Sunday, August 30, 2009

Australian Prime Minister to apologise for care home abuse of British children

From Times Online August 30, 2009

Australian Prime Minister to apologise for care home abuse of British children
Anne Barrowclough in Sydney

Thousands of Britons who suffered abuse in Australian orphanages and care homes are to receive an apology from Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister

Mr Rudd will follow his historic apology to Aborigines last year with a similar apology to child immigrants and Australian children who were place in state care during the last century.

Jenny Macklin, the Families and Indigenous Affairs Minister, announced the apology eight years after a 2001 Senate report on child immigration recommended the government of then Prime Minister John Howard express its regret for the sexual, emotional and physical abuse suffered by hundreds of thousands of children in institutions and foster care.

Ms Macklin said the level of abuse and neglect had been ''unacceptable'' and it was time to issue a formal apology, which would probably take place before the end of the year.

''Many former child migrants and other children who were in institutions, their families and the wider community have suffered from a system that did not adequately provide for, or protect children in its care,'' said Ms Macklin.

"This is a significant national step in the healing process for forgotten Australians and former child migrants," she added.

Between1922 and 1967 up to 10,000 children with an average age of eight years old, were taken from unmarried mothers, impoverished families and orphanages in Britain and sent as migrants to Australia to boost its population and labour force with ‘good white stock’.

With the support and encouragement of organisations such as the Salvation Army and Barnardos, children were removed from their familes - often told their parents had died - and sent thousands of miles away to a life of starvation, slave labour and sexual abuse.

As soon as they arrived at an insitution they were given a number which replaced their name, and dressed in rags - shoes became an almost unheard of luxury. They were uniformly fed rotting food - "maggoty, mouldy, weevilly," a former child migrant described it in a submission to the 2001 inquiry while another said "the freshest part of the food actually moved."

Beatings with straps, canes and even cricket bats were common as was sexual assault. In some Christian Brothers institutes, small boys were forced into bestial acts.

Many of the institutions farmed the children out to industrial laundries and local farms as slave labour and even into the 1970s, hundreds of children and babies as young as seven months old were used as guinea pigs for new vaccines that did not work or failed to pass safety tests in animals.

The 2001 inquiry found that the long term impact was almost uniformly negative; drug and alcohol abuse was common and many former inmates of the institutions found it impossible to hold down jobs or marriages.

The announcement that Mr Rudd will apologise for their years of hell has been welcomed by the Alliance for Forgotten Australians which represents those who suffered in state care.

Caroline Carrol, chairwoman of the AFA, said: "As children, many of us experienced horrors in the places that were supposed to care for us," she said.

"As adult survivors, we need acknowledgment of and an apology for the harm that was done to us.

"The apology is an excellent beginning to what we hope will be a comprehensive government response," she added.

One of Mr Rudd's first acts as Prime Minister after his election victory in November 2007 was formally to apologize to Aborigines for injustices suffered since British colonists arrived 200 years ago.

In particular, the apology was aimed at the generation of Stolen Children who had been removed from their Aboriginal mothers under former government policies of assimilating mixed-race children into white society.

That apology, which received international acclaim, revived interest in the non-indigenous children who also suffered without the protection of parents.

The latest apology, which may be delivered jointly by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, follows both the 2001 Senate committee report and a second inquiry in 2004 which found abuse was also widespread among the 500,000 plus Australian children placed in care.

The government will table its formal response on the issue before the end of the year and has promised to consult further within the community on the path ahead.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Archdiocese finds no racial bias in sex abuse settlements

Archdiocese finds no racial bias in sex abuse settlements

August 27, 2009

Reacting to criticism that the Archdiocese of Chicago treated black victims of priest sex abuse worse than whites, the church analyzed financial settlements and found "no overall difference" in payouts between races.

That's according to a strongly worded "background" memorandum recently sent to priests and deacons by a top archdiocesan official, the Rev. John Canary. The stated aim of the memo -- obtained by ChicagoCatholicNews -- is to help clergy "prepare to communicate with . . . parishioners about this and other important issues."

"The Archdiocese has never considered race to be a factor in evaluating clerical misconduct claims, so we never compiled the numbers in this fashion," according to the Aug. 21 memo. "Each claim is evaluated individually and the amounts of the settlements vary based on the abuse that took place. Recently, we did an historical review of all the settlements the Archdiocese has reached with sexual abuse survivors. There is no overall difference between the amounts of settlements paid to African American survivors and those paid to others."

The memo from Canary (pictured above) also indicated "the average amount of the settlements reached with the survivors who identified themselves in the recent media coverage was significantly higher than the average settlement amount paid in all the Archdiocesan clerical misconduct claims."

Phillip Aaron, an attorney for black sex abuse victims featured earlier this month in an NBC5 story on alleged racial disparity, called such talk "smoke and mirrors."

"For a comparable injury, [black abuse victims] were paid less," Aaron said in an interview. "If you look at injury to injuries, they were paid less, and not just that, they were demeaned [when they came forward], they were treated bad -- this isn't me saying this, this is the client."

What's more, Aaron claimed he's being pressured by archdiocesan officials to retract the race-related allegations if he wants to proceed with other abuse cases.

"They say they won't mediate or arbitrate unless I make some sort of public statement that my clients are not discriminated against, and I'm not going to do that," he said.

Top church lawyers referred questions to the archdiocese communications office, which did not respond to calls and emails Wednesday and Thursday. Canary also did not respond to calls and emails from ChicagoCatholicNews.

As such, details on the archdiocese's "historical review" were not available.

Also unclear is whether the memo from Canary -- the archdiocese's vicar general -- represents a new public relations strategy by the archdiocese, which includes 2.3 million Catholics in Cook and Lake counties.

Cardinal Francis George's press secretary Colleen Dolan recently authored a similar "talking points" memo on priest sex abuse. Marked confidential, it was distributed to parishes to help priests answer questions from the press and parishioners -- and it made its way toABC7 reporter Chuck Goudie.

That document was denounced as "spin" by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, whose leaders have long criticized the Catholic Church for its handling of sex abuse claims.

In the new memo, Canary mentions that the Catholic Church for decades has served the black community in the areas of schools and civil rights, among others.

"From the 1960s onward, the Archdiocese remained committed to African American communities, even when other institutions moved out," he wrote.

Two Chicago-area clergymen confirmed that they received the document.

Diocese appeals Court ruling

Last updated August 28, 2009 4:34 p.m. PT

Conn. diocese wants Scalia to look at case

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A Roman Catholic diocese in Connecticut that has fought for years to prevent the release of documents generated by lawsuits against priests for alleged sexual abuse wants conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to take up the case.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Tuesday ruled the documents cannot remain sealed until the full court decides whether to review the case. On Friday, attorneys for Diocese of Bridgeport asked that Scalia, a Catholic, reconsider its request to continue a stay on the release of the papers.

"The appeal to the court's most stridently Catholic member, whose son is a priest, smacks of desperation and favoritism," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Ralph Johnson III, attorney for the diocese, declined to respond directly Clohessy's comments but said Scalia was selected because he ruled as an appeals judge on one of the central issues in the case related to the definition of court documents. Johnson also said under the custom of the court a reconsideration of a stay is typically taken up by all nine justices.

