceses studied, those closures are disproportionately happening in Black and Latino neighborhoods and neighborhoods with higher poverty and unemployment.

The total number of American Catholics increased by 46% in the half-century before 2020, though the study’s researchers provided the context that the overall population increased 65% in those same years, meaning Catholics are a smaller proportion of the population.

The total number of priests, meanwhile, declined by 40%. The shortage of priests has played a significant role in the decisions to close parishes. Bishops announcing parish closures or consolidation repeatedly cite fewer and aging priests and low Mass attendance in decisions that typically receive pushback from their flocks.

Religious orders, like the Jesuits, have also announced plans to pull out of parish ministry because of few priests, ending longtime relationships with local parishes.

FutureChurch, a Catholic nonprofit that advocates for access to the Eucharist and reforms to the church, including married priests, commissioned the 759-page CARA report.

Parish size has grown by 60% since 1970, according to the report.

The CARA report notes that sacraments, including baptisms, Catholic marriages and Catholic funerals, have all declined. A deacon can also perform these sacraments, but there are fewer deacons than priests in the U.S.

Between 1970 and 2020, baptisms declined 57%, Catholic marriages declined 78%, and Catholic funerals declined 14%.

The report studied 11 dioceses: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archdiocese of Chicago, Archdiocese of Detroit, Archdiocese of Miami, Archdiocese of New Orleans, Archdiocese of New York, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archdiocese of St. Louis, Diocese of Bridgeport, Diocese of Cleveland and Diocese of Memphis.

The dioceses were selected to fit FutureChurch’s research needs and are not a representative sample. Several large dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Archdiocese of Atlanta, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and Archdiocese of Seattle are not among the dioceses studied.

But in the dioceses studied, the report showed a tendency to close or merge parishes in neighborhoods that were poorer or had higher percentages of Black people or Latinos.

While the average proportion of white residents was lower in neighborhoods where parishes closed and higher in neighborhoods where parishes were opened, “in all 11 dioceses, the average proportion of people below the poverty line, people unemployed, Blacks/African Americans, and Hispanics/Latinos was higher in those neighborhoods where parishes closed/were absorbed than in those neighborhoods were parishes opened/expanded,” the report concluded. (The sole exception was for Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods in the Archdiocese of Miami.)

Complete Article HERE!

For six years, UW has wrestled with whether to revoke the Ph.D. of one of the Northwest’s most infamous child molesters

— Advocates and victims argue the university should do more to hold O’Donnell accountable

The sunset is photographed from the roof of the Davenport Hotel parking structure in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, June 3, 2017. (Young Kwak)


In part, it was his position — as a priest and doctoral student — that convinced so many children and parents at Seattle’s St. Paul School and Catholic parish to trust Patrick O’Donnell.

He told them he was working on his graduate research when he recruited 60 seventh- and eighth-graders for a 1978 dissertation experiment “on the subject of trust.” And he told them he was working on “research” when he asked parents and teachers to pull students out of class.

In fact, the reason he was in Seattle in the first place was because the Spokane Diocese had sent him to get treatment for what one priest euphemistically called his “pediatrician complex.”

In the 1970s and early ’80s, as he was moved from parish to parish — in Spokane, Seattle, and the small eastern Washington town of Rosalia — he allegedly molested more than 65 children, court records show. He admitted abusing at least 30. Six victims were from St. Paul.

By 2002, O’Donnell had become known as one of the most infamous predator priests in the region. His actions helped drive the Spokane Diocese into bankruptcy. He was sued — settling for $5 million he didn’t have. He lost his psychology license, his role as a priest and his reputation.

But O’Donnell still has one honor left.

“He can put the letters Ph.D after his name, and that’s still a problem,” said Pomona College chemistry professor Dan O’Leary. “He’s in my world, higher education. I don’t think he deserves to be in this world.”

