Catholic bishops ask US Supreme Court to review California’s sex abuse law

FILE UNDER: Insulated, monolithic, callous, tone deaf church power structure

by Emily Hoeven

Could California find itself in another conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court?

Nine California Catholic dioceses and archdioceses have asked the nation’s highest court to review their case against a 2019 law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, which created a three-year window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file legal claims against alleged perpetrators at school, church or elsewhere, regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. The law also allowed defendants to be sued for a new offense: “cover up” activity.

In the April 15 petition, which was first reported last week by the Catholic News Agency, lawyers for the Catholic bishops assert the law is unconstitutional because California already gave victims a chance to sue in 2002 — when it opened a one-year portal for sex abuse survivors to file claims with no time limit attached — and because it retroactively adds new liabilities.

  • The lawyers wrote: “Review is critical now, before the Catholic Church in the largest State in the union is forced to litigate hundreds or thousands of cases seeking potentially billions of dollars in retroactive punitive damages under an unconstitutional double-revival regime.”
  • They added that their clients have already paid more than $1.2 billion to resolve claims filed during the original one-year window, and “to finance these settlements, they expended significant resources, sold vast swaths of Church property, and in some cases exhausted or relinquished insurance coverage for past and future abuse claims.”
  • The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests slammed the bishops’ petition: “The 2002 window lasted one year, barely enough time for victims to find their courage or their voices. Many only heard about the window or found their courage too late. This new three-year window is allowing survivors in a huge state the time to speak out, get help, and come forward. We believe it is that bravery that is scaring California’s Catholic bishops.”

Newsom’s office declined to comment: “We have nothing to add at this time,” Daniel Lopez, Newsom’s deputy communications director, told me in an email.

But the petition, which came came less than a month before Politico published a draft U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion showing justices are poised to overturn the federal constitutional right to an abortion, could spark the latest standoff between California and the high court.

In other reproductive justice news: Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Monday that Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes dropped criminal charges against Adora Perez, whom he had previously charged with manslaughter after she delivered a stillborn baby while high on methamphetamine. “California law is clear: We do not criminalize people for the loss of a pregnancy,” Bonta said.

Complete Article HERE!

Justice is coming, slowly, in clergy sex abuse cases

Pope Francis waves from a window during the Regina Caeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on May 8.

The road toward justice for the victims of clergy sex abuse has been long, tortuous and littered with legal minefields. But increasingly in the past few years, it has led to milestones involving accountability for the Catholic Church, and restitution for individuals preyed upon as children. That it has taken two decades in many cases is maddening, but breakthroughs even at this late date are critically important.

In April, a Catholic diocese in the Philadelphia suburbs of southern New Jersey agreed to pay nearly $88 million to settle claims by several hundred people, many of them now elderly, who say they were abused as children. For many of the 300 or so plaintiffs in the Diocese of Camden, it will mean payouts in the range of $300,000, with the possibility of additional amounts stemming from separate lawsuits against insurance companies, parishes and schools.

The Camden settlement was among the biggest in the nation, larger even than one in Boston, where the first revelations surfaced 20 years ago of systematic church involvement in covering up clergy sex abuse. It is also partly the legacy of a blockbuster 2018 grand jury report in Pennsylvania that documented allegations against more than 300 priests accused of abusing more than 1,000 children over decades.

The effect of that report was to overcome powerful interests, including the Catholic Church, private schools and insurance companies, that had lobbied successfully in state legislatures to thwart restitution and accountability by impeding sex abuse cases against minors stretching back for decades. In particular, they blocked the establishment of so-called look-back windows that would enable lawsuits to be filed for a finite period well after statutes of limitation had expired — a key reform given that many victims of childhood abuse take years to come to grips with the traumas they have suffered. That dam of obstruction was broken after the Pennsylvania report, including by legislation enacted in New York, New Jersey and more than a dozen other states.

Relaxed statutes of limitations have meant scores of bankruptcy filings by dioceses as well as a tsunami of lawsuits by victims. The downside is upheaval in the Catholic Church, an institution that remains a touchstone for millions of Americans. The upside is, if not a sense of closure, at least an acknowledgment of the damage done, and trauma inflicted, across U.S. communities. Prayers for the victims were inadequate; they deserved, and in many cases have now received, legal redress of their pain and grievances.

This story is not over, nor should it be. Last year, Pope Francis ordered changes in the church’s own penal code to allow clerics who leverage power imbalances to abuse not only children but also adults to be expelled from the priesthood. However, the Vatican has continued to resist uniform reporting of child abuse to civil authorities, which it says could put clergy at risk in some countries. In both the United States and overseas, major new reports have continued to document the scale and scope of abuse over decades. That important work must continue.

Complete Article HERE!

Here’s What You Should Do in Case of Abuse by the Clergy

Clergy abuse can lead to emotional scars and post-traumatic disorders for life. Here’s what to do when faced with such a problem.

