Maryland can disclose more names from Catholic sexual abuse report, court rules

— An interim report released in April on decades of sexual abuse claims within the Archdiocese of Baltimore found more than 600 victims

Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown (D) in April in Baltimore.


Maryland’s attorney general can disclose additional names of Catholic clergy accused of child sexual abuse in the Baltimore Archdiocese, a state judge in Baltimore has ruled.

The ruling by Baltimore City Circuit Court Associate Judge Robert K. Taylor Jr. also affects clergy who have held prominent positions in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and allegedly helped enable abusers or covered up abuse claims, and other people whose names surfaced in the investigation but were not accused of abuse.

Under the ruling — which was issued Aug. 16 and unsealed Tuesday — all but three names can be revealed next month when Attorney General Anthony G. Brown (D) is scheduled to make public a revised version of its report on decades of sexual abuses in the archdiocese.

“It’s good news that the judge has sided with survivors and understands the significance of releasing all the names of the predators but three,” said David Lorenz, Maryland director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). “Survivors get a sense of justice when their perpetrator is named. And it also helps survivors come forward.”

In deciding whether to disclose identities, the judge sought to parse responsibility between the archdiocese — which, he said, was clearly the intended focus of the attorney general’s investigation — and individuals within it.

“These names are being released because the key to understanding the Report is understanding that this did not happen because of anything ‘the Archdiocese’ did or did not do. It happened because of the choices made by specific individuals at specific times,” the judge’s opinion says. His opinion also notes that although some powerful officials appeared to willfully cover up or enable abuse, others found themselves caught in a difficult situation.

“To be clear: the Archdiocese did not sexually exploit children. Individuals did. The Archdiocese did not fail to report abuse. Individuals did. The Archdiocese did not transfer alleged abusers to positions where they could abuse again. Individuals did,” the opinion says. “Some of the individuals whose names were redacted were simply doing their job, as best they could, under trying circumstances.”

For Lorenz, however, that was going too far in defense of the church.

“He kind of tries to excuse the church,” Lorenz said. “The incontrovertible history uncovered by this investigation is one of pervasive and persistent abuse by priests and archdiocesan personnel. It is also a repeated dismissal or coverup by Catholic Church hierarchy.”

The four-year investigation — which began under Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) — found that more than 600 young people, ranging in age from preschoolers to young adults, were sexually abused at the hands of more than 150 clergy members from the mid-1940s to 2002. The investigation included interviews with victims, abusers and witnesses, and thousands of archdiocese records obtained through a grand jury subpoena into behavior that occurred at least 20 years ago. One person was charged as a result of the investigation but later acquitted at trial.

Owing to the presumption of secrecy in all grand jury proceedings, the attorney general’s office sought a court order allowing publication of the report, saying disclosure would amount to a measure of justice regarding many allegations too old or otherwise impossible to bring against the accused. After a lengthy court battle — much of which was conducted under seal and behind closed doors — an interim version was released April 4 that shielded the identities of 46 people.

By court order, the interim report redacted the identities of 10 alleged abusers who had not previously been publicly accused of child abuse, the attorney general said in a statement. The interim report also withheld the names of five clergy who played an important role in the archdiocese’s handling of abuser clergy and reports of child abuse, as well as the names of other people who were named in the report but not accused of child sexual abuse.

“We are committed to continuing all of our efforts to keep safe the children in our care, and we recognize that the Attorney General’s report is a reminder of a sad and deeply painful history tied to the tremendous harm caused to innocent children and young people by some ministers of the Church,” archdiocese spokesman Christian Kendzierski said in a written statement. “We ask all to join us in praying for all victim-survivors of abuse and for all who have been affected by the scourge of child sexual abuse.”

The new version of the attorney general’s report, which is based on thousands of subpoenaed documents, is expected to be made public Sept. 26.

Complete Article HERE!

San Francisco archdiocese files for bankruptcy amid child abuse lawsuits

St. Mary’s Cathedral, the principle church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, in 2010. The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy Monday.


The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco on Monday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, saying it is necessary to resolve the more than 500 lawsuits of child sexual abuse dating back decades, prompting victim advocates to call the decision an attempt to deny justice and transparency for survivors.

