Iowa Attorney General’s report reviews dozens of ‘overwhelming’ sex-abuse complaints against Catholic priests

By William Morris Melody Mercado

In Iowa as in the rest of the country, the incidence and duration of sexual abuse by clergy “were overwhelming” and the cover-up “extensive” in earlier decades, a report by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office that was released Wednesday concludes.

A yearslong investigation by the office reviewed nearly 50 complaints of sexual abuse against current and former Catholic priests and other officials, including 17 allegations that had never before been reported.

In a statement Wednesday, the bishops of Iowa’s four Catholic dioceses said the church “is committed to do all that is humanly possible to protect minors from the sin and crime of clergy sexual abuse, and to promote healing.” The bishops said the new report would be studied for ways to improve existing reporting and investigating procedures.

The state’s investigation was inspired by a sweeping and scathing report issued by the Pennsylvania Attorney General in 2018.

In Pennsylvania, prosecutors used grand jury subpoenas to uncover hidden church records. Iowa does not have statewide grand jury powers, and so Attorney General Tom Miller worked with the state’s dioceses, which voluntarily shared records of past cases and complaints. The state also set up an independent hotline for clergy abuse complaints, among other outreach to possible victims.

Those efforts produced a total of 50 complaints, 45 of which were against Catholic church leaders and five involving other denominations. Of the new complaints, many brought allegations against priests who had already been accused of abuse by other victims.  Several of the new complaints listed in the report do not name the priest, in some cases because their identity is not known.

Lynn Hicks, Miller’s chief of staff, said in an interview that many victims indicated they felt the church in past decades was not supportive or receptive to their complaints.

“A lot of them felt like … they were the ones on trial when they had come forward, and then others talked about why they didn’t come forward — the lack of trust or the fear of not being believed, that sort of thing,” he said. “We hope that that’s changed.”

All of the allegations against Catholic priests fall outside the state’s statute of limitations for criminal prosecution. Some, but not all, of those accused are named in lists each diocese maintains of credibly accused priests. Several were already known to be the subject of dozens of accusations.

Three of the clergy named in complaints remain active as priests. The Rev. John Stack, a priest in Clinton, was suspended in 2013 over allegations of abuse in the 1980s, but was reinstated by the Diocese of Davenport in 2016 after a church trial found the charges not proven. Another, Hicks said, is in the Diocese of Sioux City, although it is not clear from the report who that is.

One claim resulted in a new investigation into the Rev. Robert “Bud” Grant, an instructor at St. Ambrose University and the parish priest in Blue Grass, a town of 1,500 just west of Davenport. The Diocese of Des Moines said in November 2020 that Grant had committed misconduct — but had not sexually abused any minors — and allowed him to return to ministry with restrictions limiting his contact with persons under 24.

A spokesman for the university said in a statement Thursday that Grant’s suspension from teaching at the university, where he remains a member of the faculty, was lifted this spring and he continues to work under restrictions imposed by the Des Moines Diocese.

The report found that, in Iowa as in other parts of the country, “the image and reputation of the church were put ahead of the enormous harm to young people.”

Hicks said the investigation found “plenty of evidence of priests being moved and things not being disclosed,” although he said things appear to have significantly improved since 2002, when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a major set of reforms to respond to a series of church scandals. Only five priests have been accused of misconduct occurring since 2002.

The report notes that the church made a notable change by requiring “automatic reporting of any complaints concerning abuse to the criminal authorities.”

All four of Iowa’s bishops are relatively new in their positions, the report notes, and none was involved in handling or covering up past complaints.

The report finds that the dioceses of Sioux City, Dubuque and Davenport “made a good-faith effort” to maintain their public lists of credibly accused clergy. The report includes some criticism of the Diocese of Des Moines, saying it was late in publishing its list and has a policy to not investigate single complaints against deceased priests. The diocese also declined to share some investigative reports, claiming attorney-client privilege.

Fewer than a third of priests facing allegations in the Des Moines diocese have been named on the diocese’s public list, compared to more than half in the three other dioceses. However, the report acknowledges some complaints are in a “gray area” and says Des Moines does report all allegations to law enforcement.

The Des Moines Diocese said in a statement Thursday that, since 2003, it has implemented mandatory background checks, which include a search of the sex offender registry for anyone who would be spending time with children in the diocese’s parishes, schools and institutions.

