The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a Catholic order that operated 48 of Canada’s residential schools, has hired an independent third party to oversee efforts to ensure members who have committed sex crimes do not reoffend.
Some sexual assault survivors have praised the hiring as a positive development — but have also criticized the Oblate’s decision to withhold the monitor’s name.
Tony Charlie, who was sexually assaulted by an Oblate brother during his time at Kuper Island Residential School starting in the mid-1960s, said the hiring of an independent monitor is “a good step.”
He also said it’s impossible to confirm that the monitor is truly independent if the Oblates are unwilling to release the hire’s name.
“We have no clue who this person is,” he said. “It’s very important that these abusers be accountable and visible and probably monitored closely.”
The Oblates hired the monitor in December 2022 and expect he will begin monthly meetings later this month.
The monitor will meet with Oblates who are convicted sex offenders — men who abused children in residential schools, northern Indigenous communities and various parishes across the country.
A CBC investigation in June 2022 confirmed that at least nine such offenders had taken refuge at the Springhurst retirement residence in Ottawa after being released from prison.
“Our concern is to ensure good oversight, appropriate external oversight,” said Ken Thorson, provincial leader of the Oblates.
“[We] want to find the person who we felt was going to provide us with the accountability that we need to ensure that we’re doing what we’re meant to do.”
The monitor will be reporting to a misconduct advisory team that may advise changes to an offending Oblate’s safety plan, if deemed necessary.
Monitor ‘has no connections’ to Oblates: Thorson
When asked why the Oblates aren’t identifying the monitor, Thorson instead described the monitor’s work history, which includes investigating workplace harassment and abuse in organizations ranging from large corporations to social services agencies and Indigenous communities.
Thorson said the monitor “has no connections” to the Oblates, but he refused to identify the person.
“For the sake of the work, for the sake of the people that he’s working with, we’ve chosen at this time not to release the name,” Thorson said.
He added that the Oblates “might be willing” to consider sharing the name of the third party monitor with some survivors to assure them the hire is indeed independent.
Other survivors who spoke to CBC also said they’d like the name to be released.
Leona Huggins, a founding member of Advocates for Clergy Trauma Survivors in Canada, was sexually assaulted by an Oblate priest in the 1970s.
Huggins said she is aware of other instances where the Catholic Church has assured people it is making an “arm’s length” hire, but the person has turned out to have close connections to the church.
“Without knowing the name of the person, it’s hard to trust that they can be fully independent,” she said.
Zach Hiner, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said survivors of clergy abuse are often promised action, only to be disappointed by a lack of follow-through.
“Survivors who were abused by someone in the Oblates would probably be looking at this with a little bit of hope and a lot of skepticism,” he said.
Thorson said he is “always willing” to be in touch with survivors and has listened to their stories in the past.
“People have suffered — children and vulnerable people have suffered at the hands of Oblates,” he said. “Making amends for the sins of our community is the most important work that I do.”
But for Charlie, those efforts have fallen short.
“Not one of them has stepped forward to help us heal. None of them have checked up on us,” Charlie said. “I really don’t have faith in them right now.”
Slovenia’s Catholic bishops on Thursday condemned as “despicable” the emotional, sexual, and spiritual violence committed against women by a famous Slovenian priest at the heart of an abuse and cover-up scandal roiling the Vatican and the Jesuit order of Pope Francis.
The Slovene bishops’ conference broke three weeks of silence with a statement in which the churchmen also voiced solidarity with the victims of the Rev. Marko Ivan Rupnik and urged anyone harmed by him or any other priest who abused his authority to come forward.
“It is never the victims’ fault! We are on their side,” the bishops said. “Any misuse of spiritual power and authority to carry out violence against subordinates is an unacceptable and despicable act.”
The scandal involving Rupnik, a Jesuit from Slovenia whose mosaics decorate churches and chapels around the globe, erupted earlier this month when Italian blogs and websites reported claims by several women that Rupnik sexually, spiritually and psychologically abused them.
The Jesuits initially insisted there was a single allegation against him in 2021 that the Vatican’s sex abuse office shelved because it was too old to prosecute. Only under questioning did the Jesuits acknowledge that Rupnik was convicted and excommunicated a year earlier for committing one of the most serious crimes in the church — using the confessional to absolve someone with whom he had engaged in sexual activity.
