12 Jun 2011

Catholic clergy abuse review boards made ineffective by bishops who hide cases from them

National Catholic Reporter - June 11, 2011

What's a review board to do?

By Joshua J. McElwee

Catholics in Kansas City, Mo., learned in May something that Nicholas Cafardi has known for some time: “A review board” -- the confidential consultative body each bishop is supposed to have for advice on cases of sexual abuse by clergy -- “is only as good as the cases a bishop puts before them.”

And the bishops have “a bit of wiggle room” about when the review boards are to be used, said Cafardi, who was a member of the original National Review Board established by the U.S. bishops in 2002.

Jim Caccamo, who serves on the review board of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese, told NCR that he knew nothing about Fr. Shawn Ratigan, the priest arrested on child pornography charges, until he read about it in the newspaper, even though Finn had removed the priest from parish ministry in December.

Finn acknowledged at a press conference May 27 that he did not inform his diocesan review board of the concerns presented about Ratigan. His spokeswoman, Rebecca Summers, explained that the bishops’ 2002 charter says diocesan review boards should be convened only “when you have a specific allegation of abuse” by a priest or other person in diocesan ministry.

“We did not have that,” Summers said. “The charter did not address a situation such as this.”

Yet the associate director of the U.S. bishops’ Office of Child and Youth Protection told NCR that while child pornography is not specifically mentioned in the 2002 charter, it is covered in it as a “violation against the sixth commandment.”

“If anybody’s in possession of it or knows somebody in possession of it, it needs to be reported,” said Mary Jane Doerr, who said she did not have information on the specifics of the Kansas City case.

At the May 27 press conference, Finn said that he had asked the board, as a result of this case, to “expand its role in receiving and evaluating reports of misconduct with children.”

In February, Ana Maria Catanzaro, chair of the Philadelphia archdiocese’s review board, also learned that archdiocesan officials had been selective in the cases they had presented to the board. She learned this from a grand jury report that said 37 priests were in ministry in that archdiocese despite credible allegations of abuse.

Following that report, the former secretary of clergy in the archdiocese was arrested for failing to protect children from dangerous priests. Cardinal Justin Rigali also placed 21 other priests on administrative leave March 8 pending review of allegations of abuse.

Writing about the experience in Commonweal, Catanzaro said the Philadelphia board “had been advised only about allegations previously determined by archdiocesan officials to have involved the sexual abuse of a minor -- a determination we had been under the impression was ours to make.”

According to Cafardi, while the U.S. bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People mandates that each diocese have a review board to act “as a confidential consultative body to the bishop,” the charter only specifies that the functions of the individual boards “may” include advising the bishop, reviewing diocesan policies, and offering advice on cases of sexual abuse by clergy.

That language, said Cafardi, is what gives the bishops that “bit of wiggle room.” But Cafardi quickly added: “It seems to me if [a bishop] sets up a board and gives it this task, he can’t change the task midstream.”

Cafardi is a canon and civil lawyer and dean emeritus of Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh.

“A review board is only as good as the cases a bishop puts before them,” he said. “The point of the review boards was that the bishops realized that their own judgment in these matters may not be sufficient. They’re to help the bishop. You can’t help somebody who doesn’t ask for your help.”

Beyond questions of the review board structure, Finn’s delay in notifying others about Ratigan’s troubles may have also violated norms in canon law, Cafardi said.

Changes made in May 2010 to the apostolic letter Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela identified “the acquisition, possession, or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors under the age of fourteen” as a “grave offense” subject to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

That means, Cafardi said, that as soon as Finn had knowledge of the material on the priest’s computer “he was supposed to notify” that congregation.

“I wonder if he did that,” Cafardi said.

This article was found at:


Only one US bishop has resigned for neglect during decade of clergy crimes, Kansas City bishop unlikely to join him

Lawsuit against Kansas City diocese alleges Bishop neglected to protect children from priest who made child pornography

Missouri diocese ignored school principal's warning about predator priest who was arrested a year later for child pornography

Italian priest in diocese of Cardinal assisting Pope on child protection reforms arrested on pedophilia and drug charges

Philadelphia cardinal and bishops hid problem priests from clergy abuse review board, put church law before civil law

Credibility of US bishops' reformed child protection policies challenged by Philadelphia clergy abuse scandal

Bishops were warned of abusive priests as early as the mid-1950s

1963 letter by church expert on pedophile priests shows Pope Paul VI and Vatican officials ignored warnings to expel problem priests

Jesuit priest being considered for sainthood among order's leaders who protected "the Hannibal Lecter of the clerical world"

Jesuit leaders concealed 40 years of warnings about pedophile priest who became spiritual adviser to Mother Teresa

New Vatican rules rely on Bishops to deal with clergy crimes before reporting to police, still don't protect children

New rules on clergy sex abuse shows there is still no moral awakening in the Catholic church

Catholic reform groups hold conference in Detroit, Archbishop warns priests who attend could be defrocked

Dublin Archbishop admits frustration over failed effort to promote major reforms in Catholic Church

Leaked confidential letter reveals Vatican's intention to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities

US bishop's report on clergy abuse puts focus on sociological factors instead of church leaders who covered up crimes

Inquiry finds US Catholic hierarchy still endangering children and fighting justice for clergy abuse survivors

Catholic theologian says secrecy, misogyny and resistance to reform in wake of clergy sex scandals will doom the church

Retired Archbishop blames protective church hierarchy for clergy abuse scandal

Australian Archbishop says church culture responsible for deep-rooted child abuse crimes and cover-ups

Former Benedictine monk says church has not yet addressed child abuse crisis, most bishops still mired in obfuscation and deceit

Is the Catholic church in state of denial over clergy abuse, or is it honest and transparent?

Hundreds of admitted or credibly accused pedophile priests who escaped justice are unsupervised by church or police


  1. Egan's Moral Idiocy

    by Michael Sean Winters National Catholic Reporter February 06, 2012

    I had thought that by now, 2012, it was impossible to be shocked by an example of episcopal moral idiocy regarding the sexual abuse of minors. For every bishop like Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who has self-evidently tried to do the right thing by the victims of this horror, there is a grand jury report, actually two, in Philadelphia cataloguing indifference or worse. For every archdiocese like Washington, where three consecutive archbishops – Hickey, McCarrick and Wuerl – have handled accusations of abuse with swiftness and justice, there is a diocese like Kansas City-St. Joseph, which is under criminal indictment for failing to follow civil law, let alone moral law. And for every brave and decisive bishop like Wilton Gregory, who as chairman of the USCCB in 2002 refused to ignore the gravity of the crisis or accept half-measures to face it, there is a bishop like Fabian Bruskewitz who still refuses to even permit an audit of his diocese’s compliance with child protection procedures. As I say, I thought I was beyond shock.

    But, then I read the recently published interview in Connecticut Magazine with Cardinal Edward Egan, the archbishop emeritus of New York. And I was shocked. Before reading it, make sure you allow yourself some time to meltdown after.

    The cardinal’s words are those of a narcissist in the extreme. He begins, “You know, I never had one of these sex abuse cases, either in Bridgeport or here (New York). Not one. The newspapers pretend as though what happened under Walter Curtis (Bishop of the Bridgeport diocese from 1961 to 1988) happened to me. Walter was a wonderful, wonderful, dear gentleman. He had gotten very old and they were sitting there. And I took care of them one by one.” Funny, I thought only a teenager could get so many “I’s” into so few sentences.

    Speaking of funny, here is what the cardinal had to say about media coverage of the sex abuse crisis: “I’m not the slightest but surprised that, of course, the scandal was going to be fun in the news – not fun, but the easiest thing to write about.” Actually, I know of the writers and editors who first broke the stories – they work here at NCR – and I can assure His Eminence that there was no “fun” in it for them. Nor ease. They, like most normal human beings, were horrified by the tales of child rape, cover-up of child rape, placing child rapists repeatedly in situations where they could perpetrate their crimes again, and then trying to keep it all hush-hush lest there be scandal. The decision to publish these stories was courageous but also heart-wrenching, not least because those who researched the stories, wrote the stories and edited the stories were also those who loved the Catholic Church. If all bishops had reacted with the courage of Tom Fox, with the appropriate disgust of Tom Roberts, and with the clear understanding that cover-ups are always a bad idea like Jason Berry, the bishops would not have found themselves in this mess.

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  2. continued from previous comment:

    The extraordinary lack of human empathy in this man shines through when the reporter observes that one of the criticisms of Egan’s time as bishop of Bridgeport was his failure to actually meet with the victims. Egan replies, “First of all, I couldn’t apologize for something that happened when I wasn’t there. Furthermore, every one of those cases was in litigation before a court, or threatened to be, and every one was handled correctly.” The defensiveness of the reply is shocking – as if Egan things the worst thing that could happen to a person is not sex abuse but getting a less than stellar wikipedia entry. His defensiveness if only matched by his inability to recognize that a bishop is a pastor, not a lawyer. Other bishops have met with victims – Pope Benedict has met with victims. Others have apologized on behalf of the Church for crimes they did not commit but for which, as the successor of those who did, they take responsibility. Certainly, in Bridgeport, Egan did not decline to use the cathedral because it has been built by a predecessor. He did not foreswear the use of duns raised by his predecessors. Ah, but risking a moment of human empathy by actually meeting with a victim – that is too much, that belongs to his predecessor.
    I used the word “victim” above, but of course, that is my word not Egan’s. Indeed, in the entire interview, there are two words that are conspicuous in their absence: victim and children. He talks about what he did. He talks about the perpetrators. He talks about the lawyers. He talks about the media. But, not a word for the victims. No recognition of the children whose lives were maimed by these crimes. If this is not moral idiocy, I do not know what is. How this man reached such a high office is beyond me and only further tarnishes the reputation of Bl. Pope John Paul II who, for all his gifts, was a singularly bad judge of character.

    Egan’s interview comes at an especially inauspicious moment. His successor as Archbishop of New York, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, has been out front in the USCCB’s fight against the Obama administration’s recent decision to require Catholic institutions to pay health insurance that covers abortifacients, sterilization and contraception. Dolan, rightly, argues that this is an unwarranted attack on the Church. Some Catholics perceive the decision as part of a “war on Catholics,” and while I do not go that far, certainly this is a time when the U.S. hierarchy needs to marshal its moral and intellectual credibility. But, I can think of really no insurance mandate from Obama, and no anti-immigrant legislation from a GOP-dominated legislature in Arizona or Alabama, that can do more harm to Catholics than the continued moral idiocy of Cardinal Egan. He not only undermines us with our critics, he undermines the bishops with loyal Catholics. He makes a mockery of his office. If there were a way to strip him of his red hat, it should be pursued. If there is a way to kick him out of his tony condo, it should be enacted.

    Send him away. Send him to a place where he can listen to the victims of sex abuse describe the horrors that were perpetrated on them. Send him to a place where he can listen to the victims’ families. Actually – don’t let him anywhere near a victim because he might cause them further harm. But, send him to a place where he can no longer harm the Church, as he has done in this interview and as he did for years as a bishop. He should, just go. Far away. And repent.


  3. Egan's remarks on priest abuse scandal draw fire

    by Daniel Tepfer, Connecticut Post February 7, 2012

    BRIDGEPORT -- Former New York Cardinal Edward Egan, who was at the center of the priest abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport when he was bishop here, has drawn criticism from a national victims' group and a local law firm that represented victims over an interview he recently gave.

    In the recent edition of Connecticut Magazine, Egan said that while bishop here, he did nothing wrong regarding abuse allegations against priests in the diocese and in fact never had a case of alleged abuse while he was bishop.
    In the interview, Egan also said he believes there is no legal requirement to report abuse cases in Connecticut and expressed regret for the apology he made regarding the priest scandal here.

    "First of all, I should have never said that," Egan told the magazine regarding his 2002 statement of regret. "I did say if we did anything wrong, I'm sorry, but I don't think we did anything wrong."

    Egan succeeded Bishop Walter Curtis, who had overseen the diocese from 1961 to 1988.

