The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn Announce a Sexual Abuse Compensation Plan

Catholic-Diocese-of-Brooklyn

The Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn announced last week that it will offer a sexual abuse victim compensation plan similar to the one the Archdiocese of New York began last year.

The Brooklyn program will initially consider the cases of about 280 abuse victims already known to the diocese, for claims of abuse that date to the 1930s.

At least 54 priests in the Brooklyn diocese, which also includes Queens, have been accused of child sexual abuse

The compensation program is intended for those whose accusations do not fall within New York State’s statute of limitations for bringing a legal or civil case for molestation, which requires victims take action before age 23.

The Brooklyn Queens Diocese released the following information:

“The Diocese has already begun reaching out to survivors who have previously reported abuse by a diocesan clergy member. These known survivors are invited to participate in Phase I of the IRCP. In the next few days, these individuals will be receiving further information by mail from Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros with details about the IRCP process and instructions for submitting a claim. (The deadline for filing a claim in Phase I of the IRCP isSeptember 30, 2017.)

Those who may come forward with a previously unreported allegation of abuse will be eligible to participate in Phase II by first registering through the program’s website to receive information for Phase II when it becomes available.”

The Catholic Church has relied on the statute of limitations to get lawsuits dismissed and avoid paying any money to those who have come forward to report being sexually abused by catholic priests. Now it appears that there is an opportunity to recovery compensation for those harmed by priests.

I represent survivors from many states in the Union and have found the Diocese of Brooklyn to be one of the most difficult dioceses in the country when it comes to sexual abuse survivors.  They’ve been aggressive in refusing to help survivors and in some cases claiming that the survivors’ allegations are unfounded without having done any investigation.

Our firm is accepting new cases for survivors of childhood sex abuse by priests that occurred in Brooklyn and Queens no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.

Catholic Church Reports Dramatic Rise in Sexual Abuse Claims Last Year

Sex Abuse Claims Rise in Chatholic Church

The Boston Globe is reporting that the Catholic Church in the United States experienced a sharp increase in abuse claims last year.  It is the largest rise since the country’s Catholic bishops began keeping tallies of claims in 2004.

The annual report from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which covers July 2015 to June 2016, said 911 victims came forward with allegations the church deemed credible, the vast majority of which were from adults who said they were abused when they were children.  The bishops’ report noted that the previous year there were only 384 claims of abuse.

The report attributed the rise in claims to Minnesota, the state temporarily lifted its statute of limitations in 2013 to allow alleged victims older than 24 to sue for past abuse, and the deadline to file such claims was in late May 2016.

However, other factors such as the documentary film Spotlight which served to bring the issue back into the forefront of public attention.

Victims who came forward during the most recent reporting year included 26 minors, the report said.

The report’s definition of “minors” included people under age 18 or anyone who “habitually lacks the use of reason.”

As of June 30, 2016, two of the 26 cases had been substantiated, while 11 had been deemed unsubstantiated by church officials. The rest remained under investigation, the report said.

The offenders in the substantiated cases were removed from ministry, as were 26 other priests or deacons accused of past abuse, officials said.

The report did not break down the location of the allegations but said its data was based on information from all 196 diocese and eparchies of the bishops conference and from 180 of the 232 religious institutes of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.

The latest figures mean that between 1950 and June 2016, more than 18,500 people nationwide made clergy abuse allegations deemed credible by US Catholic officials, and more than 6,700 clerics have been accused of abuse, church records show.

Activists have questioned whether the church’s count of clergy sex abuse victims is lower than the actual total.  The Media Report, a conservative online site, hit back against the Globe’s article accusing the newspaper of attempting to keep an old story alive by rehashing old news and false claims.  Of course, they also include the obligatory criticism of lawyers.  The truth of the matter is this:  lawyers who are involved in this fight for justice are doing it to help the survivors of sexual abuse and those who come forward show a great deal of courage and their claims have been shown to be true.

Pennsylvania Diocese Collaborates with Feds to Curb Child Sex Abuse

US Attorney of Pennsylvania Collaborating with Catholic Diocese

At least that’s what officials of the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in Pennsylvania want all of us to believe.  Earlier this month, the bishop and the acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song held a press conference to announce their collaboration on preventing further child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

“This is a memorandum of understanding, it is not a court document,” Song said. “What we found is that the diocese was a willing partner.”

While the new partners appear willing to cooperate such ventures in the past in other dioceses have led to frustration on the part of secular authorities.  After a withering grand jury investigation which revealed that two former bishops of the small Pennsylvania diocese had cover-up past cases of child sex abuse by priests, the diocese is in sore need of good news.  While it is too early to know whether the present bishop is sincere, past announcements, including the Pope’s own commission, have led to recriminations, resignations by lay members, and accusations of obfuscation and secrecy.