The Jesuits also subsequently acknowledged that the 2021 case actually involved allegations by nine women.
The 2021 claims date from the 1990s, when Rupnik was a spiritual adviser to a Jesuit-affiliated community of consecrated women in Slovenia. They came to light after the Vatican sent an investigator to look into complaints about the way the community was being run. Learning of the alleged abuses, the investigator urged the women to make formal complaints.
The Vatican’s sex abuse office, known now as the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, hasn’t responded to questions about why it didn’t waive the statute of limitations on the 2021 allegations, as it often does, especially given Rupnik’s conviction and temporary excommunication by the Vatican the previous year.
The Vatican spokesman similarly hasn’t responded to questions about what, if anything, Francis knew about the claims involving his fellow Jesuit or whether he intervened. The pope and Rupnik last met on Jan. 3.
In their statement Thursday, which was posted in three languages, the Slovene bishops said that even though the Vatican’s sex crimes office determined the 2021 allegations were too old to prosecute, they “are always reprehensible and demand condemnation.”
The case has laid bare some uncomfortable issues facing the Holy See, chief among them its general unwillingness to consider clergy sexual and spiritual misconduct against adult women as a crime that must be punished. Rather, the Vatican has long considered any sexual activity between adults as consensual and a mere lapse of priestly chastity, without considering if there was an abuse of authority involved that caused victims trauma.
Additionally, the case has raised questions about whether Rupnik got preferential treatment given his artistic talents and status as a famous, sought-after Jesuit at a time when the pope’s order is in a position of influence at the Holy See. The Vatican office that handled his case is headed by a Jesuit prefect, has a Jesuit sex crimes prosecutor and a former No. 2 who lived in Rupnik’s Jesuit community in Rome.
And it has raised the question about the proportionality of canonical punishments: Many priests have been removed from ministry entirely for lesser seeming crimes. Yet Rupnik was allowed to keep preaching, celebrating Mass and most importantly, making his art even after having incurred excommunication, albeit temporarily.
Even the Slovene bishops seemed to want to separate Rupnik’s crimes from his good works, describing him as an “outstanding artist and insightful spiritual leader.”
“We beg you, with this tragic realization in mind, to distinguish his unacceptable and reprehensible actions from his extraordinary spiritual and artistic accomplishments in mosaics and other areas,” they said.
Francis hasn’t responded in any public or specific way to the revelations, which have also implicated supporters of Rupnik who sought to discredit his accusers by questioning their mental health. But Francis appeared to address the issues it has raised in a general way Thursday, during his annual Christmas greetings to Vatican bureaucrats.
“Besides the violence of arms, there is also verbal violence, psychological violence, the violence of the abuse of power, the hidden violence of gossip,” he said. “May none of us profit from his or her position and role in order to demean others.”
As bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, the Most Rev. William E. Lori fought for nearly eight years — all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — to prevent the wide release of information about the history of child sexual abuse in that branch of the Catholic Church.
The soft-spoken prelate argued in the case two decades ago that what was already publicly known about sexual misconduct by clergy in the diocese was all the information the public needed to grasp the scope of the crisis and understand who was responsible.
Now archbishop of Baltimore, the 71-year-old Lori is facing a tidal wave of criticism — and even calls for his resignation — as the Maryland Attorney General’s Office seeks to release the results of its four-year investigation into the abuse of children by Catholic clergy in Baltimore and nine counties in the state.
Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh announced last month that his team had finished its sprawling probe, and his staff quickly filed a motion in Baltimore Circuit Court to make the 456-page document public. After five days, the archdiocese announced it would support its release, but The Baltimore Sun confirmed a week later that the archdiocese is paying legal fees for an anonymous group of current and former employees who seek to influence what is disclosed.
The Connecticut and Maryland cases are in many ways different. In Bridgeport, Lori filed a motion on behalf of his diocese to prevent the release of thousands of documents related to abuse cases. In Baltimore, the archdiocese is supporting those who seek to affect the release — instead of taking such a step itself. Meanwhile, the identities of those seeking to control the outcome are under seal.
