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!

‘We were encouraged to be with younger boys’

— Breaking down a child molester priest’s secret testimony

Lawrence Hecker. The St Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.

In unearthed deposition, Lawrence Hecker pleaded the fifth 117 times, but still provided damning details of decades-long predatory behavior

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The Guardian and CBS affiliate WWL Louisiana have obtained a long suppressed, eight-and-a-half-hour deposition of a 92-year-old Catholic priest charged with physically overpowering and raping a boy in a New Orleans church in 1975.

Taken in 2020 as part of a civil lawsuit demanding damages from him and the church, clergyman Lawrence Hecker provides in the deposition the most complete account yet of how the US’s second-oldest archdiocese spent much of its recent history taking extreme measures to keep the public from finding out about his abusive past. The questioning – which the church has fought in court for years to keep hidden – also reveals steps the city’s last four archbishops took to help him avoid accountability for decades.

Eventually, law enforcement officials were able to obtain an indictment charging Hecker with rape, kidnapping and other crimes in connection with an accusation that he strangled a teenaged student – at a school for boys interested in becoming priests – unconscious and sodomized him. A team of psychiatrists recently determined that Hecker was mentally incompetent to stand trial, at least for now. But a judge has not yet ruled on whether he intends to adopt that finding, which would probably delay the case months, if not longer – something that could be decisive in a case involving a defendant in his 90s.

Meanwhile, the case has since given rise to an inquiry to determine whether the archdiocese of New Orleans presided over “widespread sexual abuse of minors dating back decades” that was “covered up and not reported to law enforcement”. That is the way Louisiana state police troopers described the investigation in a recent search warrant that court records show was served on the church as part of an investigation into alleged child sex-trafficking.

The Guardian and WWL on Thursday published a report breaking down what the outlets consider to be the weightiest revelations of Hecker’s deposition. Given that the deposition spans hours as well as hundreds of pages of documents, the report is lengthy.

But in the summary below, readers can find some big-picture takeaways, along with analysis of some material which did not fit into the main report.


  • 1. It may never be possible to know how many children Hecker abused after his ordination in 1958

    The attorney who deposed Hecker, Richard Trahant, questioned him in connection to more than a dozen separate accusers.

    Hecker acknowledged either molesting or harassing about a half a dozen of those victims in a 1999 statement that he provided to archdiocesan superiors.

    The deposition also alludes to another remarkable document proving that Hecker was abusive: an apology letter which he penned to a victim that the archdiocese delivered on his behalf in about 2005. The contents of the letter were not discussed in the deposition, which Trahant said was not provided to him in advance of his questioning Hecker. But it is mentioned in archdiocesan records to which he referred during the deposition.

    Ultimately, Trahant took Hecker’s deposition months before key filing deadlines associated with the archdiocese’s decision to solicit bankruptcy protection in May 2020. Those deadlines prompted hundreds of additional abuse claims pertaining to the archdiocese’s decades-old clerical molestation scandal, and Trahant alluded to how he expected that would produce more Hecker accusers.

    At one point during his deposition, which was taken over two days, even Hecker himself became overwhelmed at the number of times with which he has been confronted with substantial child abuse allegations.

    “There has been so many,” Hecker remarked. “We’ve looked at so much of this stuff – I can’t remember all of the stuff. It’s swimming around in my head … I’m having trouble assimilating all this stuff y’all are saying.”

    During another portion of his questioning, Trahant said to Hecker: “You have committed so many felonies against children that you can’t remember them all, correct?” Hecker avoided answering the question by invoking his right against self-incrimination under the constitution’s fifth amendment.

    Colloquially known as “pleading the fifth”, Hecker invoked that right 117 times during the deposition. That’s about once every four minutes.


  • 2. Hecker’s history of complaints spans the entire US church abuse scandal

    Abuse allegations against Hecker generally came in clusters around the major milestones in the US’s reckoning with Catholic clergy sexual abuse, which began in the 1980s, when Louisiana priest Gilbert Gauthe pleaded guilty to molesting several boys. More claims – and Hecker’s confession – came in the 1990s, when Louisiana priest Robert Melancon was convicted of raping an altar boy.

    There were more claims in 2002, the same year that a clergy abuse and cover-up scandal subsumed Boston’s Catholic archdiocese and led US bishops to promise transparency as well as reforms.

    Meanwhile, public outrage over a 2018 grand jury report in Pennsylvania which established that clergy abuse within the state’s Catholic institutions was more widespread than thought prompted New Orleans’ archdiocese to publish a list of dozens of abusive clergymen. That roster not only included Hecker and was the first time he had been unmasked as a predator – it also set off another wave of abuse allegations against him, including the lawsuit that led to the deposition.

