Case against notorious California priest could be 1st in new wave of sexual abuse trials

Father Eleuterio Ramos

By Sean Emery

A childhood sexual abuse case involving a priest who was one of Orange County’s most notorious predators is expected to be among the first of a massive wave of lawsuits filed against Roman Catholic dioceses statewide that are on track to go to trial next year.

More than fifteen years after a string of dioceses — include Orange County and Los Angeles — agreed to pay hundreds of millions related to hundreds of claims of sexual abuse by the clergy, an even larger wave of litigation is on the horizon due to a state law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for such cases, opening a three-year window to allow now-adult survivors to file lawsuits related to decades-old abuse.

Roughly 2,000 Southern California childhood sexual assault cases allegedly involving the Catholic church were filed in Southern California during the three-year window, including roughly 250 against the Orange County Diocese, according to attorney Morgan Stewart, whose high-profile Orange County-based firm — Manly, Stewart & Finaldi — is among those representing the numerous plaintiffs.

Archbishop JosÈ H. Gomez of Los Angeles

The lawsuits tied to Orange and Los Angeles counties have been consolidated and assigned to a Los Angeles judge. One of the lawsuits brought by Stewart and his firm is the first to be allowed by the judge to move forward for trial in Los Angeles, the attorney said, setting the stage for an expected trial early next year.

The case involves Father Eleuterio Ramos, who before his death admitted to sexually assaulting more than two dozen boys during a decades-long career that included stops in multiple parishes across Orange County, as well as Father Siegfried Widera, who at the time of his death was one of the most wanted sex crime fugitives in North America.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit said he was molested by Ramos beginning at the age of 5 when he was a minor parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Santa Ana around 1979 or 1980, and later sexually abused by Widera around 1984 and 1985 when he was about 10-years-old.

“It is possibly the worst case (the diocese) probably could have gotten out the door,” Stewart said of Ramos. “He had no discretion. He didn’t stop himself. Nobody stopped him.”

Bishop of Orange, Kevin Vann

Stewart says he now also has new evidence bolstering the long-held contention by victims’ attorneys that church leaders at the time actively knew about the sexual abuse of minors and covered it up.

In a sworn statement filed with the court, a now-retired alcohol counselor who worked at a treatment center for clergy members in Massachusetts in the 1970s and 1980s recalled the center admitting Father Ramos for treatment after Diocese of Orange leaders referred him for treatment related to alcoholism and “sexual impulses related to sexual abuse of minors.” Diocese leaders overruled the counselor’s recommendation that Ramos not be placed back into the ministry, the former counselor said in her statement.

“I learned it was common practice at that time for the Bishops who referred us priests who abused minors to move those priests into other parishes or churches upon their return,” the counselor said in her statement. “This is what occurred with Father Ramos, despite my concerns that I communicated about his potential to re-offend.”

Stewart alleged that the sole concern for church leaders at the time was “to hide these guys and send them out of the jurisdiction of law enforcement.”

“Where is the concern for the kids?” Stewart said. “That is going to inflame a jury beyond belief.”

Jarryd Gonzales, a spokesman for the Diocese of Orange, said the organization “remains steadfast in its commitment to eradicating the abuse of children and vulnerable adults and to providing a voice and support to those who have suffered.” He noted that clergy, employees and volunteers are now required to undergo fingerprinting, background checks and “recurring safe environment training.”

He added, “The Diocese of Orange deeply regrets any past incidences of sexual abuse. Those words are backed up by actions: the Diocese has undertaken extensive and diligent efforts for more than 20 years to safeguard children and vulnerable adults and prevent future abuse.”

In response to the allegations raised in the lawsuit, Gonzales said the church as a general rule doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but noted that discovery — the exchanging of information between the attorneys about the witnesses and evidence expected to be presented at trial — in the case is in the “very early stages.”

“The Diocese intends to let the facts uncovered in discovery guide its response to this lawsuit,” Gonzales said. “And as to an alleged cover-up: the plaintiff’s allegations — which date to 1979 — were never brought to the attention of the Diocese (or law enforcement) prior to the filing of the lawsuit in 2020.”

The previous wave of childhood sexual abuse lawsuits ended with settlements prior to jury trials, including a then-record $100 million settlement by the Diocese of Orange covering 90 cases in 2004 followed by the Los Angeles Archdiocese settling 508 cases for $660 million in 2007. In Orange County, the settlement came with apologies to the victims by church leaders.