If you know someone who has been the victim of clergy abuse, or if you experienced this unacceptable violation yourself, know that there are now support groups that help you tell your story.

The legal system is now going after abusive priests, unlike the scenario even a few years back. The church has mandated that all sexual abuse allegations be reported to law enforcement agencies. It is now a lot easier for victims to be heard and get their abusers to be held accountable.

Read on to know how you can deal with abuse by a clergy member.

Report the Incident

The first thing anyone should do after being a victim of clergy abuse is to report it to a law enforcement agency. They also need to ask for medical care, which includes getting access to resources for mental health issues as well.

Many people are frightened to report such an incident, especially because it can be really painful. But if you understand exactly what clergy abuse means, you cannot allow it to go unreported. You need to enable law enforcement authorities to act against the priest, no matter how bad you feel about it.

Gathering the strength to come forward and report the incident is commendable. However, such cases involve going through a lot of legal steps which might further overwhelm the victim.

But once the victim is able to report the abuse, it becomes significantly easier to deal with it in the coming days. All across the US, there are lawyers who can help you through the process. Look up California Clergy Sex Abuse Attorney online for stellar legal representation in clergy abuse cases if you are living on the West Coast.

Be Aware of the Statute of Limitations

You will undoubtedly be relieved at finally being able to tell your story and reporting it gives you the time you need to properly build up a case against the abuser and the Catholic Church.

But keep in mind that you have to file the lawsuit against the abuser within a legal timeframe called the statute of limitations.

If you do not file within the time limit, your case will be tossed out on a technicality. When the abuse took place and the location are a few factors that affect the statute of limitations. Some states in the USA have altered the statute for clergy abuse cases so that the victims can seek justice more easily.

Why Should You Hire a Lawyer?

Anyone who has been a victim of clergy sexual abuse is entitled to be compensated. Hiring a lawyer increases the probability of receiving the proper compensation after following the proper case filing processes.

This is important as many Catholic Church dioceses have filed for bankruptcy when charged for compensation or they have appointed legal counsel to protect their position. A lawyer will be able to combat such issues and make sure your claim for compensation stays alive.

What Types of Compensation Can You Expect?

When filing for a clergy abuse lawsuit, the main aim is to recover the highest compensation recoverable. Victims can use this compensation to pay for recovery programs such as mental health services or other medical expenditures.

This can be extra beneficial for those victims who require ongoing treatment. It will help you to know the different types of compensation that can be recovered, so read on.

  • Mental Healthcare

This relates to any expenses the victim may have incurred to visit professionals to address mental health issues, buying any prescribed medication, or any therapy that is required to treat the trauma that was inflicted.

  • Medical Care

You can be compensated for whatever expenses you’ve incurred to treat the abuse. This includes visits to the hospital, doctor’s bills, tests, and other OTC costs.

  • Suffering

You can still be suffering years after the actual abuse took place, and you can be compensated for it in a non-economic way.

What Are Your Rights?

The issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has been going on for decades and it involves people of all ages. The Church is now finally taking action to address these issues and is working with legal authorities to take measures against the accused.

So now the victims have a stronger platform to raise their voices and hold the abuser accountable for whatever harm has been inflicted upon them. The best way to do this is to file a lawsuit claiming compensation for clergy abuse.

Signs That Your Clergy Member Has Inappropriate Intentions

It’s best to be aware of the signs and pre-empt sexual abuse by a clergy member. There are a few ways you can tell in advance if your interaction with the priest is about to get inappropriate. These include:

  1. If the priest is giving you more time and attention than he is giving others.
  2. The priest uses flattery during the session and it starts to make you uncomfortable.
  3. The clergy member offers you personal gifts.
  4. You get invited by the priest to intimate social occasions.
  5. During the counseling sessions, you end up discussing their issues more than your own.
  6. He tries to touch you in an inappropriate way that makes you uncomfortable and confuses you.

Concluding Thoughts

If you have been sexually abused by a priest or know a victim, speak out and hold the abuser accountable. The legal system is now more organized, allowing you to get your justice a lot more easily.

So be aware of your rights and hire a good clergy sex abuse lawyer so that what you had to go through does not go unpunished. Remember to be resilient and not give up till you have achieved the proper compensation.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope announces mandate to audit church’s progress on fighting abuse

Pope Francis speaks as he attends the Easter Vigil in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican

By

Pope Francis gave a new mandate to his sex abuse advisory commission Friday, telling its members to work with bishops around the world to establish special welcome centers for victims and to audit the church’s progress on fighting abuse from its new perch within the Vatican.

Francis warned that without more transparency and accountability from the church, the faithful would continue to lose trust in the Catholic hierarchy after decades of revelations about priests who raped and molested children and bishops and religious superiors who covered up those crimes.