In an interview with The Sun, Lori defended his actions in both dioceses. He’s also used messages to parishioners, including a video on the archdiocese website, to expound on his reasoning in the Maryland case.
“The archdiocese does not and will not oppose the report’s release,” Lori says in the video. “But we [have] also pledged to support the rights of some people who are mentioned in the report, but not accused of abuse, and who were not given the ability to respond to the attorney general during the investigation.”
To some who have followed both cases, Lori’s approaches to the two situations are strikingly similar, and not in a positive way.
“I can’t pretend to read his mind, but in Connecticut, he seemed to be in favor of transparency even as he worked against it,” said Terry McKiernan, a co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a nonprofit that tracks clergy abuse cases. “He tries to have his cake and eat it, too.”
Gail Howard, a co-director of the Connecticut chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, rejected the archbishop’s reasoning.
“Lori’s explanation — hiding the truth in case it might get misused — doesn’t cut it,” Howard said. “In what universe does sealing information promote transparency? People in Bridgeport legitimately wanted to know what happened in their diocese, and he wants to keep things secret because some little group might get hurt? He’s doing the same thing down there he did up here.”
By the time Pope John Paul II appointed him bishop of Bridgeport in 2001, Lori was making a name for himself among church leaders as a man to help reform policies, procedures and attitudes around abuse.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Lori had helped Cardinal James Hickey in Washington craft one of the first child-protection policies in the U.S. Catholic Church.
Fellow bishops tapped him to help write the 2002 Dallas Charter, guidelines for addressing abuse by priests in the U.S., and sell it to the pope. However, Lori and the other authors were criticized for omitting bishops (on the grounds they were subject only to papal authority) from the charter’s first version. Subsequent documents have established how bishops can address other bishops’ misconduct.
When Lori arrived in Connecticut, the diocese was reeling from widespread reports of abuse and a long-percolating lawsuit filed by 24 victims. Lori’s charge included changing the culture created by his predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan, who displayed a “dismissive, uncaring, and at times threatening attitude toward survivors,” according to an independent report in 2019.
Lori removed abusive priests, put an anti-abuse policy in writing and enforced it, met with survivors and set up a victim assistance program. The 2019 report credited him with starting “meaningful outreach efforts to survivors for the first time in the diocese’s history.”
Lori did draw fire for keeping a priest in ministry in Bridgeport despite the man’s inclusion in a legal settlement. A diocesan review board found allegations against the priest weren’t credible, Lori said, and disentangling his case from others would have been too expensive.
Then there was the legal battle. Just days before he was installed in Bridgeport, diocesan officials announced a $15 million settlement of the lawsuit. Lori said the deal specified that more than 12,000 documents related to the abuse be sealed from public view and ultimately destroyed. But four newspapers, including the Hartford Courant and The Boston Globe, filed a motion to have them released. Lori fought back.
Among the principles his lawyers cited was that the government has no inherent right to the internal documents of a church, which they argued is a private entity.
Others should sound familiar to those following the ongoing debate about the attorney general report in Maryland.
Lori maintained that news coverage had made the names of every abusive priest publicly known and that the plaintiffs were free to tell their stories. He held that unsealing the documents would unveil private information, such as medical records and the names of previously unidentified survivors, and endanger church employees mentioned in the documents who were not accused of wrongdoing.
“There were a number of priests who had unsubstantiated allegations [against them], who had been very carefully investigated, and [the allegations were] found not to be credible,” Lori told The Sun. “To be mentioned publicly would have unfairly destroyed their lives and careers.”
The fight made it to the Connecticut Supreme Court, which in both 2005 and 2009 affirmed an order by a lower court to give the newspapers access to the documents. Lori charged that the judge in the case had a conflict of interest and alleged the press had “intervened” in a settled case. His appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court came up short: the high court declined to extend a stay on the sealed materials.
Lori expressed his displeasure in the form of a blog post after one of the rulings.
“Sadly, the history of this case has been about access by the secular media to internal Church documents of cases more than 30 years ago to suggest, unfairly, that nothing has changed,” he wrote. “This is despite the extraordinary measures the Catholic Church has undertaken over the past several years to treat victims with great compassion and dignity, and to put in safeguards and educational programs to ensure that such a tragedy will not happen again.”
