8 survivors speak during special hearing in Archdiocese of Baltimore bankruptcy case

Frank Schindler, a member of the Maryland chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, speaks to reporters on Monday outside the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore following a hearing in the Archdiocese of Baltimore bankruptcy case.

By Dylan Segelbaum

From the witness stand in a small, packed courtroom, Cathy Roland held up two photos, one of herself and one of her late twin sister, Terri, as children.

Inside the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore, Roland then showed a picture of the two of them together, which she said was taken after the Rev. Eugene Ambrose McGuire had sexually abused them at St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish.

“It’s just different,” she said Monday. “It’s just sadness.”

After presenting her statement, Roland told other survivors in the courtroom that her heart goes out to them. “We will get through it,” she added.

For a second time, survivors of childhood sexual abuse presented statements during a hearing in the Archdiocese of Baltimore bankruptcy case. Eight people shared their stories. Many spoke about how being sexually abused stole their childhood, drove them to alcoholism and drug addiction, and ruined their ability to develop relationships and trust others.

“I hate God,” one woman testified. “Because he let this happen to me. And all these other people here.”

Archbishop William Lori said he was moved by the powerful testimony of the eight survivors who spoke on Monday during a hearing in the Archdiocese of Baltimore bankruptcy.

Archbishop William Lori again attended the court proceedings and listened to their statements. He later said the testimony moved him and commented about the courage of the survivors.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michelle M. Harner set aside time for the statements at the request of the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, which represents survivors in the case. The Archdiocese of Baltimore supported the effort. Six people spoke on April 8 during the first specially set hearing, which was designed to increase transparency and understanding in the process.

“From the court’s perspective, this is a listening session: an opportunity for individuals to be heard,” said Harner, who largely echoed her remarks at the first hearing. “Today, the court will provide time and space for listening.”

As a lifelong Baltimorean, Mark Easley said he went to church every Sunday at St. Vincent de Paul.

His family members, he said, were devout Catholics. He said he trusted everyone in that environment. It seemed like a haven during the political and racial turmoil of the 1960s.

The Rev. Edmund Stroup, he said, would have some people stay with him overnight, which was considered an honor. Easley said he was excited for his opportunity to do the same.

“I viewed this man as one of God’s messengers,” Easley said.

Stroup, he said, sexually abused him during that visit as well as a subsequent overnight stay.

Easley said he was mortified and kept what happened to himself, sinking into music as a coping mechanism. The abuse, he said, “turned me and my life upside down.”

Joe Martin spoke about the sexual abuse that he experienced at the hands of the Rev. Francis LeFevre, whom he met in fifth grade as an altar boy at St. Anthony of Padua.

LeFevre, he said, was outgoing, energetic and likeable. In retrospect, Martin said, the priest “ingratiated himself in all aspects of my life.”

Martin said LeFevre abused him during trips to places including Sea Isle City, New Jersey, and stated that the victimization continued after he started attending Calvert Hall.

He said he felt ashamed and embarrassed. Martin said he hated everyone and everything, with destructive thoughts turning into destructive behaviors.

Eventually, Martin said, he moved back home and returned to church. Elders prayed over him and stated that Jesus loved him, an instance he described as the most peaceful moment in his life. Finally, Martin said, he knew that somebody loved him.

Often, Martin said, he has anger. But he said he has also learned to let go and noted that he joined the creditors’ committee.

Following the hearing, Frank Schindler, a member of the Maryland chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and Teresa Lancaster, a survivor, activist and attorney in Maryland who testified at the first hearing, criticized the Archdiocese of Baltimore for filing for bankruptcy. They also spoke out against the Catholic Church for challenging the Child Victims Act of 2023, which eliminated the statute of limitations for survivors to file lawsuits and allowed more people to sue institutions that enabled their victimization.

Right before the law was set to take effect on Oct. 1, 2023, and open up the church to a flood of lawsuits, the Archdiocese of Baltimore filed for bankruptcy.