During their joint press conference, the US attorney and the bishop announced the following reforms:

  • The creation of an independent, multidisciplinary oversight board that will include a former U.S. attorney and a Lutheran clergyman;
  • The retention of an outside expert to develop a new, comprehensive child abuse prevention program;
  • A reporting protocol that requires the diocese to report allegations of child sexual abuse to law enforcement within 12 hours after receipt;
  • Taking immediate steps to prevent any contact with minors by the suspected perpetrators;
  • Placing clergy on personnel or administrative leave within 24 hours of notice of a credible allegation of child sexual abuse;
  • Counseling and support services for victims by qualified and independent mental health professionals chosen by the victims.

During the press conference, US Attorney Song referred to the reform measures as “unprecedented” which may be true in Altoona-Johnstown but similar measures have been announced and failed miserably in other dioceses around the United States.  Time will tell if the parties are sincere and able to work together to protect children.  As an attorney advocate for abuse survivors, I’ve learned from experience that the Church is unable and unwilling to police itself.

Guam’s Former Archbishop Hiding in the United States

The Vatican announced recently that a canonical trial has commenced concerning Guam’s former Archbishop Apuron and the trial will be lengthy, perhaps spanning several years.

However, that contradicts what media outlets have discovered.  Under the guise of searching for a missing dog, reporters have located Archbishop living in a two-story house in Fairfield, California.  There is video footage circulating on the Internet and this new revelation makes it difficult to square with the Vatican’s assertion that there is indeed a canonical trial involving Archbishop Apuron.  How do I know this?  I was involved in a canonical trial in connection with my representation of a sexual abuse survivor a few years ago.

A canonical trial, like most civil or criminal trials, requires the presence or at least the participation of all parties involved in the case.

The Catholic Church has responded through Apuron’s lawyer concerning his whereabouts, sort of.  This afternoon, Attorney Jacque Terlaje provided a statement to KUAM: “As you are aware, I am legal counsel for Archbishop Anthony Apuron, OFM Cap. D.D. In response to your inquires(sic) regarding his whereabouts, the Archbishop is in a location where he is able to continue working on defending his innocence without distraction.”

What does that statement mean?  It seems to me that if Apuron were innocent of any wrongdoing in the Guam sexual abuse tragedy, he’d be in Rome defending himself.  He certainly wouldn’t be hiding in a previously undisclosed location in California.

For abuse survivors, Archbishop Apuron’s reticence has all the markings of what survivors have come to expect from the Catholic Church-cover-up, obfuscation, and a public relations campaign that is no better than a “don’t confuse me with the facts” campaign.  This only weakens the Church’s position in handling sex abuse cases.  It fans the flames of justice which inch closer and closer to the former Archbishop himself.

Photo Credit via Guam Archdiocese’s Website

Pope’s Actions Contradicting His Words

Pope Francis Actions Contradicting His Words

On January 2nd, Pope Francis released a letter reminding the world’s Catholic bishops that he will not tolerate any tolerance of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests.  The letter was dated December 28th.  In the letter, Pope Francis is unequivocal about the issue and if you were to judge him solely on his written words, you’d have to conclude that he was serious about stamping out clergy sexual abuse.

Yet, the press have caught Francis in at least two instances where his actions directly contradict his words.  The first incident involves Italian priest Nicola Corradi who, along with four other men, was arrested in November for sexually abusing hearing impaired children.  All but Corradi were sanctioned by the Vatican.  This was not the first time Corradi’s name had been linked to the sexual abuse of children at the school.  He was named along with other priests in 2009 for abusing children.  The students from the school sent a personal letter in 2014 directly to the Pope asking him to do something about Corradi, who was living in Argentina, the Pope’s native country.  The Pope did nothing with the letter.  In fact, it was only a few weeks ago that the Vatican acknowledged its existence.

Pope Francis Oddly Reinstates Mauro Inzoli Despite Sexual Abuse History

Mauro “Don Mercedes” Inzoli

The second instance is perhaps more troubling and indicates a papal mindset that should be deeply troubling to those of us concerned with child safety.  It involves the case of Mauro Inzoli or “Don Mercedes” as he was known for his flamboyant lifestyle.  Pope Benedict had defrocked him in 2012 for child sexual abuse.  In 2014, Pope Francis took the highly unusual step of reinstating Inzoli as a priest.  Michael Brendan Dougherty, writing in The Week wrote,

But Don Mercedes was “with cardinal friends,” we have learned. Cardinal Coccopalmerio and Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, now dean of the Roman Rota, both intervened on behalf of Inzoli, and Pope Francis returned him to the priestly state in 2014, inviting him to a “a life of humility and prayer.” These strictures seem not to have troubled Inzoli too much. In January 2015, Don Mercedes participated in a conference on the family in Lombardy.

