Priest Faces Child Porn Charges

A priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester is facing charges of possessing child pornography and stealing from his parish.

The Rev. Lowe B. Dongor was released on personal recognizance after pleading not guilty to the charges Monday in Fitchburg District Court.

Dongor was placed on administrative leave by the diocese in July.

According to court documents, images of preteen girls were found on Dongor’s computer when he took it in for service. He also allegedly stole $40 to $60 from the parish on several occasions to send to family in the Philippines.

A diocese spokesman tells The Telegram & Gazette that Dongor has been removed from ministry and left church property. He had most recently been at St. Joseph Parish in Fitchburg. He could not be reached.

Full Article HERE!

Report: Kansas City diocese ‘jeopardized safety of children’

A study commissioned by the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese of its handling of sexual misconduct cases found that “individuals in positions of authority reacted to events in ways that could have jeopardized the safety of children in diocesan parishes, school, and families.”

Hiring former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves to investigate how the diocese handles cases of sexual misconduct was part of Bishop Robert Finn’s response to questions that he had mishandled the case of Fr. Shawn Ratigan, a local pastor arrested in May for possession of child pornography.

The Graves report states that Finn, who first became aware of concerns about Ratigan in December, “had not determined a ‘breaking point’ at which he would remove Fr. Ratigan from ministry or take other more serious action.”

Ratigan is in jail on charges filed in Clay County, Mo. A federal grand jury charged him in August with 13 counts of production, attempted production and possession of child pornography.

Among the findings in the 138-page report, which is available online, are:
Diocesan leaders, as previously reported in the media, did not inform the diocesan review board of allegations;
Responsibility for the investigation of sexual misconduct fell to one office, that of the vicar general;
Finn took Ratigan at his word that he would abide by restrictions on his association with children.
Taken together, the report states, findings indicate that “Diocesan leaders failed to follow their own policies and procedures” for responding to reports of sexual misconduct.

The report appears to place most blame on the current vicar general of the diocese, Msgr. Robert Murphy, who was previously the point person in the diocese for investigating claims of sexual misconduct and was also a member of the diocesan review board.

Murphy, the report states, “served as a gatekeeper” and had “no one to second guess his judgments.”

Murphy was relieved of his responsibility in cases of sexual misconduct by clergy in June, but remains vicar general of the diocese.

Ratigan served as pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City until December. The parish is in Clay County.

For the most part, today’s report seems to affirm the sequence of events already reported by diocesan officials and in the media.

However, the report elaborates on certain aspects of the story, including how a detailed report outlining misconduct by Ratigan was handled by Murphy and Finn.

A year before Ratigan’s arrest, principal Julie Hess of the elementary school attached to St. Patrick Parish hand delivered to Murphy a letter warning that parents and staff members there were concerned about “significant red flags” about Ratigan’s behavior and were worried he “fit the profile of a child predator.”

“Parents, staff members, and parishioners are discussing his actions and whether or not he may be a child molester,” wrote Hess in the May 2010 letter.

As previously reported in the media, the report states that Murphy verbally informed Finn of the letter, but that the bishop did not read it until May 2011.

In the report, Finn states that he “cannot recall” whether he received a written report on the subject from Murphy prior to this May, and can only “specifically recall” three items from Murphy’s verbal report to him on the subject:

That Ratigan had swung children around on the school playground, had let children hug his legs and had let a girl sit on his lap.

Among other descriptions of Ratigan’s behavior in Hess’ letter are instances where the priest had allowed students to “climb on him, grab his leg/s, and reach into his pockets for candy” and a report that, during a Brownie Girl Scout visit to his home, a woman “had found a pair of girls’ panties inside one of the planters in Father’s back yard.”

The letter concludes: “[Staff members] believe that Father spends so much time at school he isn’t able to get other important things done. Father is at school every day for long periods of time. He is usually present at arrival time, during morning prayer, recess, lunch, dismissal, and after school. He also visits the early childhood center most every day.”

Also elaborated upon in today’s report is the process by which Finn dealt with instances of Ratigan visiting children after he had been removed from his parish.

After receiving out-of-state treatment for a December suicide attempt, Ratigan was assigned by Finn to live with a group of Vincentian priests in a home located near a prayer center run by a group of Franciscan sisters.

As previously reported, today’s report states that, when moving Ratigan, Finn gave the priest instructions to not attend or participate in events where children were present, to not have access to a computer, and to only use cameras in “limited circumstances.”

However, the report states, there was no supervision given to Ratigan to ensure those instructions were followed.

In a sub-section titled “A Flag of the Reddest Color,” the report states that Ratigan attended several functions where children were present in March, including a popular local parade.

News of Ratigan’s visit with children, the report states, caused Msgr. Brad Offutt, the chancellor of the diocese, to e-mail Finn April 8 expressing concern.

“I am not sure what the options are for addressing this, but plainly something needs to be done to limit Diocesan liability and protect children,” wrote Offutt. “[Ratigan’s] recent behavior relative to children and on the computer are a flag of the reddest color”

During a conversation the same day with Ratigan, the report states, Finn admonished the priest, again, that he was not to have contact with children.