“The report brought to light that policies and procedures are in place to protect people and ensure justice is served so the church achieves a high standard of integrity in the ministries it offers,” said Des Moines Bishop William Joensen. “We, as a diocese, are committed to rigorous standards of accountability. I want to ensure that the diocese is committed to the safety of children.”

The Des Moines Diocese also noted that victims of abuse now report such conduct to a third-party Victim Assistance Advocate, not through the church.

In a separate statement, Davenport Bishop Thomas Zinkula apologized for the past abuse committed by clergy and described the steps taken in the past 20 years to safeguard children.

“These efforts have helped. The Diocese of Davenport has not received a founded report of child sexual abuse that occurred in the past 33 years,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, our Church and society need to continue to be vigilant in providing safe environments for children to thrive and grow.”

Of the five complaints received against church leaders in other denominations, the Attorney General’s Office is not identifying any of the accused but notes that at least one remains active as a pastor in the Cedar Falls area. Two of the complaints involve conduct that falls within the statute of limitations for possible criminal prosecution.

Complete Article HERE!

Children as cargo

Flight attendant recalls airplanes full of Indigenous students bound for residential schools, saying she ‘always knew’ something was off. After the discovery of 215 children’s remains, ‘now I know why’

By: Niigaan Sinclair

Sharon Gray still cries when she remembers it, nearly 60 years later.

“In the early 1960s, I was a flight attendant that took children to and from residential school,” she says.

The cabin of a DC-4: ‘All of the children cried at some point during the flight and most threw up,’ Gray recalls. (Supplied)</p>
The cabin of a DC-4: ‘All of the children cried at some point during the flight and most threw up,’ Gray recalls.

Gray, who lives in Winnipeg, worked on Pacific Western Airlines flights for 14 years. In those days most passengers were either wealthy vacationers or business travellers.

On most flights, she served people who looked forward to reaching their destinations.

There is one trip that has never left her mind.

Starting in the 1950s, churches began to contract Canadian airlines to transport Indigenous children to residential schools.

Some purchased and operated their own planes, such as the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who ran the Kamloops residential school where hundreds of children’s bodies were discovered buried in unmarked graves last month.

A restored Douglas DC-4 in Yellowknife: aircraft like this one were pressed into service shuttling children to residential schools. (Ed Araquel photo)</p>
A restored Douglas DC-4 in Yellowknife: aircraft like this one were pressed into service shuttling children to residential schools.

One Oblate missionary named William Leising spent his entire life flying to Indigenous communities, picking up children and delivering them to residential schools in Manitoba, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

He called his plane the “flying school bus.”

On some flights, seats would be removed to pack in as many children as possible. To save costs, the churches labelled children as “freight.”

For Indigenous children, travelling to residential school was a nervous, uncertain and, often, traumatic experience, especially if they knew what awaited them.

Gray was on one of those flights, escorting about 50 Inuit children to residential school in Inuvik, N.W.T.

“It was a long, difficult flight on a DC-4 airplane,” she recalls. “All of the children cried at some point during the flight and most threw up. One even vomited on me. We ran out of sick bags.”

Gray tried her best to do her job.

“I talked to two little girls who couldn’t stop crying, trying to convince them they were going to a good school, because I thought the Catholics had good teachers.”

A sign at a memorial outside the Kamloops Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., where the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves. (Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press files)</p>
A sign at a memorial outside the Kamloops Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., where the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves.

Gray remembers giving them cookies to make them feel better.

“Then they told me they missed their families,” she says.

Months later, she heard that some of the children had tried to escape from the school; getting home would have been an impossible journey.

Now, a half-century later, and in the wake of the Kamloops discovery and others across Canada, she feels it’s so important to talk about her experience in order to understand what she was a part of.

‘I always knew there was something more to what I witnessed,” she tells me, “and now I know why.”

The role of aviation in the story of residential schools is not well known. It is, however, an essential part; planes were the primary means of transportation to some schools, especially in the North.

In many Indigenous communities, the arrival of a plane signalled the imminent removal of children. The opening scene of the 1989 CBC TV movie Where the Spirit Lives, created from stories told by residential school survivors, begins with a plane arriving in a Kainai community, flown by a pilot who then tricks the children into boarding.