    "Egan is obviously unrepentant, self-absorbed and painfully dismissive of the abject suffering of tens of thousands of deeply wounded men, women and children who have been sexually violated by priests, nuns, bishops, brothers, seminarians and other Catholic officials," said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "We can't help but believe that many other prelates feel exactly as he does, but are shrewd enough to avoid saying so outside of clerical circles."
    Clohessy urged Egan's successors, Archbishop Tim Dolan of New York and Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, to denounce those statements.

    "I believe it's not in the bishops' heart to condemn another bishop," said Bridgeport Diocese spokesman Brian Wallace, who was unaware of the Egan interview. "Bishop Lori stands on his own record. He came into a crisis, a most painful time in the local church's history, he responded in a way that not only addressed the crisis in our diocese, but set a model for the national church."

    In the interview, Egan said many of his accomplishments were unfairly overshadowed by the priest sex abuse scandal. "I'm not the slightest bit surprised that, of course, the scandal was going to be fun in the news -- not fun, but the easiest thing to write about."
    That statement also drew criticism.
    "Cardinal Egan's statements in this article, including describing the sex abuse scandal as being `incredibly good' or `fun' for the news, confirms the extent to which he was out of touch with the reality of what occurred to the Catholic faithful within his diocese," said local attorneys Cindy Robinson, Jason Tremont and Douglas Mahoney. The three represented more than 90 people who received settlements from the diocese for claims of abuse from the 1960s through the mid-1990s. "For the cardinal to `take back' his apology is just another slap in the face of every victim who has endured the physical and emotional upheaval and betrayal of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a priest."

    Church documents obtained by the Connecticut Post during more than 10 years of reporting abuse allegations against priests here show that Egan was made aware of specific allegations of abuse by priests when he became bishop here in 1988. However, not only did Egan not report the abuse claims to police authorities, he covered up the allegations, moving offending priests around the diocese.

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  4. continued from previous comment:

    According to Senior Assistant State's Attorney Cornelius Kelly, under Connecticut law since 1971 clergy have been among those "mandated reporters" who are obligated to inform law enforcement agencies when they are aware of allegations of sexual abuse against children.

    The Bridgeport diocese agreed to pay nearly $40 million in settlements to dozens of people who claimed their abuse at the hands of more than a dozen priests in the diocese since the 1960s was covered up by the church. Most of the settlements were reached just days after Egan left the diocese to become cardinal of New York.
    In 1989, Egan assigned Rev. Martin Federici, who according to church documents was accused of abusing several children, to the former Cathedral High School. Federici was moved to another post in the diocese after complaints were made that he abused a child at the high school.

    That same year, Egan was informed that the then-Rev. Joseph DeShan had impregnated a 14-year-old girl who was working at the rectory at St. Augustine Cathedral. Church records show Egan had the girl fired from her job at the rectory and didn't inform police of the situation. Instead, DeShan voluntarily left the priesthood.
    In January 1993, the first lawsuit was filed against the diocese claiming the Rev. Raymond Pcolka sexually abused two children in the early 1980s. When the lawsuit was filed, diocese officials adamantly denied they had ever before received a complaint of abuse against Pcolka. But court documents later showed that the diocese had been in negotiations since 1989 with a lawyer representing people who claimed they were abused as children by Pcolka.

    A total of 16 people would later claim they were abused by Pcolka in the early 1980s but the diocese did not suspend the priest until March 1993.

    In October 2003, Lori, named bishop in 2000, publicly apologized to those abused by priests in the diocese. Lori was in the forefront of church efforts nationally to develop policies to deal with priest sex abuse.

    Egan, who retired in 2009, lives in New York City.

    The closest Egan ever came to making an apology was in an April 2002 letter to parishioners in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral.

    "It is clear that today we have a much better understanding of this problem," Egan wrote. "If in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards to prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry."


  5. Church booklet on abuse more pain for past victims

    by Rachel Browne, Sun-Herald journalist Australia September 16, 2012

    THE archdiocese of Sydney has produced 100,000 booklets stating the Catholic Church's position on sexual abuse, which several victims said has added to their trauma.

    The 16-page booklet, titled Sexual Abuse, has been distributed to parishes, Catholic agencies and schools.

    About 38,000 booklets were given to children to take home from schools in the Sydney archdiocese.

    The director of Catholic communications, Katrina Lee, said the booklet was overseen by the archdiocese's Professional Standards Office and was released in response to claims made by the Greens NSW upper house MP David Shoebridge.

    ''There has been a lot of consistent misinformation about the issue, so we decided to pull all the information together in one booklet,'' she said.

    But Mr Shoebridge said the content of the booklet, which addresses how the Catholic Church deals with allegations of abuse, compounded the suffering of many victims, one of whom described it as ''a work of fiction''.

    One victim said her experience of the church's Towards Healing process, the national protocol that addresses complaints of sexual, emotional and physical abuse made against clergy, was completely different from the description in the booklet.

    ''Throughout the process, phone calls remained unanswered, I had to wait up to eight weeks to make an appointment, I was told 'at some point I need to start to take some of the responsibility' and further abhorrent, abusive things,'' she said. ''The investigation was held up for much time due to the priest being permitted to take overseas trips to play golf. The investigation went on for 2½ years until my health completely failed and I could no longer go on. This is not putting victims first.''

    Another victim took issue with the booklet's claim that victims are not silenced, saying: ''This is a blatant lie as I was made to sign a document which silenced me and every other victim I know has had to [do this] as well.''

    Mr Shoebridge described the booklet as a whitewash that did not offer genuine help to victims.

    ''The processes and structures described in that booklet are so at odds with the reality of how the church deals with victims of sexual abuse that it caused a wave of pain for many people when they read it,'' he said. ''What they are looking for is some honesty from the church and a modest degree of humility about how comprehensively they have failed so many children and families.''

    Mr Shoebridge will appear at a public forum to be held in Newcastle today about the need for a royal commission on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, William Wright, was invited to participate in the forum but declined to attend.


  6. Boston Priest to Lead Oversight of Sexual Abuse Claims at Vatican

    By LAURIE GOODSTEIN and RACHEL DONADIO New York Times December 22, 2012

    Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday appointed as the Vatican’s new sexual crimes prosecutor a priest who handled clergy sexual abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church in Boston at the height of the scandal and for years afterward.

    The pope also pardoned his former butler, who was serving a prison term after leaking confidential documents in the Vatican’s most embarrassing security breach in decades.

    The Vatican said the new prosecutor, the Rev. Robert W. Oliver, the top canon lawyer at the Archdiocese of Boston under Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, would be the “promoter of justice” at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal office that reviews all abuse cases.

    In a statement released by the Archdiocese of Boston, Father Oliver said, “It is with deep humility and gratitude that I received the news that the Holy Father is entrusting me with this service to the church.”

    Father Oliver was among the canon lawyers brought in to advise Cardinal Bernard F. Law on sexual abuse cases in Boston, where the church’s abuse scandal erupted anew in 2002. He was put in charge of the office investigating charges against accused priests after the cardinal was forced to resign in 2002 amid an uproar over revelations that he had kept abusive priests working in parishes.

    Father Oliver helped write the archdiocese’s new abuse prevention policy in 2003. He has been serving as the top canon lawyer for the archdiocese and as a visiting professor of canon law at Catholic University of America in Washington.

    Advocates for abuse victims in the Boston archdiocese criticized his record on Saturday. Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of Bishop Accountability, a watchdog group that maintains an archive of abuse cases and documents, said in an interview, “Reverend Oliver is a champion of accused priests, which obviously does not bode well for the job he will do as promoter of justice.”

    She said that under that under Father Oliver’s guidance, the Boston archdiocese reported that between 2003 and 2005 it had cleared 32 of 71 accused priests, about 45 percent, saying it did not find “probable cause” to pursue abuse cases against them. That was a far higher clearance rate than the 10 percent reported by other dioceses nationwide, according to a report in 2005 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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  7. She also said the new policy on abuse that Father Oliver helped write in 2003 allows accused priests to remain in the ministry without being publicly identified while allegations against them are investigated. In contrast, laypeople suspected of abuse who work or volunteer for the church are to be immediately suspended.

    Father Oliver is not expected to grant any interviews, said Terrence C. Donilon, a secretary for communications for the Archdiocese of Boston. But, he said, “any attacks on Father Oliver’s distinguished track record of service to the church and his many contributions to the response to clergy sexual abuse are unfounded and just plain wrong.”

    As for the archdiocese’s policy and record, Mr. Donilon also said, “We do not have any priests in active ministry who have been credibly accused of child abuse.” He added that the archdiocese immediately turns over all allegations to civil authorities and has put in place many measures to prevent abuse.

    Father Oliver succeeds Msgr. Charles Scicluna, 53, who was promoted to auxiliary bishop in his native Malta in October. A friendly canon lawyer, Monsignor Scicluna found himself in the eye of the storm after being named promoter of justice in 2002.

    The year before, Pope John Paul II decreed that all abuse cases be sent directly to the doctrinal office, then led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict.

    When the scandal erupted in Europe in 2010, with cases emerging in Ireland and the pope’s native Germany — including some that called into question how Benedict handled an abuse case when he was archbishop of Munich in 1980 — the Vatican issued new guidelines, essentially telling bishops to report abuse cases to the police where local laws required it.

    The Vatican also said Saturday that Benedict had pardoned his former butler, Paolo Gabriele, 46, who had been sentenced to prison after admitting to leaking confidential documents that formed the basis of a tell-all book on alleged misdeeds, financial mismanagement, back-stabbing and infighting within the Vatican.

    On Saturday, Benedict met with Mr. Gabriele in the Vatican police barracks and set him free, said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.


  8. Australia: Catholic Priest Russell Robert Walker jailed for abuse of altar boys

    Vatican Crimes blog http://www.vaticancrimes.us/2013/11/former-priest-russell-robert-walker.html NOVEMBER 13, 2013

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — A former Catholic priest has been jailed for five years for sexually abusing two altar boys during the 1970s.

    County Court judge Felicity Hampel said Russell Vears, who later changed his name to Walker, had been a 27-year-old newly ordained priest in 1976 when appointed assistant priest to a parish in Melbourne's outer south-east.

    Within a year of his arrival at the parish, Walker began sexually abusing two 14-year-old boys.

    "Their families were active members of the congregation, and they were both altar boys. As a result you had easy access to them, and were trusted by them and their families," Judge Hampel said on Tuesday.

    The judge said that by the third year of Walker's tenure at the parish, the parents of one of the boys suspected he was abusing their son.

    "They confronted you, and you angrily counter attacked, saying to them, in the boy's hearing: 'How dare you accuse me of sleeping with your son.'

    "Despite the confusion caused by your response, the boy knowing, you, a priest, had lied, and the parents cowed by the apparently outraged response of a priest, the holder of a holy office they had been brought up to respect, believe and obey, the boy soon after confirmed to his mother what she and her husband had suspected was true, that you had been sexually abusing him."

    Judge Hampel said the boy's mother reported the matter to the then archbishop of Melbourne.

    "Although you are not to be punished for the institutional response, what happened next was scandalous, and no less so because, as is now abundantly clear, this boy was not the only victim of clerical abuse in the Melbourne archdiocese, nor the only victim whose welfare was ignored, whilst the church took active steps to protect the priest and itself.

    Of course, after all, the Vatican has long had a policy in place to protect pederast priest as outlined in the Vatican Crimens Sollicitationis - a document guiding each archdiocese on the steps to take to protect pederasts and transfer them from parish to parish in order to silence scandals.
    "Although not a single step was taken by the church to protect the victim, offer him counselling or support, or report the complaint of sexual abuse by one of its ordained priests of a child in his pastoral care, to the police, you [Walker] were warned a complaint had been made, and shortly thereafter transferred to a nearby parish.

    "Your response when warned was not to admit wrongdoing, apologize surrender yourself to the police or even leave the child alone. Instead, in what can only be seen as a demonstration to the victim and his parents of their powerlessness, and a flaunting of your sense of impunity, you confronted the mother after Mass the very next Sunday.

    "You challenged her for having taken the matter to the archbishop, and you continued to sexually abuse the boy."

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  9. Walker, who had two more sexual encounters with the boy, was not arrested until one of his victims went to the police in November 2011.

