The Disturbing Truth

— Illinois Bishops Still Hiding Child-Molesting Clergy

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

By David Clohessy

Though I’m no longer a believer, in the wake of yet another jaw-dropping Catholic scandal, two Bible passages have coursed through my mind recently.

The first verse is John 8:32: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Illinois’ six bishops are no doubt familiar with it. Like many profound bits of wisdom, it’s short and sweet, with absolutely no qualifiers, exceptions or excuses.

Why then do these well-educated prelates apparently think the actual wording is “Some of the truth shall set you free, but you get to determine how much and when and how to reveal it?”

That’s the only rational conclusion that explains why, after decades of horrific, widespread, well-documented child sex crimes and cover-ups, these bishops still refuse to come clean about child-molesting clergy.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul impressively documented this continuing duplicitousness in his 696-page, just-released report on Catholic child sex crimes and cover-ups across the state.

When this investigation was first launched five years ago, only two Illinois bishops posted a list of “substantiated Catholic cleric child sex abusers” on their websites. Within months, at the prodding of AG staffers, the state’s other four bishops did likewise, per the report. (Our group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, relentlessly prodded prelates to do this for over 20 years.)

At the probe’s outset, the church hierarchy provided on its websites the names of 103 priests who’ve been determined, by church institutions, to be “credibly accused” abusers.

During the investigation, after continued prodding from Raoul’s staff, the dioceses added 231 names to that list.

But that still didn’t capture all of the credibly accused priests. The report added yet another 160 clerics who worked in Illinois and have been substantiated as child sex abusers by Catholic sources but have not been disclosed as such by the Illinois dioceses. Now, 451 proven, admitted and/or credibly accused priests have been publicly identified (the total has been adjusted because some priests abused in multiple dioceses).

The second Bible verse that I can’t shake is this one, Luke 8:17: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

Again, this one isn’t unknown to the Catholic hierarchy. (Non-Christians may prefer a more recent source for the same sentiment: Dr. Martin Luther King’s “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”)

Haven’t bishops — in Illinois and across the U.S. — learned that despite the best efforts of their high-priced lawyers and public relations professionals, victims are becoming increasingly empowered, civil attorneys are becoming more aggressive and creative, law enforcement is becoming more determined, and those who commit and conceal assaults on children are becoming “outed” more and more?

Why are predators’ names important?

First, kids’ safety. Many of the predators are deceased. But at least dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of proven, admitted and credibly accused child-molesting clerics — some with deeply rooted and extraordinarily powerful compulsion to assault youngsters — now live or work around largely unsuspecting families, friends, co-workers and even relatives. Though many are elderly, it’s dangerous to assume that serial offenders have somehow been magically and permanently cured of these nearly uncontrollable urges. Releasing their names — and ideally, their photos, work histories and last known whereabouts — will enable parents, police, prosecutors and the public to safeguard the vulnerable from them.

Second, survivors’ healing. Any therapist will tell you that many survivors feel vindication and validation (and sleep better at night) when they see that their abuser has been publicly exposed and is thus less apt to be able to molest again.

Third, the disclosure of these names is the clearest way to tell whether bishops have “reformed.”

More than 20 years ago, every U.S. bishop formally pledged to be “transparent” about clergy sexual abuse. That transparency is most important when it comes to the predators themselves. (Parents can best protect their kids if they know who and where the child molesters are. That’s why virtually every state has a sex offender registry.)

So if even now these men are parsing words, splitting hairs, making excuses so they can justify disclosing fewer names of credibly accused child molesters, then it’s very likely they’re violating other promises they’ve made about better screening, more psychological testing, paying for victims’ counseling, and truly cooperating with law enforcement.

Raoul’s report discloses the identities of 149 clerics who were or are in Illinois, have been deemed “credibly accused” of abuse by their bishop or other church supervisors, yet are listed on no Illinois Catholic website as “credibly accused.”

Think of it this way: The truth not only sets us free, it safeguards kids and also helps victims. Many current and former rank-and-file Catholics would submit that it also begins to restore some confidence in the higher echelons of the institution.

I mentioned I no longer have a faith life. “Have you lost your faith?” I’m sometimes asked. “No, it was stolen from me,” I reply, “by the predator priest who assaulted me and his corrupt supervisors who betrayed me.”

There are thousands like me across this country, enduring far worse than a lack of spirituality. Many are unemployed, underemployed, unemployable, agoraphobic, depressed, isolated, addicted, ashamed suicidal and suffering what the Tribune rightly calls the “unspeakable pain” that results from devastating attacks by once trusted priests during childhood and almost equally heinous betrayals by once revered bishops during adulthood.