Back when O’Leary was an altar boy in Seattle, he had his own run-in with O’Donnell. Since 2018, O’Leary has been doggedly urging the University of Washington to take a radical step: revoking O’Donnell’s 1978 degree entirely.

Emails provided to InvestigateWest show that UW has seriously considered taking that step over the past six years. Numerous administrators, university investigators, the Title IX office and even the state attorney general’s office have weighed in. The university declined to make any staffers available for an interview with InvestigateWest, and InvestigateWest was unable to reach O’Donnell, now 81, for comment.

In a statement, however, the university said that while the actions were “heinous and reprehensible” and the efforts to seek justice “certainly understandable,” they were “unable to obtain evidence that in the course of his graduate work, Mr. O’Donnell met the standard for degree revocation.”

InvestigateWest, however, has uncovered additional evidence tying O’Donnell’s sexual abuse to his graduate work and calling the honesty of the work itself into question.

In a 2009 lawsuit against the Seattle Archdiocese, an attorney demonstrates how the Spokane Diocese transferred child molester Patrick O’Donnell to the Seattle region, where O’Donnell attended graduate school.

Degrees have been revoked before, but mostly for issues like plagiarism and data falsification. Revoking a degree for sexual assault would mean diving into a thorny issue that has divided academics for decades: Can you separate the research from the researcher?

Former American Psychiatric Association President Paul Appelbaum, an expert on ethics in medicine and psychiatry, said even the question of whether to use data from the experiments conducted in Nazi death camps doesn’t have a clear consensus among researchers. He’s uneasy about the idea of revoking O’Donnell’s degree, instead of just condemning his actions.

“Going back to erase the record of his Ph.D seems to raise more problems than it could conceivably address,” Appelbaum said.

Yet Mary Dispenza, part of the Seattle Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that even decades later, it “matters to a survivor” when an “institution finally stands up to crimes of any nature.”

“If the university has the right to do that, I say do it,” Dispenza said. “If it is a wrong act, you make it right. It doesn’t matter if it’s 50 years later.”


O’Leary wasn’t one of O’Donnell’s victims. But he thinks he almost was. O’Leary said he remembers lying on his back, in the winter of his eighth-grade year, at a university pool after O’Donnell offered to teach him how to swim. He will never forget the look on O’Donnell’s face as he floated in his arms.

“It was really clear to me that he was fantasizing,” O’Leary said.

The priest wanted to shower afterward, O’Leary recalls, but the altar boy declined to join him. These memories are nearly a half-century old, but he still finds them “chilling to the bone.”

“It’s like being in a car with Ted Bundy,” O’Leary said.

But he also knows that lawsuits are filled with depositions of boys who said they’d experienced far worse. There were boys who knew O’Donnell as a basketball coach, or track coach, or Boy Scout chaplain, or a family friend. There were boys he’d strip naked after basketball practice, boys he’d take out on his boat, boys he’d wrestle, grope, tell to keep quiet.

There was the boy O’Donnell would let drive if he’d sit on his lap. The boy who rolled the lowest number in a dice game in O’Donnell’s hot tub and had to run naked to the dock to do push-ups. And the boy who knew something was wrong one night at Spokane’s Bishop White Seminary, who tried to call his mom again and again but kept getting a busy signal until O’Donnell was on top of him, mauling him, kissing him, grinding against him, until the boy pleaded with him enough times to stop.

There were boys who grew up and confronted O’Donnell. In the courtroom. In the press. At the front door of the parish with a Bible in their shaking hands. In a suicide note.

The fact that O’Leary got away unharmed, while so many of O’Donnell’s victims didn’t, has stuck with him.

“I think there’s probably some survivor’s guilt,” O’Leary said. “You lived and other people perished.”

It’s part of what’s fueling his tenacity, driving him to keep hammering away on this issue for so many years. Whenever one UW administrator stopped responding to his emails, he’d simply reach out to another.

