St. Petersburg’s New Bishop Avoids Sexual Abuse Scandal

Diocese of St. Petersburg

On November 28th, Gregory L. Parkes was introduced as the new Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg and will succeed Bishop Robert N. Lynch, who led the Diocese of St. Petersburg for the last 21 years. It is well documented that under Bishop Lynch, a large number of young boys were sexually abused by local priests from the Diocese of St. Petersburg so there was an expectation that newly appointed Bishop Parkes would address the issue at his news conference. To my disappointment, he did not. Watch the following interview I did with WFLA Tampa News and see what else was  said about the issue.

Photo Credit by Jayarathina via Wikimedia Commons

Spotlight on Catholic Priest Abuse-Diocese of Harrisburg

In the recent investigative exposé of Catholic priest abuse in the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania a number of priests were mentioned.  Some of those priests were listed because they had worked in the Diocese of Harrisburg but had not had any allegations of sexual abuse levelled against them according to the Diocese.  One of the names stands out in particular, Fr. Guy Marsico. Read More

Altoona-Johnstown and Cardinal George Pell

Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona–Johnstown

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There is no question in my mind that if the Catholic Church is ever to end the plague of sexual abuse committed by priests it will require a sea change within the church hierarchy. Specifically, Bishops must be held accountable when priests in their charge abuse children.

For too long Bishops have placed the Church’s image and priest’s reputations above the protection of children. Time and time again Bishops ignored reports of abuse or covered-up crimes committed by priests. Their actions have been not only morally indefensible, but often criminal as well. In spite of the promises of reform delivered by St. Francis and the Vatican, news continues to surface that makes me question how serious the church really is about ending the long history of sexual abuse committed by priests.

In Pennsylvania this week, the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese issued Tuesday a 147-page report on sexual abuse in the Diocese, home to nearly 100,000 Roman Catholics. The report was based partly on evidence from a secret diocesan archive opened through a search warrant over the summer. In chilling detail the report recounted how two Catholic bishops, James Hogan and Joseph Adamec, who led the small Pennsylvania diocese helped cover up the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by more than 50 priests and other religious leaders over a 40-year period. It portrays the church has holding so much influence in the community and with law enforcement, that the Bishops even helped select the police chief. When announcing the findings, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said the two previous bishops “placed their desire to avoid public scandal over the well-being of children.”

The clergy sex abuse crisis erupted in 2002, when The Boston Globe reported that the Boston Archdiocese had transferred child-molesting priests from parish to parish to protect them. The recent academy award winning film Spotlight showed in detail the lengths the Catholic Church in Boston was willing to go to silence victims and protect pedophile priests. Since then similar scandals involving hundreds of offenders and victims have since erupted in dioceses across the U.S. and beyond.

The Altoona-Johnstown report, like the Spotlight investigation, exposes clearly the extent of the criminal behavior by high-level church officials and their criminal callousness driven by the desire to avoid public scandal. Reports of abuse were covered-up and known sexual predators were allowed to remain as members of the clergy.

Probably the most chilling piece of evidence uncovered in the report was a “payout chart” developed by Adamec to determine how much to pay victims who reported abuse.

The chart recommended paying $10,000 to $25,000 to victims fondled over their clothes; $15,000 to $40,000 to those fondled under their clothes or subjected to masturbation; $25,000 to $75,000 for those subjected to oral sex; and $50,000 to $175,000 to those subjected to intercourse. This unconscionable document is then followed by a graphic chronicle of the accusations against every allegedly abusive priest known to have worked in the diocese.

While the Altoona-Johnstown was being released, Cardinal George Pell was testifying from the Vatican to the Australian Royal Commission looking into institutional responses to child sexual abuse. The commission questioned Pell on how much the cardinal knew about a number of priests and brothers accused of pedophilia during the 40 years in which he rose through the ranks of Australia’s clerical hierarchy, and whether he failed to act on the abuses. Many of the accused offenders have been convicted, but none of the Bishops who oversaw them and failed respond to the reports of abuse.

Pell was combative in his testimony, which prior to giving he had announced to reporters that he had, “the full backing of the Pope.”