The petition was filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said Monday, arguing that it was the “best solution for providing fair and equitable compensation to the innocent survivors who have been harmed,” he said on the archdiocese website.

Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Joseph Cordileone attends the mass and imposition of the Pallium at the Vatican Basilica on June 29, 2013 in Vatican City.

“The unfortunate reality is that the archdiocese has neither the financial means nor the practical ability to litigate all of these abuse claims individually,” he said.

“It is the best way to bring much-needed resolution to survivors while allowing the Archdiocese to continue its sacred mission to the faithful and those in need. We must seek purification and redemption to heal, especially survivors who have carried the burdens of these sins against them for decades,” the statement added.

Cordileone said the majority of the alleged abuses occurred from the 1960s into the ’80s and involved priests who are deceased or no longer in the ministry.

The announcement prompted criticism from advocates who argued it could “stonewall survivors of clergy sexual abuse from receiving proper justice under the lawsuits filed under the California Child Victims Act,” said Jeff Anderson, an attorney who represents more than 125 people suing the archdiocese.

In a statement posted on his firm’s website, Anderson called the archbishop’s decision “dangerous” and said it demonstrates his preference for “secrecy and self-protection.”

The archdiocese did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment on Anderson’s accusation Monday afternoon. When asked about the bankruptcy filing, it deferred to the statement on its website.

Dan McNevin, a representative of the nonprofit Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, had also previously warned against harmful consequences of such move.

“San Francisco’s bankruptcy will stiff-arm survivors who have the courage to tell their stories,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle this month, when the newspaper reported on the archdiocese’s intent to seek the protections. “If it is allowed to stand, bankruptcy halts trials, testimony, legal discovery, and the release of the files of priests and other perpetrators that, if released could be used to assess who in the organization helped to cover up crimes.”

“It’s a double bottom line benefit; they keep their secrets and they keep more of their wealth,” McNevin told the Chronicle.

Anderson and other advocates have also questioned the archdiocese’s refusal to publish information about members of clergy accused of child sexual abuse.

A barrage of lawsuits came after California passed a 2019 law allowing people to bring claims for childhood sexual abuse that otherwise would have been barred due the statute of limitations. The law opened a three-year window allowing cases to be filed against nonprofit organizations through Dec. 31, 2022, leading to more than 500 civil lawsuits against the San Francisco Archdiocese, according to a Los Angeles Times article from late last year, and more than 3,000 lawsuits against the Catholic Church in the state, The Post reported last month.

In 2003, California became the first U.S. state to temporarily lift statutes of limitations for childhood sex abuse in the wake of the Catholic Church scandal.

>If approved, the Chapter 11 process would freeze legal actions against the archdiocese while it restructures its finances.

The archbishop said bankruptcy would cover only the corporate legal entity, the Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco, and not its 88 parishes and schools, which are independently managed and will continue to operate as usual. The archdiocese serves more than 442,000 parishioners in the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin.

The San Francisco Archdiocese’s move follows that of the Santa Rosa Diocese, which filed for bankruptcy in March amid sex-abuse lawsuits from 200 people. The Oakland Diocese announced in May that it had filed for bankruptcy amid more than 330 lawsuits.

According to the Catholic News Agency, more than two dozen dioceses in the United States have entered bankruptcy proceedings, most of them in the past decade.

Complete Article HERE!

Abuse survivors call on Attorney General Dave Yost to investigate Ohio Catholic dioceses

Claudia Vercellotti

By Peter Gill

Several groups that advocate for survivors of sexual abuse on Wednesday called for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to investigate the state’s six Catholic dioceses.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a national nonprofit, as well as two local groups, Ohioans for Child Protection and Greater Cincinnati Voice of the Faithful, announced their demand during a news conference at the Statehouse. The groups are calling on the attorney general to investigate “the history and scope of child sexual abuse, trafficking, child sex abuse enabling and cover up” in the dioceses.