    Hecker’s alleged abusive acts date back to the early 1960s. An archdiocesan memo mentioned during the deposition, without elaboration, says officials have reasons to suspect that he abused until 1997, five years before he was forced to retire.


  • 3. The church was advised to oust Hecker from the clergy in 2002. It never did

    In 2002, which was the same year Hecker retired, an advisory board meant to help the then archbishop manage ongoing fallout from the metastasizing clerical abuse scandal advised him to boot the suspected serial child molester from the clergy.

    Had the archbishop, Alfred Hughes, successfully put Hecker through the process known as laicization, it would have prevented him from collecting lucrative retirement benefits. Instead, by not being laicized, Hecker received his full retirement benefits until the judge in charge of the church’s bankruptcy case required the church to cancel most of them.

    Hecker revealed during his deposition that he wasn’t even aware that he had been recommended for laicization, a process he nonetheless could have opposed if it had been imposed on him unwillingly.


  • 4. Hecker admitted to a federal crime with no statute of limitation – then tried to take it back

    During one of the more notable exchanges during the deposition, Hecker replied “Yes” when Trahant asked him: “You would agree that some of this sexual molestation occurred on out-of-town trips, out of the state of Louisiana, correct?”

    Hecker apparently soon realized what he had admitted and frantically said, “I – but I – no. I invoke my fifth amendment rights.” Trahant responded: “Well, I think you answered it and invoked your fifth-amendment rights.”

    Taking children across state lines for the purposes of sexually molesting them is a federal crime with no statute of limitation. Hecker has not been charged in connection with any federal offense.


  • 5. Hecker’s statements about his mental sharpness were contradictory

    Hecker’s mental acuity looms prominently in the state criminal court case pending against him. A team of psychiatrists that evaluated him said he had short-term memory loss which compromised his ability to assist the attorneys defending him, something the constitution requires him to be able to do to be tried for a crime.

    Hecker indicated he did have short-term memory loss in a 2000 letter that he wrote to the congregants of the church where he was working at the time to explain why he was being transferred away from them.

    But the real reason for his transfer was that a psychiatric care facility had diagnosed him as a pedophile, news which his superiors greeted by sending him on an out-of-state sabbatical. And records generated by that psychiatric evaluation made no mention of memory problems.

    At the deposition itself, Trahant bluntly asked Hecker: “Do you have a problem remembering things from 15 minutes ago?”

    “No,” Hecker answered.

    Hecker was also contradictory about his long-term memory during the deposition. He demonstrated a razor-sharp recall of exactly what church he was working at during specific years as far back as the 1960s. Yet he repeatedly described himself as drawing a blank or having trouble remembering some information, mostly with respect to questions about what his superiors may or may not have known about the abuse allegations against him.


  • 6. Hecker is one of many living, retired New Orleans priests facing credible abuse allegations

    One of the more stunning exchanges in Hecker’s deposition saw him look over a list of 50 archdiocesan priests who were retired and still living. Most of the names were in blue – except 11, which were in red. Trahant established that the names of those in red were living, retired priests with abuse allegations that the archdiocese itself deemed credible.

    “That would [mean] 22% of the retired, incardinated priests in the archdiocese of New Orleans have credible claims of sexual abuse against them,” Trahant said. “That’s a lot, isn’t it? That’s over one in five.”

    Hecker replied: “I do not know.”


  • 7. Hecker’s attorney demonstrated a palpably high level of resentment toward him

    New Orleans-area criminal defense attorney Eugene Redmann represented Hecker at the deposition and repeatedly criticized him for rambling before answering yes or no questions. His frustration with Hecker was perhaps most apparent when, in a raised voice, Redmann took the Lord’s name in vain and told his client: “Stop diarrhea of the mouth – Jesus. Just answer the questions. We will never end.”

    Typically, whenever Redmann’s patience with him ran thin, Hecker replied with something to the effect of: “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be difficult for all of y’all.”


  • 8. Hecker claims he believed celibacy meant only avoiding women

    In both his 1999 confession and a summer 2023 interview with WWL and the Guardian, Hecker attributed his serial molestation of children to the libertine attitudes of the 1960s and 1970s. But molesting children was as illegal back then as it is now, Trahant pointed out during the deposition.

  • Hecker then offered up an alternative explanation: he said the church taught him that priests could honor their promise of celibacy simply by ensuring they were never “alone with a woman in private”.“In fact, we were encouraged to be with younger people, especially younger boys, in the hopes that they would want to become priests,” Hecker said. “And then … it was definitely discouraged because of what was found out, that sometimes priests were – were being accused. So from then on, I made a promise to myself never to be alone with a person under 18 – period.”