Teresa Lancaster, a survivor, activist, and attorney in Maryland, speaks outside the courthouse following a bankruptcy hearing for the Archdiocese of Baltimore on 5/20/24 in Baltimore, MD.
Teresa Lancaster, a survivor, activist, and attorney in Maryland, criticizes the Archdiocese of Baltimore for filing for bankruptcy as well as the Catholic Church for challenging the Child Victims Act of 2023 during a news conference outside the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore.

The Maryland Supreme Court has agreed to decide the constitutionality of the law.

The chair of the creditors’ committee, Paul Jan Zdunek, said it was gut-wrenching listening to survivors recount what happened to them.

Zdunek said the deadline to submit a claim in the case is May 31 and emphasized that survivors can do so anonymously. The committee also has a website that contains up-to-date information about the court proceedings as well as resources.

He said the committee has been meeting with the archbishop and his team.

“They’re saying the right things. Now, we just hope they will continue to do the right things as we move forward,” Zdunek said. “We’re all stuck in this together — and are trying to do what we can for those who have been abused.”

Complete Article HERE!

A dearth of priests suggests the Catholic church should widen recruitment

— It’s no wonder numbers training for the priesthood continue to fall when married men or any woman are still barred

Pope Francis has started a debate on the future of the global Catholic church, but does it go far enough?

by

Walking down towards the River Nidd in Knaresborough, the pretty North Yorkshire market town where I grew up, it would be easy to pass by St Mary’s Catholic church without noticing it. Built only two years after the Emancipation Act in 1829, the church was designed to resemble a private house in order not to offend local Protestant sensibilities. Two centuries later, sectarian sentiment is no longer a problem, but the crisis of vocations in the church certainly is.

Back in Knaresborough, over the bank holiday weekend, I was in the Sunday morning congregation to hear Father William pass on sad news. A letter from the bishop of Leeds informed us that when William returns to Ampleforth Abbey, after 12 years’ sterling work, he will not be replaced by a resident priest. Instead, the parish will share one with a church in nearby Harrogate. Inevitably, that will mean fewer masses, and it is hard to imagine that the new man (because, of course, it will be a man), will be able to devote the same level of pastoral care and attention to the town.

Such arrangements are increasingly common, as the numbers training for the priesthood continue inexorably to fall. But it still comes as a shock to think of an unoccupied presbytery in a town the size of Knaresborough. In Rome, Pope Francis has inaugurated a great debate on the future of the global Catholic church, which has been compared to the famous reforming Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. But the issue of allowing married priests has barely surfaced, and the ordination of women is not even on the table. For how long can that remain the case?

Complete Article HERE!

Washington AG investigating clergy abuse says Seattle Archdiocese won’t cooperate

— Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a petition Thursday to compel the Catholic Church to hand over files and answer questions under oath.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson says “Washingtonians deserve a public accounting” of how the Catholic Church handles claims of abuse.

By Lewis Kamb

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday he’s seeking a court order to force the Seattle Archdiocese to turn over files on priests accused of sexual abuse and make its archbishop answer questions under oath as part of a sweeping probe into how the state’s three Catholic dioceses handled claims of child sex abuse.

Ferguson’s office is looking into “allegations that the Catholic Church has facilitated and attempted to cover up decades of pervasive sexual abuse of children by Church leaders in Washington State,” his office’s petition for a court order states.

Because the Seattle Archdiocese “refuses to cooperate” with civil subpoenas issued by his office last summer and last month, Ferguson went public with his probe Thursday by filing a legal petition in King County Superior Court that seeks an order “to enforce the subpoena,” his office said in a statement.

If obtained, such a court order would legally compel Seattle Archbishop Paul Etienne to appear for a deposition and force Washington’s largest Catholic diocese to produce a long list of internal records, including its trove of secret archives on clergy sexual abuse allegations dating back decades.