At a Statehouse news conference, Rebecca Surendorff (left) and Teresa Dinwiddie-Herrmann (center), both with Ohioans for Child Protection, and Claudia Vercellotti of SNAP speak out about child abuse in the Ohio dioceses.
At a Statehouse news conference, Rebecca Surendorff (left) and Teresa Dinwiddie-Herrmann (center), both with Ohioans for Child Protection, and Claudia Vercellotti of SNAP speak out about child abuse in the Ohio dioceses.

Teresa Dinwiddie-Herrmann, co-chair of Ohioans for Child Protection, said she is aware of credible cases of abuse in Ohio that have not been investigated.

“We know of other cases where allegations have come forward, with evidence, and there has not been a criminal investigation or for whatever reason, nothing goes beyond a criminal investigation. And what’s frightening to me is some of those are clergy, coaches and teachers,” she said.

The groups point to several recent investigations by other states’ attorney generals as precedent. They released a list of 49 Catholic priests who were named in Maryland, Illinois, and Pennsylvania investigations who were accused of sexually abusing children and who had lived, worked or otherwise had ties in Ohio.

“Begin with the 49 names that overlap from your neighboring states,” said Shaun Dougherty, president of the SNAP board who is himself a survivor of priest abuse, addressing Yost. “Your action will tell your citizens of Ohio that you are serious about protecting their children, but your inaction will tell the predators that they have a safe haven in Ohio.”

A spokesperson for Yost told The Dispatch that while he encourages victims to report individual cases of abuse to authorities, he is unable to open up a statewide investigation into the dioceses.

“Unlike some other states, Ohio does not grant the attorney general’s office the legal authority to investigate matters like this. The General Assembly has the power to change the law, but at present, SNAP’s concerns should be addressed to local prosecutors,” they said.

The spokesperson cited state law that requires local or federal authorities to invite the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to launch investigations.

Statute of limitation laws, which vary by state, limit how long someone can be legally prosecuted after a crime has been committed. In Ohio, most felonies have a deadline of six years, but the deadlines for child sexual abuse is 12 years after the victim becomes an adult. Some states have eliminated the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse entirely because many survivors do not come forward until later in their lives.

State Rep. Jessica E. Miranda (D-Forest Park), who introduced a bill that would eliminate state civil and criminal statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse, said she thinks Yost should investigate.

“As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and rape myself, I fully support a thorough investigation. … These victims and their families deserve law and order, and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost owes that to them,” she said.

The Diocese of Columbus told The Dispatch that “we have been and will continue to be vigilant to maintain a safe environment for all children, youth, and adults.”

“We routinely self-evaluate safety protocols as well as utilize and cooperate with outside entities. The United States Conference of Bishops audits every diocese annually, which includes on-site visits every 3 years. Further, not only does the Diocese of Columbus mandate background checks and ongoing training for employees but also all volunteers,” said a diocese spokesperson.

The Catholic Conference of Ohio could not immediately be reached.

This is not the first time SNAP has called for a statewide investigation. In 2018, the group called for then-Attorney General Mike DeWine to investigate.

And in 2007, after pressure from advocates, the state Senate passed a bill that would have created a one-year window for victims to file lawsuits alleging child sex abuse that had occurred as long as 35 years earlier. But facing heavy pressure from Catholic leaders, the Ohio House stripped out that provision before the law passed. In its place, they proposed a “civil registry” for sex offender, which as The Dispatch revealed in 2014, was never used.

SNAP and other advocacy groups point to recent cases of abuse that they say indicate the problem is ongoing.

Recent convictions of Ohio Catholic priests include the Rev. Mike Zacharius of Toledo in 2023, the Rev. David Morrier of Franciscan University in Steubenville in 2022, the Rev. Robert McWilliams of Strongsville in 2021, the Rev. Henry Foxhoven in 2018 and the Rev. Geoff Drew of Cincinnati in 2021.

In its letter to Yost, SNAP and the other advocates alleged that current Archbishop Dennis Schnurr made Drew the pastor of St. Ignatius School in Cincinnati in 2018, “apparently with full awareness of previous criminal investigations into his conduct with minors.” Drew pleaded guilty to nine counts of rape in December 2021.