The film over-dramatizes events; pilots didn’t need tricks, because Canada’s laws and the RCMP forced parents to send their children to the schools.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission documented some of the role aviation played in the residential school system but had a difficult time finding pilots, flight attendants and other airline workers to participate in hearings.

The commissioners also had difficulty obtaining flight manifests, passenger lists and purchase agreements between the churches and airlines because of privacy and jurisdictional arguments.

In some cases, owners and employees died, documents were lost and airlines had gone out of business. As a result, there’s an incomplete picture of the involvement of one of Canada’s most important industries and everyone in it.

Telling this story now is a task that has been taken up by the new Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada, which will debut in a new building near the Winnipeg’s Richardson International Airport early next year.

Overseen by Indigenous and Canadian researchers (I know, because I am one of them), the museum has committed to document and display the stories of aviation’s role in the residential schools system.

This week, museum curator Davide Montebruno reached out to Sharon Gray to tell her story. And the museum is inviting others to visit its website to share theirs, too.

“This is a big part of reconciliation,” Montebruno says. “We must tell the truth of what happened, no matter how uncomfortable it can be, so we can act different as a community.”

The hope is that Winnipeg’s newest museum can help Canadians understand how the airline industry participated in the country’s most genocidal policy.

Gray says she accepted Montebruno’s invitation.

“I could do nothing at that time,” she says. “But I can now.”

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic order that staffed Kamloops residential school refuses to share records families seek

B.C. government has asked Sisters of St. Ann to turn over documents ‘immediately’

Seven of Bronwyn Shoush’s aunts and uncles lie in residential school graves in Mission, B.C. For decades, she’s been searching for answers about how exactly they died.

By Angela Sterritt, Jennifer Wilson

The order of nuns that taught at the former Kamloops residential school, and others in B.C., continues to withhold important documents that could help tell the story of how Indigenous children died at the schools over the past 150 years.

The Sisters of St. Ann has never approved the release of relevant government records — documents that could relate to deaths at the schools — according to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and the religious order.

“It might be because there were things that weren’t relevant to the school system or names of those students, as well as other people like visitors,” said Sister Marie Zarowny, a St. Ann spokesperson.

She also said the sisters have provided some documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about the residential school system, but is unwilling to share some records outlining internal workings of the congregation, as well as what is called the school “narrative.”

“What is in those documents, why can’t I have access to them?” said Bronwyn Shoush, whose father attended St. Mary’s residential school in Mission, B.C.

Like Kamloops, it was also staffed by the Sisters of St. Ann and administered by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Seven of her father’s nine siblings lie buried in the residential school cemetery. The children were all in marked graves that have since fallen into disrepair, she says. Yet she knows very little about how they came to die at school. Her father told her one sibling was killed in what he was told was an accident — falling on a pitchfork. Another died suddenly and others from Illness, but Shoush has few other details.

The National Student Memorial Register lists 21 children as having died at St. Mary’s, but to add to the confusion, none of her aunts or uncles are named.

“The longer it’s locked up and held or destroyed or held in secret, the more you’re likely to be very suspicious,” Shoush said.

The St. Mary’s residential school cemetery in Mission, B.C., where school children as well as nuns and the institution’s administrators are buried.

It also goes against the Truth and Reconciliation mandate as set up by the Indian Residential School Settlement agreement.

“This is a concern and remains inconsistent with the actions of the vast majority of other signatories to the Settlement Agreement,” reads a statement from Stephanie Scott, executive director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

‘Turn over these records immediately”

The Royal B.C. Museum that houses St. Ann’s private archival collection has appealed to the nuns to “provide better accessibility of these records to the public — but particularly to Indigenous communities whose members attended residential schools.”

Researchers can access the archives by appointment, but some have noted it’s not always easy to do so.

The B.C. government has also called on the Sisters of St. Ann “to turn over these records immediately.”

In the order’s defence, Zarowny said St. Ann wanted to be able to fix historical inaccuracies before documents were made public.

But Ry Moran, who guided the creation of the TRC’s national archive, says having a hodgepodge of the records conceals more important truths.

“The biggest inaccuracy is that kids’ own names were robbed from them and replaced with Christian Western names,” Moran said.

This is the St. Mary’s residential school cemetery. The National Student Memorial Register names 21 children who died at the school, but none of Bronwyn’s relatives are listed on it.

