Tag Archives: priests

Church still evades payments to abuse victims

Making good on their verbal threat in open court to “spend down” the remaining money left in their estate to prevent 575 victims of rape, sexual assault and abuse by clergy of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee from receiving restitution, lawyers for Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki have filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. They seek to overturn a U.S. 7th Circuit decisive ruling that a fraudulent “cemetery trust” created by former Archbishop Timothy Dolan, now cardinal of New York, was not “protected” by federal religious laws or the First Amendment and can be used to compensate survivors.

A few weeks ago, the archdiocese started carrying out its threat by randomly deposing and, of course, re-traumatizing victims, putting survivors through hours of questioning by church lawyers fishing for reasons to file yet more pointless briefs and run up expensive bills. So far, lawyers’ fees and court costs are soaring near $20 million dollars while Listecki has begrudgingly offered $4 million, total, for all rape victims, less than $7,000 per survivor.

In the latest filing, Listecki again legally howls the discredited excuses of “religious freedom” and “First Amendment rights.”  Clearly these rights are not enshrined in our Constitution for bishops, or anyone else, to cover up sex crimes, as if child rape is no one’s business but their own.

What matters is not winning the brief (they won’t). What matters is that it will be expensive, create more delays and pile up legal fees so there is no money left for survivors. You might as well move the Sunday collection plate over to the lawyers’ offices or, perhaps, the country club. The later location might be easier since, as Listecki wrote in a recent column in a Catholic paper, he will be getting in as much golf as he can this summer. In the meantime, hundreds of victims are languishing through years of bankruptcy without help, much less justice. 

When filing for bankruptcy over four and a half years ago, Listecki urged victims to come forward for “restitution, healing and resolution.” Since then, however, he has claimed that none of the 575 victims, not a single one, has a legitimate case.

It is pretty clear that Listecki filed for bankruptcy in utter bad faith and breech of promise to victims. The bankruptcy was filed to prevent restitution to victims by deploying the federal bankruptcy system and so called “religious freedom” to shield Listecki, Dolan and dozens of child sex offenders from the consequences of their criminal conduct and cover-ups.

Dolan wrote to the Vatican when he sought permission to create his bogus cemetery trust to prevent U.S. courts from compensating victims of priest sex abuse. Since then, it has been shown the archdiocese has at least $300 million available for victim restitution. But so far the archdiocese appears to have found a means to buy its way of justice, in plain sight, out for everyone to see.  Again.

–Peter Isley is Midwest director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Vatican asking parishes about gay marriage, birth control, divorce

The Vatican is taking the unusual step of conducting a worldwide survey on how parishes deal with issues such as birth control, divorce and gay marriage, seeking input ahead of a major meeting on the family that Pope Francis plans next year.

The poll was sent in mid-October to every national conference of bishops with a request from the Vatican coordinator, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, to “share it immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received.”

The survey reflects the pope’s pledges to move away from what he called a “Vatican-centric” approach toward one where local church leaders are more involved in decision-making.

Among the questions are whether gay marriage is recognized in their jurisdictions and how priests minister to same-sex couples, including how churches can respond when gays seek a religious education or Holy Communion for their children.

The poll also asks “how is God’s mercy proclaimed” to separated, divorced and remarried couples. Additional information is sought on the pastoral care of men and women who live together outside of marriage.

The survey also asks parishes whether they believe married men and women tend to follow church teaching barring the use of artificial contraception.

The National Catholic Reporter, an independent news organization, was first to report that the survey will be conducted, and it posted a copy online.

Helen Osman, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, confirmed plans for the poll to The Associated Press.

“It will be up to each bishop to determine what would be the most useful way of gathering information to provide to Rome,” Osman wrote in an email. In England, bishops have posted the survey online to be filled out by a wide range of Catholics, including priests, lay people, parents and nuns.

The poll findings will help set the agenda for an extraordinary synod, or meeting, of the presidents of national bishops conferences in October 2014.