Francis issued the new marching orders during a meeting with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he created in 2013 as an ad hoc body to advise the church on best practices to protect minors and prevent abuse.

“The testimony of the survivors represents an open wound on the body of Christ, which is the church,” he told them.

Despite the fanfare that greeted its creation, the commission’s limited mandate has frustrated survivors, its outsider status generated resistance in the Vatican and one of its biggest initial recommendations — a special Vatican tribunal to prosecute bishops who covered up for pedophiles — went nowhere.

But Francis has sought to breathe new life into the commission. In his recent reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, he gave it greater institutional weight by making it part of the newly named Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that processes clergy sex abuse cases around the world.

In his speech to its members Friday, Francis said he decided to ground the commission in the church’s central government to prevent it from being some “satellite commission.”

He assured them he wasn’t trying curb their freedom or limit their mandate — quite the opposite. He stressed that the commission’s leadership would continue to report directly to him and enjoy full independence.

“It is your responsibility to expand the scope of this mission in such a way that the protection and care of those who have experienced abuse may become normative in every sector of the church’s life,” he said.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who heads the commission and helped craft Francis’ reforms, said the commission’s new location inside the doctrine office represented a “watershed moment in the life of the commission” and would let it “animate the entire church.”

The institutional legitimacy means the commission now has access to reports the bishops conferences prepare for the Vatican about their work, and can engage with the doctrine office on how cases are being handled, said O’Malley’s deputy, the Rev. Andrew Small.

“There have been some conversations, preliminary albeit, to see how we grasp this mantle of access to information of criminal processes,” Small said. “I’m enthusiastic that that will be a priority.”

One of the new mandates for the commission is to help bishops conferences establish survivor welcome centers where victims can find healing and justice. That could help answer a long-standing complaint from survivors who often report negative experiences with the church hierarchy when they report a priestly abuser.

“So many survivors around the world are asking, ‘Where is my case? What is happening?’” said Juan Carlos Cruz, a commission member and Chilean abuse survivor. He said the “dark hole” where canonical cases remain in limbo for years without any information given about their status “can be incredibly retraumatizing” for survivors.

Francis, who has had a mixed record on fighting abuse himself, in 2019 passed a new church law explicitly saying survivors have the right to know the outcome of their cases. He also lifted the pontifical secret that covered such investigations to facilitate transparency with victims as well as law enforcement agencies.

But advocates for victims say the church still has a long way to go to adequately address the long-term trauma victims experience.

Francis also called for the commission to conduct an annual audit of what is being globally done by the Catholic hierarchy, and what needs to change, to better protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse.

“Without that progress, the faithful will continue to lose trust in their pastors, and preaching and witnessing to the Gospel will become increasingly difficult,” Francis warned.

Small said the audit would look at individual bishops conferences as well as Vatican offices to ensure their policies are up to standard, and he expected it would be made public.

“Ultimately, verifiable data has to be at the heart of rebuilding trust,” Small said.

Complete Article HERE!

Irish priest appointed to senior Vatican role investigating abuse

Msgr John Kennedy will examine clerical child abuse allegations after shake-up

By Patsy McGarry

An Irish priest, Msgr John Kennedy has been put in charge by Pope Francis of leading investigations into child abuse allegations against the Catholic clergy worldwide.

The 53-year-old monsignor is the new secretary of the disciplinary section at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which has responsibility for dealing with credible allegations against clergy.

He had been serving at the office since being appointed there by Pope Francis in 2017 and his appointment is part of a major shake-up of the Vatican curia being undertaken by Pope Francis.

The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith has two new sections: a doctrinal section and a disciplinary section. Italian priest Msgr Armando Matteo has been appointed secretary at the doctrinal section.

Msgr Kennedy, from Clontarf in Dublin, was born in 1968 and ordained in 1993 for the Dublin archdiocese. He worked in Crumlin and Francis Street parishes before undertaking postgraduate studies in canon law in Rome in 1998.

Ratzinger role

He entered the service of the Holy See in September 2002 and began working with the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 2003, beginning his service there under its then prefect, Joseph Ratzinger, now pope emeritus Benedict XVI.

In an interview with the website Zenit, he described his reaction to hearing of the resignation of Benedict in February 2013: “You sometimes meet people who ask you: ‘Do you remember where you were on the day when JFK was shot, or the Twin Towers came down, or when World War II ended?’ I can think very clearly of exactly where I was.”

He was “in the north of Italy, and I was just ready to leave the hotel after a two-day ski trip, and my brother phoned and said: ‘What’s going on in Rome?’ I said: ‘I don’t really know. I’m not there.’ He said: ‘Switch on the TV as soon as you can, and you’ll see exactly what’s going on.’ ”

Benedict, who turned 95 on April 19th, is “a shy, but extremely intelligent man, a person who was very sincere, very gentle”, he said.

Complete Article HERE!