    Judge Hampel praised Walker's victims for their courage in reporting what had happened to them to the police.

    "To each of you, I say: you are truly courageous men. It is the courage of those who know they suffered harm as a result of something that was not of their making, and was not their fault, but who have had the courage to keep on going and to keep on living.

    "You have not given up on yourselves, or on life, although not surprisingly you both mourn the loss of the life you should have been able to enjoy, had this not happened to you. Each of you has had the courage to make your statements, and to participate in the court process.

    "You may have been powerless when these offences were committed on you, but by telling your stories, you have shown you are not powerless now. The church may not have protected you when it should have, but the response of the criminal justice system, I hope, will encourage other victims of past sexual abuse to trust that complaints will be heard and investigated, and lead to those who have sexually abused children being held accountable."

    Judge Hampel said Walker's crimes had been a gross abuse of trust.

    "You were a priest, they were young Catholics, baptized and brought up as such. They were children of parishioners, parishioners themselves, and altar boys. To them, you represented the church, its teachings, values and moral precepts, as well as the authority the Catholic church claims over its congregation.

    "The victims were young and, each in his own way, vulnerable.

    "You lied and bullied your way out of exposure, and continued to offend against your second victim. You were an adult, they were children entrusted to your pastoral care, and you had the authority, for them and their parents, of a holy man, an ordained priest."

    Walker, 64, who pleaded guilty to indecent assault charges relating to multiple offences, was jailed for five years with a non-parole period of three years.

    Judge Hampel said it was remarkable that the Catholic church hierarchy had still not formally stripped Walker of his priesthood. He had taken leave from priestly duties when in his mid-30s.

    Source article:


  10. Former official: Archdiocese did not report priests pornography

    By Madeleine Baran and Mike Cronin, Minnesota Public Radio October 4, 2013

    Upset that her superiors had refused to take action, a former church official reported to police that leaders of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis had kept secret for eight years images of pornography — some of it appearing to show children — belonging to one of its priests.

    Jennifer Haselberger, the archdiocese's former chancellor for canonical affairs, tried to get Archbishop John Nienstedt's attention by using what she called the "nuclear option."

    Haselberger went back to her office, copied several images into an electronic document and sent the document to Nienstedt. Some of the images from the archdiocese's files on the Rev. Jonathan Shelley, 52, appeared to show boys performing oral sex.

    The archbishop never called police, she said. Months later, the Rev. Peter Laird, Nienstedt's deputy, ordered her to hand over the pornographic images.

    "I did as I was told," said Haselberger, who resigned in April. "I went back to my office. I closed the door and I called Ramsey County."

    But officers with the St. Paul Police Department's sex crimes and vice units couldn't find the child pornography that Haselberger had reported, despite several reviews of the three disks of evidence the archdiocese had handed over. Police closed the case this week without charges.

    The report from lead investigator Sgt. William Gillet cited insufficient evidence. In the report, Gillet wondered whether the archdiocese turned over all the evidence when he began investigating in March.

    "It should be noted I do not have the computer as we were told that was destroyed many years ago," Gillet wrote. "Whether these discs given to me were the actual discs or copies of those discs after first asking for them, I do not know nor will I most likely ever know."

    The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis declined requests for interviews with senior leaders.

    aird, the vicar general, resigned Thursday, weeks after an MPR News investigation revealed that archdiocesan leaders hid sexual misconduct by the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer and allowed him to continue in ministry. Wehmeyer was sent to prison this year for sexually abusing two children and possessing child pornography.

    • MPR News: Laird, top deputy of archdiocese, resigns

    Shelley's case surfaced Thursday during a contentious Ramsey County court hearing on whether to unseal a list of names of priests accused of sexual abuse.

    The archdiocese stood by its handling of the Shelley matter as it tried to keep his name from the public record. The judge agreed to refer to the priest only as "JS" but his name was already public in a police file that had closed the day before.

    Shelley, who lives in Minneapolis, said he didn't do anything illegal.

    "There was no criminal stuff involved in it or wherever, and it was 10 years ago," Shelley told MPR News. "If you're going to take my name and drag it through the mud now, 10 years later, for something that you clearly don't know all the facts on, that's something you're free to do. But I'm not going to add to it."

    Nienstedt placed Shelley on sabbatical in June of last year. He had been assigned to the Parish of St. John the Baptist in Hugo, Minn., since 2008.

    "This was the computer from the parish priest"
    Joe Ternus was the person who alerted church leaders to the pornography he found on Shelley's original computer.

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  11. Ternus wanted to use the priest's old computer so his kids could play video games. He couldn't believe the images he found.

    "It was graphic. It was hard-core," Ternus said of the images he found on the laptop. "Just kind of freaked out everybody. I mean, this was something that a bunch of 6-, 7- and 8-year-old kids were going to be using, and this was what was on there waiting for them, if somebody hadn't taken the time to go in and look for it. And apart from that, this was the computer from the parish priest where my family went."

    Shelley at that point was assigned to St. Jude of the Lake parish in Mahtomedi, Minn.

    Ternus reported his discovery to the Rev. Kevin McDonough, then-vicar general and second in command at the archdiocese. Ternus turned over the hard drive so the archdiocese could investigate.

    McDonough, he said, gave him all manner of assurances when they met about the pornography in 2004. "This was going to be taken care of," Ternus said McDonough told him. "Jon Shelley was going to get appropriate counseling, or however it was that they put it at the time.

    "And the thing we all wanted to make sure was this wasn't going to be treated like all of the things we'd seen in the news to that point, where people get picked up and moved around and things get swept under the rug."

    This was two years after the clergy sex abuse scandal rocked the Roman Catholic Church. Dioceses around the country were putting child safety plans in place, after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops developed new procedures to protect children from sexual abuse.

    • U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People

    In 2012, Robert Finn of Kansas City became the first American bishop to be convicted of protecting an abusive priest. He failed to call police when he learned of child pornography on a priest's computer.

    • The New York Times: Kansas City Bishop Convicted of Shielding Pedophile Priest

    Haselberger said she brought up Finn as she warned top officials that the archdiocese could face a criminal investigation.

    Federal law prohibits "possession of any image of child pornography." Minnesota state law requires priests to report to authorities any indication that a child has been sexually abused within the last three years. Withholding that information is illegal.

    "Thousands of images"
    When the archdiocese learned of the pornography on the computer in 2004, it asked Shelley to turn over all of his remaining computers for forensic analysis.

    Shelley responded by destroying one of the computers with a hammer, Haselberger said.

    "I recall he made some kind of argument about how he was worried about all of the confidential data about his parishioners that were on his computer," she said, citing records she had seen.

    Then-Archbishop Harry Flynn sent Shelley to St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., a treatment center that specializes in clergy psychological and sexual issues, for evaluation. When Shelley returned, he was placed back in ministry.

    Attempts to contact Flynn, who retired in 2008, were unsuccessful.

    Archdiocese spokesman Jim Accurso told MPR News that Flynn did nothing wrong. "You've got hearsay from Jennifer," Accurso said. "You're talking about a retired bishop."

    Richard Setter & Associates, a private investigation firm retained by the archdiocese, hired a forensic computer expert to look at some of the files on Shelley's old computer. The report made reference to "thousands of images," including some child pornography, St. Paul police Sgt. William Gillet wrote in his summary of the police investigation.

    continued below

  12. The Setter report used the phrase "borderline illegal" to describe some of the images of young men on the computer, said Haselberger, who saw it in Shelley's file.

    The disks created by the archdiocese's investigation sat in the chancery — the archdiocese's main offices on Summit Avenue in St. Paul — for four more years. In 2008, they were moved to the basement.

    Haselberger said the disks were stored with a warning.

    "There was a handwritten note attached to those CD-ROMs in Father McDonough's handwriting, saying something to the effect of 'don't insert these disks into a computer that's attached to the Internet' and 'see previous report prior to viewing images,'" she said.

    In 2011, Shelley was being considered for a new assignment, which prompted Haselberger to take a closer look at his personnel file.

    • MPR News coverage: Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

    Haselberger said Shelley's file contained a complaint from a summer camp counselor from the mid-1990s about how Shelley, as a seminarian, wrestled with young boys and spent time in the cabins after dark. She also saw a report that an 18-year-old parishioner lived with Shelley in 2009, she said.

    She read accounts of the Setter investigation of Shelley. Eventually, she decided to look at the images from the investigation that had been stored on disks.

    Some of the images appeared to depict minors performing oral sex, she said, while others involved adults but were staged to look like the sex acts took place in schools.

    The discovery led to her "go nuclear" moment and her eventual decision to call police.

    Police asked church officials to turn over the evidence on March 5 of this year during a visit to the archdiocese's main offices in St. Paul. The response of Andrew Eisenzimmer, the now-retired archdiocesan legal counsel and chancellor for civil affairs, to that request caught investigator Gillet by surprise.

    "Eisenzimmer was visibly upset" and asked for the name of the priest involved, Gillet wrote in his report. "Eisenzimmer went so far as to say that he needed to know which property we were talking about. We were surprised with this, as it suggested to us the possibility that there might be more than one case of pornographic materials the church was dealing with."

    Gillet agreed to leave the archdiocese offices without the file containing the pornography and documents. He wrote in his report that he would call Eisenzimmer back with the priest's name, then collect the evidence.

    But church officials did not provide Gillet with anything until two days later when Tom Wieser, a St. Paul lawyer, called to say the sergeant could collect three computer disks from his office.

    Wieser declined to give Gillet the church's internal documents, "saying they were the product of their investigation," Gillet wrote in his report. "Such documents are not necessary at this time."

    Police closed the investigation Wednesday. No one has been charged with any crime in connection to the case.

    To read the numerous links embedded in this article, view the photos and documents, or listen to the audio version go to:


  13. Archbishop Under Fire Over Abuse Apologizes but Says He Wont Resign


    The Roman Catholic archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, under fire for the way his diocese has dealt with sexually abusive priests, apologized Wednesday for his conduct but rejected calls for his resignation.

    The archbishop, John C. Nienstedt, acknowledged errors in his diocese’s response to abuse allegations, writing in a column for the diocesan newspaper that “it is very clear that we did not handle all complaints the way we should have in the past” and that he had only recently removed from ministry several priests accused of abuse.

    The American bishops agreed 12 years ago that all clergy members facing credible accusations of abuse would be permanently removed from ministry.

    “I have never knowingly covered up clergy sexual abuse,” Archbishop Nienstedt wrote. “I have, however, been too trusting of our internal process and not as hands-on as I could have been in matters of priest misconduct.”

    He did not directly address accusations that he himself had had inappropriate sexual relationships with adult men, other than to say that he commissioned an investigation “because I had nothing to hide and wanted to be vindicated from false allegations, as anyone would.”

    “I have no doubt that my administrative and personal style, with its strong point of view, may have offended some,” he wrote. “I apologize to those I have hurt. The last year has helped me realize I need to change my administrative style, soften my words, and get out from behind the desk to spend more time with the faithful.”

    Archbishop Nienstedt has become one of the most embattled figures in the American Catholic hierarchy, under fire in the courts, in the pews and on newspaper editorial pages. He has prompted criticism as a vigorous opponent of gay relationships who has campaigned against same-sex marriage, called the homosexual acts depicted in “Brokeback Mountain” evil and accused Hollywood of “an agenda directly opposed to God.”

    continued below

  14. His handling of clergy sexual abuse allegations, as well as the actions of his predecessors as archbishop, has been unsparingly detailed in reporting by Minnesota Public Radio and has been sharply criticized by his own former chancellor for canonical affairs, Jennifer Haselberger. And he has faced mounting calls for his resignation, from laypeople, from the editorial board of The Star Tribune, and on Wednesday from the Rev. Thomas V. Berg, a moral theologian at the seminary of the Archdiocese of New York.

    Archbishop Nienstedt’s apology on Wednesday was dismissed by advocates for victims of clergy sexual abuse. Barbara Dorris, the outreach director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said in a statement: “He continues to pretend that his deliberately deceptive behavior — over years — is just well-intentioned laxness, when ample evidence shows that’s just not true. He has repeatedly and knowingly protected predators and endangered kids.”