We deserve better. And our kids deserve a safer and healthier childhood.

Neither they nor us are getting that from Catholic bishops who largely, like their predecessors and their predecessors, remain far too heavily fixated on protecting their careers, comfort and reputations rather than protecting their flocks.

Complete Article HERE!

What the Latest Investigations Into Catholic Church Sex Abuse Mean

— About 20 state attorneys general have mounted investigations that have cataloged decades of abuse but yielded few criminal prosecutions.

The numbers of accused priests and incidents of abuse in the Catholic church peaked between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s, according to a 2011 study.

By Ruth Graham

The nearly 900-page report landed like a grenade when Josh Shapiro, then the attorney general of Pennsylvania, delivered it on a stage in Harrisburg, Pa., five years ago. It detailed widespread sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church throughout Pennsylvania, and a “sophisticated” cover-up by senior church officials. Victims of abuse and their families, sometimes visibly weeping, joined Mr. Shapiro on the stage.

More than 300 priests were found to have abused children, at least 1,000 of them, over the course of seven decades. The report reverberated at the highest levels of the church, with the Vatican expressing “shame and sorrow” over the findings. And it reached the pews, too: A Gallup poll the next year found that more than one-third of Catholics in the United States were considering leaving the faith because of “recent news about sexual abuse of young people by priests.”

In the years since the Pennsylvania report was published, it has inspired some 20 other investigations into the Catholic Church by state attorneys general.

Now the results of those investigations are rolling out, refocusing attention on the sprawling abuse scandal, and in some cases providing fresh details. The attorney general of Illinois, Kwame Raoul, released a report in May that found more than 450 credibly accused child sex abusers in the Catholic Church in Illinois since 1950. Almost 2,000 children under 18 were victims.

These reports have not led to many criminal prosecutions: many of the accused have died, or statutes of limitations have expired. But victims of clerical sexual abuse and their advocates say the reports have had a lasting impact in other ways. In some states, the reports have helped persuade legislators to extend time limits for victims to sue alleged abusers. And many victims say that such public and official acknowledgment of what happened is a welcome step.

“People talk about this being about sex, or a more academic analysis describes it as being about power,” said Terence McKiernan, the president of, an advocacy group. “But it’s also about information.”

Investigations have been concluded in seven states so far, and others are continuing, according to CHILD USAdvocacy, a group that supports stronger child abuse legislation.

The status of some of the investigations is unclear, frustrating activist groups. For example, the attorney general’s office in California invited victims to come forward with their stories in 2018, and later issued subpoenas to several Catholic dioceses. The office has not issued a public update on the investigation in years, and did not respond to a request for comment.

The sheer numbers in the state reports published so far are staggering: 163 perpetrators in Missouri, 97 in Florida, 188 in Kansas. There have been long lists of credibly accused priests and others in Catholic ministry, thousands of pages of victims’ narratives, and front-page headlines about the findings. Attorneys general have been photographed with towering stacks of documents, hoisting doorstop publications that are the product of years of research and interviews.

The number of accused priests and incidents of abuse peaked between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s, and have declined significantly since then, according to a 2011 study commissioned by Catholic bishops and conducted by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

Bishops in the United States adopted new protocols in the early 2000s to crack down on abuse, including a range of “zero tolerance” policies. Historically, the church withheld information about priests who were sexually abusive, often moving them from parish to parish without informing people in the pews. The reports have pushed many dioceses to publish or update their own lists of credibly accused clergy members.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, has disputed some aspects of the Illinois attorney general’s report, and questioned the way some of the data was presented. Even so, the archdiocese cooperated with the investigation, and Cardinal Cupich issued a statement apologizing “to all who have been harmed by the failure to prevent and properly respond to child sexual abuse by clerics.”

A woman in a white shirt wipes tears from her eyes, while another woman sits next to her clasping her hand.
Victims of clerical sexual abuse and their relatives became emotional as Josh Shapiro, then the attorney general of Pennsylvania, spoke at a news conference in 2018 about a report on decades of abuse in the state’s Catholic dioceses.

“The A.G. reports are a measure of accountability, even though they don’t have a ton of teeth,” said Kathryn Robb, the executive director of CHILD USAdvocacy, who helped write the new Maryland law. “They educate the public, and they educate lawmakers to understand: they have this ‘holy crap’ moment.”