A message was left Friday with Scalia at the court.

The records have been under seal since the diocese settled the cases in 2001. They could provide details on how retired New York Cardinal Edward Egan handled the allegations when he was bishop in Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000.

A telephone message was left with Jonathan Albano, attorney for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post. The three newspapers along with the Hartford Courant have asked to see the documents.

A Waterbury Superior Court said in 2006 that the documents were subject to a presumption of public access. The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision, ruling that more than 12,000 pages from 23 lawsuits against the six priests should be unsealed.

The Connecticut high court also rejected the claim by church officials that the documents were subject to constitutional privileges, including religious privileges under the First Amendment.

The documents include depositions, affidavits and motions.

In a letter being distributed this weekend to parishes in the diocese, Bishop William E. Lori said all priests named in the documents have already been publicly identified and none are working for the church. He said the diocese agreed to provide some documents in the case with the understanding that they would remain under seal, but the case judge later "changed the rules after the fact, ruling that the diocese had somehow waived its rights by complying with the court order."

"The whole process has been deeply troubling from the start when the court granted standing to the newspapers, despite the fact that they filed suit well after the time limit, and invented an entirely new process that seemed tailor-made for this specific case," Lori said in the letter.

The diocese has also filed papers arguing that the nation's highest court should take up the case because the First Amendment prohibits civil authorities from intruding into internal church decisions about priest assignments.

State and federal courts have been divided on the definition of judicial documents and how the presumption of public access is to be applied, so the high court should resolve whether the public's right applies to all court documents, church attorneys argued.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Diocese must release sealed abuse records

Diocese must release sealed abuse records
Aug. 27, 2009
By Catholic News Service

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Officials from the Diocese of Bridgeport said they were disappointed with an Aug. 25 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court saying documents from settled abuse cases should not remain sealed.
After the ruling, made by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the diocese posted a statement on its Web site saying it intends to "ask the full U.S. Supreme Court to review the important constitutional issues that this case presents."
Ginsburg told attorneys in the case, Rosado v. the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp., Aug. 25 that she was denying the diocese's request that the documents remain sealed until the high court decides whether to take up the case in the fall.
Each of the justices on the Supreme Court has responsibility for a region of the country and can issue a ruling in cases on an emergency basis.
The diocese wants to keep sealed more than 12,000 pages of depositions, exhibits and legal arguments in 23 lawsuits involving six priests from the Bridgeport Diocese. Most of the lawsuits were filed in the mid-1990s and they were settled in 2001 by the diocese for undisclosed amounts with the agreement that the settlements and the documents would remain sealed.
The battle over the sealed records began in 2002 when The New York Times filed suit to obtain the documents, describing them as a key part of the church's record of handling charges of clergy sex abuse. Three other newspapers joined in the suit: The Hartford Courant, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post.
In May, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled the documents should be made public. The 4-1 ruling involved the release of documents from the lawsuits settled in 2001. In 2006, a Superior Court judge ruled the files should be released but the diocese appealed the decision.
An appeal to the full U.S. Supreme Court would be the diocese's final attempt to keep the documents sealed. According to The Associated Press, the diocese is expected to file its petition with the high court by the end of August.
The high court usually doesn't decide which cases it will hear until the fall. The court decides to hear only a handful of the petitions it receives. In the meantime the diocese petitioned the high court to keep in place the stay on opening the records.
Diocesan officials said there is a good chance the court will take up the Bridgeport case because of two issues: the state Supreme Court's definition of what constitutes a legal document, and the church's contention that its First Amendment rights would be violated by the unsealing of documents that church officials produced with the understanding that they would be sealed forever.
In a statement, the diocese said the details of primary interest in the sealed papers -- such as the names of abuser-priests -- were made public in 2002 and 2003.
"The cases, and the settlement of them, were exhaustively reported on by the media," the statement said. "The attorneys and victims had access to the sealed documents at issue."
The diocese's petition for a writ of certiorari, asking the high court to review the case, is based on the argument that the Connecticut Supreme Court wrongly interpreted the U.S. Constitution's doctrine of "judicial documents" in presuming that all documents filed with the court should be accessible to the public and the media, the diocesan statement said.
The petition also raises the question of whether the state court's order to release the documents is a violation of the religious rights protections of the First Amendment.

Man who kidnapped Jaycee Lee Dugard in 1991 'heard the voice of God'

From Times Online
August 28, 2009
Man who kidnapped Jaycee Lee Dugard in 1991 'heard the voice of God'