    And Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota lawyer who has represented victims of clergy sexual abuse around the country, said the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was facing a problem that was “among the most grave we’ve ever encountered.”

    “This guy is every bit the center of a serious and longstanding problem,” Mr. Anderson said.

    Archbishop Nienstedt declined a request for an interview on Wednesday.

    In his column, the archbishop said he would not resign because “I am bound to continue in my office as long as the Holy Father has appointed me here.” He said he would instead work to win back the trust of his parishioners.

    He also said he had adopted a new “victims first” philosophy for his diocesan leadership, would hire a new liaison to victims, and would consult with victims for advice.

    “I am sorry for the distractions I have inadvertently caused that have taken the focus away from the challenging and rewarding work we do as the Catholic Church in our local community,” he wrote. “We must continue to address head-on the terrible scandal of clerical sexual abuse.”


  15. Judge OKs settlement in church abuse case

    Associated Press October 13, 2014

    MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A judge signed off on a settlement Monday in a groundbreaking case that accused Catholic church leaders in Minnesota of creating a public nuisance by failing to warn parishioners about an abusive priest.

    Ramsey County Judge James Van De North approved the settlement after meeting with both sides Monday, said Jeff Anderson, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

    "This is a landmark case," Anderson said on emerging from the settlement conference. "It's monumental in a lot of ways."

    St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt issued a statement calling it "a historic moment in our efforts to assure the safety of children and vulnerable adults."

    Full details of the settlement were not given, but the sides did release 17 "child protection protocols."

    Among them: Church leaders said they will not recommend a priest for active ministry or a position working with minors if they've been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. They also said they would disclose any accusation of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest when asked by the priest's potential employer — whether it's by another diocese or outside the church — along with the resolution.

    REPORT: Archdiocese knew of priest's misconduct

    Church leaders also promised not to conduct an internal investigation or "interfere in any way" with law enforcement investigations after they make a mandated report of possible child sexual abuse.

    The case against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona is believed to be the first clergy sexual abuse case nationwide to use the public nuisance theory at trial.

    That claim allowed victims' attorneys to seek evidence of sexual abuse across the archdiocese, rather than focus on allegations against one individual.

    It forced the unprecedented disclosure of tens of thousands of church documents and the names of dozens of accused priests. The flood of information — which included the public release of court-ordered depositions of Nienstedt and other church leaders — revealed how top officials handled allegations of misconduct by priests.

    The disclosures compounded an already difficult year for church leaders.

    Last fall, a former archdiocese employee went public with allegations that church leaders had mishandled several cases in which priests were accused of abuse. Police began investigating several allegations, and Nienstedt himself was accused of sexual misconduct, which he denied and resulted in no criminal charges.

    Nienstedt has apologized for any mistakes, but despite public calls for his resignation he told the AP in July that he wouldn't step down, and that he doesn't believe he mishandled the situation.

    Lawyers for the church had asked that the case be dismissed, saying the public nuisance claim didn't stand up, but Van de North allowed it to proceed.

    The case was filed in May 2013 under a law that opened up a three-year window for victims of past sexual abuse to file claims that were otherwise barred under the statute of limitations. Similar windows for lawsuits in other states have resulted in payouts in the tens of millions of dollars or more.

    The plaintiff, identified in court documents as Doe 1, claims he was abused by Thomas Adamson in 1976 and 1977, when the victim was an altar boy in St. Paul Park. The complaint also alleged the archdiocese and diocese were negligent in allowing Adamson continued access to children, even though leaders knew he had behaved inappropriately with young boys.

    Adamson said in a deposition earlier this year that he molested around 12 teens from the 1960s to the mid-1980s. He was removed from active ministry in 1985 and defrocked in 2009. He was never criminally charged.

    Adamson has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached.


  16. Archbishop of Adelaide charged over concealing children's sex abuse

    Philip Wilson faces up to two years’ jail over his alleged cover-up of abuse by another priest, Jim Fletcher, in the 1970s

    by Helen Davidson, The Guardian March 17, 2015

    The archbishop of Adelaide has been charged by police over his alleged concealment of the sexual abuse of children by a priest in the 1970s.

    On Tuesday New South Wales police charged Philip Wilson, 64, of concealing a serious offence, and issued a court attendance notice.

    It is alleged Wilson covered up knowledge of alleged abuse by priest Jim Fletcher in the 70s, the Australian reported.

    The report said Wilson is believed to be the highest-ranking Catholic official in the world to face criminal charges of this type. He faces up to two years’ jail.

    Wilson, who is the vice president of the Australian Catholic bishops conference, and Fletcher, who died in 2006, were both employed in the Maitland diocese at the time of the abuse.

    In 2004 Fletcher was jailed over the rape of a young boy between 1989 and 1991. He died while serving his sentence.

    In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon Wilson said he was disappointed the police had decided to file a charge.

    “The suggestion appears to be that I failed to bring to the attention of police a conversation I am alleged to have had in 1976, when I was a junior priest, that a now deceased priest had abused a child,” he said.

    “From the time this was first brought to my attention last year, I have completely denied the allegation. I intend to vigorously defend my innocence through the judicial system.”

    WIlson also reaffirmed his commitment “to dealing proactively with the issue of child sexual abuse and the implementation of best-practice child protection measures which I have pioneered since becoming a bishop,” adding that his efforts have been “widely acknowledged”.

    The NSW special commission of inquiry, which investigated the handling of abuse allegations in the region, identified at least five known victims of Fletcher, “each of whom was as a child sexually abused by him over a number of months, and often years”.

    It described Fletcher as having an “extensive history” of the abuse of children, in particular altar boys, dating back to the 70s.

    The charges laid come from investigations by the dedicated strike force Lantle, which has operated since 2010 specifically “to investigate allegations of concealment of serious offences related to child abuse by clergy formerly and currently attached to the Maitland-Newcastle diocese of the Catholic church”, NSW police said.

    In 2012 the Lantle brief of evidence was forwarded to the state’s director of public prosecutions seeking advice on its evidence and its adequacy to prosecute members of the Catholic church over concealment of child sexual assault.

    In May 2014 the special commission found there was “sufficient evidence warranting the prosecution of a senior church official in connection with the concealment of child sexual abuse relating to Fletcher”.

    The inquiry, headed up by the former NSW crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, released three of its four report volumes to the public. The fourth related to Fletcher and was kept confidential “in order to protect potential future criminal proceedings” and did not name the “senior church official”.

    Wilson is due to appear in Newcastle local court on Thursday, 30 April.


  17. Catholic priest ex-EWTN TV host fathered child; he's now in custody fight, accused of abuse

    By Greg Garrison, March 25, 2015

    A national group that monitors allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy has focused attention this week on the Alabama case of David Lawrence Stone, a Catholic priest and former EWTN TV host who was arrested in 2013 and charged with sexual abuse of a minor under 12.

    The minor he is charged with sexually abusing is his own son, now six years old.

    Stone, 54, formerly known as Father Frances Mary Stone, was host of the TV program "Life on the Rock" on Eternal Word Television Network.
    In court filings, Stone's attorneys have argued that the allegation of child abuse is false. Stone has been in a lengthy custody battle with Christina Presnell, the mother of his child, according to Jefferson County Court records.

    A spokeswoman for SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was in Birmingham on Tuesday to discuss the case. She said Bishop Robert J. Baker, head of the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham, should let people know about the allegation and that the priest still lives in Irondale.

    "Even if you believe he's innocent, they should be open about it and let the truth come out," said Barbara Dorris, outreach director for SNAP. She said that since the Catholic Church was rocked by scandal in recent years over accusations of sexual abuse by priests, bishops have vowed to be more open about allegations against priests. "Protect the kids," she said. "The bishops in some states have not been taken to task. This crisis isn't over."

    Baker said that Stone no longer is a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, the order of priests founded in 1987 by Mother Angelica, who also founded EWTN. Stone no longer lives at the Annunciation Friary in Irondale, Baker said. Stone lives in a rented house in Irondale, according to court documents.

    "He's not living in their community," Baker said. "They are following canonical procedures on the case."

    The diocese investigated the case and it's now being played out in the judicial system, in both criminal and civil cases in Jefferson County.
    "We have investigated, and done everything we're required to do," Baker said. "He is out of the ministry. Everything is pending the outcome of the trials. My understanding is he is saying he is falsely accused. Any of these situations are difficult."

    Priest and mother of his child both lost jobs at EWTN

    Scott Morro, an attorney for Presnell, said the relationship between Stone and Presnell started when she was working for EWTN. Presnell worked as a human resource coordinator for EWTN, according to court documents. She met Stone in 1998, went to confession with him as her priest and considered him her spiritual adviser, then began a sexual relationship with him in 2001. They kept the relationship secret, but were discovered when she became pregnant. EWTN fired Presnell in 2008 and Stone was put on a long-term leave of absence, court records show.

    "She started working there, and she started to be counseled by Dave," Morro said. "That grew into a flirtatious relationship, which grew into a dating relationship, which led to the conception of their child. It was all consensual."

    Presnell, 47, was widowed in 1999 after a 13-year marriage and had two daughters and a son with her husband. She also had another son by another father while separated from her husband, then had Stone's son, who was born in 2008, according to court documents.

    Stone arrested after mother files complaint of abuse

    The sexual abuse case against Stone is still pending in Jefferson County, Morro said. "They're waiting to present it to the grand jury," he said.

    According to court documents, Stone had visitation with his son starting in 2010.

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  18. In May 2011, Presnell said that the boy told her that his father put his finger in the boy's anus, causing him to defecate on the bed. Stone denies that story and says she made it up. She filed a police report. Stone was arrested by Irondale Police on Oct. 9, 2013 and released on $150,000 bond.

    Stone does not currently have visitation privileges with his son as a condition of the bond, court records show. He has been fighting for visitation privileges and custody in civil court in Jefferson County.

    William Bradford and Amber Ladner, attorneys for Stone on the criminal charge, said the allegation against him is false.

    "Mr. Stone's primary concern has always been, and remains today, his son's well being," Bradford and Ladner said in a prepared statement. "The actions of SNAP in recent days are baseless, misguided, and driven by a lack of information as to the true and correct facts regarding Mr. Stone, his son, Ms. Presnell, and the ongoing litigation. Due to this lack of basic understanding, the statement of SNAP is replete with false information regarding the situation and Mr. Stone. Mr. Stone took a leave of absence from the Church prior to his son's birth. It was Mr. Stone who initiated the legal proceedings in Jefferson County Family Court in an effort to gain custody or visitation with his son. This was done with the sole purpose of Mr. Stone having a meaningful father/son relationship with his child. Thereafter, Ms. Presnell prompted the filing of criminal charges against Mr. Stone. Mr. Stone adamantly denies all allegations of any wrongdoing regarding his son, and is of the opinion that the false charges are the result of an effort to gain advantage in the Family Court proceeding. Mr. Stone will continue to press his case for custody and/or visitation, and will vigorously defend himself against all false allegations of criminal conduct. To that end, he continues to look forward to the true facts regarding this situation being brought forth in the courts as soon as possible."

    Latest court filings include clinical psychologist's reports

    Presnell was held in contempt of court on Feb. 13 by Jefferson County Judge Carnella Greene Norman for not appearing in court for depositions. Morro said that Presnell was taking care of her oldest son who was in a hospital intensive care unit in Tennessee for several days after a car accident, and that she had previously done depositions on the case. Morro filed an appeal of Norman's ruling on March 6.

    Morro, a former police officer, said his client's allegations of abuse against Stone are credible.

    "These are egregious charges against a man," Morro said. "If I didn't believe they were true, I wouldn't be representing her."

    Former Birmingham attorney Mitch Damsky, who represented Stone after his arrest but last year moved to Wyoming, said the abuse allegation may be an effort to gain advantage in the custody dispute.

    "I really don't think that he did it," Damsky said. "It didn't add up to me."

    In the most recent civil court filing today, March 25, a clinical psychologist's reports on both Presnell and Stone were submitted. "Christina's allegation against Dave is highly questionable given the timing and circumstance of it," wrote licensed clinical psychologist Alan Blotcky. "Dave's psychological evaluation does not even hint at a person who is capable of abuse. It is implausible."

