31 Dec 2008

Lawyer in Alamo case: Bible no defense for abuse

WAAYTV - Alabama December 30, 2008
Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A lawyer suing jailed evangelist Tony Alamo over alleged abuse says the preacher's right to religious freedom doesn't allow him to beat children.

In federal court filings this week, W. David Carter wrote that protecting the public trumps constitutional protections afforded to religion. Alamo's lawyer said in a court filing last week that the Bible requires spanking unruly children, and he suggested that Alamo had permission from church parents to discipline their children.

The 74-year-old Alamo faces trial in February on charges he took children across state lines for sex.

Alamo was convicted of tax-related charges in 1994 in Memphis, Tenn., and served four years in prison after the IRS said he owed the government $7.9 million. Prosecutors in that case argued that Alamo was a flight risk and a polygamist who preyed on married women and girls in his congregation.

Alamo once had a clothing store in Nashville, Tenn., as well as a church and a downtown mission there.

This article was found at:


Advocate for those sexually abused by priests could be denied communion

MSNBC - December 29, 2008
Associated Press

Maine bishop threatens to punish vocal activist

Lawyer: "One of the biggest sins in the Catholic Church is to criticize a bishop"

PORTLAND, Maine - The leader of Maine's Roman Catholics has taken the unusual step of threatening to punish an outspoken advocate for people who were sexually abused by priests, possibly by denying him communion.

Paul Kendrick of Freeport has been banned from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, and warned in a letter that if he tries again to contact Portland Bishop Richard Malone he risks losing any right "to participate fully in the sacramental life of the church."

Kendrick, a co-founder of the Maine chapter of the lay reform group Voice of the Faithful, has been a vocal critic of how church leaders have responded to abuse claims and treated victims.

"It's a not-so-subtle attempt to silence me," Kendrick said Monday. "My response is that it's not about me. It's about protecting children today and helping and supporting those who were abused. He will not silence me from speaking out on those issues."

Campaign of harassment?
Sue Bernard, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Portland, said the bishop doesn't object to criticism but that Kendrick's actions have gone far beyond that.

Kendrick has protested outside churches, inundated the diocese with mail and e-mail, recently confronted Malone in Portland's Old Port and has even followed the bishop to out-of-state meetings, Bernard said. She called it a campaign of harassment that ultimately could undermine Malone's ministry.

"For five years, we've really looked the other way. The bishop let him have free rein basically but we want him to know that from this point on, he must stop," she said.

Kendrick got word of the potential penalty after he told the bishop in a letter that he planned to attend Christmas Eve Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where Malone often celebrates Mass. The activist then received a criminal trespass order that barred him from the cathedral, the chancery and Malone's residence. He was also served an order to cease and desist from harassing Malone.

The vicar general, the Rev. Andrew Dubois, further warned Kendrick in a letter of church-imposed penalties if he fails to abide by terms of a church order forbidding Kendrick from coming within 500 feet of the bishop or being in the same building when he's present.

'Extremely unusual'
Nicholas Cafardi, a canon lawyer and former dean of Duquesne Law School, said he had never heard of a bishop using church law, in this case the threat of an "interdict," against activists.

"It's extremely unusual," said Cafardi, who was an original member of the National Review Board, the lay panel the U.S. bishops created in 2001 to monitor their response to the abuse scandal.

The Rev. Tom Doyle, a Virginia priest and advocate for victims who is representing Kendrick, said the church has threatened to prevent Kendrick from receiving Holy Communion if he doesn't comply.

Doyle said he can't find any basis for the diocese's actions, but he said church leaders have been angered by the aggressive tactics of some activists. Doyle said his work with abuse victims cost him a promising career as a canon lawyer in the church.

"One of the biggest sins in the Catholic Church is to criticize a bishop," Doyle said.

Last year, Malone released the names of 12 living former priests who faced credible allegations of abuse in Maine. The diocese also validated allegations against nine of 21 deceased priests identified by the attorney general in 2005 as being accused of sexual abuse.

This article was found at:


30 Dec 2008

Cult leader sentenced to 18 years

KRQE - New Mexico December 30, 2008

Bent calls verdict crucifixion
LAS VEGAS, N.M. (KRQE) - Cult leader Wayne Bent was sentenced on Tuesday to 18 years in prison for molesting a young follower.
Eight years of Bent's sentence were suspended, making the effective sentence 10 years unless the suspension is revoked.
Before the sentencing, the self-proclaimed messiah said in an online posting that the courts have again crucified the son of God.
Wayne Bent faced a mandatory minimum sentence of three years and up to 18 years after being found guilty by a jury in Taos on Dec. 15. He was convicted of one of two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Bent, 67, admitted lying naked with the two girls in 2006 but said any touching was an act of religious healing with no sexual overtones.
Bent is the leader of the Lord our Righteousness Church which also refers to its remote Union County compound northwest as Strong City.
Shortly after the verdict he told reporters he had been falsely convicted. Since then he's posted a statement on the group's Web site that printed out to 17 pages.
By convicting him jurors have assured their day of destruction, he wrote.
"Now at Christmas time 2008 ... they have crucified the son of God afresh," Bent added. "The jury was a very good picture of the world, and by convicting the son of God for a crime that he did not commit, as they did with Jesus Christ, they have convicted themselves."
To read Bent's statement in its entirety, click here .
This article was found at:


Ignore the spin: State raid on polygamists the right thing to do

Dallas Morning News - December 30, 2008

by Jacquielynn Floyed | DMN Columnist

The state's raid on the West Texas polygamist compound has become a sacred touchstone, and not just for the peculiar sect that lived there.

It has mushroomed into a celebrated cause for those who mistrust "the government" in general and the state's child-welfare system in particular.

State-sponsored child snatchers seized shrieking babies from their desperate mothers' arms, they furiously recount in endless retellings via the Internet.

Families were torn apart by scheming, doctrinaire bureaucrats. Traumatized children remain unable to forget the nightmare of being "kidnapped" and bused away from home. And so on.

Well, people will believe what they want, often without regard to what facts and good sense should tell them. No amount of remedial analysis, at this late date, will remove the April 3 raid at the Yearning For Zion Ranch from the sacramental calendar of government-martyr holy days.

We can live with it. We can live with the implied insistence that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints were somehow victims of state-sponsored persecution; that subsequent court rulings that Child Protective Services exceeded legal guidelines somehow vindicate the cultlike sect.

They do not, because the ugly-but-essential truth remains: Underage girls were routinely being "married" – and sexually violated – by middle-aged men, and nobody was doing a darn thing to stop it until the state of Texas showed up.

No angry anecdotes about CPS witch hunts can change that reality. No amount of black-helicopter paranoia alters that bald truth.

Still, critics are already dismissing a CPS report, issued last week, as a fabrication, a frame-up job. That report detailed the findings of the months-long investigation, including "spiritual" marriages between a dozen underage girls and adult men. It also cited the harm done by the constant exposure of young children to these "marriages."

I can only wonder at sect members, irate at state welfare workers for "traumatizing" children, who don't seem to think it's "traumatic" for a child to see his or her 13-year-old sister bundled off into sexual servitude to a man four times her age.

Those who complain over being "uprooted" from the Eldorado compound do not mention any discontent at being uprooted earlier, when loony FLDS "prophet" Warren Jeffs "invited" them to abandon their own old lives to colonize paradise-in-West Texas.

Those who weep angry tears over families torn apart might consider opening their homes to the so-called "lost boys," teenagers who have been forcibly cast out of FLDS communities to maintain a favorable ratio of adult men to potential plural wives.

The fact is that it was virtually impossible to carry out a surgical removal of only the most-victimized kids from the FLDS compound.

Given the sect's reclusive nature and the extraordinary indoctrination of its members from infancy onward, the state had two choices: Remove all the kids up front and sort it out later, or do nothing.

The state took the former route, which has cost it no end of hindsight harping over "Gestapo tactics" and extralegal "barbarianism."

The latter choice, the road that would have avoided all these public-relations problems, would have been to do nothing.

That would have been easy. No legal backlash, no religious-rights hysteria, no fresh round of fury against Texas' overloaded and often inefficient child-welfare system.

It would have been easy, but it would have been morally reprehensible.

That, we could not have lived with.

This article was found at:


Priest in child abuse protest urges bishop to step down

Irish Times - December 30, 2008

Fr Michael Mernagh at St Colman's Cathedral in Cobh yesterday. He is to walk to Dublin to show solidarity with victims of clerical sex abuse.Fr Michael Mernagh at St Colman's Cathedral in Cobh yesterday. He is to walk to Dublin to show solidarity with victims of clerical sex abuse.
Photograph: Michael MacSweeney/Provision


A PRIEST who is walking from Cork to Dublin to show solidarity with victims of clerical sex abuse has met Bishop John Magee of Cloyne diocese.Bishop Magee has been severely criticised over recent weeks following a report on the mishandling of allegations relating to clerical sex abuse in his diocese.