(El Dorado County Sheriffs Office/Reuters)
Phillip Garrido: convicted of rape and sex offences in 1971
Chris Ayres in Los Angeles and Sophie Tedmanson
The man who allegedly abducted Jaycee Lee Dugard, the girl kidnapped nearly two decades ago who was found alive in the US yesterday, is a religious fanatic who claimed that God spoke to him, acquaintances have said.
Phillip Garrido, 58, a convicted rapist and sex offender, is being held on kidnapping and sex charges relating to the disappearance of Ms Dugard, who was 11 when she was snatched from a bus stop in 1991.
His wife, Nancy Garrido, 54, was also arrested, and authorities have alleged that she was with Mr Garrido when Ms Dugard was kidnapped in South Lake Tahoe.
The reappearance of Ms Dugard, now 29, stunned America when the news broke yesterday morning – her kidnapping had caused a national media frenzy – but the elation soon turned to anguish when the horrific details of the abuse she has suffered became clear.
Mr Garrido allegedly raped Ms Dugard and fathered two children with her, the first when Jaycee was about 14. Along with Ms Dugard, the children, both girls who are now aged 11 and 15, were also kept hidden away from the world in the backyard compound of the Garrido house in California.
Fred Kollar, an under-sheriff at the police department in El Dorado County, where Ms Dugard was held captive, said: “None of the children have ever been to school, they’ve never been to a doctor. They were kept in complete isolation in this compound.”
People who know Mr Garrido said that he had become increasingly fanatical about his religious beliefs in recent years, sometimes breaking into song and claiming that God spoke to him through a box.
It was also reported that he held religious services in a tent in his garden and had recently claimed to have invented a device that would allow him to control sound with his mind.
In April 2008, Mr Garrido registered a corporation called God's Desire at his home address. He also writes a blog called Voices Revealed on which he says that "the Creator has given me the ability to speak in the tongue of angels in order to provide a wake-up call that will in time include the salvation of the entire world".
Ms Dugard reappeared when Mr Garrido, a registered sex offender on lifetime parole, was ordered to visit a police station after a report of suspicious activity involving him and two young children the previous day. He took the two children with him, along with Ms Dugard.
“The diligent questioning and follow-up by the parolee’s agent led to Garrido revealing his kidnapping,” the police department said in a statement last night.
Mr Garrido, who is on lifetime parole, gave a rambling, sometimes incoherent phone interview to KCRA-TV from the El Dorado County jail yesterday in which he said he had not admitted to kidnapping and that he had turned his life around since the birth of his first daughter 15 years ago.
"Wait until you hear the story of what took place at this house," Mr Garrido said. "You are going to be completely impressed. It's a disgusting thing that took place with me at the beginning. But I turned my life completely around and to be able to understand that, you have to start there."
Police said that the backyard compound where Mr Garrido allegedly kept Ms Dugard and the two children had electricity from extension cords and a rudimentary outhouse and shower, “as if you were camping”.
Mr Kollar said that a parole officer who had visited Mr Garrido's house previously had not noticed anything amiss because the compound was well concealed by shrubs, rubbish bins and a tarpaulin.
“You can't see over the fence with the shrubbery and the trees. You can't see the structures,” Mr Kollar said.
Mr Garrido's compound was in Antioch, a city of 100,000 about 170 miles from Ms Dugard's family home in South Lake Tahoe. Yesterday the house was cordoned off with police tape as it was searched by FBI agents and the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department.
“In the last couple of years he started getting into this strange religious stuff. We kind of felt sorry for him,” said Tim Allen, president of East County Glass and Window in Pittsburgh, who has bought business cards and letterhead from Mr Garrido's printing business for the past decade.
Three times in recent years, Mr Garrido had arrived at Mr Allen's showroom with two “cute little blonde girls” in tow, he said.
Mr Garrido would talk about quitting the printing business to preach full time and gave the impression he was setting up a church.
“He rambled. It made no sense,” Mr Allen said, adding that he had no inkling of Mr Garrido's criminal record.
“We never thought anything bad about the guy,” Mr Allen said. “He was just kind of nutty.”
In his interview with KCRA -TV Mr Garrido also claimed that he had left important documents that would reveal key information about the case with an agent at the FBI office in San Francisco.
"What's kept me busy the last several years is I've completely turned my life around," Mr Garrido said. "And you're going to find the most powerful story coming from the witness, the victim – you wait. If you take this a step at a time, you're going to fall over backwards and in the end, you're going to find the most powerful heart-warming story."
Ms Dugard’s mother, Terry Probyn, was reunited with her daughter yesterday, but she has not yet made a public statement.
However, her stepfather, Carl Probyn, 60, said of the kidnapping: “It broke my marriage up. I’ve gone through hell. I mean, I’m a suspect up until yesterday.”
Mr Probyn was standing in his family driveway on June 10, 1991, when he saw a grey car pull up beside the bus stop where his stepdaughter was waiting for the school bus. She was snatched and the car sped off.
In spite of a massive search operation, several witnesses, and the fact that Jaycee was wearing a distinctive pink jacket and pink trousers, no arrests were made, and Jaycee was never found. Police never gave up on the case, though, and as recently as 2002 a former priest’s home was raided in connection with the little girl’s disappearance.
Mr Probyn now lives in Orange County, and Mrs Probyn lives in the LA suburb of Riverside. The couple have another daughter, Shayna, who is 19 years old.
Mr Probyn told local reporters yesterday that he had received a phone call from his daughter at about 4pm on Wednesday. “Mom has something to say to you,” she said. “Are you sitting down?” Then his wife came on the line and said, through tears, “They found Jaycee. She’s alive.”
Mr Probyn, a Vietnam veteran, said that his wife had been told the news by an FBI agent who called her at work. At first, she thought it was a prank call. Then the agent put Jaycee on the phone.
“My wife talked with her and is convinced she is Jaycee,” Mr Probyn said. “Jaycee remembers everything.”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Saudi Child Bride Turned Back Over To 80-Year-Old Husband

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Saudi Arabian father forced his 10-year-old daughter to return to her 80-year-old husband Sunday, after she was found hiding at the home of her aunt for 10 days, Arab News reported.
The young girl's husband, who denies he is 80 despite family claims, accused the aunt of violating the terms of his marriage, allowed by Sharia Law.
"My marriage is not against Sharia. It included the elements of acceptance and response by the father of the bride,” he told a local newspaper.
A member of the National Society for Human Rights said there are no regulations in place to stop the marriage of young girls, which is seen as harmful to their wellbeing.
“Such marriages are considered a gross violation of charters on the rights of children, which the Kingdom has signed and which set the age of adulthood at 18,” Maatouq Al-Abdullah told Arab News.

Kidney transplant links 2 clergy abuse survivors

Last updated August 27, 2009 12:04 a.m. PT

Kidney transplant links 2 clergy abuse survivors

Phil Saviano spent years fighting for the victims of clergy abuse, an effort spurred by his own bitter experience at the hands of a priest.

Later, with Saviano's health slipping after a long battle with AIDS, he turned for support - and a new kidney - to the very network he helped nurture.

No fewer than seven clergy abuse victims answered Saviano's appeal, and the only match, Susan Pavlak, donated her kidney on Wednesday in a procedure carried out in a Boston hospital.

It all began more than a year ago, when doctors told Saviano, of Roslindale, Mass., that his kidneys were failing. To avoid a life that depended on regular dialysis, Saviano needed a transplant - and the wait time for a kidney from a deceased donor could have been too long.

Saviano, who once led the New England chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, had several friends in the organization who went through tests to see if they could be a match. Family members also got tested, but everyone was disqualified.

Earlier this year, the 57-year-old Saviano put out another plea - this time on SNAP's national e-mail list. Several more people volunteered to help, including Pavlak, 55, of St. Paul, Minn.

"She did this without even knowing Phil and with knowing very little about him," said Cyndi Desrosiers, an abuse survivor who lives in Newmarket, N.H.

Desrosiers, who was abused in the same central Massachusetts diocese as Saviano, was the first of his friends to be tested. Another friend, Ann Hagan Webb, also volunteered to help Saviano.

"Nobody deserves one more than he does. He's fought for all of us," said Webb, who helps lead SNAP's New England chapter.

In all, seven clergy abuse survivors were tested, but only Pavlak turned out to be a match. She and Saviano have known each other for less than two months, said Jim Saviano, Phil's brother.

"Our family is so grateful," Jim Saviano said, adding that he and other family members were disappointed they couldn't be donors. "I know the struggle he's been going through with his AIDS and everything else he's been going through."

Jim Saviano said Wednesday evening that both patients were recovering well from the surgery. He said his brother was resting comfortably and was passing urine, a key test for kidney transplant patients. "It was a very successful operation," he said.

Pavlak isn't a member of SNAP, but was on the e-mail list and is friends with SNAP members in Minnesota. As a teenager, she was abused by a former nun who had become a teacher at her Catholic high school. Saviano's struggle with AIDS was also familiar to Pavlak, who has lost friends to the disease.

She met several of Saviano's friends Monday at a dinner in the Boston area attended by all seven of the abuse survivors who had volunteered their kidneys, Desrosiers said.

"It was so good for him to spend time with her. Often people don't meet their donors," Desrosiers said. "His comment to me was, 'Now I have to figure out what to do with my life to give back.' It's just the kind of person he is."

Dr. Arthur Matas, director of the kidney transplant at the University of Minnesota, said people who need kidneys are searching for donors more often through social groups, community groups and religious groups.