The new wave of lawsuits has already led several dioceses in California to either file for bankruptcy or contemplate doing so, including the Diocese of Santa Rosa, the Diocese of Oakland and the San Francisco Archdiocese. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Orange have not indicated any plans to pursue bankruptcy.

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Aymond: Catholic parishes, schools must help shoulder cost of archdiocese sex abuse claims

— Leader of Archdiocese of New Orleans says lawyers underestimated how much settling abuse cases would cost

Archbishop Gregory Aymond receives ashes before giving them to others for Ash Wednesday services at St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter of New Orleans on Feb. 22, 2023.


More than three years after the Archdiocese of New Orleans filed for bankruptcy court protection amid mounting allegations of child sex abuse by local clergy, the financial cost to the country’s second-oldest archdiocese is coming into focus.

In a letter Friday to the clergy, religious and laity, Archbishop Gregory Aymond said for the first time that individual parishes, schools and charities will be asked to help cover the rising costs of abuse claims, which total nearly 500 to date. That number has grown dramatically over the course of the church’s bankruptcy.

“When we filed Chapter 11 reorganization in 2020, I was advised by legal counsel that the Chapter 11 proceedings would only impact our administrative offices and not the apostolates – parishes, schools and ministries,” Aymond said in his letter, which was posted to the archdiocese website. “Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.”

When the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy, Aymond sent the Vatican a letter estimating out-of-pocket expenses would be less than $7.5 million. In fact, attorneys’ fees alone have already exceeded $26 million.

It’s unclear how much the archdiocese will seek from parishes and schools, which are not technically debtors in the bankruptcy case and have a separate attorney representing them. The letter says only: “We now know there must be a contribution from the apostolates. We do not yet know what that total contribution will be or what will be asked of each entity.”

In its most recent financial statement, the archdiocese listed total assets of some $580 million and liabilities of more than $454 million, including more than $121 million worth of real estate.

But the estimated value of those 1,400 pieces of property is considered low because it is based on historic market value, or the price the archdiocese paid for the property, and does not include the value of land, buildings and other assets owned by the some 200 church apostolates.

An attorney representing the apostolates, Douglas Draper, said “the letter represents what is going to happen and what the apostolates are going to be asked to do, and there is nothing else to say about it.”

Author Jason Berry, who has documented decades of clergy sex abuse by the Catholic church, said Aymond’s letter suggests the church was given poor advice by its lawyers.

“It’s a moral disaster that stems from putting your eggs in the basket of firms like Jones Walker,” Berry said. “Aymond admits in the letter that counsel told him three years ago that it would only have an impact on the administration. Now he’s saying the lawyers were wrong.”

Since filing for bankruptcy court protection in May 2020, Jones Walker has been paid more than $13 million, according to the most recent court filings. That’s more than half the $25 million or so the archdiocese has paid overall to law firms, consultants, financial and real-estate experts helping it navigate the reorganization process.

The firm did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

A growing debt

In his letter, Aymond attributed the change in financial strategy to the archdiocese’s growing liability in the case. When the church filed for Chapter 11, some 30 lawsuits alleging abuse had been filed against individual clergy members and the archdiocese as a whole.

In the years that followed, the number of claims — many dating back decades and alleging abuse against Catholic priests, nuns, brothers and deacons — swelled to 450.

After a new state law passed in 2021 and enacted in 2022 extended the window for claims to be filed, the number grew to nearly 500.

Earlier this week, the case took a dramatic turn, when Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams announced criminal charges against 91-year-old former priest Lawrence Hecker, who was indicted on charges of rape and kidnapping dating back to the 1970s. Hecker is just the second clergyman in New Orleans to be charged for crimes allegedly committed before the 2002 sex-abuse scandal spread across the globe.

In his letter Friday, Aymond said part of the church’s new strategy will involve seeking a court ruling to protect individual parishes and apostolates from being sued, once the bankruptcy case is settled, over past abuses.

“This will help preserve the assets of parishes, schools and ministries against past claims of abuse,” he said.

The letter also says that the archdiocese is actively seeking to pay off the bulk of claims through real estate sales — both of properties owned outright by the archdiocese and by those owned by parishes, schools and charitable ministries.

“Soaring insurance rates and costly maintenance have impacted our ability to maintain appropriately the over 1,400 pieces of property [the church owns] and remain good stewards of our resources,” he said. “This work will be a very important factor to determine contributions asked of the apostolates as well.”

Late last month, the archdiocese asked the bankruptcy court for permission to begin marketing for sale seven pieces of property that, if sold for asking price, would fetch more than $10 million. Aymond’s letter today suggests many more will follow.