When he managed to get his hands on O’Donnell’s 1978 doctoral dissertation — sent to him in California by interlibrary loan — the thing that angered him the most was on the very last page: The University of Washington consent form, a permission slip to participate in the experiment that students and parents were asked to sign.

“That told me that O’Donnell understood that researching with human subjects has responsibility,” O’Leary said. “It’s clear that he was well-aware there are ethical obligations.”

The May 1978 experiment had focused on studying how trust develops between kids and adults. The recruits were asked about the prisoner’s dilemma, a famous two-person negotiation game: If both players are trustworthy and choose to cooperate, they both benefit — gaining a small amount of money. But if one decides to betray the other, the betrayer gets more money and the victim gets nothing.

Attorney Michael Pfau, who represented many of O’Donnell’s victims, said he’s never come across any victims who remember being a part of the experiment. But he cited O’Donnell’s doctoral dissertation, “Evoking Trustworthy Behavior of Children and Adults in A Prisoner’s Dilemma Game,” in multiple lawsuits as an example “of a pedophile using a number of means to gain access to children.”

To O’Leary, the topic was “tragically ironic.” In March 2018, as the #MeToo movement sparked hundreds of whistleblowers across the country to go public with allegations against rapists, O’Leary made his pitch in an email to the UW: If O’Donnell had “engaged in sexually abusive behavior under the pretext of conducting doctoral research” then surely, UW would “disavow itself from that research and question the validity of any degrees given in association” with it.

He knew it was going to be an uphill battle. While plenty of honorary degrees of serial predators such as Bill Cosby have been retracted, pulling a real degree for nonacademic reasons is very rare.

Dan O’Leary, chemistry professor at Pomona College in California, says that the University of Washington awarding a doctoral degree to Patrick O’Donnell, who preyed upon children while a grad student at the university, “is a history that needs to be corrected.”

There have been exceptions. In 1999, MIT revoked the diploma of a former fraternity pledge trainer for providing a freshman with the alcohol that killed him.  In 2000, a federal court found that University of Virginia did have the right to revoke a graduate’s degree for embezzling funds from a student club, but allowed the student to sue on due process grounds. And while Columbia University officials revoked the degree of a journalism student accused of sexual assault in 2017, they restored it three years later as part of a lawsuit settlement. But almost all of these cases involved recent graduates.

But Applebaum, the ethics expert, said he’s uneasy about the notion of stripping away someone’s degree for anything but academic reasons.

“Whenever someone is convicted of a felony, does that mean we go back and take away their graduate degrees or their undergraduate degrees or their high school diplomas?” he asked. “Where does this end?”

But when O’Leary reached out to UW in 2018, they were coming off of multiple years of headlines about a star university researcher accused repeatedly of sexual harassment.

In emails provided to InvestigateWest, university officials initially seemed supportive of revoking O’Donnell’s degree. Martin Howell, the assistant dean for academic and student affairs in the College of Education at UW, told O’Leary that the “mission and values” of the university were driving him and other administrators to push O’Leary’s proposal forward.

Since the 1950s, UW faculty had the power to recommend that the Board of Regents revoke a degree retroactively — if they could prove it was granted based on “fraud and deceit.”

The fundamental question, Howell wrote in a 2019 email, was whether, if the school knew about O’Donnell’s conduct at the time, they would have refused to grant him the doctorate. At first, Howell said, they anticipated being able to rely on “non-academic misconduct that would have violated the UW Student Conduct Code in place at that time.”

But after a conversation with the state attorney general’s office, the university concluded it would be more difficult than they had suspected: To take away his degree they needed proof of fraud and deceit connected to his actual academic work.

The best evidence for that had come from Jim Biteman, one of O’Donnell’s victims at St. Paul. Biteman was never a part of O’Donnell’s 1978 “Prisoner’s Dilemma” experiment. But the year before, he recounted in a deposition, O’Donnell repeatedly pulled him out of class, claiming “he was going to ask me questions regarding research for his university studies.”