Ratigan, the report states, heard confessions from minors April 11 and “grew bolder” by attending a high school track meet May 7 and accessing the guest computers at the Vincentian home.

Finn, the report states, said in an interview for the investigation that he “had not formulated a plan” to address Ratigan’s behavior.

“Although he was considering assigning Fr. Ratigan to the Archives Department of the Chancery, where he would not have contact with children, Bishop Finn had not determined a ‘breaking point’ at which he would remove Fr. Ratigan from ministry or take other more serious remedial action,” the report states.

The report outlines five recommendations for the diocese, including:
Asking all diocesan employees and volunteers to report abuse to the police;
Notifying a diocesan ombudsman of current and past abuse;
Ensuring that the diocesan review board be notified of all allegations of abuse.
The diocese previously announced June 30 the appointment of an ombudsman and public liaison officer tasked with receiving and investigating cases of sexual misconduct.

In a statement to press, Graves indicated he thought the diocese would take his recommendations to heart.

“Our investigation identified shortcomings, inaction and confusing procedures, but we believe Bishop Finn and the leadership of the diocese understand the gravity of the issues and take these recommendations seriously,” Graves stated.

In a similar statement, Finn touted the diocese’s appointment of the ombudsman as a sign its seriousness.

“The Graves report affirms the decision to establish and appoint an Ombudsman. Jennifer Valenti, appointed Ombudsman in late June, is an experienced prosecutor and possesses the authority as gatekeeper to receive and investigate, independently, any complaint involving the sexual abuse of minors,” Finn stated.

A statement from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests was more skeptical.

“Lawyers still act like adding some phrases to the official diocesan procedure manual will make some kind of difference,” SNAP’s outreach director Barbara Dorris wrote.

“It won’t. Only vigorous action by police and prosecutors will make kids safer in the KC diocese.”

Catholics in Crisis: Sex and Deception in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia

This is a MUST READ!

As the Archdiocese reels from a second grand jury report detailing its cover-up of sexual abuse by priests, the local church faces the biggest crisis in its history. How could a spiritual institution turn a blind eye to evil not just once, but twice? The answer lies in the story of the two men who’ve led the Catholic Church in Philadelphia for the past 25 years

Clergy devalues language in response to child sex abuse

IT’S THAT “if” word again. Irish Catholic bishops and archbishops have been finding it so very helpful in recent years when expressing personal sorrow for what others have perceived as wrongs on their part.

Such a delightfully useful word. It creates just the right amount of wriggle-room to allow a putatively penitent prelate allow an outside perception of deepest repentance while not really feeling such a thing at all.

You could say the small “if” word, with such a big meaning, comes from the same stable as that thoroughbred “mental reservation”, of which there is none better when conveying a false impression – truthfully.

And so, little “if” popped up when the former bishop of Cloyne John Magee spoke to RTÉ on Monday.

“To the victims I say I am truly horrified by the abuse they suffered – it is very clear to me when I read the complete report – and if through my not fully implementing the 1996 guidelines which we had, I have made any victim suffer more, on my bended knee, I beg forgiveness, I am sorry.”

The extravagance of the language (how Italianate!) should not distract from the place of little “if” in the scheme of things. Or that of the equally useful “fully” term.

The Dublin archdiocese liked the “fully” word too.

In explaining how it could say in a mid-1990s statement it had co-operated with gardaí in dealing with allegations of clerical child sex abuse cases, while at the same time retaining files not handed over to gardaí, the Dublin archdiocese pointed out it had not said it co-operated “fully” with gardaí.

This was also presented to the Murphy commission as an example of mental reservation in all its glory.

Recall that the Cloyne report found Magee “took little or no active interest” in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008, 12 years after the framework document on child sexual abuse was agreed by the Irish Bishops’ Conference.

There are no “ifs” about that. It was “little or no” interest.

And Magee was similarly athletic with his use of language in the statement he issued on Monday.

He accepted “full responsibility for the failure of the diocese to effectively manage allegations on child sexual abuse”. He unreservedly apologised “to all those who suffered additional hurt because of the flawed implementation of the church procedures, for which I take full responsibility”.

This would suggest he was taking on board such responsibility because of his role as bishop rather than through any direct personal fault of his own.

And that “fully” word appears again. He let the victims down “by not FULLY [my capitals] implementing the guidelines which were available to me” and he apologised “to the people of the diocese for not managing this important work more effectively”.

It is difficult not to agree with the Cloyne woman, herself abused by a priest, who told my colleague Barry Roche last Monday she was sceptical over Magee’s expression of remorse, saying she had heard so many apologies from the bishop and other clergy in Cloyne that she questioned their value.

“Anyway, whatever he does now can’t undo what was done to us.

We can all be sorry after the fact – he can say sorry as much as he wants, but it isn’t going to change what happened to me or to the other girls who were abused,” she said.

Wise words.

Indeed, it is hard not to concur with Magee himself when he said on Monday, “I feel there is nothing I can say now, which will ease the pain and distress for victims.” There isn’t.

The problem Magee and other senior clergy face is that they have devalued language.

They have rendered words of sorrow and remorse redundant through repeated abuse.