Jennnifer Schack, a spokesperson for the Cincinnati Archdiocese, said Schnurr was unaware of the allegations at the time of Drew’s appointment, citing lack of communication between archdiocese staff — who were aware of the allegations — and the bishop.

Rebecca Surendorff, from Ohioans for Child Protection, said her own children attended St. Ignatius and some were baptized by Drew.

Asked whether the scandals had shaken her faith, Surendorff’s colleague Dinwiddie-Herrmann said, “My faith is not with the men on this Earth. My faith is out of the Eucharist and my own personal faith. What is startling to me is that our religious leaders … are supposed to lead the pathway for our morality, but they’re covering for child sexual abuse.”

Correction: Due to a reporter’s error, a previous version of this article misstated the name of the Ohioans for Child Protection member whose children attended St. Ignatius School. It was Rebecca Surendorff.

Complete Article HERE!

Denver Archdiocese sues Colorado over right to exclude LGBTQ people from universal preschool

— State’s non-discrimination requirements “directly conflict with St. Mary’s, St. Bernadette’s, and the Archdiocese’s religious beliefs,” the lawsuit says.

Denver Archbishop Aquila


The Denver Catholic Archdiocese along with two of its parishes is suing the state alleging their First Amendment rights are violated because their desire to exclude LGBTQ parents, staff and kids from Archdiocesan preschools keeps them from participating in Colorado’s new universal preschool program.

The program is intended to provide every child 15 hours per week of state-funded preschool in the year before they are eligible for kindergarten. To be eligible, though, schools must meet the state’s non-discrimination requirements.

The Denver Archdiocese, St. Mary Catholic Parish in Littleton and St. Bernadette Catholic Parish in Lakewood filed suit against Lisa Roy, executive director of the Colorado Department of Early Childhood, and Dawn Odean, director of Colorado’s Universal Preschool Program, on Wednesday.

The Denver Archdiocese and the Colorado Department of Early Childhood could not immediately be reached for comment.

“The Department is purporting to require all preschool providers to accept any applicant without regard to a student or family’s religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and to prohibit schools from “discriminat[ing] against any person” on the same bases,” the lawsuit said. “These requirements directly conflict with St. Mary’s, St. Bernadette’s, and the Archdiocese’s religious beliefs and their religious obligations as entities that carry out the Catholic Church’s mission of Catholic education in northern Colorado.”

The Denver Archdiocese said in the suit they do not believe adhering to their religious beliefs against accepting LGBTQ people qualifies as discrimination. The Denver Post published written guidance last year issued by the Denver Archdiocese to its Catholic schools on the handling of LGBTQ issues, including telling administrators not to enroll or re-enroll transgender or gender non-conforming students and explaining that gay parents should be treated differently than heterosexual couples.

The lawsuit said St. Mary’s and St. Bernadette’s each require their preschool staff sign annual Archdiocese-approved employment contracts affirming that staff abide by traditional Catholic teachings on life, sexuality and marriage. They require parents who send their kids to their preschools “to understand and accept the community’s worldview and convictions regarding Catholic moral issues like life, marriage, and human sexuality,” the lawsuit said.

The Denver Archdiocese argues in the lawsuit that the state has “cornered the market” for preschool services by providing universal funding and any preschool providers who don’t participate will be “severely disadvantaged” and forced to charge “significantly” higher fees, disadvantaging low-income families whose children attend Archdiocesan schools.

“Colorado did not have to create a universal preschool funding program, but in doing so it cannot implement that program in a way that excludes certain religious groups and providers based on their sincerely held religious beliefs,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said enrolling children with gay parents into an Archdiocesan school “is likely to lead to intractable conflicts” because a “Catholic school cannot treat a same-sex couple as a family equivalent to the natural family without compromising its mission and Catholic identity.”

The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial and for the state to reverse its decision and allow the Denver Archdiocese to participate in the universal preschool program while giving them the ability to exclude LGBTQ students, staff and parents from their schools.

Complete Article HERE!

Hidden children

— Brendan Watkins is one of thousands of children of priests who found their biological parents through DNA testing and social media. His birth wasn’t the only secret his father kept.