"Over 80,000 people are waiting for a kidney in the country right now and the waiting times are getting longer and longer," Matas said. "People on the waiting list are highly motivated to find a living donor."

Dr. Martha Pavlakis, medical director of kidney and pancreatic transplantation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where Pavlak and Saviano had surgery, said Saviano's prognosis is excellent.

"His kidneys are failing, but he's getting a transplant before having to start dialysis," Pavlakis said. "Pre-dialysis transplants generally do better."

The Boston hospital has done more than a dozen kidney transplants on AIDS patients with promising results. Saviano and Pavlak's story has inspired many within the network of those who have survived abuse, said David Clohessy, SNAP's national director.

"Hundreds of thousands of people have expressed sympathy and compassion for clergy sex abuse victims, but rarely do we see such a generous and literally life-giving sacrifice by someone who suffered so much," he said.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Priest abuse case hinges on "repressed" memories

August 21, 2009
Priest abuse case hinges on "repressed" memories

John Doe RG, as he is known in court papers, doesn't have much room for God in his life these days. It wasn't always so.
As an altar boy at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Indianapolis in the 1970s, he and his family were deeply involved in the church. But John Doe RG lost that somewhere along the way. For a long time he didn't now where. But he says it found out the reason why in 2003, when -- during a session with his therapist -- he began recovering memories about sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of priest Harry Monroe.
Today, in a sterile courtroom in Indianapolis, John Doe RG spent two hours listening to legal arguments about whether abuse that is more than 30-years-old can be addressed in a lawsuit -- long after the normal statute of limitations have expired -- because the victim's memories had been "repressed" until recently.
Today's legal debate focused squarely on this question of whether some trauma victims, such as those sexually victimized by priests, really can lose access to their memories of the abuse for long periods of time, and then recover them later, as John Doe RG says happened to him.
Judge David Dreyer, who is hearing the case, said he will need at least a month to make a decision. But the case can't go forward unless he allows testimony about repressed memory to be heard -- it is the only way John Doe RG can comply with the statute of limitations.
Dreyer asked the lawyers to provide him more information about the relationship between the term "dissociative amnesia," which is listed in the psychiatrist's desk reference, and "repressed memory," which is not.
In the past, Indiana courts have allowed cases based on repressed memories to go forward. But Archdiocese of Indianapolis attorney Jay Mercer argued the concept of "repressed memory" is "psychiatric folklore," in the words of critics he cited. He said many experts believe that memories never really go away, but that trauma victims either choose to forget or they simply haven't been reminded of it. In those and other instances, Mercer argued, that shouldn't justify any leeway when it comes to the statute of limitations.
Attorney Pat Noaker, arguing for John Doe RG, said the terms repressed memory and dissociative amnesia are essentially interchangeable. And he argued that it wasn't necessary for Dreyer to decide the validity of repressed memory testimony because the Indiana Supreme Court had twice deemed it valid.
From a seat in the gallery next to his wife, John Doe RG, a 44-year-old business man who now lives out of state, said he was frustrated that so much time had to be spent focused on issues secondary to the fact that a priest abused a boy and the church let it happen.
In wake of his abuse, the facts of which weren't contested by the archdiocesan attorney, John Doe RG said he has lost all interest in God and the church, which he quit at age 17. "I don't have a God. I don't have a belief in a higher being. We're here because we're organisms," he said. "I believe in evolution."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sunday school teacher indicted in CA girl's death

Last updated August 17, 2009 7:53 p.m. PT

Sunday school teacher indicted in CA girl's death

FILE - In this April 14, 2009 file photo, Melissa Huckaby, 28, listens in a Stockton, Calif., courtroom during her arraignment. A San Joaquin County grand jury has indicted Huckaby on charges she kidnapped, raped and killed an 8-year-old girl and drugged two other people. She broke down in tears Monday, Aug. 17, 2009, in court as Superior Court Judge Linda Lofthus read the indictment against her. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, pool, file)
STOCKTON, Calif. -- A San Joaquin County grand jury has indicted a Sunday school teacher on charges she kidnapped, raped and killed an 8-year-old girl and drugged two other people.

Melissa Huckaby broke down in tears Monday as Superior Court Judge Linda Lofthus read the indictment against her. The reading came after prosecutors convened a grand jury last month to determine whether Huckaby would stand trial.

Lofthus said the grand jury transcript would remain sealed. No trial date has been set.

Huckaby, 28, is accused of killing 8-year-old Sandra Cantu, a playmate of Huckaby's young daughter. Sandra went missing in March in Tracy, her hometown in Northern California. A massive search for her ended 10 days later when her body was found stuffed in a black suitcase pulled from an irrigation pond a few miles from the mobile home park where she lived.

Defense attorney Sam Behar asked Lofthus to delay setting a trial date, saying he has not read the indictment or lengthy transcript because he's in the middle of another trial.

But Deputy District Attorney Thomas Testa said he delivered a copy of the indictment to Behar's office earlier this month. "He's had a lot of time to read this indictment," Testa told Lofthus.

The judge then proceeded to read the indictment charges to a weeping Huckaby, who appeared in court with two fresh scratches above her right eyebrow. Neither Behar nor Testa would comment on the nature of Huckaby's injuries after Monday's hearing. A gag order barring attorneys, investigators and potential witnesses from commenting on the case remains in effect.

Huckaby in June pleaded not guilty to killing Sandra as well as to charges that she previously had drugged a 7-year-old girl and a 37-year-old man, whom police believe she had been dating. The girl and Huckaby lived in the same mobile park.

Huckaby is charged with two counts of furnishing someone a harmful substance and one count of child endangerment in the drugging cases.

In the case involving Sandra Cantu, Huckaby is charged with murder with the special circumstances of rape, kidnapping and lewd or lascivious conduct with a child under 14, which could make her eligible for the death penalty if convicted. Sandra was last seen on a surveillance camera skipping near her home just five doors down from the defendant.

On Monday, Huckaby entered the courtroom smiling, but her demeanor became tearful and somber as the indictment was read and debate on her next court appearance ensued.

Testa said the district attorney's office is treating the case as if it will be a death penalty case, but no decision is expected for at least two months.

Prosecutors convened a grand jury instead of holding a preliminary hearing in the case to ensure a speedy trial and avoid a possible change of venue. Testa also told Lofthus he wants a speedy trial because the case involves minors and should be made a priority.

Lofthus countered that it would be premature to set a trial within 30 days because Behar had not seen the indictment or the voluminous grand jury testimony.

"We need to do the case one time, and we need to have the case done right," the judge said. "The defense needs time to prepare."

Lofthus then scheduled a Sept. 10 hearing to discuss possible trial dates. Huckaby remains in the San Joaquin County Jail without bail.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cardinal acknowledges church's "shameful" abuse
Pilgrims told to pray for victims of 'shameful' Church abuse
By John Cooney in Knock
Saturday August 15 2009

THE Cardinal Primate of All Ireland last night made a dramatic plea for Catholics to pray constantly for the complete healing of victims of the 'shameful legacy' of abuse in the Church and society.