Survivor advocates were relieved at the outcome, but some remain frustrated with Lori for taking the case as far as he did. To John Marshall Lee, a former board member of the Bridgeport chapter of the Voice of the Faithful, an organization of lay Catholics founded in 2002 over concerns about abuse in the church, the battle Lori fought belied his assertions he was a reformer.
“Many people of faith ask the question, ‘What would Jesus do?’” Lee said. “Lori was a strong officer in the bigger church hierarchy of maintaining a defensive position on the issue of clergy abuse. But where are the studies about why these collared men were doing what they did? What about the people who are still struggling? I think Jesus would have been more with the victims.”
Baltimore Circuit Judge Anthony Vittoria, who is handling the case of the attorney general’s report, issued a gag order in the case Dec. 2. Lori cited it in his Dec. 8 interview with The Sun in no longer taking questions about the report or its potential release.
The attorney general’s motion to release the report said it identifies 158 priests who abused some 600 children over the past 80 years.
The archdiocese has argued those figures support claims it has been in the vanguard of U.S. dioceses in dealing with allegations of sexual abuse over the past two decades.
When the archdiocese instituted a new policy by disclosing the names of 57 credibly accused priests in 2002, it was only the second of the nation’s more than 180 to take the step (nearly 20 still don’t). Lori has expanded the disclosure program, adding names, brief accounts of the offenses in question, and the work histories of each accused man. The diocesan website currently lists 152 accused.
Frosh said in a November interview that he does not believe clergy abuse remains a crisis in the archdiocese.
Archdiocesan spokespersons who have read the report, which Frosh’s office shared with the church, say its named offenders include the 152 names on the church’s website. The list was among more than 100,000 documents the archdiocese turned over to investigators.
What the church’s critics don’t know has left them to wonder what the anonymous archdiocesan-backed group hopes to achieve or can accomplish by having their say with the judge. If they get a hearing, will the opponents press the court to withhold names or other information? Who, the watchdogs want to know, are the archdiocese employees who are mentioned but not accused of abuse?
McKiernan said that in other cases he has documented, such names were those of church employees working in roles that survivors believe allowed abuse to unfold, people who kept abusive priests in ministry.
“Until the report is released and we know the names, we have no way of knowing what part they might have played,” he said.
Lori declined to comment on calls for his resignation and said he does not regret pushing forward the legal case in Connecticut.
“I fought the good fight,” he told The Sun.
He also said he considers the archdiocese’s offering legal help to the anonymous group to be consistent with his support for building a culture of transparency.
Language on the archdiocese’s website describes its criteria for determining whether a priest has been “credibly accused” of abuse: “The Archdiocese of Baltimore is committed to openness and transparency. The Archdiocese will meet this commitment to the extent possible while also respecting the privacy and reputations of all individuals and applicable law.”
“I’d stand by that statement happily,” Lori told The Sun. “It does sum up our approach to all this. I think it’s the kind of approach that ought to be generally acceptable across the culture.”
Former Pope Benedict XVI failed to act over four child abuse cases when he was archbishop of Munich, a German probe into the Catholic Church has alleged.
Pope Benedict, then called Josef Ratzinger, held the position from 1977 to 1982. He has denied the accusations.
But a new report into historical abuse allegations carried out by a German law firm incriminated the former pontiff.
Abuse continued under his tenure, it is alleged, and the accused priests remained active in church roles.
The former pope, now aged 94, became the first Church leader to resign in more than 600 years in 2013, citing exhaustion. Since then, he has led a largely quiet life in the Vatican City and is known as pope emeritus.
The new report from German law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl was commissioned by the Catholic Church.
“Two of these cases concern abuses committed during his tenure and sanctioned by the state,” lawyer Martin Pusch said as he announced the report.
“In both cases, the perpetrators remained active in pastoral care.”
In one instance, it is alleged he knew about a priest accused of abusing boys who was transferred to his diocese, but who then continued to work in pastoral care roles – this often involves visiting and supporting people within the community.
The former pope is reported to have submitted dozens of pages of answers to the law firm’s questioning, in which he expressed support for the inquiry but denied any knowledge or lack of action around the abuse allegations.
