Six men suing the Catholic church for alleged sexual abuse

A group of men from a northwestern Ontario First Nations community are suing a Winnipeg-based Roman Catholic order and others to seek redress for alleged sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of their community priest as young boys.

The six men from the Lac La Croix First Nation near Fort Francis seek unspecified financial damages from the federal government, a Catholic diocese in Thunder Bay and the order of Les Oblats de Marie Immaculee du Manitoba, along with a priest who lived and worked on the reserve in the 1960s.

The men range in age from 55 to 61.

In separate statements of claim, each alleges his life has been deeply and negatively affected by the aftershocks of sexual assaults he was subjected to — abuse the men say they felt powerless to speak out about given the priest’s position of power in their small community.

One man states that when he was 10 or 11 years old, the priest took him to his on-reserve home several times during the summer months and anally raped him. The behaviour continued until he was 13 or 14, the now-56-year-old says.

The other men make similar claims, one alleging he was abused more than two dozen times at the priest’s home and in a schoolhouse room. Another claims he was assaulted by the priest in a hotel room during a trip to Minnesota.

The priest died in May 1986.

The allegations have not been proven, and no statement of defence has been filed. No court date has been set to test the men’s claims.

The men state the Order and the Thunder Bay diocese should be held indirectly responsible for the actions of the now-late priest, who was a member of the order and an employee of the diocese, their lawsuits say.

“The Order and the Diocese held out (the priest) as an individual that embodied the values of the Roman Catholic faith such that it was implied that he could be trusted and that he would do no harm,” one lawsuit states.

The two organizations should have known there would be a “power imbalance” given the emphasis the faith places on obeying the wishes of its clergy, and the power the priest had over the “immortal souls” of the faithful in the community.

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Alex Gibney, an award-winning documentary maker whose work has focussed on Lance Armstrong, Julian Assange, and Enron, has found his most contentious topic yet.

His Oscar-touted exposé, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, traces a sex-abuse scandal from a Milwaukee Catholic church to the Vatican.

Gibney also shot parts of the film in Ireland and Italy and received €50,000 from the Irish Film Board. The movie was banned by the Venice and Rome film festivals this year.

According to the New York Post, Gibney said of its rejection: “I was disappointed. The Vatican exerts a very strong influence in Italy. There is a palpable sense of fear there. This film takes on the Vatican’s complicity [in covering it up].”

The film won the best documentary prize at the London Film Festival last week.

It was co-produced by Belfast’s Below the Radar production company, and is in cinemas in the US from Nov 16.

It follows the story of Fr Lawrence Murphy at the St John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin, who molested 200 pupils for 24 years. He was never disciplined, even after his actions were brought to the attention of the Vatican. Instead, he was moved to other schools.

“The direct connection of the Vatican to this sheds light on the way they’ve shoved this stuff under the carpet,” said Gibney, who discovered a similar scandal involving deaf students in Verona in Italy while making the film.

Five students are interviewed in the film, and, as they use sign language, their words are voiced by actors.

Gibney said: “We play with the idea of silence in this film. How could this predatory behaviour exist with people so helpless?

“With the priests in Italy… there is very little sympathy for victims.

“Instead, there’s this resentment that people would attack the Church. What else is in this huge cache of documents in the secret Vatican archives that has been compiled for centuries?”

More sex charges filed against priest removed from St. Paul church

A priest who had been charged with criminal sexual misconduct now faces 17 counts of possessing child pornography, Ramsey County authorities said Tuesday.

The Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, 48, of Oakdale, was removed as pastor of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in St. Paul in June amid an investigation into child sex assault.

During the summer of 2010, Wehmeyer allegedly brought two young brothers to his camper trailer, parked in the lot of the church, and showed the boys, then 12 and 14, pornographic movies.

He gave them alcohol and marijuana as he allegedly molested one and exposed himself to the other, according to the complaint filed in late September.

“As the parish priest for this family, the defendant betrayed a sacred trust and forever marred the innocence of two young victims,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Tuesday. “We will pursue justice for the family, as well as the community.”

After he was arrested in June at the church rectory, Wehmeyer saw the boys’ mother and told her that he intended to plead guilty.

The complaint filed Monday details pornographic images showing nude prepubescent boys alone and engaged in sexual acts with each other.

Investigators allegedly found the videos and photos on the priest’s laptop computer, in a closet in the rectory, while executing a search warrant in July.

Each of the 17 counts is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

The earlier charges are second-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of gross misdemeanor fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Wehmeyer was ordained in 2001 and served as associate priest at St. Joseph Catholic Church in West St. Paul from 2001 to 2006. Since 2006 he had served at Blessed Sacrament.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released a statement after the September charges were filed, saying it “deeply regrets the pain caused by clergy misconduct or by others within the Church, and is offering its support and assistance to all concerned.”

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Chilean bishop resigns amid sex abuse inquiry

The pope yesterday accepted the resignation of a Chilean bishop who is under investigation by the Vatican for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor.