Fr Michael Mernagh (70), who yesterday said he believed Bishop Magee should step down from his post, also maintained a three-day vigil outside St Colman's Cathedral in Cobh over Christmas in protest at the Cloyne revelations.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has also added its voice to calls for Bishop Magee's resignation. Chief executive Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop said his handling of the abuse cases was "absolutely unforgiveable". She was not surprised he had not resigned, but "our culture has changed. We now have national guidelines for the protection and welfare of children, Children First, but he definitely did not put children first" and he should stand down.

Fr Mernagh said he had the meeting with Bishop Magee after a concerned member of the clergy came outside to talk to him on Christmas Eve and invited him in to speak to the bishop.

Fr Mernagh said he had had an informal chat with the bishop in which he outlined his concerns.

"I explained what I was about and my purpose in being there. I think he took that on board. I wasn't there to confront him. I said the reason I was doing it was because I had a responsibility as a priest to atone for what had happened and to be in solidarity with the victims of abuse in all dioceses, not just in Cloyne.

"I was straight out with it. I didn't feel uncomfortable. We talked a bit. It wasn't a long conversation as he was just off the altar. It was cordial."

Fr Mernagh said he told Bishop Magee that his walk wasn't just about Cloyne but the whole church. The Dublin-based Augustinian priest said he was treated with respect by the bishop and his secretary even though they were "under a lot of stress".

Meanwhile, Fr Jim Killeen, director of communications in the diocese of Cloyne, yesterday refused to comment on rumours that Bishop Magee may have travelled to Rome in recent days. Fr Killeen said no further statements would be issued on the Cloyne report. Sources however, have indicated that Dr Magee is still in Cobh and has no plans to travel.

Bishop Magee sought to defuse the child protection controversy through a special Christmas message in which he personally accepted responsibility. At Christmas Eve Mass in Cobh, Dr Magee said he took full responsibility for the "errors" made in relation to the management of child sexual abuse claims in the diocese. He gave a full assurance that such mistakes would not happen again.

This article was found at:


U.S. Supreme Court gets exorcism case of ex-Colleyville woman

Star-Telegram - Texas December 26, 2008

by Max B. Baker

The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to review the case of a former Colleyville woman who claims a forced traumatic exorcism left her so physically bruised and emotionally scarred that she later attempted to commit suicide.

A sharply divided Texas Supreme Court ruled in June that the Pleasant Glade Assembly of God staff and members are protected by the First Amendment because it involves an ecclesiastical dispute over religious conduct.

Laura Schubert Pearson described a wild night in 1996 that involved casting out demons from the church and two attempts to exorcise demons from her. Only 17 years old, the incident lead Pearson to eventually attempt suicide.

Pearson’s attorneys contend that the Texas Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision "dramatically and dangerously departs" from U.S. Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence, adding that someone’s religious beliefs do not excuse them from being held accountable under valid state laws that prohibit such things as assault and false imprisonment.

"We don’t know what kind of mischief the decision is going to create," because it tries to expand the universe of activities that are protected by the First Amendment’s freedom of religion precepts, said Scott Gant, the Washington D.C. attorney who is representing the Pearson and her family. "The Texas Supreme Court’s majority ignored some of the most relevant U.S. Supreme Court decisions and then misapplied others."

Forbidden territory

In briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys representing the now defunct church _ it has since merged with another Colleyville Church — contend the case is about a personal injury case regarding mental anguish damages that should be left for the state courts to decide.

Arguing that a similar claim has never been made in a United States court, David Pruessner, the church’s attorney, also wrote that "pursuing this tort path would take the courts into forbidden territory: protected religious conduct." He adds the Texas high court’s decision is consistent with the legal doctrine of ecclesiastical autonomy.

"It is fundamental that the Constitution embraces the right to be free from unwarranted governmental intervention," Pruessner’s brief states. The Dallas attorney could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Gant expects the U.S. Supreme Court to decide if it will consider the case by mid to late January.

Pearson is now 29 years old, married and lives in Georgia.

Spread eagle

What happened to Laura Schubert Pearson at the church spanned several days in the summer of 1996.

Pearson and her brother, Joey, were involved in church activities while there parents were out of town. On a Friday evening, the atmosphere at the church became "spiritually charged" when another youth said he saw a demon.

At the youth minister’s direction, the youth frantically anointed everything in the church with holy oil until they were exhausted and finally dismissed early Saturday morning.

At the Sunday evening worship services, Laura Pearson collapsed and church members "laid hands" on her and forcibly held her arms even as she cried, yelled and demanded to be let go. She was finally released after she calmed down and replied with requests to say the name Jesus.

The following Wednesday, during a youth service, Pearson reportedly began acting in the same manner, curling into a fetal position and asked to be left alone. Church members thought she was in distress and held her down in a "spread eagle" position. Pearson suffered carpet burns and scrapes on her back and bruised wrists.

After the exorcism, she dropped out of high school her senior year, began to cut herself as many as 100 times over several years, and refused to leave the house. Pearson slit her wrists with a box cutter.

Spiritual warfare

In his U.S. Supreme Court brief, Pruessner describes the activities at the Pentecostal Pleasant Glade church to cast out demons as "spiritual warfare" that is a controversial activity of the denomination.

To outsiders, while it may appear "weird," he said that tens of millions of Pentecostal followers pursue these beliefs without harm, including Alaska governor and former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Her father, Tom Schubert, is a former Assembly of God pastor and missionary. He has since quit the church.

"This was simply normal church life for (Pearson) and her family," Pruessner wrote.

The church’s attorneys told a Tarrant County jury that Pearson’s psychological problems actually were caused by traumatic events she witnessed while her parents were serving in Africa. They also continually argued that the ministers and staff were trying to help Pearson, not hurt her.

But her father questioned what happened and the family eventually sued. They said their daughter had been abused and falsely imprisoned, and the 2002 trial never touched on the religious aspects of the case.

A jury found the church and its members liable and awarded Pearson $300,000 for mental anguish, but the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth cut $122,000 from the verdict for loss of future income.

Dangerous practice

In the church’s appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, it raised the question of whether Pleasant Glades’ First Amendment rights regarding freedom of religion do not prevent the church from being held liable for mental distress triggered by what it described as a "hyper spiritualistic environment."

For the court to impose any legal liability on members would possibly have an unconstitutional 'chilling effect’ by compelling the church to abandon core principles, Justice David Medina wrote.

In a stinging dissent, Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson said the majority’s opinion is an "overly broad holding" that conflicts with well-settled legal and constitutional principles that could "prove to be dangerous in practice."

This article was found at:


28 Dec 2008

The Best Way to Curb Forced Marriages

Time.com - December 26, 2008

by Deena Guzder

When Humayra Abedin left the U.K. on Aug. 2 with a round-trip ticket to Bangladesh after hearing that her mother was sick, she had no idea the "illness" was a ruse to lure her home to marry a suitor of her parents' choice. But on Dec. 17, Abedin, a 32-year-old doctor who has lived in Britain for the past six years, confirmed in a statement that she had been held captive for four months in her native country and coerced into a marriage by her mother and father. "I was forced to marry a person of my parents' choice," it read. "I entered the marriage ceremony under duress. I did not consent to the marriage."

Earlier in December, after being alerted to her situation, the British High Court had issued an injunction to Abedin's family in Bangladesh to allow her to return to the U.K. under Britain's Forced Marriage Act of 2007. It was the first time the law — which went into effect on Nov. 25 of this year and gives courts the power to protect forced-marriage victims and dole out sentences to their perpetrators — was invoked on behalf of someone who is not a British national. And while the court order had no legal bearing in Bangladesh, a sympathetic judge, Justice Syed Mohmed Hossain, mentioned the injunction at the hearing in Dhaka in which Abedin sought to have her marriage voided. After ruling that she was free to go, Hossain noted: "Children are not the slaves of their parents. They must have their own freedoms." He ordered Abedin's parents to return her passport, driver's license and credit card.

Although the landmark repatriation was immediately trumpeted as a victory for Britain's new law, human-rights activists — and even the British government — have been quick to point out that her case is just one in a grossly underreported global problem. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a marriage is considered forced if there is any duress, whether physical or mental, to marry. Most countries do not have a specific ban on forced marriages and instead prosecute the practice under laws forbidding kidnapping or sexual, physical or mental abuse. "Forced marriage affects men and women from all over the world and across many cultural groups," says Dr. Mohammad Talib, professor of contemporary South Asian studies at Oxford. "Historically, forced marriages also occurred among members of the British aristocracy."

Nobody knows exactly how many people are forced into marriages because, as scholars like Talib note, most affected women are afraid to seek help and ostracize themselves from their communities. But the U.K.'s Forced Marriage Unit, administered through the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), handled more than 1,300 cases during the first three quarters of 2008 alone, an increase of 79% over last year. With some victims as young as 13, most cases involved women, though experts estimate 15% of cases worldwide may involve men marrying as a result of family pressure. "We're definitely getting more calls than normal," says FCO spokesman Nick Branch. Branch says most of the unit's cases this year involved families from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Not everyone, however, agrees on what the right course of action is to curb a problem that grows more complicated as families become increasingly international. Some human-rights groups say the Forced Marriage Act may inadvertently discourage women from seeking help. Sumanta Roy, acting director of Imkaan, a nonprofit organization in the U.K. run by Asian refugees that advocates for women and children facing domestic violence, does not think most women who are in forced marriages would seek legal remedy unless they were sure they had access to housing, job training and other social services first. "We're concerned that this law may deter some women from coming forward since you're asking them to completely isolate themselves from their family and community in a very public way," says Roy. She has been pushing instead for a national education campaign against forced marriages for both immigrant children and their parents. "Parents are juggling their identity and trying to retain some of their history, so we need to educate people."