Survivor groups have urged the Department of Justice to mount a federal investigation of the church. Other groups have tried to sue the church under federal and state racketeering laws, but those suits have fizzled because of high legal hurdles, including the need to prove “injury to business or property,” according to Stephen Rubino, a lawyer who tried the civil racketeering approach in a suit against the Archdiocese of Camden in the early 1990s. (That case was settled; Mr. Rubino later attempted another racketeering suit that was dismissed.) Many dioceses, facing waves of new civil suits, have filed for bankruptcy.

For Mr. Shapiro, who is now the governor of Pennsylvania, the report became a signature achievement of his tenure as attorney general. On the campaign trail, he said, people frequently pulled him aside to thank him for the report, sometimes identifying themselves as victims of specific priests who were named in it.

“From a Pennsylvania perspective, the most significant thing is the way we gave a sense of justice to the victims here,” Mr. Shapiro said in an interview on Wednesday.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul of Illinois, in a dark suit and blue tie. stands at a lectern with the American flag and three women behind him.
Attorney General Kwame Raoul of Illinois spoke in May about his office’s investigation into sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy members in the state.

Mike McDonnell, 54, says he was abused by two priests in the Philadelphia area starting when he was 11. He told no one at the time what had happened to him. He began drinking as a preteen, and later became addicted to drugs. His story was mentioned in a 2005 report by a grand jury on sexual abuse in the archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Mr. McDonnell said he probably would never have confronted the reality of the abuse, had he not seen the men who abused him named in the 2005 report. “Knowing myself, I would have continued to anesthetize myself and find other compartments in my soul to bury it,” he said.

At first, he said, he found it destabilizing to see his experience reflected in the report. He learned that he was not alone, and that leaders in the archdiocese of Philadelphia knew for years about the behavior of the two priests who abused him.

One of them, Francis Trauger, was convicted in 2020 of molesting two altar boys and was sentenced to 18 months to 36 months in prison. Mr. McDonnell, who now works for an advocacy group for victims of clerical sexual abuse, was in the courtroom for the sentencing.

“Seeing that in print and in the public record is really monumental for those who have not had a voice,” Mr. McDonnell said. “That validation is really a kick-start to one’s healing journey.”

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Church in California grapples with over 3,000 lawsuits alleging abuse

— Advocates have been stunned by the number of cases that surfaced during this revival window

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, headquarters for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, seen in 2013.

By Alejandro Molina

At least a third of the 12 Roman Catholic dioceses in California have either filed for bankruptcy or are contemplating doing so to deal with an influx of lawsuits filed by survivors of childhood sexual abuse after a state law opened a three-year window in which cases were exempted from age limits.

More than 3,000 lawsuits have been filed against the Catholic Church in California under a 2019 state law that also extended the statute of limitations to allow all alleged victims of sexual abuse to sue up to the age of 40.

Advocates have been stunned by the number of cases that surfaced during the window, which closed at the end of December.

So far, two dioceses have declared bankruptcy.

The Diocese of Santa Rosa, which is facing more than 200 lawsuits, filed for bankruptcy in mid-March. In its bankruptcy petition, it claimed assets valued between $10 million and $50 million. It estimated its liabilities in the same dollar range.

The Diocese of Oakland, grappling with about 330 sexual abuse lawsuits, filed for bankruptcy in early May. It claimed assets valued between $100 million and $500 million with estimated liabilities in the same dollar range, according to its bankruptcy petition.

Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber, in a letter, said, “worship sites” will close, and the diocese will have to “re-imagine” how other locations are used.

“I ask for your commitment to work with me and our pastors in the upcoming months as we determine how best to address the outcome of the bankruptcy process and how to ‘right-size’ our parishes to serve the faithful and all who come to us seeking Christ’s tender love,” Barber said.

The Diocese of San Diego made the decision earlier this month to file for bankruptcy sometime this fall, said Kevin Eckery, spokesman for the diocese.

Cardinal Robert McElroy, bishop of the Diocese of San Diego, announced in early February the possibility of bankruptcy as the diocese faces “staggering” legal costs in dealing with some 400 lawsuits alleging priests and others sexually abused children. Most of the alleged abuse cited in the suits took place 50 to 75 years ago, and the earliest claim dates back to 1945.

Most of the diocese’s assets, McElroy said in a letter, were used to settle previous allegations, ending in a $198 million payout in 2007. Eckery has predicted the cost of settling the outstanding cases against the diocese could amount to $550 million.