    Blotcky wrote that Stone is "fully capable of being a healthy and competent parent," and recommended that Stone be given visitation. Physical custody for Stone "should be a viable option in this case," he wrote.

    But Ladner noted that even if Stone were awarded visitation with his son, it's prohibited in the terms of his bond, and could be delayed pending the outcome of the criminal case.


  19. St Paul Archdiocese Charged Over Handling Of Abuse Claims

    by Amy Forliti, AP June 5, 2015

    ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Prosecutors on Friday charged the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis over its handling of clergy abuse claims, saying church leaders failed to protect children from unspeakable harm and “turned a blind eye” to repeated reports of inappropriate behavior by a priest who was later convicted of molesting two boys.

    The archdiocese as a corporation is charged with six gross misdemeanor counts. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said there’s not yet enough evidence to charge any individuals.

    The charges stem from the archdiocese’s handling of Curtis Wehmeyer, a former priest at Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for molesting two boys and faces prosecution involving a third boy in Wisconsin.

    Prosecutors say church leaders failed to respond to “numerous and repeated reports of troubling conduct” by Wehmeyer from the time he entered seminary until he was removed from the priesthood in 2015. The criminal complaint says many people — including parishioners, fellow priests and parish staff — reported issues with Wehmeyer, and many of those claims were discounted.

    “It is not only Curtis Wehmeyer who is criminally responsible for the harm caused, but it is the archdiocese as well,” Choi said. He said church leaders had the power to remove Wehmeyer from ministry, but “time and time again turned a blind eye in the name of protecting priests at the expense of protecting children.”

    Andrew Cozzens, an auxiliary bishop at the archdiocese, released a statement saying the archdiocese is cooperating with prosecutors. “We all share the same goal: To provide safe environments for all children in our churches and in our communities,” he said.

    Choi said policies church leaders held out to be best practices in monitoring and supervising wayward priests were a “sham,” and the complaint outlines numerous instances in which the criteria imposed on Wehmeyer were neither followed nor enforced. Among them, Wehmeyer didn’t receive a required background check until eight years after he was ordained.

    Each count against the archdiocese carries a maximum fine of $3,000. In addition to the criminal charges, prosecutors filed a civil petition that asks a court to order the archdiocese to stop the alleged behavior.

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  20. The archdiocese has been under fire since a former church official went public in 2013 with concerns about how local church leaders handled abuse cases. Choi said authorities began this investigation nearly two years ago.

    After he was ordained in 2001, the archdiocese received reports that Wehmeyer was often in the boys’ bathroom at St. Joseph’s, that he received a citation for loitering at a park known for male sexual encounters and that he had approached two young looking men for sex at a bookstore in 2004, according to the complaint.

    The Rev. Kevin McDonough, the former vicar general, sent Wehmeyer to treatment but limited what parishioners were told, the complaint says. McDonough did not return a message seeking comment from the AP.

    In September 2010, one priest told Bishop Lee Piche that Wehmeyer took two boys camping and was found in bed with one of them. The complaint says Piche told authorities he couldn’t remember the report from the priest.

    Piche’s assistant said he was not available for comment.

    The archdiocese didn’t report Wehmeyer to authorities until June 2012.

    The archdiocese announced a settlement last fall in a lawsuit that claimed it created a public nuisance by failing to warn parishioners about another abusive priest. The settlement includes measures to keep children safe and undisclosed financial terms.

    Criminal charges against a diocese are rare. In 2011, a grand jury indicted Bishop Robert Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri on a misdemeanor of failing to report suspected child abuse. Finn was convicted in 2012, and he resigned this April; charges against the diocese were dropped.

    The Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, settled a case in 2002 just before the state attorney general was about to present the charges to a grand jury. Bishops there, as well as in Phoenix, Arizona, and Cincinnati, Ohio, struck deals in 2002 and 2003 with prosecutors to avoid charges related to their response to abuse cases.

    The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is home to about 825,000 Catholics and encompasses nearly 190 parishes in 12 counties.


  21. Pope Francis moves to hold bishops accountable in sex abuse crisis

    by David Gibson | Religion News Service June 10, 2015

    Pope Francis has approved the first-ever system for judging, and possibly deposing, bishops who fail to protect children from abusive clerics, a major step in responding to Catholics who have been furious that guilty priests have been defrocked while bishops have largely escaped punishment.

    The five-point plan on accountability for bishops originated with the special sex abuse commission that Francis set up to deal with the ongoing crisis. After some modifications, his nine–member Council of Cardinals unanimously signed off on it this week and Francis gave his final blessing to it on Wednesday (June 10).

    “I’m really pleased the Commission proposal has been approved by the Pope,” Marie Collins of Ireland, one of two victims of sex abuse by clergy who sit on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, wrote in an email.

    “I sincerely believe this is a real step forward. I know some will be skeptical but hopefully time will tell and we will see real progress,” she said, adding: “The Commission still has a lot of work to do but this is an important first step.”

    Peter Saunders of England, the other victim on the commission, also called the new system “good news,” telling the Catholic news site Crux that “this is a positive step that clearly indicates that Pope Francis is listening to his commission.”

    Saunders’ support is especially notable because he has said that if the pope did not institute a reliable system for holding bishops’ feet to the fire he would leave the panel.

    Saunders is also currently embroiled in an ugly verbal tussle with Cardinal George Pell, the pontiff’s top financial reformer, whom Saunders has accused of being “almost sociopathic” in his handling of clergy sex abuse when Pell served as a bishop in Australia.

    The Vatican has defended Pell, a blunt-talking churchman who is expected to return to Australia to testify before a government commission investigating the church’s abuse history.

    Victims advocates in the U.S., who for years led efforts to break the clerical wall of silence on abuse, took a much more skeptical stance on the new moves.

    “Accountability necessarily involves consequences for wrongdoers. Whether a new, untested, Vatican-ruled process will mean consequences for wrongdoers remains to be seen,” said David Clohessy, director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

    “This move will give hope to some,” Clohessy said. “But hope doesn’t safeguard kids. Punishing men who endanger kids safeguards kids. That should have happened decades ago. … That’s not happening now. And that must happen — strongly and soon — if the church is to be safer.”

    A test case for the new system might be in Minnesota, after a county attorney last week filed criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The criminal charges were a first against an archdiocese, and allege that church leaders failed to protect children from molestation by a cleric.

    While the current head of the archdiocese, Archbishop John Nienstedt, was not charged, officials say he could be as the investigation proceeds. But whatever happens in that case, the record indicates that Nienstedt failed to take action against the priest as recently as 2012 — which could violate church policies.

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  22. It is hard to overstate how groundbreaking this move could be.

    “The pope’s decision to hold bishops accountable for mishandling sex abuse cases is a long-overdue and indispensable step in fighting abuse,” said the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit weekly America and a widely followed commentator on church affairs.

    Until now, Catholic bishops have only been answerable directly to the pope, who has the sole power to appoint them and also to fire them.

    But popes have been loathe to depose bishops over shielding molesters, and the process for deposing a bishop was so murky that it was often easier for the Vatican to shuttle a bishop to a ceremonial post or wait for him to retire.

    In April, Bishop Robert Finn of Missouri, who three years earlier became the first bishop convicted of failing to report a priest suspected of child abuse, was forced to resign, effectively the first bishop in the decades-long crisis who lost his job for covering up for an abuser.

    But Finn’s resignation only came after years of outrage among Catholics and, in the end, lobbying by some fellow bishops, most notably Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, a member of the pope’s personal council of nine cardinals and head of the papal sex abuse commission.

    The commission was announced in December 2013 and officially created in March 2014. Apart from O’Malley, it currently has 17 members: 10 laypeople (including six women and two survivors of sexual abuse), plus five priests and two nuns.

    O’Malley has long backed a system for judging bishops who failed to stop abusive clerics, and this new system has the hallmarks of his approach.

    The main feature of the new system will be a tribunal — effectively a church court — set up in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the powerful Vatican department that oversees orthodoxy and has also become the clearinghouse for judging priests accused of abuse.

    The new tribunal will “judge bishops with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors.” The pope is expected to name a special prosecutor and a staff for the tribunal in the coming months, perhaps before he arrives in late September for his first trip to the U.S., which has been ground zero in the clergy sex abuse crisis.

    Several gray areas remain: For example, the new protocols do not say who is responsible for reporting bishops to the Vatican, and how such complaints will be filed and handled.

    Still, Vatican observers say Francis has set up the new system quickly, given the glacial pace at which the Roman Curia usually operates. And he seems to want to go around many of the usual bureaucratic and canonical roadblocks to establish a relatively simple and independent tribunal.


  23. Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt resigns after charges over abuse scandal

    by David Gibson | Religion News Service June 15, 2015

    The Vatican on Monday (June 15) launched a major housecleaning of the scandal-plagued Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accepting the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt along with that of a top Nienstedt aide, Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche.

    The moves come a little over a week after authorities charged the archdiocese for failing to protect children from an abusive priest and days after Pope Francis unveiled the first-ever system for disciplining bishops who do not act against predator clerics.

    A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters he did not know whether Nienstedt and Piche would be subject to further canonical investigation under the new process. “The situation is too complex to make a prediction on this yet,” he said, according to the Catholic news site Crux.

    In April, Bishop Robert Finn of Missouri, who three years earlier became the first bishop convicted of failing to report a priest suspected of child abuse, was forced to resign, effectively the first bishop in the decades-long crisis that the Vatican pushed out for covering up for an abuser.

    Also Monday, in an unprecedented move, the Vatican announced that its onetime ambassador to the Dominican Republic, the former Polish archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, would stand trial in the Vatican on charges he paid for sex with children.

    Observers say these latest moves seem to signal an unprecedented effort by Rome to hold bishops accountable in the abuse crisis.

    “I think this is a great tribute to Pope Francis,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, one of the pontiff’s top allies in the U.S. hierarchy, said when asked about Nienstedt’s resignation.

    Wuerl was speaking at a conference bringing together bishops and labor leaders at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington to talk about the economy.

    Wuerl said that while the Catholic Church has done a good job of addressing the problem of abusive priests, “What the pope has done is assure this also includes those responsible for supervision.”

    For his part, Nienstedt did not voice any regrets.

    In a statement, the archbishop said he was stepping down “to give the Archdiocese a new beginning amidst the many challenges we face,” adding: “I leave with a clear conscience.”

    Piche said he resigned because the archdiocese needs “healing and hope” and he said “I was getting in the way of that.” He said he made his decision “willingly, after consultation with others in and outside the Archdiocese.”

    Almost from the time he took over in the Twin Cities in 2008, Nienstedt, 68, became a polarizing figure as an outspoken conservative, especially with his focus against gay rights and same-sex marriage.

    continued below

  24. But in the past few years questions about his alleged failures to take a hard line on abusive clerics, especially a former priest now in prison, Curtis Wehmeyer, have made him a target of criticism from all sides.

    Persistent questions about Nienstedt’s own personal conduct also became an issue; last year Nienstedt gave Piche, 57, the job of investigating allegations of misconduct against him, one of two separate probes of Nienstedt’s personal behavior.

    In charging the archdiocese earlier this month, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said prosecutors were alleging “a disturbing institutional and systemic pattern of behavior” over the course of decades at the highest levels of leadership in the archdiocese.

    Nienstedt was not personally charged, but authorities said the investigation was continuing and further charges could be filed.

    Francis appointed Archbishop Bernard Hebda as the interim leader in Minneapolis-St. Paul until a permanent replacement is found. Hebda is currently in New Jersey preparing to take over the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., next year when Archbishop John Myers is expected to retire.

    A brief note from the Vatican provided no details on Nienstedt’s resignation. It said only that he resigned under the provision of canon law that states that a bishop “who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”

    Victims advocates who have long pushed for Nienstedt’s removal — and who have greeted Francis’ “get tough” policies with skepticism — were not impressed with Monday’s moves.

    “It’s only a very tiny drop of reform in an enormous bucket of horror,” said Frank Meuers, a Minnesota leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, a national clergy victim advocates group.