The introduction to the survey lays out a broad list of concerns which the document says “were unheard of until a few years ago,” including single-parent families, polygamy, interfaith marriages and “forms of feminism hostile to the church.” Surrogate motherhood is lamented in the document as “wombs for hire,” and the survey cites as a new challenge “same-sex unions between persons who are, not infrequently, permitted to adopt children.”

Francis has said the church needs to do a better job preparing young people for marriage, lamenting that newlyweds seem to think marriage isn’t a lifelong commitment but just a “provisional” one. At the same time, he has said the church process for annulling marriages isn’t working and must be reviewed.

Francis’ emphasis on reforming the Vatican bureaucracy and boosting the participation of local church leaders and lay people has prompted speculation about how far-reaching his changes could be.

The pope has urged pastors to focus on being merciful and welcoming rather than emphasizing only such divisive issues as abortion, gay marriage and contraception. At the same time, he has made clear his support for traditional marriage and opposition to abortion.

The introduction to the new survey extensively quotes former popes and the Catholic catechism on marriage being the union of a man and a woman for the purposes of having children.

Religious order files reveal decades of LA abuse

In therapy sessions, the priest confessed the shocking details he’d kept hidden for years: He had molested more than 100 boys, including his 5-year-old brother. He had sex with male prostitutes.

The admissions of the Rev. Ruben Martinez are included among nearly 2,000 pages of secret files unsealed earlier this week that were kept on priests, brothers and nuns who belonged to religious orders but were accused of child molestation while working within the Los Angeles archdiocese.

The papers, which were released under the terms of a $660 million settlement agreement reached in 2007, are the first glimpse at what religious orders knew about the men and women they posted in Roman Catholic schools and parishes in the Los Angeles area. The archdiocese itself released thousands of pages under court order this year for its own priests who were accused of sexual abuse, but the full picture of the problem remained elusive without the orders’ records. Several dozen more  files are expected to be released by the fall.

The documents cover five different religious orders that employed 10 priests or religious brothers and two nuns who were all accused in civil lawsuits of molesting children. Among them, the accused had 21 alleged victims between the 1950s and the 1980s.

Some of the files released, including those of the nuns, don’t mention sexual abuse at all, and others appear to have large gaps in time and missing documents. The release included documents from the Oblates, the Marianists, the Benedictines and two orders for religious sisters.

That the files don’t reflect some of the alleged abuse doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, said Ray Boucher, lead attorney for some abuse victims. “Much of this went unreported. You’re talking about kids that were terrorized and frightened in so many different ways, with no place and no one to turn to.”

At more than 500 pages, Martinez’s file is among the most complete, and it paints a devastating picture of a troubled and repressed child who later joined the priesthood to satisfy a domineering and devout father.

The Los Angeles archdiocese settled eight lawsuits over Martinez’s actions in 2007, but had little documentation on him in its own files even though the priest worked in its parishes for years in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, his order file includes graphic details described in therapy notes and psychiatric evaluations. It also reveals the years of effort – and tens of thousands of dollars – the Oblates spent trying to cure him of his self-admitted pedophilia as it shuttled him between programs, including inpatient treatment.

In 1965, Martinez took his final vows for a religious order called the U.S. Province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a nearly 200-year-old Catholic organization with roots in France. In 1969, he was ordained as a priest and assigned by his order to a small parish in Brawley, Calif.

In a 1993 psychiatric report – one of several such evaluations done between 1991 and 2005 by various treatment programs – the priest admitted to molesting children beginning in 1970, when he began playing “giddy up” games with young boys on his lap. In the documents, Martinez says he stopped “direct sexual contact” with boys after a mother complained to a pastor in 1982 and that he stopped touching boys altogether after another complaint in 1986.

It’s unclear whether his religious order or the archdiocese was aware of those complaints, but around the same time as the first complaint, Martinez began weekly therapy sessions. He entered a counseling program for people with sexual compulsions after the second complaint in 1986.