Opening the annual Knock Shrine novena -- which is the most popular devotional event in the Church's calendar -- Cardinal Sean Brady said he wanted to pray, in particular, for the victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

Cardinal Brady made his public appeal three months after the publication of the Ryan Commission's shocking findings of systematic abuse in orphanages and reformatories run by religious orders.

The Cardinal was also preparing Catholics for further instances of abuse of thousands of children by paedophile priests in the archdiocese of Dublin, that are contained in the report by Judge Yvonne Murphy that is set for mention in the High Court next month.

But last night Cardinal Brady told the Irish Independent he would not be making any comment on the extent of abuse in the country's largest diocese until the High Court had cleared for publication its findings in full or edited form.


But he underlined the devastating impact of the abuse scandals on the Irish Church when he highlighted the sufferings of victims of abuse as the priority prayer for up to 20,000 pilgrims over the next nine days to the Our Lady of Knock Shrine.

"I want to pray in particular for one group of people," Cardinal Brady said in his opening remarks.

"The people who have been broken and wounded through abuse of any kind, whether physical, emotional or sexual; or through neglect within the family or outside the family home, whether at the hands of clergy, religious or lay people.

"We pray that those most affected will be strengthened in their search for justice and healing for all that they have experienced and survived.

"I invite all of you to pray now and often for the complete and total healing of all who have been hurt in any way by this shameful legacy of abuse within the Church and in society."

In a wide ranging address, turning to the novena's theme of The Seeds of Hope, the Cardinal, who celebrates his 70th birthday tomorrow, also prayed that the novena, marking the 130th anniversary of the reported apparition of Our Lady in the Mayo village, would be a source of healing and renewal of hope for everyone and for Ireland.

But he warned the continued effort of individuals and groups to introduce abortion to Ireland and the increasing pressure to accede to legalised euthanasia were a fundamental threat to human hope.

He also spoke of hope for political developments in the North and for economic recovery.

He appealed to economists who were Catholics to pioneer a new, more socially-caring approach to economic issues.

''Ireland's downturn has raised many new and disturbing challenges to hope," Cardinal Brady added."Has the time not come for responsible Catholic economists to take the lead in developing some, not-for-profit systems of lending, saving and insurance, built on an ethic of authentic human development?"

- John Cooney in Knock

Ex-priest called before grand jury

Last updated August 14, 2009 5:19 p.m. PT

AP source: Ex-priest called before grand jury

LOS ANGELES -- A former Roman Catholic priest imprisoned for sexually molesting children has been called to testify before a federal grand jury investigating how the Archdiocese of Los Angeles handled claims of abuse, a person with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press on Friday.

The person, who requested anonymity because the probe is ongoing, said former priest Michael Baker was transferred into federal custody at least three months ago and invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination before the grand jury.

The person did not know if Baker would be called to testify again, but added that one other former priest was also involved in the probe.

Baker, 61, pleaded guilty in 2007 to molesting two boys and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Baker was temporarily with the U.S. Marshal's Service, although his primary location was at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi in Kern County, said Seth Unger, a state prisons spokesman.

A spokesman for the marshals did not immediately return a call.

Baker has been accused of molesting nearly 20 children over more than two decades and is considered one of the archdiocese's worst pedophiles and one of the most dangerous to the reputation of Cardinal Roger Mahony, who has previously acknowledged making mistakes in how he handled Baker.

Archdiocese attorney Michael Hennigan said in January that federal prosecutors told him Mahony is not a target of the probe. Thom Mrozek, a U.S. attorney's office spokesman, declined to comment Friday.

Baker told Mahony in 1986 at a priests retreat that he had molested two young boys from 1978 to 1985, according to church documents. Mahony did not notify police but sent Baker to a residential facility that treated priests for sexual abuse problems.

In the years that followed, Baker was assigned to nine parishes but barred from having one-on-one contact with minors. He violated those restrictions three times, according to church personnel file summaries released by the archdiocese.

Mahony removed Baker from the ministry in 2000 after two men filed a lawsuit alleging Baker sexually molested them between 1984 and 1999. The archdiocese settled the lawsuit for $1.25 million.

Baker was then charged in 2002 with 34 counts of molestation involving six victims, but those charges were dismissed a year later after the U.S. Supreme Court voided a California law that allowed the prosecution of cases involving acts that occurred before 1988.

In January 2006, the former priest was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport as he returned from a vacation in Thailand.

In an interview Friday, archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg did not address the federal criminal probe but said Baker could not be trusted to tell the truth.

"Michael Baker is a proven liar. He deceived children, he deceived their parents, he deceived other priests and he deceived his bishop, and I don't know why anyone would trust anything Michael Baker would say, even now," Tamberg said. "It's always about Michael Baker protecting himself and only caring about himself."

Donald Steier, Baker's attorney, did not return calls for comment Friday.

Vince Finaldi, a civil attorney, said he learned that Baker was participating in the federal probe when he sought to take the ex-priest's deposition in a pending sex abuse lawsuit against Baker, Mahony and the archdiocese. The plaintiff in the civil case is one of the two victims whose abuse led to Baker's 2007 criminal conviction, he said.

He said he couldn't locate Baker in the state prison system and was told by an official at the U.S. marshal's office that Baker was under the agency's protection as a material witness in the federal investigation.

"I said, 'Why are you guys holding this guy? He was charged and convicted in a state case. He's supposed to be in state prison,'" Finaldi recalled. "He said, 'He's a material witness in a federal case.'"

Finaldi said he was finally able to depose Baker at the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles on July 21.

Finaldi said his client alleges that Mahony officiated at a Lenten Mass in the late 1990s at St. Columbkille Parish in Los Angeles and observed his client, who was an altar boy, interact with Baker, who was the parish priest. He said Mahony gave his client a prayer card and rosary as Baker looked on.

"This was before any of the molestation happened with my client but it was after they knew about Baker, so basically if Mahony had just spoken up and said something, none of the abuse with my client ever would have happened," Finaldi said.

Tamberg declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office launched its own investigation into the archdiocese several years ago but hasn't filed any criminal charges.

Mahony handed over the confidential personnel files of Baker and another priest, George Miller, to local prosecutors after the U.S. Supreme Court rebuffed arguments that the papers were protected materials.

The Los Angeles archdiocese paid a record-breaking $660 million in July 2007 to settle more than 500 claims of sexual abuse.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Diocese forced to sell property

Published on National Catholic Reporter (

Iowa diocese sells diocesan property
DAVENPORT, Iowa -- St. Ambrose University is the new owner of 58 acres of property that includes the Diocese of Davenport headquarters.

The school's officials finalized the $3.35 million purchase of the St. Vincent property July 31, said Mike Poster, vice president of finance at the diocesan university.

The new ownership comes after St. Ambrose negotiated a financial agreement with the trustee handling the U.S. Bankruptcy Court's liquidation of diocesan assets. The court received the deed for the property as part of a $37 million settlement the diocese reached last year with its creditors, most of whom are survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

For the landlocked university located a few blocks from the diocesan property in Davenport, "this was an opportunity to buy 58 acres of land in one transaction and really gives us some opportunities for growth," Poster said.