BY Suzanne Smith

There is a half-crumbling church, covered in red dust, at Radium Hill, a former uranium mine deep in the South Australian desert. It was built by Father Vincent Shiel, with his own hands, in 1956. Six years later, his son Brendan was born in Melbourne to a former nun — a secret the priest kept until he died 37 years later.

Brendan was one of the lucky ones. Both he and his brother Damien were adopted by Roy and Bet Watkins, in Richmond, Melbourne. As Damien, who was adopted two years before Brendan, recalls: “One day a clergyman was talking to Roy and said, ‘Uh, how come you don’t have children yet?’ And Roy said, ‘Well, we haven’t been blessed’. And he said, ‘Maybe that’s something we can help you with’.”

A sepia toned photo of two smiling toddlers dressed in white for a formal photograph
Adoptive brothers Brendan and Damien Watkins in 1962.

Brendan and Damien had an idyllic life with Roy and Bet, who were huge Richmond Tigers fans. They told the boys they were adopted when they were young, but it was Brendan who was most curious about finding his biological parents.

In 1990, at the age of 29, Brendan decided to apply for his original birth certificate because it would carry the names of his biological parents. A meeting was set up at the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau in Melbourne. But it wasn’t what he expected.

Bet and Roy Watkins in the 1980s.

“I was hoping that the birth certificate would have both parents’ names,” says Brendan. “It just had my mother’s”. And she wasn’t 16, 17 or 18, as he expected, but much older — 27 — and from South Australia.

Brendan asked the social worker to contact her, but she was reluctant. He was later called back for another meeting. “I was told that I wouldn’t meet my mother, I wouldn’t talk to her,” he says. “And very directly told to go home and forget about her forever. It was the most wounding, impactful trauma of my life.”

A search for answers

Brendan has discovered that globally there are thousands of children of priests, just like him, who as adults found their biological parents through DNA testing and social media groups. There are 450,000 Catholic priests around the world and, though there are no accurate records, it is estimated that they have fathered over 20,000 children.

Crucially, a 25-year study of 1,500 Catholic priests found less than half the priests in the United States attempt celibacy — which experts say is a major factor fuelling so-called reproductive abuse. The study’s author, ex-priest Richard Sipe, argued it creates a culture of secrecy that tolerates and even protects paedophiles — though he estimated that four times as many priests involve themselves sexually with women than with children.

Brendan’s partner Kate did her own research on Brendan’s mother and eventually found one of her relatives. “I recall being at work, and Kate rang and said, ‘Are you sitting down? I found your mother. She’s a nun’, he says. “I pictured my mother in a nun’s habit in a convent walking silently through churches … it gave me some peace.”

Father Vincent Shiel

But he still had many questions — and was determined to find answers. He eventually made contact with his mother, ‘Maggie’ (not her real name) through letters and a short visit. But who was his biological father? “What followed was essentially 30 years of different stories,” Brendan says. “My father was dead … or she didn’t know what happened to my father.”

Maggie eventually gave Brendan a name, but it turned out to be false. “I wrote back to my mother, and I told her that. And she wrote back and said, ‘Well, I was dumped and so were you’. And she was right … the chase was over.”

Five years later, in 2015, Brendan sent a DNA sample to Four men came back as possible candidates for his father. One was ruled out. “He was a Catholic priest, so it couldn’t be a Catholic priest. Could it?”

The site of the old Catholic church at Radium Hill.

But Brendan’s mother Maggie then confirmed he was indeed the son of Father Vincent Shiel, who died in 1993, at the age of 90. He was still alive when Brendan first contacted Maggie.

But the priest had sworn his mother to secrecy – Brendan says this was a form of spiritual abuse. “It says so much about the misogyny of the Catholic church, the institution,” he says. “It’s a male-centric institution that doesn’t recognise the rights of women. I found that my mother had met my father when she was 14 or 15, and he was 30 years older … so he had enormous influence over her.”

Documents missing, records destroyed

Now he had his father’s real name, Brendan applied to Mackillop Family Services in Melbourne for his file. The archivist couldn’t find any records and told Brendan this was very “unusual”. Brendan had to appeal to the Victorian Department of Justice to receive his file.