“I remain committed to the majority of the settlement being paid with the assets of the Archdiocese and our insurers,” the letter says. “We are working through a court-approved process to sell real estate to fund the settlement and streamline our real estate holdings.”

He concludes, “Through these efforts and by the grace of God, we will emerge better prepared for the future and be an even strong Catholic family.”

Complete Article HERE!

San Francisco archdiocese files for bankruptcy amid child abuse lawsuits

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

300 New Orleans priests were reported for sexual abuse

— Only 25% are on archdiocese’s credibly accused list

The number of abuse claims – 310, spanning several decades – have been kept from public as archdiocese undergoes bankruptcy proceedings


More than 300 people employed by Roman Catholic institutions in the south-eastern US city of New Orleans have been accused of sexually abusing children or other vulnerable people whom they met through their work over the last several decades, secret documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

Though New Orleans’s 230-year-old archdiocese has spent a significant portion of its recent history managing the fallout from its association with the worldwide Catholic church’s clerical molestation scandal, the organization has generally sought to keep hidden the exact number of priests, deacons, nuns, religious brothers and lay staffers – such as parochial school teachers – under its supervision who have been named in abuse claims.

A memorandum which attorneys for victims of clerical sexual abuse prepared and handed to law enforcement in the latter part of last year arguably gives the clearest idea yet of the number of accused abusers working over the last five decades or so in a region that is home to about a half-million Catholics. The brief summarizes evidence of what its authors believe are crimes that could still be prosecuted.

And while the 48-page document has not led to any substantial action from authorities, it shows how the archdiocese itself only finds roughly a quarter of the allegations against its clergymen to be credibly accused, which is well below what research estimates is the norm for sexual abuse claims to be found false or unprovable.

The memo additionally asserts that the archdiocese has referred fewer than two dozen of its accused clerics to law enforcement, on average waiting nearly two decades to do so.

The memo alludes to secret internal archdiocesan records that were handed over after the local church sought federal bankruptcy protection in 2020 in response to a wave of abuse-related lawsuits. Because confidentiality rules govern the bankruptcy, both church officials and advocates for molestation victims have worked to keep the memo hidden from public view.

The Guardian, however, obtained a copy of that memo.

For nearly five years now, the New Orleans archdiocese has curated a list of 77 priests and deacons whom the organization considers to be credibly accused. Officials maintain that the roster, first released by Archbishop Gregory Aymond in 2018, resulted from an extensive, ongoing internal review of files concerning the careers of more than 2,300 clerics, which was meant to fulfill promises of transparency spurred on by the abuse crisis.

But there are at least 56 other priests and deacons who worked at institutions overseen by – or at least within the boundaries of – the archdiocese of New Orleans who are not on its credibly accused roster. Those individuals have, however, landed on similar lists published by other dioceses or religious institutions across the country, according to the authors of the documents seen by the Guardian.

The memo’s authors found another four priests whom an archdiocesan advisory board found to be credibly accused yet were still omitted from any list.

And an additional 169 priests and deacons as well as four non-clerical workers acknowledged by the New Orleans archdiocese were named in abuse claims filed as part of the organization’s bankruptcy case. (Another 34 non-clerical workers were accused in the bankruptcy, but the archdiocese has apparently argued that they were not technically employed by the organization, and the disagreement hasn’t been litigated.)

The difference is stark between the sheer number of abuse complaints and those whom the organization has named on its credibly accused list, which has always made it a point to exclude non-ordained employees.

From the 310 Catholic priests, deacons and acknowledged non-clerical workers – living and dead – in the New Orleans area who appear on a suspected molester list or who are fully named in an abuse claim in bankruptcy court, the archdiocese has judged just 24.8% of them to be substantially accused.

Despite that figure, research cited by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center finds that just between 2% and 10% of sexual assault reports are “false”. The center has found that even those low rates are almost certainly inflated because some reporting agencies draw no distinction between a false report and one that lacks what they consider to be enough evidence to substantiate.

Experts say there is an immense difference between a report that is false and one that is not able to be proven as true.

Additionally, the memo reveals other numbers that were of concern to the document’s authors. They found evidence that the archdiocese had referred only 23 allegedly abusive clerics – as opposed to non-ordained employees – to law enforcement as of the beginning of 2022.

Such referrals have helped lead to convictions recently.

On 12 July, Patrick Wattigny – the former chaplain of a Catholic high school in the nearby Louisiana city of Slidell – pleaded guilty to molesting two minors whom he met through his work and received a five-year prison sentence.