“Washingtonians deserve a public accounting of how the Catholic Church handles allegations of child sex abuse, and whether charitable dollars were used to cover it up,” Ferguson said at a press conference. “As a Catholic, I am disappointed the Church refuses to cooperate with our investigation.”

The archdiocese issued a statement Thursday disputing some of Ferguson’s statements as inaccurate and saying it was blindsided by his petition because its lawyers had been cooperating with his office on “a shared legal analysis” for the investigation.

“Today’s press conference was a surprise to us since we welcome this investigation and have been working closely with the Attorney General’s team for months now,” the statement said.

Ferguson’s office said it’s also prepared to seek court orders against the two other Catholic dioceses in Washington, in Yakima and Spokane, if either or both don’t comply with their latest subpoenas later this month.

With Thursday’s action, Ferguson became the 23rd attorney general to publicly announce an investigation into the Catholic Church in his or her state, his office said.

Long called for by sexual abuse survivors and advocacy groups, Washington’s investigation is the first outside probe of the Seattle Archdiocese’s handling of clergy abuse, advocates for survivors say. The archdiocese has publicly identified 83 clergy members “as credibly accused” sex offenders, based on its own private evaluations. But for years, it has resisted advocates’ calls and media requests to release its secret files about clergy abuse or allow independent investigators to inspect them.

Ferguson noted other attorneys general investigations have revealed “dramatically greater numbers” of credible sexual abuse cases than what local dioceses have made public. An investigation in Illinois last year revealed more than four times as many substantiated child sex abuse cases than what Catholic dioceses in the state had divulged, he said.

Ferguson’s announcement also marked the first time he has acknowledged the existence of his investigation, which has been active since at least July.

In February, his office declined to confirm or deny the probe after a group of anti-clergy abuse activists held a press conference to contend that he was hiding the investigation from the public.

The announcement from Ferguson, a Democrat who is running for governor, came two days after NBC News pressed his office to disclose copies of the subpoenas that a reporter requested under Washington’s Public Records Act in March. Without confirming whether they existed, the attorney general’s office delayed its disclosure for more than two months by contending it was still searching for records.

Ferguson’s subpoenas, made public for the first time this week and shared with NBC News late Wednesday, clarify the legal underpinning for the probe. The first subpoena cites his office’s authority to “investigate transactions and relationships of trustees and other persons” under Washington’s Charitable Trust Act, which regulates certain tax-exempt corporations and entities that hold charitable assets in trust.

A civil subpoena has never been used in Washington to investigate a religious organization, according to a legal analysis provided to Ferguson’s office and obtained by NBC News.

Ferguson’s approach is similar to one that New York Attorney General Leticia James used in 2020 to sue the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, based on state civil laws regulating charities. James’ suit led to a landmark settlement in 2022.

Ferguson’s first set of subpoenas to Washington’s Catholic dioceses each include a cover letter dated July 26, signed by him and sent separately to Etienne, Yakima Bishop Joseph Tyson and the Rev. Victor Blazovich, the vicar of finance for Spokane’s bishop.

Ferguson’s letter contends that while Washington’s Charitable Trust Act exempts religious organizations, “the exclusion does not apply in the context of child sexual abuse, a heinous violation with no connection to religion or an entity’s religious status.”

The accompanying subpoenas list demands and instructions for each diocese to produce more than 20 categories of records, including all reports about sexual abuse allegations made against priests and other clergy members, employees and volunteers since Jan. 1, 1940.

The records demanded include those containing allegations against priests and others whom the dioceses already have publicly identified as “credibly accused” sexual abusers, as well as those they have not. The subpoenas also demand the dioceses to turn over communications with the Vatican about sexual abuse claims, and records showing church policies for compensating victims who alleged sexual abuse and accounting for any such payments that have been made.

All three dioceses had initially been given until Aug. 25 to comply with the first subpoenas, the records show.