“We’re going back and figuring out what names, lands, territories, identities and villages were actually stolen from kids in the first place.”

The sisters taught at St. Mary’s, Kamloops, Kuper Island and Lower Post Indian residential schools where children experienced rampant physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

Records can be forced by law

St. Ann is not the only entity to refuse to hand over the documents.

Father Ken Thorson of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate told the CBC that his congregation would not be providing personnel files of the staff at the residential schools citing privacy laws.

Those could include disciplinary records of nuns who treated children poorly.

But the TRC’s mandate outlines that “in cases where privacy interests of an individual exist, and subject to and in compliance with applicable privacy legislation and access to information legislation, researchers for the Commission shall have access to the documents.”

And it’s not just churches who have refused to give up residential school documents.

The federal government has been in court since 2020 trying to block the creation of statistical reports on residential school abuse claims.

The Supreme Court of Canada also ruled in 2017 that thousands of records documenting abuse at residential schools should be destroyed.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations said, “As per the terms of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, Canada was obligated to disclose all relevant documents to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

It goes on to say, “the courts have consistently found that Canada has met its document disclosure obligations and that no further action is required.”

Still, those at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation disagree.

“The federal government and provincial governments also have not shared all the records they agreed to provide to the NCTR. We continue to negotiate acquisition of further records from many settler organizations — both religious and governmental,” the statement says.

For those like Shoush who want information about how her relatives died, it could take years of fighting just to find the truth.

Complete Article HERE!

Even after Kamloops, the Catholic Church opts for obfuscation

A group of youths lead a group drumming and singing at sunset outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, to honour the 215 children found in Kamloops on June 4, 2021.

By

The word “shocking” has come up a lot in news stories about the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops; though, to anyone familiar with the history of such schools, there was nothing remotely surprising about it.

That most of the country was “shocked” by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation revelation of unmarked graves speaks to our collective ignorance about our country’s past and the sins of commission and omission made by those in positions of authority who sought to bury the truth.

The abuse of Indigenous children by both church and state that occurred for more than a century at residential schools across Canada occurred on multiple levels, in both life and death. Children removed from their families by the state and entrusted to clergy were subjected to such physical, sexual and emotional abuse that some Indigenous youth took their own lives to escape the horror. Many others ran away, only to die from exposure. Others died of disease.

“The general [Department of] Indian Affairs policy was to hold the schools responsible for burial expenses when a student died at school. The school generally determined the location and nature of that burial. Parental requests to have children’s bodies returned home for burial were generally refused as being too costly,” reads the 2015 final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which estimated that as many as 6,000 children died at residential schools.

“In short, throughout the system’s history, children who died at school were buried in school or mission cemeteries, often in poorly marked graves. The closing of the schools has led, in many cases, to the abandonment of these cemeteries.”

No institution, not even the government, knows more about what happened at Canada’s residential schools than the Catholic Church. But the Catholic orders that ran most residential schools and the bishops who oversee the church in Canada today have employed a plethora of dilatory measures to avoid revealing the truth.

That an institution known for maintaining meticulous records continues to offer excuses about the difficulties encountered in locating, translating or digitizing church documents about residential schools makes its inertia even more disgraceful.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which ran the Kamloops school, offered after the discovery to “commit to do more” to make its records available. Yet the Oblates and other church authorities have consistently frustrated the efforts of Indigenous families, investigators and researchers to uncover the truth.

Given the church’s track record of obfuscation and obstruction, it is no surprise that Indigenous people are still waiting for an apology from the Pope.

In 2015, the final report of the TRC called on Pope Francis to issue an apology to survivors, families and Indigenous communities for the church’s role in the “spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools” within one year of the report’s publication. It asked also that the apology “be delivered by the Pope in Canada.”

Despite the good-faith efforts of some clergy to push for one, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops appears to consider a formal apology too risky. To be clear, this has little to do with theology. The CCCB seems to have far more worldly concerns about the potential legal consequences of any apology that acknowledges the abuses committed in the church’s name by clergy at residential schools.

So, instead, Indigenous people are left to suffer yet another indignity.

“I don’t know whether seeking always some big and dramatic thing is the way forward,” Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, told the CBC’s Rosemary Barton on Sunday. “I think the much more important thing is the day-to-day work, quietly, gently.”