In 1991, he received five months of inpatient psychological treatment from a center in Jemez Springs, New Mexico that specialized in treating troubled priests.

Upon his release, Martinez was assigned to a tiny parish in the remote town of Westmorland, Calif., in the far southeastern corner of the state. While there, he would drive miles to San Diego to pick up male prostitutes, according to his file.

He was removed from parish ministry in 1993, enrolled in a sex offender program and sent to live and work at the order’s California headquarters in Oakland after another complaint surfaced from his past. For the rest of his career, he filled administrative roles.

Calls to the U.S. Province of the Oblates and emails to two attorneys representing Martinez and the three other Oblate priests whose files were released were not returned. Attorneys for the Benedictines and Marianists and a representative from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus also did not return calls.

Carolina Guevara, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles archdiocese, did not address the current file release specifically but said religious orders are expected to make sure the priests they present for ministry in the archdiocese don’t have any history of sex abuse.

One man who sued over Martinez’s abuse told The Associated Press that the priest molested children after he was assigned to his hometown parish in Wilmington, a working-class city south of Los Angeles, in 1972. The man, now 50, requested anonymity because he is well-known in his professional life and has not spoken publicly about his case before. The AP does not publish the names of victims of sexual abuse without their consent.

“He would have us wrestle each other and then wrestle with him, which means we’d get down into our skivvies and he’d take pictures of us. He was always taking pictures,” the man said. “I just remember the smell of the old Polaroid flash cubes. He would go through them like crazy.”

The man received a settlement in 2007 from the archdiocese. Martinez was never charged criminally; most of his alleged abuses weren’t reported until years later.

The man said Martinez always had a group of young boys around him and would take them to see R-rated movies and on group trips. One summer day, he recalled, the priest took six boys to a local amusement park, but stopped on the way at an apartment where another man lived. Martinez and the man went inside with one of the boys and left the other five in the car for several hours. When the trio came back, the boy was sobbing and didn’t stop for hours. 

Martinez, now 72, has a most recent address at the Oblate Mission House in Oakland, Calif. No one answered the door there and a call was not returned on Wednesday. A receptionist at a Missouri retreat home for troubled priests – another possible place where Martinez could be living – would not say if he was there.

In 2003, after a decade in at the order’s California headquarters, Martinez was moved to the Oblates’ offices in Washington, D.C., where he worked answering phones and in the archives. There, his files show, he was reprimanded for making off-color, sexual jokes that offended several women and, later, for looking at sexually suggestive pictures of young boys on the Internet.

“I don’t know who else has time to monitor him, or to what ‘safe’ place we could assign him,” the Rev. Charles Banks, the vicar provincial and director of personnel for the Oblates wrote in an exasperated memo in 2003.

The file shows that Martinez was sent to the Missouri retreat home for troubled priests in 2005. In a psychiatric assessment dated that same year, Martinez said he hadn’t had sexual contact with a child in 23 years and had learned to control his impulses. The same report notes that at age 13, Martinez sexually molested his little brother and went on to molest “about 100 male minors” – a detail also included in several others therapy evaluations in the file.

“It has not been easy to face what I did, to admit it and to talk about it with others,” Martinez wrote to the order’s provincial in 2006. “I have had to deal with depression, self-hatred, the inability and unwillingness to forgive myself, and the desire and tendency to isolate.”

On the web…



Pope Francis says he won’t judge gay priests

Pope Francis, returning to Rome from a hugely popular trip to Brazil, said this morning that he won’t judge gay priests.

The Associated Press said the leader of the Roman Catholic Church chatted with reporters during a 22-minute news conference at the Vatican.

On the issue of priests who are gay, Pope Francis said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, in 2005, had signed a document saying that gays were not fit to serve as priests.