  • 9. Hecker and the church greatly feared media exposure

    Hecker spoke plainly about how much he feared the media would one day report why he was forced to retire in 2002. “I would not want [friends] to know,” Hecker said. “We all didn’t want big publicity or anything.”

    Trahant at one point established how an archdiocesan official issued a letter saying the church’s “only concern” with Hecker was “that someone in his past might decide to go public”. Hecker pleaded the fifth when Trahant asked why “there was no concern for the minors that you raped, their families or kids you might rape in the future”.

Complete Article HERE!

Blocked last year for his views on sexuality, theologian gets green light to head academy

— While the Vatican never stated its objections to the Rev. Martin Lintner’s appointment, his writings on LGBTQ+ and queer issues were called into question.

The Rev. Martin Lintner

By

Nearly a year after the Vatican blocked an Italian theologian’s candidacy to become the dean of an influential German and Italian academy due to his progressive writings on sexuality and gender, the Vatican finally approved of his appointment without comment, according to the theologian.

“The reasons why the decision was revised were not communicated,” said the Rev. Martin Lintner, in an email to RNS, adding that “the matter was clarified internally.”

“The important thing for me is that my publications are obviously not a stumbling block,” he said.

Bishop Ivo Muser of Bolzano-Bressanone, whose diocese includes the Philosophical-Theological College of Brixen/Bressanone, was notified of the Vatican’s approval shortly after Easter. Lintner is scheduled to begin his tenure as dean of the university on Sept. 1.

The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith denied Lintner’s appointment as dean at the school in the German-speaking region of northern Italy after the faculty elected him in November 2022.

Muser, who also oversees the university, took matters into his own hands after six months of silence from the Vatican about granting a nihil obstat, a church protocol whose Latin name means “nothing obstructs.” It is a necessary approval indicating that a theologian’s work does not constitute a breach with Catholic thought.

The nihil obstat is normally issued by the Vatican department for education, but the bishop was surprised to discover in January 2023 that the application had been halted by the Vatican’s Department for the Doctrine of the Faith, which ensures conformity with church teaching.

Lintner registered a complaint about a “lack of transparency,” given that the official reason for the denial was not communicated. “My bishop was told verbally by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith that my publications on questions of sexual morality would pose a problem,” Lintner said.

Lintner, of the Order of the Servants of Mary, or the Servites, has specialized in studies on animals and the environment, but also questions regarding sexuality and gender. He has called for reform of the church’s teaching on sexual morality, particularly regarding queer and transgender perspectives, saying that, instead of offering a list of “don’ts,” the church needs to engage with younger generations.

“I already had a conflict with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2012 after I published a book on sexual morality. These topics, and especially the theological and ethical discussion of gender studies, still seem to be difficult terrain,” Lintner said.

Lintner’s reflections might have been a red flag in some Vatican offices in themselves, but the denial of his appointment was also likely motivated by the Philosophical-Theological College of Brixen/Bressanone’s close relationship with the church in Germany, which is locked in a theological arm-wrestle with the Vatican over female inclusion in the church, outreach to LGBTQ+ faithful and lay leadership.

The church in Germany has recently concluded a set of discussions known as the Synodal Way, in which Catholic bishops and lay organizations considered challenges facing local churches. While bearing a similar name, it has no connection to Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality, a multi-year process of dialogue and engagement with catholic churches and lay faithful all over the world.

The tensions between the Vatican and the Synodal Path became apparent when the German church began blessing same-sex couples despite a Vatican declaration banning the practice. The appointment of Lintner, who supports the blessing of same-sex couples and works closely with German moral theologians, likely raised some concerns within the Vatican walls.

In a written statement after the Vatican’s refusal in 2023, Lintner wrote that the decision questioned the Vatican’s commitment to synodality and its promise to promote dialogue, transparency and welcoming.

In a speech at the Pontifical Theological Academy in Rome in November, Francis told a group of theologians that the church needed to embrace “a brave cultural revolution” and let go of “abstractly rehashing formulas and patterns from the past.”

In his email, Lintner said, “I have the impression that not all Vatican departments are happy about it. The reform of the Curia is also not met with approval everywhere in the Vatican.” He said that he believed Francis’ reform efforts have resulted in some hopeful change.

The flap over Lintner’s appointment came as Francis has reordered the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, appointing as its head Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, who in the past was denied a nihil obstat for his writings on sexuality and marriage. As a bishop, Francis helped him obtain the approval he needed from the Vatican, just as Muser lobbied for Lintner today.