This summer, civil authorities finished their own trial of Inzoli, convicting him of eight offenses. Another 15 lay beyond the statute of limitations. The Italian press hammered the Vatican, specifically the CDF, for not sharing the information they had found in their canonical trial with civil authorities. Of course, the pope himself could have allowed the CDF to share this information with civil authorities if he so desired.”

Dougherty intimates that Pope Francis in speaking one way but doing the opposite is more of a Machiavellian figure than a vicar of Christ.  He’s not the only writer to come to that conclusion.  Rod Dreher, writing on the same topic, concludes, “As ever with church leaders who talk about reform, don’t listen to what they say, but rather watch what they do.”

Photo Credit By Tânia Rêgo/ABr (Agência Brasil) via Wikimedia Commons

 

Guam’s Governor Lifts Statute of Limitations in Sex Abuse Cases

Gov. Eddie Calvo has signed into law signed bill 326 into Public Law 33-187, effectively allowing sexual abuse survivors to bring perpetrators and the institutions that protected them to justice.  In signing the legislation, Calvo penned a letter of explanation to the people of Guam.

“I am a practicing but imperfect Catholic; a husband, father, grandfather, brother, and son; a Chamorro man, who believes in second chances, yet has no tolerance for those who prey on the most innocent and vulnerable, the children. Thanks to the trust of our people, I’m also the governor. And on days like this, when my different roles may not join in harmonious conviction, I am resolute about this decision. It comes after days of listening to very different opinions, hearing the cries, considering the consequences, separating one issue from another and then reconciling it all within my conscience. So, today, though I am pleased that our community has confronted what once was unthinkable, I am saddened that even a single injustice had to happen in order to make this law necessary. There are no winners. Justice is the only victory.”

Gov. Calvo got it right.  In spite of fierce pressure from the Catholic Church in Guam, Calvo kept the interests and welfare of abuse victims foremost in his mind.  In signing the bill, Calvo admitted that the retroactivity (survivors can sue their abusers and the institutions that protected them even if the abuse occurred many years ago) section of the bill may face technical and constitutional hurdles.

In lobbying the Governor to veto the bill, the Catholic Church argued that passage of the bill may bankrupt the Archdiocese.  However, Calvo remained resolute and brushed aside the Church’s lobbying efforts.  

Governor Calvo should be praised for his conviction and his courage.  If only some of our own stateside governors would have the same qualities.

Six of Eight Pennsylvania Catholic Dioceses Subpoenaed in Sex Abuse Probe

An investigation into the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis in Pennsylvania has reached a new and unprecedented height of scrutiny.  Last week, four more Catholic dioceses received subpoenas regarding child sexual abuse including Erie, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.  The diocese of Harrisburg is already part of the probe.  The Altoona-Johnstown Diocese did not get a subpoena because the attorney general’s office released its grand jury report of that region in March. The report led to charges against three Franciscan friars for alleged child endangerment and criminal conspiracy. The agency also set up a hotline for people to call to report abuse claims across the state.

The Diocese of Allentown would not confirm or deny receipt of a subpoena. The diocese is presently dealing with a related crisis-a pastor has been arrested for possessing child pornography.

In 2005 and 2011, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was the subject of two grand jury reports which detailed the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests as well as the cover-up of Philadelphia’s archbishops dating back into the 1950’s.

Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Rozzi, a sex abuse survivor himself, has already testified before a grand jury and will hold a news conference this week about a new legislative proposal that would change the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases.

In light of the statewide probe of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, the state’s Catholic Conference may have a more difficult time fighting the legislation and protecting an institution that has covered up abuse and corruption for years.  The New York Catholic Conference was successful in blocking similar legislation but it didn’t do so in the light of a statewide investigation.  

Testimony in all six dioceses will begin soon and Rozzi believes Keystone state citizens will be shocked by the magnitude of the problem.  Rozzi told one media outlet, “people are going to be really, really shocked” when the Pennsylvania Attorney General uncovers their findings.

Image courtesy of http://cbsnews2.cbsistatic.com/

Priest Abuse in the Diocese of Harrisburg

First, it was the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  Then, a grand jury revealed scores of sexual abuse incidents in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.  Now, the Diocese of Harrisburg is in the spotlight for priest sexual abuse.

In fact, it was the Altoona-Johnstown grand jury report that led investigators to look into the Diocese of Harrisburg.  The York Daily Record’s investigation compelled diocesan officials to reveal details about 15 priests accused of sexual abuse. Read More

Catholic Bishops Reporting Abuse

catholic church abuse

Once again the Catholic Church has affirmed that its priorities are to protect the interests of the institution and not the victims of pedophile priests.

It was recently reported in the Catholic news website, Crux, that during a presentation for newly appointed bishops, French Monsignor Tony Anatrella told newly ordained bishops that they are not obligated to report sexual abuse to authorities, stating the responsibility to report the abuse falls on the victims and their families.