Responding to the morning’s news, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights group in the United States, said, “While Pope Francis’s words do not reflect a shift in church policy, they represent a significant change in tone. Like his namesake, Francis’s humility and respect for human dignity are showing through, and the widespread positive response his words have received around the world reveals that Catholics everywhere are thirsty for change.”

Griffin also said, “But as long as millions of LGBT Catholic individuals, couples and youth alike are told in churches big and small that their lives and their families are disordered and sinful because of how they are born – how God made them – then the church is sending a deeply harmful message. One’s sexuality is an immutable characteristic and every leading medical and mental health organization has declared that attempts to change or suppress that fact are profoundly damaging. It’s time to send positive and affirming messages to all people, because the Bible is clear. All people have dignity in themselves and in their love for one another. It’s time for church teaching to reflect that simple fact.”

United Nations panel questions Vatican on child sex abuse

A United Nations panel is asking the Vatican to detail its record of responding to child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child recently asked Catholic Church leadership to “provide detailed information on all cases of child sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, brothers and nuns.”

Vatican leaders will go before the committee next January as part of a periodic requirement for members that ratified the 1990 UN Convention the Rights of the Child.

The U.N. committee’s “List of Issues” for the Vatican include what steps church leaders took to “ensure that no member of the clergy currently accused of sexual abuse be allowed to remain in contact with children,” how the church dealt with priests accused of abuse, how victims of abuse were compensated and whether those victims were required to sign confidentiality agreements.

Church refuses to sell gay couple mansion used as refuge for pedophile priests

James Fairbanks and Alain Beret saw potential in the property – 44 rooms, 26 acres and community zeal for preservation. The stately though deteriorated mansion in Northbridge, Mass., seemed an ideal location for an inn or a special events.

But despite an offer and a deposit, the seller – the Worcester Diocese of the Catholic Church – backed out of the deal.

The diocese says the deal-breaker was money. The couple claims it was discrimination.

The vacant property at the center of the controversy most recently hosted the Oakhurst Retreat and Conference Center, an office for the church’s youth ministry.

Before that, beginning in 1973, the mansion was the site of the House of Affirmation, a retreat for “troubled priests” founded by the Rev. Thomas A. Kane. In a notice in a church-affiliated newsletter from decades ago, Kane announced that the center was at “the service of all priests and religious who are not embarrassed to become a more fulfilled and healthier person.”

Treatment, he wrote, could help a troubled priest become an “affirmed person,” leaving behind “neurosis, emotional and mental discomfort, alcoholism and addiction, erratic homosexuality, compulsive heterosexual behavior, and other symptoms of unhappiness and confusion.”

Over the years, with increased attention and disclosures about child sexual abuse in the priesthood, “troubled priests” would be revealed to mean “pedophile priests.” Priests accused of abusing kids were sent to the House of Affirmation in Northbridge for treatment or to hide out.

The House of Affirmation closed in the late 1980s, as Kane was accused of financial improprieties and falsifying a doctoral degree. He was placed on leave after at least one allegation of sexual abuse, which was settled out of court for a church payment of $42,500 to the victim, who said Kane abused him for 11 years, including at the retreat.

The Bishop Accountability Project, which tracks priests accused of sexual abuse, says several other men have settled suits against priests associated with the retreat. One victim, who received a $110,000 settlement from the diocese in 2002, recently called the House a “dirty, dirty place” to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Others have described the facility as a boot camp for pedophiles.

In the Worcester area, the property is associated with the scandalous, not the sacred.

But the property’s history begins before the House of Affirmation, and it is a history that the citizens of Northbridge have shown an interest in preserving.

The Chester Whitin Lasell family, which made its fortune in the textile-machine industry, built the mansion in 1890. The property is the last of its kind in the area and voters, at a special town meeting in February, elected to zone it into a historic district.

Beret called the mansion a “grand dame” – though she’s in need of more than cosmetic surgery.

The couple reduced their offer from $1 million to $550,000 after learning the extent of repairs needed.