In an earlier statement, St. Ambrose University's president, Sister Joan Lescinski, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, said: "As we consider our future as a leading Midwestern university, I believe the St. Vincent Center property would be an important acquisition given its size and proximity to campus."

A planning team comprised of St. Ambrose's board of trustees, management, faculty and staff will begin developing a master plan for the property, Poster said. Diocesan headquarters will remain in the St. Vincent Center during that time, along with apartments for retired priests currently living there.

"We are very pleased that SAU was able to purchase the property. We hope to continue to negotiate with St. Ambrose for the use of our current office and priests' residences," said Bishop Martin J. Amos of Davenport.

As part of the purchase agreement, St. Ambrose assumes the long-term lease the diocese had with the Congregation of the Humility of Mary for 10 acres of property adjacent to the diocesan headquarters. The sisters will continue to use the property as they have been.

The university is paying for the diocesan property with available cash reserves, Poster said.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ex-priest remanded on sex charges
38 mins ago
Yahoo News

A former Roman Catholic priest has been remanded in custody after being extradited to Britain from the United States to face allegations of sexual abuse. Ex-priest remanded on sex charges Father James Robinson, 71, spoke only to confirm his name and date-of-birth during a two-minute hearing at Birmingham Magistrates' Court.

The clergyman - alleged to have abused young boys in Walsall, Birmingham, Coventry and Wales between 1959 and 1983 - was ordered to appear at Birmingham Crown Court for a preliminary hearing on November 3.

There was no application for bail on behalf of Robinson, who faces a total of 22 charges, including 12 of indecent assault and three of gross indecency.

A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said Robinson was successfully extradited from the USA on Thursday, landing at Heathrow Airport on Friday.

The clergyman, whose full name is Richard John James Robinson, is known to have worked in the Birmingham and Coventry areas of the West Midlands.

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham said: "The archdiocese is fully committed to the safety and protection of children and vulnerable individuals and has in place comprehensive safeguarding policies and procedures.

"The Archdiocese of Birmingham has co-operated fully with the police in all aspects of this case and will continue to co-operate with the police and other agencies as necessary.

"As this case is now the subject of legal proceedings, it is not possible or appropriate for the archdiocese to make any detailed comment at this time."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Diocese takes documents case to Supreme Court

Published on National Catholic Reporter (

Diocese takes documents case to Supreme Court
In a last-ditch effort to keep sealed thousands of pages of records dealing with 23 clergy sex abuse lawsuits, the Bridgeport, Conn., diocese is taking its case to the Supreme Court.

Most legal experts say the possibility that the high court, which annually chooses to hear only a tiny fraction of potential cases, would select the Bridgeport case is extremely slim. The court, currently in recess, will not consider the request until it begins its next term in October.

Even so, the move, which follows patterns of extended legal resistance in other key dioceses, highlights the lengths to which the church is willing to go to avoid public disclosure. The documents include letters and testimony indicating how its officials handled the sex abuse crisis.

The move also highlights anew the clash of First Amendment claims between those who contend that the community has a fundamental right to know in cases involving alleged criminal activity, and those who fear that courts, by demanding that the church reveal the documents, are intruding on the guarantee of religious freedom.

At the center of the dispute are more than 12,600 pages of depositions, exhibits and legal arguments relating to some 23 lawsuits involving seven priests. The records were sealed in 2001 when the cases were settled for undisclosed amounts.

Following the settlements, four newspapers -- the Hartford Courant, The Boston Globe, The New York Times and The Washington Post -- petitioned to have the documents released. The documents would presumably reveal details of how Cardinal Edward Egan, recently retired as archbishop of New York, handled the sex abuse crisis during his tenure as bishop of Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000.

Bishop William E. Lori succeeded Egan in Bridgeport in 2001. Egan, testifying in an abuse trial, once famously explained that the diocese could not be held responsible for the activities of clerics because priests were independent contractors.

Interest in documents surrounding the sex abuse crisis is keen, especially among newspapers and abuse victims, because such documentation in the past has often established that bishops were more aware of the nature of the crisis and the danger of sexually abusive priests than they had originally professed.

That was the case in Boston in 2002 when a judge there ordered the release of thousands of pages of documentation regarding the crisis in that archdiocese. Information contained in the published documents enraged Catholics and the wider general public and led to the removal of Cardinal Bernard Law as head of the archdiocese.

A similar furor erupted in Philadelphia after the release of a grand jury report that quoted extensively from volumes of documentation that the archdiocese had kept regarding accused priests who escaped criminal prosecution because the statute of limitations had run out.

In Los Angeles, the church has fought the release of documents for years, even though a settlement in 2002 involving more than 500 abuse cases stipulated that the material would be made public.

In the Connecticut case, the church has failed in its attempts in the state court. The Connecticut Supreme Court, in a 4-1 decision in May, upheld a lower court ruling calling for the release of the files.

The church appealed that decision and asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider, but the diocese was turned down again in July and later that month announced it would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a statement announcing the appeal to the land’s highest court, the diocese said, “The case and the settlement were exhaustively reported on by the media. The attorneys and victims had access to the sealed documents at issue.”

Joseph McAleer, a spokesman for the diocese, had earlier told The New York Times, “Sadly, the history of this case has been about access by the secular media to internal church documents of cases more than 30 years ago to suggest, unfairly, that nothing has changed.”

Marci Hamilton, a church-state specialist who teaches at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York, says the church has no First Amendment protection in this case. “There is no First Amendment right of religious organizations to keep such documents secret,” she said in an e-mail response to a question from NCR. “The bishops have repeatedly argued in clergy abuse cases around the country that they should not have to produce records in response to discovery requests because of such an alleged First Amendment right. The courts have routinely rejected such far-reaching claims. The First Amendment was not intended to be a refuge for illegal or licentious behavior.”

Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center in Washington, is less certain and is concerned that a decision requiring the church to release documents could cross into the area of state entanglement in religion.

In an interview with NCR, he said there are “real questions that have to be raised” in this case regarding both the establishment and the free exercise clauses having to do with religion in the First Amendment. “Under the establishment clause, the government shouldn’t be entangling itself with the church and its internal affairs. Under the free exercise clause, is this interfering with the church’s right to practice its faith the way it chooses without governmental interference? Internal documents are part of what the church is doing as part of its mission. There are serious questions under both clauses.”

He concedes, however, that the church has not done well in the courts with the First Amendment argument when it comes to keeping such records concealed.

The argument from the other side of the First Amendment, that made by newspapers and other groups interested in disclosure, is that “the public has a right to know, and that there’s a high public interest to know what went on -- what role the leadership of the church played given the significance of the cases and how many people were affected by this.”

Haynes said he thinks the possibility that the Supreme Court will consider the case is “very remote.”

“I could be mistaken, but the court takes very few cases to begin with, especially one that has fared so poorly in lower courts. ... I think in the end the church will be forced to release the documents.”