Since his appointment in July 2023, Fernandez has issued decrees allowing for the blessing of same-sex couples under certain limitations and stating that trans faithful may be baptized and act as godparents. But he has also reinforced the church’s opposition to gender theory, surrogacy and sex-change operations.

For Lintner, criticizing Catholic teaching needs to take place with humility and fidelity to the church’s Magisterium, or traditional teaching. Opening up discussions in the field of theology is essential to the betterment of the church, he explained, while adding that as he prepares to take on his new role, he is looking forward to putting the past behind.

“When I criticize, it is in order to make a contribution to the further development of doctrine in constructive fidelity to tradition,” he said. “I am convinced that this has been recognized and positively appreciated in the educational dicastery.”

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!

Man opens up on alleged sex abuse from former Chicago priest known as ‘Father Happy Hands’

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A man who says he was abused by a former Chicago priest known as “Father Happy Hands” told his story following a settlement last month.

Larry Kubbins, 60, held a press conference opening up about the alleged abuse by the Rev. Daniel Mark Holihan, who died in 2016, and had a message for survivors across the world.

Rev. Daniel Mark Holihan

“It’s been a weight I’ve had for almost 50 years,” Kubbins said. “They need to not be afraid to report it. I was not smart enough to listen to my mother and walked away from it.”

Kubbins alleges Holihan sexually abused him twice — once at Our Lady of the Snows and once at a lake house belonging to Holihan in Wonder Lake. During the alleged abuse, Kubbins and the attorney general’s office said children would call Holihan “Father Happy Hands.”

“He couldn’t keep his hands off boys, he took me to the boat and got me onto the lake,” Kubbins said. “He would get us behind the church, always pretending to straighten our alter boy uniforms and getting extremely close.”

In addition to Our Lady of the Snows, Holihan also worked at St. Patrick (1957-1965), St. Aloysius (1965-1968), St. Sylvester (1968-1969), St. Francis de Sales (1969-1973), St. Jane de Chantal (1973-1979), Our Lady of the Snows (1979-1990) and St. Jerome (1990-1991).

Holihan was ordained in 1957. In 1990, his ministry ability was limited with monitoring and the archdiocese removed his faculties to minister as a priest in 2002.

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office said Holihan has 40 reported survivors.

According to a 2005 document written by Archbishop Cardinal Francis George, he decreed Holihan guilty and said “the accusations are so numerous against Father Holihan and the description of the actions are so clear that there can be no doubt that Father Holihan is guilty of the delict described.”

In 2005 Holihan was not laicized, which means officially removed from clerical duty, in what Cardinal George called “the ultimate penalty.” That happened in 2010, according to records.

“Because of the numerous offenses and the denial on the part of Father Holihan of what is so obvious to everyone else, I would be inclined to recommend dismissal from the clerical state in this case. However, given Father Holihan’s age and the face that it would be more dangerous to allow him out in public without being monitored carefully, I have decided not to ask for the ultimate penalty in this matter,” former Archbishop Cardinal Francis George wrote in the 2005 Archdiocese letter.

However, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office claims the archdiocese could have acted sooner.

“The Archdiocese of Chicago had more than one chance to stop Father Daniel Holihan from sexually abusing young boys. Holihan was an active pastor in several Chicago parishes until 1990 and is now known as one of the more notorious abusers in archdiocesan history. The archdiocese knew what Holihan was doing to children years before it removed him from the pastorate—but during that time, it did nothing to stop him, taking him at his word that he could turn over a new leaf of his own accord. And even after Hoder (the accused Rev. James Allen Hoder) resigned, archdiocesan officials sought to keep certain details quiet and established such lax control over his conduct that the priest was soon spotted socializing with children as if nothing had happened. More than a decade passed before the archdiocese finally decided to subject Holihan to strict monitoring. In the meantime, countless children had needlessly been put at risk,” the attorney general’s office wrote about Holihan.

Kubbins agreed with the attorney general’s office.

“He’s another example of the church knowing about him and then transferring him,” Kubbins said. “The Catholic Church got Father Holihan out of dodge every chance they could.”

Kubbins’ attorney said he reached a “low six-figure settlement” last month from the Archdiocese of Chicago related to the alleged abuse. His attorney said he has represented at least four other alleged victims of Holihan, who receive settlements as well.

The archdiocese told WGN News they do not comment on litigation when asked for a statement.

Resources for survivors for clergy abuse are available by visiting snapnetwork.org. The Archdiocese of Chicago’s anonymous abuse hotline is 312-534-8300.

Complete Article HERE!