“We expected that we would continue our dance, but the dance partner left the room,” Beret said.

The husbands, in a discrimination suit filed on Sept. 10 in Worcester Superior Court, claim the diocese didn’t sell because they are gay and, it was assumed, would hold gay weddings on the premises.

Church officials are only commenting through their attorney, who maintains that the seller was concerned about Fairbanks and Beret coming through with the financing. “It wasn’t a case of discriminating against gay people. We didn’t even know they were gay,” attorney James G. Reardon Jr. told The Associated Press.

He said the couple wanted only to buy a fraction of the property, which didn’t make sense to the church. 

However, an email from the diocese dated June 8 – around the time the real estate bargaining ended – lends support to the couple’s claim.

“I just went down the hall and discussed it with the bishop,” Diocese Chancellor Thomas Sullivan allegedly wrote to his real estate agent. “Because of the potentiality of gay marriages there, something you shared with us yesterday, we aren’t interested in going forward with these buyers. I think they’re shaky anyway. So just tell them that we will not accept their revised plan and the Diocese is making new plans for the property. You find the language.”

Fairbanks and Beret, who are suing for loss of civil rights and dignity and for emotional distress, said that the subject of gay weddings never came up during discussions about their purchasing the property, 

“There was never, ever a discussion about gay marriage,” Beret said.

The attorney for the couple, Sergio Carvajal, said regardless of whether the business plan included hosting gay weddings, the church broke a state law that prohibits discrimination in housing.

“It was a facility we were extremely interested in,” Fairbanks said. “We have made our life by restoring old buildings.”

The opportunity is now lost, he added.

Former priests oppose anti-gay marriage amendment in Minnesota

A group of 80 former Catholic priests has come out against a proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

John Estrem, a former rector at the Cathedral of St. Paul, said the Church he knows is about love and inclusion.

Estrem says, “Enshrining discrimination does not promote marriage. It simply diminishes us all.”

The November ballot measure would define marriage as between one man and one woman and is strongly supported by the Catholic Church.

Minnesota Public Radio News reports the Minnesota Catholic Conference released a statement saying only marriage between one man and one woman “is consistent with the Gospel and the demands of justice.”

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Catholic Church castrated Dutch boys who reported sexual abuse

At least 10 teenage boys or young men under the age of 21 were surgically castrated by the Dutch Roman Catholic Church in the 1950s “to get rid of homosexuality,” a Dutch journalist has learned.

Among the victims was a young man named Henk Heithuis, who was castrated at age 18 after reporting sexual abuse by priests when living in Catholic institutions, where he had lived since infancy. He died in a car crash in 1956, two years after being forced to undergo genital mutilation by Church officials

At least nine other teenage boys or young men under the age of 21 were also surgically castrated by the Dutch Roman Catholic Church in the 1950s “to get rid of homosexuality,” a Dutch journalist has learned.

Among the victims was a young man named Henk Heithuis, who was castrated after reporting sexual abuse by priests while he was a minor living in Catholic institutions.

Papers filed in court claimed Heithuis was castrated “at his own request,” despite no submission of written consent. Sources told the journalist that the surgical removal of testicles was regarded as a treatment for homosexuality and also as a punishment for those who accused clergy of sexual abuse.

Reports of the castrations were not included in an official investigation released last December by Wim Deetman, a former Dutch minister. The commission did identify 1,800 reports of sexual abuse by clergy or volunteers within Dutch Catholic dioceses that have occurred since 1945.

The commission, however, dismissed reports of the castrations.

But an investigative journalist found evidence detailing not only that the castrations occurred but that government inspectors were aware of them. There is also evidence that Catholic officials did not believe parents needed to be involved in the decision to castrate their sons.

The Deetman Commission was founded by the Catholic Church in 2010 following widespread reports of sexual abuse in the church. In its report, the commission found the number of victims who grew up in church institutions was between 10,000 and 20,000.