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A cop, a priest and a campaign of vilification
A cop, a priest and a campaign of vilification
Curate accused of abusing children divided a small parish and left a trail of bitter acrimony

Sunday August 02 2009

A FEW years ago, John Brennan thought he had finally heard the last of Father Thomas Naughton.

A quarter of a century had passed since the priest was sent to be the new curate in Valleymount, a pretty village by the lakes in west Co Wicklow. Parents soon complained about it. Mr Brennan, then a detective sergeant, threatened to call in the force, triggering the priest's swift removal to another unsuspecting parish and a vicious backlash against his accusers, including Det Sgt Brennan, from local church loyalists.

The priest was eventually convicted of indecent assault, and a few years late, Det Sgt Brennan gave his personal records, including notes and correspondence, to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation which was investigating clerical sex abuse and its cover-up in the capital. "As far as I was concerned, that was the end of Thomas Naughton," said Mr Brennan.

Then, two months ago, a detective contacted him. Gardai were investigating a new complaint against Fr Naughton, this time from a young man who claimed he was indecently assaulted by the priest in the early Eighties. Fr Naughton, 78, pleaded guilty to the offence at Wicklow Circuit Court last month. He will be sentenced in December.

"I said, 'My God, has this come back to haunt me again?' I had thought I had left all that behind me," said Mr Brennan from his home on the outskirts of the village, overlooking the Blessington Lakes.

The case demonstrates that while events which occurred more than quarter of a century ago may seem like ancient history, the legacy of the priest's brief time in Valleymount continues to reverberate, both among his victims and parishioners whose attempts to shield their children resulted in bitter acrimony.

Mr Brennan hopes the young man can finally get closure. And that his own anger at the Catholic hierarchy's dismal response to his complaints will abate with publication of the long-awaited report of the commission investigating the handling of paedophile priests in the Dublin Archdiocese.

The report examined 46 sample cases out of 155 paedophile priests in the archdiocese, many of whom were ushered from one parish to another by superiors whose instinct was to hush up the perversion.

As a detective sergeant at Crumlin Garda Station, John Brennan had investigated serious crimes such as murders, rapes, indecent assaults, thieving, robbery and several incest cases. But he said none affected him more than the case of Fr Thomas Naughton, who arrived in his parish in the early Eighties.

The priest was regarded as a kindly curate, with an infectious enthusiasm for getting things done. He joined the local community effort to renovate an old hall, for which the parish got funding from Europe and the State training agency Fas.

John Brennan had lived in Valleymount since 1979. His wife Maire was born there, and they married in the local church in 1963. They wanted to raise their children away from the stress and grind of the capital.

Mr Brennan and his wife were also immersed in the community; her family owned the local pub and he sat on the school board of management and the local development association, and was chairman of the senior citizens committee. Every Friday, he took local children swimming.

In 1984, two local mothers approached him. They suspected the priest of abusing their children. In the climate of the day, one in which the Catholic hierarchy still had a hold over the country, they didn't want their children to go through a garda investigation.

"I didn't have any evidence, only hearsay from the mothers and they were not anxious to have gardai involved," he said.

Mr Brennan told the mothers to remove their children as altar boys, and did likewise with his own children. He then went to the local parish priest and told him he wanted Fr Naughton removed immediately.

The parish priest -- who has since died -- appeared, Mr Brennan recalled, to make light of the complaint. He laughed and asked, "Is he some kind of homo?"

"I thought it was a peculiar way to deal with this matter," said Mr Brennan. "I told him I wasn't treating it as a joke."

Mr Brennan told the parish priest that he would call in the gardai if appropriate action wasn't taken and warned that Fr Naughton should have no access to children.

Fr Naughton left the parish within a fortnight, leaving a swirl of rumour and innuendo in his wake.

Nothing prepared John Brennan for the backlash. Letters written in an angry, anonymous scrawl called on him and his family to get out of the parish. He still has a collection of them.

Excrement was posted through the letter box, and in certain social circles the detective and his family were completely frozen out.

When a new parish priest was appointed to the village, Mr Brennan claimed the attitude towards him soured even more.

"A campaign of strange events started to happen. I have likened it to swimming in a calm pond, but an undercurrent pulling you down, and didn't know what it was," he explained.

He blamed the priest, who has since died, for an article in the parish newsletter which claimed that people were concerned about the donations they made towards the new community hall. Mr Brennan said the remarks "undermined my position, alleging more or less dishonesty".

"We employed an accountant at a cost of IR£800. He proved that every penny was properly accounted for. But the damage was done," he said.

The priest also criticised the presence of beer cans found near a children's disco which was organised by his wife, Maire. The Brennans took the criticism personally, believing it suggested they condoned teenage drinking.

The hostilities took their toll. Mr Brennan gave up the school board of management and stopped taking the children swimming, and over time withdrew from what had very clearly become a divided community.

Mr Brennan had no doubt that his difficulties were

caused by speaking up against Thomas Naughton.

"Gradually my position in the community was eroded," he said. "It affected all aspects of my life, including my time in An Garda Siochana."

In 1998, he opened a copy of the Irish Independent and saw Fr Naughton photographed in handcuffs, convicted of abusing young boys in Dublin, bringing some sense of vindication to those Valleymount parishioners who had complained.

Mr Brennan was unaware that the priest had been posted to a parish in Donnycarney, where he abused a young altar boy, Mervyn Rundle, and that when the family complained, he was sent to Ringsend parish, where other boys were abused.

Many more years passed before the extent to which the Catholic Church had shielded this and other priests would emerge in the public domain.

When Mervyn Rundle sued the Catholic Church in 2003, Mr Brennan was called as a witness. His lawyers believed the detective's testimony would help prove that the Dublin archdiocese knew all about Fr Naughton's proclivities when they sent him to Donnycarney

Mr Brennan never got his day in court. Two months before the case was due for hearing, Mr Brennan received an unexpected telephone call from the office of Cardinal Connell's private secretary.

"I considered gravely as to whether I should see him at all because of the sub judice nature of the thing," said Mr Brennan. But he accepted the invitation, which led to meeting Cardinal Connell at the archbishop's palace in late November, 2002.

"The general thrust of the meeting ended up in: was I familiar with the Rundle case? I said I was and I had been subpoenaed to the High Court, that I was due to appear in a couple of weeks' time.

"He asked what was my attitude towards it. I explained to him at length that I would be giving evidence... that I held the Church authorities completely guilty for sending the priest on to other parishes to reoffend, after me asking them not to do that," Mr Brennan recalled.

He also informed Cardinal Connell that the archdiocese knew the priest had abused children before he had ever arrived in Valleymount.

"He became very subdued... I said, 'By the way, your Grace, if you had an apple tree with a canker in it, you would have to cut out the canker or the tree will die. But I am afraid that your tree has so much canker in it the tree will die anyway.'"

A few days after the meeting, on December 4, 2002, Cardinal Connell wrote to Mr Brennan acknowledging his "deep regret for the suffering you and your family have experienced from as early as 1983 when you first alerted the diocese about Fr Naughton's behaviour and, indeed, for the lack of sympathy and support ..."