The report, however, contains minutes which strongly suggest he was present at a meeting at which the subject was discussed.
The Vatican said in a statement that it would examine the details of the report once it had been published.
“As we reiterate the sense of shame and regret for the abuses on minors by priests, the Holy See expresses its support for all victims and it confirms the path to protect minors, guaranteed safe spaces for them,” the Vatican added.
A previous report into historical abuse in Germany concluded that more than 3,600 people nationwide had been abused by clergy members between 1946 and 2014. Many of the victims were very young and served as altar boys.
The new report looking into the Munich and Freising areas specifically found at least 497 abuse victims from 1945 to 2019.
In addition to the former pope, the report criticised other Church figures, including the region’s current archbishop, Cardinal Reinhard Marx. He was found to have failed to act in two cases of alleged abuse.
The cardinal already offered Pope Francis his resignation in June 2021, saying he should share responsibility for the “catastrophe” of abuse which was coming to light.
In December 1992, Phil Saviano was at the lowest point of his life. He was 40 years old, out of work and dying of AIDS. Leafing through the Boston Globe, looking for some last-minute Christmas gifts, he saw a small item that contained a familiar name.
He read that a Catholic priest, David A. Holley, had been arrested for abusing boys in the 1970s at a church in New Mexico.
“It was a life-changing moment,” Mr. Saviano later told the British newspaper the Daily Mail. “It was the day all the bells went off for me. I suddenly saw how naive I had been in assuming he had only done this to me.”
Almost three decades earlier, beginning when Mr. Saviano was 11, he had been repeatedly molested by Holley at St. Denis Catholic Church in Douglas, Mass. The abuse went on for a year and a half, until Holley left the parish.
With a strength born of desperation, Mr. Saviano found his voice and told his story to the Globe, becoming one of the first victims of sexual abuse by a priest to go public. In 1995, he reached a financial settlement with the diocese of Worcester, Mass., that amounted to $5,700 after attorney fees. He turned down a larger payout that would have required him to keep silent about his childhood trauma. He believed the only reason he didn’t have to sign a confidentiality agreement was that no one expected him to live.
“If I had not been dying of AIDS, I would not have had the courage to come forward,” Mr. Saviano told the Globe in 2009, “but at that point my career was over, I was on my way out physically, my reputation was shot in the eyes of many people, and I didn’t have a lot to lose. This was a final opportunity to effect some change and address this thing that happened to me when I was a kid.”
Soon afterward, he received a new HIV/AIDS treatment that helped him regain his health. He found a new sense of purpose as an activist and whistleblower and began to research sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. In 1997, he founded a New England chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
With a background in public relations, Mr. Saviano approached the Globe with his evidence in 1998, but the paper passed on the story. But beginning in 2002, under a new editor, Martin Baron (later the executive editor of The Washington Post), a group of Globe investigative reporters called the Spotlight team published a series of stories detailing predatory behavior by dozens of Boston-area priests, coupled with a concerted effort by top church officials to conceal their misdeeds.
The Globe won the Pulitzer Prize for its articles, which formed the basis of the 2015 film “Spotlight,” in which Mr. Saviano was portrayed by actor Neal Huff, who became a close friend. Mr. Saviano advised writers on the screenplay and was onstage at the Oscars, along with the film’s director, producers and actors, when “Spotlight” won the Academy Award for best picture. (It also won for best original screenplay.) Executive producer and co-writer Josh Singer called him a “true hero.”
Mr. Saviano was 69 when he died Nov. 28 at a brother’s home in Douglas. He had announced on his Facebook page in October that doctors could no longer treat his gallbladder cancer. In the preceding months, he had also had heart surgery and a stroke. The death was confirmed in a statement by his brother Jim Saviano.
After speaking out, Mr. Saviano channeled his harrowing childhood experience into an effort to address wrongdoing in the church. By the time the Globe began its investigation, he had already identified 13 predator priests and hundreds of victims in the Boston area. When he examined church documents, he learned that many of the priests had been transferred to other parishes around the country without being punished. (The number of priests accused of sexual assault in New England eventually grew into the hundreds.)