In his testimony Cardinal Pell continued to insist that he has no memory of hearing about specific substantiated cases of sexual abuse during the 1970s and 1980s, but only that he occasionally heard gossip. But in earlier Royal Commission Hearings in Ballarat, Victoria compelling evidence revealed that as a Bishop, Pell had moved a disgraced pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale between parishes and even tried to pay one of his victims to remain silent. Pell was also accused by the commission of ignoring another victim’s claim that a now-convicted sex offender was abusing children at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat while Pell was auxiliary Bishop there. Again in this week’s testimony, and despite evidence to the contrary, Pell was resolute in his insistence that while he was a priest in Ballarat he was unaware pedophile priests were being moved between parishes to escape prosecution, and to protect the reputation of the church.

It is worth noting here that Pell gave his video testimony via video-conferencing rather than return to Australia in person. He was allowed to on the basis of a recent medical diagnosis that found an undisclosed heart problem. I was left wondering whether the real reason is that Pell is in fear of being criminally prosecuted in Australia. In the eternal city Pell lives alongside Bernard Law, the disgraced Boston cardinal featured in Spotlight, and both are expected to pass the rest of their days without fear of repercussions for their inactions.

Pell’s testimony and the Altoona-Johnstown report also come weeks after the high-profile Vatican Commission on the prevention of child abuse suspended one of it’s members, Peter Saunders (no relation). Saunders had complained publically of the commission’s impotence and accused the church of failing to deliver on its promises of reform and greater accountability. When announced, the commission was Pope Francis’ first formal response, but since its origin the committee has proceeded at a glacial pace and been marked by infighting. The removal of Saunders suggests that the commission has been reduced to being nothing but another toothless church panel.

Ultimately these scandals won’t be the last to be uncovered. For generations, young children were served up as prey to pedophile priests while the hierarchy of the Catholic Church covered up their crimes. In any other organization, the bishops who sheltered these sexual predators would face criminal charges. Instead, for their complicity men like Law and Pell are rewarded – allowed to live out their lives in the luxury of the Vatican never having to answer for the crimes they committed or the lives they ruined.

The victims of these heinous crimes might never find peace. But if it is to come, it must begin with a zero tolerance policy from the Vatican. This must include finally bringing to justice Law, Pell, and all the other bishops who allowed this horror to happen and making it clear the safety of children, and not the reputation of the church, will be the first priority.

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.

Cardinal Mahoney Hid Catholic Priests from Law Enforcement

Cardinal Mahoney

Secret records of Los Angeles Archdiocese show that Cardinal Mahoney and other top Los Angeles priests moved child molester priests out of state to avoid police investigations. Court orders in civil lawsuits in Los Angeles required public release of priest personnel files February 1, 2013.

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The 20,000 pages of documents released document a conspiracy for at least 40 years led by recently retired Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney. The Catholic Church has fought for years to keep these files secret but the survivors of abuse who brought the civil lawsuits persevered to make the conspiracy public. Many of the survivors of abuse felt vindicated by the proof that at least 124 priests were raping, drugging, and abusing children and were being protected by Cardinal Mahoney and the officials of the Archdiocese.

Cardinal Mahoney and other top priests in Los Angeles had usually accused the abused children of lying and making up false allegations of abuse. The files that were released show that the Church tried to delay investigations so that statutes of limitations would run out on both civil and criminal cases.

The documents show that Cardinal Mahoney knew that mental health counselors in California were required to report child abuse to authorities so they arranged to have perverted priests evaluated by psychologists in other states so that the abuse of children could be kept secret from law enforcement.

Current Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez criticized Cardinal Mahoney who retired 2 years ago at his mandatory retirement age. Archbishop Gomez restricted Cardinal Mahoney’s faculties to perform confirmations as punishment. Only the Vatican can remove Cardinal Mahony from the priesthood. There has been no action or comment from the Vatican. This is the first time ever that a bishop has criticized another bishop for protecting child molesters.

The Los Angeles documents confirm the existence of a worldwide conspiracy in the Catholic Church to protect child molester priests and accuse abused children of being liars. A Petition has been filed with the International Court in the Hague accusing the Pope of crimes against humanity but that is unlikely to go anywhere due to world politics. The Vatican has sovereign immunity from most criminal charges since the Holy See enjoys status as an independent nation. The Vatican received this sovereign status from Mussolini in World War II in exchange for supporting Mussolini’s fascist regime.

Pope Benedict who was called Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he was anointed Pope was in charge of handling child molester priest reports worldwide before becoming Pope. That is the basis of the crime against humanity charge against him.

I have personally investigated cases in Florida where priests were transferred out of the United States when law enforcement started to investigate. These international transfers were always successful in protecting the priests. I hope someday Interpol will conduct a worldwide investigation so the full extent of the conspiracy can be revealed.