They have done as did Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass.

“When I use a word,” he said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

The question was, said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

He knew better.

“The question is,” he said, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

The bishops and archbishops might also reflect on what became of Humpty Dumpty.

Clergy doing right thing is about timing not morality

Primate Sean Brady insists the long-awaited report into the mishandling of child sex abuse allegations by the diocese of Cloyne is “another dark day” in the history of the Irish Church. In this, as in so much else, he is entirely wrong. Any day on which light is cast on the obscure, murky workings of the Church is a day of illumination rather than darkness. That what it reveals is so utterly vile and contemptible is another matter altogether.

A previous such occasion, of course, was when Sean Brady’s own involvement in the cover-up of priestly perversion was revealed in 2009, when the faithful discovered how he had, 30 years earlier as part of an internal investigation into allegations against notorious paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth, made children sign oaths not to tell anyone that they had been abused.

Smyth, one of the most repulsive characters ever to wear priestly garb, went on to abuse dozens more innocents before being finally arrested; but even then, Primate Brady refused to take full responsibility by resigning, claiming that he was, in effect, only following orders, and that this was how things were back then. He also claimed that the current climate was a “totally different one to that of the past”.

It was a line echoed by Ian Elliott, CEO of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, who also said in 2009 that the progress towards better procedure had been “truly remarkable” and that there were now “champions for children” in place who wouldn’t let the same mistakes be made. “Remarkable” was bad enough, as if now allowing children not to be abused was some massive achievement, rather than the absolute minimum anyone could expect from those entrusted with their care; but it now turns out that these lauded champions weren’t up to the job either.

The report by Judge Yvonne Murphy shows conclusively that, as late as 2009, the diocese of Cloyne was still not following proper procedures on the reporting of sex abuse which the Church was supposed to have adopted 12 years earlier. In fact, they went further and deliberately misled the State about what they were doing. Despite the fact an internal church report in 2003 had found that Cloyne was putting children in danger by not following up allegations thoroughly, Bishop John Magee still told the late Brian Lenihan, then minister for children, that they were fully compliant, when they weren’t even bothering to make private enquiries as to whether accused priests had targeted other children.

And what is the response to all this? John Magee has vanished into the mist, maybe America, no one seems to know — which is to say that the Vatican surely knows, but they’re not saying either — and all that’s come from him is a statement, issued through a PR company in Dublin, Young Communications, containing the usual blether about how sad it all is. The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, for his part, merely said it would be “helpful” if Magee came forward to answer allegations fully.

It makes a slap on the wrist look like the Spanish Inquisition in comparison, not to mention a mockery of the Vatican’s promise last year that “civil law concerning the reporting of crimes … should always be followed.”

Those at the head of an organisation set its moral tone. They are the ones to whom those beneath look for guidance on how to behave. Practically the entire hierarchy of the Church in Ireland is made up of people who, in one form or another, have made excuses for not doing the right thing. The context changes, but the excuses remain the same. If they can keep wriggling off the hook, why shouldn’t Bishop John Magee, or any of the others? The only reason why they should act differently now seems to be because people further up the chain are telling them that they should. But why should they listen to people who themselves have ignored the suffering of children when it would have been too difficult for them to do what was right? It’s like the IRA lecturing the dissidents on why they should stop blowing up policemen. Take away the political waffle and what it amounts to is: You shouldn’t do it anymore, even though we did when we were in your place, because it’s inconvenient now. It’s about timing, not morality.

Priests and bishops ought to listen, it could be said, because they’re bound by obedience to do whatever the Church tells them to do. They don’t have the right to refuse because to resist is to defy God. That only makes it all the more revealing that, 12 years after the Church apparently told them to comply with the law of the land, they were still prepared to ignore their own guidelines. It suggests they didn’t believe the hierarchy really meant it; that they were still detecting ambivalence; they were still getting a nod and a wink that what they were up to was not that serious. Indeed that’s what the report into the cesspit that was the diocese of Cloyne under Bishop Magee finds to be the case. Silence was officially sanctioned by the Vatican at the time when they were insisting publicly that all had changed, changed utterly, that a nice new Church had taken the place of the old one. Nor has anything said last week exactly reassured the sceptics, even now, that the Church quite “gets” what all the fuss is about. Instead, they’re still arguing the toss about whether abuse revealed in the confessional should be covered by the requirement to report crimes to the police. The Government has been bracingly unwavering about this; but that the hierarchy is still prepared to engage in theological point-scoring about sacredotal privilege, and to warn that the Government risks “antagonising relationships” if they insist that priests have the same obligation as every other Irish citizen to come forward when they know that children are being abused, is not only disappointing, but frightening. It seems to suggest that it’s not a National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church that we need, but a National Board for Safeguarding Children from the Catholic Church.

They’ve had ample opportunities to set their own house in order. Too many, perhaps. They failed the test every time, preferring always to run away and hide behind lawyers and PR companies and each other, issuing one sophistical press release after another about the difficulties of doing the right thing, and meanwhile pumping out Lord Haw Haw-style propaganda suggesting that the institutions under attack are nowhere near as black as they’re painted. Well, that part’s true enough. They’re far blacker.