The resignation of Bishop Marco Antonio Ordenes Fernandez of Iquique, Chile, marks one of the few times that the Vatican has acknowledged publicly it was investigating a bishop for sex abuse allegations. Advocates for clerical sex abuse victims have long complained the Vatican has looked the other way when bishops have been accused of abuse or of covering it up.

The Vatican said yesterday that the pope has accepted Ordenes’ resignation under the code of canon law that says a bishop must resign if he is sick or because some other “grave” reason makes him unsuitable for his job.

The 47-year-old Ordenes suffers from a liver ailment and has been seeking medical treatment. But the Vatican Embassy in Santiago confirmed Oct. 2 that it had been investigating Ordenes since April and was offering psychological and other care to “those affected.”

The Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said the link between the resignation and the investigation “can be considered obvious.”

Ordenes is accused of abusing a 15-year-old altar boy in the northern city of Iquique.

The former bishop admits he had “an imprudent act” with his accuser but says that he met him in 1999 when he was 17 and they had a relationship when he was no longer underage.

“My conscience is clear before God, and that’s what matters,” Ordenes told Chilean newspaper La Tercera in a recent interview.

His accuser, Rodrigo Pino, 30, said the abuse began when he was 15. At first, he said it was forced, but then they became lovers.

The Associated Press doesn’t normally name victims of alleged sexual abuse, but Pino has gone public with his claims.

“We began a friendship because I showed him my interest in becoming a priest. I became very involved with him, and then the abuses began,” Pino told Chilean ADN radio. “He would tell me that he was like a father to me and I was like his son, his lover, his brother and friend. … At first the abuse was forced because I was a boy who fell in love.”

The Vatican Embassy is taking charge of the investigation because Ordenes is a bishop. Usually, a priest accused of sexually abusing children is investigated by his bishop, who then sends the case to the Vatican for review if he finds a semblance of truth to the accusations.

Lombardi said the fact the case was now before the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles cases of clerics accused of the sexual abuse of minors, indicates the investigation concerns the allegation that Ordenes abused Pino when he was underage.

A handful of U.S. bishops have resigned after facing sex abuse allegations. More recently, the then-bishop of Bruges, Belgium, Roger Vangheluwe, quit in 2010 after admitting he had molested his nephew for years starting when he a young boy. The Vatican later sanctioned him.

Earlier this year, the Vatican laicized a Canadian bishop who was convicted of child porn possession.

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Former Pastor Of Simsbury Church Found Guilty Of Misdemeanor Sexual Assault

The former pastor of a Simsbury church has been found guilty of misdemeanor sexual assault for touching an 18-year-old man’s pubic area while administering confession.

The Rev. Edward Warnakulasuriya, 54, was pastor at St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church in the Tariffville section of Simsbury until his removal in July 2011, when the Archdiocese of Hartford learned that Warnakulasuriya was under investigation. The priest was arrested by Simsbury police on Aug. 11, 2011.

Warnakulasuriya was initially charged with three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, but pleaded no contest Sept. 19 to a single count of fourth-degree sexual assault as part of a plea bargain.

Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Debra Collins sought a 120-day prison sentence and three years of probation, but Superior Court Judge Howard Scheinblum opted for no jail, according to a transcript of the sentencing hearing in Enfield. Warnakulasuriya will be on probation for three years.

“I want to put on the record that the reason I did not incarcerate the defendant is because I believe he will definitely be eligible for deportation, and I would be surprised if [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] did not deport him and also because of a very real potential for excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church,” the judge said, according to the transcript. Warnakulasuriya is a native of Sri Lanka.

The sexual assault to which Warnakulasuriya pleaded no contest occurred at the rectory sometime between December 2010 and January 2011, when the victim was 17 or 18. There were allegations of other sexual assaults, but those charges were dropped as part of the plea. The charge to which the priest pleaded no contest acknowledges that he was in a position of power or authority over the victim because he was his parish priest.

Collins told the judge that she was prepared to go to trial on all the allegations and that investigators had uncovered more potential victims.

The victim opted not to be in court for Warnakulasuriya’s plea and sentencing, Collins said. “They had spent, both his parents as well as him, numerous days with me interviewing, preparing for trial,” Collins said. “It was a very lengthy process. The state found him very credible, but it was long and detailed over the last two weeks. He has therefore chosen not to appear today.”

Warnakulasuriya pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor so was not eligible to be placed on the state’s sex offender registry, Collins added.

In church and public records, and in the criminal complaint against him, Warnakulasuriya is also known as Edward Tissera and W. Edward Julian Tissera. The archdiocese listed him as Edward J. Tissera. Before his appointment to St. Bernard’s, Warnakulasuriya served for several years as an assistant pastor at St. Martha Roman Catholic Church in Enfield.

Maria Zone, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said that Warnakulasuriya’s status had not changed. “He has been on administrative leave, which means he cannot perform duties as a priest, namely the administration of the Sacraments, since July 2011,” she said. “He will remain on administrative leave until further notice.”

The 18-year-old told police that he had visited Warnakulasuriya for confession at the rectory on several occasions between early 2010 and July 18 of this year, during which time the man told police that Warnakulasuriya had touched his pubic area.

Complete Article HERE!