Abedin's public reaction to her verdict confirms what human-rights groups say is another challenge of controlling forced marriage through legal mechanisms: the victims rarely want to use the law to punish their parents. "I'm relieved that I'm free. I'm happy," Abedin told reporters on Dec. 14 after being released in Dhaka. "But I don't have any bad feelings towards my parents." Speaking outside court, Abedin insisted that she does not want her parents to be prosecuted, as she still loves them.

Deputy Director Amtal Rana of Kiran-Asian Women's Aid, a nonprofit that received over 100 calls last year regarding forced marriages, says Abedin's is not an uncommon reaction. "Children often don't want to have action taken against their parents but just want to get out of the situation," says Rana. Reports suggest that Abedin's strict Muslim parents disapproved of her Hindu boyfriend in Britain and wanted her to marry a man of their choosing. "Parents are doing the same thing that happened to them and their parents and their grandparents, so they don't think they are doing anything wrong," says Rana.

How, then, do harmful traditions like forced marriage fall? Legislation is most effective when coupled with an education campaign that addresses the everyday obstacles immigrants encounter in their adopted homelands, says Oxford's Talib. "A person's emotional, social and economic dependence sometimes accounts for them becoming an easy prey to forced marriages." Immigrants struggling to retain their cultural identity in their adopted homelands need reassurance that rejecting these norms will not leave them destitute community outcasts. Otherwise, says Talib, cases like Abedin's are sure to be the exception and not the rule. "Without mustering personal strength of initiative and independence, it is difficult to imagine anyone turning to the Forced Marriage Act for redress."

This article was found at:


Irish Bishop says sorry to diocese over abuse scandal

Irish Examiner - December 27, 2008

By Claire O’Sullivan

A DEFIANT Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, read out a short statement to the congregation before celebrating midnight Mass at Cobh Cathedral on Christmas Day.

Bishop Magee has faced an avalanche of calls for his resignation over his mishandling of child abuse allegations that came to light in the Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children report.

Before Mass began, he stood at the pulpit before hundreds of families and reiterated his apologies to all victims of clerical sexual
Referring to the controversial report, he again said that he accepted its findings and that he took “full responsibility for the criticism of our management of some issues contained in this report”.

“We made errors, not intentionally, and I want to assure you that such errors will not be made again in this diocese... In the future we will have a clerical environment which is as safe as it possibly can be for the children of this diocese. We have been working to create such an environment, but clearly this report highlighted the need for changes, which have been addressed or will be addressed in the immediate future,” he said.

The bishop also said he would update his congregation on all work undertaken in relation to child protection in the diocese.

No further mention was made of the scandal during his midnight Mass homily. The bishop also celebrated 10am mass on Christmas Day, but did not mention the issue in his homily or read out a statement.

Outside the cathedral, a lone priest, who had travelled from Dublin to Cobh for the occasion, stood protesting at the Church’s mishandling of sex abuse allegations.

Fr Michael Mernagh, who works in Dublin’s south inner city, plans to walk from Cobh Cathedral to Dublin’s Pro Cathedral next week in protest at the hierarchy’s failure to stand with victims of abuse. He has called on other priests and lay people to join him.

In the 48 hours leading up to Christmas Eve, Bishop Magee was asked to reflect on his position by Minister for Children Barry Andrews, Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin and high-profile victims of clerical abuse such as Marie Collins.

Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said he should do “what is best for child protection”. Similarly, the Government’s special rapporteur on child protection, Geoffrey Shannon described the bishop’s position as “untenable”. Bishop Magee has refused to speak on the issue, but has stated he won’t be resigning.

The publication of the National Board for Safeguarding Children report showed that Bishop Magee and his child protection team had put children at risk by failing to report alleged abuse to gardaí and failing to remove accused priests from their duties.

“The diocese is vulnerable to being seen to be complicit in not taking action to remove these people from the priesthood,” wrote the report’s author, Ian Elliott.

This article was found at:


24 Dec 2008

New Sex-Abuse Scandal Divides Irish Catholics

The Huffington Post - December 24, 2008

by Shawn Pogatchnik

DUBLIN, Ireland — Ireland's most prominent Roman Catholic leader, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, questioned Tuesday whether all of his fellow bishops adequately protect children from sexually abusive priests.

Martin became the first Irish Catholic leader to break silence over a new report into allegations that two priests molested several teenagers, chiefly in the 1990s, in southwest Ireland _ and the local bishop, John Magee, didn't tell police quickly and fully about it as he was supposed to do.

Recurring scandals on the coverup of decades of abuse by Catholic clergy have rocked Ireland since 1993, when an Irish government collapsed over the issue.

Catholic leaders have since struggled to contain the financial and moral damage through a series of initiatives that encourage people to report abuse, most recently by forming an independent commission that investigates church handling of complaints.

But the first major report from the chief investigator, Ian Elliott, was withheld from publication for six months by church and government authorities. It was published late Friday _ when Ireland's media were consumed with a banking scandal _ and received little immediate attention.

The report found that Magee and his senior advisers in the County Cork diocese of Cloyne fielded a range of complaints from parishioners about two priests from 1995 onward _ but told the police nothing until 2003 and little thereafter. The report said Cloyne church authorities appeared to be solely concerned about helping the two priests, not protecting the children of the area.

One priest, who was accused of molesting a younger priest when he was just a boy, was encouraged by Magee to resign. But the investigation found that the bishop shielded the abuser's identity from police _ and considered such concealment "the normal practice" for the church.

The other priest, a career guidance counselor in a convent school, was accused by several teen-age girls and grown women of molesting or raping them since 1995. One complaint came from a woman who had a consensual sexual relationship with the priest for a year _ then saw him develop an intimate relationship with her teen-age son.

The report did not identify the priests and they have never faced criminal charges.

Magee faced rising calls Tuesday from lawmakers and pressure groups to quit. He refused to comment.

But Martin _ a former Vatican diplomat who wields the most political clout in Ireland's Roman Catholic hierarchy today _ suggested that the Cloyne bishop should step aside for new leadership and help restore public confidence.

"He should make the decision which is in the best interests of child protection," the archbishop told Ireland's state television station, RTE.

And in a carefully worded statement, Martin stressed he was "extremely concerned" that the problems uncovered in Magee's diocese could be more widespread. He called on all of Ireland's bishops to confirm whether they were following the Irish church's decade-old official policy of openness and investigation.

Martin said his own archdiocese, home to a third of Ireland's more than 3 million Catholics, was committed to protecting the public from abusers. But he noted that Dublin's churches also hosted hundreds of priests from other dioceses and orders whose priests answer to their own leaders, not him.

Martin said the church's anti-abuse policies had a "purported" common status in every diocese, but he had "serious doubts ... concerning the coherence and consistency of approach."

The archbishop called on other bishops and religious orders to confirm to the investigator, Elliott, that they are committed to reporting abuse reports to police and other authorities "in a uniform way." If Elliott could not confirm these commitments, Martin warned, he would impose "his own system of accountable child protection" on all Catholic clergy living or working in his sprawling constituency.


On the Net:

Abuse report, http://tinyurl.com/axxfof

Martin statement, http://tinyurl.com/9s2v6k

This article was found at:


23 Dec 2008

Texas CPS releases FLDS report, claims 12 girls married underage

Deseret News - December 23, 2008

by Ben Winslow

Texas child welfare authorities claim 12 girls from the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch are confirmed victims of sexual abuse and neglect because they were married at ages ranging from 12 to 15.

Those were among the conclusions reached in an investigation into the raid that resulted in hundreds of children from the polygamous sect's Texas ranch being placed in state protective custody. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services released it's long-anticipated report early Tuesday after a public records request by the Deseret News.

"There were 43 girls removed from the ranch from the ages of 12 to 17 — which means that more than one out of every four pubescent girls on the ranch was in an underage marriage," the investigation claims. "262 other children were subjected to neglect because parents failed to remove their child from a situation in which the child would be exposed to sexual abuse committed against another child within their families or households."

The report acknowledges the earliest of the spiritual marriages took place in 2004 and the latest was in July 2006.

"Two girls were 12 when married, three were 13; two were 14; and five girls were 15 when married," the report claims. "Seven of these girls have had one or more children after marriage. In each confirmed finding of sexual abuse, CPS identified as perpetrators the parents of the child and the 'husband' of the child."

CPS said its investigation began March 30 after receiving a report alleging physical and sexual abuse of a child on the YFZ Ranch. On April 3, law enforcement and CPS caseworkers went to the ranch.

"The very first interviews at the ranch revealed that several underage girls had been 'spiritually united' with adult men," the investigative summary said. "Investigators also noticed a pattern of deception. Women and children frequently said they could not answer questions about the ages of girls or family relationships. Children were moved from location to location in an apparent attempt to prevent investigators from talking to them. Documents were being shredded. Girls told investigators that no age was too young for marriage and that 'the Prophet' determined when and who a girl should marry."