“The dioceses only responded with information that was already public. They did not fully respond to the subpoena,” Ferguson’s office said in its statement.

Ferguson’s office also released copies of a second set of “amended subpoenas” that were issued last month to the three dioceses. Each includes demands for production of all previously identified records, plus five additional categories of records mostly about finances and accounting.

The Seattle Archdiocese had been given until May 10 to comply with Ferguson’s latest subpoena but notified the office this week that it objects to the subpoena and would not be complying, according to the attorney general’s office.

The deadline for the Yakima and Spokane dioceses to comply with their latest subpoenas is May 22, the records show.

Spokane’s diocese said in a statement Thursday that it has nothing more to publicly divulge since a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case in 2004 “clearly revealed how the Diocese of Spokane dealt with all historic cases of sexual abuse.”

A statement from Yakima’s diocese separately challenged Ferguson’s subpoenas as invalid and unconstitutional, adding “there are already many public resources available for the information being sought.”

“We cannot publicize everything in our records, however, to respect the privacy and confidentiality rights of, among others, both victims and falsely accused clergy,” the Yakima Diocese’s statement added. “And so, we will vigorously assert our First Amendment rights.”

Complete Article HERE!

In year of our Lord 2024, teachers are still losing jobs for being gay

1 of 3 | Even the pope suggested it’s time to let gay couples live in peace. But another local Catholic outfit, St. Luke School in Shoreline, is ousting a lesbian teacher for the crime of getting engaged.

By

Sometimes a news story seems so behind the times that I find myself double-checking the date. As if maybe it’s one of those items that’s still bouncing around the internet from another decade.

Such as: “Catholic school teacher tells parents she is being forced out because she is gay.”

You’re still at this, local Catholics? Still ousting gay employees, in the Seattle area, in 2024?

The news is indeed from this week, with the story that a kindergarten teacher at St. Luke School in Shoreline is not having her teaching contract renewed for next year because she’s gay and getting married.

“Father Brad does not approve of my upcoming marriage and feels it is best for the St. Luke community if I no longer teach at St. Luke,” the teacher, Karen Pala, said in an email to kindergarten parents. (A copy was forwarded to me by a parent.)

“Father Brad” refers to Brad Hagelin, the parish priest.

Fr. Brad Hagelin

“This news has been extremely difficult for me,” Pala went on. “I am a faithful practicing Catholic and I was ready to spend the next 30 years of my career at St. Luke.”

Predictably — because this is what happens every time local religious schools do this — many parents responded with anger. They said driving out the teacher is mean and discriminatory in spirit, even if it isn’t against the letter of the law. It reminds me of when Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien ousted two gay teachers in the middle of the 2019-20 school year for the crime of getting engaged — touching off schoolwide protests.

“It’s a real shock, because this isn’t what St. Luke’s represents to a lot of folks,” one current parent there, Nick Beyer, told me. “It’s a liberal, accepting place — or so we thought.”

“Has the diocese not learned from its history?” wondered Gary Johnson, a St. Luke’s alum, writing on a petition set up to protest the teacher’s ouster.

Added a “disheartened” Jennifer Keough, another St. Luke’s alum: “This type of action is what is driving people away from the Catholic Church.”

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Seattle said they couldn’t talk specifics about a personnel matter. In a statement, Archbishop Paul Etienne did some hemming to go along with some hawing:

“The reality is that we live in a tension,” he said. “After more than a year of study in 2020-2021, the covenant taskforce concluded that there is no clear, consensus for how to apply the covenant clause. … Because there isn’t a single defined answer, we must dialog like Jesus did. This is why the application of our covenant clause is handled at the local level…”

The covenant clause he’s referring to is whether Catholic schools should require teachers or other employees to adhere to a “lifestyle” contract, in which they’re expected to adhere to all church teachings, including in their personal lives. In some parishes, this means teachers can lose their jobs if they enter a same-sex marriage or cohabitate outside of marriage, among other things.