    “Neinstedt’s departure will, in the short term, make some adults happier,” he said. “By itself, it won’t, in the long term, make many kids safer.”

    Nienstedt’s exit could also be another blow to church conservatives who already felt the winds shifting against them under Francis’ papacy.

    Like Finn in Missouri, Nienstedt has been a champion of their culture war focus, and Nienstedt and his defenders argued his outspokenness had made him a target.

    “As one conservative bishop after another is summarily removed over allegations of mishandling accusations of sexual abuse against other priests, we await the day when liberal bishops and cardinals who are guilty of equal if not greater offenses would experience the same treatment,” wrote a blogger at the conservative church website Rorate Caeli.

    “Nienstedt’s sin is that he is an orthodox Catholic,” William Donohue of the Catholic League wrote Monday in defense of Nienstedt. “He is a good man who was unfairly treated.”

    (Mark Silk contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.)


  25. Catholic church in Scotland asks forgiveness from child abuse victims

    Archbishop Philip Tartaglia pledges to make reparations and change practices after independent report accuses bishops of covering up crimes for decades

    Severin Carrell, Scotland editor The Guardian August 18, 2015

    The Scottish Catholic church has offered a “profound apology” to victims of child abuse and the church’s failure to investigate and punish the culprits, after a damning independent report into its conduct.

    Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, the official head of the Scottish church, told a congregation in Glasgow on Tuesday that their bishops were “shamed and pained” by the abuse suffered by children and adults over recent decades. “We say sorry. We ask forgiveness.”

    After pledging to act on an independent inquiry commissioned by the church, which accused its bishops of covering up the crimes for decades, Tartaglia said: “Child abuse is a horrific crime. That this abuse should have been carried out within the church, and by priests and religious [orders], takes that abuse to another level.

    “Such actions are inexcusable and intolerable. The harm the perpetrators of abuse have caused is first and foremost to their victims, but it extends far beyond them, to their families and friends, as well as to the church and wider society.”

    A commission chaired by Andrew McLellan, a former prisons inspector, had told the church that an apology for the abuse and comprehensive action by the church to make reparations and overhaul its procedures was essential for the future of Catholicism in Scotland.

    McLellan said the particular case “which stuck with me” involved one woman repeatedly locked in a darkened room as a child by a nun who was her carer. “The same nun sexually abused me. I told the priest in confession, the priest told the nun and together they raped me,” she said. “I was still only eight years old.”

    “This report gives the Catholic church a chance, an unrepeatable chance, to make things better. If this opportunity isn’t taken, survivors will know that there’s no hope left for them in the Catholic church in Scotland,” McLellan said on Tuesday, after highlighting repeated recent pledges of action by successive popes and senior Scottish bishops.

    “If this opportunity isn’t taken, many Catholics who are longing for a new beginning will feel betrayed by the church. If this opportunity isn’t taken, the public credibility of the Catholic church in Scotland will be destroyed.”

    continued below

  26. The McLellan inquiry was set up by Scotland’s bishops in November 2013 after a string of highly damaging historical abuse scandals came to light, including repeated child abuse by paedophile priests, which was often covered up or ignored, systematic abuse by staff at Fort Augustus Catholic boarding school, and the admissions of sexual misconduct against adult priests by Cardinal Keith O’Brien, then the UK’s most senior Catholic.

    The church’s own investigations in 2013 disclosed that there were also 46 live allegations of abuse against priests made between 2006 and 2012, leading to seven prosecutions.

    In 2013, there were another 15 allegations made, six of which were historical. Three priests were removed from roles involving the public, and two cases are with Scottish prosecutors, with prosecutors also studying allegations of abuse by nine men at Fort Augustus between 1967 and 1992.

    The inquiry by McLellan, a former moderator of the Church of Scotland, the country’s largest Protestant church, was not set up to investigate specific cases or allegations.

    The Scottish church has its own parallel historical abuse inquiry under way, which is expected to detail the true extent of abuse within the church. But McLellan said numerous cases in Scotland were brought to the commission’s attention.

    However, the 12-member commission, which included two bishops, the former judge and Lord Advocate, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, and the broadcaster Sheena McDonald, failed to make any specific recommendations on overseeing and policing its cardinals.

    One of the central complaints in the Keith O’Brien affair – the biggest crisis to hit the Scottish church in modern history – by his adult victims was that they felt powerless and unable to complain because he was cardinal.

    The only person in the Catholic church worldwide able to sanction him was the pope, which will remain the case in any future scandal involving a cardinal.

    McLellan said some general recommendations on tackling a deeply rooted culture of secrecy in the church were relevant to the O’Brien scandal but he said he could not tackle the question of a cardinal’s impunity from local control because the Scottish church itself did not have any power to sanction its most senior cleric.

    “There was nothing that the bishops themselves could do to exercise any authority over the cardinal,” he told the Guardian. But he added that the cloud of secrecy still surrounding the O’Brien affair also prevented the commission from offering firm judgments about solving that problem.

    “I believe few Catholics in Scotland themselves know what has happened,” he said. “It would be rash for me to make any recommendations based on hearsay rather than evidence.”

    continued below

  27. Even so the commission stated that the church’s failure to control Fort Augustus boarding school because it was seen as independent had to be addressed. In a statement unveiling his report, McLellan said: “It has been a slow and complicated business to determine who is responsible for what in dealing with the scandal at Fort Augustus.

    “These structural difficulties mean nothing to survivors and nothing to the public. What the survivors need, and what the public expect, is that the church as a whole will take responsibility for what has happened and what must happen and refuse to take refuge in quibbles about authority,” he said.

    The commission found numerous flaws in the church’s current procedures, including failing to impose the same rules and standards on all dioceses; a failure to involve victims of abuse in drafting its central policy document on safeguarding; ignoring widely accepted United Nations definitions of abuse and audit processes that did not give comparative figures or guidance on sanctions.

    Among its eight headline recommendations and numerous subsidiary recommendations, the commission unanimously said:

    The Scottish church had to make support for victims of abuse “an absolute priority”, including a full public apology.

    The church should set up a fund to pay for counselling for abuse victims.

    The church had to stop pretending that different dioceses and religious orders were autonomous when it came to upholding its rules on abuse.

    The duty of bishops in protecting and helping victims needed to be explicitly set out in the church’s guidelines on “awareness and safety”.

    The church needed independent, external scrutiny of its safeguarding policies and their effectiveness to end the practice of the church policing itself.

    The church had to be far more rigorous in making sure all its priests and staff had the correct training in preventing abuse and safeguarding.

    Bishops and priests had to stop appearing to blame victims for their abuse.

    The report stated: “Justice must be done, and justice must be seen to be done, for those who have been abused and for those against whom allegations of abuse are made.”

    It added: “There are clearly parishes in which commitment to safeguarding is still resisted because of complacency and lack of interest.”

    McLellan said three things had to happen. “First, and most important, a beginning will be made to heal the hurt and address the anger which survivors feel,” he said.

    “Second, the Catholic church in Scotland will confront a dark part of its past and find some healing for itself. Third, a significant step will be taken in restoring public credibility for the Catholic church.”


  28. Roman Catholic Church in Scotland issues apology for child abuse

    BBC News August 18, 2015

    The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has issued a "profound apology" to victims of child abuse.

    Archbishop Philip Tartaglia said Scottish bishops were "shamed and pained" by the suffering of those who had been harmed.

    His apology followed the publication of a report from the McLellan Commission, which was set up to investigate abuse.


    It called on the church to make an "unmistakeable and unequivocal" apology and "heal the hurt" of victims.

    In response, Archbishop Tartaglia said: "As the president of the Bishops' Conference, and on behalf of all the bishops of Scotland, I want to offer a profound apology to all those who have been harmed and who have suffered in any way as a result of actions by anyone within the Catholic Church.

    "Child abuse is a horrific crime. That this abuse should have been carried out within the church, and by priests and religious, takes that abuse to another level.

    "Such actions are inexcusable and intolerable. The harm the perpetrators of abuse have caused is first and foremost to their victims, but it extends far beyond them, to their families and friends, as well as to the church and wider society."

    'Ask forgiveness'

    He told survivors that the Catholic Bishops of Scotland were "shamed and pained by what you have suffered".

    And he added: "We say sorry. We ask forgiveness.

    "We apologise to those who have found the church's response slow, unsympathetic or uncaring and reach out to them as we take up the recommendations of the McLellan Commission."

    The church asked Dr Andrew McLellan to lead a review of how it handles allegations of abuse following a series of scandals.

    It took evidence from victims in a bid to improve support services and protect vulnerable children and adults.

    Dr McLellan, a former moderator of the Church of Scotland, was tasked with coming up with proposals aimed at making the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland "a safe place for all".

    The 11 review commissioners, who include a senior police officer, a journalist and an MP, were tasked with assessing the quality of support available to survivors.

    'Absolute priority'

    It was not within the scope of the commission to investigate or adjudicate on current or historical allegations.

    The commission made eight recommendations, including calling for support for survivors of abuse to be an "absolute priority".

    It also said justice must be done for those who have been abused.

    continued below

  29. The report also recommended that the church's safeguarding policies and practices be completely rewritten and subject to external scrutiny.

    It called for a consistent approach to dealing with allegations across Scotland and improved training for those in the church.

    Mr McLellan said: "The Bishops' Conference of Scotland should make a public apology to all survivors of abuse within the church.

    "An apology must be made in a way that is unmistakeable and unequivocal."

    'Heal the hurt'

    He added: "The Bishops have said from the outset that they will accept our recommendations.

    "That means that three things will happen.

    "First and most important a beginning will be made to heal the hurt and address the anger which so many survivors feel.

    "Second, the Catholic Church in Scotland will begin to confront a dark part of its past and find some healing for itself.

    "Third, a significant step will be taken in restoring public credibility for the Catholic Church."

    Archbishop Tartaglia confirmed that the bishops had agreed to accept the recommendations in full.

    Annual audits

    Alan Draper, a parliamentary liaison officer for INCAS, which supports survivors of in-care abuse, told BBC Radio Scotland's John Beattie programme: "What the report does in devastating fashion is basically say what the Catholic Church has been doing is absolutely dire.

    "There has been a lack of support to victims.

    Mr Draper added: "There is a lack of consistency. Justice has not been done, justice has been denied.

    "It is an absolute catalogue of failing."

    "What survivors are looking for is not particularly reparation, although that is part of it, but repairing the damage," he added.

    Andy Lavery is an abuse survivor who represents White Flower Alba, a survivor's advocacy group.

    He told BBC Radio Scotland: "An apology does not cut any ice with me, it does not cut any ice with the families of all the lads I went to school with, or never even knew at school, who committed suicide through the trauma of their endurance at that awful school and that is just one Catholic school.

    "I find the summary repugnant to me as a survivor. It does not cut any ice and I just totally disavow it."

    The review was announced following a series of scandals.

    The Church faced allegations of abuse at the former Catholic boarding school at Fort Augustus Abbey in the Highlands.

    The former leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, stepped down in February 2013 after admitting sexual misconduct.

    The church said it would make public annual audits of all allegations received by the church.

    It has published details of allegations dating from 2006 to 2012 and then for 2013.

    The church also said it would instigate a retrospective investigation of historic allegations, dating back to 1947 - with work continuing on that.

    It said any allegations uncovered as part of this, which had not been acted upon, would be passed to police for them to investigate.


  30. Child sex abuse inquiry: Victims angry as health issues see Cardinal Pell delay giving evidence

    By Stephanie Chalkley-Rhoden and staff, ABC Online December 11, 2015

    Victims of child sex abuse and their families are angry at Cardinal George Pell's delay in giving evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

    Cardinal Pell's long-awaited appearance at the inquiry has been delayed after his lawyers said he was suffering from a heart condition which made him too sick to travel to Australia.

    Allan Myers QC applied for Cardinal Pell, who is based in Rome, to give his testimony via video link instead, a request which was denied by the inquiry's chair, Justice Peter McClellan.

    Justice McClellan said he would call Cardinal Pell to give evidence before the inquiry in Ballarat, a diocese that has been described by victims as being a "centre of sex crimes against children", in February.