The dioceses in Stockton, Fresno and San Jose did not answer a query from Religion News Service to learn of their plans to deal with the lawsuits. The Diocese of Orange said that it had not yet finalized the number of pending lawsuits and that it was not considering bankruptcy. Deacon David Ford with the Diocese of Monterey said the diocese prefers “not to make a statement right now,” regarding any potential plans for bankruptcy.

Bishop Jaime Soto, in a statement in late February, said bankruptcy could be an option for the Diocese of Sacramento as it grapples with more than 200 lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse.

“To learn of this staggering number of claims is truly heartbreaking,” Soto wrote. “These claims represent real people whose lives have been damaged by the sins of individuals whom they had been taught to trust.

“… Given the number of claims that have been presented … resolving them may overwhelm the diocese’s finances available to satisfy such claims,” he wrote. “This financial challenge is unlike anything we have faced before.”

Rick Simons, a lawyer serving as the plaintiffs’ liaison for cases in Northern California, says the dioceses are addressing these cases “as they always have, by avoidance.”

Simons said a total of about 1,600 cases have been filed against the Catholic Church in Northern California. These cases — which are being coordinated through Alameda County Superior Court — span dioceses in Fresno, Monterey, San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Sacramento and Oakland.

“They say sympathetic words of responsibility and empathy for the victims in their public statements, and all their actions are exactly the opposite,” Simons said of the bishops.

According to Simons, about 500 cases are stayed by the Santa Rosa and Oakland bankruptcy proceedings.

“I’m trying to get cases set for trial, both because trials provide an incentive for settlement and because trials establish values that can be used for settlement of other cases, and of course, the defense doesn’t want to have any trials,” Simons said.

The national Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is preparing a letter to Attorney General Rob Bonta requesting that he issue a report based on information gathered in the lawsuits as well as from when the dioceses were subpoenaed in 2019. The subpoenas were issued to review how the state’s Catholic dioceses handled sex abuse allegations, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“We don’t think any of these entities are or will be made insolvent by any awards that are granted to survivors,” said Dan McNevin with SNAP.

McNevin said it’s a “double bottom line” when dioceses declare bankruptcy because it freezes the discovery phase of lawsuits “and they also create this impression that they’re broke and that they can’t afford to pay victims what they’re owed.”

“They want to avoid a jury,” McNevin said.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the most populous Catholic diocese in the country, with some 4 million Catholics, is not planning to file for bankruptcy, despite grappling with at least 1,100 lawsuits. The majority of these cases involve alleged abuse that occurred in the 1970s and earlier, the archdiocese said, and the accused clergy have died or are no longer in ministry.

How the Los Angeles archdiocese plans to avoid bankruptcy with so many cases pending is not clear. In a statement, the archdiocese said it has been “providing, on an ongoing basis, pastoral financial settlements directly to victim-survivors, regardless of the openings of the statute and when the abuse may have occurred.”

In a statement to RNS in early April, the Archdiocese of San Francisco said it was still in the process of evaluating more than 400 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by clergy, volunteers or archdiocesan staff. These cases date back more than 50 years, and a vast majority of the accused are dead, the archdiocese said.

In addition, a large number of the allegations against the San Francisco archdiocese include names of alleged abusers who do not appear to be priests assigned to the archdiocese, it said.

John Andrews, spokesman of the Diocese of San Bernardino, said there are no current plans to file for bankruptcy.

San Bernardino Bishop Alberto Rojas said in a statement in March that the diocese is evaluating “different legal and financial options” to resolve more than 130 sexual abuse lawsuits. A vast majority of the lawsuits involve abuses alleged to have occurred more than 30 years ago, he said.

The diocese, Rojas said, has provided victims with more than $25 million in settlement monies since 2003. Those settlements were paid through a combination of savings and insurance coverage with “little or no impact to our core ministries.” Now, Rojas said, “we must acknowledge the significant financial impact they would have on our local church.”

McNevin, of SNAP, credits the number of outstanding sex abuse claims to “delayed disclosure,” a phenomenon common to survivors of child sex abuse in which individuals remain silent for years before coming forward.

A 2020 report by Child USA found the average age at the time of reporting child sex abuse to be about 52 years. “The average age of abuse is somewhere in the 11- to 14-year-old range, so it’s a 40-year lag,” McNevin said.

McNevin also attributes the flood of cases to the lower stigma associated with being an abuse survivor. “There’s been a lot more awareness … So people are not embarrassed to say it happened to them. They no longer fear being called a liar,” McNevin said.