“No one is fired or non-renewed from employment due to their orientation, identity, desires, or ideas,” an archdiocese report on the issue summed up. “Rather, it is the breaking of the covenant through actions, public witness, and lifestyle choices.”

I think that means you can technically be gay, so long as the church feels it can look the other way. Getting married is a public act, with a license, so the teacher’s out.

It’s sort of like the old discredited “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Which even the military ended because it called on gay people to deny or hide their existences.

The church has a right to do this because religious groups are exempt from some parts of anti-discrimination policy. But is it the right thing to do? As the archbishop acknowledges above, the flock seems increasingly skeptical.

“This is a shameful hypocrisy and a contradiction to the message of love and tolerance that characterizes the Catholic faith,” wrote Forest Hoag, a Seattle U grad. “I am embarrassed to even hear about this.”

Beyer, who has a son at St. Luke, said it feels most tone-deaf coming right after the pope himself said it was OK to bless same-sex couples. That doesn’t mean the church endorses the marriages, let alone performs them. But the people involved are simply loving one another, the pope said. They don’t deserve to be punished.

“That’s the ultimate big boss saying it’s OK, that we should move past this,” Beyer said. “So shouldn’t it be OK in Seattle?”

This is what I wonder every time another gay employee is run out of a job in the name of religion, just for being.

Discrimination against gays and lesbians was banned here 18 years ago. Don’t ask, don’t tell ended 13 years ago. Same-sex marriage has been the law here for 12. Given all that progress, all those years ago, shouldn’t we be better than this by now?

Complete Article HERE!

Queer Redemption

— How queerness changes everything we thought we knew about Christianity by Charlie Bell

More history would help an ambitious project

By Adrian Thatcher

CHARLIE BELL is at his exasperated best when he claims for LGBTIQ people: “We have spent far too long being apologetic, . . . playing with exhausted material and not nearly enough time listening to the reality of queer lives within the church.” Queer people are holy and gifted. The Church needs them badly. It should stop debating whether they might be grudgingly accepted as honorary heterosexuals, and allow queer experiences of God to resonate throughout the Church, bringing renewal to the Church’s understanding of — well, everything: faith, doctrine, ecclesiology, and ethics, especially the doctrine of (heterosexual) marriage.

So far, so good. All this needs to be said. But Christians gay and straight may wonder whether the book gets very far in achieving its aims. The sub-title (. . . everything we thought we knew . . .) signals a vast undertaking. Anglicans have recently neglected the entire topic of doctrinal and moral change and how it comes about. There is little here to address this hiatus. There is much assertion (and repetition) in the book, but little theology or history.

Drawing more on these would provide a firmer place from which Bell’s many just critiques of theological and institutional conservatism in the Church of England could tellingly proceed. Readers may not be surprised, for example, to discover that “radical equality is of God.” But it may be necessary to move beyond assertion to engagement with the history and theology that deny it before moulding both into a more just and compassionate synthesis.

There is a potentially fruitful notion of “Catholic Queering — a commitment to the catholic faith . . . that does not fear for the collapse of that faith if questions are asked of it”. But little more is heard of it. If “queer” stands as a synonym for LGBTIQ, and “queering” Christianity means the activity of reassessing the faith from the many perspectives of queer people, then the enterprise of queering is clear and necessary.

But some of the changes or reorientations that Bell wants, like the primacy of relationship in sexual ethics and marriage (chapter 4), can already be found in (some versions of) the doctrine of the Trinity without queering it at all. If he wants to draw on the labyrinthine and disruptive strands of queer theory and theology, a different book may be needed. Even then, his opponents (everywhere present in the book) are likely to run scared.

Bell is an ally among Christians labouring for a different and inclusive Church in which heterosexual norms do not measure who is to be included. But there may be better ways of arguing for it.

Complete Article HERE!