Initially, as a gay man challenging the authority of the Catholic Church in the early 1990s, Mr. Saviano faced a backlash from church loyalists and even from members of his own family. His father “was angry and accused me of bringing the scandal to our hometown,” Mr. Saviano later said.
During his childhood in Douglas, a small town about 55 miles from Boston, Mr. Saviano enjoyed fishing and hiking. He also delivered newspapers, and one of the stops on his paper route was the rectory of St. Denis Church, where Holley had been newly installed as a priest.
Then in his 40s, Holley was popular with boys in the church, showing them card tricks and making faces behind the backs of nuns teaching Sunday school. When the priest asked Mr. Saviano and another boy to help move boxes of hymnals or do other odd jobs at the church, they felt honored. They received 50 cents apiece.
“He was grooming us,” Mr. Saviano told the Daily Mail in 2015. “The priest figures out ways to get closer to either the child or the parents. That gives him an opportunity to know what is going on in our family and in school. I felt pretty lucky that this guy was taking an interest in me. For us, he was God’s representative on earth, who could perform magic like turning wine into the blood of Christ and forgiving sins.”
Then one day when Holley was doing card tricks, the deck of cards contained pornographic images of people engaged in sex acts. When the 11-year-old Mr. Saviano tried to run away, the priest grabbed his wrist and held him back. Years later, Mr. Saviano could still recall “the coolness of the dark church basement, the smell of his sickly, sweet cologne” and “the sense of being completely trapped.”
Over the next 18 months, Mr. Saviano was repeatedly coerced into performing sexual acts on Holley. The priest once assaulted him behind a door as parishioners walked past, just feet away. Another time, Mr. Saviano saw the priest forcing himself on another boy at the church altar.
“How do you say no to God?” Mr. Saviano’s character says in “Spotlight.”
Mr. Saviano did not speak of his experiences until he was 40. Holley, in the meantime, went on to work at churches in New Mexico, Texas and Colorado before receiving a 275-year sentence in 1993 for the sexual assault of eight boys in New Mexico. He died in prison in 2008.
The Globe’s revelations, made possible in part by Mr. Saviano’s research, shocked people around the world and reverberated throughout the Catholic Church. One of the church’s most powerful figures, Cardinal Bernard F. Law of Boston, admitted that he had reassigned priests accused of child abuse and did little to stop the scourge. He resigned in 2002.
“Finally, victims are being first of all believed,” Mr. Saviano told the Globe that year. “And they’re being respected instead of ridiculed and criticized. Most of all, they’re seeing there is power in joining together and speaking out, and you can have results. Laws are being changed, [attorneys general] have perked up their ears around the country. These are changes that victims, myself included, could only have dreamed of.”
Philip James Saviano was born in Douglas on June 23, 1952. His father was an electrician, and his mother was a homemaker.
Mr. Saviano majored in zoology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, from which he graduated in 1975. He settled in Boston and received a master’s degree in communications from Boston University in 1980. He worked in public relations and fundraising for a Boston hospital and later had a concert production company from 1982 to 1991. He also collected and sold Mexican folk art.
His survivors include three brothers.
In addition to forming a New England chapter of SNAP, Mr. Saviano ran the organization’s national website for several years and served on its board of directors. He was also on the board of BishopAccountability.org, which documents sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. He traveled widely to give speeches and counsel other survivors. He appeared at the 2019 Vatican summit on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
“Every step they’ve taken,” he said of church leaders, “they’ve done it begrudgingly.”
Mr. Saviano’s experiences with the church caused him to lose all religious faith, and he considered himself an agnostic.
“I find myself envious sometimes of people who do have a strong faith,” he said in 2002. “And I don’t know what that’s like. There are days when I can’t do this on my own.”
Mr. Saviano received a diagnosis of AIDS in 1984, then in 2009 learned that he needed a kidney transplant. When no one in his family was a proper match, he asked for help from the network of survivors of clergy abuse. Several people volunteered, and he ultimately received a kidney from a Minnesota woman who said she had been sexually abused in high school by a former nun.
Among people who had been victimized by priests and church leaders, Mr. Saviano was seen as a valiant, eloquent and courageous champion who refused to be silenced. He also found respect closer to home and, at long last, had a warm reconciliation with his father.
“All those years ago,” his father told him, “you were right. Give them hell.”