As SNAP drafts a letter to Bonta, McNevin said they are calling on the attorney general to “examine these bankruptcies closely.”

Just as in New York, where the Diocese of Buffalo has submitted to government oversight, McNevin said there’s an opportunity for Bonta “to really impose an appropriate, safe structure that will keep exposure at a maximum.

“What will happen will be a secular imposition of structure onto the Catholic Church that will force it to be safer,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!

Area Catholic clerics on newly released state list

More than 20 abusive clerics who once served at area Catholic churches and schools were named in a state report released Tuesday.


More than 20 abusive clerics who once served at area Catholic churches and schools were named in a state report released Tuesday.

The six dioceses in Illinois failed to disclose hundreds of abusive clerics before the state opened what would become a yearslong investigation into sex abuse within the church, Attorney General Kwame Raoul said Tuesday.

A 2017 law eliminated Illinois’ prior statute of limitations for child sex abuse, under which a 20-year clock began ticking on a victim’s 18th birthday. But that law was only prospective; a 2009 Illinois Supreme Court decision affirmed that attempts to alter the statute of limitations retroactively violated the due process rights of the accused.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Springfield Diocese said he supports the investigation and feels it is time to bring all the crimes out into the public.

“The attorney general’s inquiry into the history of clergy sexual abuse of minors in this diocese has served as a reminder that some clergy in the Church committed shameful and disgraceful sins against innocent victim survivors and did damage that simply cannot be undone,” Paprocki said. “As bishop of this diocese, I cannot undo the damages of the past, but I have been and continue to be fully committed to ensuring we do all we can to prevent abuse from happening again.”

Raoul’s report, however, suggests Paprocki could have done more. It states that the diocese didn’t list substantiated child sex abusers placed online until November 2018 and it was not until September 2022 that Paprocki authorized the diocese’s homepage to include a link to a “List of clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.”

The 700-page report was issued following a four-and-a-half-year investigation. It includes the names of 451 Catholic priests and religious brothers statewide who abused nearly 2,000 victims since 1950. It also named 32 Catholic clerics who had served in the 28-county Springfield Diocese that includes Madison, Macoupin, Jersey, Greene and Calhoun counties.

Named in Raoul’s report, along with their assignments and number of abuse survivors, were:

• Alvin Campbell (died 2002) with 34 survivors. Assignments included 1982, Mother of Perpetual Help in Maryville.

• Joseph Cernich with 4 survivors. The abuse was listed as occurring in 1983 at Saint Ambrose in Godfrey.

• Victor Lucien Chateauvert (died 1999) with at least 2 survivors. Assignments included 1978-1981 at Saint Joseph in Granite City.

• Garrett Neal Dee with 4 survivors. Assignments included 1968-1971 at Immaculate Conception in Alton, 1968: Dominican Sisters at Bethalto, 1973-1976 at Saint Boniface, Edwardsville, and 1980-1981 at Saint Elizabeth in Marine.

• Robert Degrand with 1 survivor. Assignments included 1991-1996 at Saint Elizabeth in Granite City.

• Robert Dodd (died 2018) with 2 survivors. Assignments included 1964-1968 at Saint Paul in Highland and 1968 at SIUE Newman Catholic Community in Edwardsville.

• Robert Eagear (died 1984) with 1 survivor. Assignments included 1928-1934 at Saint Bernard in Wood River and 1958-1970 at Saint Peter and Paul in Collinsville.

• George Faller (died 1975) with 3 survivors. Assignments included 1918-1919: Saint Paul in Highland, 1919 at Saint Simon and Jude in Gillespie, 1919-1922 at Saint Mary in Alton, 1922-1924 at Saint Anseim in Kampsville, 1954-1961 at Saint Boniface in Edwardsville and 1961-1969 at Saint Joseph in Benld.

• Ray Frazen (died 1987) with 2 survivors. Assignments included 1940-1942 at Saint Patrick in Grafton.

• Joseph Havey (died 2017) with 14 survivors. Assignments included 1970 and again in 1974 at Saint Margaret Mary in Granite City, and 1975-1976 at Holy Ghost in Jerseyville.

• George Kromenaker (died 2010) with 1 survivor. Assignments included 1952-1954 at Saint Mary in Alton.

• Thomas Gregory Meyer (died 2012) with at least 1 survivor. Assignments included 1990-1998 at Saint Peter and Paul in Alton.

• Orville Lawrence Munie (died 1993) with at least 1 survivor. Assignments included 1981-1983 at Saint Isidore in Bethany.