    "It is preferable that his evidence be given in person in Australia," Justice McClellan said.

    "The commission had already determined to sit in Ballarat to take further evidence in relation to the Ballarat matter, that having been listed for February of next year.

    "In the hope that the Cardinal's health will improve, rather than take video evidence this week we will defer his evidence to the Ballarat sitting.

    "If the Cardinal's health has not sufficiently improved by then to enable him to travel we will further consider the position, which may include further delaying his evidence to a date when he can travel safely to Australia."

    He also noted there were technical difficulties when Cardinal Pell appeared via video link from Rome last year.
    Justice McClellan's comments were met by a round of applause from the audience at the hearing.

    "Cardinal Pell deeply regrets this, and has been preparing himself for this journey for some time, but the circumstances in which he finds himself are the circumstances that exist now," Mr Myers told the commission.

    "He doesn't wish to delay the hearing of his evidence before the commission, he wishes it to be received in the ordinary course that's been organised by the commission."

    A statement from Cardinal Pell's office said the 74-year-old, who is Australia's most senior Catholic, suffered from a heart condition and had been advised by a cardiologist that it was not safe to undertake long-haul flights.

    Survivor 'furious' at no-show

    Abuse victim David Ridsdale said he was "furious" Cardinal Pell would not be giving evidence next week.

    Mr Ridsdale suffered years of abuse at the hands of his uncle, notorious convicted paedophile Gerald Ridsdale.

    continued below

  31. He told the commission in May that Cardinal Pell tried to bribe him to stay quiet about the abuse, a claim which Cardinal Pell denied.

    "It's fairly simple, he needs to come and answer some questions. It's not that difficult," Mr Ridsdale said.

    "If I can make the flight and I was only premium economy, not first class like he was ... I would implore Cardinal Pell to come and face the music like all of us men have had to do for all these years."

    "I'm not disappointed, I'm furious. But having him come to Ballarat may not be the result he was expecting, so I'm pleased the commission responded as they did."

    Anthony Foster, whose daughter Emma was serially abused by a priest while in primary school, said Cardinal Pell's absence did not come as a complete surprise.

    "We're shocked, disappointed, [but], in a strange way, not surprised," he said.

    "This is a very, very late call for a supposedly serious ailment. I find that unlikely."

    Cardinal Pell was an assistant priest in Ballarat East from 1973 to 1983. The diocese has been described by victims as being a "centre of sex crimes against children".

    He later set up the Melbourne Response to handle abuse complaints when he became Melbourne Archbishop in 1996, before becoming the Archbishop of Sydney.

    He now oversees the Vatican's finances.

    Cardinal Pell has previously acknowledged his mistakes and apologised for the Catholic Church's handling of sexual abuse cases.

    Ballarat victims have long called on Pell to give his evidence in the regional city.

    'Unsafe' for Pell to fly long haul

    A statement from Cardinal Pell's office issued later on Friday said while some may question his decision to stay in Rome, it would be "unwise for him not to heed medical advice".

    The statement said:

    The Cardinal had booked his travel back to Melbourne and until the middle of this week was determined to return to give evidence in person.

    The Cardinal has suffered from a heart condition for some time but his symptoms have recently worsened, with a specialist cardiologist in Rome advising only a few days ago that it is not safe for him to undertake long haul flights in his current condition.

    Cardinal Pell strongly supports the work of the royal commission and wanted to keep his commitment to give evidence from 16 December.

    It said his health would continued to be monitored.

    Cardinal Pell was called to appear by the commission in June.

    "I want to make it absolutely clear that I am willing to give evidence should the commission request this, be it by statement, appearance by video link, or by attending personally," he said in a statement at the time.

    The commission has previously heard harrowing evidence about allegations of child abuse at the hands of priests, involving dozens of victims, particularly in the Ballarat area, in Victoria's west.

    It was also revealed a number of senior clergy did not act when told of abuse, and many dismissed allegations made by victims at the time.


  32. Sex abuse victim allegedly sidelined by papal panel

    by Rosie Scammell | Religion News Service February 6, 2016

    ROME (RNS) One of the two victims of clerical sexual abuse serving on a Vatican commission set up by Pope Francis has apparently been sidelined.

    The Holy See on Saturday (Feb. 6) said Peter Saunders, a British Catholic who was abused by Jesuit priests as teenager, is taking a “leave of absence” from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

    Its head, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, said Saunders had been asked to consider establishing a victim survivor panel to work with the advisory body.

    Saunders disputes that he is on leave, and takes issue with the Vatican’s view of his service on the commission. At a press conference in Rome, he said he wanted to reflect on his role on the 17-member panel.

    “I have not left and I will not leave my position on the commission,” he said. “I was appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis and I will only talk to him about my position.”

    Saunders, founder of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood in Britain, is one of two victims to sit on the advisory body, set up by the pontiff in 2014. The other is Marie Collins, who was raped by a priest as a girl in Ireland.

    Saunders said there was a vote of no-confidence in him backed by all but one member of the commission present at the seven-day meeting, which ends Monday. He said they were unhappy with his outspokenness on pedophilia in the church.

    “A number of members of the commission expressed their concern that I don’t tow the line when it comes to keeping my mouth shut,” Saunders said. “I made clear I would never be part of something that was a public relations exercise.”

    One panel member said Saunders had a different understanding of its purpose, arguing that it should set up policies to protect children rather than advocate for individual cases. “We are deeply dedicated to the protection of children,” the member told RNS, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It’s not a public relations exercise.”

    It is unclear whether Saunders will show up at Sunday’s meeting. He had invited Juan Carlos Cruz, a Chilean sex abuse victim, to discuss his case with the panel.

    Cruz was abused by convicted pedophile Fernando Karadima, a mentor of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno in Chile, appointed by Francis last year. Barros has denied allegations that he covered up abuse by Karadima and rejected calls for his resignation.

    Speaking alongside Saunders, Cruz called the commission a “disgrace.”

    “They’re trying to say that child abuse is behind us and now it’s recovery time. It’s in no way the case,” he said, describing the church in the southern hemisphere as “a playground for pedophiles.”

    Cruz said he was hoping to deliver letters from clergy and others in Chile to the pope, urging him to remove Barros from his position.


  33. Catholic bishops not obliged to report clerical child abuse Vatican says

    Vatican guide says ‘not necessarily’ bishop’s duty to report suspects to police despite Pope Francis’s vows to redress Catholic church’s legacy of child abuse

    by Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome, The Guardian February 10, 2016

    The Catholic church is telling newly appointed bishops that it is “not necessarily” their duty to report accusations of clerical child abuse and that only victims or their families should make the decision to report abuse to police.

    A document that spells out how senior clergy members ought to deal with allegations of abuse, which was recently released by the Vatican, emphasised that, though they must be aware of local laws, bishops’ only duty was to address such allegations internally.

    “According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds,” the training document states.

    The training guidelines were written by a controversial French monsignor and psychotherapist, Tony Anatrella, who serves as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Vatican released the guidelines – which are part of a broader training programme for newly named bishops – at a press conference earlier this month and is now seeking feedback.

    Details of the Catholic church’s policy were first reported in a column by a veteran Vatican journalist, John Allen, associate editor of the Catholic news site, Cruxnow.com.

    Allen noted that a special commission created by Pope Francis, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, had appeared to play no role in the training programme, even though it is supposed to be developing “best practices” to prevent and deal with clerical abuse.

    Indeed, a church official familiar with the commission on abuse said it was the committee’s position that reporting abuse to civil authorities was a “moral obligation, whether the civil law requires it or not”. The official said the committee would be involved in future training efforts.

    The current guidelines written by Anatrella make only passing references to prevention policies. The French monsignor is best known for championing views on “gender theory”, the controversial belief that increasing acceptance of homosexuality in western countries is creating “serious problems” for children who are being exposed to “radical notions of sexual orientation”. He did not return a request for comment.

    continued below

  34. The guidelines reflect Anatrellas views on homosexuality. They also downplay the seriousness of the Catholic church’s legacy of systemic child abuse, which some victims’ right groups say continues to be a problem today.

    While acknowledging that “the church has been particularly affected by sexual crimes committed against children”, the training guide emphasises statistics that show the vast majority of sexual assaults against children are committed within the family and by friends and neighbours, not other authority figures.

    The training course began in 2001 and has been taken by about 30% of Catholic prelates. The guidelines on child abuse was presented to new bishops last September in the annual training course organised by the Congregation for Bishops, Allen noted.

    Pope Francis has called for the church to exhibit “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults by clergy and that “everything possible must be done to rid the church of the scourge of the sexual abuse”.

    He said in a 2012 interview – when he was still a cardinal – that he was once called by a bishop asking him for advice on how to deal with an allegation of sex abuse. Cardinal Bergoglio – as he was then known – allegedly told the bishop to take away the priests’ licences and begin a canonical trial that would deal with the matter internally.

    SNAP, a US-based advocacy group for abuse victims that has been very critical of Pope Francis on the issue, said the news outlined in John Allen’s Crux article proved that the church had not substantially changed.

    “It’s infuriating, and dangerous, that so many believe the myth that bishops are changing how they deal with abuse and that so little attention is paid when evidence to the contrary – like this disclosure by Allen – emerges,” the group said in a statement.

    The news comes just days after the abuse commission forced one of two abuse survivors who had personally been appointed by Pope Francis to leave the committee following a vote of no confidence. Peter Saunders, a British abuse survivor and vocal critic of the church’s alleged lack of action on abuse, said he was blind-sided by the vote.

    According to a recent press release over the weekend that did not mention Saunders’s removal, the committee has been busy finalising proposals for Pope Francis’s consideration, including whether the pope ought to remind all church authorities of the importance of responding directly to victims who approach them, and the finalisation of a day of prayer for victims. It is also developing a website to share best practices for children all around the world.

    The Vatican declined to comment.


  35. Papal commission says Bishops must report sex abuse charges

    Crux, February 15, 2016

    A commission created by Pope Francis to advise him in the fight against child sexual abuse has reiterated that Catholic bishops have “a moral and ethical responsibility” to report suspected abuse to civil authorities.

    The statement comes amid controversy over a Vatican training course for new Catholic bishops around the world held in September 2015, in which French Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a psychologist known for his views on homosexuality and “gender theory,” told bishops they had no obligation to report abuse charges to law enforcement.

    Anatrella argued that the decision to report should be up to victims and their families, and that while bishops have the right to inform police and other public authorities, they are not required to do so under Church law.

    However, in a strongly worded statement Monday, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, a body created by Pope Francis in 2014 and led by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, insisted that Catholic officials should make such reports.

    The commission includes a cross-section of the Church’s leading experts on the detection and prevention of child sexual abuse, including an Irish abuse survivor.

    “As Pope Francis has so clearly stated, ‘The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must not be kept secret for any longer. I pledge the zealous vigilance of the Church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all’,” the statement said.

    “We, the president and the members of the commission, wish to affirm that our obligations under civil law must certainly be followed, but even beyond these civil requirements, we all have a moral and ethical responsibility to report suspected abuse to the civil authorities who are charged with protecting our society.”

    The statement, issued in O’Malley’s name, said the requirement to report is already communicated to new bishops in the United States.

    “Our bishops’ charter clearly states the obligation that all dioceses [and] eparchies and personnel report suspected abuse to the public authorities,” it says.

    “Every year at our November meeting, at a training session for new bishops, this obligation is reaffirmed, and every other February the conference runs a second training program for new bishops which also clearly and explicitly includes this obligation.”

    Anatrella’s presentation to a training course organized by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops was first reported on Crux by associate editor John Allen, who argued that the pope’s commission should be given responsibility for sharing “best practices” for the prevention of sexual abuse with new bishops.

    In Monday’s statement, the commission indicated it’s ready and willing to perform that role.

    “As the Holy Father’s advisory commission for the protection of minors, we recently shared with Pope Francis an overview of the commission’s extensive education efforts in local churches over the past two years,” the statement said.

    Its update for the pope also “reiterated the members’ willingness to provide this material at courses offered in Rome, including to the annual training program for new bishops and to the offices of the Roman Curia for their use in their own child protection efforts.”