It was shocking and disturbing to hear, especially after the Vatican under Pope Francis has often spoken of “zero tolerance” in regards to dealing with sexual abuse by priests, yet their official policies appear to still relieve bishops of any responsibility.

SNAP spokesperson Barbara Dorris was appalled and in her response statement spoke of how, “No mention was made that you should call the police when a crime is reported to you and we found that deeply disturbing.” Dorris went on to point out that since 2002, the church has promised transparency, yet consistently failed to deliver. The revelation of Anatrella’s instruction to new bishops only confirms that the safety of children is still not their top priority.

I have long advocated that if the Catholic Church is ever to eradicate pedophile priests from its ranks, the bishops must be held accountable. The failure of bishops to report suspected and known pedophiles and turn them over to police is one of the main reasons that the church’s abuse scandal continues. For decades it has been unofficial policy for bishops to move rapists from parish to parish rather than hand them over to law enforcement. Bishops were allowed and encouraged to abdicate any moral and ethical responsibility and not report suspected abuse to civil authorities in order to protect the reputation of the church.

This latest revelation again basically instructs the bishops that they don’t have to do anything; it is up to the families or the victims to go to the police.

The Catholic Church has shown that they will not change until they are forced to change. Mandatory reporting laws everywhere need to be expanded to include people who work for religious institutions, and this should especially include Catholic Bishops. Change will only come when the church is forced to put the welfare of children first.

Pope Benedict Orders Investigation of Legionnaires of Christ Sexual Abuse

Pope Benedict

In a somewhat surprising move, Pope Benedict has ordered an apostolic visitation of the controversal religious order, the Legionnaires of Christ whose controversial if not charismatic figure Marcial Maciel fathered at least one child and is said to have sexually abused seminarians under his tutelage.

(Image courtesy of http://www.rawstory.com/)

The controversial order was one of Pope John Paul II’s favorite religious orders. John Paul admired Maciel for his fundraising prowess, doctrinal orthodoxy, and loyalty to the papacy. His admiration blinded him from the other, dark side of Maciel-the one that was sexually deviant, secretive, and authoritarian to the point of seeking to control every aspect of its members’ lives.

The apostolic visitation is a church investigation conducted under the authority of the Pope himself. It is not something that occurs every day in the church. An apostolic visitation usually occurs when there is potential for grave scandal in the church or there has been a serious problem that can no longer be ignored. In the 1980’s, Pope John Paul II ordered an apostolic visitation of US seminaries to discover if they were hotbeds for doctrinal heterodoxy and homosexuality. This particular investigation will no doubt include a discussion concerning the future of the Legionnaires of Christ as well as their lay counterpart Regnum Christi.

After John Paul’s death in 2005, Benedict moved swiftly (for the church, that is) to remove Maciel from any public priestly duties. While he stopped short of having him removed from the priesthood (laicized), he did strip him of much of his influence and power base. After his death in 2008, revelations that he fathered a child could no longer be denied by the religious order. The news sent shockwaves through the church, especially the Legionnaires of Christ and members of Regnum Christi.

Besides the sexual abuse allegations, there are financial irregularities the members of the apostolic visitation team will investigate. Their findings may lead the Pope to dissolve the religious order.

The Legionnaires of Christ was founded by the Rev. Marcial Maciel in 1941 as an order of Catholic priests. The Order boasts over 700 priests and 1,300 young men studying for the priesthood. The order’s priests work in 20 different countries throughout the world. The order priests take the usual three vows of other religious orders namely, poverty, chastity, and obedience. However, they also took private vows of charity and humility which were subsequently revoked by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

The Legion’s political leanings have been criticized as ultra-conservative and its members, particularly its founder Maciel, have associated themselves with the powerful and wealthy, especially in Latin America.

In the United States, the order’s most consistent and vocal critic has been Archbishop Edwin O’Brien of Baltimore who had petitioned Rome for their removal from the Archdiocese. The archbishop discontinued these efforts after several powerful Roman curial officials asked him to do so. O’Brien’s criticism centered on the Legion’s lack of transparency and their aggressive recruiting practices which have been rumored to have included children. These children were supposedly instructed not to tell their own parents about the Legion’s recruitment efforts.

The recent decision to have the order investigated by Rome comes at a particularly difficult time for the Legion. The embarrassing revelations of their leader’s sexual abuse of young seminarians as well as his fathering children with at least one woman have caused many in the Catholic Church to call for their dissolution. The extent to which the apostolic visitation is successful depends upon the willingness of the Legion’s hierarchy to cooperate with the investigators. This is especially true regarding the Legion’s documents chronicling its financial dealings as well as the sexual abuse allegations. In the end, it will be the Pope himself who decides the fate of the Legion. If you or a loved one have any questions about sexual abuse or clergy abuse please feel free to contact Joe Saunders today.