CPS and law enforcement has claimed that on site they found other evidence of abuse, prompting a judge to order the removal of all of the children from the ranch. Hundreds of children were placed in state protective custody.

The 439 children were ultimately returned to their families two months later when a pair of Texas courts ruled the state acted improperly and not all of the children were at immediate risk of abuse. The phone call that prompted the raid itself remains under investigation but is believed to be hoax. A Colorado woman with a history of fake phone calls of abuse has been declared a "person of interest" in the ongoing probe.

A dozen men, including FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, have been indicted in a parallel criminal investigation. They face charges related to underage marriages from sexual assault of a child and bigamy to performing a marriage ceremony prohibited by law and failure to report child abuse.

This article was found at:


22 Dec 2008

Abuse Victims Seek Court Date With Vatican

NPR - Morning Edition    December 22, 2008

by Barbara Bradley Hagerty

Michael Turner's ordeal, it turned out, was not remarkable. About 90 other boys were abused by Father Louis Miller, a priest in the Archdiocese of Louisville in the 1960s. The priest is in prison and the archdiocese settled for more than $25 million with Turner and others five years ago.

But after the settlement, Turner couldn't shake his anger.

"I was not truly mad at the right person," he says. "I kept going up a ladder, and I was looking at cardinals and even the Pope knew, you know, that this was this bad. That's what truly upset me."

Now Turner is in court again — suing the Vatican. [PDF] Until recently, no federal court has allowed a case to proceed against the Vatican — and few really believed the Holy See would ever be open to lawyers or its treasury subject to money damages. It is considered a foreign state with sovereign immunity.

But there are exceptions to the immunity, including one called the "tortious act" exception. If Turner can show that U.S. bishops are officials of the Vatican, and that they harmed children by failing to report sex abuse, then he has a chance of getting to trial.

Courts Show Interest

Recently, a federal court in Oregon and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio said they're open to this idea.

"Never before has a court said that victims of childhood sex abuse can come into U.S. courts and hold a foreign nation such as the Vatican accountable," says Turner's attorney, William McMurry, who won the preliminary victory in the Sixth Circuit.

It's a small step with huge implications. McMurry is readying demands for documents from the Vatican's secret archives, as well as a witness list that includes Pope Benedict XVI, who oversaw all investigations in his previous position as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger.

But many think such visions are a fantasy.

"Certainly nothing is impossible, but I think they have very much an uphill battle," says Anthony Picarello, the general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is a not a defendant in the suit. (The Vatican's lawyer declined to speak on tape.)

'No One Is Panicked'

Picarello believes the lawsuit will fail. First, because the U.S. Constitution provides for the separation of church and state, U.S. courts don't like to get involved in internal church policy. Second, to prove their case, victims must show that the bishops were officials of the Vatican following its orders.

Given the obstacles, he says, "certainly no one is panicked."

But plaintiff's attorney William McMurry thinks they should be. He believes the connection between the Vatican and the bishops is plain as day.

"If you look at it from a 40,000-foot view, what you see is bishops, over a century, doing exactly the same thing," he says. "Bishops moving priests from parish to parish, from archdiocese to diocese, even some to foreign countries. And not one — not one — reporting as required by state law this known or suspected child abuse. Now that just doesn't happen by accident."

The Role Of John XXIII

As Exhibit A, McMurry points to a document, called "Crimen Sollicitationis," signed by Pope John XXIII. The document tells bishops how to handle, among other things, child sex-abuse cases. The document was written in 1962 but only surfaced five years ago.

When former Benedictine priest Patrick Wall saw it, he thought, "Oh my, I can't believe they just handed over the map!"

Wall used to handle sex-abuse cases for the church. He left the priesthood and is now an investigator for plaintiffs.

"This is how I was instructed as a priest to handle the different accusations," he recalls. "I had never seen the document but, lo and behold, that's exactly the process I was taught as a 27-year-old priest of how to do this."

The document states that abuse cases must be "pursued in a most secretive way," and that all involved be "restrained by a perpetual silence." That includes the bishop, the priest prosecutor and the judge, the accuser and the accused, even the notary.

"Every single person involved in the case is absolutely obligated to the grave to remain silent," Wall says. "Otherwise they will be excommunicated and damned to hell."

A Law Professor's View

But Nicholas Cafardi, a law professor at Duquesne Law School, says this document applies only to internal church trials, and has nothing to do with reporting abuse to prosecutors.

"It doesn't say that civil authorities aren't to be notified," he says. "It doesn't say that the existence of the crime itself is to be kept secret or denied. It simply says the church's own internal legal process is to be kept secret or confidential."

Cafardi says this document reflects a culture of secrecy that "benefited priest sexual abusers," but that does not mean the Vatican ordered a coverup. He says the plaintiff's attorneys must prove that bishops are employees or officials of the Vatican to pierce the blanket of immunity, but he says in fact, bishops are more like CEOs of diocesan corporations.

Still, Cafardi finds it noteworthy that the case has gotten this far.

"I personally did not think that theories of liability will hold up," he said. "But anytime you're in front of a jury in a matter involving child sexual abuse, you're not always dealing with a rational perception of the facts, because the victims are so in fact so extremely sympathetic."

He adds that the case is a long way from a trial, much less a jury. And many believe that the Vatican will keep its sovereign immunity in the end.

In the meantime, lawyers across the country are watching these cases, and several are preparing similar lawsuits.

This article was found at:


21 Dec 2008

Burlington Diocese may revise court strategy

Burlington Free Press - Vermont
December 21, 2008

by Sam Hemingway | Free Press staff writer

When it comes to clergy sexual abuse lawsuits, no Roman Catholic diocese in the United States has been more willing to let such cases go to trial than the one based in Burlington.

“I don’t know of any other jurisdiction in the country that has had so many Catholic priest abuse cases brought to trial,” said Terry McKiernan, founder of Bishopaccountability.org, an Internet entity that tracks priest sexual abuse cases nationally.

McKiernan said 35 of the 3,000 cases alleging sexual abuse of children by priests have been carried through to trial and ended with a jury verdict. Four of those have taken place in Vermont, all in the past 13 months.
“You have a unique combination in Vermont of a diocese that is willing to go to trial and a plaintiff’s attorney who is willing to try them,” McKiernan said.

It does not appear that the strategy has worked to the Vermont diocese’s favor, he said.

Last week, the jury in the latest Chittenden Superior Court trial awarded $3.6 million to David Navari, a 43-year-old Takoma Park, Md., man who said that as an altar boy he was twice molested by the Rev. Edward Paquette at Christ the King Church in Burlington in 1977.

It was the second multimillion-dollar verdict to hit the diocese this year. In May, a different jury awarded a Colorado man $8.7 million. The man, who declined to release his name, claimed Paquette molested him as an altar boy at the same church between 20 and 50 times.

Another trial ended in August with a deadlocked jury and was declared a mistrial. Last December, a jury awarded James Turner of Virginia Beach, Va., $15,000 on his claim that the Rev. Alfred Willis, a diocesan priest during the late 1970s, molested him in 1977 at a Latham, N.Y., motel.

McKiernan said one reason Vermont may be seeing more trials is because so many of them involve the same priest — Paquette — and the same law firm for the alleged victims, O’Neill, Kellner & Green of Burlington.

Of the 32 cases filed by the law firm on behalf of clergy sexual abuse victims, 22 involved misconduct by Paquette at parishes in Rutland, Montpelier and Burlington. New cases continue to be filed with the court, including three last month.

All the cases target the diocese as the sole defendant, citing diocesan documents that show it had information that Paquette had molested boys in Massachusetts and Indiana but still hired him in 1972 and brought him to Vermont.

Paquette was banished from the diocese in 1978 when a group of parents of altar boys at Christ the King Church complained to then-Bishop John Marshall that he was molesting their sons.

McKiernan said the fact that so many of Vermont’s clergy sexual abuse cases involve the same perpetrator and nearly identical accounts of how the molestations occurred has allowed the lawyers to fine-tune their case against the diocese.

The diocese’s legal strategy may be up for review after last week’s verdict, according to Bishop Salvatore Matano.

An emotional Matano, speaking to reporters moments after learning jury’s verdict, appeared to blame himself for what may be a costly legal strategy for the diocese. As a result of the two large jury verdicts, liens have been placed on the diocese’s headquarters on North Avenue and nearby land.

“They have expectations of me,” Matano said of Vermont Catholics and his leadership of the diocese. “I know I am not meeting the expectations of the faithful and of the victims, and I’m just trying to assess how I can best bring this to a conclusion.”

Matano’s testimony in a videotaped Oct. 2 deposition shown at the trial may also cause the diocese to reconsider whether to go through another trial.

In the deposition, Matano acknowledges the diocese under Marshall knew Paquette was a child molester when it hired him, but tries to defend Marshall’s actions and suggest that priests should be treated differently from other clergy employees.