  36. Pennsylvania grand jury finds widespread sex abuse by priests

    Reuters | March 2, 2016

    HARRISBURG, Pa. — Hundreds of children in western Pennsylvania were sexually assaulted by about 50 Roman Catholic priests over four decades while bishops covered up their actions, according to a state grand jury report released on Tuesday.

    The report found that former Bishop James Hogan, who died in 2005, and his successor, Joseph Adamec, who retired in 2011, worked to cover pedophile priests’ tracks and that some local law enforcement agencies also avoided investigating abuse allegations, said state Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

    “The heinous crimes these children endured are absolutely unconscionable,” Kane told reporters in unveiling the report, based on a two-year investigation. “These predators desecrated a sacred trust and preyed upon their victims in the very places where they should have felt most safe.”

    Revelations that some priests had habitually sexually abused children and that bishops had systematically covered up those crimes burst onto the world stage in 2002 when The Boston Globe reported widespread abuse in the Boston Archdiocese.

    That report, which won a Pulitzer Prize and was the subject of last year’s Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight,” set off a global wave of investigations that found similar patterns at dioceses around the world. They led to hefty lawsuits and seriously undermined the church’s moral authority.

    No criminal charges will be filed because the alleged incidents are too old to be prosecuted, Kane said.

    Advocates for victims of sex assault have long urged lawmakers to give prosecutors more time to bring charges of sex assaults of minors, noting that particularly in the case of assaults by members of the clergy, victims can take years to come forward.

    The report contains explicit details of scores of attacks, naming perpetrators, many of whom have since died. Many of the surviving priests were still serving parishes at the time the investigation began, Kane said, but all have since been removed by the current bishop.

    “This is a painful and difficult time,” current Altoona-Johnstown Bishop Mark Bartchak said in a statement. “I deeply regret any harm that has come to children.”

    “We’re saddened but not the least bit surprised,” said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “It proves what we’ve long maintained: that even now, under the guise of ‘reform,’ bishops continue to deceive parishioners and the public about their ongoing efforts to hide abuse.”

    Adamec, the retired bishop, did not respond to a request for comment.

    (Reporting by David DeKok)


  37. Top French Cardinal Hid Scouts Pedophile Scandal

    One of France's most prominent cardinals knew about a pedophile priest abusing young Catholic Scouts—and now the alleged cover-up will be tried in secular courts.

    by Barbie Latza Nadeau, The Daily Beast March 12, 2016

    ROME — For all those who say that the Catholic Church is doing all it can on clerical child sex abuse—namely the Vatican press office—there is yet another reason to doubt those lofty words. Meet the Archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who has denied he did anything wrong by hiding the well-known fact that Father Bernard Preynat was sexually abusing as many as 40 Catholic Scouts in France in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

    Preynat was relieved of his duties in the parish of Roanne in 2015 after admitting to the sex abuse. He was indicted on Jan. 27 on charges of “sexual abuse and rape of minors” and has admitted his crimes to the police.

    The 45 Scout victims who lodged the complaint that led to Preynat’s arrest share horrifically similar stories of abuse. “He would say ‘tell me you love me’. And then he would say ‘you're my little boy,’ ‘it’s our secret, you mustn’t tell anyone,’” one of Preynat’s victims said, according to criminal trial reports.

    A victim named Pierre-Emmanuel Germain-Thill described to Euronews how the priest preyed on the young boys. “What shocked me the most was when he tried to put his tongue in my mouth. He stroked my genitals, I couldn’t avoid it,” Germain-Thill said, according to press reports.

    “I wanted to run away, and at the same time, I didn’t know what to do, I was afraid that if I left that room, nobody would believe me.”

    Another victim, Bertrand Virieux, told Euronews, “I remember the smell of sweat, I remember contact with clothes. I remember his wandering hands under my shirt, which held me tightly against him.”

    Meanwhile, Cardinal Barbarin is facing criminal charges by a French secular court for “failing to report a crime” and “endangering the life of others,” which could carry a three-year prison sentence and fines up to €45,000. He maintains that he shouldn’t be accused at all because he eventually removed Preynat from parish work.

    Never mind that the removal came nearly 15 years after his crimes were made known. After victims and their families came forward in 1991, Preynat was removed him from parish duties for six months by the then-archbishop, who is now deceased. Yet despite having confessed to the crimes, Preynat was allowed to return to his active duties after he repented, meaning he had access to children despite admitting to being a pedophilic sex offender.

    When Barbarin was appointed as archbishop, he even promoted the errant priest to an administrative position in 2007 where he was in charge of six dioceses filled with children, according to court documents quoted in the French press.

    Barbarin, who is well liked in France despite his harsh stance against gay marriage (which he once predicted would pave the way to legalized incest), removed Preynat from the priesthood last August when secular authorities got involved—25 years after his crimes had first emerged.

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  38. The cardinal is now arguing that he should not be criminally charged because he was not archbishop at the time of Preynat’s crimes, and that he did eventually remove the priest from active duty. But it is not enough to remove an errant priest from a parish or even defrock him, argue victims groups. David Clohessy, head of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), says any child sex-abuse offender should be turned over to secular authorities immediately and should be remanded in prison whether they wear a clerical collar or not.

    “Hundreds of bishops have been publicly exposed as having protected predators, endangered kids, deceiving parishioners, misleading police, destroying evidence, intimidating victims, threatening whistleblowers, and discrediting witnesses and suffer no consequences,” Clohessy told The Daily Beast.

    The Vatican has always rightly maintained that pedophiles are not restricted to the priesthood. But the difference has always been that abusers in every other sector, from education to medicine, almost always immediately face secular court justice. There are no other professional institutions that systematically hide predators from authorities to the same extent the Catholic Church does.
    As the Oscar-winning film Spotlight showed, the complicity of not only the clerics but often the entire community—under pressure from the powerful Catholic churches that support community activities and run schools—is why the cycle is still so hard to break, despite the Vatican’s efforts.

    That’s why when cases like Barbarin’s make it to the secular court, they underscore just how rare that action is. And that’s why when Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held Cardinal George Pell’s feet to the fire several weeks ago—for his alleged oversight of abuse in that country—victims were angry that it took so long to happen.

    After Spotlight’s Oscar win, the Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi came out with guns blazing.

    “The depositions of Cardinal Pell before the Royal Commission as part of its inquiry carried out by live connection between Australia and Rome, and the contemporary presentation of the Oscar award for best film to Spotlight, on the role of the Boston Globe in denouncing the cover-up of crimes by numerous pedophile priests in Boston (especially during the years 1960 to 1980) have been accompanied by a new wave of attention from the media and public opinion on the dramatic issue of sexual abuse of minors, especially by members of the clergy,” he said in a statement.

    “The sensationalist presentation of these two events has ensured that, for a significant part of the public, especially those who are least informed or have a short memory, it is thought that the Church has done nothing, or very little, to respond to these terrible problems, and that it is necessary to start anew. Objective consideration shows that this is not the case.”

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  39. Lombardi went on to outline the various commissions and extensive work Francis and his two predecessors have accomplished, including meetings with survivors and the formation of guidelines and recommendations for clergy. But there was no mention of how the Church regularly reports its abusers to the secular justice system—primarily because it doesn’t. And there was little mention of the secular world at all beyond two references to “legal” procedures—one in Ireland and the other in Australia.

    He also pointed to the Vatican’s new tribunal to try those accused of or affiliated with the cover-up of rampant sex abuse, along with an advisory committee on sex abuse, headed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston who replaced Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in shame in 2002 and whose blatant disregard for victims of sex abuse made him the central figure of Spotlight.

    But as the Associated Press pointed out last week, the Vatican’s recent efforts are “going nowhere fast.” Josef Wesolowski, the 67-year-old former papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic, who was the only person ever slated to face the tribunal, died suddenly in Vatican City before his trial began.

    What’s most troubling in Barbarin’s case is that Pope Francis made promises last September during his American trip that he would see to it that any bishops who were involved in the cover-up would be forced to resign. “You must not cover up, and even those who covered up these things are guilty,” Francis told reporters on his plane back to Rome.

    So why is Barbarin not being forced out? Preynat’s lawyer, Federic Doyez, told the French judge that Barbarin knew about the abuse. “The facts had been known by the church authorities since 1991,” he said.

    An unidentified source close to Barbarin told the AFP that Francis was surely talking about someone else. “This comment does not in any way target Cardinal Barbarin who quite rightly suspended Father Preynat after meeting a first victim and taking advice from Rome, and this, even before a first official complaint was made.”

    Victims groups will be watching the events closely to see if French justice will set a precedent for other countries. “The pope’s refusal to honor this promise is yet another reminder that keeping kids safe in the Catholic Church is a burden that increasingly falls on brave victims, secular authorities and church members—especially whistleblowers,” says Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s outreach director.

    On the third anniversary of Pope Francis’s historic election, March 13, many will be praising the success and popularity of the pontiff. But three years into the job, it remains certain that the pope’s promise to do something about the continuing clerical abuse and cover-up leaves little to celebrate.


  40. Pope Francis reveals new church law to deal with paedophile priests

    Chris Johnston and Rosie Scammell, The Guardian June 4, 2016

    Catholic bishops who fail to sack paedophile priests can be removed from office under new church laws announced by Pope Francis.

    The move, announced by the pope on Saturday, answers a long-running demand by victims of abuse to make bishops responsible if they fail to stop clergy sexually abusing parishioners.

    Many have long accused bishops of simply moving priests accused of abuse to another parish, rather than report them to police or church authorities.

    While acknowledging that church laws already allowed for a bishop to be removed for negligence, Francis said he wanted the “grave reasons” more precisely defined. However, doubts remain about the Vatican’s commitment to tackling the issue.

    The move comes shortly after the pontiff moved to defend a French cardinal accused of covering up abuse. Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, is facing criticism for his handling of allegations made against Bernard Preynat, a priest in the diocese who has been charged with sexually abusing boys.

    Investigators have not yet decided whether to bring charges against Barbarin, who travelled to the Vatican on 20 May for a private meeting with Francis and has denied any wrongdoing. The pope has said it would be “imprudent” to call for the cardinal’s resignation while the case continued, arguing if he did so it “would amount to an admission of guilt”.

    “Based on the information that I have, I believe that Cardinal Barbarin in Lyon took the necessary measures and that he has matters under control. He is courageous, creative, a missionary. We now need to await the outcome of the civil judicial proceedings,” Francis told Catholic newspaper La Croix last month.

    Closer to home, the pope faces a key test next week in choosing whether to hold onto his financial chief, Cardinal George Pell, who has been accused of covering up historical abuse in Australia. Pell appeared in February before the country’s royal commission into institutional responses to abuse, during which he denied knowledge of priests abusing children as he rose through the ranks of the Catholic church.

    The cardinal was appointed head of the secretariat for the economy in 2014 and reaches the official retirement age of 75 on Wednesday. While the date marks an opportunity for Francis to appoint a successor, the pope is expected to reject Pell’s customary resignation and request he continue as the Vatican’s financial tsar.

    Juan Barros was appointed a bishop in Chile in March 2015. He had been accused of ignoring reports of abuse by Father Fernando Karadima, a Chilean priest who was found guilty of molestation by the Vatican in 2011. Victims claimed Barros not only helped cover up the crimes, but in some instances observed the abuse. Barros has denied the allegations and the Vatican said he had the church’s support.

    Peter Saunders, a British abuse survivor who sits on a papal commission to protect children, said Francis had been vocal about the abuse scandals. However, he criticised the church’s handling of another case in Missouri, where bishop Robert Finn has remained in power even after being convicted of failing to report clerical child sex abuse.

    A former Vatican ambassador, Józef Wesołowski, died before he was due to go on trial at the Vatican for possessing child pornography.

    During his visit to the US last September, the pontiff met victims of Catholic church sex abuse and vowed that those responsible would face justice. It was the first time Francis had met abuse victims outside of Rome, where he had done so once before. The pope had already apologised for the church’s inadequate response to the US abuse crisis.

    The scandal has severely tarnished the church’s reputation and cost $3bn (£2bn) in settlements in the US.