“The more children of priests I met and spoke with, I found all sorts of anecdotal stories about destroyed records and people knowing and systems within the church [for] hiding the children of priests and documents going astray,” says Brendan, who was unable to track down his birth records and baptism certificate.

Charlotte Smith, the chief executive of Vanish, an advocacy agency for adopted persons in Victoria, says it’s an “ongoing theme”. “Records have been known to fall off the back of a truck or be destroyed in fires,” she says. “I think it’s really important to investigate what happened. We have quite a few adoptees over the years who have found no paper trail.”

Brendan has made several trips to remote South Australia to find out more about his father and the diocese he oversaw.

Brendan has spent the last few years writing a book about his adoption journey — Tell No One — published this week. He has made several trips to remote South Australia to find out more about his priest father and the diocese he oversaw. From 1943 to 1977, Father Vincent Shiel lived and worked across a vast area of remote inland towns and coastal cities.

But Brendan’s birth wasn’t the only secret Father Vincent Shiel kept. In 1950, Father Shiel received a call from a doctor from Whyalla Hospital on the Eyre Peninsula. A baby had been born 10 days earlier to a 16-year-old girl who fell pregnant to a farm worker. The problem was, the baby had been left languishing in the ward.

That baby is now 72 years old and lives in Perth.

A bible and rosary belonging to Father Vin Shiel.

The right to know

Father Vincent Shiel organised for a young woman to take the baby to Sydney to be brought up by his brother, William Shiel.

Terry grew up the youngest of 10 children. His siblings later told him Father Shiel had sworn them to secrecy. Terry always felt lucky to have such a loving family, and William’s last words to him were: “Just remember, you are my son and you always will be.”

Terry only found out he was adopted in his 30s, when he applied for his birth certificate. It showed he wasn’t officially adopted until he was two years old. He confronted the priest, who was living in the Blue Mountains, and asked for the name of his biological mother.

Terry’s father

“I said to him, ‘I found out I was adopted … can you help me out? And I’m trying to track down my birth mother.’ And he sort of shook his head and said … [they’re] probably all dead.”

But Terry’s biological mother wasn’t dead — he eventually met her before she died four years ago — Father Shiel had told him a lie. “I think it’s something that should have been brought out in the open a long, long time ago,” he says. “Everybody has a right to know where they come from … what their background is.”

A global issue

Greens Senator David Shoebridge says Terry’s case raises concerning questions. “These are extraordinary facts that seem to show a national undocumented trade in babies being run by the Catholic Church, says Shoebridge. “But from a systemic level it raises just so many troubling questions about what happened and where the documents now lie.”

There has never been a global scholarly study on the numbers of children of priests and nuns. But in 2022, Doris Reisinger, a senior academic at the Goethe University in Frankfurt and a former nun published a landmark report on the issue in the United States.

“We are definitely talking hundreds of thousands of children affected by reproductive abuse,” says Dr Reisinger, who has examined thousands of pages of survivor accounts, court documents and newspaper articles. “I found the first abortion case involving a 13-year-old girl. And I found cases with girls even younger than that — 11-year-olds who had become pregnant as a result of sexual abuse by a priest.”

Dr Doris Reisinger says the clerical power of priests and mandatory celibacy are often a perfect cover for reproductive abuse.

In many cases, Dr Reisinger says, mothers were put under pressure by priests to have abortions or were coerced into hiding, where they’d give birth under “terrible” circumstances.

“I actually think we can assume that this is still going on because none of the contributing factors has been erased,” she says. “The clerical power of priests, mandatory celibacy that often works as a perfect excuse and cover for reproductive abuse — all of that is still fully in place. And no major research has [looked] into reproductive abuse. So there is still lots to be done.”

What DNA evidence reveals

Linda Kelly Lawless is another child of a priest who is seeking official recognition of her ancestry from the Catholic Church through Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli.

Linda’s father Father Joseph Kelly said mass for pregnant unwed mothers who came to the St Joseph’s Receiving Home in Carlton to have their babies and adopt them out. Linda says he was having an affair with her mother at the same time – she was not at the home.