Late last year, VM Wheeler III pleaded guilty to charges that he sexually abused a preteen boy two decades earlier, before his ordination as a deacon. Wheeler, who had agreed to serve five years of probation in exchange for his plea, died in April.

Also last year, former Catholic school teacher Brian Matherne – who pleaded guilty in 2000 to molesting 17 boys – was mistakenly released from prison early before questions from his victims and local media outlets prompted authorities to re-incarcerate him.

Nonetheless, most of those 23 clerics who were referred to law enforcement investigators have not been prosecuted, convicted or even listed as credibly accused.

Wheeler is not among those whom the archdiocese lists in the credibly accused list which it curates. Neither is Matherne, who is not an ordained clergyman.

The memo’s authors also make it a point to say that – by their calculations – the archdiocese waited an average of 17 years from first learning of clerical abuse complaints to the point where it referred any information about them to law enforcement.

The memo names at least four clergymen whom a predecessor of Aymond saw fit to report to two separate regional district attorney’s offices in 2002 for possible prosecution but who were omitted from the credibly accused list 16 years later. They have also been omitted from subsequent expansions of that list.

The New Orleans archdiocese’s bankruptcy remains pending.

The organization did not respond to questions from the Guardian, citing the bankruptcy’s confidentiality rules. But Aymond issued a statement that – in part – promised that the archdiocese “would continue to look for ways to strengthen programs” which the church has said are meant to protect both children and “vulnerable” adults.

He also said the archdiocese was meeting with clerical abuse survivors “to review and enhance … protocols for responding to allegations”.

After his administration struck 132 settlement agreements with clerical abuse claimants during a 10-year period beginning in 2010, Aymond wrote a letter to global Catholic leaders in the Vatican estimating that it would cost the archdiocese less than $7.5m to resolve the rest of its mounting liabilities through bankruptcy court.

But, as the local news outlet WWLTV recently reported, the archdiocese which Aymond has headed since 2009 has paid about $25m in bills to attorneys and consultants so far in the case. None of that money has gone to those who have filed unresolved abuse claims in the bankruptcy.

Adding to the frustration from many abuse survivors and their advocates is the fact that a top Aymond adviser earlier in the case testified in open court that the archdiocese did not need bankruptcy protection to remain financially solvent.

“If the archdiocese was not in bankruptcy, would it be solvent?” an attorney asked the organization’s chief financial officer, a priest named Patrick Carr, during that hearing.

“Yes,” Carr replied, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Yet Carr maintained that bankruptcy was the method that best positioned the archdiocese to fully pay off abuse victims and others owed by the organization. And Aymond echoed that in his recent statement to the Guardian.

“My focus is bringing the bankruptcy proceedings to their conclusion so that the survivors can be fairly compensated,” Aymond’s statement said. “I know that there is no amount of money that can bring healing to those who have been hurt. I only hope that my prayers and the pastoral support the survivors are able to receive will help them and bring them peace.”

Complete Article HERE!

New Orleans archbishop ignored board findings on clerics accused of abuse

— Gregory Aymond promised ‘to be transparent’ – but a Guardian investigation found that he hid allegations, and an expert questions whether it was against Vatican policy

Archbishop Gregory Aymond leads the Blessing of the Graves on All Saints Day in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2012.


A board which helps the Roman Catholic archbishop of New Orleans, Gregory Aymond, evaluate abuse allegations against priests and deacons in six cases found clergymen to be credibly accused only for Aymond to ignore the findings and conceal them from the public, a Guardian investigation has found.

Aymond’s management of the cases in question as the leader of the US’s second-oldest archdiocese is outlined in a memorandum which attorneys for victims of clerical sexual abuse prepared and handed to law enforcement in the latter part of last year.

It exposes the latest damaging revelations in a decades-long scandal at the 230-year-old archdiocese, which has been shown to have gone to extreme lengths to cover up for a confessed child abuser. The scandal mirrors similar events involving the Catholic church elsewhere in the US and across the world.

The 48-page memo alludes to secret internal archdiocesan records that were handed over after the local church sought federal bankruptcy protection in 2020 in response to a wave of abuse-related lawsuits. Because confidentiality rules guide the bankruptcy, both church officials and advocates for molestation victims have worked to keep the memo hidden from public view.

The Guardian obtained a copy and noted that the administrative actions outlined within the document starkly contradict transparency promises made by the worldwide Catholic church amid the fallout of its ongoing clerical abuse scandal.

Aymond was among those who offered up those promises when – faced with mounting pressure to come clean about clerical molestation in New Orleans – he published the first version of a list of dozens of priests and deacons who were considered by his archdiocese to be credibly accused sex predators.