The priest would ask the boy to stand in front of the cafeteria window — his back to O’Donnell — and imagine himself naked and describe what he saw. And then O’Donnell would ask Biteman to imagine another boy naked with him, touching him, and ask how the thought made the eighth-grader feel.

“He would always say, ‘Don’t tell anybody about this conversation. This is part of my research. I don’t want you to spoil it, because I have to talk to some other boys,’” Biteman said in the deposition. “I know for a fact that he pulled other boys down there and did the same routine, same questions because I have spoken with others that have gone through it.”

Later, O’Donnell invited Biteman on trips on his boat up at a lake — as he did with so many other kids — and molested him.

While Biteman did not respond to an interview request from InvestigateWest, in a 2019 email he stressed to O’Leary that the evidence clearly showed O’Donnell had used his role as a graduate student to abuse underage boys.

“If the UW chooses to ignore the facts and requires ‘proof’ that directly ties his research to the abuse,” Biteman wrote, “then it appears they are not interested in pursuing what is right and are taking the easy way out.”

He hoped O’Leary could get traction on his efforts to convince UW to revoke O’Donnell’s degree.

“Anything that can be done to discredit this guy, who is currently living out his life … with little if any payment or accountability for his crimes, is welcome,” Biteman wrote.


Finally, last June — more than five years after O’Leary first raised the issue with the university — he was told the investigation had come to a halt.

The trouble with Biteman’s account, the university explained in a letter to O’Leary, was that they didn’t have any evidence O’Donnell was actually conducting doctoral research when he was victimizing the eighth-grade boy.

If O’Donnell was lying to Biteman, if his “research” didn’t have anything to do with his studies and he was just molesting them, then his degree was safe.

On its face, that may seem perverse. But Appelbaum, the ethics expert, argues that it makes sense. A university degree shouldn’t be read as a moral badge of character, he said; it’s proof of the completion of academic standards.

“If a man, however evil he was a person and however many people he may have harmed, fulfilled the requirements for a Ph.D, then he’s got a Ph.D,” Appelbaum said.

In UW’s emails to O’Leary, officials stressed they’d tried to find a clear connection to his dissertation.

While O’Donnell had written that 60 seventh- and eighth-graders had participated in the experiment at St. Paul, there was no record of who they were. The university tried to reach out to Biteman, but never heard back. The university even sent a letter to O’Donnell himself, to his home in Mount Vernon, but through an attorney, O’Donnell declined to talk.

But UW would not tell InvestigateWest whether they considered another major trove of information: court records.

During a 2004 deposition, O’Donnell testified that he did pull kids like Biteman out of class for purposes tied to UW academics — but didn’t indicate it had anything to do directly with his dissertation. Instead, he said, he was performing a “psychological test” on them.

His academic transcripts, indeed, show he was taking a class called “individual testing,” which focused on intelligence tests for children. But O’Donnell said the tests he was conducting involved a word-association game where the kids would have to react to words like “man,” “masturbation” and “intercourse,” though he claimed he didn’t particularly emphasize the sexually charged words over other words.

O’Leary sees it as evidence of “extensive human subjects violation during the courses” that O’Donnell had taken. Combined with Biteman’s testimony, it suggested that O’Donnell had been using these kinds of games to groom young boys and that this behavior was clearly intertwined with his academic work.

“When someone is a rule breaker, it’s worth going back and taking a close look at their doctoral research, and see whether there’s any rule-breaking there, too,” Appelbaum said.

Indeed, O’Donnell insisted that the only reason that he had landed on the “prisoner’s dilemma” dissertation topic was because “the ethics committee at the university wouldn’t let me do what I wanted to do” and he’d done similar research for his master’s program at Gonzaga University.

InvestigateWest found his published master’s thesis — “Eliciting Trustworthy Behavior in A Prisoner’s Dilemma Game” — in the Gonzaga library archives.