“Only a few months later he was actually using the adoption system to get rid of me, which happened the following year,” she says. “And when I was born … my paperwork was never finished and … seemed to vanish from this hospital. All my paperwork has ‘baby for adoption’, false names, I can’t find my baptism records.”

Linda Kelly Lawless has asked the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne for a letter recognising they acknowledge Joe Kelly is her father.

Over the last five years, Linda has met with Archbishop Comensoli and presented him with many documents, including DNA reports and affidavits from family members. But Archbishop Comensoli said while he personally believed she was the daughter of Father Joseph Kelly, any formal recognition would need to come from the state, not the church.

Linda engaged the US company Parabon, which is used by the FBI and Queensland Police Service in criminal and missing persons cases. “I had legal DNA testing with Parabon in America, and a cousin from my grandfather’s side and a cousin from my grandmother’s side set forward,” she says .“The results came back that I was 99 per cent related to both of them.”

Polaroid style photos of a girl with brown hair in pigtails and a young male priest in a clerical collar
Linda Kelly Lawless as a girl and her dad, Father Joe Kelly.

Linda presented the results to Archbishop Comensoli. In April this year, she received a letter in response in which he suggested an exhumation of Father Joseph Kelly’s body would be necessary in order for the Catholic church to officially recognise Kelly has her father. He wrote:

“In saying this, I must be very clear that I cannot state categorically that he is your biological father. There is simply not the level of information to do so. You have provided significant evidence of a shared heritage, but it directly doesn’t lead to a singular person … I again note that although I do not have the authority to request an exhumation of Father Joseph Kelly, if it is to be sought, it would need to come from you. I would be prepared to support such an application from your yourself.”

The Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli.

In a statement, Archbishop Comensoli told Compass that the Archdiocese of Melbourne has “supported Linda … and have offered financial support”:

“There is no denying the historical fact that priests have fathered children. The church now steps forward in finding ways to acknowledge children who have priests as their father.

“I cannot state categorically that Fr Kelly is her biological father — there is simply not the level of information to do so at this point in time.

“Regardless of the above, I have shared with Linda in writing that I believe that Fr Kelly is her biological father.”

Linda says she will consider exhumation if that is what it takes to get official recognition from the Catholic Church.

The cemetery where her father is buried has allowed her to take ownership of his plot and put her name on the headstone. “I now actually own my father’s and grandfather’s grave in the private Catholic cemetery,” she says. “They seem to believe my evidence and DNA was enough to show that he was my father.”

She says she is not seeking legal compensation: “I’ve asked for a letter of recognition that they acknowledge that he’s my father. I asked for some support to sort out my birth certificate because it’s not finished. I don’t have a surname, which they have helped me with. I asked for an apology for my mother.”

Charlotte Smith says a public inquiry would help provide victims and survivors with “some sort of justice”.

An inquiry for truth and justice

Vanish, the peak adoption advocacy group in Victoria, is calling for an independent public inquiry into the treatment of the children of priests and their mothers.

“It’s clearly the case that he’s the father and it would appear that since they’re not accepting responsibility, that an inquiry is required to push that,” says Charlotte Smith. A public inquiry would help shed light on how many children have been fathered by priests, she adds, and provide victims and survivors with “some sort of justice”.

Dr Reisinger agrees: “We need an independent inquiry with a strong political backing and with thorough scholarly experience to look into this.”

David Shoebridge is calling for a federal inquiry into the treatment of the children of priests and their mothers.

Federal Greens Senator David Shoebridge wants a federal inquiry. “There clearly needs to be an inquiry which has the power to compel the truth out of the church,” he says.

“We cannot leave these people who were literally stolen at birth by the church to do this fight alone. This is a matter that I think needs to be closely considered by the Federal Attorney General and by the federal government — the fact that it was happening all over the country and the fact that these children were moving across borders.”

Brendan Watkins wants an inquiry to also look at the church’s treatment of the mothers.

“In truth, there’s probably thousands of women like my mother, who live with enormous shame and guilt,” he says. “And they suffer.”

Complete Article HERE!