Archbishop Gregory Aymond conducts a procession to lead an Easter mass in St Louis cathedral in New Orleans, in April 2020.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond conducts a procession to lead an Easter mass in St Louis cathedral in New Orleans, in April 2020.

“We have published the names of all those … whom we saw substantiated sexual abuse,” Aymond said during a radio interview on the day of the list’s publication. “My promise is … to be transparent now and in the future.”

Meanwhile, a priest, canon lawyer and vocal critic of the worldwide church, Tom Doyle, said he believes the memo’s contents potentially establish violations of the spirit of landmark 2019 legislation from Pope Francis which is aimed at combating sexual abuse in the worldwide Catholic church.

Doyle, a clerical abuse victim advocate, noted that the so-called Vos estis lux mundi – which means “you are the light of the world” – outlines an obligation to report molestation involving both children and adults who are considered vulnerable.

Other measures of the legislation – which the pope permanently decreed earlier this year – also generally eliminate secrecy requirements for witnesses to misconduct while also calling for the protection of people who report alleged church abuse and possible discipline for officials found to have engaged in cover-ups.

“Unfortunately … the bishops say one thing and do another,” Doyle said upon learning of the memo’s contents. “And one of the things that I’ve noticed in many years of involvement in this … is the culture of audacity.

“They lie all the time, and they lie to protect themselves … And if that’s what’s really going on, it needs to be exposed.”

With respect to one of the priests mentioned in the memo, William O’Donnell, Aymond authorized separate financial settlements of $125,000 and $100,000 for out-of-court resolutions with two people. Those claimants accused O’Donnell of molestation, and the settlement sums come out to an amount that organizations would probably not pay if they had doubts about the allegations’ truthfulness.

Aymond, since becoming New Orleans’s archbishop in 2009, also greenlighted a relatively substantial $87,500 payment to privately settle a molestation claim against a seventh priest – Jerry Dabria – before barring the advisory review board from even considering the allegation for potential credibility.

But it has examined hundreds of documents pertaining to two clerical abuse cases cited in the memo – including one of the five which Aymond ignored after the board of advisors found what it considered to be credible allegations of child abuse. And the memo accurately summarized them.

Two of the cases involve priests whose names have never before been publicly linked to the New Orleans church’s scandal: O’Donnell and Joseph Benson. Another involves one whose name hasn’t been mentioned in connection with the scandal for more than 15 years: Luis Henao, who quietly retired before Aymond’s 2018 list release.

The others – Brian Highfill, Paul Hart and Luis Fernandez – have been subjects of media investigations more recently.

Only the late Highfill has ever appeared on Aymond’s credibly accused list – which has grown from fewer than 55 named clerics to more than 70 since it was first published – or faced a law enforcement investigation. Even then, Aymond waited more than two years to add him to that roster.

Also, the list published by Aymond has neglected to include three priests whom a predecessor of his reported to a suburban New Orleans district attorney’s office for possible criminal prosecution of abuse claims.

During the worldwide Catholic church’s decades-long clerical abuse scandal, allegation review boards like the one under Aymond have been criticized as being overly secretive, undermining victims’ claims, protecting clergymen’s reputations and helping the church avoid having to pay damages, as an Associated Press investigation reported in 2019. But as was seen in New Orleans, even when the board sided with an accuser, it was meaningless if the archbishop refused to endorse the body’s recommendation.

Aymond declined to respond to a detailed list of questions provided by the Guardian, saying that doing so “would neither be helpful nor in the spirit of the court’s” confidentiality rules.

But he did prepare a statement in which he asserted: “I do not act alone” and “In each instance, I can assure you that decisions were made and actions were taken based upon the information and in consultation with lay professionals and experts as well as church leadership.”

Aymond’s statement said he pledged to “continue to learn from the past”. But he added, among other things, that he was “more focused on the present and the future”, especially strengthening protocols for responding to allegations of abuse as well as programs which the archdiocese has said are meant to protect both children and “vulnerable” adults.

Highfill, Hart and Dabria are now dead.

Henao’s brother and Fernandez himself confirmed to the Guardian that the archdiocese cut off their retirement benefits after the judge overseeing the organization’s bankruptcy ordered the church to stop such payments for clergymen faced with credible accusations of abuse.

Fernandez believes the archdiocese’s lead lawyer even told him that his retirement benefits – with the exception of a stipend for medication – were being cut off because the allegations against him were credible.

But Fernandez correctly noted that he has never been put on Aymond’s credibly accused list.

Complete Article HERE!