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


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

Louisiana Supreme Court Muddies the Waters Concerning Mandatory Reporting of Sex Abuse

an agonizing decision

The final weekend of the 2016 US presidential campaign grabbed all the headlines but the news out of Louisiana on Friday was significant for those involved in the decades-long issue of Catholic priest sexual abuse.

On Friday, November 4th, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that Catholic priests are not mandatory reporters of sexual abuse when they are receiving confidential communications from their parishioners such as in the instance of hearing a confession.  The court’s decision was a major victory for the Catholic Church which has spent decades concealing priests from prosecution and attempting to protect the institution by thwarting efforts to change the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse cases.

“Any communication made to a priest privately in the sacrament of confession for the purpose of confession, repentance, and absolution is a confidential communication … and the priest is exempt from mandatory reporter status …” the high court decreed Friday.

However, as a sexual abuse lawyer who has advocated for hundreds of adults who were sexually abused as children by Catholic priests, there is a religious “loophole” for the priest who wants to do the right thing in these horrific cases.  As part of the ritual of confession, the priest hears the confession of sins, advises the person confessing (penitent), and offers a penance or a way of repairing the damage done by the confessed sins.  Once this is done, it is the priest’s decision whether he will offer absolution to the person confessing.  The priest’s decision is based on two factors:  1) Sorrow for the sins committed and, 2) A desire to avoid those sins in the future.  Prior to giving absolution (forgiveness), the priest may counsel the penitent to go to the authorities and acknowledge this crime.  According to the
law of the church, the priest can’t require that the penitent turn himself in or withhold absolution if he refuses to do so.  On the other hand, true sorrow for sin can be demonstrated by a sincere desire to make right what he did wrong.  Catholic priests who recognize the severity of child sexual abuse and the damage it causes should make every effort to make the abuser aware that justice must be done.

The Louisiana Supreme Court’s ruling is a setback for transparency and justice.  It places the power to disclose such a heinous act as child sexual abuse in the hands of the abuser.  That is never going to protect children and remove sexual abusers from harming more children.

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/

USA Gymnasts Accuse Doctor of Sexual Abuse


When the Indianapolis Star published their investigation on the sexual abuse of USA gymnasts, the findings focused on the coaches.  Published just prior to the commencement of the Summer Olympics in Brazil, the allegations received widespread media attention.

Now, the Indianapolis Star has published a new story of sexual abuse.  This time the alleged perpetrator is Dr. Larry Nassar, who is accused of fondling the two gymnasts’ breasts and genitalia during examinations.  Nassar left USA Gymnastics last year after serving as the team physician during four Olympic games.  

According to the Daily Beast, “One gymnast, an Olympic medalist, filed a lawsuit in a California state court  that was made public on Monday. The other gymnast, Rachael Denhollander, filed a police complaint with Michigan State University police in August. Nassar is a faculty member there.

According to the California suit, the unnamed medalist, “Jane JD Doe,” claims that USA Gymnastics allowed Nassar to examine her in complete privacy, in clear violation of the organization’s standard of conduct. The other woman, Rachael Denhollander, spoke on the record to the newspaper, and appears in a lengthy video.

In it, Denhollander says that she sought treatment for back and wrist injuries from Nassar when she was a 15-year-old club-level gymnast in 2000, and claims that he became increasingly abusive during each session. In Denhollander’s account, Nassar unhooked her bra and fondled her breasts, and began “massaging internally,” penetrating her vagina and anus with his finger and thumb, she said. “He never wore gloves,” Denhollander said in the video.”

As in most sexual abuse cases involving minors, further investigation uncovers more abuse and more perpetrators.  While all the facts are not available yet, it appears likely that USA Gymnastics’ abuse saga is systemic and culpability includes an institution that failed to protect vulnerable children.

As Guam Considers Revising Statute of Limitations on Sex Abuse, More Survivors Come Forward

As Guam holds public holds public hearings to consider Bill 326 which would lift the statute of limitations on survivors who are coming forward to publicly reveal cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, more victims are courageously testifying in support of the bill.

One media outlet wrote, “Guam is on its way to becoming the first U.S. territory to allow victims of child sex abuse to sue their perpetrator at any time, without restriction, on retroactive cases.  As of Friday, there was no opposition to a bill that would remove time restrictions for suing child sex abusers. A public hearing on the bill is scheduled to resume Monday.” Read More

On Eve of Olympics, USA Gymnastics Has a Sex Abuse Scandal on its Hands

Top executives at one of America’s most prominent Olympic organizations failed to alert authorities to many allegations of sexual abuse by coaches — relying on a policy that enabled predators to abuse gymnasts long after USA Gymnastics had received warnings.”