“That definitely had an effect our decision,” Andrew Pearson, the jury’s foreman, said in an interview about the Matano deposition. “I saw what Matano said afterward. It sounded more like he was accepting responsibility, but before, in the deposition, he showed no remorse. He showed no emotion, no real regret over what the victims had gone through.”

Pearson said deciding the diocese was at fault for Navari’s molestation was an “easy consensus” reached by the jury early in its deliberations.

Six hours into its discussions, he said, the only undecided question was how much the diocese should pay in damages. It came up with the $3.6 million figure after asking for and then viewing the Matano deposition a second time, Pearson said.

One of Navari’s lawyers, Jerome O’Neill, said last week he intends to show the Matano deposition excerpt to future juries in Paquette cases.

David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, or Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests, said although the number of clergy sexual abuse trials in Vermont is unusual, more victims of priest sexual abuse might be willing to go to trial in the future.

“In the past, many victims hoped that public exposure through their lawsuits would bring about reforms,” Clohessy said. “Now they’re seeing that isn’t having that much of an impact, and making officials face tough questions in open court about how much they knew and how little they did is becoming more and more appealing to victims.”

Victims of priest sexual abuse in the United States have been granted more than $2 billion to resolve claims against Catholic dioceses, McKiernan said.

This article was found at:


20 Dec 2008

14 claim abuse by priests, monks, nuns

The Argus Leader - Sioux Falls, SD
December 19, 2008

Lawsuits mount from Indian boarding school's ex-students

by Josh Verges

Fourteen former students of what is now the Marty Indian School have accused Catholic priests, monks, nuns and others of repeated sexual abuse.

Their lawsuits filed Thursday in Minnehaha County Circuit Court are in addition to a 2003 lawsuit involving eight other ex-students, which still is pending.

The Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls is named as a defendant in each case, but a lawyer for the diocese said it had no administrative control over the school.

The Blue Cloud Abbey, an order of Benedictine monks based in Marvin, established the boarding school - then called St. Paul's School - in 1954, Jeremiah Murphy said. Although the bis hop must approve when and where a mission is established and whether a priest can work publicly, the reach of the diocese stops there.

"People think because it's Catholic, the bishop controls it, and 99.9 percent of the time that's true, but it isn't here," Murphy said.
He said the diocese was freed from liability in a similar complaint involving the St. Joseph Indian School in Chamberlain.

According to the complaints, nuns routinely beat female students and forced them to beat the younger girls, forced them to strip naked and fondled them under the auspices of reprimand or concern for their health.

Priests, especially one called Father Francis, are alleged to have fondled and/or engaged in oral sex with boys and girls alike, and a monk allegedly beat a boy while he was naked.
The abuse is alleged to have taken place between 20 and 50 years ago. For most, if not all, of the 14 accusers filing Thursday, the statute of limitations has expired for prosecution.

But their lawyers say the civil actions should proceed because the plaintiffs realized only in the past three years that their symptoms are related to clergy abuse.
The lawsuits also target Blue Cloud Abbey, the Oblate Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Marty and the Blessed Sacrament Sisters in Bensalem, Penn.

The abbey's Minneapolis lawyer, Bob Stich, said those who remain at the abbey know nothing of the allegations, and the accused all are deceased.

"It's interesting that allegations like these are always made after the persons accused are dead," Stich said.
The Oblate Sisters' lawyer, Heidi Thoennes, declined to comment.

At a news conference in front of St. Joseph Cathedral, John Manly, a California lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he wants Bishop Paul Swain to name all alleged perpetrators in the diocese and stop what he says is a common practice of settling victims' complaints in secrecy. Victims must be allowed to go public with their stories, get help and seek prosecution of their abusers where possible, he said.
"You don't tell victims to shut up," Manly said.

Murphy said that the diocese makes settlements private only when the victim requests it and that the diocese hasn't paid any sex abuse victims from the Marty school.

In separate actions Thursday, the same lawyers filed clergy abuse lawsuits in Pennington County Circuit Court. They accuse priests, nuns and monks of physically and sexually abusing eight students at the St. Francis Indian School.
This article was found at:

Former LDS bishop sentenced for child sex abuse

The Salt Lake Tribune - December 17, 2008

Despite defense request, judge sentences him to the max.

by Stephen Hunt

A former Harrisville LDS bishop who sexually molested three Weber County sisters -- whom he frequently visited at home while their parents were away -- was sentenced Wednesday to prison for up to 30 years.

Timothy O'Sean McCleve, 53, got the maximum sentence from 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones, who ordered two counts of second-degree felony sexual abuse of a child to run consecutively.

Defense attorney Randall Skeen asked for probation and a year in jail, citing McCleve's "extensive record of community service," as well a psycho-sexual evaluation indicating McCleve was "treatable and manageable within the community."

But the judge rejected that option because of the number of victims.

McCleve used his influence as a one-time bishop for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to visit the three sisters -- ages 6, 8 and 12 at the time of the abuse -- and molest them, according to charging documents.

Also, a 21-year-old woman came forward to say McCleve had abused her as a 6-year-old child.

The abuse of the sisters began in July 2006, Harrisville Police Chief Max Jackson has previously told The Salt Lake Tribune.

In March 2007, one of the girls reported the abuse to her parents while watching a news report about a Riverton teacher arrested on suspicion of child molestation. The other two girls then verified their sister's story, Jackson said.

McCleve was initially charged with three counts of first-degree felony aggravated sexual abuse of a child. Prosecutors later added a fourth count of second-degree sexual abuse of a child after the 21-year-old said she also was abused as a child.

In September, McCleve pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual abuse of a child and the other counts were dismissed.

McCleve was a bishop until 2004, according to Jackson, who was a member of McCleve's ward. Most LDS bishops serve for about five years.

Skeen noted that the parents of the three girls were "extremely gracious" toward McCleve during the sentencing hearing.

According to Skeen, the girls' father told the judge: "I love him like a brother. I don't hate him. But we do need to protect my daughters."

This article was found at:


18 Dec 2008

Parents of 5 kids removed from Alamo cult ask their return

Arkansas Democrat Gazette
December 18, 2008

by Andy Davis

TEXARKANA - The parents of five boys who have been placed in foster care said Wednesday that they have left the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and will work together to regain custody of their children.

"We're hopeful that we can get our kids back, the sooner the better," Jose Avila said, standing next to his wife, Becky, at the Miller County Courthouse in Texarkana. "We're going to work and do everything we can to get them back, so they can be back with their dad and mom."

The Avilas spoke briefly after attending a hearing on whether their 17-year-old son will remain in foster care until he turns 18 later this month. Testimony in the hearing began Wednesday and will continue today.

Earlier, at the Juvenile Court Center in Texarkana, the Avilas waived their right to an initial hearing on allegations concerning four of their other sons, who range in age from 8 to 14. A hearing on the custody status of those children was set for Jan. 14.

The f ive brothers are among 36 children affiliated with the Alamo ministry who were taken into protective custody amid allegations that children in the ministry have been physically and sexually abused.

Federal and state authorities raided the ministry's compound in Fouke on Sept. 20. Tony Alamo, its 74-year-old leader, was arrested in Arizona five days later on charges that he transported an underage girl across state lines for sexual purposes.

The Avilas' 17-year-old son was among three boys taken into custody Nov. 18 at the Juvenile Court Center, where they had been attending a hearing on the custody status of two of the girls taken in the September raid.

The other four Avila boys were found at a residence in Arkansas on Friday evening. The Arkansas Department of Human Services is continuing to look for 92 or more children whose parents are associated with the ministry.

The Human Services Department contends that the practices of the ministry, which include beatings with a 3-footlong paddle for seemingly minor rule infractions, place children at risk of abuse. According to a report from the Fort Smith Police Department, a former church member named the 17-year-old Avila boy as one of several members that she had seen receive beatings.

Attorney Pamela Fisk of Texarkana, Texas, was appointed to represent Jose Avila shortly after the 17-year-old was taken into custody, and Miller County Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson on Wednesday appointed Fisk to represent Becky Avila as well.

The couple separated about eight years ago. Fisk said Tuesday that Jose Avila also left the ministry at that time, but he clarified Wednesday that he continued to attend services at the church in Fort Smith until recently.

Even before the Sept. 20 raid, the couple had begun working toward reconciliation and had been distancing themselves from the church, Fisk said. They still live apart in the Fort Smith area but are looking for a home together, she said.

"They're going to work together to get the children back," Fisk said.

One of the younger Avila children has Down's syndrome, Fisk said. The couple also has a grown son who left the church and is in the military.

While they waited for the court proceedings to start Wednesday, the Avilas, accompanied by their mothers, sat together and chatted amicably.

"It's sad that it happened, but we're getting closer" to regaining custody of the children, Jose Avila, 55, who works at a Trane Inc. plant, said afterward. "We've hardly had a good night's sleep since it happened."

At the hearing, Johnson heard about 20 minutes of testimony, via conference call, from a former Alamo ministry member who said she had been beaten and had witnessed other beatings, Fisk said. Hearings in child welfare proceedings are closed to the public.

The Avilas' 17-year-old son did not attend the hearing because he is living in a foster home elsewhere in the state, and the judge feared that icy roads would make traveling to the hearing treacherous.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Johnson will decide whether to place the boy with his parents or keep him in foster care until he turns 18 on Dec. 28.