• Joseph Cullen O’Brien (died 1978) with 14 survivors. Assignments included 1942-1945 at Saint Peter and Paul in Collinsville, 1945 at Catholic Children’s Home in Alton, 1948-1950 at Saint Joseph in Granite City, 1968-1970 at Catholic Children’s Home in Alton and 1968-1970 at Saint Patrick in Alton.

• Frank O’Hara (died 2006) with 5 survivors. Assignments included 1959-1985 at Saint Kevin in Rosewood Heights.

• Daniel L. Ryan (died 2015) with 5 survivors. Assignments included 1984-1999 as Bishop of Springfield Diocese.

• Aloysius Schwellenbach (died 2000) with 4 survivors. Assignments included 1945 at Catholic Children’s Home in Alton, 1951-1952 at Saint Joseph in Granite City, 1964-1969 at Saint Margaret Mary in Granite City, and 1969-1970 at Saints Simon and Jude in Gillespie.

• Louis C. Shea (died 1996) with 2 survivors. Assignments included 1951 at Catholic Children’s Home in Alton and 1954 at Saint Anselm in Kampsville.

• Francis Tebangura with 2 survivors. Assignments included 1980-1988 at Saint Margaret Mary in Granite City, 1988-2001 at Saint Elizabeth in Granite City,  2001-2002 at Our Lady Czestochowa in Madison, 2002-2006 at Saint Mark in Venice, IL (sacramental priest) and 2002-2006 at Saint Mary in Madison (sacramental priest).

• Walter Weerts with 22 survivors. Assignments included 1955 at Catholic Children’s Home in Alton, 1957 at Camp Pere Marquette in Grafton, 1961-1963 at Saint Ambrose in Godfrey, 1963-1967 at Sacred Heart in Granite City, 1972 at Saint Paul in Highland, and 1979-1980 at Saint Boniface in Edwardsville.

• Frank Westhoff (died 2006) with 3 survivors. Assignments included 1959 at Catholic Children’s Home in Alton, 1961-1964 at Saint Patrick in Alton, 1980-1985 at Camp Pere Marquette in Grafton and 1984-1985 at Saint Margaret Mary in Granite City.

Complete Article HERE!

Oakland Diocese Files For Bankruptcy, Citing 330 Child Sex Abuse Suits

— The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests argued the filing was an attempt to deny survivors justice and transparency they deserve.

By Anna Schier

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Oakland has filed for bankruptcy, citing over 330 child sex abuse lawsuits brought under a recent state statute allowing survivors to pursue cases that would otherwise be expired, the bishop announced Monday.

Under the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, legal actions against the bishop will cease, according to a news release from the Diocese of Oakland, which said the bankruptcy would allow the bishop to develop a plan based on assets and insurance available to settle claims.

“After careful consideration of the various alternatives for providing just compensation to innocent people who were harmed, we believe this process is the best way to ensure a fair and equitable outcome for survivors,” Bishop Michael Barber said in the news release.

“It is important we take responsibility for the damage done so we can all move beyond this moment and provide survivors with some measure of peace.”

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests argued the bankruptcy filing was an attempt to deny survivors the justice and transparency they deserve.

“Everything about this bankruptcy strikes us as wrong. It is all about keeping money and secrets,” SNAP said in a prepared statement.

“We would like to know if Bishop Barber considers the 330 innocent victims who have filed lawsuits against his Diocese? These wounded souls were members of the Oakland Diocese. They had been baptized and confirmed, worked as altar servers, or attended Catholic schools. Their families trusted the priests who assaulted their children, and those families donated time and money to the Diocese. They effectively compensated the clergy who had damaged their children’s lives.”

The diocese owns a $200 million cathedral and hundreds of acres in Piedmont, Orinda, Lafayette and Danville, according to SNAP, which called on the government to force the diocese to address the abuse cases one at a time, letting juries hear testimony and award damages.

While the bishop said most of the claims date back more than 30 years and involve priests who are dead or no longer active in ministry, SNAP noted Oakland’s founding bishop, Floyd Begin, is accused of sexually abusing a child, as is the long-serving vicar general, George Crespin.

“Other clerics who are named in lawsuits are still alive,” SNAP said. “Some were still working when accused.”

The bishop remarked that the diocese has created a review board to assess sexual abuse allegations, provides counseling to survivors, and requires clergy, volunteers and employees to undergo child sexual abuse awareness and prevention training as well as background checks.

Catholic schools in the diocese are separate legal entities and are not included in the bankruptcy filing.

Complete Article HERE!