That’s the Indianapolis’ Star’s opening paragraph concerning what is sure to be the latest sexual abuse scandal in our times.  The allegations are eerily similar to the ones we’ve heard previously about the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, and other institutions of public trust.  The institutions themselves failed to speak up when top officials learned of sexual abuse allegations.  Read More

Guam: A Haven for Sexually Abusive Catholic Priests?

Guam is a U.S. island territory in Micronesia, in the Western Pacific home to strategic US military installations and a popular tourist destination.  The territory doesn’t receive much media attention on the mainland.  However, that may soon change for those following the Catholic priest abuse scandal.

Recent sexual abuse allegations lodged against Archbishop Anthony Sablan Apuron, who has led the Agana Archdiocese for 30 years has caught the attention of the media and the Vatican.  Earlier this month, Pope Francis temporarily removed Apuron and Hong Kong-born Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, currently second-in-command of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, would step in as apostolic administrator of Agana.  Read More

Denny Hastert

Former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert sexually molested young boys and got away with it. Having once held the third highest political office in the United States, he was only two distinct heartbeats away from the presidency, and was a serial child molester.

Denny Hastert is also going to prison, but not because he sexually abused children. Hastert will only be serving time for violating federal banking laws, and in the process becomes “exhibit A” in the argument to reform statutes of limitations in sexual abuse cases. Read More

PA Statute of limitations

Statute of limitations

In Pennsylvania, the State House has passed a bill that would reform the statute of limitations regarding child sexual abuse cases. The bill would abolish the criminal statute of limitations for future criminal prosecutions for serious child sexual abuse crimes and other crimes relating to sexual assault. The bill has moved to the senate for consideration and it is widely believed the governor will sign it if it reaches his desk.

This bill is being widely applauded by victims and victim’s advocates across the country who have lobbied to abolish statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases nationwide. Concurrently, in New York, state Senate Democrats have introduced a bill that would also eliminate the time limits for child sex abuse victims to bring criminal or civil cases.

As expected the Catholic Church has been outspoken in its opposition to statute of limitations reform in sex abuse cases. Current statutes of limitations have allowed the church to avoid prosecution in many, if not most, of the sex abuse cases brought against them. In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has strongly opposed abolishing the civil statute of limitations or opening a temporary window to allow accusers to file claims. This same position has been widely adopted by Catholic Dioceses across the nation.

In 2012 a panel of insurance experts presented a white paper to the Vatican estimating that there are as many as 100,000 children in the US who have been victims of clerical sex abuse. Many of these cases go back decades and it was usually standard practice for the church to cover up the crimes and shelter known pedophiles. They counted on statutes of limitations to make it nearly impossible for adults who were abused as children to put their claims before a court

The church is no doubt aware of the unique circumstances that exist in cases involving clergy sexually abusing children. In almost every case children are reluctant or unable to talk about pedophile priests or face their accusers. There are significant and unique barriers that prevent children from reporting what they intuitively know is inappropriate behavior. Fear of the accusing their abuser, the stigma of being abused, and a reluctance to confront the church often keep sexual abuse from being reported. Many victims of pedophile priests are unable to talk about abuse or face their accusers until they are well into adulthood, putting the crime beyond the reach of the law.

There have already been temporary statutes of limitations reprieves in four states that allowed hundreds of victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic Priests to finally have their cases heard. Most notably, in 2013 Minnesota created a three-year window for past victims of abuse to file child sex abuse lawsuits against the church and other institutions, even after the statute of limitations has closed.
This led the Roman Catholic archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis to file for bankruptcy last year in the face of dozens of potential sex abuse lawsuits. The statute of limitations reprieve ends next month and advocates are lobbying for an extension or permanent removal in light of all the abuse cases that are still being uncovered.

In my own history of defending the victims of sex abuse committed by clergy I have seen the Catholic Church demonstrate time and time again that they are more concerned with preserving the “Brand,” than protecting the victims of abuse. It took decades for the Catholic Church to admit that sex abuse by clergy was even a problem. For too long the church employed the “bad apple” defense in defending its role in the sexual abuse plague. By doing so the institution could continue to operate without taking responsibility for their role by saying that guilt lay only with individual priests.

No longer. There are survivors who are finally ready to come forward, yet can’t get into the courthouse because of restrictive statute of limitation laws. Only by removing these hurdles, as they are about to do in Pennsylvania and New York, will we allow these victims to get the justice so long overdue them.