When he is 18, the boy could ask for his case to be closed, or he could remain in the foster care system while he attends college or trade school or works toward his high school diploma. In that case, the state would pay for his educational and living expenses until he turns 21, but the judge could impose restrictions on his association with the church.

Attorney Nelson Shaw of Texarkana, Texas, who was appointed to represent the boy, said he will encourage the boy to stay in foster care to receive the state assistance.

"I'd like for him to get as much education as possible," Shaw said.

This article was found at:


Two abused brothers get $3.7 million

Chicago Sun-Times December 18, 2008

Abuse victim gets $1.2 mil.

CHURCH SCANDAL | Boy molested by priest at White Sox game, his brother got $2.5 million

by Maurice Possley | special to the Sun-Times

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a boy who was sexually abused by former priest Daniel McCormack, an attorney for the family said Wednesday.

Kenneth Cunniff said the settlement calls for $1.1 million to be paid to the boy, who is 16, and $100,000 to the boy's mother. In September, the archdiocese agreed to pay $2.5 million to the boy's younger brother, who also was abused by McCormack.

McCormack, 40, pleaded guilty last year to molesting five boys while pastor at Our Lady of the Westside School. He was sentenced to five years and is in prison in Downstate Jacksonville.

The $1.2 million settlement, approved Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court, involves allegations that the boy was sexually abused by McCormack at the school in 2004 and at a White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field in 2005. Most of the abuse of the five victims took place at the rectory.

"In over 20 years of dealing with the archdiocese in these types of cases, the archdiocese has always provided counseling to the victim, appropriate compensation to the victim for the actions of the sexual predator, and done everything within their power to rectify the terrible effects of the sexual abuse," Cunniff said.

The settlement was reached after two retired Cook County Circuit Court judges, Julia Nowicki and Michael Hogan, reviewed the case, heard from Cunniff and James Serritella, attorney for the archdiocese, and approved the final amount.

In a written statement, the archdiocese said it "continues to encourage the use of alternatives to litigation such as mediation to resolve claims of sexual misconduct in a just, fair and compassionate manner."

A report filed earlier this year by counselors for the two brothers said both suffer from "extreme sadness ... confusion, anger, shock, rage, mistrust of men."

Five lawsuits have been filed alleging sexual abuse by McCormack, and only one remains pending. That case, alleging a boy was abused from fourth through seventh grade, is awaiting Cardinal Francis George's deposition, according to the family's attorney, William F. Martin.

So far, the archdiocese has agreed to pay nearly $10 million to settle claims arising from McCormack's conduct.

Beyond the five boys McCormack admitted abusing, state child welfare officials found credible evidence of abuse of six other youths.

Overall, the archdiocese has paid out about $82 million to settle claims involving clergy sex abuse cases.

Maurice Possley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who recently left the Chicago Tribune. He worked for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1978 to 1984.

This article was found at:


Man awarded $3.6 million in priest sex abuse case

South Coast Today - Massachusetts
December 18, 2008

Associated Press

BURLINGTON, Vt. — A jury Wednesday awarded a former altar boy nearly $3.6 million because the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington in the 1970s didn't protect him from an abusive priest, who was once assigned to churches in New Bedford and Westport, Mass.

The Chittenden County Superior Court jury returned the verdict against the diocese after a two-week trial and 13 hours of deliberations in the lawsuit filed by David Navari, 43, of Takoma Park, Md.

"A jury of 12 Vermonters has seen all the evidence and I'm confident that they voted with their conscience," Navari said after the jury was returned.

He then said that if the diocese would put photos of priests credibly charged with abuse on its Web site, defrock them, and stop paying their retirement, "I will take all the award money from this case and put it into a trust for needy parents to send their kids to Catholic schools in the Burlington area."

Burlington Bishop Salvatore Matano apologized for the abuse that happened decades ago.

"Thirty-seven years ago today I was ordained a priest. And at that time I never expected to be dealing with these kinds of situations," Matano said. "I am doing the best that I can to deal with them in the most just and charitable way possible."

Matano said church lawyers would be willing to hear more about Navari's offer to give the money to Catholic school children.

Navari said he was groped on two separate occasions by former Vermont priest Edward Paquette when Navari was a boy.

Paquette, who as a young priest was assigned to St. Kilian's Church in New Bedford, and Our Lady of Grace Church in Westport, was not on trial. Rather, Navari charged the diocese failed to protect him from Paquette even though church officials knew of sexual abuse allegations against the priest. In a similar case earlier this year a jury awarded a victim $8.75 million. A second case this year ended in a hung jury.

The earlier award was appealed and diocesan attorney Tom McCormick indicated the church would most likely appeal Wednesday's verdict.

In the case that ended Wednesday, the jury awarded $192,500 in compensation and $3.4 million in punitive damages.

This article was found at:


Time ranks SBC rejection of sex-offender database as 'under-reported' story

Associated Baptist Press

December 17, 2008

by Bob Allen | ABP senior writer

NEW YORK (ABP) -- Time Magazine ranked the Southern Baptist Convention's refusal to establish a database of clergy sex offenders one of the most under-reported news stories in 2008.

A ranking of under-reported stories in Time's "Top 10 Everything of 2008" special feature placed the story at No. 6, behind a mix-up that accidentally sent U.S. nuclear-warhead fuses to Taiwan, the Congolese civil war, violence in Sri Lanka, and new guidelines for insurance coverage for mental health and regulation of food from animals that are genetically altered.

"Facing calls to curb child sex abuse within its churches, in June the Southern Baptist Convention -- the largest U.S. religious body after the Catholic Church -- urged local hiring committees to conduct federal background checks but rejected a proposal to create a central database of staff and clergy who have been either convicted of or indicted on charges of molesting minors," the magazine noted.

"The SBC decided against such a database in part because its principle of local autonomy means it cannot compel individual churches to report any information. And while the headlines regarding churches and pedophilia remain largely focused on Catholic parishes, the lack of hierarchical structure and systematized record-keeping in most Protestant churches makes it harder not only for church leaders to impose standards, but for interested parties to track allegations of abuse."

Christa Brown, Baptist outreach leader for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, agreed the story was under-reported.

"It's such an extremely important story," she said. "The largest Protestant denomination in the land -- a denomination that claims 16.2 million members -- refused to even attempt to implement the sorts of proactive measures for routing out predators that other major faith groups have."

Brown, a survivor of clergy sex abuse, worked two years to draw attention to the problem of unreported sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches before seeing denominational leaders recommend against her suggestion of a national database.

Last month Brown and SNAP National Director David Clohessy wrote SBC President Johnny Hunt asking for a meeting about establishing a system to report abusive clergy.

"As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, you now have the opportunity to show genuine leadership on the issue of clergy sex abuse and cover-ups," the letter said. "This may be one of the greatest leadership challenges in the history of Southern Baptists."

The SNAP leaders said Southern Baptists' local-church autonomy makes it all-the-more imperative that congregations have enough information to make responsible decisions about whom they call as ministers.

"The only way people in the pews will find out about clergy child molesters is if victims feel safe in reporting them," they said. "And victims are never going to feel safe if they have to report abuse by going to the church of the accused minister."

"Telling clergy victims to 'go to the church' is like telling them to go to the den of the wolf who savaged them," the letter said. "It is cruel to the victim and unproductive toward the end of protecting others."

This article was found at:


17 Dec 2008

Oregon child abuse laws and Christian Science

Statesman Journal - Oregon
December 17, 2008

Opinion | by Rita Swan

We disagree with Craig Luedeman (letters, Dec. 9) who claims Oregon law allows Christian Science parents to withhold medical care from children because of his church's good healing results.

Many Christian Science children have died of untreated diabetes, measles complications, diphtheria, meningitis and other infectious diseases. Christian Science has no scientific evidence that it can heal serious diseases of children.
Since the legislative reforms in 1999, several Oregon laws have required all parents to obtain medical care when a reasonable parent would recognize that the child was at risk of serious harm. The standard is not whether a parent whose religion claims disease is an illusion thinks his child needs medical care, but whether a jury thinks so.
Prior to 1999, the Christian Science church had gotten shocking religious exemptions to homicide, manslaughter, criminal mistreatment and criminal nonsupport into Oregon law. The church fought the 1999 legislative reforms tooth and nail and still has religious exemptions to homicide and first-degree manslaughter in state law.
— Rita Swan, president of Children's Healthcare is a Legal Duty, Bronson, Iowa
This article was found at:

Son Says Apocalyptic Sect Leader Won't Live Long in Prison

Fox News - December 16, 2008

Associated Press

TAOS, N.M. — The leader of an apocalyptic sect convicted of sexual misconduct with young female followers isn't hoping for a break when he's sentenced and likely wouldn't live long in prison, his son says.

Wayne Bent, 67, faces up to 18 years in prison for his felony convictions on Monday on one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

State law requires a minimum of three years in prison on the criminal sexual contact conviction.

Bent says he probably wouldn't eat if were locked up again.