His statement provides yet more evidence that the Catholic hierarchy has learned nothing despite the abuse scandals of recent decades. A hush-hush culture remains endemic throughout the church. Secrecy is its modus operandi.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated the TRC demand for an apology during a 2017 private audience with the Pope at the Vatican. But, in 2018, then-CCCB president Bishop Lionel Gendron wrote in a letter to Indigenous people that “after carefully considering the request and extensive dialogue with the bishops of Canada, [Pope Francis] felt he could not personally respond.”

Read into that statement what you may. To many, it reeked of the church’s own internal politics and basic unwillingness to take responsibility for its actions.

On Sunday, Francis addressed the “shocking news” from Kamloops from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square: “May the political and religious authorities continue to collaborate with determination to shed light on this sad affair and commit humbly to a path of reconciliation.”

One can only pray.

Complete Article HERE!

Amid calls for Catholic Church to take responsibility for residential schools, Pope meets with Canadian Cardinals

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate ran about 47 per cent of Canada’s residential schools, including the one in Kamloops. They have refused to release their records to help identify the remains

In this file photo, Pope Francis arrives to lead Holy Rosary prayer in Vatican gardens to end the month of May, at the Vatican, May 31, 2021.

By Sarah Smellie

Pope Francis met with two Canadian Cardinals on Saturday amid mounting pressure on the Catholic Church to take responsibility for Canada’s residential school system, though it’s not known what was discussed.

No information was immediately available about why the Pope met with Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal Michael Czerny, a top official in the Vatican’s migrants and refugees portfolio.

The meetings were disclosed in the Vatican’s daily roster of papal audiences.

Past appointment listings show Pope Francis meets with Oulette every Saturday, but meetings with Czerny are rare. The two last met on May 10, but Czerny’s name does not appear in previous agendas.

The Vatican did not respond to request for comment on the meeting, and attempts to reach the cardinals were unsuccessful.

The appointments came a day after nine United Nations human rights experts implored the Catholic Church, as well as Canadian authorities, “to conduct prompt and thorough investigations” into an unmarked burial site believed to contain the remains of 215 Indigenous children found at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced last week that ground-penetrating radar confirmed the findings.

“Large scale human rights violations have been committed against children belonging to Indigenous communities, it is inconceivable that Canada and the Holy See would leave such heinous crimes unaccounted for and without full redress,” said a Friday release from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Kamloops school operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and ran it as a day school until it closed in 1978.

Some 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were forcibly sent to residential schools, where many suffered abuse and even death.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate ran about 47 per cent of Canada’s residential schools, including the one in Kamloops. The Oblates have refused to release their records to help identify the remains.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also put pressure on the Catholic Church Friday, calling on officials to “step up” and take responsibility for its role in the system and urging the release of records related to the schools.

It is inconceivable that Canada and the Holy See would leave such heinous crimes unaccounted for and without full redress
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Trudeau said he was “deeply disappointed” by the position the Catholic Church has taken, adding that he personally asked Pope Francis in 2017 to consider apologizing for the institution’s part in the government-sponsored, church-run schools.

“It’s something we are all still waiting for the Catholic Church to do,” Trudeau said.

Ouellet is originally from La Motte, Que., and was said to be a frontrunner to succeed Pope Benedict XVI as head of the Church in 2013. He plays a key role in the selection of bishops and archbishops around the world.

Czerny is a Czech-born Canadian whose family settled in Montreal. He is the Vatican’s under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Friday’s release from the nine independent experts from the UN’s human rights office said they expect the church to provide judicial authorities with “full access …. to the archives of the residential schools run by the institution,” as well as thoroughly investigate allegations concerning the schools and publicly disclose the results of their efforts.

The release also took aim at Ottawa, saying Canada’s Indigenous people have been waiting “for too many years” for the federal government to implement the recommendations in the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, released in 2015.

Ottawa must investigate the sites of all other residential schools in Canada, the release said.

“The judiciary should conduct criminal investigations into all suspicious death and allegations of torture and sexual violence against children hosted in residential schools, and prosecute and sanction the perpetrators and concealers who may still be alive,” the experts said in the release.

The signatories to the release included Mama Fatima Singhateh, an expert on the sexual exploitation of children, and Francisco Cali Tzay, an expert on the rights of Indigenous people.

Complete Article HERE!