Vast sections of O’Donnell’s doctoral dissertation had lifted entire pages from his master’s thesis word for word, right down to using the same lengthy quotes from George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion,” about how the “difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated.”

Today, the UW warns doctoral students that plagiarism, even using “your own, previously published work” without citing it, could prevent them from getting a degree.

The prohibition against self-plagiarism can be hazy, Appelbaum said, but it becomes a problem “when it crosses the line from merely recapitulating the same idea or using the same phrase to extracting and reusing a larger body of words.”

Self-plagiarism, of course, is almost a comically minor sin compared to those committed against the more than 30 victims O’Donnell has confessed to molesting. But, crucially, it’s an academic one.

The revelation has re-invigorated O’Leary. Earlier this month, he was armed with a highlighter and a green pen, going line by line through a copy of O’Donnell’s dissertation, marking up just how many lines appeared verbatim in each of them. He even identified two small instances of plagiarizing other people’s work — nearly word-for-word quotes that were sourced in the Gonzaga thesis but unsourced in his dissertation.

“I’m confident it would raise eyebrows,” O’Leary said. “Anyone on a dissertation committee, if they knew that was happening, they would consider it fraud or deceit.”

Presented with this evidence by InvestigateWest, the UW said it remains open to new information but was “focused on the concerns regarding abuse of minors within the conduct of his university research, not plagiarism.” It declined to comment further.

But O’Leary sees an opportunity: O’Donnell had used the pretext of UW doctoral research to molest children as a grad student. Now, O’Leary argued, the university could use the shoddiness of his actual research as a pretext for removing the degree of a child molester.

“It does directly meet the usual standard for degree revocation,” O’Leary said. “Maybe the university is actually secretly hoping for a valid reason to do the right thing.”

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Officials in Brooklyn Agree to an Independent Oversight of Clergy Sex Abuse Allegations

— An independent monitor will oversee the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn’s handling of sexual abuse allegations under a settlement between the diocese and New York Attorney General Letitia James

By Associated Press

An independent monitor will oversee the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn’s handling of sexual abuse allegations under a settlement between the diocese and New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The agreement announced Tuesday will address “years of mismanaging clergy sexual abuse cases,” James said.

Investigators with the attorney general’s office found that officials with the diocese failed to comply with their own sex abuse policies put in place after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002.

In one case, the attorney general said, a priest who admitted that he had repeatedly sexually abused minors was defrocked in 2007 but requested confidentiality. The diocese kept the abuse secret until 2017 when it announced for the first time that this priest had been credibly accused of and admitted to abusing children. The priest worked as a professor at two universities in the intervening decade.

Another priest was transferred from parish to parish after diocesan officials learned of problems with his conduct in the 1990s, James said. A nun who was the principal of a school in the diocese quit her job in 2000 because she had witnessed the priest behaving inappropriately with young boys, but the diocese only issued a warning. The priest was not removed from duty or barred from interacting with minors until 2018, James said.

As part of the settlement, the diocese has agreed to strengthen its procedures for handling allegations of clergy sexual abuse and misconduct, including publicly posting an explanation of the complaint and investigation process.

An independent, secular monitor who will oversee the diocese’s compliance with the enhanced policies and procedures and will issue an annual report on the diocese’s handling of sexual abuse cases.

Officials with the diocese, which includes the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, said they have cooperated with investigators and have worked to prevent future instances of abuse by clergy.

Brooklyn Bishop Robert Brennan, who has led the diocese since 2021, said in a statement, “While the Church should have been a sanctuary, I am deeply sorry that it was a place of trauma for the victims of clergy sexual abuse. I pray God’s healing power will sustain them.”

The attorney general’s office began investigating eight of New York’s Catholic dioceses in September 2018. A settlement with the Diocese of Buffalo was announced in October 2022. Investigations into the other dioceses, including those in Rochester, Albany and Syracuse, are ongoing, James said.