"He says he's finished with his work. ... He has nothing more to do here," Jeff Bent said after the verdict was announced in a courtroom in Taos.

"He's told me many times he's not going to be in prison very long," the son said.

Wayne Bent's court-appointed lawyer, Sarah Montoya of Raton, said she expects to appeal the case.

"It was really about religion," she said. "He was convicted because of prejudice."

Bent, a former minister with the Seventh-day Adventist Church who broke away two decades ago, is the leader of The Lord Our Righteousness Church. He claims God spoke to him in 2000 and told him he was the Messiah.

Bent and the two young sisters who lay naked with him — 14 and 16 at the time — claim the separate incidents in July and August 2006 were spiritual exercises.

"It was a religious healing experience for me. ... It had nothing to do with sex," the younger of the girls, now 17, said after the verdict. "It had to do with healing to my heart."

Bent was found not guilty on a criminal sexual contact charge involving the younger girl, whose name in the sect is Healed.

He was convicted of criminal sexual contact with Healed's older sister, and for contributing to the delinquency of both girls.

Bent testified last week that he placed his hand on the sternums, but not the breasts, of the girls.

The older sister testified he also kissed her breast.

"Just as with Jesus they convicted an innocent man," Bent said after the verdict.

But he said it was all part of God's plan.

"These encounters with these two girls were intended to offend your world and make you mad and convict me," he said.

Bent was allowed to return to the remote ranch called Strong City, near the Colorado-New Mexico line, to await sentencing.

He must stay there except for visits with his lawyer and appointments related to pre-sentence evaluation, and he was told not to contact the girls.

The younger girl, now 17, is living with her parents but wants to return to Strong City when she turns 18.

"God's in control and my heart's with Michael, and it's like wherever he goes, that's where my heart is," she said. Bent also uses the name Michael Travesser.

She and Bent were allowed to talk briefly after the verdict. Montoya, who attended the meeting, said that was a promise the district attorney made to the girl before the trial.

Bent testified that Healed came to his house late at night in the summer of 2006, after he was in bed, and "asked to be skin-to-skin with me."

Bent said there was space between him and the girl and that he was wearing undershorts; the girl had testified she believed he was naked.

Bent was clothed when the older sister came to him in daylight hours a couple of days later, according to testimony.

Jeff Bent said he believed it was the "end of the road for the world" because of his father's conviction.

He sidestepped questions about whether the 45 or so church members would fast if Wayne Bent did while he was in prison. Church members had indicated last week that they would.

He also refused to say what would happen to the sect if Bent were imprisoned.

"Today we're going home. That's all I can tell you," he said.

This article was found at:http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,467590,00.html

Former FLDS man faces 30 years in jail for sex abuse case

The Spectrum - Utah December 13, 2008

by Nur Kausar

CEDAR CITY - A Southern Utah man was sentenced in 5th District Court on Monday to one to 15 years for each of two second-degree felony counts of sexual abuse of a child.

Wayland Wightman Wyler, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, pleaded guilty to both counts back in June, after being incarcerated for eight months awaiting trial.

Prior to sentencing a 90-day diagnostic evaluation was made of Wyler, 41, and a therapist did a psycho-sexual evaluation. Deputy County Attorney Troy Little said both then made recommendations to the court.

Wyler was originally arrested in March 2006 on charges of sexually molesting a female relative multiple times over three years, beginning when she was 8 years old. After bailing out on the charges, Wyler failed to appear in court last October, Little said.

Wyler had a warrant out for his arrest because of the appearance failures, said Iron County Det. Mike Crouch. He was arrested again after being hospitalized, treated and released for carbon monoxide poisoning, reportedly after being found unconscious in his garage with a vehicle running.

Little said Wyler and Iron County entered into a plea negotiation for sentencing, since he had been charged in both Washington and Iron Counties. Wyler's attorney, Alan Boyack, said the original counts were for two first-degree felonies which carried a mandatory 25-year sentence. With the plea deal, the charges decreased and the Washington County charges were dropped, even though Boyack said he disagreed with the outcome.

"I thought it would hopefully go to probation," Boyack said. "I did not think the evaluation was done well. All the objective things in it pointed to probation, but the judge based his decision on the heinousness of the crime."

Little said the plea deal occurred because the county thought it best for the case, given the evidence collected during an investigation by the Iron County Sheriff's Office.

"To protect (the victim), we let him plea to lesser charges," Little said, noting that initially Wyler had pleaded innocent but changed his plea as a result of the negotiation. "(The victim) was scared to death. We had to protect her mental health."

He added that the victim's mother testified on behalf of the county during sentencing, saying she didn't want him out around children and that he would be a danger to society if not in prison.

"The mother had no problem reporting to us," Crouch said about the case. "She came up with an escape plan for her family."

"She was a pretty courageous woman," he added.

Little also said the state sometimes has a hard time with these cases, because of FLDS church culture which is apprehensive about public officials.

"It's difficult to get that group to take the stand but this family was really good about it," he said.

Crouch said the family had resided in Hilldale but his office took over because Wyler lived in their jurisdiction during the investigation and arrest process.

Little said the court left it up to the department of corrections if Wyler would serve his two sentences concurrently or consecutively.

Boyack said his client was up for parole because he served 455 days in prison before sentencing, but it's not likely he will be given it.

This article was found at:


Prosecutor: child abuse by religious parents akin to "medieval times"

The Statesman Journal - Oregon   December 16, 2008

Child-abuse trial starts

Children of the accused in tears on stand; attorney speaks up for mother

by Ruth Liao

The home of Robyn and Graydon Drown was "something out of a horror story," akin to "medieval times," Marion County prosecutor Sarah Morris told the jury Monday.

Their children were beaten with various implements such as 2-by-4 boards, metal pipes, plastic pipes, spoons and whips. All nine of the children didn't see dentists or doctors.

The first day of trial for the Drowns was Monday. Each parent faces a 25-count indictment of criminal-mistreatment and second-degree-assault charges.

The children — ranging in age from six months to 16 years — were taken by state welfare authorities after the Drowns were arrested June 19 at their rural Turner home.

Morris said it wasn't until two teenage sons disclosed some of the abuse to leaders at Temple Beth Sholom, where the family regularly attended, that the allegations came to light.

"It was a secret life they kept to themselves for a really long time," Morris said.

Morris said the children never went to school and never saw a dentist or a doctor, except when the boys were taken to be circumcised. The oldest son never has been to a doctor to correct his extreme nearsightedness, she said.

"These are parents — parents who made decisions way beyond corporal punishment."

On Monday, an 11-year-old son and a 13-year-old son testified, both speaking clearly at the stand but at times in tears.

The 13-year-old boy spoke of beatings, saying he and his siblings received beatings that would leave bruises or marks. The boy said sometimes, the pain would last more than a day.

The boy described that his happiest time with his family was when his father left to go to California for a week.

The boy said his parents told him the police were bad and only wanted to take the children to be trained to be "little Nazis and do whatever Satan said."

The boy also said his mother was punished as well, forced at times to stand with her nose against the wall or slapped or hit. When asked by Morris if he loved his parents, the boy replied, "I love my mother."

Attorney Brooke Holstedt is representing Robyn Drown. At times, Robyn Drown acknowledged others in court with a smile or a wave, and smiled at her two sons when they each came in.

In his opening statement, Holstedt described Robyn Drown as a woman who was terrorized and manipulated by her husband.

"(There's) not only nine victims," he said. "There was another victim — another serious victim — Robyn Kay Drown."

Holstedt said Graydon Drown believed he was the Messiah and regularly told Robyn Drown that his orders to her came from God. The two were both raised as believers of the Worldwide Church of God and lived in remote parts of Alaska during their marriage before moving to Oregon in 2004.

Holstedt described how Graydon Drown often would recite passages from the Old Testament as arguments for why she should obey him.

"In order for her to survive, she had to submit to ... every order," he said.

Holstedt said Robyn Drown was afraid to leave her husband because of her children.

At one time, Robyn Drown attempted to file a restraining order against Graydon Drown while they were living in Alaska, but Holstedt said Robyn Drown was denied because she did not file a police report.

Two attorneys, Chapin Milbank and Stephen A. Lipton, are representing Graydon Drown, who appeared wearing a black suit and a yarmulke.

Lipton called the case against his client a "misrepresentation."

He said the Drowns have been married for 23 years. Lipton said his client may adhere to religious beliefs outside the mainstream, but believes in what he considers "reasonable" discipline.

Lipton said the evidence would show that the children were raised to be polite, well-mannered and respectful.

Another witness called on Monday was Leslie Gutfreund, who leads weekly prayer meetings at Temple Beth Sholom.

On the stand, Gutfreund described how he would hire Graydon Drown for work with his contracting business and often saw the whole family at job sites. Gutfreund said he employed one of the teen sons to work for him, and became concerned after he saw several bruises and welts on the boy's face and throat.

Another witness, Agnes Opgenorth, attends Temple Beth Sholom and has two of the Drown sons under her care. Opgenorth said Robyn Drown did not seem to be dissatisfied with her relationship with Graydon Drown.

"My impression was that she was very happy and proud of her relationship and her family," she said.