The following month, the Dublin archdiocese settled its civil action with Mervyn Rundle out of court. Mr Rundle received more than €300,000 in compensation, the largest award of its kind, and an apology.

The village of Valleymount has moved on since the saga. But the hurt still rankles, as Maire Brennan found when she was in her local shop in the village recently and a woman came over to apologise for the way the Brennans had been treated.

"I kept saying to myself, 'Why did Fr Naughton come into my life at a time when we were pretty stable as a family and well-liked and part of the community?'" said Mr Brennan.

"I suddenly thought to myself, 'Fr Naughton didn't come into our lives, he was sent.' And it was the people who sent him who really made me angry with the whole thing.

"We know from Fr Naughton's record, the authorities were well aware of his propensity to inflict suffering on small children. Yet they saw fit to send him to our little idyllic parish of Valleymount."


Father guilty in prayer death case

Wis. jury: Father guilty in prayer death case

FILE-In this July 2007 file photo, Madeline Kara Neumann, of Weston, Wis., is shown working on chalk art last summer during downtown Wausau's Chalk Fest. Neumann died Sunday, March 23, 2008, after her parents prayed for healing rather than getting medical help for a treatable form of diabetes. (AP Photo/Wausau Daily Herald,Butch McCartney, File)
WAUSAU, Wis. -- A central Wisconsin man accused of killing his 11-year-old daughter by praying instead of seeking medical care was found guilty Saturday of second-degree reckless homicide.

Dale Neumann, 47, was convicted in the March 23, 2008, death of his daughter, Madeline, from undiagnosed diabetes. Prosecutors contended he should have rushed the girl to a hospital because she couldn't walk, talk, eat or drink. Instead, Madeline died on the floor of the family's rural Weston home as people surrounded her and prayed. Someone called 911 when she stopped breathing.

Sitting straight in his chair, Neumann stared at the jury as the verdict in a nearly empty courtroom was read. He declined comment as he left the courthouse.

Defense attorney Jay Kronenwetter said the verdict would be appealed. He declined further comment.

Prosecutors also declined comment, citing a gag order.

Leilani Neumann, 41, was convicted on the same charge in the spring. Marathon County Circuit Judge Vincent Howard set Oct. 6 for sentencing for both parents, who face up to 25 years in prison.

Their case is believed to be the first in Wisconsin involving faith healing in which someone died and another person was charged with a homicide.

Last month, an Oregon jury convicted a man of misdemeanor criminal mistreatment for relying on prayer instead of seeking medical care for his 15-month-old daughter who died of pneumonia and a blood infection in March 2008. Both of the girl's parents were acquitted of a more serious manslaughter charge.

Neumann's jury - six men and six women - deliberated about 15 hours over two days before convicting him. At one point, jurors asked the judge whether Neumann's belief in faith healing made him "not liable" for not taking his daughter to the hospital even if he knew she wasn't feeling well.

Neumann, who once studied to be a Pentecostal minister, testified Thursday that he believed God would heal his daughter and he never expected her to die. God promises in the Bible to heal, he said.

"If I go to the doctor, I am putting the doctor before God," Neumann testified. "I am not believing what he said he would do."

The father testified that he thought Madeline had the flu or a fever, and several relatives and family friends said they also did not realize how sick she was.

Assistant District Attorney LaMont Jacobson told jurors in closing arguments Friday that Neumann was "overwhelmed by pride" in his interpretation of the Bible and selfishly let Madeline die as a test of faith.

Neumann knew he should have taken his daughter to a doctor and minimized her illness when speaking with investigators, Jacobson said, calling Neumann no different than a drunken driver who remarks he only had a couple of beers.

Doctors testified that Madeline would have had a good chance of survival if she had received medical care, including insulin and fluids, before she stopped breathing.

Kronenwetter told the jury that Neumann sincerely believed praying would heal his daughter and he did nothing criminally wrong.

"Dale Neumann was doing what he thought would work for his daughter," Kronenwetter said. "He was administering faith healing. He thought it was working."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Irish court may censor next Catholic abuse report

Irish court may censor next Catholic abuse report
By SHAWN POGATCHNIK (AP) – 18 hours ago

DUBLIN — Ireland's next report into the cover-up of child abuse in the Catholic Church might be censored or delayed because its publication could undermine prosecutors' efforts to imprison pedophile priests, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern announced Friday.

Ahern said he wants to publish the report into three decades of abuse cases in Dublin's archdiocese "with all possible speed" — but not if this would allow priests responsible for "horrific acts of depravity" to escape justice.

A fact-finding commission spent three years gathering evidence about how bishops and other Dublin archdiocesan officials sheltered known pedophile priests from police and other child-protection authorities from 1975 to 2004. The commission delivered its findings confidentially 10 days ago to Ahern and Attorney General Paul Gallagher.

Gallagher has concluded that the report, if published now in full, "might prejudice some current criminal proceedings," Ahern said.

The justice minister said he has asked Ireland's second-highest court, the High Court, to read the report and deliver a judgment on whether it should be censored or withheld from publication until criminal cases are complete.

Three cases involving priests charged with sexually abusing children are scheduled for Dublin courts next year. Ahern's comments suggest that, at minimum, details of those three cases will be blacked out before the government publishes the Dublin archdiocese report.

The investigation, led by Dublin High Court Justice Yvonne Murphy, documents the cases of 46 priests implicated in abusing hundreds of children. Several of the cases are already well known to the Irish public because of criminal trials and lawsuits by former altar boys since the mid-1990s, when it began to become socially acceptable in Ireland to sue the once-powerful Catholic Church.

In most cases, bishops told police nothing about the crimes reported to them by parents or teachers, and instead transferred the abusive priests to new parishes — where even other priests were kept in the dark about abuse complaints against their colleagues.

The previous archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Desmond Connell, tried to withhold key documents from investigators documenting what he and other church officials knew about abuse complaints. He relented after suffering public criticism from his reform-minded successor, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who took over in Dublin in 2004.

Martin told Mass-goers in an April sermon that the report's findings "will shock us all."

Over the past 15 years, Ireland has grown somewhat numb to revelations of molestation, cruelty and cover-up in a church that until the 1980s wielded heavy influence over the government and wider society.

The floodgates for lawsuits and criminal investigations began to open in 1994, when a government collapsed amid allegations it delayed the extradition of a notorious abuser, the Rev. Brendan Smyth, to the neighboring British territory of Northern Ireland.

Since 2002, a government-funded compensation board has paid out more than euro900 million ($1.25 billion) to about 12,000 people abused in church-run facilities for children since the 1930s.

In May, a 2,600-page report into that scandal concluded that Catholic orders of nuns, priests and brothers who ran state-funded orphanages, workhouses and reformatories for Ireland's poorest children were guilty of shielding hundreds, if not thousands, of known abusers within their ranks. Crimes documented included ritual beatings, rape, and lying to children that their parents were dead. The last of those church-run facilities closed in the 1990s.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.