Five other Drown children are expected to appear as witnesses, as well as child-welfare officials, medical professionals and Marion County Sheriff's Office detectives.

The trial is expected to last through Thursday. Circuit Judge Thomas Hart is presiding.

This article was found at:


No new indictments of FLDS members but probe continues

The Salt Lake Tribune - December 17, 2008

by Brooke Adams

A Texas grand jury that has indicted 12 members of a polygamous sect concluded its final meeting Tuesday without issuing any new charges.

The Schleicher County grand jury met in Eldorado for about 3 1/2 hours before adjourning at noon, a county clerk said. This fall, 51st District Judge Barbara Walther extended the panel's term until the end of the year because of the ongoing investigation into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The investigation, overseen by the Texas Attorney General's Office, began after a raid at the sect's Yearning For Zion Ranch last April. The raid was triggered by reports of abuse now believed to have been a hoax.

Texas authorities later confirmed the numbers used to call a domestic violence shelter belong to Rozita Swinton of Colorado Springs, Colo, who has a history of making fake abuse calls.

"We cannot and will not comment on an ongoing investigation," said Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for the Texas Attorney General's Office, when asked about Swinton.

Texas child welfare investigators removed about 439 children from the ranch during the raid. The children remained in state custody for two months before the Texas Supreme Court ordered them returned to their parents. Most of the cases involving the children have been dismissed.

At present, 19 children still have cases pending before Walther. One teenage girl was returned to state custody in August after her mother balked at state requests.

Authorities, however, have used DNA evidence taken from parents and children and documents seized from the ranch to build cases against FLDS men.

Since June the grand jury has charged 12 sect members, including sect leader Warren S. Jeffs, with crimes related to underage or plural marriages. A new grand jury was seated in October but won't take over until January, a Schleicher county clerk said.

"Our investigation is ongoing and, if needed, we will request another grand jury be empaneled to hear evidence," Strickland said.

A closer look at the 12 indicted FLDS men

Those indicted so far and their charges they face:

» Warren S. Jeffs, 53, aggravated sexual assault; sexual assault of a minor; bigamy.

» Lloyd H. Barlow, 38, failure to report child abuse.

» Keith William Dutson, 23, sexual assault of a minor.

» Michael George Emack, 57, bigamy.

» Allan Eugene Keate, 56, sexual assault of a minor.

» Abram Harker Jeffs, 37, bigamy; sexual assault of a minor.

» Lehi Barlow Jeffs, 29, bigamy; sexual assault of a minor.

» Fredrick Merril Jessop, 72, conducting an unlawful marriage.

» Merril Leroy Jessop, 33, sexual assault of a minor; bigamy.

» Raymond Merril Jessop, 36, sexual assault of a minor; bigamy.

» Wendell Loy Nielsen, 68, bigamy.

» Leroy Johnson Steed, 42, sexual assault of a minor; two counts of bigamy; tampering with evidence.

What will happen next?

On Thursday and Friday, Arizona attorney Michael Piccarreta will travel to Eldorado, Texas, to question three law officers -- Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran, deputy sheriff John Connor and Texas Ranger Brooks Long -- about calls for help and evidence seized in April from the YFZ Ranch, home to members of a polygamous sect. Piccarreta represents sect leader Warren S. Jeffs, who faces charges in Arizona related to underage marriages he conducted.

This article was found at:


16 Dec 2008

A religious tyrant and his cruel wife must stay behind bars

Telegraph & Argus - UK December 16, 2008

Bradford religious tyrant and wife hoped to challenge sentences

by Jenny Loweth

A religious tyrant and his cruel wife must stay behind bars after a judge refused them leave to appeal against their long prison sentences.
The Bradford couple were locked up in May after a jury found the father sadistically tortured his sons while his fervently Christian wife turned a blind eye.
The 47-year-old man was jailed for nine years and his wife, 41, for six years.
During the trial at Bradford Crown Court, the two boys told how they were tortured with safety pins, clothes pegs and scalpel blades.
They said their father sewed up the wounds to their mouths with a home medical kit. Their mother picked a blunt needle because it would be more painful.
The younger boy said he was tied to a chair, blindfolded and left all night with a safety pin through his mouth.
His brother was trussed up with cable and locked in a dark cupboard.
Both boys, then 13 and 11, are now in local authority care.
A spokesman for the Court of Appeal Criminal Division in London yesterday said the couple’s application for leave to appeal against conviction and sentence had been refused by a single judge.
He said the pair could seek leave to renew their application before the full court.
The man and his wife, who cannot be named to protect the identity of their children, were convicted at Bradford Crown Court in January.
The jury found the man guilty of 11 charges of cruelty and wounding and his wife of two charges of cruelty.
After the verdicts, the couple continued to deny all the allegations of beating and torture.
Judge Christopher Prince told the fanatical Christian preacher his campaign of long-term, calculated cruelty was almost beyond belief.
He described the woman as “a strong and forceful personality” who chose to do nothing to protect her two sons from their tyrannical father.
This article was found at:

Sect elder gets 30 years for molesting girl

Houston Chronicle - December 15, 2008
Associated Press

ABILENE, Texas — A judge sentenced a religious sect's elder to 30 years in prison for molesting an 11-year-old girl during a phony cervical cancer exam.

Yedidiyah Hawkins, 41, a House of Yahweh elder, faced a maximum penalty of life in prison after being convicted in October of aggravated sexual assault of a child. Hawkins earlier decided that a judge would assess the punishment if jurors found him guilty.

Hawkins has no medical training but used a gynecological medical instrument to examine the girl at a home in 2005, according to trial testimony. A former House of Yahweh member testified that Hawkins actually was worried the girl was not a virgin.

Some defense witnesses testified at last week's sentencing hearing that they never saw Hawkins abuse children. Several became emotional and teary when pleading for leniency.

"We need him," Erica Hawkins, a teenage sect member, told state District Judge John Weeks.

"I know and believe him to be innocent. ... He would never do anything like that," former sect member Meleana Segura said.

But Callahan County District Attorney Shane Deel read some of Hawkins' jailhouse letters showing a growing obsession with another young House of Yahweh member he has chosen as his fifth bride, Deel said.

"He not only abused ... (this victim) with the speculum he bought from a sex toy Web site — he's got an eye on another girl. He's got four wives, all on welfare because he doesn't support them, and he wants to add the girl," Deel said.

Defense attorney C. Tony Wright told the judge that Hawkins has turned his troubled childhood into a useful adulthood but is being vilified because of his religious beliefs.

"He is capable of doing good and deserves a sentence on the low end of the guideline," Wright said, suggesting five to six years, before the sentencing Wednesday.

Hawkins' other charges — including aggravated perjury, indecency with a child and bigamy — will remain pending until his appeals on this case are exhausted, Deel said.

The sect's leader, self-proclaimed prophet Yisrayl Hawkins, faces trial next year on bigamy and child labor charges. He is accused of having more than 20 wives, performing polygamous weddings and forcing about 40 children to work at his 44-acre compound in rural Clyde near Abilene. Hundreds of his followers have legally changed their last names to Hawkins.

This article was found at:


Leader of NM sect guilty in child sex case

Associated Press - December 15, 2008

by Deborah Baker

TAOS, N.M. (AP) — An apocalyptic religious sect's leader was convicted Monday of criminal sexual contact with an underage girl in an incident he called a spiritual healing exercise.
Wayne Bent, 67, was found guilty of one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He is the self-described Messiah and leader of The Lord Our Righteousness Church in New Mexico.
"Just as with Jesus, they've convicted an innocent man," Bent said after the verdict.
Bent, who calls himself Michael Travesser, faced two counts each of criminal sexual contact of a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor in allegations involving two sisters, ages 14 and 16, in 2006. He was acquitted on the criminal sexual contact charge involving the younger girl.
His court-appointed lawyer, Sarah Montoya of Raton, said she expects to file an appeal.
"It was really about religion," she said. "He was convicted because of prejudice."
Bent testified last week he placed his hand on the sternums, but not the breasts, of the teenagers as they lay naked with him in separate incidents. He said he was careful that the spiritual healing exercises with the sisters not take a sexual turn.
The younger girl, now 17, said in an interview after the verdict that she was happy to hear Bent was cleared on the more serious of the counts involving her.
"It was a religious healing experience for me. ... It had nothing to do with sex," she said. "It had to do with healing to my heart."
Bent said the verdict was part of God's plan. "These encounters with these two girls were intended to offend your world and make you mad and convict me," he said.
His son, Jeff Bent, said church followers were not discouraged. "It's just part of our prophetic time that we're in," he said.
Wayne Bent has said he probably would not eat if he went to prison and that he wouldn't expect to survive the experience. His son said he would regard the verdict "as a death sentence" for his father.
Prosecutor Emilio Chavez told jurors in closing arguments the case was not about religion and that Bent must be treated like anyone else.
"The state's not saying any of this was for sexual gratification ... we are not saying his beliefs are wrong ... we are treating Mr. Bent the same as anyone else," the prosecutor said.
Bent was allowed to return to Strong City, the sect's compound near Clayton, pending sentencing on Dec. 29. He could face a maximum of 18 years in prison.
This article was found at: